Weekly Inspirationals

    

                                                                                                  

      All Used Up


A well-known surgeon was attending a dinner party and watched the host adroitly carve and slice the large turkey for his guests.  When he finished slicing, the host asked, “How did I do, Doc?  I think I’d make a pretty good surgeon, don’t you?”

“Perhaps,” said the physician.  “But anyone can take them apart.  Now let’s see you put it back together again.”

Like surgery, some tasks require special talent, skill or training.  There are those who have what it takes to work in an operating room.  Others have the kind of aptitude needed to teach a class or repair an automobile, and still others can cook a delicious meal, play a musical instrument well enough that folks want to listen or solve difficult mathematical problems.  Some people have a natural ability to relate to others, some people are imaginative problem-solvers, some people can organize almost anything and others possess the gift of empathy.  I have yet to meet anyone who does not exhibit a unique talent or ability.

But Spanish cellist Pablo Casals said it well:  “Don’t be vain because you happen to have talent.  You are not responsible for that; it was not of your doing.  What you do with your talent is what matters.”

And what's the best thing to do with talent and ability?  Use it.  Use it generously – even extravagantly.  And use it for good.

Erma Bombeck was known for her humorous journalism.  But she frequently seasoned her writing with pinches of wisdom.  At the end of a newspaper column on March 10, 1987, Bombeck wrote these words:

“I always had a dream that when I am asked to give an accounting of my life to a higher court, it will go like this:  ‘So, empty your pockets.  What have you got left of your life?  Any dreams that were unfulfilled?  Any unused talent that we gave you when you were born that you still have left?  Any unsaid compliments or bits of love that you haven’t spread around?

“And I will answer,  ‘I’ve nothing to return.  I spent everything you gave me.  I’m as naked as the day I was born.’”

She would agree that what we do with what we're given is what matters.

My question is this: what would you find if you emptied your pockets today?  Any unused talent?  Is there anything inside that should be spent, shared or given away?  When it comes to your time and resources are you living a life of extravagant generosity?

I'm going to mentally empty my pockets tonight at bedtime and see if I've been holding back.  I think that's important.  I want to make sure there is nothing left at the end of the day that could have been used.  And then tomorrow I'll see what I can use up. I can hardly think of a more worthwhile and joyous way to live.


-- Steve Goodier
http://www.LifeSupportSystem.com

 

               

                                                                                                              

A New Year's Prayer

 

 

God grant us this year a wider view
So we see other' faults through the eyes of You...
Teach us to judge not with hasty tongue,
Neither the adult...nor the young.

Give us patience and grace to endure
And a stronger faith so we feel secure,
And instead of remembering, help us forget
The irritations that caused us to fret

Freely forgiving for some offense
And finding each day a rich recompense
In offering a friendly, helping hand
And trying in all ways to understand

That all of us whoever we are
Are trying to reach an unreachable star...
For the great and small...the good and bad,
The young and old...the sad and glad

Are asking today, "Is life worth living?"
And the answer is only in loving and giving...
For only love can make us kind
And kindness of heart brings peace of mind,

And by giving love we can start this year
To lift the clouds of hate and fear.

~Helen Steiner Rice~

 

       

 


     A Simple Bible

 

 

“I'm not supposed to give these away,” the young man said, handing me a display Bible,  “but I sense you should have this.”  I shrugged and absently tucked it away.  We had a Bible at home.  I'd only stopped by the Gideon’s table because nothing else at the Iowa State Fair was set up.

A few days later I was walking to town when a car pulled up beside me.  “Get in,” the driver snarled, pointing a gun at me.  I did as he said.  Soon he pulled over, grabbed me and tried to force me down on the seat.  I struggled with all my strength.  Finally he ordered me out of the car.  Before both my feet were on the ground, I heard a shot and felt a sharp pain in my side.  I collapsed, and the man came around the car.  He picked up my purse, took out my wallet then threw the purse on my head and shot it.  I felt a dreadful impact.  Still conscious, I lay silent, hoping he would think I was dead.  I heard the car drive away, and I stumbled to a nearby farmhouse.  A woman called for help, and the police were closing in on the drug-crazed driver based on the description I'd given them.

At the hospital, just before I went into surgery to remove the bullet in my side, my sister came to see me.  “Do you know what saved your life, Mavis?” she asked.

She handed me the Bible that had been in my purse.  A bullet was lodged inside, its tip stopping exactly at Psalm 37:14-15:  “The wicked draw the sword, and bend the bow...to slay those whose ways are upright.  But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.”

This is what it means to know the voice of God.  The young man wasn't supposed to give away the Bibles, but he “sensed” that God wanted him to give the Bible away to this lady.  He probably thought that she would open the Bible and read something that would turn her life around, or bring her closer to the reality of God.

But the sword came first, and then certainly a peace that only comes from God; the reality of His protection made manifest by those who “sense” His will.

Author Unknown

 

                

 

   Carry Another One's Burdens


 
An all-expenses-paid vacation to Switzerland ought to be the trip of a lifetime.  But as my husband Dan and I boarded the plane bound for the Alps, we had no idea we were also starting a journey that would lead us closer to God.  The weather, the landscape, the food and fellowship were fantastic, but during a four-hour hike in the mountains Dan just couldn’t seem to shake a bad heartburn.

We’re in our mid-seventies, but haven’t lost our wanderlust.  Who thinks about age when everything is going well, and travel opportunities arise?  Soon we were heading from our home in England to visit old friends in Canada.  Many of our destinations were places Dan knew from his youth, and his excitement was contagious.  But again there was that pain in his chest, though he rarely mentioned it.

On the way home we scheduled in a few weeks to visit our sons in America and catch up with their growing families. There, in western Pennsylvania, Dan’s chest pain intensified to the point where we had to check in to a hospital.  The diagnosis: a badly damaged heart valve, requiring an immediate aortic valve replacement.  In a moment, our traveling days were over.  We thanked the staff for their diagnosis, but we needed time to absorb the news, and asked the surgical staff to let us consider the next step in prayer.

My background as a nurse left me with no illusions about the risks we were facing, and the possibilities swirled in my mind.  What if Dan was incapacitated by a stroke?  What were the odds of a kidney shutdown, followed by lifetime dialysis?  Or was it God’s plan that I become a widow?  In a flash I realized the protection we had been under during these months of travel.  Sudden death in a remote place had not been a distant possibility.

When something life-threatening looms, part of you wants to rush in and fix it.  But your soul also requires time and quiet to consider the implications, more spiritual than practical, of a life and marriage whose days might be numbered.

Dan and I took some days of consideration and quiet, giving us the chance to share our burdens and unanswerable questions with family and members of our church.  We read together the words of Jesus and his followers. 
In James 5:14, the apostle asked – almost commanded, it seemed – “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

Dan’s heart needed healing, but didn’t both of our hearts need healing from everything that caused restlessness or prevented us from being close to Jesus?  This church prayer was a simple yet powerful step we needed to take.  It didn’t matter that the physical healing might come through a surgeon’s hand.  We saw no contradiction.  We rose up from that prayer for healing and forgiveness, full of peace and renewed courage.  Our commitment to God and to each other had been reconfirmed.

Dan decided to proceed with the surgery.  As he headed into the operating room, we knew that we were surrounded by the prayers of hundreds of fellow believers and friends.  These prayers were so tangible it seemed I could feel them with both of my hands.  Our grandchildren and their classmates lit candles for hope.

Up to that point, I had wondered how it would feel to see my husband of forty-seven years being pushed away on a stretcher.  Would I hide in a waiting room corner with a Bible, desperately seeking words of comfort?  Would I be able to pray, or only pace the halls?  But as I entered the waiting area, I saw my worry and hope reflected in the faces of others.

In moments, I found myself deep in conversation and intimately involved in the stories of people I had never seen before.  Waiting rooms have a way of dismantling the polite distances that strangers are so good at maintaining.  Here we were at 5:00 a.m., sharing surprisingly personal details, laughter, and prayers.  We began to feel as if we’d known each other for years.

I handed over my well-thumbed copy of Rich in Years to a middle-aged woman in the next chair.  She scanned the chapter titles and turned to me.  “I need all of these now, and I was meant to get this today,” she said, explaining that both she and her husband had cancer, but that her greatest immediate fear was driving him home in the dark that night, a task she usually left to his expertise.  An elderly man came in weeping after seeing his wife in the recovery area.  I don’t even remember what we talked about, but looking back, I realize that the tears stopped because he could speak with someone for a moment, someone who could listen and relate.

Another woman told me that her husband was slow to recover after surgery with a possible stroke.  In the depths of her emotion, she was questioning the meaning of her marriage of forty years and the birth of a son with sickle cell anemia.  In the face of such pain, we could only offer our prayers and words of encouragement that felt inadequate. But the connections formed during these waiting hours echoed throughout the next days as we met each other in the halls and shared quick updates or asked each other for more prayers.

Pittsburgh’s Mercy Hospital seemed a fitting environment for the faith that upheld us.  It was named for the Sisters of Mercy, a religious order founded in Ireland in 1831 with a calling to serve the poor and sick, especially women and children.  Now only five elderly sisters remain at the hospital, but they humbly told us that even this is in God’s plan. “He is showing his Spirit in other places,” they explain.  Their calling remains; they walk the halls each day, simply being a prayerful presence.

Finally the surgeon called us in with good news.  It was hard to see my husband still unconscious, connected to machines and monitors, but he responded when we assured him that all was well.  Then the surgeon started to worry about possible bleeding, and almost immediately whisked Dan back for a second operation.  It felt like an attack on our faith, and took all our courage to re-group and place our trust in God again.

A few hours later we had cause for thanks and praise when he returned a second time.  One of the operating room nurses confirmed what we had been thinking: God’s hand is always over us, but he needs our prayers in his work of healing.

Now we’re back at home, with strength increasing each day.  We thank God for the new life we have together and look forward to the opportunities to serve him in return.


Hanna Maendel
Plough
http://www.plough.com

 

         

 

            Not Home Yet

 
 

An old missionary couple had been working in Africa for years and was returning to New York to retire.  They had no pension; their health was broken; they were defeated, discouraged, and afraid.  They discovered they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions.

No one paid any attention to them.  They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President's entourage, with passengers trying to catch a glimpse of the great man.  As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife,  "Something is wrong.  Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these many years and have no one care a thing about us?  Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us."

"Dear, you shouldn't feel that way," his wife said.

"I can't help it; it doesn't seem right."

When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President.  The mayor and other dignitaries were there.  The papers were full of the President's arrival.  No one noticed this missionary couple.  They slipped off the ship and found a cheap flat on the East Side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city.

That night the man's spirit broke.  He said to his wife,  "I can't take this; God is not treating us fairly."

His wife replied,  "Why don't you go in the bedroom and tell that to the Lord?"

A short time later he came out from the bedroom, but now his face was completely different.  His wife asked, "Dear, what happened?"

"The Lord settled it with me," he said.  "I told him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us as we returned home.  And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, 'But you're not home yet!"


-- Author Unknown

 

 

      

 

 

                                                                                                 Reading Your Horoscope



Many people start the day by turning to their newspaper and reading their horoscope.  Harmless fun?  Actually, as harmless as it may seem, those horoscope predictions are rooted in Satanism and straight from the very pits of hell itself.  I have always been amazed how so many Christians routinely play around with their horoscope, without ever realizing how wrong it really is.  Now you may be thinking that I am way off base on this issue, but trust me, what I will share is not my opinion, but straight from the Word of God itself.

God created the heavens and the stars, and like everything God creates, satan has perverted it and used it incorrectly. The horoscope is an abomination because it is used to see into the future.  Let me tell you right now . . . NO ONE BUT GOD KNOWS THE FUTURE!

The horoscope is based on witchcraft, sorcery, and is an absolute satanic device.  Will you go to hell for reading your horoscope?  Of course not.  But why would you want to be involved in something that God clearly tells us to stay away from?

I already know that I will be getting many emails from people telling me that I am making too much of this issue. People that will tell me that there are more important things to worry about.  But the reason I am dealing with this subject today is to illustrate how blind we often are, and how we can innocently get involved with things that are straight from satan himself without ever realizing it.  When you go to the zoo and see the lions, there is always a very large fence or some other protective mechanism making it virtually impossible or you to ever come in contact with them.  Why?  Obviously because they are very dangerous and could easily kill you if you ever came face to face with them.

There are many things in life that we protect ourselves from once we know they can be dangerous to us.  I want to tell you today that playing around with your zodiac sign, reading your horoscope, is no different that jumping the fence at the zoo to go play with the lions.  You are opening yourself up to a very dangerous situation which is why God has tried to warn us from this type of thing in His Word.

I really do love you and care about you deeply.  I realize that many of you think there is nothing wrong with reading your horoscope.  Many use these psychic networks that are so prevalent.  Again I tell you, only God knows the future. For the most part, these fortune tellers are just a way to make money off of people's troubles.  But the problem is, on top of the monetary cost involved, you are turning to someone other than God for answers.  Only God has the answers, but the real sin in turning to horoscopes, psychics, witchcraft, is putting your faith and hope in something other than God Himself.

We read the sad account of King Saul, who near the end of his life in desperation turns from the God of Israel that anointed him king, and turned to a witch.  The sin was putting his faith in something or someone other than God for answers and direction.  That is the key reason why horoscopes are not something those who follow Christ should be involved with.  If you need direction, answers, or help in your time of need, turn to God.  Put your faith in the Lord.

I will be praying for you today.  I understand that many of you are caught up in the horoscopes and psychics, and you will be in my prayers.  God will give you the strength to turn away from this satanic activity and turn to Him in your time of need.  For many who never totally understood the serious nature of this type of activity, now you know, so run from it.  It is not something to even fool around with.  When we need guidance, direction, or answers, we need to turn to the only source in the universe that can truly help us, God Almighty, the Creator of the heavens and earth Himself. Turn from satan and his evil inventions.  Look to God.

I am including some scripture references for you to read to understand how bad this whole horoscope, witchcraft, and psychic world really is.  Take a few minutes and read these passages, and let the Holy Spirit bring you under total conviction about how dangerous this activity is.

* Genesis 44:15,
* Numbers 22:7,
* Deut 18:14,
* I Samuel 6:2,
* Jer 27:9,
* Ezekiel 13:23,   21:21,
* Zechariah 10:2,
* Acts 16:16
* Genesis 41:24,

In His love and service,
Your friend and brother in Christ,
Bill Keller
http://www.liveprayer.com

 

      

 

             Don't Turn Back



“Do 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.”
1 Corinthians 9:24

From the car we saw a squirrel running quickly across the road.  He was halfway across our lane when he noticed our car and turned around and headed back.  But now a car was coming towards him in the other lane.  He panicked, turning one way and then the other.  What should he do?  We slowed down the car and the squirrel ran safely across the street–in front of our car.

Sometimes we are like that.  God impresses us to do something “donating toward a need, helping a neighbor, encouraging a friend, telling someone about Jesus– and we enthusiastically start, but then roadblocks come our way” doubt whether it really God telling us to do it, it doesn’t fit into our schedule or fear and we stop and turn back.

We have forgotten that whenever God impresses us to do something, He will also give us the resources to do it. 
“The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24.

Has God impressed you to do something for someone?  Did you start and then stop?  Go ahead and do it.  Jesus said,
“Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was Me “you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40 (MSG)

Jesus, help us to just “do it“, when you impress us to do something.  Fill us with your boldness and love.  Amen.

by Katherine Kehler
http://thoughts-about-god.com/info/kk_profile.htm


 

         

 

              

            It's Tempting

 

So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry?  And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." - Genesis 4:6-7.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. - James 1:12-15.

When I was growing up, I was warned on very cold days not to stick my tongue to the water pump handle.  Apparently, that was tried by some and found to cause their tongue to be frozen to the handle.  Their stories about the ordeal were enough to convince me never to try it.  Recently there has been a story about a nine-year-old boy in Virginia who touched his tongue to a metal pole while waiting for a school bus.  His tongue froze to the pole.  The police were called, and the boy’s father obtained some warm water, which he poured on his son’s tongue and the pole.  The boy was freed - probably with a memory he will never forget.  When the boy was asked by the police officer (while his tongue was still stuck) if he was going to do such a stupid thing again, he said, “Uh-uh”.

When I asked Jeanie if she had ever done anything like that, she said she had stuck her tongue to an ice tray.  I’d never thought of doing that either.  One poll I saw about whether a person had given in to a similar temptation reported that 25% had done so.  Total participants in the poll were over 20,000.

The painful truth of life is that we all face temptations that are much more tempting and much more damaging than sticking our tongue to a pole if we give in to them.  God tells Cain, “…sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”  I believe God tells us the same thing.  Temptation, which leads to sin, is constantly at our door beckoning to us.  Giving in to those temptations will lead to painful consequences.  We cannot say we are without warning.  
James tells us, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”  The result of Cain’s failure to rule over sin was the murder of his brother and a spiraling down of Cain’s life after that event.  “For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23a).”

Why should you not give into temptation?  Because it leads to sin which brings about death.  Giving in to temptation brings about death to God’s perfect will for your life.  Giving in to temptation at best delays God’s plan for your life and at worst prevents it from ever being fulfilled.  Giving in to temptation not only hurts you it also hurts your family and your friends.  Cain killed his brother (and all of the descendants of Abel - Cain, by killing one person was a mass murderer killing generations of people.),  bringing heartache to his parents, ruining his own life, and it took his own descendants down a difficult path.  Your sin does not just affect you.  Your sin is not just about you.

“…sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”


Rev. Larry Davies
Sowing Seeds of Faith
http://www.theburningbush.net

 

          

 

  

              Do We Pray Against God's Will?

 

What do you think?  Do we pray against God’s will?  I believe we do.  Without realizing it.  We ask God to bless us or someone else, to meet our needs or someone else’s, to give us wisdom to make a decision, or to cause certain events to occur.

But sometimes, God is not obligated to answer…with a yes answer.  Why?  Because we ask amiss.  James said, “
And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” (James 4:3 NLT)  We ask, by definition, badly, evilly, miserably, or grievously.

Aren’t our motives usually centered on selfish desires, what we want, when we want it, and how we want it?  Do we ever truly say, “Not my will but Yours, Lord”?

What about the events taking place around the world or in our own country?  Are these things happening in accordance with God’s plan, maybe even to usher in Jesus’ return?  So, then, do we pray for peace or other things that may not be God’s purpose?

What did Jesus teach about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount?

“Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
(Matt. 6:9-10 NLT)

What were the first three priorities in Jesus’ model prayer?  God the Father’s name being kept holy, His kingdom, and His will.

Before any petitions are made…

1) we are to hallow His name.
To venerate, to declare sacred, to honor His holy name.  As the Lord told Moses,
“You must not treat Me as common and ordinary. Revere Me and hallow Me.” (Lev. 22:32a TLB)  We celebrate Him in our worship, for He is worthy “to receive glory and honor”  (Rev. 4:11), to be held in reverence and praised.  David said, “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.” (Ps. 18:3 NKJV)

2) we are to invoke His kingdom to come.
Where is the kingdom?  Jesus said,
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (Matt. 10:7 NKJV)  At hand, where?  “The kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].” (Luke 17:21 Amp)  We pray not just for His kingdom at hand on earth now but also for His heavenly kingdom to come to earth again.  We pray that earth will be made more like heaven through the observance of God’s will.

3) we are to ask that His will be done.
The observance of His will is that it should be obeyed.  On earth as it is in heaven.  God’s will is what He desires, purposes, and has determined to be done on earth.  It is His established kingdom rule in heaven being accomplished on earth by, for, and through His people.

Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33 NKJV)  What things?  The things Jesus mentioned right before that, the things we eat, drink, and wear.  Those things necessary to living.

These three things should be first in our hearts before petitions are presented at the throne of grace.  Then, petitions can be made for all that sustains life.  Prayer is not just a list of one’s requests for God to do something.  It is time spent in the presence of His holiness, at the foot of the throne of heaven.  Sitting.  Listening.  Communing.  Presenting our requests in faith.  And relinquishing our hold on them.

All pleas should be wrapped in faith’s envelope and sealed with the kiss of thanksgiving.

All our prayers should end with the thought of the words Eli spoke to Samuel,
“It is the Lord’s will…Let him do what he thinks best.” (1 Sam. 3:18 NLT)

Lord, Your will be done. Do what You think is best.
So, what do you think: do we pray against God’s will?


Lynn Mosher
http://lynnmosher.com/

 

      

                                                                                                                        

       A Time To Forgive

 

Years ago, a man told one of our small groups how his son was murdered in the midst of a robbery and the murderer was going on trial in a few days.  With tearful eyes, the father described the struggle he would face, day after day sitting in a courtroom listening to gruesome testimony and watching the legal maneuvering to protect someone who took away the life of his son.

For a time after he spoke, no one said a word.  What could you say?  As I looked around, many were rubbing their eyes, reaching for tissues or openly crying.  How could we help someone in so much pain who was about to experience even more heartache?  Finally, the group leader stood and called on us to pray.  Before starting however, someone as if on cue got up, stood over the father and gently placed a hand on his shoulder.  Quickly all of us joined in so we were gathered around him with hands reaching out to gently touch.  The group leader asked for God to give the grieving father Holy courage during the trial.  He prayed for God to continually offer comfort in the midst of the pain.  He prayed for justice to be done but he also prayed for grace for the father and even for the murderer.

After the prayer ended, everyone, still wiping away tears, hugged the father, hugged each other and slowly took their seats.  The father then said:  "Thank you.  You have helped me more than you will ever know.  For months I have suffered in silence while being strong for my children and others.  You gave me an opportunity to cry.  Maybe someday I can even forgive"

Advent is a time of preparation before the birth of Christ.  How should we prepare?  Nothing is emphasized in Scripture more often than offering forgiving love.  It's all part of a Christmas present called God's grace.  Is forgiveness ever easy?  Of course not, but it is a vital part of learning to put our complete faith and trust in the One who so graciously forgives us.

Here is the best part:  As you learn to forgive others, you begin to heal.

"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15)

It sounds so simple.  Forgive others and you will be forgiven.
Jesus tells of a servant who is forgiven a huge debt by the king, but when presented a similar opportunity to forgive someone else the servant refuses.  The king finds out and is outraged.  "You wicked servant!  I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?"  And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured. (Mat 18:32-34)

Someone forgiven of millions promptly rushes out to bash someone's head in over five bucks?  No-brainer!  Of course, the idiot should be tortured -- right?  But the last verse sneaks up on you.
 "So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you do not forgive from your heart." (35)

"Wait a minute!" we want to shout.  "Surely you can't be talking about me?  You don't know how much I've been hurt! My spouse abandoned me.  I was abused as a child.  My business partner skipped town with all the profits.  My employer is an unmerciful tyrant.  Surely you're not suggesting that I could be tortured for not offering forgiveness for someone like that?"

Perhaps your torture has already begun.  There is a stark reality to life we must all face.  People get hurt.  People hurt others.  What is most important is how you respond?  How you deal with your pain is also a critical factor in your eventual healing.  Forgiveness is a process designed primarily for healing the victim rather than an action taken to free the oppressor.  The word 'forgiveness' is mentioned more than ninety times in the Bible.  A psychiatrist wrote, she would lose more than half of her patients if they could truly learn to forgive.

Advent is a time of preparation for receiving the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ.  One part of that preparation is learning to maintain an attitude of forgiveness and grace.  This week we remember and honor the life of Nelson Mandela.  One attribute I remember and admire about him most is his ability to forgive.  After 27 years of prison, the President of South Africa, could have chosen retribution and revenge but instead chose forgiveness.  He once said: "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."

Remember the father we prayed for earlier?  He sent me a letter several months later after the trial for the murderer of his son concluded.  "Before you all prayed for me, I was trapped within my own hatred.  Just being able to share my anger and my pain with all of you; knowing that your prayers and God's love would be with me throughout the trial helped to ease my suffering.  It will take a long time to completely forgive and heal but I'm off to a good beginning."

Forgiveness ultimately brings healing.  The alternative to forgiveness -- is torture!

Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ.  How will you prepare?  You will never fully appreciate the full glory of Christmas until you are willing to experience the time of preparation known as Advent.

Rev. Larry Davies
Sowing Seeds of Faith
http://www.sowingseedsoffaith.com