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First, the forsythia exploded - those little yellow flowers that announce to our area that spring is finally springing. Then the dogwood explosion is detonated. It's just hard to be in a bad mood when those beautiful pink and white blossoms suddenly appear everywhere. Actually, the word "suddenly" needs a little work. The coming of the forsythia and the dogwood, and all the other stars of the Spring Extravaganza; they've been getting ready to happen for a long time. We couldn't see it, but there's been this invisible process of nourishing and growth, and then those nubby little buds start to peek out. And then, one day you start down the street and it's blazing with color that wasn't even there the day before. But sudden? Not really.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Spring is Never Sudden."
You may be waiting for spring in some part of your life right now. But things appear to still be pretty brown and lifeless.
Well, our word for today from the Word of God comes from Mark 4:26-29. It's an important description of the processes of God; processes that are probably at work right now in those very areas of your life that seem like they will never see spring. Here's what God says, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain; first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come."
Here's how God operates: First, there's the seed of what He wants to do, placed in the ground by faith. And then, as far as we can see, nothing is happening. But there is, in fact, invisible growth going on the whole time. It would be a very damaging mistake to keep digging up that seed. You know, "I got to see if anything is happening here." You're going to ruin it that way. The invisible growing time is then followed by some first signs of life. And ultimately, the long-awaited crop appears - but not really suddenly. Just like those beautiful flowers of spring.
Often when God is answering our prayer or preparing a great work, it looks for a long time as if nothing is happening. You may need to remember that right now. Think about what you've worked so hard for, prayed so hard for, and there's little or no visible result. A family member or friend you've tried to reach, or who's spiritually wandering. Maybe it's a medical or financial or spiritual breakthrough you need, or just a long-standing need of some other kind in your life. Some days it looks as if the prayer, the cry, the dream of your heart will never happen. And you feel like asking, as Mary and Martha must have asked when Jesus did not arrive in time to heal their dying brother Lazarus, "Where are You, Lord?" He would answer quietly, invisibly, "I'm preparing the answer." By the way, Mary and Martha got more than they could have ever dreamed; not a healing - they got a resurrection!
So, don't give up now, don't panic, don't push too hard or keep digging up the seed. Slowly but surely, the processes of God will blossom and you will reap what you have sown. Just remain faithful in the part that He's asked you to play. Just because you can't see God working doesn't mean He isn't working. Just think of all those spectacular spring blossoms. They were a long time in coming, but they came. And your spring will, too.
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"A Word With You" by Ron Hutchcraft is a daily radio challenge, with slice-of-life illustrations and insights - providing practical help on the issues that matter most. If your local Christian radio station does not air "A Word With You," please let them know how much you value this program. Over six years of transcripts are available online, at http://rhm.gospelcom.net/awwy.php
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Four years ago, President Bush described the "axis of evil," nations that, through their actions within and beyond their borders, "threaten the peace of the world."
While two of the axis members—Iraq and Iran—are seldom, if ever, out of the news, the third member, North Korea, gets only a fraction of the coverage. This despite the fact that North Korea already has nuclear weapons and its leaders have already killed far more people than even Saddam Hussein.
It seems that the only way North Korea is going to get the attention it warrants is if Christians force the issue.
North Korea is often called the "Hermit Kingdom" because of its isolation from the rest of the world. This nickname, which conjures up images of monks in serene repose, ought to give way to one that more accurately captures the essence of Kim Jong-Il: charnel house. The land of morning calm has become the repository for the bones of Kim's victims.
Since Kim Jong-Il succeeded his father in 1994, more than two million North Korean men, women, and children have died from starvation. Another 400,000 have perished in political prison camps, and I've seen reports from those camps. It's horrifying.
Fleeing Kim's nightmare is hardly better. Those seeking to escape through China are "victimized by traffickers, hunted down by police, and forcibly repatriated." China will not allow humanitarian organizations or the UN to feed and shelter North Korean refugees. To complete this hellish scenario, "children whose parents have died or been separated from them wander the streets in search of food and protection."
If this reminds you of places like the Cambodian "Killing Fields," you're right. And, just as with Cambodia, the world has turned a collective blind eye. If Kim hadn't developed nuclear weapons, nobody would have cared what happened in North Korea.
No one, that is, except the people of conscience like Christians. Groups like the North Korea Freedom Coalition work to keep the suffering of North Koreans from being another case of "out of sight and out of mind."
The first North Korea Freedom Day rally in 2004 led to the North Korea Human Rights Act, which we helped pass in the Congress. The act commits the United States to "defend human rights and bring humanitarian aid to those suffering in North Korea." Yet, to date, "not a single North Korean refugee has been helped by the Act's application," a result that Representative Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) calls "shameful."
Well, it's time to make ourselves heard again because our Christian brothers are in prison in North Korea and being brutalized and murdered in those camps. April 22-30 has been designated North Korea Freedom Week. The scheduled activities include congressional hearings, the North Korea Genocide Exhibit, and an all-night prayer vigil at the Chinese Embassy. These efforts will culminate at the North Korea Freedom Day rally on April 28 at the U.S. Capitol.
We need your help if we're going to have any effect. For the Human Rights Act to be more than a piece of paper, our elected officials need to hear from their constituents. You can call us here at BreakPoint (1-877-322-5527) to get their addresses and phone numbers. And also visit our website for more information.
Our elected officials need to know that somebody is paying attention, and that is our job as Christians.
In my old, yellowed copy of C. S. Lewis's Letters to an American Lady, I have one sentence underlined that I return to again and again. Lewis tells his correspondent, who tends to be anxious, "Remember one is given strength to bear what happens to one, but not the 100 and 1 different things that might happen."
I need this reminder often, because I have a proclivity to worry early and avoid the rush. You would be much less likely to find me worrying about something I may face tomorrow than the calamities that may fall on me twenty years from now. The perils of the future are vivid in my imagination. But because they exist only in the realm of imagination, the only comfort available to me is just as imaginary.
Have you ever looked at someone else's misfortune and thought, "I couldn't handle that"? If so, you were exactly right. God has not given us the grace to handle what He has not yet asked us to bear. The grace promised to us in Scripture is available only in the present, and only when it is needed. After reminding us that Christ can sympathize with our weaknesses, the writer of Hebrews invites, "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). A literal (albeit awkward) rendering of this verse from the Greek promises the Christian "grace for a well-timed help."
What does a well-timed help look like? Does it look like Superman sweeping out of the sky to rescue the endangered one from peril? Ordinarily not. If anyone deserved to be removed from suffering it was Jesus, but God in his purposes chose for Jesus to endure through suffering rather than avoid it. More often than not, He chooses to help us endure rather than removing the trial.
I find it fascinating that the same Greek word translated as "help" in Hebrews 4:16 is translated as "ropes" in Acts 27:17. In this scene, Paul travels on a ship that gets caught in a violent storm. The wind and waves are so fierce that the sailors fear the ship will split apart. They pass ropes ("helps") under and around the creaking vessel in order to hold it together like a net. Sometimes, the well-timed help that God provides doesn't calm the waves, but it holds us together until the storm dies down.
The psalmist describes God as "a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1). He will not give us the help before we need it, and He may not remove us out of trouble, but He will be there with us to hold us together. When the troubles do come, we can approach his throne with confidence, fully expecting to receive the grace of his well-timed help.
------------------------------------------------------------------- Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) "A Slice of Infinity" is aimed at reaching into the culture with words of challenge, words of truth, and words of hope. If you know of others who would enjoy receiving "A Slice of Infinity" in their email box each day, tell them they can sign up on our website at http://www.rzim.org/publications/slice.php. If they do not have access to the World Wide Web, please call 1-877-88SLICE (1-877-887-5423).
STOCK: A magical piece of paper that is worth $33.75 until the moment you buy it. It will then be worth $8.50.
BOND: What you had with your spouse until you pawned his/her golf clubs to invest in Amazon.com.
BROKER: The person you trust to help you make major financial decisions. Please note the first five letters of this word spell "Broke".
BEAR: What your trade account and wallet will be when you take a flyer on that hot stock tip your secretary gave you.
BULL: What your broker uses to explain why your mutual funds tanked during the last quarter.
MARGIN: Where you scribble the latest quotes when you're supposed to be listening to your manager's presentation.
SHORT POSITION: A type of trade where, in theory, a person sells stocks he doesn't actually own. Since this also only ever works in theory, a short position is what a person usually ends up being in (i.e. "The rent, sir? Haha, well, I'm a little short this month.").
COMMISSION: The only reliable way to make money on the stock market, which is why your broker charges you one.
A UNC grad pulls over at the gas station, gets out of her car, opens the hood, and checks the engine oil. After a few seconds of intelligent thinking, she takes the dipstick in her hand and walks up to the attendant.
"Excuse me sir, but can I buy a longer dipstick?" "May I ask why you need a longer one ma'am?" "Because this one isn't long enough to reach the oil!"
THE ROAD TO SUCCESS IS NOT STRAIGHT THERE IS A CURVE CALLED FAILURE.... A LOOP CALLED CONFUSION... SPEED BUMPS CALLED FRIENDS... RED LIGHTS CALLED ENEMIES... CAUTION LIGHTS CALLED FAMILY... YOU WILL HAVE FLATS CALLED JOBS BUT...IF YOU HAVE A SPARE CALLED DETERMINATION... AN ENGINE CALLED PERSEVERANCE... INSURANCE CALLED FAITH... A DRIVER CALLED JESUS... YOU WILL MAKE IT TO A PLACE CALLED SUCCESS! (Thanks Bill) (Gen. 39:3 & 2 Sam. 23:1 & 5)
A man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out.
~ A subjective person came along and said, "I feel for you down there."
~ An objective person walked by and said, "It's logical that someone would fall down there."
~ A Pharisee said, "Only bad people fall into pits."
~ A mathematician calculated how deep the pit was.
~ A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on the pit.
~ An IRS agent asked if he was paying taxes on the pit.
~ A self-pitying person said, "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my pit."
~ A fire-and-brimstone preacher said, "You deserve your pit."
~ A Christian Scientist observed, "The pit is just in your mind."
~ A psychologist noted, "Your mother and father are to blame for your being in that pit."
~ A self-esteem therapist said, "Believe in yourself and you can get out of that pit."
~ An optimist said, "Things could be worse."
~ A pessimist claimed, "Things will get worse."
Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit.
During the seventeenth century the Marquis of Worchester found himself imprisoned in the Tower of London. Being a clever gentleman, he built a curious contraption and asked for an audience with the king.
In the king's presence he revealed his invention: a self-turning wheel. His majesty was so impressed he released his prisoner. Little did he suspect at the time that the marquis had simply simulated a perpetual motion machine.
For at least 1,500 years various individuals have tried to design and build the world's first unpowered device that never stops moving. During the golden age of perpetual motion in England, from about 1850 to the turn of the century, nearly 600 patents for such devices were granted. The contraptions certainly look impressive on paper, but when built they never work!
Contemporary perpetual motionists refuse to concede that it is impossible to break the laws of thermodynamics. Their "perpetual commotion" only succeeds in redesigning machines that were proven failures generations ago.
Similarly, men and women today ignore the clear statements of Scripture in their attempts to achieve the impossible. Futilely they seek to obtain eternal life and favor with God by their good deeds. Salvation, however, is not granted on the merits of our attainment, but on Christ's perfect atonement for our sins by His death on the cross. Only by committing our lives to Him can we receive the assurance of sins forgiven and life eternal.
Salvation by works is a type of perpetual commotion. It will never work. In Romans 3:23 we read, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." No matter how hard we try, we can't measure up to the perfect standard God requires before anyone can enter His presence. Salvation can never be achieved on the basis of what we do, but only on the basis of God's infinite mercy.
A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice, and justice demanded death.
"But I don't ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy."
"But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied.
"Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for."
"Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman's son.
Christians are not those who earn God's favor by their intrinsic goodness; they are merely recipients of God's mercy. God saves us, we read in Titus 3:5, not because of the righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy. Thankfully, we need ask but once in order to receive His gift of salvation freely.
Just as salvation is not attained by what we do, so it is not maintained by our good works as God's servants. Our salvation rests on the sure promises of God. Christ Himself has gone on record as saying, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24).
All the perpetual commotion in the world cannot save an individual no matter how ingenious his or her efforts may appear. And all the uproar in hell cannot change the certainty of God's salvation once we receive it. (Luis Palau)
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. --1 John 4
I tell you, women drivers are a hazard to traffic. Driving to work this morning on the parkway, I looked over to my left and there was a woman in a Mustang doing 65 miles per hour with her face up next to her rear view mirror putting on her eyeliner!
I looked away for a couple seconds and when I looked back she was halfway over in my lane. It scared me so bad I dropped my electric shaver in my coffee, and it spilled all over my cell phone!