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MAR/APR-JUNE 2017

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Amazing Facts Devotionals

June 2017

An Amazing Fact: Abdul Kassem Ismael, Grand Vizier of Persia in the 10th century, traveled with his entire library, carried on the backs of 400 camels.

During the Middle Ages, an Arab invasion into Iran resulted in sweeping changes to Persian life and culture. But some Iranian groups resisted Arabic influence and eventually regained their independence, launching a revival of Iranian national identity and culture that peaked during the 9th and 10th centuries.

Part of this cultural movement was the development of Persian literature, keeping the Persian language alive and securing its place as an important Indo-European language. Persian remains Iran’s official language today. After the 10th century, Persian literature played a formative role in Muslim civilization.

Around this time, Abdul Kassem Ismael (A.D. 938 to 995) became Grand Vizier of Persia. Legend has it that the avid reader was so enthralled with literature and learning that he never left home without his personal library. The 400-camel caravan carried 117,000 books and must have been more than a mile long! Nevertheless, Ismael’s camel-drivers were also librarians, each responsible for the books on his camel, and could locate any book almost immediately because the animals were trained to walk in alphabetical order.

The Bible says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10) and “knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). We may, like Ismael, pursue all the knowledge of the Lord. But Paul says that if we don’t have love, we are nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2). John says that when we know God, we love. (1 John 4:7, 8) True wisdom—a knowledge of God—will result in His love being embodied in us. Until then, our knowledge means nothing.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Proverbs 9:10And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

An Amazing Fact: The largest single dish served in the world is roasted camel. To celebrate a wedding or honor a visiting dignitary, Mohammedan tribes in the Arabian, Syrian, and North African deserts usually give a feast where the main dish is without equal. This is how the stuffed camel is put together: Eggs are stuffed inside fish; fish are, in turn, stuffed into chickens; the chickens are then stuffed into sheep, which are roasted. Then the entire cooked sheep are stuffed into a camel. This colossal culinary concoction is the main course at these special feasts. Would you like fries with that?

Jesus tells the story of a wedding feast in which a king prepares a banquet for his son and daughter-in-law. Social gatherings in Bible times often involved large quantities of food. Unfortunately, the guests in Christ’s parable are not willing to come. The king sends out servants again, “Tell those who are invited, ‘See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding’” (Matthew 22:4). Once more the guests spurn the invitation. The king destroys them.

“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding’” (vs. 8, 9). The Pharisees listening to Jesus viewed the Jews as sitting down to eat a great meal while the Gentiles looked on with jealousy. Jesus showed that the very ones first called turned away from the invitation. Everyone is invited to the marriage banquet.

Christ calls us to come to a wedding banquet prepared for those who love Him. “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9). What excuses do we make? Are we so preoccupied that we miss the greatest feast ever made? Or do we feel that we have an exclusive right to this banquet but are not truly ready? Unless we have on Christ’s robe of righteousness (the wedding garment), we will be cast out (v. 12). God wants all to come to the great supper.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:14

An Amazing Fact: In July 2011, America’s most expensive home went on the market for $175 million, surpassing previous sales of $100 million and $150 million. This home and estate in Wyoming includes a house, equestrian center, and massive acreage. Only the wealthiest in the nation could consider real estate like this!

For the time, news regarding real estate typically focused on how poorly the housing market was doing, but this piece of news was different. The cost of this estate surpassed two large mansions purchased in California, one by a billionaire investor and another by a billionaire heiress. The Wyoming property would ultimately require a special buyer. The property’s home is actually fairly modest, but the property covers more 1,750 acres and includes a large 52-stall equestrian center with an indoor and outdoor riding rink.

Since most people are more concerned with making the mortgage payment than finding the perfect mansion to fulfill our dreams, a piece of property like this is mind-boggling. We’re focused on making ends meet, not buying a million-dollar estate. But King David reminds us in one of his psalms that earthly wealth of this sort is only temporary. “Do not be overawed when others grow rich…for they will take nothing with them when they die.” Money and property are only here for a season before they vanish, but our heavenly treasure will last forever. Keep your focus on what is eternal. Sharing the love of God with our family, friends, and those around us will have more lasting consequences than storing up earthly wealth.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him. Psalms 49:17

An Amazing Fact: The Bible contains almost 900 references to the word ‘servant,’ 65 references to ‘slave,’ and 18 references to ‘bondservant.’ In ancient Israel, if a freed bondservant chose to remain with the family for the rest of his life, his ear was pierced as a sign that he had freely chosen to serve.

A bondservant is one obligated to service without wages. Paul proclaimed himself to be a bondservant of Jesus Christ. It was both his duty and joy to share the gospel with people in many parts of the world. He met with plenty of opposition and suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, but he never regretted working for his Master.

Jesus said, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). But how can a person be both free and a bondservant?

The Scripture says, “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). But when God sets us free from sin, we become “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18).

Jesus set the example for serving others. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Christ put aside His own interests and feelings and committed Himself completely to His mission of rescue.

We have been set free from slavery to sin by His sacrifice and grace. Love for our Redeemer obligates us. We have been saved to serve.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: Romans 1:1-4

An Amazing Fact: President Grover Cleveland personally answered the White House telephone.

In one of the United States’ most controversial presidential campaigns ever, Grover Cleveland narrowly won the 1884 election and became the first Democratic president after the Civil War.

Cleveland disliked showing special favor to any group. When a bill was passed granting aid to drought-stricken farmers in Texas, Cleveland vetoed it because he thought such aid fostered an expectation of “paternal care” by the government and “weakened our national character.” To criticism that his tough policies would work against his reelection, Cleveland retorted, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?” Sure enough, he lost in 1888, but won again in 1892, still the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

Despite his controversial campaign and tough reputation, New Jersey-born Cleveland was an ordinary man. A bachelor when he first entered office, Cleveland is one of only three presidents to marry while in office—and the only one to do so in the White House. His five children kept pet canaries, a mockingbird, and a dog. And Cleveland liked to answer the White House telephone himself.

President Cleveland had discovered a cancerous growth on the roof of his mouth. But in case the illness might cause the public to panic, Cleveland snuck aboard a boat over the Fourth of July holiday with several doctors, who surgically removed the cancer. For five days virtually no one knew where the President really was; the truth wasn’t revealed until nine years after his death.

Like President Cleveland, God answers anytime we call. In fact, He promises to hear and listen. (Jeremiah 29:12). And unlike President Cleveland could be, the Psalms promise that God is always on the job.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. Psalms 91:15He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. Psalms 121:3-4

An Amazing Fact: Rain is recycled water that evaporated from the world’s oceans, lakes, and rivers. Rain actually starts off as ice or snow crystals at the cloud level.

Life would be pretty difficult without rain. A lack of precipitation has dramatic effects on agriculture. All plants need some water to survive, so regular rain patterns are necessary. Even too much rain can harm crops. Drought not only can destroy plants but can also increase erosion. Some plants, like cactus, need very little water, whereas some tropical plants require up to 100 inches per year.

God promised rain to the Israelites as a blessing for obedience. “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit” (Leviticus 26:3, 4). But if they were disobedient, there would be curses. “I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze” (v. 19). In other words, there would be no rain. During the time of Elijah, King Ahab’s disobedience brought this covenant curse on Israel. Elijah spoke to Ahab and said, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

Rain also represents our spiritual need of Jesus, the water of life (John 4:10), and the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 10:1). Ask the Lord for rain to pour on your heart. Seek to walk in obedience and receive this blessing today.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Matthew 21:22

An Amazing Fact: Scuba diving and exploring shipwrecks off the coast of Bermuda is a popular tourist attraction. There are about 20 ships that wrecked on the island itself and nearly 300 wrecked ships in the area surrounding the island!

The island of Bermuda is a common tourist destination, with tropical weather and beautiful coral reefs. It is these coral reefs that have been responsible for the wrecks of nearly 300 ships in years past. One ship wrecked and brought Bermuda’s first settlers to the island. Other sunken ships included luxury liners, military ships, and merchant freighters. More recently, a smuggling ship known as the Xing Da sank in 1997 there after a pirating career that went back to smuggling contraband weapons during the Vietnam War.

The apostle Paul also experienced a shipwreck on his journey to Rome. His ship wrecked as a result of a violent storm rather than coral; still, God’s watchful care brought Paul and the other passengers safely to the island of Malta. There he was able to pray, heal, and share the news of Jesus with the island’s inhabitants.

As you read the story, it is hard not to notice Paul’s persevering attitude. Rather than bemoaning his circumstances, he told the ship’s crew not to fear, commanded the officers not to kill the prisoners, and helped the passengers swim to shore. He gathered wood for a fire to warm the wet survivors, survived a snake’s bite, and went to heal and pray with the people of Malta. As sinful humans, facing difficult circumstances often leads us to complain. We feel we deserve better and wish to make ourselves feel better. But what a difference it makes when we choose to move forward with God’s work, even when the way is hard. God will bless those who press forward into the storm!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. Acts 28:1

An Amazing Fact: During the mid-1960s, archeologists found Judean date palm seeds in the ruins of Herod the Great’s palace. They had been stored in a jar in a dry area. After 40 more years in storage, a few seeds were planted in the desert in southern Israel. One of the seeds sprouted, setting a record for the oldest known tree seed to successfully germinate. By 2010 it was about seven feet tall. The palm tree is named “Methuselah” after the longest-living human. Judean date palm trees had been extinct for 1,800 years.

Since ancient times, palm branches have been a symbol of victory and triumph. In Roman times, game champions were awarded palm branches and armies used them to celebrate successful battles. The Jews often carried palm branches during festive times.

When the crowd saw Jesus riding on the young donkey, they got excited and began breaking off palm fronds to wave in celebration. They believed He was about to take the throne as king. Wouldn’t it have been thrilling to be part of that throng, to shout the ‘Hosannas’ and the blessings?

Yet Jesus’ kingdom was not earthly but spiritual. Although the people didn’t fully comprehend that, their response was appropriate. There were good reasons for shouting and praise. Jesus was the Messiah. He had already lived a victorious, sinless life. And He would very soon attain the ultimate triumph with His sacrifice on the cross—the crowning achievement in His mission to save us.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. Matthew 21:8And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. Matthew 21:9

An Amazing Fact: There have been as many as a quarter of a million Elvis sightings since his death.

With his daring music, his clothing, and his dance moves, Elvis Presley embodied the rock and roll movement and sent music and pop culture in an all-new direction. From the moment he hit the public stage, Elvis became a cultural phenomenon. Today, his popularity has hardly waned. Thirty-four years after his death on August 16, 1977, the decades-long debate continues: Is Elvis still alive?

Elvis sightings began almost the day he died, but it wasn’t until Louise Welling of Vicksburg, Michigan, said she saw Elvis in the grocery store on a Sunday morning in 1987 that tabloids picked up the stories. Since then, the King of Rock and Roll has allegedly been seen around the country. Some sightings are even accompanied by fuzzy pictures, like those of Bigfoot or UFOs.

Another “celebrity” was once reported alive after His very public death. Mary Magdalene went with some other women to His tomb the Sunday morning after His death, intending to anoint His body. Instead, the women were met by an angel who reminded them that Jesus had predicted His resurrection. The women returned to the disciples and reported the empty tomb, but the disciples didn’t believe them. Then Peter and John ran to the tomb and saw the lonely grave clothes for themselves.

When news of the first Jesus sighting circulated, the Pharisees accused the disciples of stealing Jesus’ body. But for 40 days Jesus appeared repeatedly to His people, “presenting Himself alive … by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3), and preaching about the kingdom of God. Then one day, with a promise to send the Holy Spirit, Jesus ascended into the clouds and out of sight.

Thus 2,000 years later we await His return; for assuredly, the King lives!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Luke 24:5-6But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 1 Corinthians 15:20

An Amazing Fact: The most famous shipwreck in history is the RMS Titanic, which sank on April 15, 1912, on her maiden voyage. No pains were spared to supply this luxurious first-class ocean liner, including fewer lifeboats in order to provide more deck room for passengers to lounge and play. Out of 2,228 passengers only 705 survived.

The world was captured by the construction of the massive and unsinkable Titanic. The White Star Line publicized the amazing engineering of this “invincible ship.” As she first headed out to sea, her massive propellers created a wake that pulled a smaller ship into a near-deadly collision. Four days later as she approached a massive iceberg and attempted to divert, a giant rip was torn parallel across the ship’s bulk. Some believe the crew was warned of coming icebergs but ignored the warnings.

Most passengers were unaware of the tragedy when it first happened. Some reported feeling a strange quivering in the ship but didn’t think anything of it. Others saw icebergs through their portholes but were assured there would only be a slight delay. But passengers located at critical points knew the truth. The Titanic was sinking fast. An SOS was sent out to nearby ships. By the time the Carpathia arrived to help there were only a handful of lifeboats full of shocked survivors.

The apostle Paul was once in a shipwreck. In fact, he said, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also of our lives” (Acts 27:10). Unfortunately, these men (like so many of us) trusted in their own inventions and met with near disaster. David wrote, “For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me” (Psalm 44:6).

Where do you put your trust? What do you boast about? Where is your hope?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah. Psalms 44:8

An Amazing Fact: What animal can run faster than a horse, see behind itself without turning its head, and go without drinking water for longer than a camel? The giraffe!

The giraffe is the world’s tallest mammal. It lives in parts of Africa on the savannah or grassland, avoiding thick woods that might conceal predators. A giraffe’s diet consists of insects and plants, primarily leaves from tall trees. Their long black tongues can be up to 45 centimeters long, helping the animal reach and grab food. It is the water content of these leaves that enables the giraffe to go for weeks without drinking water.

Thirst is the body’s natural response to a need for water. As our bodies use up water, the sensation of thirst drives us to seek out and consume more. Some creatures can go longer than others without water. As humans, we can only go a few days, depending on factors such as temperature and age. Some animals can last more than two weeks, depending on available food sources.

King David recognized another kind of thirst in Psalm 42. He observed how animals thirst and seek out water and compared it to his own thirst for God. “My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” David had walked with God and knew what it was like to have close communion with Him. When he didn’t have that time with God, he missed it. He realized his need. He remembered the times of joy and praise when he had a close connection with God, and he wanted those times to return. Sometimes it is this thirst that can help us turn back to our Savior. When we look back on our walk with God and remember what He has done in our lives, we want that relationship to stay strong. We know what a difference He makes in our lives!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. Psalms 42:1My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? Psalms 42:2

An Amazing Fact: The earliest denarius coins showed up in 269 B.C., but the Romans began producing a standardized silver denarius of 4.5 grams in 211 B.C. The name “denarius” stems from a Latin word meaning “containing ten.” The denarius was the equivalent of 10 “assarius,” which was made of bronze or copper.

In Jesus’ parable of the vineyard laborers, all the workers were paid equally at the end of the day. This created a problem in the minds of the men who had been sweating long hours in the sun. They thought the men who worked fewer hours didn’t deserve as much pay.

By human standards, the long-day workers had a point. But the kingdom of God doesn’t work that way. No one can really “earn” anything. No one is given salvation because he or she has done something to deserve it. It’s a free gift, and it’s offered equally to all. A person who has just come to Christ has eternal life as completely as someone who’s been in the church all his life.

God doesn’t treat any of us as our sins deserve. If He did, there would be no one left to save. Instead, He lovingly washes us in Christ’s blood, covers us with His righteousness, and gives us the eternal gift none of us deserve. That’s something for which we can all be thankful.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. Matthew 20:1And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. Matthew 20:9-12

An Amazing Fact: Many of the poorest people on earth “survive” on less than $1 per day.

It’s a heartrending fact that more than a billion people in the world live in what is defined as “extreme poverty,” lacking such basic human needs as food, safe drinking water, shelter, and sanitation.Education and medical care is out of the question for most of them. (And we whine when our electricity goes off for a couple of hours!) Jesus told us that we would always have the poor with us, and His Word tells us that feeding and caring for them is our responsibility. Sharing with others is part of God’s plan for us. “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).

“He who hides his eyes,” as if not looking at the problem will make it go away, is doing wrong. It reminds me of the comment by Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Some people are tempted to think they can turn a blind eye and everything will be okay, or that they can leave the problem to others, but Scripture tells us it’s our obligation to help.

The apostle John wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). A person with God’s love inside cannot turn away from the desperate need of a fellow human being. Instead, “the righteous considers the cause of the poor” (Proverbs 29:7). And then he takes action!

It might seem that no matter how much we give, there are more people in need. And that’s true. But it doesn’t excuse us from doing what we can to help. We should help and keep helping. God promises a blessing to those who remember to care for the less fortunate. He says, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalm 41:1). Even the poor are blessed by giving to others. Remember the widow who put her two mites into the temple offering, or the widow in Zarephath who gave what would have been the last of her food to the prophet Elijah?

And don’t forget Jesus’ words that when we give to “the least of these”—food, water, clothing, shelter, caring—we are giving to Him.

Additional Reading: Proverbs 28:15–28

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse. Proverbs 28:27As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people. The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days. A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him. Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once. He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress. He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him. He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue. Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer. He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse. When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase. Proverbs 28:15-28But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Hebrews 13:16

An Amazing Fact: Although identified with Scotland, bagpipes are actually a very ancient instrument, introduced into the British Isles by the Romans.

We associate bagpipes with kilts, funerals, and Amazing Grace. But the first bagpipe actually came from the Middle East. The Oxford History of Music describes the first sculptured bagpipe found on a Hittite slab, dated to 1,000 B.C. Historians from the first and second centuries A.D. depict Nero playing an instrument whose description fits that of a bagpipe. Roman armies carried pipes into Europe, and beginning in the second millennium, European art features bagpipes with increasing frequency. Their first certain connection with the British Isles appears in The Canterbury Tales, written around 1380.

Bagpipes became most popular in Scotland and Ireland, where their distinctive sound brightened an otherwise drab existence. During the expansion of the British Empire, a large number of pipers trained for military service and carried the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe worldwide. But as Western classical music developed into a sophisticated art that used technology to improve its instruments, the bagpipe, with its limited range and function, couldn’t keep up.

Nevertheless, a number of countries modeled their militaries after the British Army and adopted the bagpipe, as have police and fire forces. The pipes are commonly used today in military and police funerals.

God endowed humanity with a bit of His creativity. Music is one way we express that creativity. David instructs us to praise God with all manner of instruments. Whatever you use, praise God today for His surpassing greatness!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD. Psalms 150:

An Amazing Fact: There are three different types of tears. Basal tears keep the cornea wet and nourished. Reflex tears wash out foreign particles or irritable substances (onion vapors). Crying tears are due to strong emotional stress, anger, suffering, mourning, or physical pain. Each type has a different chemical make-up and can relay messages to others.

Did you ever get a piece of sawdust in your eye? You blinked and blinked as tears spontaneously came and helped wash out the irritant. Tears not only lubricate your eyes so you can see more clearly, they help keep the surface of your cornea clean every time you blink. During the fight-or-flight response of an intense situation, you produce more tears. Tears come to people under deep emotional distress such as anger or grief.

The chemical make-up of tears differs. Emotional tears actually contain more of the protein-based hormones. Some of these contain natural painkillers. But not all emotional tears are genuine. We refer to an insincere display of grief or dishonest remorse as “crocodile tears.” An ancient Greek anecdote stated that crocodiles would pretend to weep while luring their prey. Societies generally accept the public display of tears in women and children, but only a few cultures find it socially acceptable for men to cry in public.

David writes Psalm 42 out of deep distress. He yearns for God’s presence. He feels alone and forgotten by God. Enemies surround him. David longs to be in the temple where he can worship God. Out of this pain he cries, “My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God’?” (Psalm 42:3).

David did not withhold his tears. His genuine display of grief spilled out as he wept in prayer. We too may come before the Lord with our emotions and pain. We can also know that God sees our hurt and feels our sorrow. Like David, we can find hope in God as we bow in anguish and shed tears.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Psalms 42:11

An Amazing Fact: In 1961, 21-year-old civil rights activist John Lewis got off a bus in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Upon entering a “whites only” waiting room, he was attacked and beaten bloody by a young white man named Elwin Wilson. Years later, the two met in person and Wilson apologized for his actions. Lewis responded, “I forgive you. I don’t have any ill feelings, any bitterness, any malice.”

The atmosphere in the southern United States during the Civil Rights movement was full of explosive tension. As the movement for racial equality gained momentum, non-violent demonstrations were often met with violence and even death. Young John Lewis, who would later become a senator, survived more than one brutal attack. But this situation ended differently, with resolution and forgiveness. Wilson apologized, reporting that he had found the Lord and recognized his wrong; Lewis described it as a moment of grace and forgiveness, representing what the struggle was
about.

In Matthew, Jesus shares a story with His disciples about an ungrateful servant who, after having been forgiven of his debts, went after a fellow servant who owed him a small sum and threw him in prison. The angry master sent the first servant back to prison. Jesus told the disciples, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

John Lewis made that difficult choice. Rather than harboring anger for how unjustly he had been treated, he chose to forgive from his heart. We might not have experienced a violent physical attack, but most of us have been wronged in some way. Will we choose to forgive?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Matthew 18:32-35

An Amazing Fact: Researchers at the University of Cambridge discovered that sheep are much smarter than previously thought. In one study, the woolies passed an intelligence test that most monkeys flunk. During the test, sheep learned to recognize patterns in colors and to change their behavior when the patterns changed. They also learned to respond to shapes of objects instead of the color, something most large animals find very difficult.

In spite of their apparent intelligence, however, sheep seem to have a knack for getting themselves into trouble. They tend to follow the leader, even if that leader goes the wrong way. They sometimes wander, or flee in fright, and become separated from the flock. Lacking agility, they easily become trapped. Without much to defend themselves, they’re an easy target for predators.

We’re more like sheep than we want to admit. In spite of our apparent intelligence, we seem to have the same knack. We tend to follow the crowd. We wander off the right path. We frighten easily. We trap ourselves by our own foolish choices. We have no defense, in ourselves, against the enemy.

Thankfully, when we get ourselves into trouble, Jesus comes searching for us. If we let Him, He will carry us back and set us on the right path. “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11).

Aren’t you glad we have a Good Shepherd who watches out for us continuously?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14

An Amazing Fact: Women laugh more than men do.

A hearty laugh spreads faster than the flu and quickly involves your whole body. First, your epiglottis begins to vibrate, half-closing over your larynx and making breathing difficult. When strong enough, the struggle for air activates your tear ducts. Laughter engages muscles all over your body—15 in your face alone.

It’s unclear why women laugh more than men, but research shows women’s brains are generally more responsive to emotional stimuli and suggests gender helps determine how our brains respond to humor. Regardless of who’s doing it, the average adult laughs 15 times a day.

Children are attributed 400 laughs per day. This figure is unsubstantiated, but a study at one nursery school revealed 18.4 to 45 incidents of “glee” per child per hour. Perhaps their teacher was a comedian, but these kids have
the right idea!

Science confirms the merry heart’s benefits. Laughter lowers blood pressure and enhances immune function. The physiological opposite of stress, laughter stimulates the circulatory and digestive systems that stress suppresses. Bringing you into the present moment, laughter precludes worry about the past or future. It releases endorphins, diminishing pain and heightening feelings of well-being. A good laugh relaxes muscles for up to 45 minutes. By toning and firming facial muscles, laughter can fight aging. It has been called “internal jogging,” increasing the heart rate in one minute as much as 10 minutes on an exercise machine. Laughter also boosts energy, inspires hope, and fosters intimacy.

So go have a good laugh … and enjoy the abundant life Jesus promised!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. Proverbs 15:13All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15

An Amazing Fact: Did you know that you are born with 300 bones but only have 206 when you die? Of these many bones, the thighbone is stronger than concrete. And the only bone fully grown at birth is located in the ear.

Broken bones require a mending process. The bone needs to be set properly in a cast. If this is not done correctly, you will experience a lot of pain, discomfort, and even disability. But if your doctor does the job well and you care for your injury during the healing process, your bone can eventually return to near-normal functioning.

Our emotions might impact the health of our bones. Guilt is like a broken bone. Grief over sin has been shown to weaken our skeletal structure. King David understood bone health. In Psalm 38 he expresses grief over wrongdoing. He writes, “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor any health in my bones because of my sin” (Psalm 38:3).

How do you heal bones broken because of guilt and sin? Confession. David writes, “For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin” (v. 18). Deep, heartfelt repentance over sin brings healing to our minds and bodies. Withholding confession destroys our bodies. “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all day long” (Psalm 32:3). But then, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (v. 5).

Do you have broken bones that need mending?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22

An Amazing Fact: During the dark years of the Holocaust, hundreds of non-Jews throughout Europe risked torture and death rescuing their Jewish neighbors and protecting them from the Nazis. The state of Israel has honored these courageous individuals with the title “righteous among nations.”

As the dark wave of Nazi Germany spread across Europe, a few courageous people chose to risk their lives to protect others. Defying the Nazis’ efforts to exterminate the Jewish population, some families hid Jews in their barns or basements. Others assisted Jews in fleeing to safer countries. In Denmark, the Danish underground movement worked to save the Jewish citizens of their country. In France, where the memory of the Huguenot Protestants’ suffering under Catholic rule remained fresh, the entire village of Chambon-sur-Lignon saved an estimated 3,000 Jews, many of them young children.

Decades have passed since World War II, but the courage of these individuals has not been forgotten. The state of Israel honored these rescuers with the title “righteous among nations.” An organization known as The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous was founded to financially support and provide for the aged and needy among these people. It is a touching reminder of the words of David in the book of Psalms. “I have been young and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendents begging bread.”

God honors those who choose to follow Him. The actions of “the righteous” truly reflect God’s character and survive as an example to us all. Will we choose to stand up for what is right when evil surrounds us? Will we refuse to passively sit back but rather follow our Savior at any cost? When we make that choice, He will not forsake us.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. Psalms 37:25He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed. Psalms 37:26

An Amazing Fact: A poem written to celebrate a wedding is called an epithalamium.

In ancient Greece, to celebrate a wedding, a poem filled with blessings and predictions of happiness was written in honor of the bride and groom. Boys and girls sang the song for the happy couple at the door of the nuptial chamber. The custom spread to the Romans, and eventually the classical poets developed the epithalamium into a special literary form, which then spread to the French, Italians, and English. Even Tennyson wrote an epithalamium, in honor of his sister’s wedding. Eventually the term evolved to cover musical works—like Wagner’s Bridal March in Lohengrin—and Italian Renaissance paintings depicting Venus and Cupid, gifted to newlyweds to wish them happiness and fertility.

More than once the Bible compares God’s love for His people to that of a bridegroom and the coming of the kingdom of heaven to a wedding celebration. In American culture, Disney-like dreams of a carefree “happily ever after” fill the typical blissful wedding day. But unfortunately, with more than half of all marriages ending in divorce, “happily ever after” remains a fairy-tale just out of reach.

Praise God for the hope of a real Happily Ever After. John received a vision of Christ’s coming, in which an angel said, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” and showed John the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9). On the day Christ comes to take us to that bright city, we will celebrate a marriage like no other, and there really will be no more sorry, nor crying, nor pain.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee. Isaiah 62:5And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:2-4

An Amazing Fact: Like the heart, the tongue is almost all muscle. But unlike the repetitive cardiac contractions, it is capable of very precise, complicated, and elaborate movements. It has many important responsibilities that we usually take for granted. For instance, without a tongue there would be no talking, no singing, and no whistling.

The tongue is capable of much more than speech. This fascinating muscle is indispensable in eating our food. The upper surface is covered with small projections called papilla, which give it a rough texture. This design helps the tongue move food around in the mouth and direct it to your throat. Without your tongue, you would have to lay back to eat.

Another important function of the tongue is the sense of taste! It is covered with approximately 10,000 taste buds, grouped in different areas sensitive to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter flavors. The sense of smell adds information, providing a wide range of taste. Imagine food with no taste; that’s what it would be without your tongue! Chemicals from the food we eat stimulate receptors in each of these areas, and nerves transmit this input to the brain.

In Psalm 35, David calls to God to avenge him. “Vindicate me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness” (v. 24). He concludes, “And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day long.” Take time today to praise the Lord with your tongue.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; Philippians 2:10And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:11

An Amazing Fact: A video clip spread around on the Internet revealed a new sport called liquid mountaineering—aka, walking on water! The video showed several young men appearing to walk on water and described their techniques in such a convincing, scientific manner that many viewers believed the hoax was true … and one news station even reported it as true.

You might have seen this “Liquid Mountaineering” video posted on a friend’s Facebook page or in an email forward. A group of European pranksters created a video cleverly describing and displaying their new sport. The video was made in documentary style, full of “facts” explaining how the sport was made possible, such as gaining speed and entering the water at a slight curve. Flashing video clips of runners taking “steps” on the water and intense music led many viewers to believe this might be a new extreme sport!

It is easy to laugh at people’s gullibility and the pranksters’ creativity. But they weren’t the first to come up with this idea. In Matthew 14, the disciples were on their boat at sea when Jesus walked out to meet them. Peter responded incredulously, calling, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water!” Jesus did and for a few moments, Peter walked on water. But his faith faltered as he saw the waves around him and he began to sink, until Jesus reached out to grasp his hand.

Walking on water didn’t require clever techniques or practice. It was a simple matter of faith. When we think of God’s power in our lives, it can be easy to think of His help as something that we earn through our actions. Eventually, we imagine, we might become practiced enough to gain His blessing more often. But God’s work in our lives is not the result of our own behavior. He only wants us to ask and believe, like Peter, so He can work in our hearts.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Matthew 14:31And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Matthew 14:32

An Amazing Fact: Our oceans contain 97 percent of the water on Earth and 99 percent of our planet’s living space. Less than 10 percent of this space has been explored by humans. In 2010, the world’s first “Ocean Census” was released. After 10 years of research, scientists discovered at least 20,000 new species of ocean animals. Some of these were found in areas that had already been well explored. Researchers believe there might be millions of ocean species that have yet to be identified.

The oceans of the world contain strange, mysterious, and sometimes alien-looking creatures of every imaginable shape and size: fish like living gems; corals in hundreds of forms and colors; immense, intelligent mammals that follow the pathways of the sea. What treasures are hidden in those storehouses of the deep!

The incredible diversity we find in the ocean shows us that our Creator is a God who enjoys endless variety and stunning beauty … and wants to share it with us.

The Bible encourages us to study the world God made in all its intricacy. It assures us that wisdom comes from studying nature. Spending time in God’s “other book” gives us a chance to draw closer to the Creator and to be amazed by the splendor and harmonization of the living things He has made.

The majesty of the ocean and its myriad of creatures is just one reason we should stand in awe of the One who spoke it into existence.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. Psalms 33:7-9

An Amazing Fact: It would take more than nine Empire State Buildings stacked one on top of the other to measure the Gulf of Mexico at its deepest point.

Bordered by the United States, Mexico, and Cuba, the Gulf of Mexico measures about 550 miles north to south and nearly 1,000 miles east to west—a surface area of more than 930,000 square miles. The Gulf has about 3,700 miles of shoreline and contains 643 quadrillion gallons of water! The Mediterranean-like sea resembles a deep basin with a wide, shallow rim; about a third is comprised of shallow intertidal areas. The Sigsbee Deep, located in the southwestern quadrant, is the deepest part of the Gulf, measuring from 12,303 to 14,383 feet—experts can’t agree on its exact depth.

The Empire State Building, meanwhile, stands 1,454 feet tall from the ground to the tip of its lightning rod. Construction on the tower began in 1930 and took more than a year to complete. With 102 floors, the building was the world’s tallest until completion of the World Trade Center’s North Tower in 1972. On September 11, 2001, the Empire State Building reclaimed its status as New York City’s tallest building.

Regardless of where you travel, to the top of the tallest building on earth, or to the depths of the deepest sea, God the Omnipresent goes with you. Paul puts it this way: “Neither height nor depth … can separate us from the love of God.”

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. Psalms 139:9-10For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

An Amazing Fact: A turnip seed under good conditions can increase its weight 15 times a minute—and in rich soil, after sprouting, it can increase its weight up to 15,000 times a day! Still, there is no seed force more powerful than a growing squash seed. An 18-day-old squash was harnessed on a lever and lifted 50 pounds as it grew! Nineteen days later, it raised 5,000 pounds!

In Matthew 13:24–34, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. For people in Palestine, this was probably the smallest seed used by farmers. Under good conditions, it could grow to a plant 10 feet tall. Though it has humble beginnings, this mighty little seed can do great things! Jesus later said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can move mountains” (Matthew 17:20).

Your faith is like an insignificant seed. It might appear plain, brown, and even dead on the outside. But underneath are all the elements needed to grow a mighty plan. When you die to self, bury your life in Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to water your faith, it will grow. Day by day the seed will become stronger as it is connected to the elements that God provides.

Is your faith weak? Does it seem that your willpower falls at the slightest temptation? Come to Christ. Confess your sins. Cast yourself at His feet. Cling to the promises of the Bible. Pray, “Dear Lord, though my faith is weak, when I come to You, I believe through Your power that my faith will grow stronger every day. I give you my small faith. Make it grow mighty and strong! Amen!”

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

An Amazing Fact: The question of whether the Ten Commandments should be posted on public property is a passionate one, but many are unaware of another related conflict. The Ten Commandments are actually numbered differently by Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews, creating yet another controversy!

The discussion over the posting of the Ten Commandments on public property has lasted for a long time, but most of the controversy has settled on whether they should be posted. Conflict also exists over how they ought to be posted. Protestants split the commandment regarding no other gods and making no graven images into two commandments, while Roman Catholics keep those commandments together and split the commandment regarding covetousness. In addition, Jewish tradition recognizes “I am the Lord Your God” as part of the first commandment, unlike the others.

The original Hebrew does not number the commandments, but whatever you believe about the numbering of the Ten Commandments and where they are posted, there is a more important question. Are God’s commandments posted on your heart? God’s laws reflect His heart for His people. Rather than arbitrary rules, they are created with the ultimate law of God as their basis: love for God and love for others.

A person with God’s commandments posted on his or her heart will reflect that love in the way they live their lives. We choose to worship God alone out of love and respect for Him. We refuse to commit adultery or covet because we care about those we love. We don’t steal because we respect the property of those around us. God’s laws are perfectly in tune with His character of love. When our hearts are in tune with Him, that love shines through us.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And God spake all these words, saying, Exodus 20:1

An Amazing Fact: We know thunder as the sonic shockwave created by lightning. Though scientists are still exploring the exact cause of the shockwave, one theory considers as a factor the extreme heat generated by lightning. The average temperature inside a bolt of lightning has been estimated at 36,300 degrees Fahrenheit, though it can spike as high as 54,000 degrees. Worldwide, there are about eight million lightning strikes per day—or 100 times every second.

Thunder is mentioned in the Bible 42 times, and reference to lightning is made 28 times. This should come as no surprise since thunder and lightning are such riveting displays of God’s awesome power.

Although the potentially devastating effects of lightning are well known, people are less aware of its beneficial side. Lightning helps to dissolve the atmosphere’s nitrogen, enabling it to combine with raindrops, which makes a great fertilizer for plants. Lightning also helps to balance Earth’s electrical field, and it contributes to the ozone layer, which helps shield the Earth from the harmful rays of the sun. Lightning storms also clean and revitalize the air.

Our planet is dependent on thunderstorms, and so are we. We couldn’t survive for long without them. Next time you see a flash of lightning and hear the rumble of thunder, why not whisper a prayer of thanks to our almighty God, who gives us blessings through the storms?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The voice of the LORD is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the LORD is upon many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. Psalms 29:3-4The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace. Psalms 29:11

An Amazing Fact: The University of Nebraska at Omaha Library is sinking.

Legend has it that the Indiana University Library sinks an inch per year because its engineers failed to account for the weight of its books. But this legend is older than the IU library itself—built in 1969—and has also been falsely attributed to several other libraries, including the University of Waterloo Library, Calgary’s McKimmie Library, and the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Library.

However, the University of Nebraska at Omaha Library is actually sinking. In the mid-1980s, cracks developed in the library’s first floor—but not because its books were too heavy. Rather, engineers discovered cracks in the air ducts running under the floor slab. The cracks allowed warm air to circulate, drying and shrinking the soil and creating voids under the slab.

But five feet below the Indiana University library, explains Robert Meadows, an IU architect, “is a 94-foot-thick layer of limestone. When the library was constructed, the upper layer of this rock was harder than expected. Rather than blast, we raised the lowest level of the building a number of feet.”

Jesus compares His followers to the one who built upon a rock. Despite rain, floods, and wind, the wise man’s house stood strong. On the other hand, those who do not heed Christ’s words are like he who built on the sand: When rain and floods beat down on this man’s house, “Great was its fall,” Jesus said.

The old hymn declares, “On Christ, the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” Hear and do what Jesus says; build your life on the Foundation that won’t fail!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: Matthew 7:24And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. Matthew 7:25

An Amazing Fact: The popularity of sunglasses is a 20th century phenomenon. In the 1930s, the Army Air Corps commissioned the optical firm Bausch & Lomb to produce a highly effective spectacle that would protect pilots from the dangers of glare when flying above clouds. The company opticians perfected a special dark-green tint that absorbed light in the spectrum’s yellow band. They also designed a frame size to maximize the shielding of an aviator’s eyes. Fliers were issued the “raybanning” glasses at no charge, but soon the public was able to purchase the “Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses.” A chic and clever 1960s advertising campaign by Foster Grant made sunglasses a must have.

Light permits us to see. But too much light can be hard on the eyes. David writes, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). With God as his light and salvation, David had nothing to fear. Even when his enemies attacked him, “They stumbled and fell” (v. 2).

Light can help you to see, but some light can blind you. Certain ultraviolet rays are harmful to vision. This spectrum is actually invisible to the naked eye. That is why pilots need to wear sunglasses in the brilliant light of the sun. David found God’s light to bring him salvation. But his enemies stumbled. The light had not changed. The difference is found in the person viewing the light. David trusted in the Lord for strength. His eyes looked to the light for hope.

Much like the pilots who wear sunglasses in the brilliant sunshine when flying high, we too can enjoy the light of God’s salvation when our eyes have been shielded from harmful rays. Such protection comes from Jesus Christ, who filters out sin so we can behold more clearly the heavenly Father.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? John 14:9

An Amazing Fact: Alaska has the most earthquakes of any state, with a magnitude seven earthquake nearly every year. The state also experienced the United States’ most violent recorded earthquake in March of 1964.

Earthquakes are a natural disaster that occurs as a result of the shifting of the earth’s places. Although we often think of California when we consider earthquakes within the United States, Alaska actually has more earthquakes than any other state. The state’s most violent earthquake occurred on Good Friday in 1964, lasting four minutes and measuring a magnitude of 9.2. Many homes and communities were devastated by the quake, and an underwater landslide caused a massive tsunami. About 131 people were killed, most as a result of the tsunami.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were prisoners in a Roman jail in the city of Philippi. Having been beaten and chained, they spent the night singing and praising God in the dark cell. In the middle of their singing, a massive earthquake shook the prison. Their chains were broken, and the prison gate opened. Yet rather than flee, the men took this opportunity to reach out to the keeper of the prison … and their words led him to follow Christ!

This fast-paced story moves from a beating and imprisonment to freedom, witnessing, and finally baptism. In a twist of irony, God used hard circumstances to bring about positive results. Paul’ and Silas’s mistreatment led to the baptism of several new believers. A natural disaster led to freedom. And throughout each moment, both men refused to let circumstances around them take away from their purpose. They kept their focus on one thing: following their Master.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. Acts 16:26

May 2017

An Amazing Fact: Hundreds of years ago in parts of Europe, people watched hedgehogs on February 2, observing their shadows or lack thereof to predict the end of winter. German settlers in America adopted groundhogs to continue the tradition. Originally called Candlemas or “Candle Mass”—an ancient feast that celebrated the presentation of Christ at the temple 40 days after His birth—the tradition became known in America as Groundhog Day.

From Candlemas to Groundhog Day … that’s quite a switch. This is not to suggest that Groundhog Day should be any type of religious holiday. However, this does seem to be a small example of secularization—the act of changing something so it’s no longer influenced by religion.

Secularization usually involves a movement away from God, and humans have become very good at it. Just glance at our major holidays (which were once “holy days”) to see if this isn’t true in the lives of most holiday observers. And there are so many other ways we distance ourselves.

The natural heart is proud and habitually turns away from its Creator. Confronted by its own wrongdoing, it tries to cut God out of the picture to alleviate its guilt.

Consider this: If we turn away from Jesus, our only source of Light, we will definitely see a shadow. But face the Sun of Righteousness, seek His forgiveness, and all shadows disappear. The promise of true spring!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. Matthew 11:6Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great. Psalms 25:8-11

An Amazing Fact: Near Greyfriars Churchyard in Edinburgh, Scotland, stands a memorial fountain and statue to a little Skye Terrier named Greyfriars Bobby. According to legend, in the 1850s, a shepherd named John Gray made his way in from the meadows with Bobby to the local inn each day at one o’clock. At the café, John would eat lunch as Bobby lay at his feet chewing a bone tucked under his paw. The daily tradition went on for many years, but ended when old John collapsed and died. When he was buried in the Greyfriars Churchyard cemetery, his faithful little dog mournfully watched and marked the spot where his old master was buried.

The Lord is described as a faithful shepherd by David in Psalm 23. He provides for all our needs. When we need rest, we may “lie down in green pastures.” When we are thirsty, He leads us “beside still waters.” The Lord leads us in the right pathways when we need direction. Even in the face of death, God does not forsake us. Greyfriars Bobby illustrates such faithfulness.

A few days after John’s funeral, the proprietor of the inn was surprised when the little terrier showed up at one o’clock begging for a bone. The kind man gave him a roll and a bone, but the same thing happened the following day, and the next, and the next. On the fourth day, when Bobby finished his afternoon bun and bone, the owner followed the little shepherd dog through town—to the Greyfriars Churchyard. There, Bobby lay down at his master’s tombstone.

For the next 14 years, day and night, rain or shine, until his own death in 1872, the loyal little canine virtually lived on top of his master’s grave. The little terrier left the site for only an hour at a time to visit his two friends, the restaurateur who fed him and the sexton who built a shelter for him at the cemetery.

A little dog teaches us about God’s loyalty and faithfulness. Greyfriars Bobby followed his master wherever he went, even after the old shepherd died. Do we have a loyalty to follow our Shepherd, even to the end of our lives?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalms 23:4

An Amazing Fact: According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the oldest known mourning dove to ever live was 31 years and four months old!

The mourning dove is a common bird in North America and the most widespread game bird in the United States. Its diet consists mostly of seeds and occasionally berries. Unlike humans, doves are able to survive in the desert due to their ability to drink brackish (salty) water from springs without becoming dehydrated. And while the oldest known mourning dove lived for the incredible length of 31 years, the average lifespan of the dove is only four to five years.

These doves are particularly known for their recognizable call. Their soft cooing is a beautiful sound and, perhaps, it was this call that Jesus was thinking of when He encouraged His followers to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” The bird’s call is a gentle, innocent sound and reminds us of a calm country morning, sunshine in the trees, and dew sparkling on the grass. The sight of a snake will immediately put you on guard and make your muscles tense, but the call of a mourning dove is a restful sound. It gives you a sense of peace.

As Christians living in a sinful world, interacting daily with temptation and seeking to live our lives as a witness to others, we need the shrewdness of a snake. We need to be watchful and wise. But Jesus also reminds us to be innocent and gentle. Our hearts should be soft toward others and washed clean and pure by His blood. Our presence shouldn’t put others on guard with impatient words or an argumentative attitude, but should reflect the call of the mourning dove, peaceful and innocent.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16

An Amazing Fact: Erik Weihenmeyer became the first blind man to climb to the highest peak in the world. He and his sighted friend, Eric Alexander, along with other members of their climbing team, reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 25, 2001. Mark Inglis, who lost both of his legs below the knee, conquered Everest in 2006. He is the first person to successfully scale the mountain with two false legs.

Since almost 20 percent of Americans are disabled in some way, chances are you have a friend or family member with a disability of some kind, or perhaps you are disabled yourself. Perhaps you have an illness or have had an accident that causes suffering. The Bible assures us that when an afflicted person cries out to God, He hears. And He cares.

When God healed the crippled man in Lystra, through Paul, the Bible says the man “leaped and walked.” Can’t you just see him jumping high into the air, again and again, landing on his new, healthy feet? Don’t you think he was laughing in delight?

This is what it will be like when Jesus returns. For those who belong to Him, all disabilities, deformities, diseases—afflictions of any kind—will vanish in that glorious instant. Freed from the effects of sin, we will be completely healthy, happy, and restored to the likeness of God. It’s what He has always wanted for us. As we praise Him, we will almost certainly leap for joy!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: The same heard Paul speak: who stedfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked. Acts 14:8-10

An Amazing Fact: It takes about 35,000 cows to make a year’s supply of regulation NFL footballs.

Despite the nickname “pigskin,” today footballs are actually made of leather. Wilson Sporting Goods, official supplier of NFL footballs, says one cowhide produces 15 to 25 footballs. Wilson makes about 700,000 regulation NFL footballs every year.

David Gassko and Ian Stanczyk decided to ask one day, “What are the odds that any given cow will make it into the Super Bowl, via a football?”

Of those 700,000 regulation balls, the NFL uses just 12,000 per year. Meanwhile, one in two adult cattle are slaughtered every year. Of those, the hides of one in 952 will become NFL footballs, of which one in 58 will be used in an NFL game, and about one in 158 of those will be used in the Super Bowl. So what are the odds that a random cow will be in the Super Bowl? About 1-in-17,420,000, or so say Gassko and Stanczyk.

The Psalm says God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills.” In fact, God claims every beast of the forest as well. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without Him noticing. “Of how much more value are you?” Jesus asked. “Even the hairs on your head are numbered.”

With a God who loves you this much, do you know the odds that you’ll go to heaven and live with Him forever? Accept Him as your personal Savior, and they’re one in one.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. Psalms 50:10-11Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. John 16:3

An Amazing Fact: The most children ever born to one mother took place in the 18th century in Shuya, Russia, near Moscow. In a total of 27 pregnancies, the wife of a peasant named Feodor Vassilyev gave birth to 69 children. The litters were comprised of 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets! The case was reported to Moscow by the Monastery of Nikolskiy on February 27, 1782. Only two of the children born died in infancy. Among all their children, there were no single births.

In Psalm 22 David not only describes his own suffering, but his words move beyond his own experience to describe the coming Messiah. Though he felt forsaken, David remembers the trust he learned at birth. “But you are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother’s breast” (Psalm 22:9). The first lesson of life that babies learn is trust. Mothers play a significant role in teaching their little ones to have a sense of security in this often cold and difficult world.

Some mothers have a bigger job because they have more children. Currently, the world’s most prolific mother is Leontina Albina nee Espinosa, of San Antonio, Chile, who in 1981 produced her 55th and last child. Her husband, Gerardo Seconda Albina, states that they were married in Argentina in 1943 and have had five sets of triplets (all boys) before arriving in Chile.

Like David, we can find our source of trust in God. “Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them” (Psalm 22:5). Though Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” He still trusted His life in the Father’s hands. “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

The Lord has many children. We can trust the heavenly Father to never forget one of us. Put your trust in God today.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. Psalms 22:10

An Amazing Fact: The act of fasting is an ancient one, carried out for several reasons. In pre-Christian Ireland, for example, a person might have fasted on the doorstep of someone against whom he had a grudge. According to some historians, the culture’s strong emphasis on hospitality made it an insult for a person to starve on the doorstep of your home.

Sometimes a person fasts to make a political statement, i.e., a hunger strike. Other times it is meant to show mourning or a lack of attachment to earthly needs. It might be exercised for a limited amount of time or on a regular basis or even as an ultimatum with the possibility of starvation.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day fasted as a mark of piety, to show humility before God. They fasted on certain days throughout the year; fasting was often associated with prayer. Attention was given to God, rather than earthly needs or desires. In Matthew 9, Jesus’ disciples wondered about this common custom. Why didn’t Jesus require His followers to fast? Jesus reminded them that there was no need mourn while He was with them.

Our bridegroom has been taken away from us for now. Sometimes we might feel that sense of mourning, when the world feels like a dark and lonely place and our Savior is far away. But the time for mourning is only temporary and soon the bridegroom will return. It won’t be long until the darkness vanishes forever and the bridegroom arrives to receive His bride. The day of rejoicing is near! Our Savior, the bridegroom, will be with us forever.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? Matthew 9:14And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. Matthew 9:15

An Amazing Fact: The mythological birthplace of the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, the town of Paphos was steeped in idolatry. For a while, it served as the island’s capital. Today, the modern town of Paphos is considered an “open museum” featuring Paphos Castle—a Byzantine fort on the harbor—and many historical ruins. Some ruins contain large and beautiful mosaics, including some that were buried for 16 centuries.

When they reached the city of Paphos on Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas ran into big trouble. Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul for the region, had called for the apostles to come to teach him about God. The Scripture says he wanted to hear the Word of God. Here was a seeker after truth, and the apostles were happy to share it with him.

But a man with the proconsul, a false prophet called Bar-Jesus (the name fits, doesn’t it?), tried to stop them from preaching and attempted to prevent the proconsul from believing in Christ.

Finally, Paul rebuked the sorcerer and told him he would be blind for a time. The prediction immediately came true. Amazed by what had happened, and “astonished at the teaching of the Lord,” the proconsul believed.

Jesus is the “Light which gives light to every man.” If a person is sincerely seeking truth, God will clear the way. He will let no circumstance, thing, or person stand in the way of a searching heart.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Acts 13:6Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. Acts 13:7And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. Acts 12:13

An Amazing Fact: Roman emperor Justinian once ordered a compilation of all the laws governing ancient Rome. A lawyer named Tribonian directed the five-year-long project, which resulted in nearly 300 volumes of laws!

From its founding in 753 BC, Rome began accumulating laws. Any leader—local or national—could introduce new laws to govern his subjects. When Justinian came to power in AD 527, Roman law was a confusing mass of contradiction and redundancy. Justinian appointed Tribonian to thoroughly examine the laws, determining what to keep and what to discard. Seven years later, in 534, the Justinian Code was finally finished.

Today, most European nations owe the structure of their legal systems to Roman law. Even in the United States, many legal concepts that we take for granted originated in Rome.

Like their hated captors, the Jews amassed an enormous set of confusing and burdensome laws. Regarding the Sabbath alone, Pharisees created 39 categories of activities that might be considered work and were therefore taboo on Sabbath.

Enter Jesus and His no-nonsense spirituality. A lawyer once asked Jesus which law was most important. Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments into two simple ideas: “Love Me, and love your neighbor.”

We serve a God who keeps it simple! Christians still gravitate toward black and white lists of dos and don’ts; with lists, thinking and communing with God over life’s unique situations becomes unnecessary. But God promises that when we ask Him for guidance, He will direct us—to actions that demonstrate our love for Him and for our neighbor.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matthew 22:37-40Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend. Proverbs 6:3

An Amazing Fact: A floating city awash in elegance, the Queen Mary is one of the most famous ships in history. Launched in 1934 by Her Majesty Queen Mary, it was a wonder of modern times. The ship was considerably bigger than the infamous Titanic—with a 1,019-foot length and 12 decks reaching 181 feet high. The engines produced 160,000 horsepower to move the 81,000 tons! On August 30, 1934, the Queen Mary shattered a speed record by crossing the Atlantic in just under four days, averaging over 30 knots.

Militaries the world over have always looked for bigger, better, stronger, and more powerful instruments of war. Today’s vehicles include tanks, fighter jets, helicopters, armored cars, and battleships. However, sometimes vehicles are modified for use in war. During World War II, the commercial ocean liner Queen Mary was converted into a troop ship and transported more than 700,000 military personnel a total of 569,000 miles. Many allied troops looked fondly on this powerful mother of the sea, especially when carried home.

People in Bible times also looked to vehicles for warfare. At the time of King David, chariots began to appear in Israel, and his son Solomon greatly increased their usage. Yet David gives this warning in Psalm 20:7: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” It is not in the strength of man that victory is found. The greatest war to be fought and won is the battle over the self. Horses or battleships will not bring triumph over sin in the heart.

In 1967, the city of Long Beach bought the Queen Mary. Since then, $63 million has been spent on its conversion into a tourist spot with a museum, shops, restaurants, and hotel. With no possibility of sailing the seas, the Queen Mary is filled with activity but never leaves port. Likewise, the greatest military strength will never bring us home to heaven. Only in God’s name can we find victory over our battle with sin.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. Psalms 33:16An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. Psalms 33:17

An Amazing Fact: If asked what the world’s strongest animal might be, you would probably imagine a large animal like an elephant or whale. Surprisingly, the title actually goes to the Onthophagus Taurus dung beetle. This little creature can pull 1,140 times its own body weight!

A recent study from Queen Mary University of London reveals that the dung beetle uses its great strength to battle other male beetles during mating season. Imagine pulling 100 tons of weight—an impossible feat for any human. Yet a dung beetle can do the equivalent.

The strength of God’s creatures might cause us to pause in wonder, but the power of our Creator is even greater. The psalmist praised, “Be exalted, O Lord, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power.” David recognized with awe the strength of our God as something to be praised. In the world around him and the events of his life, he could see God’s might at work.

The same God who created an astonishingly strong insect has the strength to orchestrate the powers that control our world, yet at the same time He knows and cares about the small details of our lives. The trials on your heart are close to His heart too, and His strength is always ready to carry us through each day. Like David, many of us face difficult trials; it can be easy to let fear overwhelm us. But if we pause to step back and recognize that our lives are not in our hands, we can rest easy. Our lives are in the hands of an incredibly strong and caring Creator.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power. Psalms 21:13

An Amazing Fact: Though scientists can’t see all the galaxies in the universe, there are an estimated 100,000 galaxies in the observable universe. Full-size galaxies (as opposed to “small” galaxies) generally contain at least 100,000 stars, as well as planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and dust-and-gas-composed nebulae. There are three major types of galaxies—spiral, elliptical, and irregular. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy.

All you need to do is look up on a dark, starlit night to be awed and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the beauty of the heavens. How does it all mesh together into one perfect and exciting universe? The simple answer is: God holds it together.

The physical laws He has ordained all work together to control the power and movements of the planets, stars, and galaxies. He keeps them all synchronized. Without the precise physical laws God created, the universe would crumble into chaos.

The law of God prevents chaos in the spiritual realm as well; it holds everything together. In Psalm 19, the Scripture says that God’s perfect spiritual law converts our souls, makes us wise and happy, and opens our eyes to truth.

The same God who magnificently coordinates every sun, moon, and star in the entire universe is eager and willing to bring peaceful coordination and meaning to your life, to hold it together by His power and love.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Psalms 19:1-3The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalms 19:7

An Amazing Fact: The now retired NASA Space Shuttle burned most of its fuel within the first two minutes of flight.

The Space Shuttle used two rockets, known as Solid Rocket Boosters, or SRBs, for launch. Located on either side of the shuttle’s fuel tank, the SRBs constituted about 83 percent of the shuttle’s liftoff thrust, propelling the spacecraft 28 miles into the air.

The SRBs burned more than half of their propellant—about 41 percent of the shuttle’s total fuel—in the first minute after liftoff, and thrust was reduced by approximately one-third. Two minutes after launch, the SRBs separated from the shuttle. Parachutes then deployed to slow their descent back to earth. NASA then recovered the SRBs from the ocean and reused them.

Life is often like that. Between planning and preparation, it seems to take the most effort to get something going—a project, a business, a lifechange. But once you’re off and running, so to speak, it gets easier.

So often when we make a decision based on the Holy Spirit’s prompting, we encounter resistance that feels as though we are under attack by forces unknown. It takes physical and emotional energy to push through that resistance. Peter says that Satan roams around like a lion searching for its prey (1 Peter 5:8). The devil seeks to thwart our plans to follow God. But God promises us strength to keep going. He is not only our Rock, but also our rocket booster!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. Psalms 18:2But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

An Amazing Fact: Shrimp lay near the bottom of the marine food chain. But these little creatures have a strange habit that can teach us some important lessons. As shrimp mature, they outgrow their skins and need to molt. But every time a shrimp molts, it does something bizarre. It places a tiny piece of sand on its own head. This grain of sand is called a “statoscyst stone.” Without it, the shrimp has a difficult time knowing which way is up. The small tug of gravity from the sand particle helps the shrimp to know if it is right side up or upside down. The sand grain is crucial for the shrimp to maintain its equilibrium when tossed by the surging seas.

A marine biologist learned about this when he replaced the sand with metal filings in an aquarium. When the shrimp began to molt, they stuck a tiny piece of steel on their heads instead of the usual grain of sand. The biologist then placed a magnet at the top of the tank, and the shrimp flipped upside down. The pull of the magnet was stronger than the tug of gravity.

The scientist then took another shrimp and put it into the aquarium with a grain of sand on its head. This shrimp was the only one who swam right side up! The other inverted shrimp were probably thinking, “Look at that fanatic swimming upside down!”

Pharaoh of Egypt once had a dream. His wise men could not interpret the dream. He heard of Joseph and asked him to explain the dream. “So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.’” Joseph knew which direction to turn. When you find yourself needing to know which direction to swim, turn to the Lord in prayer. Study your Bible. These will be your “statoscyst stones” to lead you in the right way.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Genesis 41:39Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. Genesis 41:40

An Amazing Fact: Most of us are familiar with the enslavement of Africans in the United States, but the enslavement of Native Americans is a little known part of history. For many years the Southern colonies carried out slave trade among Native American tribes, shipping tens of thousands of people far from home, many to the “sugar islands” of the Caribbean.

Like the Native Americans of the United States, Joseph was taken as a slave and sent far from his home to a foreign land. Used to a comfortable life with a loving father, he was suddenly isolated from everything and everyone he knew. The shock of the strange language and culture of Egypt must have been great, but despite this, Joseph held fast to his faith. His walk with God gave him the strength to live each day in captivity, and even those around him could see that God was with him. Even in the face of great temptation and trials, he did not waver. He faced imprisonment rather than
compromising obedience to God.

As you go through the day, how does your walk with God affect you? Can others around you see that God influences the way you live? Sometimes our greatest witness isn’t telling others about our faith, but living it as an example. The words we say and the attitude in our hearts speak volumes about the God we serve. Sometimes it might be a small thing, like treating others with patience in a stressful work environment. Other times it could be the choice to stand up for what is right even when the consequences are difficult. Like Joseph, our example can show others how following God changes lives. Does being a Christian mean merely going to church each week and keeping a Bible on your bookshelf? Or has your walk with God truly made a difference in the way you live throughout your entire week?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. Genesis 39:1And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. Genesis 39:3

An Amazing Fact: In July 2009, Terry Herbert was combing the rural Staffordshire, England, countryside with a cheap metal detector when he stumbled across the biggest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever discovered. He found more than 500 artifacts or pieces thereof before he called in experts, who found another 800 pieces. All were located near the surface. The treasure trove consisted mainly of war implements and included 11 pounds of gold and over five pounds of silver.

Practically everyone has, at one time or another, dreamed of finding rare coins or a buried treasure. It’s an exciting thought! But we have something priceless right in our own homes that should be much more exciting—the Holy Bible.

No matter how much you have or haven’t read them, the Scriptures contain awesome treasures yet to be discovered—wise guidance, encouraging promises, the truth about our Savior, and how to find eternal life.

Gaining a benefit from any search of the Scriptures requires the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God wants to give us good things. Some of the treasures lie near the surface and are easy to find. Others require deep digging. Yet all are worth looking for! Are you ready to go treasure hunting?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Matthew 7:7-8If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:11-12

An Amazing Fact: During the California Gold Rush, people often sent their clothes all the way to China to be laundered. It took three months to receive the clean clothes back … and longer if the ships encountered a typhoon.

In 1848, James Marshall found gold in the American River northeast of present-day Sacramento. Newspapers reported the discovery, but no one believed it until Sam Brannan flaunted a bottle of gold dust around San Francisco two months later. Then San Franciscans dashed inland. That summer, New York newspapers reported the find and the gold rush began.

Miners flooding into California envisioned wealth untold, but in reality, hard work, diminishing gold, and stiff competition awaited them. One wrote, “Mining is the hardest work imaginable. … A weakly man might as well dig his grave as dig for gold.”

Mining camps’ inflated prices required a miner to find a half-ounce of gold a day just to get by. A thousand dollars worth might emerge from a single pan, but few miners ever found that much. About 400,000 men from around the world thronged to California in the 1850s, but most of them returned home with less than what they’d arrived with. Despite finding the first nugget, Marshall died broke.

Chinese immigrants took over the minefields that white miners abandoned. Laundry was women’s work, so at first dirty clothes were sent to China. But the immigrants saw opportunity, and Chinese laundries popped up everywhere. Miners in Weaverville, California, ridiculed John for washing their clothing for free. But a year later, the immigrant sported a fancy wardrobe; he’d found his fortune in the miners’ pants cuffs!

The 49ers sought material wealth. Today, in the scramble to acquire our needs and wants, it’s easy to neglect what’s really important. But God promises that when we put Him first, our needs will be taken care of—and more!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Matthew 6:30Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? Matthew 6:31

An Amazing Fact: At 29,035 feet, Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world. It was named after Sir George Everest, a British surveyor, in 1865. The mountain has actually had many different names, including Sagarmatha (Nepalese for ‘goddess of the sky’), Chomolungma (Tibetan for ‘mother goddess of the universe’), and the simple designation, ‘Peak 15.

If you decide to make the trip to Nepal to climb one of the highest mountains in the world, you’d better plan ahead. Reaching the tallest summits on our planet is not for the faint of heart. Many have died making little mistakes while trying to make it to the top. Oxygen levels are one-third of that of sea level amounts, so without supplemental air, you easily get foggy in your thinking. Energy levels plummet above the death zone—8,000 meters—where the amount of oxygen is not enough to sustain life.

Good mountain climbers respect the mountain. They know their limits. Perhaps the greatest tragedy on Mt. Everest took place in 1996, when several groups pushed beyond the turn-around time. It takes humility to admit defeat, turn around, and go back down.

David asks God in Psalm 15:1, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” The Lord answers, “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart” (v. 2). To walk uprightly is to walk in humility. Philippians 2:3 explains it like this: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

The highest place we can climb is through bowing low in humility at the foot of Mt. Calvary where Jesus died for us. Christ lowered Himself to our earth that we might be lifted up with Him to heavenly places—mountains higher than even Mt. Everest.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Isaiah 57:15

An Amazing Fact: According to Business Week, the United States’ richest one percent—who own two-fifths of the country’s wealth—donate only two percent of their incomes each year to charity. In contrast, families in the bottom income bracket donate an average of six percent. At least 20 percent of the wealthiest estates leave not even a penny to charity.

The top philanthropists in our society donate millions to charity each year. On the list are names such as Oprah Winfrey and Bill and Melinda Gates, names familiar to most of us. In comparison to such massive amounts, it is easy to see our own contributions as tiny drops in a bucket of water. But surprisingly, while the numeric amount of these rich donations is quite high, the percentages tell a different story. Families in the bottom income bracket actually donate a higher percentage of their income to charity than the wealthiest in the nation.

Jesus’ words to His disciples remind us of the importance of our small gifts. “When you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” A spot on the top philanthropy list and millions given to charity might bring worldly attention and acclaim, but God sees the significance of the small, unnoticed gifts. In His eyes, they are even more valuable.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: Matthew 6:3That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6:4

An Amazing Fact: During World War I, President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson kept a flock of sheep on the White House lawn. The woolies, including Old Ike—a ram that enjoyed chewing tobacco—kept the lawn in beautiful condition. This saved money that would have been spent on grounds keeping. Each year the sheep were sheared and their wool auctioned, which raised more than $100,000 for the Red Cross.

Sheep were central to the conflict between Jacob and his often underhanded father-in-law, Laban. While Jacob labored for him with all of his might, Laban changed Jacob’s wages ten times and tried to cheat him.

But God was watching out for Jacob. As Jacob explained to his wives, if Laban said, “‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: ‘The streaked shall be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked” (Genesis 31:8).

As God commanded him, Jacob took all of his possessions and secretly left Laban’s property. Laban, unhappy with the manner of Jacob’s leaving, pursued him for an entire week and finally caught up with him.

Bitter words poured out, but eventually they made a covenant between them. Laban, a heathen man, said in parting, “May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another.” He asked Jacob to be good to his daughters, and the two men agreed never to harm each other.

As God had been merciful and forgiving toward him, Jacob forgave Laban, who had spitefully used him.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. Psalms 13:5-6But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; Matthew 5:44

An Amazing Fact: The two stone lions in front of the New York Public Library were named Patience and Fortitude in the 1930s by then-mayor Fiorello LaGuardia for the qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the Great Depression.

The two lions in front of the public library in Manhattan have enchanted New York residents and tourists since the library’s dedication on May 23, 1911. The lions received several affectionate monikers over the years, but the names that finally stuck were Mayor LaGuardia’s.

When Jacob met the woman of his dreams at the well in Haran, little did he know how much patience and fortitude their love story would demand of him! First, he had to serve his father-in-law for seven years to acquire his bride. Then Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel’s sister. When Jacob finally got to marry his dream girl, they were struck with the painful reality of infertility. Then the poor man had to endure his wives’ sibling rivalry and Rachel’s obsession with becoming a mother. In Jacob’s culture, a woman’s value stemmed from childbearing, and Rachel was keenly aware
of this societal pressure. When she was finally able to conceive, she died while giving birth to their second son.

No matter how “perfect” a potential mate seems at first sight, time reveals all faults. Not only are our loved one’s faults magnified under the microscope of intimacy, but our own faults show up as well. Christian music artist Stephen Curtis Chapman says, “Without my marriage I may have actually been able to get through life under the illusion that I’m a pretty decent guy.” Paul says that love is patient, kind, and long-suffering. Marriage offers the opportunity to learn—and demonstrate!—the unconditional love shown to us by our great God.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her. Genesis 29:20Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 1 Corinthians 13:4

An Amazing Fact: The oldest known viable seeds were found in 1954 in a lemming burrow in Canada’s frigid Yukon. The frozen burrow, buried in silt and sediment, was 4,200 years old. When the arctic tundra lupine seeds were placed in favorable conditions, several seeds sprouted within 48 hours. One of the plants later bloomed.

There is power hidden deep within a seed. It is the power of a promise that, given the right conditions, a plant should sprout and grow. Today’s amazing fact illustrates that even ancient seeds can retain this power. Bean seeds have even been found in the 3,400-year-old tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamen. After planting them in rich soil and providing proper water and sunshine, the seeds sprouted and grew into healthy plants.

God promised a seed of blessing to Abraham and his descendants that a Savior would come from his lineage. This birthright was to be passed from generation to generation through the eldest son. In Genesis 27 we discover that through trickery, Isaac blessed Jacob. Even though Jacob deceived his father, he still received the power of this blessing. The words spoken by the aging father to his second son came true. Esau later came and begged for his father to pray over him, but it was not with the same richness as Jacob’s blessing.

The Savior of the world did come through the lineage of Jacob. The seed of Abraham did sprout and bear fruit. Jesus Christ came as a son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This birthright is available to us today. We may receive a promise of eternal life if we do not despise God’s hand, which reaches out to bless us. Let the seed of faith be planted in our hearts. Let us water and nourish our hope every day. Then we will watch with amazement as the tiny seed, no matter how old it might seem, sprouts and grows into a life that will last for eternity.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. Genesis 22:18

An Amazing Fact: One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, and more than three million reports of child abuse are made every year in the United States. It is also estimated there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide.

Reading drastic statistics about oppression in our world can feel staggering. And when it hits closer to home, the knowledge of how sin impacts people’s lives becomes more real. If you’ve watched a family member suffer in an abusive relationship or seen a family lose a parent or child, the weight of pain and loss is overwhelming. How can God let this happen? Why?

After feeling this weight and seeing the suffering of his own family, David recognized God’s awareness of sin and His heart of justice. In Psalms 10, he writes, “You will … do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.”

God sees the oppressed. His heart breaks for their suffering, and He promises that, someday, oppression will cease. As Christians sharing that heartbreak, we have the opportunity to make a difference and end oppression in small ways. Perhaps He has called you to foster a child. Or maybe He’s leading you to volunteer at your local domestic violence shelter. Ask God for His awareness of oppression to become active in your heart and life.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear: Psalms 10:17To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress. Psalms 10:18

An Amazing Fact: Scientists are still mystified by how animals know when it’s time to migrate. And how do they unerringly find their way back to the same beach, stream, or feeding ground they’ve not seen since birth? Consider the green turtles that swim from their feeding grounds off the coast of Brazil to tiny Ascension Island about 3,000 miles away, which they might not have visited since they were hatched. After depositing their eggs, they swim back to Brazil!

The Arctic tern has the longest migration of any animal, winging each year from their nesting grounds in the Arctic North to the Antarctic and back, a roundtrip journey of nearly 25,000 miles!

These migratory habits of animals baffle scientists. Do they chart their courses by the sun, moon, or stars? Does the earth’s magnetic field direct them? What inner sense did God plant within every species (birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and even crustaceans) to move such long distances on a seasonal basis? Especially amazing is their return is not just to a general locale, but to a very specific spot!

The God who created all the animals of the earth and placed within them a homing instinct is the God who said to Sarah, “I will return to you” (Genesis 18:14). God doesn’t get lost. The Lord doesn’t need a GPS to find us. God doesn’t need us to wear an ankle bracelet to track our movements. Our Creator always knows where we are. God promised Sarah that she would have a child of promise. She laughed. “I am old!” she chuckled. Yet the Lord guaranteed she would have a baby.

At the appointed time the Lord returned and blessed Abraham and Sarah with a child. Just as God sets appointed times within the creatures of the earth to migrate, so the Lord sets special times for us. Are you tuned in to the God who comes to you?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Genesis 18:14

An Amazing Fact: The human brain is responsible for a number of involuntary actions within our bodies, such as breathing and the blinking of our eyes. According to TSA.gov, some airports are even training security officers to recognize involuntary physical and physiological reactions that people exhibit in response to a fear of being discovered.

Have you ever experienced an exciting event that left you full of the anticipation of sharing it with others? Perhaps you made a breakthrough on a difficult project. Or maybe you watched a new milestone in your child’s development, like his or her first steps. When a young daughter makes her mother laugh by trying a new word or skill, the mom always wants to share that moment with her husband. Our natural response is often a desire to share our news with the world. Instinctively, we want to share the joy! It’s an involuntary reaction.

As the followers of Jesus learned of His resurrection and began to develop a deeper understanding of the gospel, they couldn’t resist sharing it with the world either. When Peter and John were called before the Sanhedrin and were reprimanded for sharing the good news, they responded, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” The knowledge was too great to keep to themselves. It had to be shared!

Today, ponder how the gospel has been meaningful in your life recently. How has God touched your heart? And with whom can you share it?

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. Acts 4:18-20

An Amazing Fact: In January 2010, as Wesley Autrey waited for a subway train in New York, a fellow traveler fell to the floor in convulsions. With help he was able to get up, but he stumbled and fell between the tracks. Then the train’s headlights appeared. Mr. Autrey made an instant decision, leaping onto the helpless man and pressing him down as the train thundered inches above them. Both men survived. Mr. Autrey insisted he wasn’t a hero; he simply saw someone that needed help and did what he felt was right.

“Choose which land you would like,” Abraham offered. You can imagine the dollar signs popping up on Lot’s eyes as he gazed over the green, fertile valley. “I’ll take this area,” he told his uncle. Soon Lot had moved his livestock, servants, and family onto the preferred land.

Abraham and Lot had their differences. But when Abraham heard that Lot had been captured by heathen kings, he didn’t hesitate. Never mind that he had only 318 servants to fight with him against potentially huge armies. He bravely armed his men, tracked down his nephew’s abductors, and freed Lot and his family.

Although Lot had been selfish, had distanced himself from his uncle, and had probably moved close enough to heathen cities to be influenced by them, Abraham still loved him. He was family; nothing would keep him from rescuing Lot.

Isn’t that what God does for us? Even when we’re selfish, distant, or straying in the wrong direction, He still loves us. He comes to our rescue when we least deserve it. What grace! What a Rescuer!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. Genesis 14:14And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. Genesis 14:16

An Amazing Fact: Nearly 7,000 languages are spoken around the world today, but about 2,000 of those languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers.

Until after the global flood, everyone on earth spoke the same language. In order to stick together, some of Noah’s descendants conspired to build a great city with a sky-high tower. But God made it so the people couldn’t understand each other, so they had to abandon the tower. This is how the Bible explains the origin of the many languages spoken today.

Even communication in the same language can be tricky. With the many different life experiences that form the backdrop of our every interaction, the hurts and disappointment, the egos and preconceptions, it’s amazing we get through to each other at all!

Enter the digital age. According to the United Nations International Telecommunication Union, nearly 200,000 text messages were sent every second in 2010, in addition to 107 trillion e-mails throughout the year. Autocorrect can make things even more confusing. When one retired couple headed to Nepal for a month-long trek, their daughter asked the older couple to e-mail from Internet cafés along the way. The very first message their daughter received said, “Help. Visa bad. Can you send money to the water? Autopsy not working.”

It took $150 and 16 hours over numerous calls to the U.S. Embassy for the concerned daughter to discover that her parents’ credit card wasn’t letting them pay their water bill automatically. Auto-correct had changed “auto pay” to “autopsy.” They laughed about it afterwards, but not all miscommunications have a good ending.

When it comes to communicating with God, Paul says we don’t even know what to pray for. Thankfully, “The Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). And God promises to hear your prayer—regardless of the language you speak or the eloquence (or lack thereof!) with which you speak it.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. Jeremiah 29:12

April 2017

An Amazing Fact: The ancient Aztec empire had a prophecy about a feathered god-king with light skin and a beard who would return in the clouds from across the sea. In 1519, Spanish conquistadors, led by Hernando Cortez, arrived on the scene. When the Aztecs saw the Spanish ships, they thought the billowing sails looked like clouds. Cortez was able to use the prophecy to his advantage, assuming the mantle of deity before the Aztec capital. By the time the people realized that Cortez was not the savior they were expecting, it was too late.

The conquistadors proceeded to plunder, enslave, and kill the Aztec people. A once-powerful nation was deceived and destroyed, in part because the prophecies of their god’s return were so ambiguous that almost anyone could have served as a counterfeit. The same will happen to God’s people if they are not careful to accept the Bible’s teaching, which leaves no doubt about the manner of His return.

Believers cannot afford to make the same mistake. Yet in keeping with the mistakes of God’s people throughout history, deception has made its way into many interpretations of Bible prophecy, including the preeminently popular but utterly false “secret rapture” theory.

In the near future, Satan will attempt to impersonate Jesus and counterfeit His return to earth. But God’s people need not be deceived. When the disciples asked Jesus for the signs of His coming and the end of the world, the very first thing He told them was to be on guard against impostors. “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4, 5).

Christ then proceeded to give His followers a wealth of information about His second coming so there would be no doubt as to how He would return. Jesus not only wants us to know that He is coming and that He’s coming soon, He wants us to understand the manner of His coming.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. Acts 1:11-12For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Matthew 24:27

An Amazing Fact: The fastest temperature rise ever recorded was in Spearfish, South Dakota, on January 22, 1943, when it climbed 49 degrees in only two minutes.

There have been many more strange and amazing weather records set since the use of accurate instruments and official confirmations. For instance, the most consecutive number of days above 100 degrees happened in Marble Bar, Western Australia, from October 31, 1923, to April 7, 1924. That totals 160 days! (I wonder if they also broke records for selling the most lemonade.) The world record for the highest temperature ever recorded was at the Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley, California, where the thermometer hit an astounding 134 degrees on July 10, 1913.

At the other end of the spectrum, the coldest temperature ever recorded on our planet was at the Vostok Station in the Antarctica on July 21, 1983, where it was minus 128.6 degrees. The fastest temperature drop was 49 degrees in 15 minutes in Rapid City, South Dakota, on January 10, 1911.

When it comes to precipitation, the most rain to ever fall in one minute was 1.5 inches in Barot, Guadeloupe, on November 26, 1970. The most rain in less than one hour was 12 inches in 42 minutes in Holt, Missouri, on June 22, 1947. And the most rain in one year was 1,042 inches in Cherrapunji, India, in 1860. That’s almost 87 feet!

What grabs our attention about unusual weather? Day after day, the weather generally tends to be pretty predictable. Farmers count on this when timing their planting and harvest. So if it snows in the summer or rains during harvest time, this out of place weather can destroy crops. That’s just what Solomon is saying when describing the idea of honoring fools.

I am sorry to say that in today’s culture, we regularly honor people who lack moral judgment. Celebrities who make millions of dollars and have affairs make the front page of the news. Business leaders who steal, sports heroes who use drugs, comedians who pour filth from their mouths, and politicians who break the law are sometimes excused and adored because of their other accomplishments. We’re a little mixed up when we applaud fools. It makes about as much sense as a snowstorm at Furnace Creek in July.

Additional reading: Proverbs 26:1–12

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool. Proverbs 26:1

An Amazing Fact: In ancient Egypt, a person guilty of some wrongdoing might carry a pan of burning coals on his head as a sign of repentance.

I once read a story about a boy at summer camp who received a box of cookies from home. He ate a few and then put the rest under his bed. The next day they were gone. His counselor saw another boy eating them down by the lake, so he approached the first boy and said, “I know who stole your cookies. Would you like to teach him a lesson?” The boy agreed, so the counselor said, “Ask your mom to send you another box of cookies.”

When the new box arrived, the counselor encouraged the boy to go share them with the boy who had stolen his cookies. He hesitated, “But why? Shouldn’t he be punished?” But the counselor insisted he find the boy and try to share with him anyway. Later the counselor saw the two boys walking with their arms around each other’s shoulders. The kindness of the first boy so touched the one who stole the cookies that he insisted his new friend take his pocketknife as payment for his crime.

I think the hunger in the heart of the little boy who stole the cookies might have been more than physical. Perhaps he didn’t hear from home very much. So by looking beyond the obvious wrong, the first boy touched the heart of this robber and made him a friend. Even though the boy had the right to demand retribution, the counselor’s approach created a companion. Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

David once had the right to execute justice toward an evil man named Nabal. After David and his men protected Nabal’s flocks and herds for months, they requested some supplies, but David’s men were spurned by Nabal, who even threatened them. The future king of Israel was enraged and marched his troops to teach this selfish man a thing or two. But Nabal’s wife got wind of her husband’s selfish response and prepared a large supply of food for David and his men. Then she intercepted David and humbly pleaded for mercy. It touched David’s heart, and he received her gifts and turned back from his mission of vengeance.

When we show kindness to our enemies, it has the potential to bring remorse, to “burn” their conscience. God rewards us when we seek to show love, even to our foes.

Additional reading: Proverbs 25:15–28

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee. Proverbs 25:21-22

An Amazing Fact: “Cloud seeding” is an experimental method used to cause rain to fall; silver iodide or dry ice has been dumped into clouds in an effort to change its properties and create a rain shower.

If you are a farmer experiencing a severe drought, you might try just about anything to get rain. Efforts to change the weather and increase precipitation have led some scientists, meteorologists, and even commercial companies to develop a way to encourage water to fall from the sky. The original idea was to “seed” clouds with tiny particles whose electrical charge would bring together the cloud’s water droplets. When enough droplets come together, their weight would cause rain to drop.

Most commercial outfits emphasize they cannot break droughts but only enhance the conditions in the atmosphere and make it more likely to rain. When thunderstorms approach, these rain makers send up planes to seed the “inflow” part of the clouds that suck up moisture, hoping the particles collide with water vapor and condense into raindrops. Recent research has shown that airplanes that simply pass through clouds appear to create more rain and snow as they punch holes in the clouds, creating a super-cooling effect on water molecules.

Though there are many skeptics on the process of rainmaking, the desire for water to come down from the sky has existed for thousands of years. The most famous biblical weather change during a drought took place during the time of King Ahab. When Elijah confronted the wicked king, he said, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1). No matter how many rain dances and spells were performed by the prophets of Baal, it did not rain.

But something changed. When Elijah had a showdown with these false prophets (whose gods supposedly controlled the weather) on top of Mount Carmel, God exposed the emptiness of their religion. After they were destroyed, Elijah promised Ahab it would rain again. Then he prayed for rain. Seven times he asked his servant to look toward the sea until a rain cloud appeared. Rain eventually drenched the land. Like Ahab’s false prophets, people who boast and make promises of generosity but do not follow through are like clouds that pass over a drought stricken land yet never rain. They bring only dashed hopes and withered expectations. As followers of the Lord, let’s always follow through on our pledges to give.

Additional reading: Proverbs 25:1–14

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain. Proverbs 25:14

AN AMAZING FACT:  Bees must visit about two million flowers and travel 55,000 miles to make one pound of honey.

There is an art to finding wild beehives—tricks to locating the delicious, sweet substance we love to eat. The method basically focuses on following a “beeline.” When bees have collected their fill of pollen, they head straight home. That means if you set up a dish of homemade nectar (a mix of water and sugar), you can actually watch a bee load up and then take off. Noticing the direction of the bee will give you an idea where his nest is located.

You can sharpen the results by timing the length between trips of this first bee. It will give you an idea of how far away the bee tree is located. You can also triangulate coordinates by setting up more than one dish or plate and then plot them on a map. Some people even use a GPS unit or computer programs to narrow down the location. Searching for wild honey might be a little easier later in the summer and early fall when flowers are fewer. Of course, you also need to beware that you might be led to your neighbor’s beehives!

The Bible tells us that Jonathan once ate some wild honey he found in the woods. He said, “Look now, how my countenance has brightened because I tasted a little of this honey (1 Samuel 14:29). This was also the food of John the Baptist.

Finding wild honey takes patience and perseverance, but the rewards are sweet. So it is with the person searching for wisdom. The Scriptures teach that the law of the Lord is “sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). When we are persistent in looking for Jesus, the source of all truth, we will have a future full of hope and sweet blessings.

When Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon who were carried off by Nebuchadnezzar, the words from God spoke of searching and hope. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). There are no tricks in finding the Lord. Humble yourself, pray to Him, and spend time every day in the Bible. Jesus will lead you in a beeline to heaven.

Additional reading: Proverbs 24:1–16

KEY BIBLE TEXTS

My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off. Proverbs 24:13-14

AN AMAZING FACT:  “Old Tom Parr” was an Englishman who is said to have lived for 152 years (1483–1635). Naturally, some doubt the stories of his extensive age.

Thomas Parr was thought to have been born in 1483 during the reign of King Richard III and is said to have lived to the age of 152, having seen ten sovereigns on the throne during his long life, including the 50-year reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Old Parr, as he was sometimes called, became a celebrity in England as news of his great age spread. Special portraits of him were painted, and he was eventually brought to London to meet King Charles I in 1635. The king invited Parr to the palace and inquired as to what Thomas owed his long life, and the old farmer said that he had worked hard and lived on a simple diet of oatmeal; potatoes; coarse, hard bread; and small drink, generally sour whey.

But Old Parr was not accustomed to the rich food served at the palace, and that night, after dining on the king’s delicacies, legend has it that he became very ill and died. William Harvey, the physician who performed a post-mortem on Parr’s body, could find no apparent cause for death and assumed Thomas died of overexposure. King Charles felt so terrible having killed Britain’s oldest citizen with his food that he commanded the deceased should be buried in Westminster Abbey.

Rich delicacies are not the typical fare of people who live to ripe old ages. Even the Bible points this out through the story of Daniel and his friends, who were shipped off to Babylon and chosen to be trained in the king’s court as future leaders in their new country. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8).

God honored Daniel’s choice to avoid eating the unclean Babylonian food. Chapter 1 of Daniel ends by telling us that Daniel and his friends were 10 times wiser than the other counselors of Babylon and that Daniel lived nearly 100 years. So also may our guarded appetites lead to wiser, longer, and more abundant life!

Additional reading: Proverbs 23:1–16

KEY BIBLE TEXTS

When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee: And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite. Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat. Proverbs 23:1-3

AN AMAZING FACT:  The boundary stones marking the District of Columbia are the oldest federally placed monuments in the United States.

On July 16, 1790, the Residence Act authorized President George Washington to choose a 100-square-mile site for the nation’s capital. Under his direction, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson selected Major Andrew Ellicott to survey a 10-mile square on the Potomac River between Alexandria, Virginia, and Williamsport, Maryland. Ellicot began his work on February 12, 1791.

With the help of Benjamin Banneker, the first boundary stone was placed on the southernmost point of the D.C. diamond. Then working clockwise, the team placed 39 additional stones. Each block of Aquia Creek sandstone, which weighed about a half ton, was chiseled with inscriptions indicating the territory it faced, the year it was placed, and a compass reading.

Over the years, four of the forty original stones were lost. In a 2011 survey using modern technology, the locations of the stones were found to be remarkably accurate, sometimes off by only six feet! Some of the original markers are located in people’s yards, one in a cemetery, another in a median strip, and still another in a church parking lot. Each year a group of “D.C. Diamond Hikers” walks the diamond to commemorate these ancient landmarks.

Today we can accurately check property boundary lines with GPS readings, but in Bible times all they had were ancient landmark stones that were established in place with sacred covenants. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, instructions were given to respect boundaries: “You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess” (Deuteronomy 19:14). In fact, people were cursed if they moved them (27:17).

God was the first surveyor on our planet. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? … Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?” (Job 38:4, 5). More precisely, God’s Word and law provide the true unmovable landmarks of life.

I choose to stand by the solid precepts found in the Bible. The measurement and placement of these principles are exactly where the Lord wants them to be.

Additional reading: Proverbs 22:17–29

KEY BIBLE TEXTS

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set. Proverbs 22:28

An Amazing Fact: Ten million soldiers died in World War I, along with eight million military horses.

Historians believe that horses have been used in warfare since as far back as 5,000 years ago. Along the way, their utility has increased with the creation of the saddle, stirrup, horse collar, harness, and chariot. Some were ridden in cavalry charges, while others merely pulled wagons or artillery.

World War I was a transition in the use of the horse. Because of the advancement of machine guns, they were used less and less on the battlefield, but they began to be used more for carrying messengers and pulling supply wagons and ambulances. They could often get through deep mud and over rough terrain better than motorized vehicles.

War is especially brutal on horses. They are struck by gunfire and are often left on the battlefield to die. During the American Civil War, injured horses were often used by soldiers to shield themselves from bullets as they advanced forward. Horses during World War I were worked till they dropped, and many were poisoned by gas. Horses are often the unsung heroes in war.

Today we mostly see warhorses in reenactments of battle scenes or in parades. But even in biblical times, it was a great advantage to have horses as part of your armament. The Egyptians pursued the Israelites using horses and chariots at the time of the exodus. Solomon was known to have 4,000 horse stalls and 12,000 horsemen (2 Chronicles 9:25).

Even though having horses was thought to greatly increase your odds in warfare, Solomon tells us that without God on our side, it doesn’t matter how much military might we have. The Bible is filled with examples where God’s people went into the battle trusting the Lord and were victorious over larger forces that included horses and chariots. That’s why the weakest saint kneeling in a gutter is mightier than the proudest person riding on the tallest horse. The tipping point is whether you have the Lord’s power in your arsenal.

Solomon’s father wrote, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). And also, “A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength” (Psalm 33:17). Though we have a responsibility to prepare for battling the enemy, the ultimate deliverance comes only from the power of God.

Additional reading: Proverbs 21:16–31

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD. Proverbs 21:31

An Amazing Fact: According to recent polls, over the past 50 years, Americans have been rather consistent in their belief of the six-day Creation as found in the book of Genesis. A little less than 50 percent still believe the Bible’s account happened as written. Others believe that micro-evolution is the sole cause of all life on earth—while an increasing number of people, including many Christians, now believe in theistic evolution, i.e., Intelligent Design.

The Bible says that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

With all the evidence mounting against it, the theory of evolution (or Darwinism) is coming under increasing scrutiny. Indeed, despite pressure and persecution from their peers, more scientists are boldly suggesting that the complexity of even the smallest cell points to a powerful designer. Even though that seems like a good thing, and in some ways it is, the theory of Intelligent Design still falls woefully short, because it still puts forth that it took millions of years of death and trial and error for a man to evolve from an ape-like ancestor. It is still a de facto rejection of God’s written Word.

Why? Because it suggests that even before Adam and Eve sinned, death was a natural part of life and was not a curse as a result of rebellion against God. This contradicts not only the Creation account, but it also undermines the need for salvation through Christ’s atoning death and resurrection—and even the Seventh-day Sabbath.

A clear and complete understanding of God and our place in the great controversy begins with Genesis. Remember, if you believe in Jesus, God in human flesh, then like Him you should believe that Adam and Eve, Noah’s Flood, and Sodom and Gomorrah were real events that speak to our faith experience in ways that no simple-minded myth can.

You can and should trust God’s Word. Not only is it the true key to the past, it is the only key to discovering true salvation. That’s a great foundation to have when you are beginning a new year!

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever. Psalms 119:160All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 2 Timothy 3:16

An Amazing Fact: The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City stood as the tallest buildings in New York City for 28 years, from their opening in 1973 to their destruction in the terrorist attack of 2001. The Twin Towers were the iconic part of a seven-building complex. None of the seven survived—following the collapse of the twin towers, a third building, known as 7 World Trade Center, collapsed, and the remaining four buildings were all torn down due to the irreparable damage. The tragedy resulted in 2,753 deaths.

Today, the site is in the process of being rebuilt. The site of the Twin Towers is marked by a memorial and a museum, and will be surrounded by six new skyscrapers. The memorial consists of two giant pools marking the footprints of the fallen towers. The largest manmade waterfalls in the country pour down their sides, and the names of the victims of the attack are inscribed at their edges.

The memorial plaza is filled with nearly 400 trees, but one tree stands out—the Survivor Tree. This tree, a Callery pear, was salvaged from the wreckage in October 2001. The eight-foot tree had just one living branch and was badly scorched and covered in ash. Nevertheless, New York City’s Parks and Recreation Department took the tree to a local nursery to be replanted. Though Richard Cabo, the tree’s caretaker, didn’t expect it to survive, it did. Now 30 feet tall, the tree has been replanted on the memorial site. The tree not only reminds us of those who survived the attacks, but of what one survivor called “the capacity of the human spirit to persevere.” In the face of tragedy and the loss of thousands of lives, our collective instinct was not to quit, but to rebuild.

Spiritually, it is the same. In spite of the tragedy of sin, something in the human spirit longs for more—as the wise King Solomon said, God has “put eternity in [our] hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We were made for more than this earthly life can offer! We were made to be replanted! Jesus Christ, the Master Gardener, knows just how to heal our burned
branches and coax us back to the abundant life He designed for us in the beginning, and soon He will transplant us in the rich soil of heaven—survivor trees, rescued from the rubble of sin.

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

An Amazing Fact: The length of the Mississippi River is debated because measurements can change from year to year due to floods that change the course of the river.

The team at Itasca State Park in Minnesota says the Mississippi River is 2,552 miles long. The U.S. Geologic Survey published the length as 2,300 miles, and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area suggests the length is 2,350 miles. Each of these groups uses a different method to determine the river’s length, which can also change year to year from flooding conditions.

One historic course change for the Mississippi took place suddenly in March 1876, when it took a new turn near the town of Reverie, Tennessee. When the border between Arkansas and Tennessee was put in place in 1795, the boundary followed the middle of the Mississippi River. At this time the river ran northwest of the town. But after the change it ran southeast of Reverie, cutting it off from Tipton County. Today water sometimes runs on both sides of the town, and technically the land for Reverie is called “Island No. 35.”

Big rivers are not easy things to turn, but that’s how Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, captured ancient Babylon. Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was holding a feast to the gods of his country, using the sacred vessels they had captured from the Jewish temple. As they celebrated, suddenly a mysterious hand appeared and wrote on the wall. Daniel the prophet was called to interpret the writing and declared that the end of Belshazzar’s kingdom had arrived. (See Daniel 5.)

It came as a total surprise. The walls of Babylon were thought to be impenetrable. The Euphrates River flowed under the walls and through the city, and where it passed under the wall there were metal gates to prevent intruders from entering. Cyrus commanded his soldiers upstream to divert the river into a dry lakebed; eventually, the level dropped low enough for soldiers to enter under the river gates and conquer the city.

A king holds great power in his hands. His position and decisions can impact many people. But even the most boastful monarchs in Scripture, such as the pharaoh during the time of Moses or Belshazzar in Daniel’s time, are still subject to God’s Spirit and providence. In what seems like an almost unbelievable turn of events, Cyrus, the king who conquered Babylon, later gave an order to restore the temple in Jerusalem. God changed the course of a king’s heart, and He can do the same today in your heart if you are willing.

Additional reading: Proverbs 21:1–15

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. Proverbs 21:1

An Amazing Fact: Women have more pain receptors in their skin than men.

Scientists have also discovered that women have more nerve receptors overall than men. For example, a woman has 34 nerve fibers per square centimeter on their face, whereas men have an average of 17. Of course, then there is the big debate on whether men or women can tolerate pain more. If you have ever seen a woman give birth to a baby, you might think women can tolerate just about anything!

Not all pain is alike. Some pain is physical, some emotional, and some is called “phantom” pain, which comes from a “phantom” body part that is no longer there because of amputation. Severe pain can be caused by migraine headaches and kidney stones. More mild pain might come from biting your tongue or getting a paper cut. Yet all pain serves a purpose: to let us know something bad is happening.

So how is it that Solomon can tell us that “blows that hurt cleanse away evil?” Because sometimes a remedy for a problem is temporarily painful but necessary in order to bring healing—such as discipline to warn a child playing in the street to prevent a tragic car accident. Or as a boil that needs to be lanced and cleansed, there are sins in our life that require treatment and cleansing.

When my children were small, sometimes they would get a sliver of wood under their skin. There was always the struggle of whether to leave it alone to fester or let Daddy pull it out—which could be briefly painful. Of course, in the long run, the momentary pain brought more lasting relief.

Nathan the prophet once brought some deep pain to King David. The spiritual blow took place after his great sin with Bathsheba. The man of God stood without flinching before the monarch and with piercing words struck the heart of David, pointing out his transgression by saying, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). The lash saved the king, who repented and turned to God, begging for a clean heart.

If we would be saved in God’s kingdom, we would welcome God’s discipline to cleanse our minds and hearts. We would pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24). Then we would allow the Spirit to work deep in our lives, even if it is painful. It always lessens the blow when we draw near to the one who holds the rod.

Additional reading: Proverbs 20:16–30

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly. Proverbs 20:30

An Amazing Fact: The first and largest building in the world to use a significant amount of glass was the Crystal Palace, constructed in London for the Great Exhibition in 1851.

In those days, cast plate glass was a new invention, and when designs were being gathered for an exhibition hall to be built in Hyde Park, Sir Joseph Paxton, a famous English garden designer, struck on the idea of a large building of cast-iron and glass that would not need artificial lighting. Visitors were astonished with the clear walls and ceilings, which was the most found in any building at the time.

The first glass windows were anything but clear. Blown glass bubbles were originally flattened into panes in the last part of the third century. By the 1550s, glass windows were becoming more common but were still considered a luxury of the super-wealthy. Leaded windows were introduced in the 17th century, and by the 19th century engineers were beginning to create large, flat, clear, and strong glass panes, first used in conservatories and greenhouses.

Our text for this morning brings out the simple clarity of a child’s life. Children have little to hide and, like peering into a glass house, we simply observe their behaviors to understand their characters. Adults are much more sophisticated about hiding their thoughts and motives. Yet if we study a person’s behavior carefully, we can see into their soul and know their character.

Jesus taught, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). Christ’s words suggest that long, elaborate statements and swearing oaths are unnecessary for the Christian, whose pledges should be simple, plain, and trustworthy.

Nathanael was someone in the Bible who exhibited a transparent character. His life was not clouded and obscure. Jesus said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:47). This disciple was genuine and served God with a sincere heart. He lived in harmony with God’s will and was not a hypocrite. This representative of Jesus left us an example of living an open and honest life into which others could freely look. He had nothing to hide.

Like a simple, open child who is straightforward in his actions, so should we live transparent lives for God. Like a crystal temple, others will look at us and see within our hearts the image of Jesus.

Additional reading: Proverbs 20:1–15

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. Proverbs 20:11

An Amazing Fact: Contrary to popular opinion, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Actually, it is much easier to teach an old dog than it is to change habits in a human being. But the old adage about old dogs still has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Most dog trainers will tell you the challenge of training your pet has less to do with the animal at the end of the collar and more to do with the one holding the leash. (I think the saying was created by someone as an excuse for not trying something new and fresh!) How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m too old to change!” People probably thought that about Harlan David Sanders.

When he was young, Harlan worked many different jobs. He did farming, worked on a steamboat, and was even an insurance salesman. At 40 he opened a service station and sold chicken dinners to his patrons. As the years went by, his way of preparing chicken became more and more popular, so he finally opened a restaurant. When a new freeway pulled future customers away from his business, he opened a franchise and Kentucky Fried Chicken was born. The Colonel was 65 years old.

I could expound on Ray Kroc, who started McDonald’s at 52; Laura Ingalls Wilder, who published her first Little House book at age 65; or Grandma Moses, who began painting at age 75. Benjamin Franklin signed the U.S. Constitution at age 81. Golda Meir became Israel’s prime minister when she was 70. Ronald Reagan became President of the United States just 16 days before his 70th birthday. And Peter Mark Roget published his well-used thesaurus at the age of 73.

Still, I think Moses rises to the top of all leaders in Scripture for his service to God in his latter years. His call at the burning bush happened when he was 80 years old. In his first 40 years, he learned the ways of the Egyptians. In his second 40 years, he had to unlearn many things. Then, from the ages of 80 to 120, this intelligent and humble man led Israel to the border of the Promised Land.

Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs early in his reign. The wisdom he first lived by led Israel into a golden era. The king pointed people to God as the source of all wisdom. Had this wise man taken his own medicine, he would have left a strong legacy to the last days of his life.

Additional reading: Proverbs 19:15–29

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. Proverbs 19:20

An Amazing Fact: Han van Meegeren was one of the greatest art forgers of all time. He was so good that after being convicted of treason for selling what seemed liked authentic paintings to the Germans during World War II, he was required to paint a forgery to prove his innocence.

From childhood, van Meegeren wanted to be a famous artist. But critics denounced his work and, according to the budding artist, destroyed his career. So he came up with a plan to show others his skills. He forged paintings of some of the world’s greatest artists.

It worked. Soon his replications were regarded as some of the most superb in the world. His greatest copies were of the famous Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Slowly, his desire for praise led him into greed. His tireless attention to detail, faking cracks and aging paints, drove him to keep his work a secret.

But van Meegeren made a major mistake. During World War II, wealthy Dutchmen who wanted to prevent the Nazis from purchasing Dutch artwork began snatching up the artist’s forgeries. Unfortunately, one fake painting ended up in the hands of a German officer and, after the war, it was discovered and traced back to van Meegeren. Since the piece was considered authentic, the artist was sentenced to death for being a conspirator and selling a “national treasure.”

In order to save his life, van Meegeren confessed that he had painted a forgery. The courts did not believe him, and he eventually forged another painting in front of authorities to prove his “innocence.” After this he was given a one-year sentence in prison. Han van Meegeren never served his term. Before being incarcerated, he died of a heart attack.

False witnesses painted a forged picture of Christ when Jesus stood before the Jewish leaders at an unlawful trial. The Sanhedrin court was so thirsty for blood that they hired bogus “witnesses” to testify against Christ. None of their contrived stories agreed. Finally, a statement made by Jesus was snatched and twisted into evidence of blasphemy against God. With this twisted shred, the Lord was led to Pilate and then the cross.

If you want to see an authentic portrait of God, study carefully the pages of Scripture, especially the gospels—where Jesus says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The life of Christ is more than a copy of His Father. He never once spoke a lie about God for He and the Father were One.

Additional reading: Proverbs 19:1–14

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape. Proverbs 19:5

An Amazing Fact: The largest invasion in the history of warfare was Operation Barbarossa, the German’s code name for invading the Soviet Union during World War II. Three Axis army groups comprised four million soldiers.

The size and scale of Nazi Germany’s surprise invasion on Russia beginning June 22, 1941, has no comparison. The huge number of troops, combined with 3,580 tanks, 7,184 artillery guns, 1,830 planes, and 750,000 horses, simply boggles the mind. The German’s unbelievable plan was to cross a frontier of thousands of miles from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Barbarossa was the greatest example of a blitzkrieg ever attempted.

The strategy appeared to work at first. Adolf Hitler’s ambitious but cruel plan to conquer the USSR was not without cost. Almost 95 percent of all German army casualties happened during this attack. Tactically, the Germans appeared to win victory after victory, but their successes stalled literally outside the gates of Moscow. The Soviets pushed back, and the Wehrmacht never regained their grip. A bitter winter and muddy roads didn’t help.

The failure of Barbarossa was a turning point for the Third Reich. Hitler’s blunder of opening up the Eastern Front and pouring a significant amount of forces into this operation created some of the largest and deadliest battles in World War II. Conditions were horrific on both sides. The proud leader of Nazi Germany was eventually humbled.

The Bible text we look at this evening reminds me that those who lift themselves up too high will eventually fall. A haughty man exalts himself above everyone else. You can find many examples in the Bible of people who were arrogant, vain, and conceited. Saul refused the counsel of his advisors. King Zedekiah so resented the words of Jeremiah that he burned the scrolls sent to him. Even Judas, a disciple of Jesus, turned away from the gentle call of his Master; he believed he knew a better way.

Adolf Hitler was warned by his generals to not send troops east, to not enter into war with Russia, and to not drain the dwindling resources of the country. All of us, whether we are leaders or not, need to learn humility before receiving honor. We would do well to listen before we speak, to consider other viewpoints before insisting on our own plans. In the end, we will avoid destruction and save ourselves from shame.

Additional reading: Proverbs 18:13–24

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility. He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. Proverbs 18:12-13

An Amazing Fact: The Windsor Castle is the longest-occupied palace in all of Europe.

Windsor Castle is also the largest inhabited castle in England. It’s one of the residences of Queen Elizabeth II. She spends many weekends of the year there, using it for entertaining private and state groups. Located in the English county of Berkshire, it has a long history with the British royal family.

The castle was originally built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of William the Conqueror. It was designed after the motteand-bailey structure, with a raised mound surrounded by a ditch. A strong wall of timber and rock was created around a keep, often with a drawbridge, which led to a courtyard inside.

Towers were erected along the wall for defense purposes. In smaller castles, there might only be one tower that could house a few soldiers. Windsor began with a very simple plan, but over the last 950 years, new monarchs remodeled and created new additions. It now has three wards with the massive Round Tower occupying a central position. Many new towers were added over the years, including the Curfew, Edward III, Salisbury, Henry III, and the Garter Tower.

Windsor has survived many sieges since it was first built. In 1649 the English parliament almost voted to demolish the castle. A bill to destroy it lost by only one vote. It has been neglected and declared uninhabitable, but it now has been transformed into a luxurious palace. It has survived two World Wars. In fact, the royal family used the palace as a place of refuge during the bombings of World War II. In 1992 a large fire nearly destroyed a major portion of the castle.

In biblical times towers were built as places of refuge and safety, not just to make a fortress look nice. These strongholds could be more easily protected from approaching enemies since it placed defenders above attackers in a fortified structure. If a city wall was breached, people could run into a tower for safety. That’s apparently the picture presented to us in this proverb. God’s name is an impenetrable tower! When Moses requested to see God, it was the Lord’s name that was presented to him. God’s name presents His character—gracious, loving, and compassionate (Exodus 34:6, 7). In other words, when we yield ourselves into God’s hands, the Lord, who is merciful, will be our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1).

Additional reading: Proverbs 18:1–12

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. Proverbs 18:10

An Amazing Fact: The only bone in the human body not connected to another is the hyoid, a U-shaped bone located at the base of the tongue.

I am always awed when I study the human body and how God constructed us. Even the skeletal system teaches us about the Creator, who lovingly put us together with this internal frame so that we wouldn’t be just a blob on the floor! We have 206 bones in our body; the thighbone is the largest and strongest, while the stapes (in the middle ear) is the smallest and lightest. Interestingly, this tiny bone is the only one that is fully grown at birth.

Bones not only hold our bodies upright and in place, but they allow different parts to move around. They also protect organs from being easily hurt. God created bones to be strong; in fact, a human bone is as strong as granite in supporting weight! One scientist determined that a block of bone the size of a matchbox can support nine tons.

Your skeletal system isn’t just there to keep you sitting up straight in church. Inside your bones is a factory working to create blood cells. Even though this internal structure is strong, bones are very light. They are made up of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and other minerals.

When you think about bones, you might first picture a dry skeleton hanging on a stand in biology class. Actually, bones are not a bunch of dry sticks—they’re about 75 percent water. That means when Solomon says, “A broken spirit dries the bones,” we should sit up and pay attention. Dry bones are indicators of really poor health.

Most people think the greatest impact on their health starts in their mouth with what they eat. That’s certainly important, but we shouldn’t overlook the connection between how we think and our health. The state of your mind impacts your health far more than you might realize. Many diseases begin not with the food on your plate, but with the grief or anxiety in your heart. It’s not just what you’re eating; it’s what’s eating you.

So put a genuine smile on your face. Ask God to give you a peaceful heart that is content and looks for the cheerful flowers on life’s pathway. When you do this, your bones will thank you. Lord, I choose to be joyful. I make the decision to set aside gloom and will practice having love, courage, and sympathy in my heart.

Additional reading: Proverbs 17:15–28

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22

An Amazing Fact: One of the worst dam failures in U.S. history was the Johnstown flood of 1889 in Pennsylvania, which killed 2,209 people.

The dam, which was owned by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, was located 14 miles upstream from Johnstown. This exclusive club counted Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick among its members. It was a pleasure resort on Lake Conemaugh. The reservoir created by the dam was completed in 1852, and little maintenance was ever performed on it. In fact, when it broke through once in 1862, someone removed drainage pipes and sold them for scrap.

By 1889, the dam was in desperate need of repairs. Then it began to rain. It was late May and several days of extremely heavy rainfall, the worst in recorded history for this area, began to fill the soggy dam to overflowing. Twenty billion tons of water were pressing to be released.

Engineers were unsure how to manage the dam. Twice someone was dispatched to telegraph the towns downstream, but previous false alarms caused authorities to ignore the messages. Finally, at 3:10 pm, the South Fork Dam collapsed. It only took 40 minutes for the entire lake to drain. The first town hit was South Fork. It was situated on higher ground and four people were killed.

But as the wall of water rushed forward, it picked up debris, houses, animals, trees, and factory materials. By the time it hit Johnstown, there was so much rubbish that it looked more like a boiling mass of earth than water. The disaster was the largest loss of civilian life in America at the time—and it all started with a trickle.

It doesn’t take much of an imagination to picture the parallel in our Bible passage between strife and a flood of water. Solomon warns that a little quarrel might seem innocent, like a small amount of water spilling over a dam. But what is happening underneath could work up a devastating burst. Have you ever noticed how a trivial squabble can grow into a major conflict? At the time it seemed it would just blow over. But in retrospect, a bit of resolution would have saved the relationship.

Take time to repair friendships. Give attention to discord and maintain harmony as much as possible. If you do, it will stop a torrent of anger that will destroy everything in its pathway. Dear Jesus, thank you for stepping into the conflict of our world and bringing peace. Your mediation will someday put an end to all contention.

Additional reading: Proverbs 17:1–14

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with. Proverbs 17:14

An Amazing Fact: It is not true that one mile of every five miles of the U.S. Interstate highway system must be straight enough to allow planes to land on it. This is an urban legend.

Interstate highways in the United States are one of the blessings of living in this country. I’ve traveled (and hitchhiked) on many of these ribbons of concrete. Carefully chosen standards regulate how these roads are constructed. For instance, all overpasses must have a 16.5-foot vertical clearance. This was originally set in place to allow some large military equipment to pass through. If this clearance cannot be reached, then an exit and entry ramp needs to be in place to bypass the overpass.

Our uninterrupted system of national highways didn’t exist at the turn of the 20th century. The first national road was created in 1811 and ran between Maryland and Illinois in order to help transport immigrants. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that President Franklin Roosevelt pushed for a highway system as a way to provide jobs for people. President Eisenhower made this a reality, and in 1954 money was set aside to begin construction on the new roads.

Part of what drove Eisenhower to complete such a system of highways occurred in 1919 when he was a young lieutenant colonel in the army and part of the first transcontinental military convoy that traveled from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco. It took them two months to complete the journey. His further experience during World War II showed him the advantages of the German autobahn network, which increased mobility and safety in that country.

Solomon also must have had an interest in well-maintained roadways. The Bible says, “Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, who he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem” (1 Kings 10:26). In this golden era of Israel’s history, the famous king raised the level of movement for his troops and workers to anywhere in his kingdom.

Real wisdom involves not only choosing the right road, but also knowing how to avoid the wrong ones. When we follow God’s ways, it’s as if we are raised up on a smooth, clean road, free of Satan’s sidetracks.

We may speed quickly past evil temptations and reach our destination without delay. We avoid exits that lead to sin and may move forward unhindered. Like riding on an interstate highway, we will be safe from the diversions of the enemy. Lord, I choose to follow your ways. Though the devil will still try to pull me off the road to heaven, I choose to keep my eyes on you.

Additional reading: Proverbs 16:17–33

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul. Proverbs 16:17

An Amazing Fact: One of the most feared rulers in Roman history was Nero, who was known to capture and burn Christians in his garden to provide a source of light.

Nero’s rule was known as one of tyranny and extravagance. Few historians have anything positive to say about his reign. He was Roman Emperor from ad 54 to 68. Nero was so fearful of losing power that he had his own mother and wife murdered and probably poisoned his stepbrother. Many believe he was responsible for the Great Fire of Rome and wanted space for his expanding palace. Christians were blamed for the conflagration, and thousands were martyred as a result. The handsome young emperor started out better than he ended.

His moderate rule changed in ad 62 when he became brutal and very immoral. He threw out his advisors and felt the need to be in complete control. Even the coins bearing his image began to show a somber man with fat cheeks and a protruding chin. Some Christians thought he was the antichrist and even associated his name with the number 666. What’s clear is that Nero was one of the cruelest rulers of all time.

Certainly Solomon’s advice in this morning’s text would fit someone standing before Nero. When a ruler holds the power to take your life, you should walk carefully and speak with keen discernment before him. How much more this is true when the king is barbaric and rash. You would go to great lengths to avoid making him mad. Most of us will not cross paths with a king in our lifetimes, but we can apply this sage advice to other rulers in our lives—employers, police officers, managers, teachers, parents, and other supervisors.

Yet there is a King we should not overlook. Christ is our supreme ruler and a judgment day is coming. You might quickly say, “But Jesus isn’t like Nero! He is kind and compassionate.” Absolutely, but does this mean we should not seek to bring a smile to the face of God? Will there not come a time when the wrath of God will be shown to all sin and sinners?

The wrath of God (unlike man’s wrath) was met when Jesus died for our sins. When we humbly accept His sacrifice and acknowledge our sins, it brings favor to the heart of our King. Father in heaven, you are loving and patient, but someday you will put an end to sin. I acknowledge my sinfulness and accept your gift of salvation today.

Additional reading: Proverbs 16:1–16

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it. In the light of the king’s countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain. Proverbs 16:14-15

An Amazing Fact: The total amount spent annually on Mother’s Day cards is $671 million. The total spent on flowers on Mother’s Day is $1.9 billion.
God made mothers with incredible love for their offspring. He pre-wired them with a natural desire to protect their children, even at the risk of their own lives. The Creator has programed this sacrificial nature not just into human mothers, but also within the maternal animal kingdom at large.

In the mountains of Northern California, we have a lot of black bears that are generally harmless. On the few occasions when black bears have attacked humans, it’s usually because someone came between a mother and her cubs. I even once heard of a car being ripped apart by a mother bear because her cub was trapped inside when a well-meaning camper tried to take it home. As the Bible says, “I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage” (Hosea 13:8).

All through the Bible, we see examples of a mother’s love and sacrifice. And this natural love, combined with the influence of a godly mother, has changed history on many occasions. Mothers must recognize the profound power they have in molding human souls, not only for the difference they will make in this life, but also to prepare them for eternity. As it is often said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”

Paul reminds us, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth’ ” (Ephesians 6:1–3).

Perhaps this is why our text for this evening calls a person who despises his mother a fool. Most mothers have given a tremendous amount of themselves to help their children be successful. Only a son who is blind to his mother’s love will scorn her.

Someone once said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I categorically reject that. It might sound nice and reassuring to think the whole herd is watching out for everyone’s children. But I believe that we have so much crime and decadence in our world because this “village” is really just a deceitful euphemism for the streets. It doesn’t take a village to raise the child; it takes a mother and a father.

When a son or daughter pauses to recognize the sacrificial love of their parents, it brings gladness to the heart. Such respect fulfills the fifth commandment and honors our mothers and our fathers.

Additional reading: Proverbs 15:16–33

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother. Proverbs 15:20

An Amazing Fact: Habitually angry people are three times more likely to suffer a heart attack.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I just lost it!” when he got really angry? What he misplaced was his rational thinking! Anger has a way of shutting down the part of our brains that helps us behave wisely. Being vexed potentially hijacks our ability to make good choices. People who cannot control their anger often hurt themselves and other people. I know this from personal experience. I used to have a hard time, when I was young, controlling my temper. I’d often get into fights at school.

Some people get angry because they feel they have been treated unfairly. Others get mad when they are under a lot of pressure. There are people who become irritated when they can’t control certain situations. And some people are furious at injustices they see happening toward others. Whatever the reason, anger has the potential to be explosive and cause damage. Even cardiologists know the deadly effects on heart attack patients who do not deal with their anger.

The first story of sibling rivalry in the Bible reveals the devastating effects of anger. Cain and Abel were brothers who, through their father Adam, learned to worship God with an offering. Though God’s instructions were clear about bringing a lamb, Cain was a farmer and decided to bring some of his own produce. Less messy? God accepted Abel’s offering, but did not receive Cain’s. The older brother became jealous of his younger sibling and murdered him. It’s not a healthy picture.

You might feel your anger problem is not a big deal, but Jesus actually warns us, “Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:22). Christ actually associates anger with murder. It’s as if Jesus is telling us that the end result of all anger leads to death, which is true when we break any of God’s commandments.

The Prince of Peace can give you victory over your anger. He helped me. Through Bible study, prayer, memorizing Scripture, and the power of the Spirit, I’ve learned to not respond harshly to others who might be angry. That only stirs up a hornet’s nest. It’s much better to give a gentle answer. Soft responses sometimes come through silence and other times through carefully chosen words.

Additional reading: Proverbs 15:1–15

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. Proverbs 15:1

An Amazing Fact: According to World Bank statistics, the poorest country in the world is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with an annual GDP per capita of only $422.
There are different ways to measure the poverty of a country. Calculations made by various organizations consider purchasing power, cost of living, inflation rates, and standard of living. But whether you look at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, or Central Intelligence Agency figures, the DRC still comes out rock bottom. (Not to be confused with the Republic of Congo, the DRC was known as Zaire until 1997.)

In this impoverished country of 71 million people, where French is the official language, the Second Congo War, which began in 1998, has devastated the country. It’s a confrontation involving seven foreign armies and has been noted as the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II, killing 5.4 million people. I don’t even want to describe the violation of human rights that takes place there, particularly among women. The United Nations calls the DRC the rape capital of the world.

It’s challenging to think about how to help your poor neighbor, but try to grasp how to help an entire country! Sending money and even shipments of food to starving people in such places is difficult because of corruption. The people who are starving might never see a grain of rice because of fraud and dishonesty. Donors have become wary of dropping dollars into extended hands. In the long run, it is more effective to dig wells and to teach agricultural, business, and reading skills.

Solomon’s proverb this evening begins with what most people think is true for all the wrong reasons: “The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich has many friends” (Proverbs 14:20). There are many people who are poor by this world’s standards who have many friends. And many wealthy people have few true friends who are not interested in their money.

Despite the difficulties of poverty in our world, we should never become so hardened that we simply turn away from hurting people. The Christian is not to despise his neighbor, but he is to have mercy on those who are less fortunate. Jesus became poor so that we might become rich. Let’s do the same in whatever way God calls us to love the poor.

Additional reading: Proverbs 14:20–35

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends. He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he. Proverbs 14:20-21

March 2017

An Amazing Fact: The average person will walk about 65,000 miles in his or her lifetime—that’s three times around the earth!
Caleb Smith is a dedicated walker. When he moved to the Big Apple, he was so enamored by the little-known places that he decided to purchase a map and walk on all the roads, avenues, and streets on the entire island. He eventually covered about 700 miles. He was inspired by Thomas Keane, a man who did the same walk in 1954. Caleb finished his walk on December 19, 2004, the 50th anniversary of Keane meeting his goal.

I think we underestimate the health benefits of simply walking. For instance, Duke University Medical Center found that a brisk 30-minute walk three times a week was just as effective as antidepressant medication in relieving the symptoms of major depression. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that older women who walked regularly were less likely to develop memory loss. And the Mayo Clinic uncovered evidence that walking positively affects the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain.

You don’t read about the health benefits of walking in the Bible. People didn’t read books and articles on getting this form of exercise because their feet were the standard mode of transportation. Jesus and His disciples didn’t take the bus from Jericho to Jerusalem. They didn’t ride the train from Galilee to Bethany. They walked everywhere they went!

What made the walking excursions of the disciples so beneficial was not just the fresh, unpolluted air in Palestine. They walked with Jesus, their Master and Teacher. Christ was the wisest of all people who ever walked the face of the earth, much wiser than even Solomon. It was common for ancient sages to have a group of students to teach. Many of them shared their wisdom with their disciples while walking. As they passed through villages and trekked the countryside, these teachers would point to the things around them as a means of illustrating their wisdom.

We also may walk with Christ. We may walk with the wisest Teacher and, as our proverb this evening states, become wise. The knowledge of Scripture, given to us by the Lord, will lead us to someday walk streets of gold. That’s a trek I don’t want to miss!

Additional reading: Proverbs 13:13–25

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. Proverbs 13:20

An Amazing Fact: More than $13 billion worth of goods are stolen from retailers each year. That amounts to more than $35 million every day.
Shoplifting is a serious problem in the United States. One in 11 people steal goods from stores. That’s about 27 million offenders. They take from all types of stores and have no typical profile. Men and women are equally prone to this type of thievery. Approximately 25 percent of shoplifters are kids. About three percent are “professional” in their work, stealing for the purpose of reselling products. But the vast majority of shoplifters are non-professionals.

Why do people shoplift? The professionals often are drug addicts who steal to feed their bad habit. Others are part of larger operations, running illegal businesses. But most people who steal have no other major criminal intent or a desire for financial gain. They are driven by social and personal pressures in their lives.

Many get addicted to this evil habit and actually like the excitement of “getting away with it.” Called kleptomania, it’s almost like a high from taking drugs. Our text for this morning says, “There is one who makes himself rich” but has nothing. In other words, there are people who hoard wealth or pretend to be wealthy. They want so badly to look good that they will take extreme measures to appear affluent. But it’s all emptiness.

It’s like the foolish man in Jesus’ parable (Luke 12:16–21) who thought by building bigger barns and hoarding his possessions, he would find peace. In reality his life was about to end and he would enter the grave and eternity with nothing.

On the other hand, when the apostles asked Jesus, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Jesus responded, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:27, 29–30).

When we come to Christ and admit our sinfulness and our great need, the Lord gives us the gift of eternal life. It’s a blessing that cannot be measured in dollars.

Additional reading: Proverbs 13:1–12

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches. Proverbs 13:7

An Amazing Fact: A 2004 Gallup poll indicates that the average American has nine close friends.
In this same poll, 73 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the number of friends they have, but 23 percent wish they had a few more friends. It’s interesting that the number of friends drops to seven for those in their 30s and 40s, but rises to 12 for those over 65. The researchers also discovered that the more money people made, the fewer friends they had.

In a similar study on friends and churches, Gallup found that people who have friends within their own church could more fully live out their faith than those who tended to have friends outside their church. In other words, if you don’t have friends at church, it can actually impede your spiritual growth! Being isolated or having the wrong types of friends can pull you away from God. My father used to say, “If you sleep with dogs, you’ll get fleas.”

We often think of choosing friends as a thing to do during our teen years. But while it’s true that young people can develop new friendships that will last a lifetime, the principle of choosing our friends wisely is for every age. People might move to a new community or attend a new church or begin a new job and have opportunity to forge new relationships. Good friends at any age can be a powerful influence in our lives.

For instance, I’m impressed with the positive peer influence of friends when I read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. It’s an example of how the right friends can help you withstand intense peer pressure. King Nebuchadnezzar built a golden image nearly 90-feet tall and commanded all his government officials to come for the dedication.

At the king’s command, everyone was to bow down and worship the image—or face immediate execution. The three young Hebrews didn’t bow down; they stood strong together. As a result, they were thrown into the fiery furnace together … only to be miraculously rescued by God! Choose your friends wisely, because they will influence your life. Avoid making close friendships with those who are rejecting God.

Watch out for people with hot tempers. “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go” (Proverbs 22:24). Beware of gossipers. Rather, spend time with those who have high values and stay near people with whom you can be honest. Your choices will impact your final destiny.

Additional reading: Proverbs 12:15–28

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them. Proverbs 12:26

An Amazing Fact: The total number of high school dropouts annually in the United States is 3,030,000. The percent of U.S. jobs a high school dropout is not eligible for is about 90 percent.
If you read my book The Richest Caveman, you know that I attended some pretty interesting schools in my younger years, including two different military academies, a school on board a ship, and one place that threw all rules out the window. This experimental school in Maine believed that kids will learn the things that are important to them. Well, I guess it was true, though most of what I learned was from other students … and the things I learned weren’t very profitable!

I made the reckless decision to drop out of high school at 16 and run away. By the time I was 20, I realized my prospects for success would be very limited, so I earned my GED and went on to college.

Today I always encourage young people to get a good education. High school dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, earn lower wages, be more dependent on government assistance, and to be single parents. Even crime stats show that 30 percent of federal inmates have not completed high school, and 50 percent of convicts on death row have not finished grade 12.

The wise teacher in Proverbs says, “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge.” In other words, if you really want to learn something, you’ll go through the discipline of getting it, no matter how difficult. We are shortsighted to think we can learn to play the piano but never practice or get our driver’s license but never study for the written exam. We should love instruction because we want to go somewhere and be someone.

Sometimes I hear students say, “I can’t wait until I graduate so that I don’t have to take any more tests!” I hate to pop their bubbles, but I tell them life will continue to throw many tests at them. Almost every occupation requires an element of training, study, and ongoing assessment to maintain licenses. Many jobs call for continuing education units. The idea of taking tests should not drag you down. Exams and evaluations open doors of opportunity!

God has given us minds to expand and develop. Peter writes, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Education is a lifelong endeavor for the Christian. We do not stop learning when we graduate from school. We continue seeking to stretch our minds and grasp more of the truths of Scripture and the things God has created.

Additional reading: Proverbs 12:1–14

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish. Proverbs 12:1

An Amazing Fact: One tree can absorb as much carbon dioxide in a year as an automobile creates driving 26,000 miles.
The longest living organism on our planet is the tree. It’s also one of the greatest natural resources we have. Trees help to keep our air clean. Just one tree can produce about 260 pounds of clean oxygen per year. Over the course of its life, a tree can absorb about one ton of carbon dioxide. An acre of trees can remove 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide in a year.

Trees benefit us in many other ways. If they are well-maintained, trees can increase our property value and the soil quality. Properly placed trees around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent. Wind buffering provided by trees can also lower our heating bills in the winter. Of course, I could talk about lumber and paper products we get from trees, along with fruit to feed our families.

Our text for this evening says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life” (Proverbs 11:30). People who live according to the wisdom and knowledge of God are a nurturing blessing to others. Their conduct and words bring life, healing, and encouragement to those around them. Perhaps you’ve been next to someone who “drains” you—someone who is usually focused on himself and only wants to get from others.

On the other hand, some folks seem to inspire you when you are in their company. Their presence lifts you and gives you energy. Much like the tree of life in the garden of Eden, people who live according to God’s laws are a gift of life to those close by. Jesus was like this. When men, women, and children were close to Christ, they were transformed. And others could tell.

When Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus, they were brought before the Sanhedrin and questioned. The disciples spoke so courageously about the Lord that the Bible says of the Jewish rulers, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). We win souls by reflecting Jesus to others. The wisest thing we can do is lead others to the cross of Christ, which is the ultimate tree of life.

Additional reading: Proverbs 11:16–31

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. Proverbs 11:30

An Amazing Fact: The people of the United States spend about $115 billion on mental health treatment each year, with 27 percent of that going toward prescription drugs.
Of course, our text for this morning is not speaking about paid professional counselors. While I believe that therapy has a place and that there are times when a godly counselor can help a person work through issues, the passage above isn’t about trained specialists. (I am concerned about the speed with which people seek help in medications, however. God has given us excellent natural remedies that should not be overlooked.)

The Hebrew word for “counsel” in this passage grows out of the word used for the ropes that were pulled to change the direction of a ship at sea. The picture is one of guidance and new direction. When a person, or group of people, refuses to listen to advice, he might find himself shipwrecked. That’s often true with married couples. One of the determining factors for a successful marriage is a husband who is open to suggestions. When a man is adamant about his viewpoints and will not consider his wife’s perspective, it’s a sure sign that their relationship will crumble.

Not all counsel is good. A classic example of two different types of counsel in the Bible is found in the story of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. When his father died, the people complained about heavy taxes to their new king. He sent them away for three days before giving them a response.

Rehoboam first consulted with his father’s experienced counselors. They advised him to back off and treat the people more kindly. But he disliked their counsel and instead asked young men whom he had grown up with for advice. They suggested the young king show the people he was boss. They recommended he threatened to increase their taxes and treat them even more harshly. He accepted this foolish advice and subsequently lost half of the kingdom.

Wise counsel can save us from a lot of heartache, not only in our homes, but also in our churches and businesses. When skillful advice is lacking, people can be led into reckless pathways of destruction. But when we are open to listen to wisdom from gifted and experienced people, when there is open discussion tempered by humility, we will find ourselves in safer places.

Additional reading: Proverbs 11:1–15

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14

An Amazing Fact: The largest tongue in the world is found in the blue whale. Its tongue is the size of an elephant and weighs 5,400 pounds.

You might think that your tongue is a small organ and not extremely important, but without it you could not eat, talk, spit, swallow, or even kiss! Scientists have even determined that the tongue is, pound for pound, the strongest muscle in your body even though it is the only muscle that is attached at only one end.

The human tongue has been listed in world records as well. The longest human tongue on record is 3.86 inches from tip to the back. Contrary to “old wives’ tales,” women have shorter tongues than men. Thomas Blackstone holds the record for having the strongest tongue; he actually lifted a 24-pound, 3-ounce weight with his tongue.

According to the World Record Academy, Fran Capo is the world’s fastest talking female. She was clocked at 603 words in 54 seconds. That comes to 11 words a second! She first broke the world record on the Larry King Live show in 1986 when she spoke 585 words per minute. Before you think I’m biased about women talking, let me add that Steve Woodmore from England was clocked at 637 words per minute!

Solomon has something to say about lots of words. Our text this evening reminds us that people who talk a lot can be inclined to say things they regret. When our tongues move faster than our brains, we’re in for trouble. The Bible often warns us to watch what we say.

James writes, “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (James 3:4–6).

The proverb encourages us that he “who restrains his lips is wise.” Guard your tongue. It is not the number of words you speak that demonstrates your intelligence; it is the care with which you choose them.

Additional reading: Proverbs 10:16–32

KEY BIBLE TEXTS
In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. Proverbs 10:19-20

By |2018-03-29T23:39:21+00:00March 29th, 2018|Devotional Archives|0 Comments
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