"I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world..." (John 17:15). Jesus' disciples are the salt of the earth. We are the preservers of His goodness. We are to stay in the world and be quiet and effective and unassuming. Moderation is the key word. The only time we notice there is salt is when there is either too much or too little. God does not ask us to be sensationalists about our religion, but to be in the world day by day, in the common round of life. If we lose our salt of love and hope in a world that so needs these, then we lose God's gift of preservation for others.
A wise Anonymous said, "Discover the work that expresses you in service to mankind, and give your life to it. Never mind your living." "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well" (Matthew 6:33). If we spend God's time pursuing first the mammon of unrighteousness, we will lose His blessings and promises. It is within work and service that we find the true treasure that has God's sanction. We are all endowed with certain good inclinations and aptitudes. These become our incentives and inspirations. With prayer and dedication, we go on to become the seasoning in our part of the world.
Bennett Cerf, in his Laughter Incorporated, tells of the time that Frederick the Great visited a Potsdam prison and listened to prisoner after prisoner insist that he was innocent and the victim of a frame-up. Finally one man told him, "Your Majesty, I am guilty, and richly deserving punishment." Frederick yelled for the warden. "Free this rascal and get him out of our prison before he corrupts all the noble innocent people here." Psalm 51 is perfect for those of us who are sinners. In this jewel, David pours out his grief and his desire to hear joy and gladness again. When God forgives us, we are freed from the prison of guilt and discouragement.
A newspaper published misleading information about a certain man and the man went to Dr. Edward Everett for advice. Dr. Everett told him, "My dear sir, do nothing. Half the people who buy that paper never saw the article about you. Half the people who did see it failed to read it. Half of those who read it failed to understand it. Half of those who understood it knew you and refused to believe it. Half of those who believed it were people of no consequence anyway." One may declare, "I do not mind what men may say of me, but, oh, may God have a good opinion of my words and works."
"And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury..." (Mark 12:41). As business needs capital to succeed, so does the church. Money represents the value we place on whatever and, where our money goes, there is our value. God observes where, how and why we place our money that we have worked hard to earn. Money represents time and often fatigue, so we give to what we feel deserves our hard labor. God watches what we keep as well as what we give and, if we esteem money so much that we give very little according to our means, then we have indeed robbed God.
Years ago Paul Wruger, President of the Transvaal, decided an argument between two brothers about a land inheritance in South Africa. He said, "Let one brother divide the land, and the other have first choice." Solomon, too, was faced with a difficult choice, only with two mothers. He had to decide quickly who was the real mother. "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other" (1 Kings 3:25). He knew the true mother would not allow that to happen. It takes Godly wisdom to know human nature as these two incidents reveal. Let us have faith that God raises up wise men in our time of need.
"The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down" (Psalm 145:14); "The Lord upholds him with His hand" (Psalm 37:24b); "He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to His heart" (Isaiah 40:11). How can our heart remain cold and indifferent when we read--and know from experience--of the tenderness of our almighty God who loves that much! Jesus fell from weakness on the way to His death, so He knows about that, too. We are bowed down by infirmities of body, mind and spirit, but our caring God, with wounded hand, lifts us to His summit of holy wholeness.
"Love...keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Corinthians 13:5c); "God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them..." (2 Corinthians 5:19). Can't we do for others that which God does for us: write wrongs in ashes? We keep a record of the "sins" which God has already put away from Him, "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalm 103:12). Our heart is blackened with the soot of another's trespasses and now and then we sweep up a bit of it and rub our hands and minds in it, and then ask God for forgiveness for our meanness--again. Instead, let us reconcile and wipe the record clean forever.
"Love...always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Corinthians 13:7). Is this possible? What a long time Always is and for everyone and everything in our life! Imagine, always enduring wrongs and evils; always believing only the best of others; always hoping, even when facts and faces appear hopeless; always recommencing and recompensing...Graces such as these grow in the time, thought and prayer we give them. It is a rare youth who understands, much less covets, what slows him in his rush to live. But the older person looks back and knows love and what it encompasses is indeed the true victory.
Years ago a certain religious group took as its motto, "Millions now living will never die." Someone rejoined, "Yes, but the tragedy is that millions now living are already dead and don't know it." The witty George Bernard Shaw suggested an appropriate epitaph for most of us might read: "Died at thirty, buried at sixty." The Christian owes his Lord a daily return on His sacred investment. The honorable person gratefully acknowledges a benefaction, and tries to be worthy of the giver and the gift. Of course we can never repay the gifts of our lavish God, but we can persist rather than desist, impart rather than depart.
"...Lot's wife looked back..." (Genesis 19:26); "Remember Lot's wife!" (Luke 17:32). Almost saved, yet lost, because she looked back and wondered if what she was leaving was worth the loss...! Lot's wife appears long enough to disappear--and long enough to remind us to be willing to leave behind those weights that will lose us our salvation. "...Let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..." (Hebrews 12:1).
Years ago Leslie D. Weatherhead gave five talks on the will of God and they were made into a remarkable little book, The Will of God. The theme of the book is that nothing falls outside the circle of Divine Providence: 1) the knowledge of God embraces it; 2) His power is sovereign over it; 3) His mercy holds it, creatively. The key is God's goodness. The parent does not will evil for the child; neither does God will evil for His children. We are subject to this good will which is never a capricious humor on God's part. Our part is to surrender to this good will: "Nevertheless, Your will, O God..."
"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2). This is the substance of Dr. Weatherhead's book. No purpose of God's can be thwarted by man's wrong choices. God can use evil to bring forth good. It is man who has the choice: "O Jerusalem ...how often I have longed to gather your children together...but you were not willing" (Matthew 23:37). My children, you could have done My good will, but you wouldn't, so you have made your own house desolate. How I weep when you blame Me for your own rebellious attitudes. Believe Me, I do know better than you.
"...Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses...Hasn't He also spoken through us?" (Numbers 12:2). Moses' sister Miriam and his brother Aaron were not about to let Moses have a higher position before their Lord. Jealousy among religious leaders is nothing new, apparently. Perhaps Miriam tried to conceal her envy by criticizing Moses' marriage. Paul was concerned about these matters, too: "For I am afraid that...when I come...there may be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances..." (2 Corinthians 12:20). It's enough to tear out the very heart of God and man--and the church.
â€œWhen the tide is out, you may have noticed, as you ramble among the rocks, little pools with little fish in them. But when the rising ocean begins to lip over the margin of the lurking-place, one pool joins another, their various tenants meet, and, by and by, in the place of their little patch of standing water, they have the ocean's boundless fields to roam in. When the tide is out--when religion is low--the faithful are often isolated; here a few and there a few. They forget for a time that there is a vast expanse of ocean rising; every ripple brings it nearer; a mightier communion, even the communion of saints, which is to engulf all minor considerationsâ€? (Times of Refreshing).
"She knows her groceries, I guess;/She knows her onions, I confess;/She knows more than I can express./I know you couldn't realize/How much she knows, she is so wise--/On any theme she can advise./She knows the things that I do not/(And that is saying quite a lot);/When she speaks, all I say is, `What?'/I only wish that I could tell/The things she does one-half so well,/But I am just a plain dumbbell./She is as wise as she can be,/But there's one thing she cannot see,/And that is--why she married me!" (Van H. Eshelman). People married to pinnacles of wisdom and towers of babble finally die in self-defense, to get some peace and rest.
"I'm sorry," she would eventually get up the nerve to say to her husband. His cute reply was always, "So's the rest of your family." He wondered why she went into a shell and finally quit saying much of anything to him. He had such a quick and devastating wit at times, and he was quite proud of his delightful comebacks. He didn't know how much courage she needed to say anything to him anymore. One day she had had enough of the putdowns and told him there were no more comebacks, including her. What a pity we have bites in our mouths instead of bits to curb our clever but destructive retorts.
"Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness" (James 3:18). This is James' version of the beatitude, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). We sow in peace when we say good of others; when we are courteous and kind; when we comfort those in sorrow; when we encourage another to make good use of life; when we tell of Jesus' love; and when we tell others that His peace will keep our thoughts and our hearts quiet and at rest as we trust in Him (Philippians 4:7). The harvest of this righteousness will be the peace we feel in our own hearts.
A friend asked a famous evangelist what he was laughing at the night before after he had left him in his room. The man replied, "I laugh three times a day...after breakfast ...after dinner and...just before I retire. I laugh systematically...scientifically...persistently. I like laughing. It is as medicine to my soul." That good man lived the wonderful proverb, "A cheerful heart is good medicine..." (Proverbs 17:22a); "A joyful heart makes a cheerful face..." (Proverbs 15:13a). The happy heart is a satisfied and satisfying heart. "The cheerful heart has a continual feast" (Proverbs 15:15b).
"Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is a man who deceives his neighbor and says, `I was only joking'" (Proverbs 26:19b). Practical jokes are not funny and lies are no less lies because they are spoken in jest to the destruction of the victim, literally or figuratively. What a pity that one person will tell lies to and of another and, when caught, say it is but a joke. What an imposition on the trust and credulity of those who take life and others seriously and, in that sacred trust, accept what is said and are mocked for their faith in that person. The perpetrator loses his most valuable gift: his credibility.
"But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way" (1 Corinthians 14:40), "[F]or God is not a God of disorder but of peace..." (v.33). There is a proper time, proper use and proper place for everything. Paul was addressing the church here, but it applies to the whole of life. Johnson wrote: "Order is a lovely nymph, the child of Beauty and Wisdom; her attendants are Comfort, Neatness, and Activity; her abode is the valley of happiness; she is always to be found when sought for, and never appears so lovely as when contrasted with her opponent, Disorder." From Order comes a fruit of the Spirit, Peace.
"Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife" (Genesis 16:3). It is a sad story of lack of trust and patience. Sarai compounded it by blaming God for her barrenness. Instead of waiting for God to unfold His plan in His good time, Sarai took matters into her human hands and got on with getting her husband the promised heir. There is no record of Sarai consulting with God before they both went about doing God's work--they thought. The story that unfolds is quite grievous, and we still feel the consequences today. God works out His intentions in His time, not ours...
"A story is told of a king who tested his subjects by placing a large stone in the center of the street near his palace. Various people avoided it, or stumbled over it, each complaining of `the lazy people' who left it there. When it was clear that no one would remove it voluntarily, the king called those who had avoided the stone to the place, and, with his own hands, removed the stone, while they looked on. Under the stone was a box containing gold and treasures marked, `For him who moves this stone'" (Anonymous). So we are to go on with our duties; they conceal treasures we can't see until we do them.
"What is the real good?"/I asked in musing mood./"Order," said the court;/"Knowledge," said the school;/"Truth," said the wise man; /Love," said the maiden;/ "Beauty," said the page;/"Freedom," said the dreamer;/"Home," said the sage;/"Equity," said the seer./Spake my heart full sadly,/"The answer is not here." /Then within my bosom /Softly this I heard: /"Each heart holds the secret;/`Kindness' is the word" (British Weekly). The flower automatically leans toward the warmth the sun brings to it; seeking and sinking hearts are no different. Cold blasts of wrath wreck tender hearts who would come alive with only a word of love.
"Even if all fall away, I will not" (Mark 14:29); "God, I thank You that I am not like other[s]" (Luke 18:11); "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (1 Corinthians 10:12). How often we think we can pass a test others have failed. Youth especially is so sure of its strength. And then the barriers fall one by one, and we discover we are not so immune to temptations after all. Peter, who loved his Lord with a passion, fell by that very passion. "Not I, Master!" "Yes, Peter, even you!" Yes, Lord, I, too, will fail unless I trust to Your mercy and goodness to keep me from falling.
"They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved" (Psalm 78:18). Such utter presumption! God had already supplied their every need so far and, now that they have come to a dry place in their life, they are challenging Him. Haven't we done the same thing in our own lives? First we forget the many miracles--in fact, we don't recognize the daily miracles of our life; then in the rush of taking advantage of life, we forget to thank God; then in our many comforts we demand more; and then finally we challenge God as to why we don't have it all. Such is human nature!
"And God created man in His own image...male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27,28a). "We do not read a novel or a play backwards from climax to introductory first page. But clever fellows among us are reading the story of man backwards and finding the key to its meaning in tadpoles and spiders. They are willing to ruin the story in order to disfigure the hero, to disorder a realm in order to discrown its king" (William L. Sullivan, Epigrams and Criticisms in Miniature). It takes much effort of imagination to believe man ascended from an ape. God made us in His image; shall we believe Him?
In his farewell sermon, John Bunyon left his congregation with this reflection: "Dost thou see a soul that has the image of God in him? Love him, love him; say, `This man and I must go to heaven together one day.'" What a thought, as we fellowship with others, that we will one day be in heaven with them, as well. Whether we will be in heaven at all depends on how we treat our fellow beings here, too. The closer we come to God, the closer we can walk and talk with the many diverse and wonderful people who live in our world. Remember, we are all made in His image and He wants to spend eternity with us, too.
The gentle minister's voice cracked as he read the poem about a son. The minister was one who gave and gave to his people but his people didn't even know about his own troubled son. They would never know, for this gentle soul came later in his life to minister to this church and shared not his troubles but his love. His congregation told each other how much they loved him but did they ever tell him? Then one day this precious soul went on to another pasture. The people suddenly realized what manna he had given them. Would they ever again be so fortunate? O people, if you are blessed with such a minister, tell him before it is too late.
There are nails in our life that leave holes: deaths, sicknesses, hurting looks and words, etc. Jesus has permanent holes from His nails. We can pour our griefs into these nail-holes Jesus bears because of His transcendent love for us. Indeed, our tears that flow into His openings of love cleanse these nail-impressions that we, too, have made in our ignorance and ill-will. Our very nails of sorrow become our fastenings in His sure place.