If you’re like me, you seldom read the full text of contracts for online services before you agree to them. They go on for pages, and most of the legal jargon makes no sense to ordinary people like me.
I was quite surprised, therefore, when a friend from Africa made me aware of this one-of-a-kind service agreement for online software. Instead of a wordy license telling people how not to use it, the developer offers a simple blessing urging people to use it for good:
May you do good and not evil. May you find forgiveness for yourself and forgive others. May you share freely, never taking more than you give.
At first I thought, Wow. Imagine if more terms of service agreements were written as blessings instead of legal documents. Then I thought, The agreement Jesus makes with us is like that. He offers us forgiveness of sin, peace with God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. In return, all He asks is that we do good (Gal. 6:10), forgive as we’ve been forgiven (Luke 6:37), and love others as He loves us (John 13:34).
The beauty of Jesus’ agreement with us is that even though we fail to live up to the terms, we still receive the blessing.
Sent from the Father above;
Mercies and blessings abounding,
Gifts of His marvelous love. —Anon.
“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.” 1 Samuel 12:23
I have always been fascinated by stories about the people God has chosen to use in significant ways. Two of my heroes are Charles and John Wesley. Charles penned hundreds of hymns, many of which are still sung by Christians all over the world. After observing the coronation of the King of England and hearing the masses lining the streets and singing the praises of the King, Charles penned the words, “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise.” His brother John committed his life to taking the gospel to England and through frontier America on horseback. You and I are in debt to John Wesley today for his passion for the gospel.
But I’m even more impressed when I consider the heroic faith of their mother, Susanna. The mother of 19 children, she understood the importance of raising a godly generation, in spite of a profligate husband who was almost never home. With all of her hardships, she would have had every excuse to complain and wallow in self-pity and bitterness, but instead she faithfully prayed for her children and instilled in them a desire to serve the Lord. Every day she gathered her children around her and read them the Bible and taught them His ways. Her life exemplifies the words of Samuel: “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right” (1 Samuel 12:23).
One of God’s plans for our homes is to provide an environment for grooming the next generation for godly impact, and you can count on it that Satan is not happy about that plan. Throughout history, we can see his efforts to dead-end the generational impact of God’s people. Beginning with Adam and Eve, children have been at risk. The murder of Abel at the hands of his very own brother is proof that Satan will do anything to extinguish the impact of godly offspring. And he hasn’t stopped.
The high cost of living has made two-career families common place today even among followers of Christ. Many families need two careers just to survive. As a result, quality time with our kids can suffer. Leaving our children to entertain themselves at the computer, which is a lot less painful than playing Chutes and Ladders with them on the floor, puts their hearts at jeopardy to the junk that the Internet offers. Our kids are in danger of suffering long term damage because of what they click on to. Not to mention what we permit them to see on TV, listen to on their iPods, or who we let them run with.
Parenting is big-time business and among life’s toughest assignments. Whenever things got really tough in our household, my wife Martie and I used to look at each other and say, “This too shall pass!” And that’s just the point, it passes really fast. You have the next generation in your grasp for just a fleeting season. Make the most of it. As they say,carpe diem—seize the day!
Streams In The Desert
And he went out carrying his own cross (John 19:17).
There is a poem called “The Changed Cross.” It represents a weary one who thought that her cross was surely heavier than those of others whom she saw about her, and she wished that she might choose an other instead of her own. She slept, and in her dream she was led to a place where many crosses lay, crosses of different shapes and sizes. There was a little one most beauteous to behold, set in jewels and gold. “Ah, this I can wear with comfort,” she said. So she took it up, but her weak form shook beneath it. The jewels and the gold were beautiful, but they were far too heavy for her.
Next she saw a lovely cross with fair flowers entwined around its sculptured form. Surely that was the one for her. She lifted it, but beneath the flowers were piercing thorns which tore her flesh.
At last, as she went on, she came to a plain cross, without jewels, without carvings, with only a few words of love inscribed upon it. This she took up and it proved the best of all, the easiest to be borne. And as she looked upon it, bathed in the radiance that fell from Heaven, she recognized her own old cross. She had found it again, and it was the best of all and lightest for her.
God knows best what cross we need to bear. We do not know how heavy other people’s crosses are. We envy someone who is rich; his is a golden cross set with jewels, but we do not know how heavy it is. Here is another whose life seems very lovely. She bears a cross twined with flowers. If we could try all the other crosses that we think lighter than our own, we would at last find that not one of them suited us so well as our own.
–Glimpses through Life’s Windows
If thou, impatient, dost let slip thy cross,
Thou wilt not find it in this world again;
Nor in another: here and here alone
Is given thee to suffer for God’s sake.
In other worlds we may more perfectly
Love Him and serve Him, praise Him,
Grow nearer and nearer to Him with delight.
But then we shall not any more
Be called to suffer, which is our appointment here.
Canst thou not suffer, then, one hour or two?
If He should call thee from thy cross today,
Saying: “It is finished-that hard cross of thine
From which thou prayest for deliverance,
“Thinkest thou not some passion of regret
Would overcome thee? Thou would’st say,
“So soon? Let me go back and suffer yet awhile
More patiently. I have not yet praised God.”
Whensoe’er it comes, that summons that we look for,
It will seem soon, too soon. Let us take heed in time
That God may now be glorified in us.
–Ugo Bassi’s Sermon in a Hospital
Through The Bible
Ezra 7:9-10 (NIV) 9He had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the first month, and he arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month, for the gracious hand of his God was on him. 10For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
Three times in Ezra chapter 7 we have the expression, “the gracious hand of his God was on him”. He did certain things because of God’s hand upon him. He had favor with the king and was given whatever he asked for because the gracious hand of God was upon him. He was on his way with more exiles and finances and sacrifices to assist in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and to offer the sacrifices the king had sent. Ezra must have made some kind of impression on the king, but I think he would say that this came about because the gracious hand of his God was upon him.
Of course, God has no physical hand, so what does this mean? When a few generations pass, the apostles would lay their hands on others so that they would be healed or filled with the Holy Spirit or sent out into a ministry calling. Their hands represent God’s hand to bring God’s children to the fullness of His call upon their lives. The picture of God’s gracious hand upon us should give us a rush of joy and encouragement. Surely every born again child of God has the hand of the Lord upon them in some degree. What can bring that out in a greater display like that which we see in the life of Ezra?
In the above verses, we have the reason why. He devoted himself to studying, obeying, and teaching the Word of God. It’s a simple, clear and powerful answer clearly seen in the passage. It is available to every reader. It is the call upon every reader, for whatever your calling is, you need to study and observe and, in some manner, teach the Word of God. There are only a few things that Scripture encourages us to be devoted to. One is the study and obedience to the Word. The others are to be devoted to seeking the LORD (Jeremiah 30:21), to doing what is good (Titus 3:8,14) and prayer (Colossians 4:2). It is impossible to do one without doing them all.
Consider: Would you like the gracious hand of God upon your life? Devote yourself to study, obey, and teach His Word.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25, 27 (NIV) 24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
27… I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
The Apostle Paul gave up whatever rights he needed to give up to connect with the people he was trying to win and teach. To him, the most important thing was not his personal desires or advancement but the spiritual growth of those he was ministering to.
In this passage, he compares his attitude toward ministry to a Greek athlete. An athlete doesn’t do what is comfortable or take the easy route. He has a goal and denies himself to reach it. He puts boundaries on his desires and freedom so that he can reach that goal. He pushes himself to the very limits of his ability and endurance. Then when he is in the race, he gives it all he has to win. He ignores his body’s demands and goes all out to win, and all he gets is a little momentary glory and a crown of leaves that soon decay. Paul is doing it for an eternal crown and encourages us to do the same.
Paul wrote that he made his body his slave. He did not give in to its demands. He knew that if he did give in, he would not obtain the prize he was after. When the Greeks broke the training rules they were disqualified. Paul did not want that to happen to him in the spiritual sense. He worked late into the night to support himself when he thought the church might be offended if he asked for the support he deserved. What an example he set for us!
Is your body your slave or your master? Are you running for a temporal crown or an eternal one? Are you running to take first place or just jogging along comfortably? When we look at the ministry of the Apostle Paul, we can see he really lived what he wrote. He was out to take first place. What is your pace?
Consider: How would your life change if you went all out for your Savior?