9-105 — Practicing the Presence of God
Access to God
It is during some of the loneliest times of our lives that we find ourselves with God. This seems to be a paradox, but it is true. For when we are truly alone, we can clearly listen to Him. And as Brother Lawrence, a humble Frenchman of the 17th century, stated so well, we can "practice the presence of God." How is that done in a practical sense?
Jeremiah Denton was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for seven horrendous years. As one of the highest ranking American captives, he was subjected to particularly grueling torture, spending almost his entire incarceration in solitary confinement. In such a barren, brutal situation, it would be hard not to focus on the pain and [monotony]. Yet, Denton not only survived but also came back and was elected a United States senator from Alabama.
How did he survive? He stated on many occasions that an essential survival skill was quoting passages from the Bible. Internalized Scripture became the unseen sword that enabled him to fend off the cruelest weapons of the enemy. By inwardly focusing on the power of God to sustain and strengthen him, he was able to rise above the squalor of his lonely existence.
9-141 — Tug of War: The Struggle Between the Flesh and the Spirit
With a little imagination, we can take a peek into our hearts and see the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit being acted out:
The scene is a field with two opposing teams tightly gripping a rope. On one side is a team that could pass for gladiators or professional football players. On the other end of the rope is you, yes, just you. In the middle of the rope is a smelly pit of slime. As you survey the situation, it doesn't take long to reach this conclusion: you will not be able to avoid the pit that lies before you. The opposing team is ready to pull you in. You need help and you need it now. "Holy Spirit! Fill me now. Hold this rope with me as I hold onto You!"
Put a real face on what we have just seen. Fred was a fine Christian man. He had a wife and a child who were gifts from God. In a weak moment, Fred was tempted to break his word to his wife and child. A woman where he worked "needed" him. Fred was such a good listener, so every time she got a chance, the woman filled his ear with her problems. The more Fred listened, the more dangerous the situation became. Before he knew what was happening, the snares were set and every step Fred took presented a threatening temptation, a temptation that could devastate him and his dear family.
Fred felt trapped! The more he struggled with this, the deeper he sank in despair. "Lord, I feel so weak. Please help me to resist—for the sake of my family. For Your sake, give me the strength to resist." At that very moment, a vibrant light entered Fred's heart and a strength that was not his own took over. In a very dramatic moment, Fred jerked the rope in his heart and pulled temptation into the pit and walked away a free man—a man who walked away in the Spirit.
Don't be left holding your rope alone. Walk in the Spirit... and pull!
9-148 — The Marks of a Great Christian Believer
There are two kinds of Christian believers: those who marvel and those who are marveled at. Greatness comes to the Christian when he becomes committed to the cause of Christ.
Athletes become great when they make a total commitment to their sport. They fully understand the need to do what is best for their bodies. Their commitments become a matter of life and death. The committed athlete enjoys a challenge but is always pressing for even greater challenges. Greatness comes to an athlete who is willing to sacrifice everything.
It is easy to settle for a marginal life. Most people do. But God has a better plan for His people: greatness—the kind that comes only through a life of commitment!
9-158 — God's Unchanging Promise
We should be thankful that God kept His promise after the law came to Moses. Can you imagine what life would be like if our justification came as a result of our ability to keep all of the rules—perfectly?
Booker T. Washington describes meeting an ex-slave from Virginia in his book Up from Slavery:
I found that this man had made a contract with his master, two or three years previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, to the effect that the slave was to be permitted to buy himself, by paying so much per year for his body; and while he was paying for himself, he was to be permitted to labor where and for whom he pleased.
Finding that he could secure better wages in Ohio, he went there. When freedom came, he was still in debt to his master some 300hundred dollars. Notwithstanding that the Emancipation Proclamation freed him from any obligation to his master, this black man walked the greater portion of the distance back to where his old master lived in Virginia, and placed the last dollar, with interest, in his hands.
In talking to me about this, the man told me that he knew that he did not have to pay his debt, but that he had given his word to his master, and his word he had never broken. He felt that he could not enjoy his freedom till he had fulfilled his promise.
The law did not change this man's commitment to keep his promise. Even more so, the law did not change God's plan for man. As Malachi 3:6 says: "I am the Lord, I change not."
9-169 — Drunkenness: Disease or Desire?
Is liquor a disease? If it is—
1. It is the only disease that is contracted by an act of the will.
2. It is the only disease that requires a license to propagate it.
3. It is the only disease that is bottled and sold.
4. It is the only disease that requires outlets to spread it.
5. It is the only disease that produces a revenue for the government.
6. It is the only disease that provokes crime.
7. It is the only disease that is habit-forming.
8. It is the only disease that is spread by advertising.
9. It is the only disease without a germ or virus cause, and for which there is no human corrective medicine; and
10. It is the only disease that bars the patient from heaven.
9-205 — Heaven: A Customized Place
Do you ever imagine what heaven will be like? If you area Christian believer, there will be a special place waiting just for you.
Joe Thompson was a master at his trade. Time and time again people would marvel at his talents. Joe's job was to customize passenger vans. He would take a van with only four wheels and an engine to craft a beautiful vehicle for its proud owner.
Joe had a real gift of being able to see the potential while staring at the present. Where others saw only a shell, Joe saw a customized van. But even greater than that: he could build what he saw—avan especially customized for its owner.
That is exactly what Jesus has done for us:
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:2-3).
The word "prepare" literally means to customize. Jesus has taken a shell and is building a place according to your heart's desire. It will be perfect. Just for you.
Need a customized job? Joe can help you with your van, but only Jesus can help you with your eternal home.
9-244 — Protecting a Marriage with Hedges
The devil takes great pleasure when a Christian marriage hits the rocks and destroys what God had joined together. Are we at the mercy of the desires of the devil? Only if men fail to put up "hedges" around their marriages. As you listen to this illustration, take care that it will not be your story:
Stanley was a Sunday school teacher who wanted to relate to his adult students. He prided himself on being able to talk up a storm about anything. Through the years, he noticed that his gift of gab appealed to the ladies. Stanley was married and had a couple of kids who wanted to be just like Dad. From all observations, he had the perfect marriage and family. Any one who knew Stanley would agree that he was very relational-areal "touchy-feely" man. It was this attribute that led to his demise.
Mary was in Stanley's class and made it a point never to miss Sunday School or any other occasion when the class met for fellowship. She liked Stanley a lot because he always made it a point to greet her with a warm embrace. Everything appeared innocent at first, but the fuse was lit shortly after that first embrace. Without saying a word, they both knew the fire burning within was rapidly getting out of control. Soon it would consume their lives. They tried to fight those feelings... for awhile... sort of... not really. To tell you the truth, they just gave up and gave in to the temptation that would destroy Stanley's marriage, crush his wife and children, ruin Mary's reputation, and devastate the church.
In his book Hedges—Loving Your Marriage Enough To Protect It, Jerry B. Jenkins sheds a warning light on men:
Call it what you will, but a man with as perfect a wife as he could ever want is still capable of lust, of a senseless seeking of that which would destroy him and his family. If he does not fear his own potential and build a hedge around himself and his marriage, he heads for disaster.
Shall we all run scared? Yes! Fear is the essential. "There are several good protections against temptation," Mark Twain said, "but the surest is cowardice."