Archive for November, 2021

One of the most important and useful items of furniture in any office or home is the wastepaper basket – better known as “the circular file.” Advertisements take up a sizable percentage of what arrives in mailboxes today. Many of them are trying to sell things for which you have little or no need and in which you have no interest. It doesn’t take long for most of them to land in the circular file.

Imagine how junk-filled offices and homes would be if you did not have a circular file. We could not do our work in home, school, factory or office without constantly selecting what we think we should keep and rejecting what we are certain should be thrown away.

Circular files are necessary and needful, but they can also be dangerous – not because we could trip over them, but because we might discard something that is valuable. Did you know that the little gem of music, “To A Wild Rose,” was found in manuscript form at the bottom of a wastepaper basket? The composer thought it was worthless! So also was Rudyard Kippling’s famous poem entitled “Recessional” with its recurring refrain:

            “Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

            Lest we forget, lest we forget.”

Kippling sent it to the editor of the London Times. The editor was busy. He glanced at the poem and threw it in the wastepaper basket. Fortunately, he did a double take, went back to his circular file and fished it out. The things we do not need we usually thrown away. But there are many worthy things that have great value which our nation to a large degree has thoughtlessly and foolishly discarded and need to be taken out of the circular file.

Take, for example, the habit of a significant percentage of Christians who do not find their way to the church of which they are a member each Sunday to worship God. Church attendance in recent years compared with three or four decades ago has declined. Churches that boldly proclaim the truth found in God’s Word are still alive and well. However, there is an increasing tendency in our culture for families to involve themselves in personal concerns on the weekend and forget the importance of worship.

Another discard we might rescue from the circular file is respect for law and order and for that which underlies law and order – justice impartially administered. Organized violence in some of our nation’s largest cities has included the burning of important buildings and the robbing of stores. These occasions were even described as “peaceful protests.” The effort to defund those involved with enforcing law and order is being given strong support. This gives absolutely no thought to what would happen if this goal was achieved.

Another discard in America’s circular file is having respect for the opinion of others. Americans have never agreed on all things, but we have since 1776 been able to respect one another. By working together and respecting those who have a different opinion we have been able to find solutions to move forward. Both the desire and the ability to respect one another should be rescued from the wastebasket and put into motion again. It must happen if our nation is to continue to be the greatest nation in the world.

Heavenly Father, guide both our leaders and our citizens to realize the truth found in Psalm 33:12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” And, while You are at it, keep us humble enough to stoop down to recover from the circular file the ideas and actions we have lost which made our nation great. Amen.


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Thomas Gattis’ book The Birdman of Alcatraz is a biography of the convicted murderer, Robert Stroud, who spent most of his 70 years behind bars in solitary confinement. For the first 20 years of his confinement, Stroud became increasingly withdrawn, bitter and harder to handle. In prison parlance, he was a maximum risk.

But a sparrow, fallen from its nest in a storm, changed all that. Stroud found the sparrow in the prison courtyard during his exercise period. His first impulse was to snuff out its life just as he had snuffed out human life. But he didn’t. Instead, he carried it to his cell and nursed it back to health. His interest was aroused, and he read everything he could find on the subject of birds. Other prisoners began sending their ill canaries to him. When encountering diseases that had no known cure, he would experiment and often find a cure.

Before long, Robert Stroud, the incorrigible convict became a quiet, serious, respected authority on birds. He asked his guard, a man with whom he previously had refused to speak, for the orange crate on which he sat so that he might make a cage for the sparrow. The guard answered in words that amounted to, “Why should I give you this crate, Stroud? For twenty years I’ve tried to get through to you and be nice to you, but you have never even given me the time of day.”

After a few minutes of silence, however, the guard had a change of heart and slipped the orange crate into the cell. When Stroud noticed it, he mumbled, for the first time in 20 years, the words, “Thank you.” Only then did he begin to understand himself. He realized that he wasn’t the isolated, self-sufficient, independent, incorrigible character that he had for so long pretended to be.

In the same way today, it is only when you and I can say “Thank you” – and mean it – that we begin to understand ourselves for who and what we are: creatures rather than creators, receivers rather than givers.  Paul Tillich said it well: “A man who is able to give thanks seriously accepts that he is a creature and acknowledges his finitude. Only those who truly know themselves are aware of the fact that they are dependent upon others in countless ways.”

When we forget to say, “Thank you,” or refuse to, we forget who we are – creatures of the living God and dependent upon Him for our very being. And this is why we need Thanksgiving Day on the calendar – to remind ourselves who we are and to whom we belong. I believe this is demonstrated by the story found in Luke’s gospel of the 10 lepers whom Jesus healed. Only one of the 10 came back to Jesus to say, “Thank you.” He recognized that he had received something he had not merited, and for which he had not worked.

Consider, in terms of our personal experience, how many things we receive for which we never asked, and for which we cannot pay. They are part of what the New Testament calls “grace” – blessings we receive, but neither earned nor deserved. Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all the others. The worst possible moment for an atheist is when he or she feels grateful and has no one to thank.

Robert Stroud’s life was totally transformed when he learned how to say, “Thank you!” The difficulty that many people have in learning how to live with joy is that they have never learned how to use those two words. If they were to sit down to write out a list of the things they daily receive from God, they would be surprised.

One of our most favorite attitudes should be gratitude. There is a sense in which no gift is ours until we have learned how to thank the giver. That is especially true of the countless blessings we receive from God.

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The moment a person accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord he or she is guaranteed to have eternal life (Romans 9:1). But that is just the beginning of the story. It is God’s will that spiritual growth begin to take place at that point and continue throughout life. Spiritual growth can only happen in our lives if we regularly study and appropriate the truth found in the Bible.

Reading and studying God’s Word is important because it generates life, provides spiritual nourishment, creates faith, produces change, opposes Satan, causes miracles, heals hurts, builds character, transforms circumstances, delivers joy, overcomes adversity, conquers temptation, infuses hope, releases power, cleanses our mind, makes positive things happen and guarantees our future forever.

There are more Bibles in print today than at any time in history, but a Bible on the shelf is useless. Millions of self-described Christians are plagued by spiritual anorexia and are starving to death by spiritual malnutrition. Spiritual growth can only take place if the study of God’s Word is given priority. Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, then you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). Spiritual growth involves three things:

The Bible’s authority must be accepted. It must be the authoritative standard for your life, the compass on which you rely for direction, the counsel which influences your decisions and the benchmark you use for evaluating everything. We get into difficulty when we base our choices and actions on unreliable authorities: culture (“everyone is doing it”), tradition, reason (“It seemed logical”) or emotion (“It just felt right”).

No one will ever make a mistake who bases what he or she thinks, says and does on the truth found in God’s Word. It is always wise to first ask, “What does the Bible say?” The most desirable time to read God’s Word is as often as possible. If you keep your Bible open you will never find the door of heaven shut.

The Bible’s truth must be assimilated. That is, you must accept its truth with an open, receptive attitude. Daily Bible reading will keep you in range of God’s voice and direction. This is why He instructed the kings of Israel to always keep a copy of His Word nearby (Deuteronomy 17:19a). Spiritual growth cannot take place in your life if you do not regularly read, absorb and apply the truth found in God’s Word. The reason some people don’t read and study the Bible is that it cramps their style.

The difference between just reading and genuinely studying the Bible involves two additional activities: asking questions of the text and writing down your insights. Also, there are enormous benefits to memorizing Bible verses. This will help you to resist temptation, make wise decisions, reduce stress, build confidence, offer good advice and share your faith with others.

The Bible’s principles must be applied. Receiving, reading, researching, remembering and reflecting on truths taught by God’s Word are all useless if we fail to put them into practice. Putting the principles taught in the Bible into action is the hardest step of all, because Satan doesn’t want you to either focus upon them or to apply them to your life. He doesn’t mind for you to attend Bible studies as long as you don’t put into practice what is taught. The value of attending Bible study groups and applying what you learn cannot be overestimated. We would also benefit from the fellowship with other Christians who attend.

One Bible known is worth more than a dozen Bibles owned. That could possibly be why a bumper sticker on a car in Tyler, Texas, several years ago said: “Read your Bible – it will scare the hell out of you.”

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Don’t blame Adam!

Don McCullough, in Discipleship Journal, tells the story of the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself. The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball which he lost in the glare of the sun – until it bounced off his forehead. The third one was a hard, line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between his hands and smacked his eye.

The manager ran furiously back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by his uniform, and shouted, “You idiot! You’ve got the center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!”

Blaming others is a game that has been played by humans since the dawn of creation when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. It is a game we still play. Blaming others for our faults and failures is a feeble attempt to take the focus off ourselves, to absolve ourselves of responsibility.

It is much easier to point our finger at someone else for our shortcomings than it is to say, “I have failed,” or “It is my fault.”  If we say, “I am an alcoholic because my father was or is an alcoholic,” we do not have to say, “I alone am responsible for the decisions I have made and how they have affected my life.”  Politicians seldom ever admit responsibility or failure for the things that go wrong in their administrations if they can blame everything that has gone wrong on a previous administration.

While it is true that “sin came into the world through one man” (Romans 5:12-15), the old “blame Adam” gimmick to explain away some fault or failure in our makeup is sheer nonsense. Even though God’s Word teaches that we inherited our sin nature from history’s first parents, we also choose to be disobedient.

Pride is at the root of all sin – Adam and Eve’s sin, or our own. It is, in essence, casting our God-Creator off the throne in our hearts and enthroning and enshrining self-will as god and master. It is this rebellious act that separated the first humans from God, and also separates us from God. We were created to do God’s will, but we said, “No thanks, God, we want to do everything our way.”

We should never attempt to blame Adam for our tendency to sin against God and others. We are sinners with or without the contributions of our ancestors, for “there is no one righteous, not even one . . . there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away” (Romans 3:9, 12 NIV).

Even though this is true, we still find ways to avoid saying, “I made a mistake! I am at fault! I have sinned!” It is much easier to make excuses by blaming someone else for our wrong decisions and actions.  Saying things like, “I was raised in a dysfunctional home,” or “I got with the wrong crowd,” or “Everybody is doing it,” etc., will not pass muster with God on the day when we all shall stand before Him to give an account of ourselves.

Someone has said of history’s first couple: “Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. And the snake didn’t have a leg to stand on.” And when we try to blame others for our faults and failures and sins, neither do we.

God has provided the means for our redemption. God’s Word tells us that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:23 NIV).

In other words, although we were sinners, because we were sinners, God sent His Son into the world to take our penalty for sin, which is death, upon Himself. How great is the grace of God! It is sufficient to cover all the sins of the entire human race – including yours and mine.

To receive the gift of everlasting life, all anyone must do is bow before God and sincerely say, “I have sinned. I don’t blame Adam or anyone else. I alone am responsible. Forgive and cleanse my life, I pray.”

You will be surprised at how much difference it will make in your life.

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