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Dr. David Osborn at Denver Seminary says, "Too often we try to use God to change our circumstances, while He is using our circumstances to change us." (Compass, April 2003) You see, God is right now in the process of making us like Christ.

Think of the process of refining maple syrup. Maple trees are tapped with buckets hung under the taps, and out drips a sap which is thin and clear, like water. On a good day, 50 trees will yield 30-40 gallons of sap, but it is essentially useless at this point with only a hint of sweetness.

Then as the buckets fill, they are emptied into large bins that sit over an open fire. The sap comes to a slow boil; and as it boils, its water content is reduced and its sugars are concentrated. Hours later, it has developed a rich flavor and golden-brown color, but it must be strained several times to remove impurities before being reheated, bottled, and graded for quality. In the end, those 30-40 gallons of sap are reduced to one gallon of pure, delicious maple syrup, which is far better than the cheap, imitation, colored sugar-water that passes for maple syrup in the grocery store.

So it is when we come to faith in Christ. We start like raw, unfinished sap, which could have been tossed aside as worthless. But God knew what he could make of us. He sought and found us, and his skillful hands are transforming us into something precious, sweet and useful. The long and often painful refining process brings forth a pure, genuine disciple easily distinguished from cheap imitations.

(Michele Straubel, Red Lake, Minnesota. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Our Living Hope, 4/26/2011)

Contributed By:
C. Scott Ghan

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Letter home from a W VA farm kid enduring Marine Basic Training on Paris Island.

Dear Ma and Pa, I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled. // I was restless at first because you get to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. But I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. // Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there’s warm water. // Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food, plus yours, holds you until noon when you get fed again. It’s no wonder these city boys can’t walk much. //We go on ’route marches,’ which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it’s not my place to tell him different. A ’route march’ is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. // The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don’t bother you none. // This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don’t know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don’t move, and it ain’t shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don’t even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes. // Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain’t like fighting with that ole bull at home. I’m about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but I’m only 5’6’ and 130 pounds and he’s 6’8’ and near 300 pounds dry. // Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in. // Your loving daughter, //Alice

Contributed By:
Wade  Hughes, Sr

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Why do people wear masks?

Several years ago, I had a nightmare, it was terrible.
For many days my spirit was greatly troubled.
In a dream, I saw one of my most serious workers at
church dying a terrible death.
As my church worker was dying,
I saw a battle going against my member.

I was broken beyond belief, as I saw this dedicated
Christian worker die and the Devil was grabbing the
individual and taking the soul to hell.

The smell was terrible, I could smell the enemy and
hell. This was so real.

In the dream, I started screaming, this is a terrible
No way enemy, you can’t have this worker!
I have counted on them to do many things to build
this church.
They have touched many people and led many to the
I am a better pastor because of this individual, and
the church is a better church, after all the hours
and efforts this family has invested in the church.

The enemy was slowly dragging my church member toward
the lake of fire and great torment.
We could hear the horrible sounds coming out of hell.
The smell was so real and horrible, I shall never

I was thinking, maybe there was secret sin, and they
were playing Christian games.
This was not the problem. I tried to fight for my
dear friend and the enemy kept slowly pulling my
member towards hell.

The fight was very painful.
I said, this is a good person.
This family paid their tithes.
They were faithful to church.
I could count on them.

What is going on here?
Jesus help me? What is going on here?

With tears in His eyes, Jesus came to me,
and said, I have tried and I have tried to change the
events of this day.
I have personally sent messages through you to warn
this individual?
I have sent radio messages to expose the sin?
I have given the words to television preachers, and
they watched with zeal, but My words were unheeded.
This person has cassette tapes that has warned them,
but they have not heard the message I have spoken to
This person has books on their shelf, they have read
the parts they like, but the message I warned them,
was unheeded.

As a matter of record, when they heard the message,
they said the message was for someone else.
They even said, amen, let it be, but they thought the
message was for the other party.

I again questioned, Why Jesus, what is the wrong?
I knew them! They are good people.

With tears running down Jesus’ face,
Jesus said, "This individual was very angry,
and full of wrath.
Bitterness was rampant daily, and unforgiveness had
helped to bring an early death.
The home was full of coldness and painful rejection.
This person had allowed a critical spirit to tear
down the confidence in everyone.

They refused to pray.
Their hurt and disappointments had become the driving
force in their heart.
The anger they carried had brought physical
affliction, yet this never got their attention to

The person had rejected forgiveness, and justified
because of unforgiveness.

I was absolutely broken, as I saw one of my best
friends escorted into hell.
I could do nothing to change the hard heart, the
the bitterness, --- the bait had been accepted.

The trap had locked on the neck.
I understood blasphemy as never before.
By focusing on the bitterness and pain, the person
had shown contempt and the lack of reverence for God
or His people.

Jesus had warned, the anger was turning into wrath,


Apollo 11 was a tribute to modern technology: No foul ups; no glitches. Man had accomplished the impossible without a hitch. In fact Apollo missions 11 and 12 were so error-free they seemed almost routine. The world resumed breathing. The television ratings for moonwalks began to decline. When Apollo 13 lifted off from the Kennedy Launch Center, the mood of anxious anticipation had given way to a sense of smug certainty. We’ve done this before, and we will do it again.
On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 entered earth orbit, shed the remnants of its Saturn 5 booster rocket, and shot away toward its silent silver destination. Everything was "A-O-K."
Days after the launch, an unscheduled, understated message crackled over the Mission Control loudspeakers. The calm voice of flight commander James Lovell observed matter-of-factly, "Houston … We’ve got a problem."
And what a problem it was. An oxygen tank on the outside of the service module had ruptured, severely damaging the craft. The bad news poured in. First, the moon mission itself was scrubbed. Apollo 13 would have to fire its retro-rockets and return to earth. As the damage was surveyed, it became apparent that the command module could not supply the energy and air to sustain the three crew members through re-entry. They would have to climb into the lunar lander and use its supplies to survive.
Then, the most sobering development of all. Because of the radically altered course back to earth, Apollo 13’s return home would be limited to a very precise and narrow path. Missing the painfully small re-entry window meant catastrophe. If the craft came in too steeply, it would incinerate like a falling star. If the angle of attack was too high, the command module would skip off the atmosphere like a smooth stone on a calm lake. There would not be enough fuel or oxygen for a second chance.
What would you have done in James Lovell’s shoes? In Houston, scores of the brightest and best scientific minds were hard at work calculating, planning, anticipating every contingency. More than guess work, hunches, and the old college try were required to bring the crippled craft home. But, on the other hand...

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Contributed By:
Donnie  Martin

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C. T. Schwarze has written a thesis called “The Bible and Science on the Everlasting Fire,” in which he seeks to prove the validity of the Lake of Fire. As an example, he uses the existence of midget or white dwarf stars. He points out the fact that there is general agreement among scientist that “…the temperature at or near the center of stars is between 25 million and 30 million degrees Fahrenheit!” (J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come: published by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pg. 560). He further points out that these stars are so dense that they are about 5000 times smaller than would be expected for their mass. Because of the tremendous heat, everything is turned into gasses. However, due to the greatness of the pressure, these “…gasses become compressed to the consistency of a liquid…” (Ibid, pg. 560). These stars are for all practical purposes, lakes of fire.


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Commenting on Barabbas, Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote, “He was the only man in the world who could say that Jesus Christ took his physical place. But I can say that Jesus Christ took my spiritual place. For it was I who deserved to die. It was I who deserved that the wrath of God should be poured on me. I deserved the eternal punishment of the lake of fire. He was delivered up for my offenses. He was handed over to judgment because of my sins…. Christ was my substitute. He was satisfying the debt of divine justice and holiness. That is why I say that Christianity can be expressed in the three phrases: I deserved hell; Jesus took my hell; there is nothing left for me but His heaven.” - D. C. E.

Our Daily Bread, Wednesday, March 30

Contributed By:
Tim Parsons

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I read of a young Christian artist who painted a depiction of hell. In the flames he painted the faces of several of his lost loved ones. He painted his lost father crying out in agony. There was also his lost brother, and a lost neighbor burning in the flames of hell. When he showed it to his pastor, the pastor was appalled and disgusted. The pastor said, “What a revolting painting! How could you paint such a horrid picture of your loved ones?” The young artist answered with tears in his eyes, “Yes, it is horrifying… but I painted it as a reminder to me—This is the destiny of my loved ones if they are not won to Christ. When I look at this painting, I am reminded how I need to pray and make every effort possible to win them to Christ.”

Maybe we all need to have such a picture painted on the walls of our heart—A picture of your unsaved loved ones burning in the lake of fire.

Contributed By:
Jeremy  Houck

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In his book In the Eye of the Storm, Max Lucado tells about something that happened to him while he was in high school. Every year, he and his family used to go fishing during spring break. But one year, his brother and his mom couldn’t go, so his dad let him invite a friend.

They looked forward to this vacation with great anticipation. They pictured the sun shining down on them as they sat in the boat in the middle of the lake. The yank of the rod and the spin of the reel as they wrestled the bass into the boat. The smell of fish frying in a skillet over an open fire. They could hardly wait. Finally spring break arrived, they loaded the camper and set out for the lake.

They arrived at night, set up the camper and went to bed anxious to get up the next morning and go fishing. But that night, a northeaster blew through. The wind was so strong they could barely open the door of the camper the next morning. The sky was gray. The lake was choppy. There was no way they could fish in that weather.

"No problem," they said. They could spend the day in the camper. They had brought Monopoly and Reader’s Digest. They knew a few jokes. It wasn’t what they came to do, but they would make the best of it and fish the next day. So they passed the day indoors. The hours passed slowly but they did pass. Night finally came and they crawled into their sleeping bags dreaming of fishing.

The next morning it wasn’t the wind that made the door hard to open, it was the ice! They tried to be cheerful. "No problem," they said. "We can play Monopoly...again. We can reread the stories in Reader’s Digest. And surely we know another joke or two." But they weren’t nearly as cheerful about it all.

And as the day went on, they began to get more and more irritable and edgy. It was a long day and a long night. The next morning, when t...

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Contributed By:
Robert Fox

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(this is a pretty cool illustration. The materials cost less than $3, and, though it was originally intended more for a junior high audience, it actually is pretty fascinating for all ages, including senior high and adults. Everyone likes to blow things up!)
Let me give you a visual. Another science experiment. Here’s two bars of soap. One is Zest – think of it as the world’s vision for a life in pursuit of personal pleasure. The other is Ivory – think about it as God’s vision for a morally pure life. It even says right here on the side – “100% Pure”
(have a volunteer unwrap a bar of each kind of soap and put them in a large, clear container. I used a 5-gallon storage bin from our church kitchen. The bin is originally empty except for the soap, but I pour in about six pitchers of water while I’m talking about the “tides of life rising around you”. Ivory floats, Zest does not.)
Now, lets try a couple of things. First, water. Think about this water as the difficulties life. Trying to pay all the bills with not enough money. Making yourself be responsible and go to work when you would rather go to the lake and forget about it all. Paying for braces for your kids instead of getting a ski boat for yourself. All your life you struggle trying desperately to do all the right things with too little resources. This isn’t the life you imagined – this isn’t fun – this is trying to just hang on another day. This is trying to keep from drowning. What kind of life will keep you afloat? Oddly enough, it isn’t a life lived seeking personal pleasure. That’s just not good enough when the waters rise. There is no hope in a life lived in pursuit of pleasure. Believe me, when you are feeling overwhelmed, drowning in the details of life, what you need most is hope. There was a movie once, called “Hope Floats.” It’s true. The hope that God gave us will keep you afloat, but you have to accept the gift and take it inside you, live the life demanded by a restoration with God.
(now have a volunteer unwrap another bar of each type of soap and put them in a small bowl each. Put them both in a microwave at the same time and turn it on high for about a minute and a half. Make sure the microwave is one that lights up and you can see things through the door while they cook. The Zest just gets soft. The ivory foams and grows to several times its original size.)
Next, let’s heat things up. Think about this microwave as those things that go way beyond the day-to-day troubles of life. I’m talking about tragedy striking. A drive-by shooting of someone you love. I’m talking about discovering you have cancer. I’m talking about emotional and physical abuse, or someone in your family who has and alcohol or drug problem. Those things we talked about earlier that people are hoping to overcome this Christmas. Tragedy that comes like fire to burn you up. When the fire comes, you will either melt down, or grow and be transformed. It’s the hope inside you that makes the difference.
You see, there’s something different about Ivory than about any other kind of soap. Once, a long time ago, a factory worker at a soap-making plant fell asleep and left a machine on far too long. This particular machine was responsible for mixing up all the ingredients in the soap while it was still liquid. Left on too long, the machine actually began to whip the liquid. Just like making eggs into meringue, if you whip the liquid too long, you begin to mix in air, tiny bubbles. Ivory is full of microscopic air bubbles. These bubbles keep the soap afloat. These bubbles expand when heated.
These bubbles are like hope. Hope keeps you afloat when the waters of life threaten to drown you. Hope transforms you when tragedy strikes and threaten to consume you.

Contributed By:
Bobby Scobey

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In the days of the Roman Emperor Nero, there lived and served him a band of soldiers known as the "Emperor’s Wrestlers." Fine, stalwart men they were, picked from the best and the bravest of the land, recruited from the great athletes of the Roman amphitheater.

In the great amphitheater they upheld the arms of the emperor against all challengers. Before each contest they stood before the emperor’s throne. Then through the courts of Rome rang the cry: "We, the wrestlers, wrestling for thee, O Emperor, to win for thee the victory and from thee, the victor’s crown."

When the great Roman army was sent to fight in Gaul, no soldiers were braver or more loyal than this band of wrestlers led by their centurion Vespasian. But news reached Nero that many Roman soldiers had accepted the Christian faith. Therefore, this decree was dispatched to the centurion Vespasian; "If there be any among your soldiers who cling to the faith of the Christian, they must die!"

The decree was received in the dead of winter. The soldiers were camped on the shore of a frozen inland lake. It was with sinking heart that Vespasian, the centurion, read the emperor’s message.

Vespasian called the soldiers together and asked: "Are there any among you who cling to the faith of the Christian? If so, let him step forward!" Forty wrestlers instantly stepped forward two paces, respectfully saluted, and stood at attention. Vespasian paused. He had not expected so many, nor such select ones. "Until sundown I shall await your answer," said Vespasian. Sundown came. Again the question was asked. Again the forty wrestlers stepped forward.

Vespasian pleaded with them long and earnestly without prevailing upon a single man to deny his Lord. Finally he said, "The decree of the emperor must be obeyed, but I am not willing that your comrades should shed your blood. I order you to march out upon the lake of ice, and I shall leave you there to the mercy of the elements."

The forty wrestlers were stripped and then, falling into columns of four, marched toward the center of the lake of ice. As they marched they broke into the chant of the arena: "Forty wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee, the victor’s crown!" Through the night Vespasian stood by his campfire and watched. As he waited through the long night, there came to him fainter and fainter the wrestlers’ song.

As morning drew near one figure, overcome by exposure, one man crept quietly toward the fire; in the extremity of his suffering he had renounced his Lord. Faintly but clearly from the darkness came the song: "Thirty-nine wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee, the victor’s crown!"

Vespasian looked at the figure drawing close to the fire. Perhaps he saw eternal light shining there toward the center of the lake. Who can say? But off came his helmet and clothing, and he sprang upon the ice, crying, "Forty wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee, the victor’s crown!"

The apostle Paul said, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13). Oh, if only we had people who were just willing to be uncomfortable with sharing their faith in Christ.

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