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Don’t divorce your unsaved husband or wife. Why? Paul gives this reason: The believer may have a positive, spiritual influence on their unbelieving mate. The unbeliever may get saved due to the believing spouse’s example and lifestyle. 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” I think this is what Peter had in mind as well when he wrote these instructions in 1 Peter 3: “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
I think a perfect illustration of this is in the life of my in-laws—Harold and Dorothy Wills. When they got married, mom was a believer and dad was an unbeliever. And dad was content to stay married to mom so they never even considered divorce. Now, Dorothy was careful not to nag Harold with the gospel. She simply prayed for him, answered his questions about the Lord when he asked, and endeavored to live the Christian life in front of him. Finally, in 1987, after 48 years of marriage, at the age of 75, Harold Wills accepted the Lord as his Savior. And I’m convinced that my father-in-law is in heaven today because of the patient, faithful witness of his wife, Dorothy.
So let me encourage you. If you are married to an unbeliever and he or she is content to remain married to you, then don’t divorce. Share the gospel with your unsaved spouses. But don’t nag them with it. Rather, pray for them. And live an exemplary Christian life in front of them. Who knows? Maybe your example will eventually lead them to Christ.
THE MARK OF JESUS
When I was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Levelland, there was a man in our church, the owner of a local business and a highly intentional Christian. The apostle Paul once said of himself that he bore "on [his] body the marks of Jesus" (Gal. 6:17). Well, this man bore the marks of Jesus on his life. His wife was the most annoying woman I have ever known. She was chronically ill, and her sickness had embittered her spirit. She demanded almost all of this man's time and energy, and she was never grateful for a single thing he did for her. She complained about life, and she complained about him. For his part -- I don't know how he did it -- but he remained gentle and serene, and he had the utmost patience with this woman. He never spoke ill of her. He never sighed under the burden of her criticism. He was truly a man of God. He had an intimacy with God that was not showy but nevertheless evident. If life had not rewarded him with outward happiness, he was deeply and inwardly joyful. God was his "portion," as the Bible says (e.g., Lam. 3:24; Ps. 16:5; 73:26), and he was satisfied.
How could he do this? How could he be so patient and kind and committed to the welfare of his wife despite her ingratitude? I'll tell you: he was in covenant with his wife, but he was also in covenant with God. And here's what I learned from him. This man partnered with God in his own process of sanctification. Now, let me tell you what I mean. This man's highest interest was not in being happy in some conventional way. No. Instead, the longing of his heart was to be the kind of person God wanted him to be. And God has to work on a person to make them like he wants them to be. And what this man did is: he yielded to God's program of overhaul in his life. God not infrequently uses suffering and adversity. How does the old hymn say it? "When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."
That's what this man wanted. He wanted his dross consumed; he wanted his unloving tendencies to be burned in the fire of affliction if need be, and his gold refined, his character refashioned to be like that of his Lord, who "loved the church and gave himself up for her."
Jesus took the deaf mute man aside, away from the crowd, stuck his fingers in the mans’ ears and spat on his tongue. What Jesus was doing here of course was touching the affected areas. He put his fingers in the man’s ears because this was the location of his disability. He spat and touched his tongue because it was here that the secondary effect of deafness was located- his inability to speak clearly. He wasn’t completely mute but his deafness had made it impossible for him to speak well.
These were invasive procedures, as healing cures often are. No one likes to go to the doctor and be prodded and probed but we submit to it because our health is at stake and we want to be well again. When I first met with an orthopaedic surgeon regarding my hip replacement I found him impersonal, gruff and downright unlikeable. I mentioned this to my GP who is quite the opposite kind of doctor and he said, ”Yes, surgeons; are often like that; They prefer their patients unconscious.”
Well Jesus is the perfect combination of GP and surgeon. He knows how to show understanding and compassion. He prefers his patients, not unconscious, but alive and well. At the same time he knows every medical procedure in the book, and he has all the specialist information to address whatever it is that ails you.
AN EASTER PARABLE: EDITH EASTER
Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people. His favorite patient was Edith Burns. One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns.
When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her.
Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved. Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began by saying, "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Beverly said, "Why yes I do." Edith said, "Well, what do you believe about Easter?" Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up." Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room."
After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?" Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you're the patient." With a heavy heart he said, "Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you're not going to live very long." Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!" Dr. Phillips thought to himself, "What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!"
Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter."
Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse. Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a "religious nut". She had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.
One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you." Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me, it won't work. I'm not interested." Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family." Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.
Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I'm praying for you." One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith's room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, "I'm so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day." Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, 'Do you believe in Easter?' but you have never asked me." Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked..."
Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?" Phyllis Cross said, "Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life." Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, s...
Sermon Central Staff
"In an article in Campus Life a young nurse writes of her pilgrimage in learning to see in a patient the image of God beneath a very 'distressing disguise.'
"Eileen was one of her first patients, a person who was totally helpless. 'A cerebral aneurysm (broken blood vessels in the brain) had left her with no conscious control over her body,' the nurse writes. As near as the doctors could tell Eileen was totally unconscious, unable to feel pain and unaware of anything going on around her. It was the job of the hospital staff to turn her every hour to prevent bedsores and to feed her twice a day 'what looked like a thin mush through a stomach tube.' Caring for her was a thankless task. 'When it's this bad,' an older student nurse told her, 'you have to detach yourself emotionally from the whole situation...' As a result, more and more she came to be treated as a thing, a vegetable...
"But the young student nurse decided that she could not treat this person like the others had treated her. She talked to Eileen, sang to her, encouraged her, and even brought her little gifts. One day when things were especially difficult and it would have been easy for the young nurse to take out her frustrations on the patient, she was especially kind. It was Thanksgiving Day and the nurse said to the patient, 'I was in a cruddy mood this morning, Eileen, because it was supposed to be my day off. But now that I'm here, I'm glad. I wouldn't have wanted to miss seeing you on Thanksgiving. Do you know this is Thanksgiving?'
"Just then the telephone rang, and as the nurse turned to answer it, she looked quickly back at Eileen. 'Suddenly,' she writes, Eileen was 'looking at me... crying. Big damp circles stained her pillow, and she was shaking all over.
"That was the only human emotion that Eileen ever showed any of them, but it was enough to change the whole attitude of the hospital staff toward her. Not long afterward, Eileen died. The young nurse closes her story, saying, 'I keep thinking about her... It occurred to me that I owe her an awful lot. Except for Eileen, I might never have known what it's like to give my self to someone who can't give back'" (Rebecca Manley Pippert, Stories from the Heart (Multnomah Books: Sisters, Oregon, 1996), 31-32).
What have you been confronted with that seems impossible to overcome? How are you allowing God to use you to meet the needs of others through the divine resources he has?
(From a sermon by Eric Lenhart, Are We Manufacturers or Distributors? 8/12/2010)
When God looks at the human heart, he knows what he’s looking at. 1 Samuel 16:7 suggests that we don’t and can’t, even when we look at our own hearts. The results of not seeing the heart for what it is can be disastrous.
An Illinois man died waiting for a donor kidney a month after his transplant operation was halted when doctors found a Chicago organ bank employee sent a heart to the downstate hospital by mistake.
The patient was in the operating room May 12 undergoing surgery when the mistake was discovered. Doctors closed the man’s incision and he died Sunday still awaiting a replacement kidney.
"They got him ready for surgery, took him in to the operating room, did the incision, got all his nerve endings prepared, and when they went to open the box, it was a heart. They had labeled in wrong," Daniel DeVore Jr., a friend of the deceased patient told Wednesday’s Chicago Sun-Times.
A spokesman for the Regional Organ Bank of Illinois said two organs were mislabeled by an organ-recovery coordinator. The kidney should have gone to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Ill., and a heart to a Chicago research laboratory.
The surgeon called the organ bank but the lab had already opened the package containing the kidney and it was no longer suitable for transplant.
John Sherman, 31, who had been waiting for a kidney for 13 years, went back on the organ waiting list. DeVore said Sherman was crushed and devastated by the mix-up. He died during the weekend.
Amputees often experience some sensation of a phantom limb. Somewhere, locked in their brains, a memory lingers of the nonexistent hand or leg. Invisible toes curl, imaginary hands grasp things, a "leg" feels so sturdy a patient may try to stand on it. For a few, the experience includes pain. Doctors watch helplessly, for the part of the body screaming for attention does not exist.
One such patient was my medical school administrator, Mr. Barwick, who had a serious and painful circulation problem in his leg but refused to allow the recommended amputation. As the pain grew worse, Barwick grew bitter. "I hate it! I hate It!" he would mutter about the leg. At last he relented and told the doctor, "I can't stand it anymore. I'm through with that leg. Take it off." Surgery was scheduled immediately.
Before the operation, however, Barwick asked the doctor, "What do you do with legs after they're removed?"
"We may take a biopsy or explore them a bit, but afterwards we incinerate them," the doctor replied.
Barwick proceeded with a bizarre request: "I would like you to preserve my leg in a pickling jar. I will install it on my mantle shelf. Then, as I sit in my armchair, I will taunt that leg, 'Hah! You can't hurt me anymore!'"
Ultimately, he got his wish. But the despised leg had the last laugh. Barwick suffered phantom limb pain of the worst degree. The wound healed, but he could feel the torturous pressure of the swelling as the muscles cramped, and he had no prospect of relief. He had hated the leg with such intensity that the pain had unaccountably lodged permanently in his brain.
To me, phantom limb pain provides wonderful insight into the phenomenon of false guilt. Christians can be obsessed by the memory of some sin committed years ago. It never leaves them, crippling their ministry, their devotional life, their relationships with others. They live in fear that someone will discover their past. They work overtime trying to prove to God they're truly repentant. They erect barriers against the enveloping, loving grace of God. Unless they experience the truth in 1 John 3:19-20 that "God is greater than our conscience," they become a pitiful as poor Mr. Barwick, shaking a fist in fury at the pickled leg on the mantle.
(Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Leadership, Vol. 5, no. 3. )
A LITTLE GIRL’S PRAYER
One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do she died, leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator) and no special feeding facilities.
Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. "And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed.
As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.
"All right," I said, "Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm."
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God," she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby’ll be dead, so please send it this afternoon."
While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, "And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?"
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen"? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home; anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys; eyes sparkled as I pulled them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas --- that would make a nice batch of buns for the week...
ILLUSTRATION… “If a child lives”, from a sermon called The Divine Family
If a child lives with criticism,
HE learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
HE learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
HE learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
HE learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance,
HE learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
HE learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
HE learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
HE learns justice.
If a child lives with security, HE learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
HE learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
HE learns to find love in the world.
JILL STANEK IS A 44 YEAR OLD NURSE WHO WORKED FOR SEVERAL YEARS AT THE CHRIST HOSPITAL & MEDICAL CENTER IN OAK LAWN, ILLINOIS, A CHICAGO SUBURB. SHE CHOSE THIS HOSPITAL BECAUSE OF ITS CHRISTIAN NAME, HOPING THAT SHE WOULDN’T HAVE TO FACE SOME OF THE ETHICAL DILEMMAS REGARDING ABORTION THAT SHE MIGHT HAVE TO FACE AT ANOTHER HOSPITAL. SHE SOON LEARNED THAT THE HOSPITAL, IN SPITE OF NOT HAVING A POLICY THAT REGULATED ABORTIONS, HAD BEEN DOING THEM SINCE 1978. JILL LEARNED THAT THE HOSPITAL FAVORED A NONSURGICAL METHOD OF ABORTION THAT USED A DRUG CALLED CYTOTEC TO INDUCE PREMATURE LABOR. THE BABIES DELIVERED ARE QUITE SMALL BUT FULLY FORMED. SOME OF THE BABIES, THOUGH PREMATURE AND SMALL, ARE BORN ALIVE. ONE BUSY NIGHT AT THE HOSPITAL JILL RAN INTO A NURSE WHO WAS ON HER WAY TO A SOILED UTILITY ROOM TO DROP OFF AN ABORTED-BUT-STILL-LIVING DOWN SYNDROME BABY. THE NURSE WAS TOO BUSY WITH OTHER PATIENTS TO HOLD THE BABY UNTIL IT DIED. JILL TOOK THE BABY AND HELD IT UNTIL IT DIED 45 MINUTES LATER. ANOTHER LIVING INFANT WAS FOUND LYING NAKED ON A SCALE UNTIL IT DIED. ANOTHER WAS FOUND LYING NAKED ON THE EDGE OF A SINK. JILL STANEK WAS PARTICULARLY STRUCK BY THE HOSPITAL’S INCONSISTENCY. THEIR MISSION STATEMENT WAS “THE MISSION OF ADVOCATE HEALTHCARE IS TO SERVE THE HEALTH NEEDS OF INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES, AND COMMUNITIES THROUGH WHOLISTIC PHILOSOPHY ROOTED IN OUR FUNDAMENTAL UNDERSTANDING OF HUMAN BEINGS AS CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD.” JILL STANEK, THROUGH VARIOUS AVENUES, BEGAN TO CONFRONT THE SITUATION AND WHILE THE HOSPITAL STILL DOES ABORTIONS, THE CASE HAS BEEN DEBATED IN THE U.S. SENATE. ALSO, REPRESENTATIVE CHARLES CANADY FROM FLORIDA SPONSORED HR 4292, “THE BORN ALIVE INFANT PROTECTION ACT OF 2000.” THE BILL PASSED 22-1 OUT OF SUBCOMMITTEE, BUT HAS NOT YET BECOME LAW.