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March/April Issue 2005 - Volume 24 Number 2
Loving In All Circumstances
“When the Answer Is No”
“So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate.”
2 Samuel 12:20
She was wearing a lacy, white dress and tagging along with her mother in the mall. She was just as “cute as a bug,” as we are wont to say. Then it happened. With just one simple little word that mother transformed her little darling into a screaming demon! The word was “No!” You would have thought some terrible pain had ripped through the bowels of that sweet little innocent. But, alas, it was just a simple “No.” I am happy to report that mom was as good as her word. She stood firm on her “no” and went about the business of correcting that inappropriate response.
It is important for children to learn to accept “no” for an answer. Life will likely hold many disappointments for children; many of them are going be of more consequence than not getting something we want at the store. The little “no’s” we encounter as children prepare us to handle the more difficult situations in life more effectively.
King David had sinned and as a result was suffering some of the consequences even though God had forgiven him. His first child by Bathsheba had been born out of wedlock, and David fasted and prayed to the Lord night and day for the child. In spite of his heart felt prayers, the child died. But instead of becoming angry with God and acting like a spoiled child, David washed, changed his clothes and went into the house of God and worshiped. God had answered his prayer, and the answer this time was “No.”
We can learn a great lesson from David that may help us in life’s difficult situations. We must trust God in every circumstance, and we must learn to take “no” for an answer.
“I Think I Can, I Think I Can”
Some of us who are a bit farther along in years might remember the story of the “Little Red Train” from our first exposure to schooling. Perhaps it really taught a lesson that we could benefit from knowing today.
Imagine a weekly sales meeting at which the Sales Manager is supposed to wind everyone up to greater sales. The sales manager says: “I have bad news, no one is buying our product anymore. It is outdated, mundane, stale and all similar adjectives you can mention.”
Now, if he is a good salesperson and manager he can convince this group these statements are true, so what do you think will happen? There could be different options, but some of those sales people will quit that day and look for other employment. There might be some who would say, “We can overhaul the product, or overhaul our presentation and still make it work.” Anyway you look at it, damage is done.
1n 1958 there was an Associated Press release that said, “The Church of Christ is the fastest growing religious organization in the United States.” So what happened in the next thirty years that changed this situation? I believe I can offer you some of the reasons things changed. Satan started a rumor: “People won't listen to the truth anymore;” or “We have too much affluence to depend on God;” or “People don't have time for the church anymore.” I am sure each of you could tell of other rumors you have heard. Rumors that could be traced back to Satan. But whatever the rumor we bought into brings about the same results. We can either desert the church and that which we have believed to be the truth for many years, or we can rearrange the product or change names so people won't recognize it.
However, there are problems with any of these options. Regarding desertion of the church, when the apostle wrote the Hebrew Letter he tried to encourage them to remain intact and steadfast. He also warned them that desertion of the church could only result in disaster (Heb. 10:26). Well, we could rearrange the product, but that was tried in the first century and it seems Paul wrote an entire letter trying to correct those who had been rearranged. In fact, Paul affirmed that those who had changed the teaching had been removed from Christ and were following a false gospel (Gal.1:6-9). It appears the Judgment might be crowded with people who have done things their own way only to learn they would be excluded from Heaven in spite of their zeal and/or sincerity.
We could change the name and we might lull people into thinking we had found something better or of more interest. But then I remember the family in heaven and on earth is named by the God of Heaven and I have no authority to change that name. I am reminded of a convention held by one of the leading denominations in our part of the world at which they reached the decision they needed a new name because of the stigma attached to the one they were using. If they could change the name of their church, people would not be prejudiced against them. Then some wiser individual pointed out they could change their name, but if they taught the same doctrine they would soon have the same stigma.
The truth of the matter is that God is still in power and the gospel is still the power to call people to obedience. And we should hurry to point out that only the true Gospel of Jesus has that power. We have a responsibility to plant and water so God can give the increase.
But back to “I think I can, I think I can.” A lot of it is a matter of our attitude. If we buy the rumors Satan starts, we will not succeed. One of the messages of the New Testament is that of a positive attitude. When we ask, we must believe we shall receive. When we plant and water, we must believe we will see a return.
Are we willing to launch out in faith and follow the instructions we have been given in the scriptures, or are we afraid of that plan of action? It seems many of the tests God used to prove his people involved making a choice between simple things to see if man would obey. This could be another case of God wanting to know if we will trust and follow Him or if we will try to devise a way that is better to our minds.
Foundation Forum – September 2003
“Can You Sleep When The Wind Blows?”
Years ago a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals. Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer.
"Are you a good farmhand?" the farmer asked him.
"Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man.
Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!"
The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows." Enraged by the old man's response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot.
Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away.
The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, and he returned to bed to also sleep while the wind blew.
MORAL: When you're prepared, you have nothing to fear.
Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm. We secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves firmly in the Word of God.
ABBA - 2/4/2004
As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.
It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when She reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.
Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around."
His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."
His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."
Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.
On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets."
A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.
Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.
Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.
Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.
The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.
Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.
They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."
(For you that don't know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)
Email from Marion Ramey - 9/15/2004
"A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." Proverbs 29:11
The workplace can be a pressure-packed world. The demands that are often put on us can bring out things that we never knew were there. Sometimes we begin to think that the source of that pressure is to blame for our response to the pressure. It could be an event, a spouse, a boss, a client, a child, or even a driver who cuts us off in traffic.
I recall responding to a close friend one time, "If you had not done that, I would never have responded that way." Later I learned that this response had little truth to it. We all choose to get angry. No one else is to blame for our anger.
"The circumstances of life, the events of life, and the people around me in life, do not make me the way I am, but reveal the way I am" [Dr. Sam Peeples].
This simple quote has had a profound impact on how I view my anger now. Anger only reveals what is inside of me. I can't blame anyone but me for my response to a situation. I have learned that anger is only the symptom of something else that is going on inside of me. This quote now resides on my refrigerator door as a daily reminder of the truth about my response to life's situations.
It has been said that anger is like the warning panel on the dash of your car. It is the light that tells us something is going on under the hood and we need to find out what is the source of the problem. I discovered that the source of anger is often unmet expectations or personal rights. We believe we are entitled to a particular outcome to a situation. When this doesn't happen, it triggers something in us. At the core of this is fear, often a fear of failure or rejection, fear of what others think, fear of the unknown.
If you struggle with anger, ask God to reveal the source of that anger. Ask Him to heal you of any fears that may be the root of your anger. Ask God to help you take responsibility for your response to difficult situations.
Remember the Spirit caused Paul to write in Ephesians 4:26, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:" (KJV)
ABBA - 3/13/04
“Good Isn't Good Enough”
He “was a devout man, one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2). His name was Cornelius, and he was a good man. Yet, he was told that in the sight of God there were some things he lacked. He was directed to Simon Peter who would tell him what he must do (Acts 10:6). When Peter came to visit him, Cornelius was waiting for him with his relatives and close friends (Acts 10:24). Peter taught Cornelius and his family and friends about Jesus Christ – His authority, His power, His crucifixion, His resurrection, His future role as Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:34-42).
Peter also proclaimed the "GIFT" that Jesus offered: “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins…And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:43, 48).
Why was a good man – a God-fearing man – told to believe in Jesus and be baptized (immersed in water) in the name of the Lord?
Cornelius was a good man, but he was still a sinner; he needed forgiveness for his sins. So do you. So do I. “As it is written: ‘There is NONE righteous, no not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one’” (Romans 3:10-12).
Cornelius, as well as many others, could declare: “I am basically a good person. I pay taxes. I don’t cheat on my wife. I don’t do anything to hurt other people. In fact, I try to help others. Why do I need forgiveness?”
Cornelius learned that just being a good, moral person isn’t enough. He needed Jesus Christ and the forgiveness that is found in Him.
Sin is not only breaking the law of God (1 John 3:4); it is also failing to be what God intended for us to be. There are sins of commission – sins we commit – and there are sins of omission – things we should do, but don’t. The truth is that no one can ever be good enough to earn salvation. Only through Jesus Christ can one be saved (Acts 4:12).
God wants us to be good (see Acts 10:35), but He knows – just as you and I know – that we can NEVER be perfect. Each day we fall short in some way, either in thought, attitude, word, or deed. In short, WE ARE SINNERS, and we NEED a Savior!
God, in His great love and mercy, gave us His Son to provide for us what we need the most: forgiveness. Through faith (Acts 10:43), repentance (Acts 17:30), confession (Romans 10:9-10) and baptism (Acts 10:48; 2:38), and faithfulness to Christ (1 John 1:7), we receive forgiveness in Christ.
God loves good people, BUT being good isn’t good enough. ALL people EVERYWHERE – the good and the bad – need the salvation from sin which God has provided.
We must not TRUST in our good works, but rather CONTINUE in them, while trusting and obeying Jesus Who ALONE has finished the work.
God bless you!
David A. Sargent
ABBA - 4/26/02
"Short Version of the 23rd Psalm"
In his beautiful book, I Shall Not Want, Robert Ketchum tells of a teacher who asked her group of children if anyone could quote the entire 23rd Psalm. A golden-haired, four-and-a-half-year-old girl was among those who raised their hands. A bit skeptical, the teacher asked if she could really quote the entire psalm. The little girl came to the front of the room, faced the class, made a perky little bow, and said, "The Lord is my shepherd, that's all I want."
She bowed again and went and sat down.
ABBA - 12/27/2004