Harry Jackson, with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reports:
Renee Berdar, 51, of Weldon Spring, says it’s easy to lose 250 pounds. OK, maybe not all that easy, but it worked for her.
“I just didn’t eat anything I liked to eat,” she said. That’s what she decided when her weight topped 420 pounds nearly three years ago. “My problem was if I liked what I was eating, I’d eat all of it. If I liked the flavor, I’d just keep eating.”
Finding the wherewithal to choose what we need over what we want can be a real challenge, whether it's a proper diet or exercising a spiritual discipline. But must we really swear off doing what we like in order to overcome temptation?
To aid us on this journey, God doesn’t just leave us with a list of "do"s and "don’t"s, but offers us the gift of the Holy Spirit. And with this gift comes a whole new set of desires--godly desires. This is how God empowers believers to love those things that are good for them, things that produce blessing. By the work of God's Spirit, we prefer others before ourselves, we show mercy rather than seek revenge, we seek to serve rather than be served.
Don't settle for a life of doing what you don't want to do in order to avoid the negative consequences of doing what you do want to do. Let God change what you want! Then your life will be filled with both goodness and joy.
“For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me” (Romans 7:22-23).
"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died" (2 Corinthians 5:14).
VOLUME VII, Number 26
All the Gold in the World
According to the World Gold Council, to date (up until 2009) only about 165,000 metric tons of gold have been mined in all of human history. This amount of gold, if consolidated, would fit into a cube measuring just some 70x70x70 feet (give or take a few cubic feet)-- a space not much longer than an average tractor trailer rig, not much wider than an average ranch style home, and not much taller than a six story building! Yet, its total value, in the modern market, would exceed $5 trillion.
Few things have held their value over time like gold. This is due to the fact that gold is not only very rare, it is also a very useful metal. From jewelry to electronics, the unique qualities of this metal cause it to be in constant demand. Rarity and practical usefulness combine to give gold its lasting value.
There are two things that add value to a persons life, and they happen to be the same things that add value to gold. 1) Their intrinsic helpfulness. 2) Their relative rarity. These qualities combine to make the child of God invaluable to the world. Self-serving, self-consumed people are of little value to others or to God's purposes in the world. They are also quite common.
God has called us and set us apart to be a special people. Why be common when you can be rare? God has also commissioned us to share His love with the world. Why live for yourself when you can live for God? Those who live for God are more helpful and more rare. They make themselves priceless!
"You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure" (Deuteronomy 14:2, NLT).
VOLUME VII, Number 25
Teenager Calls 911 to Avoid Vacation
CBC news in Toronto reports,
A Mississauga teenager was cautioned by the Ontario Provincial Police after she called 911 last Tuesday to complain that her parents "forced her" to go on vacation with them at a rental cottage east of Toronto in Trent Hills.
"This appeared to be a case of a teenager being a teenager," Northumberland OPP Const. Steve Bates told CBC News. "Although she perceived this as a real issue, it was not an appropriate use of 911."
Officers attended the rental cottage on Trent River, about 180 kilometres northeast of Toronto, to ensure everyone was safe and that there was no "real" emergency, Bates said. The 15-year-old girl has been cautioned for misuse of the emergency number.
"Calls such as this tie up police resources which could impact the safety of others in the community who are in real need of assistance," said Bates.
Is it possible that what we think is an emergency and what God thinks is an emergency are vastly different things?
This young lady suffered from an acute case of "first world problems." But you don’t have to live in the first world to suffer from this condition. Whether you’re rich or poor, first world or third world, we all suffer from first person problems. This condition is the direct result of viewing life from a first person perspective. We do this when we become so self-absorbed that we don’t appreciate our many blessings, or see the real needs around us. The solution is to shift our focus away from ourselves and on to the genuine needs of others, to choose to take on a third person focus.
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28, NLT).
VOLUME VII, Number 24
Your Marriage is an Air Filter
Dust and airborne particles circulate throughout the rooms and ventilation system of your home unimpeded until they get to the filter, strategically located in the air handler of your a/c unit. That's where the junk is caught and hopefully dealt with, lest the system become clogged and fail.
Like airborne debris, your spiritual junk floats unimpeded through most of the airspace in your life, barely noticed at work, or in your community, or even among your friends and other family members. But there is no way it's getting past the most intimate of human relationships. You can't hide your junk from your spouse! Your marriage is an air filter. It is a mechanism, strategically located by God, that is intended to both serve and protect your spiritual life. If there are issues in your spiritual life, they are sure to be "caught" in your marriage relationship.
Unresolved anger, selfishness, spiritual or emotional immaturity all "come home to roost." If you aren't who you should be at home, the filter is soon clogged and everything comes to a halt until the junk is dealt with. This is why, when there is real trouble, it is almost always felt in your marriage before it is detected anywhere else. Thus, your marriage is where you will most often be challenged to work on your junk.
Those who fail to understand this principle are inclined to see trouble in their marriage as proof that the marriage itself is the problem. This erroneous thinking leads some to conclude that the solution is to end the marriage, which is like blaming the filter itself for the clog. Rather, you must learn to see the conflict in your marriage as a divine alarm, sounding off to warn you that your junk needs to be dealt with before you will be able to move forward and become the person God has called you to be.
"In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself" (Ephesians 5:28).
VOLUME VII, Number 23
Stick with the Kitty-Litter
Megan Geuss, with arstechnica.com, reports:
The Los Angeles Times is estimating that an explosion that occurred at a New Mexico nuclear waste dumping facility in 2014 could cost upwards of $2 billion to clean up.
... The 2014 explosion apparently occurred when engineers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory were preparing a drum of plutonium and americium waste—usually packed with kitty litter (yes, kitty litter)—and decided to "substitute an organic material for a mineral one."
"The new material caused a complex chemical reaction that blew the lid off a drum, sending mounds of white, radioactive foam into the air and contaminating 35 percent of the underground area," the LA Times wrote. The dump's filtration system, which was supposed to "prevent any radioactive releases," subsequently failed.
... That means that WIPP cleanup, including indefinite housing costs for nuclear waste around the country that was to be shipped to WIPP, could rank among the costliest nuclear waste cleanup efforts in US history, on par with clean up after Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island disaster in 1979.
You can purchase a 25 lb bag of premium Kitty-Litter at Walmart for less the $5, but because these engineers chose to disregard the tried and the true, the cleanup will cost taxpayers 2 billion dollars! They should have stuck with the Kitty-Litter!
Sometimes we’re tempted to think there’s a better way than God’s way. In a world always searching for something new and exciting, Christianity may not seem very enticing, even though its principles are tried and true.
Nevertheless, the world prefers moral and social experimentation. Rather than appreciate the gift of God's wisdom, they choose to rewrite the rules of what marriage and family should be. Only time will tell what the cost will be for the cleanup.
Although the Kitty-Litter worked every single time, they said, "Yes, but let's try this instead!" Likewise, built on the foundation of a Judeo-Christian heritage, we became the greatest nation on earth. Nevertheless, our world says, "Yes, but let's try this instead!"
Don’t allow anyone to persuade you to abandon the simplicity that is Jesus Christ.
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
VOLUME VII, Number 22
Man Digs Hole in the Jungle for God
The Mirror reports:
A man claims God told him to start digging a hole 18 years ago, and he literally hasn't stopped since.
Santiago Sanchez, 69, says he regards it as the Lord's work and he devotes every waking hour to the project.
The pensioner heads to the tunnel in the city of Berlin, in the western El Salvador department of Usulutan, at around 3 AM.
And every time he emerges he is carrying around 90 pounds of rock, stones and debris, following what God told him.
… It is no easy task, and the journalist who went into the tunnel to have a look confessed that by the time he got halfway, was struggling to breathe and had to leave quickly.
… Despite his conviction that he is following God's orders, he has many critics and many more who laugh at what he is doing.
His wife, named Isabel Ventura, said that "there are people who say that he is crazy" but he answers that "no one knows what God is going to demand from you."
Is Santiago Sanchez doing God's will by digging a hole in the middle of the jungle? He certainly thinks he is, and that may be all that matters. Here’s the really interesting thing about God’s will; it can be attached to anything you do, even the most mundane of activities.
The Bible says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24). That means any task can become a divine calling, if it's done with the right motivation!
The real question isn't whether Mr. Sanchez is doing God's will but are you? If you flip hamburgers, you can choose to flip hamburgers for the Lord, or you can flip hamburgers for the pay. Every person in every walk of life and vocation can choose to serve God there.
It doesn’t take a special revelation from God to discover His will for your life. It just takes a heart that wants to please God in all circumstances.
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).
VOLUME VII, Number 21
The Regret We Regret the Most
Joe Robinson, author of the new book, DON’T MISS YOUR LIFE, makes a case that one of life’s most dogging of emotions, regret, may just have a beneficial purpose: to prod us to step out and take action.
According to Mr. Robinson, "researchers have found that the biggest regrets come not from what you do but from what you didn't do." It's the course untaken, known as the "inaction effect" in one study, which produces more regret than actions that don't work out.
Other research shows there's more intensity to the regret that comes from lost opportunities and that it stays with you longer. Since we “seem to be wired to not leave possibilities on the table,” why then do so many of us fall prey to the "inaction effect?"
Robinson explains that it is “because we're wired with some other tendencies, too -- fear, procrastination, cynicism, prior disappointments." These negative psychological agents work hard to hold us back from experiencing life to the fullest. “Life is short,” he concludes, “regrets are forever.”
If the regrets for lost “earthly” opportunities are haunting, how much more the regrets that come from lost “spiritual” opportunities. Don’t allow “fear, procrastination, cynicism, or prior disappointments” to lull you into the “inaction effect” and rob you of eternal possibilities. As Robinson himself concludes, “Life is short; regrets are forever.”
Resolve to make each new day of this new year a day of possibilities.
“So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts’" (Hebrews 3:7).
VOLUME VII, Number 20
The Law of Love
Thomas Burrows, with the Daily Mail, reports:
The highest court in Austria has said a resident cannot smoke on his balcony or with the windows open during set hours as it is disturbing his neighbor’s sleep ...
A university professor, living in the Austrian capital, had filed the case after complaining about the smell coming from the flat below.
The court heard how the resident below enjoyed a cigar on his balcony during the summer, typically between midnight and 2am.
In the winter, he tended to smoke with the windows open in his apartment.
... The country's highest court said the resident cannot smoke outside or with the windows open between 10pm and 6am.
In the summer, he is also prohibited from smoking during 'eating times' - between 8am and 10am, midday and 3pm, and 6pm and 8pm.
The decision could have far-reaching effects on the country.
It’s amazing that a single dispute between neighbors could find no solution until it reached the highest court in the land. Shouldn’t two people be able to work something like this out? And even if they need help from an authoritative third party, should an entire nation be forced to comply to a new set of laws because two people refused to accommodate one another?
There is no end to the need for new laws when the hearts involved are unyielding and selfish. By contrast, the end of the law is the love of Christ. When God’s love is the guiding principle, there is no need for any other principle. Laws aimed at enforcing compliance over such trivial disputes become unnecessary. It’s God’s love, not mans laws, that brings peace.
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14).
VOLUME VII, Number 19
A Prodigal Finds Amazing Grace
Many now know of the amazing (pun intended) story of John Newton—former slave trader and author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.” Less well known is that Newton--not just a slave trader, but a debauched man of various vices who once deserted the British navy to have his “fill” of sinning--was born to a godly mother who had planted seeds of faith in the young boys life. Chuck Swindoll retells the story:
Newton’s godly mother died when he was only seven. He was turned over to relatives and soon forgot the Scriptures she had taught him.
He went on to become an apprentice seaman and later joined the British navy. By then he had earned the reputation of being able to curse for two hours straight without repeating a word. Because he couldn’t stand the navy’s discipline, he deserted, fleeing to Africa so that, in his own words, ‘I might sin my fill.’
And he did.
Debauched and distant from God, Newton fell into the hands of a Portuguese slave trader. For months the chief woman of the trader’s harem treated him like an animal, beating him and forcing him to grovel in the dirt for his food.
By now a gaunt rail of a man, the angry Newton escaped and found his way to the shores of Africa. There he was picked up by a passing ship. Because he was a skilled navigator, he earned the position of first mate. But while the captain was ashore one day, Newton broke out the ships rum and got the entire crew drunk. When the captain came back, he was so incensed he hit Newton, knocking him overboard.
Newton would have drowned were it not for a sailor who pulled him back on the boat by spearing his thigh with a boat hook. The wound was so immense that it left a scar big enough for Newton to put his fist in. Some weeks later, when the ship neared the coast of Scotland, it sailed into a storm and almost sank. Manning the pumps was the wounded Newton.
Then and there he cried out to God.
God answered that helpless, wretched cry, and later John Newton would emerge from the hold of that ship to become chaplain to England’s Parliament and even to preach before the king.
Here was a prodigal who had abandoned the spiritual investment his godly mother had poured into him. Nevertheless, the seeds of faith had been deeply planted, and Newton was able to annex their power in his moment of helplessness and desperation.
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
VOLUME VII, Number 18
If Christianity is True, Why Do Christians Behave So Badly?
Apologist and blogger Joel Furches, in an article entitled "If Christianity Is True, Why Do Christians Behave So Badly?" seeks to correct the illogic of such questions. At the root, he suggests, is the anti-Christian bias which tries to inexorably tie the behavior of the Christian with the validity of the faith.
"If it could be shown, then, that Christian behavior is overwhelmingly reprehensible, and that Christians get away with acting this way while claiming to be followers of God, it is only reasonable that people see this as evidence against the truth of Christianity, and of the Christian God."
He goes on to cite the anti-Christians' favorite examples used to disprove the "truth" of the Christian faith: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the cruelty of John Calvin, and the bigotry of Martin Luther.
The truth of Christianity does not stand or fall on who believes it, their motivations for believing it, or their personal behaviors. Either Christianity is true or it isn’t. That certain people embrace Christianity and then behave in a despicable manor does not somehow prove that Christianity is untrue. This same person doubtlessly holds a number of other beliefs that are in fact true. They probably believe that the earth is round, that exercise is good for the body, that rain comes from clouds, and that when they strike another person, it will hurt that person. These things do not somehow become untrue if the person believing them behaves badly.
"Christianity," he concludes, "stands or falls on its own merits. If Christianity is true, those who believe it will be held accountable for how they have represented those beliefs to others. If it is untrue, their behaviors have not made it untrue."
"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the TRUTH, and the life ..." (John 14:6).
VOLUME VII, Number 17
The Drowning Stranger Dilemma
Here’s an excerpt from the Well Spent Journey blog.
Here’s a thought experiment.
Imagine that you’re a healthy, athletic, 20-year-old male. It’s the morning after a thunderstorm, and you’re standing on the banks of a flooded, violently churning river.
You notice an object floating downstream.
As it moves closer, you suddenly realize that this object is a person. The head breaks the surface, and you see a panic-stricken elderly woman gasping for air. You’ve never met her before, but vaguely recognize her as an impoverished widow from a neighboring village.
You look around for help, but there’s no one in sight. You have only seconds to decide whether or not to jump in after her – recognizing that doing so will put your own life in significant peril.
The author continues:
Is it rational for you to risk your life to save this stranger? Is it morally good to do so?
For the Christian, both of these questions can be answered with an emphatic “yes”.
The Christian is called to emulate the example set forth by Jesus, who not only risked, but sacrificed his life for the sake of others. The Christian believes that the soul is eternal, and that one’s existence doesn’t come to an abrupt end with death. Additionally, he can point to the examples of countless Christian martyrs who have willingly sacrificed their own lives.
For the secular humanist, the answers to these questions are much more subjective. When I previously asked 23 self-identifying atheists, “Is it rational for you to risk your life to save a stranger?” only 4 of them responded with an unqualified “yes”.
Biologically speaking, the young man in our scenario has nothing to gain by jumping after the drowning woman. Since she’s poor and elderly, there are no conceivable financial or reproductive advantages involved. Evolutionary biologists often speak of “benefit to the tribe” as a motivation for self-sacrifice…yet the young man’s community would certainly place greater practical value on his life than that of a widow from a neighboring village.
Secular humanists argue that people are capable of making ethical decisions without any deity to serve as Moral Lawgiver. On a day-to-day basis, this is undeniably true. We all have non-religious friends and neighbors who live extremely moral and admirable lives.
In the scenario above, however, secular ethics break down. The secular humanist might recognize, intuitively, that diving into the river is a morally good action. But he has no rational basis for saying so. The young man’s decision is between empathy for a stranger (on the one hand) and utilitarian self-interest & community-interest (on the other).
In the end, there can be no binding moral imperatives in the absence of a Moral Lawgiver. If the young man decides to sit back and watch the woman drown, the secular humanist cannot criticize him. He’s only acting rationally.
VOLUME VII, Number 16
What Happens When You Double a Penny Everyday for 30 Days?
Alan Yu, on his business blog, asks an interesting question. “If you were given a choice to receive one million dollars in one month or a penny doubled every day for 30 days, which one would you choose?"
HERE'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DOUBLE A PENNY EVERYDAY FOR 30 DAYS:
Day 1: $.01 Day 2: $.02 Day 3: $.04 Day 4: $.08 Day 5: $.16 Day 6: $.32 Day 7: $.64 Day 8: $1.28 Day 9: $2.56 Day 10: $5.12 Day 11: $10.24 Day 12: $20.48 Day 13: $40.96 Day 14: $81.92 Day 15: $163.84 Day 16: $327.68 Day 17: $655.36 Day 18: $1,310.72 Day 19: $2,621.44 Day 20: $5,242.88 Day 21: $10,485.76 Day 22: $20,971.52 Day 23: $41,943.04 Day 24: $83,886.08 Day 25: $167,772.16 Day 26: $335,544.32 Day 27: $671,088.64 Day 28: $1,342,177.28 Day 29: $2,684,354.56 Day 30: $5,368,709.12
A million dollars sure sounds like a lot more than a mere penny doubled every day for 30 days. As it turns out, a penny doubled over the short course of a month is five times more profitable! Go figure.
In a similar way, the profits and gains of this life sure seem like greater rewards than the ones we have to wait on from God. But faithfulness to God in small things will one day prove to be of far greater value than anything the world has to offer us now.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal:" (Matthew 6:19-20).
VOLUME VII, Number 15
Beautiful People In an episode of the old television series “All in the Family,” Edith and Archie are attending Edith’s High School class reunion. Edith encounters an old classmate named Buck who has allowed himself to become extremely obese. Edith has a delightful conversation with him about old times and the things they did together, but remarkably, Edith doesn’t seem to even notice how extremely heavy her friend has become.
Later, Edith and Archie are talking. She says, “Archie, ain’t Buck a beautiful person?” Archie replies: “Edith, I’ll never figure you out. You and I can look at the same guy and you see a beautiful person and I see a blimp!” And Edith replies, simply, “Yeah, Arch, ain’t that too bad!”
Jesus tells us that when we look at other people, we should see something special in them; we should see them not just as beautiful people but as people for whom He gave His life; we should see them not just as fellow believers but as people in whom He lives.
What do you see when you look at the broken person, the dysfunctional person, the needy person, the sinner? If you see anything less than one for whom Christ died, "ain't that too bad!"
Jesus said: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
VOLUME VII, Number 14
Prayer Changes Me
In the 2003 movie Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey portrays a television reporter named Bruce Nolan. Bruce is a man who constantly complains about God. At one point he complains that, “God is a mean kid sitting on an anthill with a magnifying glass, and I'm the ant. He could fix my life in five minutes if He wanted to, but He'd rather burn off my feelers and watch me squirm.”
God (played by Morgan Freeman) confronts Bruce and says, “You've been doing a lot of complaining about me, Bruce. Quite frankly, I'm tired of it.” To prove to Bruce that He knows what He’s doing, God offers to let Bruce try to run the world in His place. Feeling confident he is up to the task, Bruce excitedly accepts. He soon realizes, however, the enormity and complexity of God’s work, particularly in answering prayers. In one scene, Bruce is so overwhelmed at the amount of prayers he has to answer, that he has them all put into a database and answers “Yes” to every one. As a result, over 400,000 people get the winning lottery numbers, but they only win $17.00 each.
Intellectually we all understand that God cannot say yes to every request we bring before Him, but I imagine many of us have wondered why he doesn’t say yes more often. We have difficulty understanding why some people seem to have their prayers answered, but when we pray for the same thing, heaven seems silent. We wonder, “Does prayer really change things?” Yes, it most certainly does! But it might not always bring the change we are expecting.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Jesus' initial request was not granted but the ultimate desire of His heart was. God's will was done. And His own heart was prepared for what would follow because He submitting Himself to God's will ahead of time. He went from "deeply sorrowful" to accepting of His circumstances. God cannot say yes to every request, but desiring His will before our own changes the most important thing ... us!
VOLUME VII, Number 13 The Foolishness of Missionaries
Many years ago, when the Fiji Islands were first civilized, there was great interest in bringing commerce to this primitive society. This was a daunting prospect, considering that the natives had a particularly harrowing reputation for brutality. Yet seeking to take advantage of the opportunity, a young merchant visited the Islands in the hopes of getting in on the ground floor. It just so happened, as he visited the home of a certain chief, that he noticed a Bible prominently displayed, which he took to be evidence of missionary influence. This prompted the young man to comment, “What a shame that you have listened to the foolish nonsense of the missionaries.”
The chief, taken aback by this remark, responded saying, “Do you see the large white stone over there? That is a stone that just a few years ago we used to smash the heads of our victims.” Then, pointing toward the center of the village, he asked, “Do you see that large oven over there? That is the oven where just a few years ago we used to bake the bodies of our victims before we feasted on them.” The chief then leaned into the face of the young man and added, “Had we not listened to what you call the nonsense of the missionaries, I assure you that your head would have already been smashed on that rock and your body would already be baking in that oven.”
The message of the cross is one of love and reconciliation. Wherever it has been genuinely heeded, peace has replaced animosity, kindness has replaced brutality, and acceptance has replaced hostility. Its transforming power dismantles old ways of life and replaces them with the peacemaking ways of God.
That’s because God has given each and every believer the task of bringing peace to our world. 2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us that through the message of the cross, God “has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (NKJV). Having been reconciled to God ourselves, we are now commissioned members of God’s peacemaking task force.
VOLUME VII, Number 12 Revenge Always Fails
In a series of articles on the greatest acts of revenge, grunge.com writes, Mariya Oktyabrskaya was a telephone operator, the wife of a Soviet army officer, and the proud owner of a T-34 tank, with which she used to kill enough Nazis in World War II to earn her the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union." After the outbreak of war, Mariya was evacuated to Siberia, while her husband went off to fight. He was killed almost immediately, though the news didn't reach Mariya until nearly two years later. Driven by rage, and with nothing left to lose, Mariya sold her house and belongings in exchange for a T-34, which she donated to the Soviet Union under the condition that she be the one to drive it.
... Though her unit was initially skeptical of what they saw as nothing more than a publicity stunt, their opinions quickly changed after her first battle, in which she eliminated numerous machine gun nests, artillery guns, and the Nazis who manned them. When her tank was hit and immobilized by heavy enemy fire, she immediately jumped out to repair it. For this action, she was promoted to Sergeant…
Unfortunately, after many battles and many dead Germans, her luck caught up with her in January of 1944. She was killed during a battle near the village of Shvedy, while making yet more repairs to her immobilized tank. She did not, however, die before eliminating several machine gun nests, trenches, a self-propelled gun, and yet more Nazis for good measure.
Revenge is a powerful motivator. It has the power to motivate a wife to sell everything, buy a T-34 tank and kill Nazis. What it doesn’t have the power to do is to motivate us to forgive, to heal or to restore. Although Mariya Oktyabrskaya's story is one of great courage, but there is nothing redemptive about it. That's because there is nothing redemptive in revenge.
Love, on the other hand, also has the power to motivate us to make great sacrifices. Jesus was motivated by love when He left it all behind and came to earth to fight the powers of sin and death. The difference is that once He accomplished His mission, He secured forgiveness, healing, and restoration for all mankind.
No doubt the Apostle Paul was thinking of Jesus’ example when he wrote, “love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).
VOLUME VII, Number 11 The Bug Letter A story is told of a man who was on a business trip and stayed in a hotel that had a bug problem. There were bugs all over his room. He complained about this to the management and later wrote a letter of complaint to the main office of the hotel chain.
Sometime later he received a letter signed by the President of the company. It said: “We are humiliated that a man of your integrity, a man of your reputation, a man of your importance in the community should have had this experience in one of our hotels. We are deeply sorry.”
This made the man feel somewhat better about the situation until, as he was folding the letter to put it away, he noticed a little piece of paper at the bottom of the envelope, obviously not supposed to have been included. It was in the President’s handwriting and it read: “Send this guy the ‘bug letter.’”
Unfortunately, this is the way we sometimes treat other people. We send them the ”bug letter,” the form letter. We give them the old cliches: We ask them: “How are you?” when we don’t really care. We say “have a nice day," or "I'm so sorry,” when really we couldn’t care less.
The Lord said that we should be compassionate. We must truly care about others. Each day we come into contact with people who will have one thing in common: they're struggling with something. They will tell us about loved ones who are sick, loved ones who have died, loved ones who have problems. They will share with us their sufferings, their heartaches, their fears. Perhaps Mark Twain was right when he said, “You should never tell people your problems because 80 percent of them won’t care, and the other 20 percent will think you deserve them!”
Let us not send them the “bug letter.” Let us listen carefully and mean it when we say we care. Jesus never sent anyone a “bug letter.” We shouldn’t either.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12).
VOLUME VII, Number 10 Never Try To Catch the Catcher
In the world of trapeze performance, there are "flyers" and there are "catchers." Imagine yourself a trapeze flyer sailing through the air, flipping as you go. Then at the end of your rotation, as you hang in mid-air, you see the catcher. Your natural impulse is to reach out and grab for him. That’s certainly what I would do. I’d grab anything I could -- his hands, his arms, his shirt, his hair. It wouldn’t matter. I’m grabbing a hold of something, anything, and hanging on to it for dear life But the flyer is trained to resist this impulse. He understands that it is preemptive for him to attempt to catch the catcher. Any such attempt would actually prevent the catcher from performing his task. In the world of high wire acrobatics, this principle has been reduced to a well-known axiom, attributed to Rodleigh of The Flying Rodleighs, which says, “The flyer is the one who lets go and the catcher the one who catches. The flyer must never try to catch the catcher!”
One of the great lessons of the spiritual life is to learn not to strive when God has called you to rest, or rest when God has called you to strive. The most important place of rest and trust is in the promise of salvation. The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). In other words, don’t try to catch God, let God catch you! When it comes to the salvation of your soul, you are the one who must let go and trust God to catch you. Those who insist on catching God will only prevent Him from doing what He has promised to do. It isn’t your job to finish the work of Christ, but to rest in the finished work of Christ. This means you must cease from striving to earn your salvation and put your trust in God’s promise to save you. As Jesus declared, “It is finished!” So, let the Catcher catch you!
VOLUME VII, Number 9 The Japanese Adopt Adult Men
Lianna Brinded, with Business Insider, writes: In Japan, 98% of adoptions are actually adult men, aged between 20-30 years old — not children. That is according to government data cited by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner in their book "Freakonomics," as well as a number of other reputable media outlets also citing government data.
It all started hundreds of years ago when Japan’s civil code dictated how a family's wealth would be passed on after the death of the family elder.
In households which only have daughters, a family would look to adopt a son, so they could fulfill the role of carrying on the family business as well as receiving and being custodian to the family's cash and assets.
Nowadays, legal adoption of this kind is paired up with an arranged marriage — known as "omiai" — of a daughter, meaning the adopted son becomes son and son-in-law at the same time because he changes his name to the wife's family name ("mukoyoshi").
In Japan, there are even matchmaking companies that recruit voluntary adoptees for Japanese corporates. Some of Japan's most famous companies have remained a "family-run" businesses because of "mukoyoshi," such as carmaker Toyota, which was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937.
Suzuki is also famously run by adopted sons — in fact, the current chairman and CEO Osamu Suzuki is the fourth consecutively adopted son to run the group.
In Japanese culture, adoption is a practical solution to perpetuate the bloodline in the absence of an heir. God has a similar dilemma. Since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,” God has also turned to adoption! No one is born a citizen of Heaven. Every son and daughter of God is so by adoption.
“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
“He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:5).
VOLUME VII, Number 8
Woman Faces Court for Parking Two Seconds Too Early
Richard Hartley-Parkinson reports:
Known only as Sarah, she ended up in court after it emerged that she had broken parking rules by arriving at a bay two seconds too soon.
... Judge Frank Caprio from the Providence Municipal Court, read details of the case which stated that she had parked in a bay at 9.59am and 58 seconds.
Parking was not allowed in the area between 8am and 10am.
He told her in mock anger: ‘You violated the city ordinances.’ He added: ‘Our parking enforcement offices are second to none in the country.’
She explained her actions by saying her car clock said 10am.
Judge Caprio laughed the charge out of court in Rhode Island after hearing details of the case.
He said: ‘I think 9.59am is close enough to 10am, matter is dismissed.
Is this what you imagine will happen when you stand before God? Are you hoping that He will, likewise, release you from the finer details of His moral will?
That’s not how it will work. You will either stand before God to be judged by the minutest details of your non-compliance, including the thoughts and intents of your heart, or you will stand before Him having been credited with the minutest details of Christ’s compliance. There is no middle-ground. There is no third option. It's either law or grace. You decide!
“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law” (Galatians 2:16).
"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin" (Romans 3:20).
VOLUME VII, Number 7 The Feasts God gave Israel three vital revelations. The Law, to reveal our rebellious hearts, the Temple to picture the sacrifice that would be paid for our transgressions, and a set of Feast days to point to the fulfillment of God’s redemptive promises.
When Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, He was crucified on the very day the first of the seven feasts, Passover, appeared on the Hebrew calendar. As the Jews celebrated how God’s judgment passed over the Israelites due to the blood of the Passover lamb, Jesus was shedding his blood for us! On that very day! Remember, the Last Supper was a meal in preparation for the Passover.
The pattern continued. His body lay in a tomb as a sinless offering as the Jews observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leaven represents sin and the Israelites were to remove all leaven from their homes during this Feast.
Jesus then rose from the dead on the third day, the very day the Jews were celebrating the Feast of First Fruits. The New Testament tells us that, "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died" (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Jesus then appeared to His disciples for 40 days before His ascension. But just before His departure He instructed them to go to Jerusalem and to wait there for the promise of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. Jesus didn’t tell them how long they would have to wait, He just told them to remain there until this event occurred (Acts 1:7-8).
Imagine yourself one of those disciples. Perhaps you would have noticed that Jesus had just fulfilled Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits on the very day these Feasts appeared on the Hebrew calendar. You might have thought about the fact that the next Feast would be in 10 days, the Feast of Pentecost, which celebrates the beginnings of a new harvest season. You might have even turned to the other disciples and said, “I can’t be sure about this but based on this pattern, I think the Lord will send His Spirit and begin this new thing called the Church in 10 days, on the day of Pentecost." And, of course, you would have been right.
But there are three more Feasts that also speak of God's redemptive plan that have yet to be fulfilled. These Feasts pick up at the end of the growing season in Israel, in the Fall. The first one, and the next in line for fulfillment is the Feast of Trumpets. It is the celebration of the bringing-in of the harvest. The Apostle Paul wrote that it will be “at the last trump” that the Church would be gathered at the end of this age, a reference to the last of a series of trumpet blasts that take place during the Feast of Trumpets in Israel. So we see that the next Feast in the line of succession just happens to correlate perfectly with the next event promised to the Church in the New Testament.
Let me conclude by emphasizing that the New Testament does not reveal when the Lord will return. Like Jesus' disciples who didn’t know when the Holy Spirit would descend, we don't know when Christ will return. But just as they should have had a heightened expectation as Pentecost approached, we should have a heightened sense of anticipation for his arrival.
"It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed" (1 Corinthians 15:52, NLT).
VOLUME VII, Number 6 The Power of the Locomotive
The power of a locomotive boggles the mind. Some trains are more than TWO MILES in length, yet the locomotive can pull these cars across the entire country – loaded with coal and oil and lumber and ore and manufactured goods and all manner of heavy cargo. And they pull them up steep inclines, through mountain passes, and over all manner of terrain. It seems as though nothing could stop them. The combination of the sheer power of the locomotive and the focus of placing that strength upon two narrow rails results in a mechanism that can accomplish tremendous things.
But do you know what can render a locomotive completely ineffective? It’s easy – simply remove it from its tracks. Despite its great power, if the train’s engine is not on the tracks, it will be unable to move the train (or even itself) a single inch! Unless it is returned to its tracks, it will never accomplish the purpose for which it is intended.
So it is with those of us who follow Christ. God has filled us with the power of the Holy Spirit, and has equipped us to accomplish amazing things for His kingdom. But unless we remain “on the tracks,” we will become completely powerless. We must be on guard for anything with the potential to derail us and thus remove us from our God-appointed mission.
"Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons" (1 Timothy 4:1).
VOLUME VII, Number 5 Man Robs Bank to Get Away from Wife
KANSAS CITY, Kan. Associate Press reports: A 71-year-old man who said he robbed a Kansas City, Kansas, bank so he could get away from his wife blamed his actions on depression.
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Lawrence John Ripple to six months of home confinement and 50 hours of community service.
Ripple went to the Bank of Labor — a block from the Kansas City, Kansas, police headquarters — last September and gave a note to a teller saying he had a gun and demanding money. After he was given money, Ripple waited for police.
Court records indicate Ripple wrote the robbery note in front of his wife and told her he would rather be in jail than at home.
He must have been thinking about the verse found in Proverbs: “Better to live on a corner of the roof [or in prison!] than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9).
Who hasn't attempted to avoid facing their problems? But the real lesson here might be the punishment Mr. Ripple received, and how well it fit the crime. But rather than allow him to escape his dysfunctional home life, the judge sentenced him to six months of home confinement! Perfect!!
Sometimes God puts us in circumstances we can't change to force an inner change in us. It's not that the punishment fits the crime as much as the challenge fits our need to grow and mature as a believer.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-3).
VOLUME VII, Number 4 When Are You Going to Die?
Richard Carlson, Ph.D., was an author, psychotherapist, and motivational speaker, who became famous with the success of his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff... and it’s all Small Stuff (1997). The book became one of the fastest-selling books of all time. It is divided into 100 brief chapters.
The last chapter is entitled, “Live This Day as if It Were Your Last. It May Be.” Carlson lived his last day on December 13, 2006. He died of a pulmonary embolism during a flight from San Francisco to New York, leaving his wife and two teenage daughters.
Carlson said that he ended his book with this chapter as a reminder of how precious life and loved ones are. He wrote: “I often wonder, when listening to the news, did the person who died in the auto accident on his way home from work remember to tell his family how much he loved them?” Carlson started the 100th chapter asking, “When are you going to die? In fifty years, twenty, ten, five, today? Last time I checked, no one had told me.”
He died suddenly and unexpectedly nine years later at the age of 45. We do not know when our last day will be on this earth but we can live every day to the fullest.
"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
VOLUME VII, Number 3 Were Lost Sailors Really Lost?
Lost at sea for nearly 5 months, two women had harrowing tales of survival that included shark attacks. They also claimed that 6 forms of communication all mysteriously and simultaneously malfunctioned. The Coast Guard, however, suspects that for some reason these women did not want to be found.
That's because it gets even weirder: Besides the malfunctioning of all forms of communication, there was also an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on board their vessel. This device should have virtually guaranteed their rescue. Yet, for some reason, it was never turned on. Their excuse was that they never felt they were "truly in distress."
I wonder how many lost people simply do not want to be found. Perhaps they're afraid that coming to Christ will mean a change of lifestyle. Or, maybe they're like the prodigal son who had to hit bottom first.
Sadly, many know of the saving grace of Christ but choose to remain adrift, lost at sea, believing they have time. They know the EPIRB is on the boat, but they don't feel the urgency to turn it on.
"For he says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
VOLUME VII, Number 2
Fishing for a Friend?
The Independent reports:
The fish friend programme caught the imagination of the internet after radio producer Michelle Cook tweeted a picture of the fishbowl and sign. The caption read: “My friend is staying in a hotel in Belgium. They've offered her the option of renting a fish for the night, in case she's lonely.”
... Hotel manager David Dillen told The Independent that the fish rental service has been running for several years and is popular with guests.
He said: “We started a few years ago. The idea was to surprise our guests, as we always try to do.
“It’s brilliant to see how people react to it. They smile, they take pictures to put on social media. We rent a few fish per week.”
There are a lot of ways to deal with the problem of loneliness. You could order a fish. Or, you could get out of yourself and focus on trying to help someone else. Whatever might be said of Jesus' followers, it should never be said that they are lonely.
First, you’re never alone when you walk closely with Jesus. He is constantly by your side. Also, He compels you to seek and serve others—particularly the lost. His promise to every faithful follower is that He will make them fishers of men. So, the next time you're feeling all alone, don't hang out with a fish, but go fishing!
"Come, follow Me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).
VOLUME VII, Number 1
The Half-Life of Facts
David Mcraney writes:
In medical school, they tell you half of what you are about to learn won’t be true when you graduate — they just don’t know which half.
In every field of knowledge, half of what is true today will one day be updated with better information, and it turns out that we actually know when that day will come for many academic pursuits.
This is what author Sam Arbesman calls “the half-life of facts.” The premise is that for every domain, silo, discipline, and school of knowledge, the facts contained within are slowly being overturned, augmented, replaced, and refined — and in medicine, for example, the rate of that overturning is high enough that if you never really complete your education. Medical school, in other words, never ends.
... For instance, in physics, about half of all research findings will be disconfirmed within 13 years. In psychology, it’s every seven. In other words, if you graduated with a degree in psychology seven years ago, half of the information in all your textbook is now inaccurate.
By contrast, the Bible claims to be the very “Word of God.” The fact that millions of people the world over have found that claim to be credible for 3500 years proves that the truths that matter the most are not nullified by the passing of time or rendered passé by better information.
There is no half-life to the truth that God loves us or that Jesus came into this world to die for the sins of mankind. These truths are grounded in God’s unfailing nature and will never be overturned or replaced.
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
“For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).