“There is no labor which seems at first more barren of results than that of the sower. After many days of toil, the field on which the labor has been lavished exhibits less verdure than at first, and, in a time of drought, may long remain without one single springing blade to give hopeful promise of the future. It is equally so in the moral and religious world. He who endeavors to plant the seeds of truth in human hearts must await with patience their development, and must not fail or be discouraged if the precious germs he has scattered should, under unfavorable conditions, long remain undeveloped and concealed. The spring-time will surely come at last; the living truth will assert its power, and, in its heavenward growth, furnish the cheering prospect of the harvest. Such patience of hope has been required, in no small degree, of all who have undertaken the reformation of mankind, and who have broken up the fallow ground of pernicious error in order to the production of blessed fruits.” -- Robert Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell, vol. 1, p. 484.
Richardson wrote these words about the early days of the American Restoration Movement. The progress was slow and the work required great patience. Just as the early settlers worked hard for years clearing trees by hand to build roads and houses and plowing new ground to grow crops, Restoration preachers cut through dense forests of human traditions and plowed untilled hearts to sow the seed of the Word of God. They made few converts in those years. Established churches shunned them and friends and family members turned against them, but they persevered and their labors eventually produced great results.
In the parable of the sower Jesus said the seed is the Word of God that is planted in the hearts of men (Luke 8:11-15). Some pay no attention to it. Some gladly obey it at first but then quit when it causes them to be persecuted. Others obey the Word but worldliness overtakes them, and then those with an honest and good heart keep the Word of God and bring forth fruit with patience. Jesus never said that all or even most people will accept the gospel and remain true to it.
I hear more and more preachers and elders say converting people is hard these days. We need patience. We must not give in to pressure to water down the gospel to please people. Our job is not to fill church buildings at any cost. It is to fill men’s hearts with the Word of God and leave the results up to them and God. We need to go back to Paul’s famous words: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6).
GUT (the Grand Unified Theory)--alias the Theory of Everything-- is the elusive jewel in the crown of today's modern scientists. Physicists, cosmologists, and evolutionists alike are all pouring record amounts of time and money into discovering that one theory that makes all of life make sense.
"To discover the grand unified theory (GUT) or the theory of everything (TOE)," says Christian scientist and author Dr. Richard Swenson, "would bring world-wide fame and assure a Nobel Prize. It also would bring world-immortalization similar to that enjoyed by Einstein's name. Yet such a discovery," he continues, "has proven elusive. Even Einstein himself searched the last twenty-five years of his life for this theory without success."
Swenson goes on to relate the following exchange with famed British physicist, Dr. Stephen Hawking (a heralded voice in the anti-God scientific community): “When … Hawking was asked his opinion about the biggest unsolved problem in physics today, he did not equivocate: "The theory of everything. … We feel that we are near, but we never get there. It always seems just over the rainbow's edge." When asked if the task will be finished soon, Hawking replied: "My money is on it."
Hawking's concluding paragraph in his best-selling A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME reads: "If we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe, exist. if we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason-- for then we would know the mind of God." Ironically, Swenson points out that Hawking often makes reference to God, though he is quick to say that he does not believe in a personal deity, an intentional designer, or in an afterlife.
There is indeed a GUT (Grand Unified Theory), a TOE (Theory of Everything), a discovery that answers the elusive questions of life, and It's right under our noses, immortalized in the pages of Scripture. "For by him [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is he head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” (Colossians 1:16-18)
As Hawking suggests, a theory of everything can be "understood in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists." Indeed, Jesus makes it possible for "philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people…to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe, exist . . . [and to] know the mind of God."
LiveScience reports, "A loving mother who kisses her child's boo-boos may be providing more health benefits than she knows." In fact, a new study indicates that, "early childhood experiences can have a lasting effect on . . . the immune reaction that is the body's first line of defense against disease. Moms who soothe a child can help reduce stress, calming the hormones that can contribute to inflammation."
The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Dr. Julio Licinio, editor of the journal and director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at Australian National University, said he believed it's the first study to show, at a molecular level, the influence of what many have believed to be true -- that a mother's kiss is the best medicine.
Even adults have boo-boos. As we grow older, the scraped knees of childhood are replaced by more significant injuries like personal insult, emotional abuse, feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem. Add to these things the self-inflicted wounds of our own poor moral choices, bitterness, unforgiveness, and most of us are walking around with some pretty serious boo-boos.
The answer to these deeper problems isn't found in a medicine cabinet, but--as in the case of a mother's kiss aptly applied to a skinned knee--in an embrace. These are wounds that can only be properly tended to by the embrace and kiss of a loving God. And that's exactly what God offers to each of us in Christ. Jesus came into this world to live and to die for us so that we might experience the fullness of God's love. In Christ, our value and self-esteem are restored. In Christ, our moral failures are forgiven. In Christ, we find the healing power of God's love.
Turns out, you don't have to be a child to benefit from the healing power of a well-placed kiss.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” (Psalm 103:2-4).
Wedding alerts have really evolved over the years. First we had formal wedding invitations. Then formal, pre-invitation "save the date" notices became quite trendy. Now even emailed invitations and E-vites are becoming mainstream. So what's the newest wedding alert fad? "You're NOT Invited" alerts! Really?
Well, with the growing influence of social media, so much information about wedding plans, dates, times, locations is available online that many friends and acquaintances are simply assuming they are invited--and then showing up. The unexpected, uninvited "guests" are making for some pretty awkward moments, and are translating into some unexpected and unbudgeted costs and fees.
To stem the tide of uninvited guests, couples are now sending out "not invited" alerts ahead of their big day. Couples on a tight budget are especially jumping on the uninvited bandwagon. Some are sending formal un-invitations via regular mail. Others are sending out email blasts or Facebook group messages.
Most are crafted with gentle, and even penitent wording. Take this one for example: “We’ve had to be pretty brutal in chopping down our guest list. I’m so sad that you won’t be there with us on the day, but we look forward to catching up afterwards!” As gentle as this alert sounds, you'll probably still feel the sting of rejection. Better prepare yourself now, because one day soon you may receive an uninvited alert, too.
Aren't you glad that God excludes NO ONE from His guest list? In fact, quite the contrary of sending out a "You're NOT invited" alert, He has gone the extra mile and is inviting anyone and everyone to come to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
“Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.” (Matthew 22:9).
While imprisoned for his faith in Christ, Richard Wurmbrand (1909 - 2001) was tortured by Romanian Communists. He talks in detail about what happened to him in his book, Tortured for Christ. He discusses how as part of their strategy to break him, they played recordings of a child (the same age as his son) being beaten in the cell next to him. The screams nearly drove him insane, and the guards tormented Wurmbrand by telling him his family would cease to exist.
They would also make him sit in a steel chair for hours upon hours, not being able to move an inch, and repeat over and over again, "There is no God. There is only communism." They would torture him repeatedly. One way was by placing handcuffs on him as tight as they would possible go but they where not normal handcuffs, on the inside of these were nails that was drove into the skin, so he couldn’t move his wrist even an inch because the pain would become unbearable.
I could go on and on about all the different ways they tortured this man because of his faith in Christ but somehow, the Romanian minister did not cease in his praying. When an officer saw him knell in prayer one day, he shouted, "Why would you pray? You have lost everything! What do you have left that you could possibly be praying for?" Pastor Wurmbrand looked up from his agonizing situation and replied, "I am praying for you."
What a testimony to that officer about the love of Christ! Pastor Wurmbrand took serious the words of Jesus when He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) This is a hard passage to follow but a great testimony when it is practiced. Will you try this month to love your enemies, to love the unlovable, and to pray for those who might be trying to bring you down?
I’m amused by the story of a boy who was fishing on a stream when a group of teenagers arrived on the scene with their rods and reels and fancy flies. They thrashed the water as they joked and laughed casting and reeling in repeatedly but catching nothing.
The boy sat intently watching the tip of his tree-branch pole. Every so often he pulled up a fish. Finally one of the fellows shouted, "How do you do it? We’ve got special flies but we’re not catching anything!" The boy looked up long enough to reply, "I’m fishing for fish. You’re fishing for fun." Maybe we need to become a little more focused in our attempts to reach people with the gospel.
At least four of Christ’s disciples were fishermen. They knew that it took their full attention and energies to catch fish. Therefore, when Christ commanded them to leave their nets and “catch men,” they realized it would demand their all.
In the same way we need to focus on our mission that was given to us from Christ, “make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) This is a serious matter, requiring prayer, courage, sacrifice, perseverance, and single-minded purpose on our part. As believers in Christ we should all be fishing for lost people and we should be fishing with purpose and urgency.
You can almost hear the urgency in Jude’s voice as he says, “save others by snatching them out of the fire.” (Jude 23) There is urgency in our mission and we need to take this mission seriously.
Elizabeth Beirut was an invalid. She was laid up in bed most of her life until a young man came along. His name was Bob Roberts. She fell madly in love with him. Her father was almost tyrannical with his discipline of her. No doubt concerned about his little girl but he would not let her see him. They ran off together and got married. They left the country, went to Italy.
She wrote her father a letter every week for ten years. You can do the math. She never heard from him once. Until one day she received a package in the mail, it was a rather large box. She opened it up and inside was every letter she wrote her dad, all unopened. He wouldn’t read the letters and he stayed alienated from his baby to the day he died.
Today those letters are viewed as great pieces of literature. We have a great piece of literature too, called the Bible. God loves you and he has written you love letters but often times they remain unopened.
In the Bible God expressed His emotions and dreams for us to see who He truly is. If you truly want to discover the character of God read His love letters He wrote to you.
You may need to rethink the amount of time you spend with God in His word and in prayer. If you don’t spend enough time, I challenge you to start. You will be amazed what you learn and what you discover.
A teacher gave her class of second graders a lesson on the magnet and what it does. The next day in a written test, she included this question: “My full name has six letters. The first one is M, and I pick up things. What am I?” When the grades were all in the teacher was astounded to find that almost fifty percent had written in, MOTHER.
Moms are well known for picking up after their children. Nobody lives a more busy and rewarding life than a mother. When the children are second graders mothers are busy picking up toys and clothes. As children age Mothers will find that instead of picking up toys and clothes they may be picking up the pieces of broken hearts and lives.
The love, care and concern a Mother gives never ends. Being a mother is a balancing act of sometimes picking up after children and then knowing when to allow them to pick up after themselves.
Somebody said it takes about six weeks to get back to normal after you’ve had a baby.
Somebody doesn’t know that once you’re a mother, normal is history.
Somebody said if you’re a “good” mother, your child will “turn out good.”
Somebody thinks a child comes with directions and a guarantee.
Somebody said the hardest part of being a mother is labor and delivery.
Somebody never watched her “baby” get on the bus for the first day of kindergarten.
Somebody said a mother can stop worrying after her child gets married.
Somebody doesn’t know that marriage adds a new son or daughter-in-law to a mother’s heartstrings.
Somebody said a mother’s job is done when her last child leaves home.
Somebody never had grandchildren.
Somebody said your mother knows you love her, so you don’t need to tell her.
Somebody isn’t a mother.
Make a point to tell your mother just how much she means to you and how much you love her.
Bronnie Ware worked in hospice care for a number of years. The Australian nurse walked with numerous patients as they journeyed through their last three to twelve weeks of life. From her position she saw death quite clearly and observed some pivotal decisions.
In 2011 she published her full-length memoirs titled The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. In this work she identified five of the most common regrets noted by dying patients.
#5 – I wish that I had let myself be happier. Happiness is a choice and far too many of us let people, habits, security, or fear keep us from making that choice.
#4 – I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. In the end love and relationships trump everything else.
#3 – I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. Suppressed feelings blocked greater honesty and hindered healthier relationships.
#2 – I wish I didn’t work so hard. Ware said, “This came from every male patient that I nursed.” The drive for more actually led to less.
#1 – I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Dreams deferred may never occur. Seize them while you have health to do so, because as Ware writes, “Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”
We do not need to live a life of regret but we should live life to the fullest. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
The reason we should live everyday to the fullest is because we are not promised tomorrow. James says in 4:14b, “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” So don’t live today with regrets but live each day to the fullest as if today was your last day.
Just seven weeks before she was killed in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, Jessica Ghawi narrowly escaped a fatal shooting in a Toronto mall. On June 2, 2012, Ghawi was ordering a hamburger at the food court in Toronto’s Eaton Centre mall when she had a “panicky feeling” and felt the need to leave rather than sit down and eat. She made it outside just before gunshots rang out in the food court and two people were killed. She later looked at her receipt and saw that the hamburger was bought at 6:20 p.m. and the shots were fired at 6:23 p.m. It was a life-changing experience for her so she wrote about it on her blog three days later. The 24-year-old talked about the fragile nature of life and stated, “I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath.” In the Century Aurora 16 multiplex, 20 miles from the Columbine shooting of 1999, Jessica Ghawi drew her last breath during the first hour of July 20, 2012.
We do not know when we will draw our last breath, we are not promised tomorrow. James 4:14 says, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Psalm 144:4 says, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”
Although life is so uncertain we should not stress and worry about what tomorrow may hold. We are to live life to the fullest and live every moment for Christ. Jesus says in John 10:10b, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He didn’t come so we could stress and worry about what tomorrow may bring but he came so that we may live this life abundantly and live with him forever more in the life to come.
In “The Edge of Adventure”, Bruce Larson writes: “Hurrying home after work, I entered New York’s Port Authority bus terminal, briefcase in one hand, newspaper in the other. The usual crowd was lined up behind the escalators that take suburban passengers to their buses. Just as I got to the head of the line, a hard-faced, middle-aged woman came up from my side, shoved in front of me, planted her elbow in my stomach, and stepped onto the escalator. Removing her elbow, I said with elaborate sarcasm, ‘Forgive me. I didn’t mean to shove you.’
“As she turned and looked me in the eye, her face seemed to fall apart. ‘I don’t understand,’ she said with apology and shock. ‘Why are you so nice to me? I was really rude- I shouldn’t have shoved in line like that.’
“I was at a loss for words. The woman had reacted to my counterfeit display of love as if it were real, and appeared transformed. I began to envision this woman as a person who’d been fighting all her life for a place in line. Humiliated by the pettiness of my first reaction and overwhelmed by the effect it had produced, I gathered my wits enough to mumble, ‘It doesn’t hurt to be nice to people.’ Then I ran headlong for my bus.”
What does it hurt to be nice to someone? I don’t know, but I do know what it hurts to be mean. It damages relationships, hurts people and destroys our testimony. We as Christians are to bring Jesus to this lost and hurting world. We are to show them the love of Christ, the love Christ bestowed on us. We are called to love everyone, even our enemies. Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This is not an easy verse to practice but it will show how mature we are in your faith.
Maturity in our faith comes by putting verses like these into practice. We can talk all we want about being a “good” Christian but what matters the most is putting it into practice. So this new year do everything that you can to put your faith into practice. One way to do this is by genuinely being nice to people because what does it hurt to be nice to people?