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Post  Admin on Thu 01 Dec 2011, 5:03 pm

December 1, 2011

Now I Know
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 3:1--26

There are times when others' words only make our troubles worse. That may seem too elementary to mention, so why would I? Well, have you learned it? Are you still listening to everybody? If so, it's small wonder that you're confused.

There are times when God's ways only make us more confused. There, I've said it. I've been wanting to say that all through this chapter, and I finally worked up the courage. My point? Don't expect to understand everything that happens when it occurs.

I don't care if you have a Ph.D. you earned at Yale or in Scotland. Just stand in front of the mirror, all alone, nobody around, shrug, and say, "I don't know . . . I really don't know." You can add, "I can't tell you why that happened. I don't know." Repeat the words several times: "I don't know."

The great news is that God never shrugs. He never says that. With acute perception He says, "I know exactly why this happened. I know the way you take. I know why. I know how long you'll be there, and I know what will be the end result." Shrugging and deity are incompatible.

While you're shrugging in genuine humility, saying, "I don't know," He's saying, "Good for you. Rely on Me in the mystery. Trust Me." God never promised He would inform us all about His plan ahead of time; He's just promised He has one. Ultimately, it's for our good and His glory. He knows---we don't. That's why we shrug and admit, "I don't know." So, if you and I meet someday and you ask me a deep, difficult question, don't be surprised if I shrug and say, "I don't know."

But I do know this: The death of His Son was not in vain; Christ died for you; and if you believe in Him, He will forgive your sins, and you will go to live with Him forever. You'll have heaven and all the blessings of it, I do know that.

It's a tough journey, getting there. Full of confusion, struggle, shrugs, followed by a lot of "I don't knows." But when the heavens open and we're there, hey, there will be no more shrugs, and you'll be able to say, "Now I know!"

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Wed 30 Nov 2011, 6:54 pm

November 30, 2011

Good and Bad Advice
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 3:1--26

Every person reading this chapter has been the recipient of bad advice. You listened as someone gave it to you. You followed the counsel you received and then suffered the consequences. We have all benefited from someone's good advice too. We were unsure and confused, so we reached out to somebody we trusted. We received good counsel, followed the advice, and enjoyed the benefits.

Take for example Proverbs 12:15: "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel." You and I have experienced those very words. We have been foolish, thinking we were right, and along came a parent or teacher, perhaps a friend who talked some sense into our heads, thankfully. As a result we benefited from wise counsel.

"As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man" (Proverbs 27:19). I'm sure you have known such occasions. You've had something deep in the well of your heart you've not been able to pull up. Along comes someone who loves you and has the ability to drop a bucket in that deep well of yours, pull it out, then splash the contents around for both of you to see it clearly.

I need to add that wise counsel is not always easy to hear. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6). The Hebrew uses an interesting verb stem here. It's known as the "causative stem," which allows us to render the statement: "Trustworthy are the bruises caused by the wounding of one who loves you." The bruise that comes after the verbal blow of one who loves you is a trustworthy bruise. In genuine love, your friend confronts you with the truth---you're alone, in private, and you hear the hard thing that needs to be confronted. That bruise stays with you, and you're a better person for it. Such bruising is much more helpful and reliable than a phony embrace, the "kiss" of a flatterer whom Solomon calls our "enemy." Good counsel is a good thing, even if it hurts to hear it, whether you are the receiver or the giver of that counsel.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Tue 29 Nov 2011, 11:10 pm

November 29, 2011


Expressing Grief
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 3:1--26

There are days too dark for the sufferer to see light. That's where Job is as we end this chapter. Unfortunately, his so-called friends will not bring him any relief. Like Job, you may not have seen light for a long time either.

There are experiences too extreme for the hurting to maintain hope. When a person drops so low due to inner pain, it's as if all hope is lost. That's why Job admits his lack of ease, his absence of peace, and his deep unrest.

There are valleys too deep for the anguished to find relief. It seems, at that point, there is no reason to go on. We run out of places to look to find relief. It's then that our minds play tricks on us, making us think that not even God cares. Wrong! Do you remember the line that Corrie ten Boom used to quote? I often call it to mind: "There is no pit so deep but that He is not deeper still." I know, I know. Those who are deeply depressed don't remember that and can't reason with it. They would deny such a statement because they feel a vast distance between them and God, and it's confusing---it's frightening. But the good news is that God is not only there . . . He cares.

It is noteworthy that there is no blast against Job at the end of chapter 3. God doesn't say, "Shame on you, Job." God could handle Job's words. He understood why he said what he said. He understands you too. Unfortunately, Job has his words on record for preachers to talk about for centuries. Yours and mine, thankfully, will hopefully remain a secret inside our cars, or in the back part of our bedrooms, or along the crashing surf, or perhaps under tall trees in a forest. God can handle it all; so let it all out. Tell Him all that's in your heart. You never get over grief completely until you express it fully. Job didn't hold back. And I admire him more now than when I first began the book.

Look up to find the Light.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Mon 28 Nov 2011, 5:09 pm

November 28, 2011
Words of Comfort
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 3:1--26

In the early l960s when a Christian suffered from a depression that resulted in Job's kind of thinking and candid admission, you never said so publicly. You swallowed your sorrow. The first book I read on this subject, covering emotional turmoil and mental illness among Christians, was considered heresy by most of my evangelical friends.

The pervasive opinion then was simple: Christians didn't have breakdowns. Furthermore, you certainly didn't stay depressed! You know what term was used to describe those who struggled with deep depression in the early and mid-sixties? "Nervous." "He's got a nervous problem." Or simply, "She's nervous." And if you ever, God help you, had to be hospitalized due to your "nervous" disorder, there just wasn't a Christian word for it. I repeat, you didn't tell a soul. Shame upon shame that you didn't trust the Lord through your struggle and find Him faithful to help you "get over" your depression.

I remember being told by a seminary prof, who talked to us about assisting families with funerals, that if you did funerals for those who had committed suicide and the deceased was a Christian, we were never to mention that fact. Frankly, it didn't sound right then, and it doesn't sound right today. Shame-based counsel never sounds right because it isn't right! And I didn't know enough to know that Job 3 was in the book back then. Had I known, I would have said, "Hey, what about Job?"

I want to write to you who are reading these lines who may be in the pit, struggling to find your way back. It's possible that things have gotten so dark that you need a competent Christian psychologist (or psychiatrist) to help you find your way. The most intelligent thing you can do is locate one and go. In fact, go as long as you need to go. Make sure that the counselor really does know the Lord Jesus and is truly competent, able to provide the direction you need so you can work your way through your maze of misery. And, I would add, "God bless you for every hour you spend finding your way out of the hole that you have been in. There is hope. Our faithful God will see you through."

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Sat 26 Nov 2011, 8:18 pm

November 26, 2011

God's Presence in Suffering
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 2:11--13


The book of Job is not only a witness to the dignity of suffering and God's presence in our suffering, but it's also our primary biblical protest against religion that has been reduced to explanations or "answers." Many of the answers that Job's so-called friends give him are technically true. But it is the "technical" part that ruins them. They are answers without personal relationship, intellect without intimacy. The answers are slapped onto Job's ravaged life like labels on a specimen bottle. In response, Job rages against this secularized wisdom that has lost touch with the living realities of God.

The late (and I might add great) Joe Bayly and his wife, Mary Lou, lost three of their children. They lost one son following surgery when he was only eighteen days old. They also lost the second boy at age five because of leukemia. They then lost a third son at eighteen years after a sledding accident, because of complications related to his hemophilia.

Joe writes in a wonderful book, The Last Thing We Talk About:

I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God's dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly; he said things I knew were true.
I was unmoved, except I wished he'd go away. He finally did.
Another came and sat beside me. He didn't talk. He didn't ask leading questions. He just sat beside me for an hour and more, listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply, left.
I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.

You have done it right when those in agony hate to see you go.

We must leave Job in his misery for now. We're mere onlookers. Had we lived in his day, there is no way we could say, "I know how you feel." We don't. We can't even imagine. But we do care. Our presence and our tears say much more than our words.

Words have a hollow ring in a crucible.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Fri 25 Nov 2011, 7:45 pm

November 25, 2011

Without Asking
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 2:11--13


Friends care enough to come without being asked to come. No one sent a message saying to Eliphaz and Bildad and Zophar, "Would you please come and bring a little sympathy and comfort for Job? The man is dying in this crucible of anguish and pain." That wasn't necessary, because real friends show up when someone they love is really hurting. Friends don't need an official invitation. Spontaneously, they come.

Friends respond with sympathy and comfort. Sympathy includes identifying with the sufferer. Friends do that. They enter into his or her crucible, for the purpose of feeling the anguish and being personally touched by the pain. Comfort is attempting to ease the pain by helping to make the sorrow lighter. You run errands for them. You take care of the kids. You provide a meal. You assist wherever you can assist because you want to comfort them.

Friends openly express the depth of their feelings. They have ways of doing that, don't they? It's not uncommon to see a friend standing nearby in the hospital room fighting back the tears. It's not unusual for the friend to express deep feelings. Casual acquaintances don't usually do that; genuine friends make their feelings known.

Friends aren't turned off by distasteful sights. On the contrary, they come alongside and they get as close as possible. Friends are not offended because the room has a foul smell. Friends don't turn away because the one they've come to be with has been reduced to the shell of his former self, weighing half of what he used to weigh.

Friends see beyond all of that. They don't walk away because the bottom has dropped out of your life and you're at wits' end. On the contrary, that draws them in. These men literally tore their robes, sprinkled dust on their heads, and raised their voices and sobbed as they sat down on the ground with Job. They demonstrated the depth of their anguish by staying seven days and seven nights without uttering a word.

Friends understand, so they say very little. Words are not always what they need. What they need is you.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Thu 24 Nov 2011, 6:42 pm

November 24, 2011


Complete Acceptance
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 2:10

Because we've lived with our wives over the years and have become extremely comfortable around them, we tend to be unguarded in our words. Wives usually get the brunt of our worst words. Since this is true, let's agree today that we will restrain ourselves from verbal impurity. Job didn't make a blasphemous statement. He didn't curse God. Furthermore, he didn't curse her. As we read earlier, Job didn't call her "wicked," but "foolish."

Job may have been a public figure, but he didn't throw his weight around. It makes no difference how well known or how important you are, how long you've been married, how much money you make, or how big your company is---or your church is; no man has the right to talk down to his wife. She is your partner---your equal. Furthermore, she knows a lot of stuff on you. Someday she may write your long-awaited, unauthorized biography!

Accept her completely; love her unconditionally. A wife thrives in a context of love and acceptance. She is who she is. God has made her into the woman she has become. And may I remind you, she is the wife you chose. She has become the woman God is making her into, and that calls for complete acceptance and unconditional love on your part.

Ideally, that combination results in a deep commitment. Both of you are in this relationship for the long haul. You're there to stay. And no amount of hardship, difficulty, test, or trial will separate you. In fact, it can pull you closer.

Tragically, many a marriage is bound together by very thin, fragile threads. As tests come---from the in-laws or the children, perhaps a difficulty at birth that leads to defects in a child, or trials and tests in the business or financial realm . . . whatever---deliberately pull together and determine to hang in there. Tell her how much she means to you. Talk to her about her value in your life---how much she represents to you. When the crucible heats up, too many guys look for ways to get out.

Don't get out. Get tough with yourself and stay, no matter what.


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Wed 23 Nov 2011, 5:18 pm

November 23, 2011

Truth Spoken in Love
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 2:10

I'm impressed that Job listened to the words of his wife. He pondered them, he considered them, he turned them over in his mind. He neither misunderstood nor ignored her. He heard what she said, and he didn't interrupt her as she said it. That places Job in a unique category among husbands, quite frankly.

Men, I've found that most of us are not hard of hearing; we're hard of listening. Our wives frequently have the most important things to say that we will hear that day, but for some strange reason, we have formed the habit of mentally turning off their counsel.

Let me add here, when you do respond, always tell her the truth. If what she says is wise and squares with what you know to be truth---if it is helpful---then say so. And thank her. If it is not, say that. Job disagreed and said so. His response after hearing her was, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks."

Job detected in his wife a snag of bitterness, some disillusionment; so he said to her, in effect, "This is advice I cannot and will not act on. It isn't wise. It's wrong counsel, and I can't accept it."

In the four decades I've been dealing with folks who are married, I find one of the most difficult things to get couples to do is say the truth to each other. Admit when we've done wrong rather than skirt it or rationalize around it or excuse it---just say, "I was wrong." Or if we hear our mates say something we know is not wise, or we detect a questionable motive, we tend not to say the hard thing. How much better to respond, "You know, honey, I realize you've got my good at heart, but I honestly have to say that I don't agree with it. I think it is unwise for you to suggest that." In the long haul, your marriage will be healthier if you will allow truth to prevail, especially if it's truth spoken in love. Listen well, and always speak the truth wrapped in loving care.


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Tue 22 Nov 2011, 5:49 pm

November 22, 2011

Wait and Watch
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 2:10

Job's response to his wife's suggestion that he curse God and die is magnificent. "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks" (Job 2:10). Hats off to the old patriarch! In his weakened condition, sitting there in the misery of all those sores, not knowing if any of that would ever change, he stood firm---he even reproved her. He said, in effect, "I need to correct the course of this conversation. We're not going there."

He went further than stating a reproof; he asked an excellent question. "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" (v. 10). His insight was rare, not only back then, but today. What magnificent theology! How seldom such a statement emerges from our secular system.

Job is thinking these thoughts: Doesn't He have the right? Isn't He the Potter? Aren't we the clay? Isn't He the Shepherd and we the sheep? Isn't He the Master and we the servant? Isn't that the way it works?

Somehow he already knew that the clay does not ask the potter, "What are you making?" And so he says, in effect, "No, no, no, sweetheart. Let's not do that. We serve a God who has the right to do whatever He does and is never obligated to explain it or ask permission. Stop and consider---should we think that good things are all we receive? Is that the kind of God we serve? He's no heavenly servant of ours who waits for the snap of our fingers, is He? He is our Lord and our Master! We need to remember that the God we serve has a game plan that is beyond our comprehension, including hard times like this."

And I love this last line, "In all this Job did not sin with his lips" (v. 10). There's absolute trust there. And faith. "Sweetheart, we can't explain any of this, so let's wait and watch God work. We would never have expected what happened. Both our hearts are broken over the loss. We've lost everything. Well---not everything. We've still got each other. Our God has a plan that is unfolding, even though we cannot understand it right now. Let's wait and watch to see what He will do next."

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Mon 21 Nov 2011, 5:39 pm

November 21, 2011

A Plea for Understanding
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 2:1--9

I want to confess that for too long in my ministry I took unfair advantage of Job's wife, especially since she was not present to defend herself. I think it was probably due to immaturity on my part. Furthermore, I hadn't been married long enough to know better than to say those things. I cannot leave this one snapshot of Mrs. Job in the story without clarifying the record in her defense.

Now that you've seen the incredible disaster they shared, isn't it a little easier to understand how she could suggest, "Job, darling, let's just pull the plug. Don't go on. You can't keep living like this, I can't stand it. Curse God, and let Him take you home to be with Him." I think so. She's reached her limit and is willing to let him go. I'm not justifying the woman's reasoning as much as trying to understand it.

Always guard your words when your husband is going through terribly hard times. I want to confess something about us men. Mainly, I want you to remember: going through sustained hard times weakens most men. For some reason, hardship seems to strengthen women; we admire you for that. But we men are weakened when times of affliction hit and stay. In our weakened condition we lose our objectivity, sometimes our stability. Our discernment is also skewed. Our determination lags. We become vulnerable, and most men don't know how to handle themselves in a vulnerable state of mind. So in light of all of this---hear me---we need your clear perspective, wisdom, and spiritual strength. Most of all, we need you to pray for us as you've never prayed. We need not only your prayers, we need your emotional support. We need you to take the initiative and step up.

We need your words of confidence and encouragement. We even find it hard to say, "I need you right now." My wife could tell you that she lived with me for our first ten years of marriage before she ever thought I needed her. I finally admitted it and learned how to say it. In the lonely hours of a man's great trial, nobody's words mean more to him than his wife's words. That is one of the God-given reasons you and your partner were called to be together. When we husbands lose our way, you wives help us find our way back.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Sat 19 Nov 2011, 11:39 pm

November 19, 2011


Hold Everything Loosely
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 1:22

Without realizing it, by worshiping God during his woes, Job is saying, "In your face, Lucifer! I never set my affections on these things in the first place. And when it came to the kids, I've understood from the day we had our first child until we had our last, they're all God's. He is the One who gave them, and He is the One who has the right to take them whenever He wants them back."

That explains how Job could say in all sincerity, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." And why the biblical narrative adds, "Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God" (Job 1:21--22). Since he never considered himself sole owner, Job had little struggle releasing the Lord's property. When you understand that everything you have is on loan, you are better prepared to release it when the owner wants it back.

We enter the world with our tiny fists clenched, screaming, but we always leave the world with hands open on our silent chests. Naked in, naked out. And in the interlude, "Lord God, blessed be Your name for loaning me everything I'm able to enjoy."

"Through all this Job did not sin." Isn't that wonderful? "Nor did he blame God." Why blame God?

As one man has written, "God has given him a rehearsal for death. All things belong to God, absolutely, to be given as a gift, not a claim, to be taken back without wrong. There is no talk of human 'rights.' The Lord is the sovereign owner of all, and Job rejoices in this wonderful fact."

With 20/20 perspective, Job lifted himself off the ground, looked around at all that had changed, then put his arm around his grieving wife, held her close, and whispered, "God gave, and for some unrevealed reason, He chose to take back. He owns it all, sweetheart."

This entire chapter could have been written in three words. I believe they represent the reason Job became a man of heroic endurance: hold everything loosely.

Are you doing that?

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Fri 18 Nov 2011, 5:50 pm

November 18, 2011
On Loan
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 1:21

With Job facedown in worship to God, the only one cursing is Satan. He hated it! He resented Job's response! Of all things, the man still worships his God---the One who would allow these catastrophes to happen. There wouldn't be one in millions on this earth who would do so, but Job did exactly that. The wicked spirits sat with their mouths wide open as it were, as they watched a man who responded to all of his adversities with adoration; who concluded all of his woes with worship. No blame. No bitterness. No cursing. No clinched fist raised to the heavens screaming, "How dare you do this to me after I've walked with you all these years!" None of that.

Instead he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. Blessed be the name of the Lord." That says it all. At birth we all arrived naked. At death we will all leave naked, as we're prepared for burial. We have nothing as we are birthed; we have nothing as we depart. So everything we have in between is provided for us by the Giver of Life.

Get that clearly in your mind. Get it, affluent Americans as we are. Get it when you stroll through your house and see all those wonderful belongings. Get it when you open the door and slip behind the steering wheel of your car. It's all on loan, every bit of it. Get it when the business falls and fails. It, too, was on loan. When the stocks rise, all that profit is on loan.

Face it squarely. You and I arrived in a tiny, naked body (and not a great looking one at that!). And what will we have when we depart? A naked body plus a lot of wrinkles. You take nothing because you brought nothing! You own nothing. What a grand revelation. Are you ready to accept it? You don't even own your children. They're God's children, on loan for you to take care of, rear, nurture, love, discipline, encourage, affirm, and then release.

Praise God for "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" (James 1:17 NIV).

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Thu 17 Nov 2011, 3:08 pm

November 17, 2011
Humble Submission
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 1:20

Perhaps Job lay under the stars until he was wet from the dew. Finally, he spoke. And when he did, what a remarkable response! Verse 20 comprises nine words in the Hebrew text. These words describe what Job did before the text goes on to tell us what Job said. Five of the nine words are verbs. When you read your Bible, always pay close attention to the verbs, because they move you through the action of a narrative, helping you vicariously to enter the event.

First, Job peeled himself off the ground. He "arose." The next verb tells us something strange. He "tore his robe." The word translated "robe" is a term describing a garment that fits over the body loosely, like an outer gown that reaches below the knees. This is not the undertunic; it's the outer robe that kept him warm at night. Job reached to his neck and, not finding a seam, he seized a worn part of the fabric and ripped it. In the ripping of the robe he is announcing his horrible grief. It was the action of a man in anguish. It's used several times in the Old Testament to portray utter grief.

And then we read the third verb. He "shaved his head." The hair is always pictured in the Scriptures as the glory of an individual, an expression of his worth. The shaving of the head, therefore, is symbolic of the loss of personal glory. And to carry his grief to its lowest depth, his fourth action is to fall to the ground. But, let's understand, this was not a collapse of grief, but for another purpose entirely. It's this that portrays the heroism of Job's endurance. He doesn't wallow and wail, he worships. The Hebrew verb means "to fall prostrate in utter submission and worship." I dare say most of us have never worshiped like that! I mean with your face on the ground, lying down, full-length. This was considered in ancient days the sincerest expression of obedience and submission to the Creator-God.

Before moving on, I'd like to suggest you try this sometime. Palms down, facedown, knees and toes touching the ground, body fully extended, as you pour out your heart in worship. It's the position Job deliberately took. Complete and humble submission.


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Wed 16 Nov 2011, 5:41 pm

November 16, 2011

Necessary Consequences
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 1:13--22

There is a plan that we explore which we will not understand, but it is best. Though each segment of it may not seem fair or pleasant, it works together for good. The disease Job endured wasn't good in and of itself. Hardly! But it worked together for good. Our perspective is dreadfully limited. We see only a pinpoint of time, but God's view is panoramic. God's big-picture, cosmic plan is at work now, and He doesn't feel the need (nor is He obligated) to explain it to us. If He tried, our answer would be like the confused teenager listening to his calculus teacher, "What?" You wouldn't get it, nor would I. Just remember, the Father knows what is best for His children. Rest in that realization.

There are consequences we experience that we could not anticipate, but they are necessary. I don't know where you find yourself today, but I would be willing to wager that most of you reading this book are going through something that is unfair. Chances are good that you simply don't deserve what's happening. The consequences may have started to get to you. You didn't anticipate any of this. You didn't think it would come to this, but it has. Trust me here. What has happened is a necessary part of your spiritual growth. Yes, necessary. I've finally begun to accept that reality after all these years of my life.

I want to address you who have moved onto Job's turf. If nothing else, it has prepared you to pay closer attention to the message of Job. You've seen only a glimpse of how things started. The story doesn't end with Satan's departing from the presence of the Lord. There's a whole lot more to Job's story. And the more it unfolds, the more you will realize that life is not only difficult, it's unfair.

The silence of God's voice will make you wonder if He is even there. And the absence of God's presence will make you wonder if He even cares. He is there. And He does care.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Tue 15 Nov 2011, 6:41 pm

November 15, 2011

Walk by Faith, Not by Sight
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 1:1--12

Without Job's knowing it, a dialogue took place in the invisible world. As the Lord and Satan had their strange encounter, the subject quickly turned to this well-known earthly man. The Lord calls Satan's attention to Job's exemplary life, and Satan responds with a sinister sneer. "Of course, who wouldn't serve You, the way You've prospered and protected him. Take away all the perks and watch what happens; the man will turn on You in a flash." God agrees to let the Adversary unload on Job.

And so, in today's terms, the Lord bet Satan that Job would never turn on Him. Philip Yancey refers to that agreement as the "divine wager." Satan instigates a sudden and hostile removal of all the man's possessions, leaving him bankrupt. Within a matter of minutes, everything he owned was gone.

This brings us to the first lesson worth remembering: we never know ahead of time the plans God has for us. Job had no prior knowledge or warning. That morning dawned like every other morning. The night had passed like any other night. There was no great angelic manifestation---not even a tap on his window or a note left on the kitchen table.

In one calamity after another, all the buildings on his land are gone, and nothing but lumber and bodies litter the landscape. It occurred so fast, Job's mind swirled in disbelief. Everything hit broadside . . . his world instantly changed.

You and I must learn from this! We never know what a day will bring, whether good or ill. Our heavenly Father's plan unfolds apart from our awareness. Ours is a walk of faith, not sight. Trust, not touch. Leaning long and hard, not running away. No one knows ahead of time what the Father's plan includes. It's best that way. It may be a treasured blessing; it could be a test that drops us to our knees. He knows ahead of time, but He is not obligated to warn us about it or to remind us it's on the horizon. We can be certain of this: our God knows what is best.


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Mon 14 Nov 2011, 5:00 pm

November 14, 2011
The Unseen Enemy
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 1:1--12

Job does not deserve even the suggestion of mistreatment. He has walked faithfully with God, certainly in his adult years. He is now the best of the best, "greatest of all the men of the east." On top of all that, he is a humble servant of God. But none of that impresses Satan. Evil suspicions prompt his insidious plot: "You want to know what he's really made of, remove all that indulged treatment and pervasive protection. Strip away the veneer of the man's comfort, and You'll see right away, he'll turn on You. 'He will surely curse You to Your face' " (Job 1:11). His point is clear: Job is worshiping God because of what he gets out of it, not because the Lord is truly first in his life.

There is an enemy who we encounter that we cannot see, but he is real. We have a supernatural enemy, and we encounter him or one of his emissaries regularly. And never doubt it---all of that is real. He hopes that his deceptive strategy will play tricks on your mind and will weaken you and ultimately bring you down. The Accuser's desire is to ruin your testimony as he destroys your life. In the process, if it means ruining your family relationships, he'll go there. If it takes tempting you to secretly cut a few corners in your business, which you would not have done in earlier days, he'll go there. Whatever it takes to bring you down, he will try. Because we have an enemy we cannot see does not mean he is not real.

There are trials we endure that we don't deserve, but they are permitted. You read that correctly. Life includes trials that we do not deserve, but they must, nevertheless, be endured. In the mystery of God's unfathomable will, there are elements we can never explain or fully understand. Don't try to grasp each thread of His profound plan. If you resist my counsel here, you'll become increasingly more confused, ultimately resentful, and finally bitter. At that point, Satan will have won the day. Accept it. Endure the trial that has been permitted by God. Nothing touches your life that has not first passed through the hands of God. He is in full control, and because He is, He has the sovereign right to permit trials that we don't deserve.

We do have an unseen enemy, but we have an even more powerful, unseen Defender.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Sat 12 Nov 2011, 6:26 pm

November 12, 2011


Life Is Difficult
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Job 1:1--12

Life is difficult. That blunt, three-word statement is an accurate appraisal of our existence on this earth. When the writer of the biblical book named Job picked up his stylus to write his story, he could have begun with a similar-sounding and equally blunt sentence, "Life is unfair."

No one could argue the point that life is punctuated with hardship, heartaches, and headaches. Most of us have learned to face the reality that life is difficult. But unfair? Something kicks in, deep within most of us, making it almost intolerable for us to accept and cope with what's unfair. Our drive for justice overrides our patience with pain.

Life is not just difficult, it's downright unfair. Welcome to Job's world.

Job was a man of unparalleled and genuine piety. He was also a man of well-deserved prosperity. He was a godly gentleman, extremely wealthy, a fine husband, and a faithful father. In a quick and brutal sweep of back-to-back calamities, Job was reduced to a twisted mass of brokenness and grief. The extraordinary accumulation of disasters that hit him would have been enough to finish off any one of us today.

Job is left bankrupt, homeless, helpless, and childless. He's left standing beside the ten fresh graves of his now-dead children in a windswept valley. His wife is heaving deep sobs of grief as she kneels beside him, having just heard him say, "Whether our God gives to us or takes everything from us, we will follow Him." She leans over and secretly whispers, "Why don't you just curse God and die?"

His misery turns to mystery with God's silence. If the words of his so-called friends are hard to hear, the silence of God becomes downright intolerable. Not until the thirty-eighth chapter of the book does God finally break the silence, however long that took. Even if it were just a few months, try to imagine. You've become the object of your alleged friends' accusations, and the heavens are brass as you plead for answers from the Almighty, who remains mysteriously mute. Nothing comes to you by way of comfort. It's all so unfair; you've done nothing to deserve such anguish.

Pause and ponder their grief---and remember that Job had done nothing to deserve such unbearable pain. If it had been you, how would you have responded?

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Fri 11 Nov 2011, 7:35 pm

November 11, 2011


Jesus's Portrait of a Servant
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Matthew 5:3--12

Shortly before her death in February 1971, my mother did an oil painting for me. It has become a silent "friend" of mine, a mute yet eloquent expression of my calling. It is a picture of a shepherd with his sheep. The man is standing all alone with his crook in his hand, facing the hillside with sheep here and there. You cannot see the shepherd's face, but the little woolies surrounding him have personalities all their own. Some have the appearance of being devoted and loving, one looks independent and stubborn, another is starting to wander in the distance. But the shepherd is there with his flock, faithfully and diligently tending them.

The rather large piece of art hangs in my study with a light above it. There are times when I am bone-weary after a long day of people demands, preaching, teaching, leading, or just meeting with people as I travel. Quite often when I come home after a day like that, I will come into my study and turn off the lights and leave on only the small light over that unique painting. It helps me keep my perspective. It is a reminder . . . a simple, silent affirmation that I am right where God wants me, doing the very things He wants me to do. There is something very encouraging about taking a final look at the shepherd with his sheep at the end of my day.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus painted a portrait of a servant that is both enlightening and encouraging (Matthew 5:3--12). His promises are assuring and His repeated reminders ("Blessed are") are affirming. He has described our calling as His servants by explaining our role as:

•Poor in spirit
•Mourning
•Gentle
•Hungering and thirsting for righteousness
•Merciful
•Pure in heart
•Peacemakers
•Persecuted

As we turn out all the other lights that distract us, it helps to concentrate our full attention on these eight specifics. The question we now must face is: Can such a person as this really influence a stubborn, competitive, strong-willed world? Is it possible for servants to make an impact?

In reply, I offer a resounding "Yes!" In our tasteless, dark world, servants actually become the only source of salt and light.


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 118--19. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Thu 10 Nov 2011, 2:23 pm

November 10, 2011

Spurgeon's Channel of Encouragement
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Matthew 5:10--12

Charles Haddon Spurgeon remains one of the most colorful and gifted preachers in the history of the church. Any man who loves to preach and desires to cultivate the art and skill of communication must study Spurgeon. Before the man was 30 years old, he was the most popular preacher in England. The new Metropolitan Tabernacle was filled to overflowing every Lord's Day as people came miles by horse and buggy to hear the gifted man handle the Word of God. They were challenged, encouraged, exhorted, fed, and built up in the Christian faith. He was truly a phenomenon.

As a result, he also became the object of great criticism by the press, by other pastors, by influential people in London, and by petty parishioners. The man, not always a model of quiet piety (to say the least), had numerous enemies. Normally, he handled the criticism fairly well . . . but finally, it began to get to him. He began to slump beneath the attacks. The persecution started to take a severe toll on his otherwise resilient spirit.

I am told that his wife, seeing the results of those verbal blows on her husband, decided to assist him in getting back on his feet and regaining his powerful stature in the pulpit. She found in her Bible Matthew 5:10--12, and she printed the words of this passage on a large sheet of paper. Then she tacked that sheet to the ceiling of their bedroom, directly above Charles's side of the bed! Every morning, every evening, when he would rest his enormous frame in his bed, the words were there to meet and to encourage him.

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10--12)

The large sheet of paper remained fixed to the ceiling for an extended period of time until it had done the job. May Mrs. Spurgeon's tribe increase! It is refreshing to think how a marriage partner can be such a vital channel of encouragement.

And it is also encouraging to see that we have no corner on the problem of persecution. Did you observe what Christ said? "In the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Servants, that statement will help us call a halt to the next pity-party we are tempted to throw for ourselves. We are not alone. Persecution has been going on for centuries.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 117--18. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Wed 09 Nov 2011, 7:12 pm

November 9, 2011
Persecution and Blessing?
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Matthew 5:10

Do you usually associate persecution with blessing? Jesus did. "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Matthew 5:10). I don't know how this strikes you, but it seems misplaced at first glance. Especially on the heels of what we have learned about being "peacemakers." But it is not misplaced.

Realistically, wrong treatment often comes upon those who do what is right. We who genuinely desire to serve others soon discover that being mistreated isn't the exception. It's the rule! Christ knew that was so. Read His words carefully.

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:10--12)

Did you notice something? Not "if" men revile you . . . but "when" they revile you. And not only will they revile you, they will persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you---lies and slanderous accusations. Clearly, Jesus is speaking of being viciously mistreated. It's tough to bear! But the Savior says you will be "blessed" when you endure it---promising a great reward for your patient, mature endurance.

There are times when the only way servants can make it through such severe times without becoming bitter is by focusing on the ultimate rewards that are promised. Jesus even says we are to "rejoice and be glad" as we think on the great rewards He will give to us in heaven.

Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 116--17. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Tue 08 Nov 2011, 7:06 pm

November 8, 2011

I Know a Peacemaker
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Matthew 5:9

A man I have admired for decades, the man who taught me Hebrew in seminary many years ago, is Dr. Bruce Waltke. He is not only a Semitic scholar par-excellence, he is a gracious servant of our Lord. In my opinion, he is one of the finest examples of a peacemaker in the family of God. Too brilliant for words, yet the epitome of grace and love. What a magnificent balance!

A number of years ago, Dr. Waltke, another pastor, a graduate student at Brandeis University (also a seminary graduate), and I toured the mother church of the First Church of Christ Scientist in downtown Boston. The four of us were completely anonymous to the elderly lady who smiled as we entered. She had no idea she was meeting four evangelical ministers, and we chose not to identify ourselves---at least at first.

She showed us several interesting items on the main floor. When we got to the multiple manual pipe organ, she began to talk about their doctrine and especially their belief about no judgment in the life beyond. Dr. Waltke waited for just the right moment and very casually asked: "But, Ma'am, doesn't it say somewhere in the Bible, 'It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment'?" He could have quoted Hebrews 9:27 in Greek! But he was so gracious, so tactful with the little lady. I must confess, I stood back thinking, "Go for it, Bruce. Now we've got her where we want her!"

The lady, without a pause, said simply, "Would you like to see the second floor?" You know what Dr. Waltke said? "We surely would, thank you." She smiled, somewhat relieved, and started to lead us up a flight of stairs.

I couldn't believe it! All I could think was, "No, don't let her get away. Make her answer your question!" As I was wrestling within, I pulled on the scholar's arm and said in a low voice, "Hey, why didn't you nail the lady? Why didn't you press the point and not let her get away until she answered?"

Quietly and calmly he put his hand on my shoulder and whispered, "But Chuck, that wouldn't have been fair. That wouldn't have been very loving, either---now would it?"

Wham! The quiet rebuke left me reeling. I shall never forget that moment. And to complete the story, you'll be interested to know that in less than twenty minutes he was sitting with the woman alone, tenderly and carefully speaking with her about the Lord Jesus Christ. She sat in rapt attention. He, the gracious peacemaker, had won a hearing. And I, the scalp-snatcher, had learned an unforgettable lesson.

Do you know what she saw in my friend? A living representation of one of God's sons . . . exactly as Jesus promised in His beatitude: "they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9).



Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 115--16. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Mon 07 Nov 2011, 4:30 pm

November 7, 2011
The Peacemakers
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Matthew 5:9

"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus said (Matthew 5:9). Interestingly, this is the only time in all the New Testament that the Greek term translated "peacemakers" appears. Maybe it will help us understand the meaning by pointing out first what it does not mean.

•It does not mean, "Blessed are those who avoid all conflict and confrontations."
•Neither does it mean, "Blessed are those who are laidback, easygoing, and relaxed."
•Nor, "Blessed are those who defend a 'peace at any price' philosophy."
•It doesn't mean, "Blessed are the passive, those who compromise their convictions when surrounded by those who would disagree."

No, none of those ideas is a characteristic of the "peacemaker" in this verse. The overall thrust of Scripture is the imperative, "Make peace!" (Check out Romans 12:18; 14:19; and James 3:16--4:2.)

A "peacemaker" describes those servants who . . . first, are at peace with themselves---internally, at ease . . . not agitated, ill-tempered, in turmoil . . . and therefore not abrasive. Second, they work hard to settle quarrels, not to start them; they are accepting, tolerant, and find no pleasure in being negative. In the words of Ephesians 4:3, peacemakers "preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Ever been around Christians who are not peacemakers? Of course. Was it pleasant? Did you sense a servant's heart? Were you built up and encouraged . . . was the body of Christ strengthened and supported? You know the answers.

Solomon gives us wise counsel on some of the things peacemakers do:

•They build up. "The wise woman builds her house" (Proverbs 14:1).
•They watch their tongues and heal rather than hurt. "A gentle answer turns away wrath" (15:1). "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (16:24).
•They are slow to anger. "A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute" (15:18). "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city" (16:32).
•They are humble and trusting. "An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper" (28:25).

The Lord Jesus states a marvelous promise that peacemakers can claim: "they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). God's children. Few things are more godlike than peace.

When we promote it, pursue it, model it, we are linked directly with Him.


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 112--14. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Sat 05 Nov 2011, 8:34 pm

November 5, 2011 T
he Pure in Heart
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Matthew 23:13--29

When Jesus spoke of being "pure in heart" (Matthew 5:8), He emphasized the inner person . . . the motive . . . the "heart." The phrase does not refer simply to doing the right things but doing the right things for the right reason. Being free from duplicity, hypocrisy, and/or sham. God desires His servants to be "real" people---authentic to the core. The portrait He paints is realistic.

In Jesus's day, many of the religious authorities that claimed to serve the people were not "pure in heart." Far from it! Hypocritical and phony, they played a role that lacked internal integrity. In Matthew 23---one of the most severe rebukes against hypocrisy in the entire Bible---we find words in strong contrast with the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. Instead of eight "Blessed are you's," there are eight "Woe to you's." Count them---Matthew 23:13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, and 29!

Woe unto whom? Well, read verses 25--28.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (23:25--28)

Wow, Jesus said that! It is doubtful He despised anything among those who claimed to serve God more than hypocrisy---a lack of purity of heart. Did you notice what characterized the phony Pharisees?

•They were big on rules and little on godliness.
•They were big on externals and little on internals.
•They were big on public commands and little on personal obedience.
•They were big on appearance and little on reality.

On the outside, they "appeared righteous to men," but inwardly they were "full of dead men's bones . . . full of hypocrisy." Why did He hate that so much? Because it represented the antithesis of servanthood. Time after time, therefore, He announced, "Woe to you. . . !"

Back to Matthew 5:8---the "pure in heart." Jesus extols this virtue. The term pure literally means "clean." It's the idea of being uncontaminated, without corruption or alloy. Without guile . . . sincere and honest in motive.


Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 109--10. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Fri 04 Nov 2011, 6:28 pm

November 4, 2011


Mercy Is More Than Words
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read James 2:15--16; 1 John 3:17

Shocking stories make headlines today with remarkable regularity.

A young woman was brutally attacked as she returned to her apartment late one night. She screamed and shrieked as she fought for her life . . . yelling until she was hoarse . . . for thirty minutes . . . as she was beaten and abused. As I heard the story, thirty-eight people watched the half-hour episode in rapt fascination from their windows. Not one so much as walked over to the telephone and called the police. She died that night as thirty-eight witnesses stared in silence.

Another's experience was similar. Riding on a subway, a seventeen-year-old youth was quietly minding his own business when he was stabbed repeatedly in the stomach by attackers. Eleven riders watched the stabbing, but none came to assist the young man. Even after the thugs had fled and the train had pulled out of the station and he lay there in a pool of his own blood, not one of the eleven came to his side.

Less dramatic but equally shocking was the ordeal of a lady in New York City. While shopping on Fifth Avenue in busy Manhattan, this lady tripped and broke her leg. Dazed, anguished, and in shock, she called out for help. Not for two minutes. Not for twenty minutes. But for forty minutes, as shoppers and business executives, students and merchants walked around her and stepped over her, completely ignoring her cries. After literally hundreds had passed by, a cab driver finally pulled over, hauled her into his taxi, and took her to a local hospital. The words of the apostle James come to mind:

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? (James 2:15--16)

The apostle John probes even deeper when he asks:

But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? (1 John 3:17)

True servants are merciful. They care. They get involved. They get dirty, if necessary. They offer more than pious words. And what do they get in return? What does Christ promise? "They shall receive mercy."

Those who remain detached, distant, and disinterested in others will receive like treatment. But God promises that those who reach out and demonstrate mercy will, in turn, receive it---from other people as well as from God Himself.



Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 107--8. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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Post  Admin on Thu 03 Nov 2011, 5:43 pm

November 3, 2011

Ministry to the Miserable
by Charles R. Swindoll

Read Matthew 5:7

You don't run through an art gallery; you walk very slowly. You often stop, study the treasured works of art, and take time to appreciate what has been painted. You examine the texture, the technique, the choice and mixture of colors, the subtle as well as the bold strokes of the brush, the shadings. And the more valuable the canvas, the more time and thought it deserves. You may even return to it later for a further and deeper look, especially if you are a student of that particular artist.

In the gallery of His priceless work, the Lord God has included a portrait of vast value. It is the portrait of a servant carefully painted in words that take time to understand and appreciate. The frame in which the portrait has been placed is Jesus Christ's immortal Sermon on the Mount.

"Blessed are the merciful," Jesus said. Mercy is concern for people in need. It is ministry to the miserable. Offering help for those who hurt . . . who suffer under the distressing blows of adversity and hardship.

Those special servants of God who extend mercy to the miserable often do so with much encouragement because they identify with the sorrowing---they "get inside their skin." Rather than watching from a distance or keeping the needy safely at arm's length, they get in touch, involved, and offer assistance that alleviates some of the pain.

For years, a large group of collegians from our former church in Fullerton, California, would pile into a church bus at least one weekend a month and travel together---not to a mountain resort or the beach for fun-n-games, but to a garbage dump in Tijuana, Mexico, where hundreds of poverty-stricken Mexican families lived. Our young adults, under the encouraging leadership of Kenneth Kemp (one of our pastoral staff team members), brought apples and other foodstuff plus money they had collected to share with those in that miserable existence. There were times when the students could hardly believe what they saw and heard and smelled as they witnessed raw, unmasked poverty in the garbage dump at Tijuana.

What were they doing? They were showing mercy . . . a ministry to others that is born out of the womb of identification.

In our isolated, cold society, mercy is rarely demonstrated.



Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981), 105--7. Copyright © 1981 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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