A minister who was conducting a funeral service wanted to speak of some of the wonderful things about the deceased. But this poor guy said the wrong thing. He boldly proclaimed, "What we have here is only the shell," gesturing toward the coffin. Then he added, "But the nut has gone." He didn't want it to come out that way. But that is a pretty accurate statement of what happens when we die.
I read a story about a little dog named Mugsy who was walking across the street one day and, tragically, was hit by a truck. His sad owners took Mugsy down to the pet cemetery and buried him. They were so sorry they would never see their precious little dog again.
In Revelation 6 we read about those who were put to death for their faith. They are in heaven, aware of the injustice, aware of the fact there were fellow servants still on earth being mistreated. So they prayed this prayer to the Father: "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?" (verse 10). In other words, Hey, Lord, this isn't right. When are You going to correct it?
The great British preacher C. H. Spurgeon said, "Any fool can sing in the day. . . . It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is he who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by. . . . Songs in the night come only from God; they are not the power of man."
When we find ourselves in trying circumstances, often the temptation is to strike out at the person who helped bring those circumstances upon us. Or, we want to blame someone for our state of affairs. We may even become mad at God for allowing this in our lives. Or, we might wallow in self-pity.
A number of years ago, we held a Harvest Crusade in Colorado. When we arrived, it was around seventy degrees, and the sun was shining. Our crusade was to begin the next evening. But as we watched the news that night, we learned that a cold front was moving in. The next morning there was snow on the ground. That is how quickly the weather can change in a place like Colorado. The sun is shining, and the next thing you know, there's a blizzard.
There was a time in my life when I could remember every week and month and year. Now I remember decades more easily than I remember individual years. Time seems to go by so quickly.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Babylon, which meant that he was in close proximity to the king at all times. A cupbearer would drink what the king was about to drink. If it was poisonous, then that was the end of his job — and his life, for that matter. But the cupbearer was more than someone who simply tasted what the king drank. He often would become an adviser to the king, someone who influenced him. It was a very prestigious position in the palace. A cupbearer would have lived in affluence and influence.
Years ago, when I was in military school, we were given five cents each week to spend at the canteen (that is where they had the candy). I tried to stretch that five cents as far as I could, but I really wanted to buy more. We also were given a dime to put in the offering every Sunday at chapel. But one Sunday when the offering came, I started thinking about how much candy a dime would buy. So I kept the dime. Then I bought a bunch of candy. I also got a stomachache, and I felt guilty all week long. Even as a small child, I understood that dime belonged to the Lord and that I had taken something that was God's.
Any time a pastor raises the topic of finances, some people get a little uncomfortable. But the Bible certainly has a lot to say about money. It is the main subject of nearly half the parables Jesus told. In addition, one out of every seven verses in the New Testament deals with this topic. Scripture offers five hundred verses on prayer, fewer than five hundred on faith, and more than two thousand verses dealing with the subject of money.
In Mark's gospel, Jesus made a fascinating statement that some have misunderstood. Speaking of believers, He said, "They will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mark 16:18). Some, of course, have misunderstood this and have held snake-handling services. But that is not trusting the Lord; it is testing the Lord.
Some years ago I went to the Rose Parade. One of the most memorable sights of this impressive parade is when I saw a man riding down Colorado Boulevard on the back of a buffalo. I had never seen anything quite like it. I have seen buffaloes in the wild, but I had never seen anyone actually ride one. With nothing more than a bit and a bridle, the rider came galloping down the street on this beast. It was unbelievable. It just shows you what a little bit can do.
When I was a kid, I was walking down the street one day with some little cap guns that looked like six shooters, complete with holsters. I was feeling pretty good as I made my way down the street, firing these things off. But then I encountered some kids on the corner who grabbed my guns, pushed me, and told me to go away.
Years ago, I was at the beach with my young son Jonathan, and we decided to go swimming. We weren't very far from the shore. Suddenly there was one of those drops in the sand, and for a few moments, my feet didn't really touch the ground. As I was holding on to Jonathan, a little riptide began to pull us over to the right, just enough to move us along. We were originally lined up with a lifeguard stand, but I noticed that it had moved quite a distance. We were being pulled along, and I couldn't stop the drift. I kept reaching for the ground with my feet, but I couldn't get my footing.
One of the first things that we ask when the bottom drops out, when trials come our way (and there can be so many ways they manifest themselves) is, "Why, Lord? Why are You allowing this to happen? What have I done to deserve such a fate?"
I once read a strange story in the news about a plumber who was called in to unclog a drain. He had one of those snakelike devices that runs down into a drain and keeps running until the drain is cleaned out. But this time, the "snake" did a strange thing. It went outside of the house through an open vent and into the house next door. Then it went down through a vent, came out, and grabbed a ten-year-old girl who was playing in her bac
Sometimes we walk into trials of our own making because they are a direct result of our own selfishness or pride or greed or lust. Then when this happens and we reap the results of our sin, we get angry at God.
Some people really like mirrors. They are always looking in them. When they are driving along, they have their rearview mirror pointed at themselves instead of the road behind them. If they are in a restaurant that has a mirror on the wall, they want to be seated across from it so they can look at themselves. They never miss an opportunity to catch a quick glance at themselves if a mirror is nearby. On the other hand, some of us don't like mirrors that much. In fact, we have come to dislike mirrors, especially first thing in the morning.
After I became a Christian, I wasn't really sure of what to do next. I was seventeen years old and in high school. No one told me that I needed to read the Bible, pray, or go to church. No one gave me any materials to read, much less a Bible.
Everyone who has run a race knows that you can break your stride by looking over your shoulder to check out how your opponents are doing. Many races have been lost when the leader looked back. When you see that finish line, that's the time to give it everything you've got . . . because sometimes it's mere inches that separate one runner from another. You must stay focused.
How often have you felt that your prayers were hitting a glass ceiling — as though the Lord were saying no? Maybe it is because you were praying outside of His will. Maybe it's because you were praying for something that God didn't want you to have.
Sometimes God will glorify Himself by the way you and I lean on Him and trust Him through our suffering and hardships. At other times, He will glorify Himself by simply removing those things.
One of the first things I remember taking place when I committed my life to Jesus Christ was the erosion of bitterness and anger and the growth of a love I had not known before. Years of bitterness and anger that had been building up just began to dissolve.
That is what happens in the subtle process of the world influencing our lives. It's not necessarily dramatic, nor does it usually happen overnight. It is gradual, causing erosion in our lives as we begin to lower our standards.
Right after I became a Christian, other believers warned me, "Greg, watch out. There is a Devil who will tempt you."