Saturday, July 23, 2016

Night Light for Couples - Do You Want Me?

by Park York

I rise early on this Friday, as I do every day, to prepare coffee and mix a protein shake. The television news plays quietly in the corner. Flossie, my wife, is still asleep.

Sometime after eight, she begins floating out of slumber. I bring the shake to her bedside, put the straw in her mouth, and give her cheek a little pat as she begins to drink. Slowly the liquid recedes.

I sit there holding the glass, thinking about the past eight years. At first, she asked only an occasional incoherent or irrelevant question; otherwise she was normal. I tried for two years to find out what was wrong. She grew agitated, restless, defensive; she was constantly tired and unable to hold a conversation.

At last, a neurologist diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease. He said he wasn’t sure—a firm diagnosis could come only from examining brain tissue after death. There is no known cause for this malady. And no known cure.

I enrolled Flossie in a day care center for adults. But she kept wandering off the property. We medicated her to keep her calm. Perhaps from receiving too much of one drug, she suffered a violent seizure that left her immeasurably worse: lethargic, incontinent, and unable to speak clearly or care for herself. My anguish gradually became resignation. I gave up all plans of retirement travel, recreation, visits to see grandchildren—the golden era older people dream about.

The years have passed, and my days have become routine, demanding, lonely, seemingly without accomplishment to measure. Flossie has gradually dropped in strength and weight, from 125 pounds to 86. I take some time to work with a support group and to attend church, but the daily needs keep me feeding, bathing, diapering, changing beds, cleaning house, fixing meals, dressing and undressing her, and doing whatever else a nurse and homemaker does, morning to night.

Occasionally, a word bubbles up from the muddled processes of Flossie’s diseased brain. Sometimes relevant, sometimes the name of a family member, or the name of an object. Just a single word.

On this Friday morning, after she finishes her shake, I give her some apple juice, then massage her arms and caress her forehead and cheeks. Most of the time her eyes are closed, but today she looks up at me, and suddenly her mouth forms four words in a row.

“Do you want me?” Perfect enunciation, softly spoken. I want to jump for joy. “Of course I want you, Flossie!” I say, hugging and kissing her. And so, after months of total silence, she has put together the most sincere question a human being can ask. She speaks, in a way, for people everywhere: those shackled by sin, addiction, hunger, thirst, mental illness, physical pain—frightened, enervated people afraid of the answer, but desperate enough to frame the question anyway.

And, Flossie, I can answer you even more specifically. It may be difficult for you to understand what’s happening. That’s why I’m here, to minister God’s love to you, to bring you wholeness, comfort, and release. Mine are the hands God uses to do His work, just as He uses others’ hands in other places. In spite of our shortcomings, we strive to make people free, well, and happy, blessing them with hope for the future while bringing protein shakes every morning.

Looking ahead…

Unlike so many people today, this gentleman who so gently cared for his wife clearly understood the meaning of commitment. As her mind and body deteriorated with no hope for a cure, he willingly abandoned the hopes and dreams he had worked to achieve. She needed him desperately, and he would be there for her, even though she could give nothing back—not even a rational “thank you.” This, in all its magnificence— and sorrow—is the meaning of love.

No doubt you have dreams of your own for the rest of your married life. Just remember that God may have other plans that depend on your unswerving commitment to each other—no matter what.

- James C Dobson

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
“Do You Want Me?” by Park York. Taken from the June 1989 issue of the Christian Herald. Reprinted by permission of the Christian Herald.

The Forward Day by Day Meditation for July 23, 2016

From Forward Day By Day

Romans 15:25-27 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things.

As we give, as in everything, we should look to the example set by Jesus, who gave graciously and freely to all. Can you imagine if Jesus had stopped to ask each individual he fed with the fishes and loaves if they believed in his message? It would have been mayhem! Maybe it would have been fair, but Jesus is merciful, and gentle-hearted. He didn’t see believers and non-believers; he saw hungry people, and he fed them.

More to the point, Jesus was able to see the hungry people because he was out among them. He didn’t hole himself up in a synagogue to be worshiped by his followers. He carried himself out into the world and worshiped God by showing love to all of creation.

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The Daily Readings for July 23, 2016

Joshua 23:1-16
A long time afterward, when the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their enemies all around, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, Joshua summoned all Israel, their elders and heads, their judges and officers, and said to them, "I am now old and well advanced in years; and you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the LORD your God who has fought for you. I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The LORD your God will push them back before you, and drive them out of your sight; and you shall possess their land, as the LORD your God promised you. Therefore be very steadfast to observe and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right nor to the left, so that you may not be mixed with these nations left here among you, or make mention of the names of their gods, or swear by them, or serve them, or bow yourselves down to them, but hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day. For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations; and as for you, no one has been able to withstand you to this day. One of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God. For if you turn back, and join the survivors of these nations left here among you, and intermarry with them, so that you marry their women and they yours, know assuredly that the LORD your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge on your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land that the LORD your God has given you. "And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the bad things, until he has destroyed you from this good land that the LORD your God has given you. If you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he enjoined on you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land that he has given to you."

Romans 15:25-33
At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. They were pleased to do this, and indeed they owe it to them; for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material things. So, when I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will set out by way of you to Spain; and I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ. I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. The God of peace be with all of you. Amen.

Matthew 27:11-23
Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus said, "You say so." But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, "Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?" But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?" For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him." Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. The governor again said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." Pilate said to them, "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?" All of them said, "Let him be crucified!" Then he asked, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!"

Morning Psalms

Psalm 55 Exaudi, Deus
1   Hear my prayer, O God; do not hide yourself from my petition.
2   Listen to me and answer me; I have no peace, because of my cares.
3   I am shaken by the noise of the enemy and by the pressure of the wicked;
4   For they have cast an evil spell upon me and are set against me in fury.
5   My heart quakes within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
6   Fear and trembling have come over me, and horror overwhelms me.
7   And I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.
8   I would flee to a far-off place and make my lodging in the wilderness.
9   I would hasten to escape from the stormy wind and tempest."
10   Swallow them up, O Lord; confound their speech; for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
11   Day and night the watchmen make their rounds upon her walls, but trouble and misery are in the midst of her.
12   There is corruption at her heart; her streets are never free of oppression and deceit.
13   For had it been an adversary who taunted me, then I could have borne it; or had it been an enemy who vaunted himself against me, then I could have hidden from him.
14   But it was you, a man after my own heart, my companion, my own familiar friend.
15   We took sweet counsel together, and walked with the throng in the house of God.
16   Let death come upon them suddenly; let them go down alive to the grave; for wickedness is in their dwellings, in their very midst.
17   But I will call upon God, and the LORD will deliver me.
18   In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice.
19   He will bring me safely back from the battle waged against me; for there are many who fight me.
20   God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me and bring them down; they never change; they do not fear God.
21   My companion stretched forth his hand against his comrade; he has broken his covenant.
22   His speech is softer than butter, but war is in his heart.
23   His words are smoother than oil, but they are drawn swords.
24   Cast your burden upon the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous stumble.
25   For you will bring the bloodthirsty and deceitful down to the pit of destruction, O God.
26   They shall not live out half their days, but I will put my trust in you.

Evening Psalms

Psalm 138 Confitebor tibi
1   I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing your praise.
2   I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your Name, because of your love and faithfulness;
3   For you have glorified your Name and your word above all things.
4   When I called, you answered me; you increased my strength within me.
5   All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD, when they have heard the words of your mouth.
6   They will sing of the ways of the LORD, that great is the glory of the LORD.
7   Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly; he perceives the haughty from afar.
8   Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right hand shall save me.
9   The LORD will make good his purpose for me; O LORD, your love endures for ever; do not abandon the works of your hands.

Psalm 139 Domine, probasti
1   LORD, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
2   You trace my journeys and my resting-places and are acquainted with all my ways.
3   Indeed, there is not a word on my lips, but you, O LORD, know it altogether.
4   You press upon me behind and before and lay your hand upon me.
5   Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it.
6   Where can I go then from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence?
7   If I climb up to heaven, you are there; if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.
8   If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
9   Even there your hand will lead me and your right hand hold me fast.
10   If I say, "Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night, "
11   Darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light to you are both alike.
12   For you yourself created my inmost parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
13   I will thank you because I am marvelously made; your works are wonderful, and I know it well.
14   My body was not hidden from you, while I was being made in secret and woven in the depths of the earth.
15   Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb; all of them were written in your book; they were fashioned day by day, when as yet there was none of them.
16   How deep I find your thoughts, O God! how great is the sum of them!
17   If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand; to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.
18   Oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God! You that thirst for blood, depart from me.
19   They speak despitefully against you; your enemies take your Name in vain.
20   Do I not hate those, O LORD, who hate you? and do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
21   I hate them with a perfect hatred; they have become my own enemies.
22   Search me out, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my restless thoughts.
23   Look well whether there be any wickedness in me and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

NIV Devotions for Couples - Halting Marital Drift

2 Corinthians 9:6–15

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

In a recent Marriage Partnership article, author David Goetz talked about “marital drift.” He said that in our busy age, we schedule time for everything and everybody, and as a result, we neglect our spouses. Before we know it, we’ve drifted so far apart that the person we share our bed with no longer shares our life.

“The pursuit of marriage needs to be intentional,” Goetz said, “because if you default to the values of our culture, you’ll pursue the sprawling house, the great body, the accomplished kids. But you’ll let your marriage drift.”

Goetz said that passivity—not taking initiative in marriage—is a spiritual issue. Its core is me-centered. When I’m pursuing other interests and not actively pursuing my spouse’s interests, I’m putting my needs first.
“That’s a spiritually dangerous and crippling place to be,” Goetz said.

Although 2 Corinthians 9 deals with attitudes about giving money, the general principle can also apply to giving ourselves—our time, energy, attention, focus, even our bodies—in sexual intimacy and friendship. If I hold back any of these from my spouse, I put our relationship at risk.

When it comes to giving, the apostle Paul made three points:
  1. Decide beforehand. Drifting comes naturally. It’s easy to slide into a pattern of relational laziness. When my husband and I hit a rough patch of arguing and disagreement, it’s much simpler to sit in front of the TV and zone out. But if I decide beforehand to attend to my spouse and his needs because it glorifies God to do so, then I will reap the benefits of doing what’s right.
  2. Don’t give out of guilt or obligation. Guilt is a poor motivator. It may initially spur me to action, but eventually it will turn into resentment. If my heart is not in my decision, I need to ask God to change my heart.
  3. Do it cheerfully. When I decide in my heart that my spouse is my priority and the one whom God has given me to serve, then I won’t be reluctant to give myself to him. The more I give—depending on God to meet all my needs (see Philippians 4:19)—the more cheerful I become. God loves a cheerful giver, and so does my spouse.
A marriage that is fulfilling is a marriage that is not passive, Goetz said. It’s “always initiating, as God always initiates with us, always loving even when it’s not easy.”

Nancy Kennedy

Let’s Talk
  • What are ways that we already give to each other?
  • What are ways that we, as a couple, can give to others besides ourselves?
  • If our marriage has suffered from marital drift, what are some things we can do to halt that?

Standing Strong Through the Storm - PURIFIED BY THE REFINER’S FIRE

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness… Malachi 3:3

It sounds easy to say we will always forgive others but what happens in your heart when your own son is brutally murdered. How can God make good come from that terrible event?

For answers, we go (in two parts) to the southern Philippines where a decade ago Severino (Junie) Bagtasos, a young pastor, was sitting in the front row of his church in Alat listening to his sister conclude her Sunday message about heaven. Suddenly a man barged into the chapel. Two loud bangs were heard. Before anyone could make sense of what happened, Severino lay lifeless in a pool of blood. The killer made his escape as the distraught church members gathered around their pastor, killed instantly by gunshots to his chest and cheek.

His mother, Purificacion, says, “I miss my son. Junie was the most caring of all my children. He would always offer help when I was cooking. He would often ask me and his father advice whenever he was beset with difficulties in the ministry because his church members were older than him. I was blessed by Junie’s sincerity and faithfulness in the ministry. Nothing could hinder him from going to his Bible studies. Heavy downpours and floods could not keep him from bringing the Word of God to those who needed to hear it. Death threats did not stop him.”

There is not even a hint of bitterness as Purificacion speaks of that painful time. “During one of the services held at the wake of my son, my husband told the congregation, ‘We forgive the person who killed our son. If that person is here, I want you to know that we forgive you. If he is not here, and if anyone of you knows him, please tell him that we forgive him. The God we serve is the God of love and we want to show that love to you.’”

But there were those who didn’t share these convictions. She adds, “Some of my husband’s relatives who were also Muslims got angry at him for saying this. They were eager to avenge Junie’s death. It’s part of their culture. But my husband restrained them and told them that our God is a God who also forgives. We chose to forgive our son’s murderer.”

Purificacion shares what she thinks now was one of God’s reasons for her losing Junie. “After my son’s death, many Christians whose faith had grown cold were ushered back to the Lord.” Now after a decade has passed, she continues to see God’s hand in it all. She adds, “I believe Junie’s death was part of God’s plan. It was His way of opening the doors that have long been shut. You see, before the death of my son, Chinese-Tausug believers were scattered all over Jolo [their island in southern Philippines]. Many of them stopped attending the worship services.

When my son began the work in Alat [a predominantly Muslim town], little by little these believers started to gather again. Junie, their pastor, loved them dearly and was truly passionate for the ministry. One by one they started coming to church again. Before long, these believers were on fire once more and got involved in the work of God.” God’s refining at work!

RESPONSE: Today I will live in the awareness of God’s refining plan for His Kingdom’s expansion.

PRAYER: Lord, purify Your Church and help me to accept whatever consequences this will have.

Verse of the Day - July 23, 2016

Matthew 19:14 (NIV) Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Read all of Matthew 19