Archive for November, 2010

When I felt secure, I said,’I will never be shaken.’ LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face,I was dismayed. To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:’What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?  Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.’ You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy (Psalm 30:6-11).” 
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy

In his epic work on D-Day the World War II invasion of France by the Allies, Anthony Beevor tells of a massive bombardment on German positions during the conflict.  The scale and effects of the bombing were literally earth-shattering.

Here is Beevor’s account:

“”At 05.30 hours on 18 July, the first wave of bombers flew in from the north to attack their targets. Over the next two and a half hours , 2,000 heavy and 600 medium bombers of the RAF (Royal Air Force) and USAAF (U.S. Army Air Force) droppped 7.567 tons of bombs on a frontage of 7,000 yards.  It was the largest concentration of air power in support of a ground operation ever known.  Warships of the Royal Navy off the coast also contributed a massive bombardment.  The waiting tank crews climbed out to watch the spectacular dust clouds thrown up by the seemingly endless explosions.  For those watching, it was unthinkable that anyone could survive such an onlaught.

Germans who endured the man-inflicted earthquake were stunned and deafened.  The wounded and those driven mad screamed and screamed.  Some, unable to bear the noise, the shock waves and the vibration of the ground, shot themselves.”

Beevor gives a further description of what the advancing Allied soldiers found when they encountered the Germans. He writes that they found one group of German soldiers who appeared to be asleep, untouched by wounds.  However, they had been killed by shock waves.

The Allied soldiers also saw the effects of the bombing in other ways. Some German soldiers were so stunned they were unable to walk. If the Germans were unable to understand the incredible force on the other side of their lines, they surely did after this fusillade. 

Sometimes pain is the only thing that gets our attention.  This morning we were discussing this in a small group I meet with before dawn.

In our culture we think that we are basically good.  We have been taught this for a good part of our lives. The emphasis in American culture is on feeling good about ourselves, i.e. on maintaing a postive self image. 

 The speaker during the early morning plenary session noted how misguided we Americans are in this respect.  He noted that some researchers asked this question of different nationalities after a math test:

“True or False: I am good in mathematics.” 

Sixty one percent of the Americans who answered indicated this statement was true about themselves. Only twenty five percent of Koreans said so.

The truth was that the American test takers scored abysmally on the test. The Koreans scored well.

Thus, when we encounter the truth that we have a huge number of flaws, we also meet great pain.  From God’s point of view, this pain has a purpose. It’s  meant to wake us up to our need for Him.

One of the men in the 100 plus folks who I meet with during the wee hours of Tuesday mornings died in a hiking accident over the weekend. Our moderator reminded of the pain of this when he spoke out a  quote from C.S. Lewis. This great spiritual man and author said,”God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I admit it. I am extremely dense, like a lot of men. We men so selfishly goal oriented that the only way God can get our attention is through suffering.

For example,  I recently came home from an outing and prepare to head to the office for a meeting. I had about 10 minutes to get to this meeting.

My wife greeted me at the door with a message from my doctor’s office. This message said it was urgent that I call them.

I told my wife,”I have to go to a meeting at work.” My wife replied,”They said it was URGENT!”.

I relented and called the doctor. I was told to report to a specialist “NOW”. I said into the phone, “NOW?”. The reply from the medical person was “NOW!”.

This got my attention. I got in my car and drove to the specialist instead of to my meeting at work.

God also shouts at meet when have financial problems or when I fail at some temptation.  He screams when I have communication problems with my wife or one of my kids suffer.

I get so caught up with whether or not God is listening to me or not that I quit listening to Him. Thus, He has to  yell.

Jacob and Rachel had this problem, too.  As a result, when God didn’t answer their prayers for a child together, they arranged to solve the problem illegitimately.

Jacob listened to his wife screaming “Give me a children, or I die!” instead of to God.  He succumned to the pressure and gave into his wife’s request to have children through their maid.

Somehow, Rachel thought this solved the problem. She felt vindicated. However, all their bogus decision did was lead to more problems. They  forgot until they had created as mess that God was the One who granted life, not them (Genesis 30:1-24).

Our plenary speaker this morning pointed out that we have one big problem today. We have forgotten that we have a depraved nature.

He said that in the old days people would cry out for God’s mercy. Not anymore. It’s “I’m OK, You’re OK.”

It seems to me that this is why God has to perform His own shock and awe. Things are not OK. That’s why he has to bombs me and rock my world until I cry to Him for mercy.

He’s more than willing at that point to come through for me and get me back on my feet again. Stunned and beaten, I turn to Him and He provides His mercy.

On the old sitcom “Frasier”, the title character used to greet his callers with the catchphrase,”Hello ____. I’m listening.” They were patients calling for pychiatric advice.

After God’s shock and awe, this is now my catchphrase, too. “Hello God. I’m listening.”


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“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD  in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD (Psalm 27:13,14).”

“B-e-a-g-e-l”.  Charlie Brown spells the word he hopes will win him the Scripps National Spelling Bee in New York.

Up to that point, in the TV feature “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”, he has had to spell words like “imcompetent” and “unconfident”.  Watching on television, Lucy remarks that Charlie Brown should definitely be familair with the word “unconfident” since it epitomizes him.

Sadly, Charlie Brown chokes on the term for his own dog Snoopy and rides the bus home in defeat with his friend Linus.  When he gets home, no one is there to greet him.

The next day Linus comes to Charlie Brown’s house to invite him out to play. Charlie Brown is in his room, under the blankets, where he has been since they arrived from New York. 

He tells Linus he is never coming back to school. He also says he will never play his beloved baseball again. Charlie Brown has obviously given up.

Linus heads out the door of Charlie Brown’s room. But before he leaves, he turns to Charlie Brown and tells him that he must feel pretty bad and felt like has has made a fool of himself.

Linus then adds:”But did you notice something, Charlie Brown? The world didn’t come to an end.”

These are the words Charlie Brown needs to get his courage back. He gets out of bed, gets dressed and leaves his house, ready to be with his friends again.

We all feel like Charlie Brown at times. Life clobbers us and we get discouraged, sometimes extremely so.

Once the apostle Paul was traveling with a group of men on a ship when they ran into a hurricane.  After several days of not seeing the sun or the stars, the men gave up hope of being saved.

However, Paul looked to the Lord. He told Paul through an angel that he and the men with him would be saved.

Paul became the Linus of the crew. He encouraged the men, even though the ship was ready to break apart and they were driven across the Mediterranean for two weeks.

Paul told the men of his encounter with the angel. He told them to keep up their courage.

After two weeks of not eating because of the suspense, Paul directed the men to eat. This gave the men new courage.

Paul also was practical. He told the military commander that if people left the ship, none of them would be saved. They needed all hands on deck!

Eventually, through Paul’s encouragement, the party was saved. There ship was destroyed, but the people reached land in one piece (Acts 27:1-44).

As believers, we have a lot to be confident about. For one, we have been forgiven of our sins and have an Advocate in Jesus Christ.

Indeed, remaining in a state of discouragement is sin, acording to Paul. We know the truth about life (Hebrews 10:17-23).

Paul in his experience with his fellow shipmates knew, however, that we are tempted to unbelief when things are tough. That’s why he wrote that it is vital for us to encourage one another. Remaining under our blankets in our bedroom is a killer (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Thus, Paul tells us not to remain in a discouraged state. When we do so, we are throwing the work of Christ on the cross back in his face (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Paul is not saying that life isn’t rough. However, he IS saying that we belong to a select group of people who God has promised to save, and do so forever.

Therefore, Paul tells us to please the ONE who saved us by persevering,  keeping our faith and not turning  into a shrinking violet, huddled under our blankets.

  Paul writes, “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are save (Hebrews 10:39).”

Surely life is a bummer – a lot. When it is, we need a Linus to encourage us. We’ll probably find him (or the female version) in church.

We also need to heed the words of encouragement. We need to get out of bed, get dressed and take on life again. The world hasn’t come to an end -not yet.

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 Vindicate me, LORD,for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered. Test me, LORD, and try me,examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness (Psalm 26:1-3).”

The Vikings in Berk are typical.  They are warriors.

They actually seem to feed on the attacks of dragons on their town, making the battles a kind of contest.  They even train their youngsters to fight them. Becoming a dragonslayer means you are a true Viking.

This is the culture portrayed in the movie “How to Tame Your Dragon”.  I watched it on Thanksgiving with my family.

The main character in this film is an adolescent boy who is the son of the village chieftan. The young man’s main problem is that he wants to be a dragon killer, but those around him think he doesn’t have what it takes, including his own father.

Indeed, the boy’s name “Hiccup” reflects the view held of him by others.  He is an afterthought, even an annoyance.

Hiccup has a lot of inner guts, however. Despite the opinion of others, he is determined to become a real Viking.  One night he takes some action he things will help him gain acceptance.

In one of the dragon attacks, at night, Hiccup uses a rope contraption to bring down a dragon no one has ever seen. It is the mythical and dangerous Night Fury. 

Hiccup doesn’t realize what he has done until he finds the wounded beast in the forest the next day. Unable to move with ropes around it, the Night Fury is ready to be slain.

However, Hiccup finds he just doesn’t have the ability to plunge the knife in. Finally, giving up, he sets the dragon free.  The dragon can’t fly, though, because one of its wings has been damaged.

Hiccup proceeds to befriend the dragon, taking steps similar to other animal trainers, such as horse whisperers. Soon the dragon, who Hiccup calls “Toothless” are buddies.

Hiccup creates an artificial wing for Toothless and begins to fly on him. He eventually is discovered by Astrid, a girl who he likes, but who is the warrior he is not. Hiccup brings her around to his side through a fantastic flight, including a visit to the lair of the dragons.


Eventually, Hiccup teaches his peers in dragon training to pacify the animals, not kill them. This leads to a successful raid on the lair of the dragons,where a huge beast inside a volcano-like mountain controls and enslaves them to do his bidding.

Hiccup and Toothless lead the massive dragon on a high speed chase which it can’t come out of. The dragon is destroyed, but Hiccup and Toothless are injured.

The movie ends with Hiccup being awakened by Toothless inside his home. Hiccup discovers he now has an artificial foot. but also learns that  the townspeople have all come around to his viewpoint.  They no longer believe that killing dragons is what makes them true Vikings.

Insteasd, they have befriended the dragons and ride them around town. They are like pets now to these former bloodthirsty people. 

Hiccup has become a hero. He has won the respect of his father, and his love Astrid, too!

The apostle Paul’s story is similar to that of Hiccup.  He is well known by his own people. He was the equivalent of a Viking in his culture: He was a zealous, legalistic Pharisee. In fact, he sought to persecute, even kill Christians, which was prized among his peers.

However, Paul has chosen a different means to God. He has decided to follow Jesus Christ as the means to a relationship with His Heavenly Father.

This is too much for Paul’s former friends, especially since he used to persecute Christians. Now they have had him brought up on trumped up charges in front of the Romans, to whom he tells his story (Acts 26:1-29).

Paul has turned his world upside down (Acts 17:6). He has gone against his own beliefs and culture.  

It’s a good thing he stood fast. We believers today owe the apostle Paul a huge debt of gratitude for sticking to his guns and persevering through trial to bring the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.

In our own way, we all have a little Hiccup and some apostle Paul in us. God has gifted us a certain way, and communicated specific messages to us, ones meant  just for us. He wants us to turn our own worlds, our own cultures, upside down.

Sure the going will be rough and there will be opposition. In the midst of it God is faithful, and on the other side of all of that, there is the love, respect and vindication of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

We have our own dragon to tame, the ancient one Satan, who has the whole world under his grasp. We are not to befriend him, but we should reach out to those in his snare, using the means God has given us.

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 “But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me. I will praise God’s name in song  and glorify him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:29,30).”

I just took a look at a some of my recent postings on Facebook. What a complainer!

I muse about drivers in my area. I complain about excessive noise at the mall ruining a meal time with my wife at the food court.

I am truly a glass-is-half-empty kinda guy.  Someone just sent me a nice money gift. Another person has offered to help pay for a legal problem my wife and I are having.

Yet, this impatient man just complained to my wife that these presents weren’t enough. They are only drops in the bucket, I say. Moody, Moody, Moody.

I was determined today after some time in the Bible to assist my wife. (See my post entitled “Pleasing God and my wife on ‘staycation’ “. Yet, I have been irritable and impatient as I drove her around on some errands.

I suppose I am quite frustrated at life right now in general. The overall picture seems bleak at times. However, I think it is really a matter of perspective.

If I look at things realistically, I see great blessing.  As mentioned above, two people have recently blessed my family financially. Sure, it’s a small drop in the overall can, but it’s encouraging.

I have had some medical problems of late. In this time, I have been given expensive medical care and prescriptions without demands. In fact, some of the great expense has been taken care of by my church and a support organization.

I truly have a lot to be thankful for. I live in a house I really don’t deserve, for example. The landlord could charge much more, but has chosen not to in order to have reputable tenants who will take care of his property.

My entire family is with me at the moment. This includes an adult son who I hardly saw hide nor hair of for years.

All these aggravations I have experienced today and have noted on Facebook are of biblical proportions; that is, they are small.

They are what the Bible calls little foxes. In the Song of Solomon, the beloved male tells his lovely female: ” Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom (Song of Solomon 2:15)”.

Matthew Henry says these foxes are corruptions of believer which can spoil good beginnings. Well, my family and I immigrated back to America about a year ago, and it has been rough.

Yet, it is a new beginning. With the proper viewpoint, it can even be seen as a good one.

Foxes have come in and messed things up a lot, however. Foxes are omivores. They eat a lot of things, including meat and berries. 

They are also opportunistic. They eat what’s available.

In the Song of Solomon, what was readily available was young grapes. They were ruining the vineyard and they needed to be apprehended.

The big fox Satan has taken the opportunity to try and (as Matthew Henry writes) crush our good beginning here in America. God, on the other hand, wants us to have time to come to bloom and bear fruit.

What this means is that I have to deal with Satan and his other less important foxes, with God’s help. He is the Beloved, there to aid me as I catch those things that hinder my and my family’s growth.

 The great preacher Charles Spurgeon, in an exposition on Song of Solomon 2:15, wrote: “A little thorn may cause much suffering. A little cloud may hide the sun. Little foxes spoil the vines; and little sins do mischief to the tender heart. These little sins burrow in the soul, and make it so full of that which is hateful to Christ, that he will hold no comfortable fellowship and communion with us. A great sin cannot destroy a Christian, but a little sin can make him miserable.”

What Satan is trying to do to me is to cause me to sin in the midst of my little irritations, and ruin my fellowship with Jesus. Thankfully, Spurgeon also wrote,” If thou wouldst live with Christ, and walk with Christ, and see Christ, and have fellowship with Christ, take heed of ‘the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes.’ Jesus invites you to go with him and take them. He will surely, like Samson, take the foxes at once and easily. Go with him to the hunting.”

This is the season to go hunting. It’s deer season and gobbler season. It’s Thanksgiving, and nothing will take care of those little foxes like a little ammo full of thankfulness.

The next time one of those foxes shows itself in my life, I am drawing a bead on it with some shot of perspective. I am going to blast it with some thankfulness to God.

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However, I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men themselves have, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.  So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man (Acts 24:14-16).”

I’m on a bit of a “staycation” this week.  What this really means practically is only that I am away from the office.

I have been trying my best to try and squeeze some R and R in, but I am finding it difficult. This morning I was up before dawn so I could go to the office (of all places) and print out some documents for an appointment later this morning.

I also have some things I really need to be doing, like work from that same office. However, since my middle name is “Procrastination” (as well as “Car Problem”), I have not done a thing. It is now the middle of the week of my “staycation”.

These kinds of so-called vacations always bring out the worst in me. I assume I can get some rest and fun, but always find that the needs around me tug me away.  What results is the production of my innate selfishness.

I usually end up at the end of these times away from work not only exhausted, but frustrated. I look back on what I could have done with the time, and live in regret that I didn’t use the time off well.

Yet, even when I do have the time to do the things I like (and this has been true this week), my inherent laziness and lack of motivation kill off any activity. 

It’s not just the needs of  others that keep me from accomplishing things. For example, I many times this week I have ended up in front of the TV, remote in hand, watching old reruns. Sigh.

Thus, I ask myself, here on the hump day of my “staycation”, this question: “What is one thing  I want to accomplish today?” This isn’t a “what is one thing I want to do with the rest of my life?” or “if I only had one day to live what would I do” kind of question. It is just a query to myself as to what I can best do to use my time wisely today.

I asked myself how others would answer that question, so I did a little surfing on the Internet. One fellow said he would go play basketball. Another wanted to remember to pick up his kids at 12:15. 

One beauty author determined there is one thing NOT  to do: she told her female readers, “I want you to decide not to say one negative thing to yourself about how you look.” 

I suppose operating from a negative is not such a bad idea. However, I want to actually do something positive.

During my surfing I found some good advice on doing something of good effect. In an article entitled “What One Thing Can I Do Today to Make a Positive Difference”, Johan V. Campbell writes:

“What you must realize is this, whatever you do makes a difference so the predominant question is not ‘Am I making a difference?’ but rather ‘Am I making a positive difference? Will others be better off because of my actions? Am I adding value?’

Always question your actions by asking ‘What problems am I, or could I be, the solution to?’ or ‘What problem am I the cause of, or contributing to?’ And yes, I know that there are many problems. Don’t try to solve them all, or all of them at once, just do what you can to help. And here’s the key, if you can’t, or won’t, help then at least do not make the problem worse and whatever you do, do not criticize, or discourage, those who are doing something no matter how small or ineffective you think their actions might be.

Do not be overwhelmed by the size of the problem. Remember that every big success is made up of many little successes, so identify what you can do and just get started. This story should illustrate this.

* The Starfish Thrower

Early one morning after a storm out at sea a young man was walking on the beach when he saw an old man ahead of him. It looked like the old man was exercising for he was bending down then straightening up and making a throwing motion out to sea.

As the young man came closer he saw that the old man was picking up starfish and throwing them back into the sea. The beach was covered with hundreds of the little creatures that had washed out in the night due to the storm. What the old man was doing seemed like a pointless exercise to him. It did not seem to make any difference to the numbers on the beach however many the old man threw back.

‘Seems like a waste of time to me’ said the young man as he approached the old man. ‘Soon the sun will be up, and all these starfish will die. What difference will saving one or two make?’ The old man bent down picked up another starfish and threw it out to sea. ‘It makes a difference to that one’ he said as he bent down to pick up another starfish.

The young man thought about this for a while then he too bent down and picked up a starfish.

Make this your motto: ‘I shall pass through this world but once, any good that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any living thing, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect to do it, for I shall not pass this way again’ and you will find that suddenly your world is a better place. We do walk this road but once. Learn to walk lightly but leave a trail that others will be empowered to follow. Be the example that others strive to live up to. Live your best life.”

For me, the best life I could live today would be to please God. At one time, I had a life verse from the Bible that focused my attention on doing that. It comes from a prayer of the apostle Paul;

 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…(Colossians 1:9,10).”

This exhortation is rather vague. However, it does give me some guidance as to what positive action I could take today.

So what can I do to please God in the next 12 hours? Well, I believe can get out of my normal selfish “staycation” mode and do some things to help my wife out. Surely she has at least one thing she needs from me.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing. My action just has to contribute to her increase, progress and success.

Serving my wife will be of benefit to me, too. I will please God, and hopefully her as well, and provide myself with temporal and eternal rewards.

I better not procrastinate. It’s time to get up, go home, and help my wife out.
So today and every day ask yourself “What one thing can I do today that will make a positive difference?”

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“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?  My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises. In you our ancestors put their trust;  they trusted and you delivered them. To you they cried out and were saved; in you they trusted and were not put to shame (Psalm 22:1-5).”

I collect baseball caps. Over the years I have obtained numerous hats that have some meaning for me.

I have also lost a lot of them. One load was left behind in a Middle Eastern country after I left there at the last minute. Other caps have just been misplaced.

For example, a friend of mine took me to a professional football game and gave me a cap of the home team.  I loaned it to my teenage daughter one rainy day, and she lost it.

That story has a happy ending, though. After several months my daughter came to me and told me she had found the cap my friend had given me. 

I believe this was not just a coincidence. I had put a list of caps I wanted on my prayer list and it included a replacement for the cap my daughter had lost. Instead, the Lord gave me back the original cap!

For years I have wanted a cap from my alma mater.  A couple months ago I reunited with a classmate from my university days and he had brought me, unsolicited, a cap and shirt from our old school.

I hadn’t put this cap specifically on my list. However, the Lord did more than I had asked for. Fancy that!

A couple weeks ago I was caught between a rock and a hard place in my circumstances, and I uttered out to God these words:”Lord, what am I going to do?”. The small, quiet voice of God seemed to reply,”Pray specifically.”

I tend to pray generally. My prayers are more of the “bless my job” variety. Instead, I believe the Lord was telling me to be very detailed in my prayer life.

There’s historical precedent for this kind of praying. One of my heroes is George Muller, who is famous for this kind of effective prayer.

When I believed I had gotten this message from God about praying specifically, I picked up his biography in the church library. I think this must be at least the third time I have read the story of this saintly man’s life.

The author, A.T. Pierson, notes this about Muller: “And of George Muller it may well be said that he was to be, for more than 70 years, the man who conspicuously looked up to heaven to learn what he was to do. Prayer for direct, divine guidance  in every crisis, great or small, was to be the secret of his whole career.”

In the last couple of weeks I have seen some answers to my more specific praying. I have already mentioned in an earlier post the intervention of a believing brother who volunteered to take care of a glaring need for my family. Indeed, he called last night to remind me of his wish to help.

One item on my prayer list is “meat”.  We need more protein in our diet. But meat is not cheap these days. However, on two occasions this past week we have obtained healthy, good meat at no cost to us.

One of the reasons George Muller became such a prayer warrior was because he witnessed a man praying on his knees the night he was converted. According to Pierson, Muller made praying in this fashion a cornerstone of his life.

The apostle Paul also was a man of great faith. Even at his conversion he knew He needed to ask God for specific, clear guidance in everything.

He once gave testimony to this to an unruly mob in Jerusalem. Here is his story from the book of Acts:

 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.  I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

  “‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

  “ ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.  My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

  “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.

   “ ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’  My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.

  “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there.  He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.  You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.  And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

 “When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance  and saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because the people here will not accept your testimony about me.’

 “‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these people know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you.  And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’

 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles (Acts 22:6-21).’ ”

Paul communicated with God, and he listened for His reply, even at the beginning of His new life in Christ. God answered his prayers, sometimes directly, and sometimes indirectly through other  believers. 

Even when no one else will come to our aid, God is availabe in prayer. The Psalmist wrote a prayer of his own that illustrates this truth: “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help (Psalm 22:11).”

In addition to God giving specific prayer answers from His own hand and at from the efforts of  other believers,the Lord sometimes uses us as the answer to our own requests.

As a biblical scholar, the apostle Paul had to be familiar with the exhortation of the Psalmist to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).” I am sure Paul had to have prayed this prayer himself. It is more than ironic that in one case he sought to bring peace to a crazy crowd in this city.

Perhaps I have discovered the source of my ineffective prayer life. Through the voice of God Himself, and through the lives of my predecessors in Christ, I have learned that I need to be very specific in my prayers to God.

I believe He delights in giving me answers to even the little requests in my life. They’re not small to Him because they are coming from me.Like a father with a child, He loves me and takes pleaure in giving me good things.

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“The law of the LORD is perfect,refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.  The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.  By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:7-11).”

If you were an American  replacement soldier in World War II during the Battle of France, the odds were against you.  Historian Anthony Beevor explains some reasons for this in his work on the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.

One reason was inherent in their moniker “replacement”.  These soldiers were taking the place of others killed in battle.

This didn’t make them particularly popular with the more veteran soldiers in their new units. They were shunned by these men, who were dealing with the loss of their buddies.

Eventually, the leadership who had given them the name “replacement” realized there mistake.  They changed the name of these kinds of soldiers to “reinforcement” troops

The life expectancy of these new soldiers was rather low.  This was because according to Beevor their platoon leaders gave them the most dangerous jobs. They didn’t want to risk their more veteran troops.

The main issue for these green troops was their lack of training. Unlike the men who landed on the Normandy beaches, these soldiers had never been exposed to artillery fire during training. Most of them were trained as cooks, drivers and officers’ orderlies and then thrown into combat.

As a result, these men suffered a high rate of battle shock.  They were not prepared for the stress of combat and ended up physically and emotionally exhausted.  

The poor training had one other effect. Replacement troops had the highest rate of suicide among servicemen. This fact made those sending them off to France from England remove their ties and belts before they embarked.

It wasn’t until the officer in charge of the rest areas for the men who had had nervous breakdowns implored his superiors to change their methods that the situation for replacement troops improved.  The men were not sent to new units until they had received proper combat training behind the lines.

As a father, I know how important it is for mychildren to receive good training from me.  Part of my job is to prepare them for the rigors of life.

Georgve Muller is known among Christians as one of the godliest believers of the 19th century. His effective prayer life is legendary. Yet, his father aided and abetted a wicked youthful lifestyle by his lack of training.

Muller’s  main biographer, A.T. Pierson, writes that he was indeed a wicked youth. He places the blame for this partly at the failure  of his father to direct the growth of the young George.

Pierson says in his book “Geore Muller: All tings are possible”:

“George Muller had no proper parental training.  His father’s favoritism toward him was harmful both to himself and to his brother, as in the family of Jacob, tending to jealousy and estrangement.  Money was put too freely into the hands of these boys, hoping that they might learn how to use it and to save it; but the result was, rather, careless and viscious waste, for it became the source of many childish sins of indulgence. Worse still, when called upon to render any account of their stewardship, sins of lying and deception were used to cloak wasteful spending.”

Pierson notes many mistakes of Muller’s father. Incredibly, he sought to have his son trained as a clergyman, even knowing of his son’s faults. He also entrusted him with money belonging to others, which the young man ultimately absconded with.

By the age of 15, Pierson notes, Muller had become a communicant in the church.  He even made shallow attempts at reform. Yet they were in vain according to his biographer:

“…there was no real sense of sin or of repentance toward God, nor was there any dependence on a higher strength: and, without these, efforts at self amendment never prove of value or work lasting results.”

His father even once bailed him out of jail and paid his debts.  Only his outrage prompted a change in Muller, but it was not from the heart and he continued as he entered early adulthood in his wicked ways.

It is true that we all have our own will. One wonders, though, had Muller’s  father not been so indulgent and had instead instructed and disciplined the young man if much of the immoral behavior could have been avoided.

The good news for us as believers is that we have a Father who does provide proper training. He has given us a rulebook –the Bible.  It is inspired by Him and profitable for teaching us how to live (II Timothy 3:16,17).

Unlike some of the military commanders of World War II and George Muller’s father, these words of God train us and lead to life.  The training replacement soldiers and the young George Muller received led to death.

The godly father will heed the wise man of Proverbs, who writes:” Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death (Proverbs 19:18).”

Yet, the words must fall upon receptive ears. The godly young man or woman will receive godly instruction.  The same wise man writes:

” Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life,
   but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.

 Listen to advice and accept discipline,
   and at the end you will be counted among the wise (Proverbs 19:16,20).”

Thankfully, for his own generation and that of subsequent believers in Jesus Christ, George Muller saw the benefits of God’s Word over and above his wickedness. He led others to believe the Scriptures and their Author as well.

As a 21st century believer, it would behoove me to turn to the Scriptures for my own benefit, and teach them to my family as well. My family and I will gain life, and subsequent generations will, too

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