"Life is too short to nurse one's misery. Hurry across the lowlands, that you may spend more time on the mountaintops" (Phillips Brooks). Depression is the pits, literally. When we are crammed into our own little world because of illness or grief, we see things through the wrong end of the telescope. We need to hurry to the mountain with Jesus, and sit with Him as He tells us, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). There on that blessed New Testament Sinai, He tells us that our sorrow will turn into joy, and our tears will be wiped away. Come, let us rush through the lowlands of life to His elevation!
One tree prayed to be made into a beautiful palace; a second tree prayed to be made into a ship; a third tree wanted to remain in the forest and point to God. The first tree was made into a stable where the Babe was born; the second tree was made into a small ship that was launched on the Sea of Galilee, whereon stood a young Man who told the multitudes: "I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10b); the third tree was made into a cross that ever since has been pointing us to God. In its way, each tree's prayer was answered.
"I would not lose the hard things from my life--/The rocks o'er which I stumbled long ago,/The griefs, the fears, the failures, the mistakes,/That tried and tested faith and patience so./I need them now; they make the deep-laid wall,/The firm foundation-stones on which I raise,/To mount thereon from stair to stair,/The lofty towers of my House of Praise" (Anonymous). "O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires" (Isaiah 54:11). Dear one, I will etch the gold of My promises into your heart--remember how much I love you!
"You shall rise up before the gray-headed, and honor the aged" (Leviticus 19:32). This verse reminds us that the aged are entitled to an extra measure of respect. Courtesy and refinement will never go out of style, no matter how old man or earth becomes. When Jesus was dying He made sure His mother was taken care of: "`Dear woman, here is your son,' and to the disciple, `Here is your mother'" (John 19:26b,27a). The aged represent (or should) many years in God's, spouse's and children's service; His providential care; the fruits of grace; mature wisdom in dealing with life's problems; and nearness to eternity.
"Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things; but only one thing is needed" (Luke 10:41,42). This is the verse for the harassed wife and mother who thinks she can't drop the chores long enough to sit at Jesus' feet for a moment of reverence and affection. Keeping the house clean and meals on the table are necessary, but perhaps Jesus was telling Martha she should simplify her life; there was something more important: love. Within that word love is summed up the rest of our duties. First, we must break bread daily with the Bread of Life, Jesus, through reading His Word.
"I love you today, where you are and as you are. You do not have to be anything but what you are for me to love you. I love you now; not sometime when you are worthy, but today when you may need love most. I will not withhold my love, or withdraw it. There are no strings on my love, no price. I will not force it upon you when you are not ready. It is just there, freely offered, with both hands. Take what you want today. The more you take, the more there is. It is good if you can return love; but if you cannot today, that is all right too. Love is its own joy. Bless me by letting me love you today" (Anonymous).
"Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" (John 6:70). The tare among the wheat...! What possible reason could Jesus have to choose His very betrayer as one of His inner circle? Was Jesus using Judas to teach us one of His more important lessons? Judas left all to become a follower, only to finally become the chief blot on humanity. To think, Jesus even washed his feet. Surely Judas was given every opportunity to repent. One wonders how Judas' heart could have been so dark and hard as to not melt at Jesus' continued love and kindness. Why did Jesus choose Judas? Why did He choose me?
"They were saddened, and one by one they said to Him,`Surely not I?'" (Mark 14:19). We all have our secrets and guilts. We have dipped into dishes of sin and come up with defiled hands and hearts. We betray not by grand iniquities but by degrees in the little white lies we tell, in the harsh words by which we condemn, in the acts of omission and apathy which hurt more than overt acts of commission. Yes, we have all sat at the Lord's table and supper and we have asked, "Is it I, Lord, who has crucified You yet again?" By being less than what His gifts can make us, we betray Him through mediocrity and indifference.
"`Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips'...Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand...and he touched my mouth with it and said, `Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven" (Isaiah 6:5-7 NAS). "If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well" (James 3:2). If our lips are unclean, then it is because our heart is, for "the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Matthew 12:34). Let us pray for a burning coal of grace for our lips and heart.
One of the finest books written on forgiveness is The Freedom of Forgiveness, 70 X 7, by David Augsburger. We learn about love, too: "It is an accepting love which gets its sleeves rolled up and its hands dirty in helping, serving, lifting and changing others' lives into the full freedom of forgiveness...." The author tells us that, if someone rubs us the wrong way, then love eliminates the "wrong way." "[Forgiveness] gives understanding where the enemy anticipates anger and revenge. It gives back to the other person his freedom and his future." Truly, it is God's gift to both the one who has hurt and the one who has been hurt. Thank you, Dr. Augsburger!
"There are two angels that attend unseen/Each one of us, and in great books record/Our good and evil deeds. He who writes down/The good ones, after every action closes/His volume, and ascends with it to God./The other keeps his dreadful day-book open/Till sunset, that we may repent; which doing,/The record of the action fades away,/And leaves a line of white across the page./Now if my act be good, as I believe it,/It cannot be recalled. It is already/Sealed up in heaven, as a good deed accomplished. The rest is yours." Longfellow. Are we keeping our angel very busy today?
William James told his students, "Be willing to have it so...because acceptance of what has happened is the first step in overcoming the consequences of any misfortune." No one can escape the ills of life; they are the basting threads which hold together the white robes promised to the redeemed. Our security is in absolute confidence in God: "[I] will have no fear of bad news; [my] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord" (Psalm 112:7). "We know that God causes ALL things to work together for good..." (Romans 8:28), even that which temporarily crushes our hearts and our plans. God asks that we accept the temporary detour.
"But Lot's wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt" (Genesis 19:26). "But when Jesus said, `Remember Lot's wife,' I believe He was speaking also to those women (and men) who cling unhealthily to the good and lovely things of the past once these things are gone forever...When we refuse to move forward, giving our first attention to the future and what lies ahead in God's will for us, we solidify ourselves as surely as Lot's wife was turned into a stationary pillar of salt!" (Eugenia Price, God Speaks to Women Today). "Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup; You have made my lot secure" (Psalm 16:5). No matter where our lot is or what our lot is, God will maintain us.
"Then the Lord said, `Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?'" (Genesis 18:17); "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15). God reveals His will--His purposes--to His covenant people. He also allows our voices to be heard in intercession in the court of heaven. We are both sanctioned and sanctified.
"If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" (Genesis 17:18). What a beautiful intercessory plea Abraham prayed for his child. Although the covenant blessings would be for Isaac, Abraham wanted Ishmael also to live before God for the father would always love his son. If Sarah and Abraham had waited for God to fulfill His promise to them, Abraham would not have experienced such confusion about this beloved son and what would now happen to him. But God answers: "As for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him..." (Genesis 17:20).
"Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him" (Ezekiel 1:28). The rainbow represents hope and the fulfillment of promises. The enemy of hope is despair, and this generation has plenty of that. Witness the suicide rate from young to old. Where is the middle ground wherein hope lies? What is in that person who knows without a doubt that God does care and He will take utmost pains with us? What is the rainbow in that person's life? Is it a Person, a person, an ideal, a dream? Is it all of the above? When did God set the rainbow in that person's life and make it radiant? O Friend, let us search for our rainbow today!
"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease" (Genesis 8:22). We should be no less amazed at the orderly processes of nature as we are at its destructions such as hurricanes and earthquakes. This too reveals God's powers. Seedtime is for the wise man who wishes to remain conscientious of the ethical nuances of life. We are growing every day through the seeds planted in our hearts and minds, either through God and His Word or through others who touch our lives. The sowing decides the harvest, for there is indeed a reaping in heaven and earth.
"Did God really say...?" (Genesis 3:1). This is the question of the rebellious and those who lack faith. This question changed the whole course of history and the world. Such innuendo and done so subtlety and craftily...! The serpent also called God a liar here. The woman was so innocent and inexperienced that she was not aware of what was happening to her. She wavered in her loyalty and her love to both God and Adam. "But each one is tempted when...he is dragged away and enticed." (James 1:14). Gardens can be so inviting!
"But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (John 12:24). If the corn of wheat is kept in the granary it is dormant. This could be applied to our getting busy with life, too. To "die" may mean to sacrifice time, self and goods to a higher end, to a noble cause; to regard the higher end as more valuable and more important than our own plans; to lose self in the object to which we are consecrated. We bring forth much fruit through loss of self. "Whoever finds his life will lose it" (Matthew 10:39) in service for his or her Master, for it is whatever or whoever masters us that determines what we do with our life.
"He who answers before listening that is his folly and his shame" (Proverbs 18:13). In social relations we are too quick to form superficial judgments of others. It's a very narrow mind and heart that will not allow another to express his or her beliefs and feelings. It is hurtful and hateful and foolish to assume that we have the last word about anything at all. People and life have many fascinating facets that only the open mind and heart will find by observing and listening to others. Sometimes this means keeping quiet.
"A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped" (Mark 4:37). Sometimes a storm comes suddenly. Job knew about suddenness of sorrow: a messenger came...another messenger came...another messenger came...yet another messenger came. They all came with tragedies totally unexpected and astonishing. If we're fortunate, sorrow comes slowly, like a soft wave, so we can have time to lower our anchor and calm our hearts. But sometimes we are not so blessed. It is then that God Himself lowers our anchor into our rough waters.
"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished" (Luke 1:45). What the Lord has said, He will do, and Mary believed this. Was Elizabeth thinking about her husband's lack of belief when he was told by the same angel Gabriel that he and his aged wife would now finally have a chid? God was about to accomplish what they had prayed for for years, and Zechariah asked, "How can I be sure of this?" (V.18). Mary asked in innocence and surprise but in acceptance, "How will this be...?" (V.34). How many times and in what manner have we questioned God about our circumstances? Our questions make a difference to Him.
"What then is this child going to be?" (Luke 1:66). Zechariah's and Elizabeth's friends and neighbors knew this child John was a special child. But then, isn't every child remarkable? Parental love asks, "What is this child going to be and do?" "...Some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" (2 Timothy 2:20,21). Surely we want to prepare our child for noble purposes so he or she will be useful to God and to others.
"My spirit rejoices in God my Savior..." (Luke 1:47). The Magnificat is one of the most charming songs recorded in the Word. Mary struck the major chord, the keynote, of life for us all. She didn't merely resign herself to God's appointment, she rejoiced in what would prove to be not only a blessing but a sword, as well. In this testimony of God's faithfulness to His people, Mary joins Miriam (Exodus 15:21) and Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1). God blesses those who strike the major chords of belief and gratitude in their lives. The passkeys to the door of God's graces are praise and appreciation. We can use the same keys with our loved ones, as well.
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:6,7 KJV). Dear Friends, unto us is born this holy Savior, foretold in the Old Testament and completed in the New Testament.
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). Surely Mary meditated on the honor God gave her, as well as what must have seemed the overwhelming responsibility that now was hers. The only way she could assimilate it was to fix her thoughts on her Son. Here was a mystery filled with grace and grief, this Infant who was the "revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past" (Romans 16:25). Hebrews 3:1 counsels us to "...Fix [our] thoughts on Jesus..." Meditation gives us God's perspective on His promises and our problems.
"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him" (John 3:17). What comfort it is to know that God sent His Son to save us, not to disapprove of us. Would that our relatives and friends did the same for us--and we did the same for them. Jesus said "Then neither do I condemn you...Go now and leave your life of sin" (John 8:11). He even wrote in the dust the sins of the Pharisees, who were so ready to judge this woman. "If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins...who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness...." (Psalm 130:3,4); "[Love] keeps no records of wrongs" (1 Corinthians 13:5).
"...He was obedient to them...And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:51,52). Jesus kept out of the public eye for thirty years. In those years He was subject to His parents and their principles. The child Jesus obeyed the commandment: "Honor your father and your mother..." (Exodus 20:12). What a lesson for our youth who want to leave home before they hardly know how to live. Because of Jesus' faithfulness and submission while on earth, we have no excuse to give out, give in or give up.
"Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows..." (Isaiah 53:4). See also Matthew 8:17. In this divine chapter in the Old Testament, we meet the Man who took up all our pain. Until we kneel with the Christ, the Anointed, in the Garden of Gethsemane in a grief that defies healing and have Him hold us, we cannot truly understand what the Father and Son have done for us. Jesus was born at night and He experienced every dark night of the soul that we will ever endure, including three hours of darkness on the cross. But there will be no more darkness for He is the Light of the world: "...The glory of God gives [the city] light, and the Lamb is its lamp" (Revelation 21:23).
"You are those who have stood by me in My trials" (Luke 22:28). Tenderly our precious Friend tells this to His disciples after they have just argued over who is the superior among them. Because of His nature, He could not bear to scold or discourage them, for they were indeed His beloved friends. With us, too, it is our bits of nobility and generosity He quickly recognizes and rewards. We don't think about Jesus needing friends and affection. He turned gratefully to His faithful followers for personal emotional needs. He needs us, too.
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4). What a celestial promise this is. We cannot explain suffering; it is an offense to us, but it surely was--and still is--a worse offense to our Lamb, slain that He might lead us to serene springs of living water and to the tree of life. "There will be no more night. [We] will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give [us] light" (Revelation 22:5). We can only imagine, while clothed in mortality, what it will be like to live forever with the Lamb whose light will forever dispel darkness. We will go from mourning to morning. Thank You, God, for Your love!