The Love Solution

Ella sat at her desk, her head in her hands.  She knew that she should be writing her next report due in a few days, but no words appeared on her screen.  She opened her desk drawer and looked at her last report.  The page was covered with red marks, the edits from Shirley, her supervisor.  Ella felt terrible.  She had not even bothered to read the report to see what Shirley had thought needed correction.

At that moment, Shirley passed by Ella’s desk.  When she saw that Ella was not working, Shirley gave her a dirty look.  Ella got up and went to the ladies room.
Returning to her desk after twenty minutes, Ella found a note:  “Employees on the clock are expected to be using their time wisely.”  Shirley had signed the note and put a little “happy face” on it to soften the effect.

Ella had all she could take!  She grabbed her coat from her locker, clocked out, and left for the day!  She could not wait to tell her roommate about her “terrible supervisor”.  Shirley had come highly recommended, but she had been with the company only a few weeks.  What neither Ella or Shirley could see was the “wall of animosity” that was growing between them.  Each time Ella repeated her story, her fear of Shirley grew, adding more bricks to the animosity wall.

When she came in late the next morning, Ella added a few bricks to that wall.  Shirley added a few more bricks to the wall when, passing by Ella’s desk, she found her not working, and cleared her throat giving an indication of her disapproval.

To make matters worse, Ella overheard Shirley talking in the lunch room about the lazy, uncooperative girl in her group.  The wall was getting higher.

That night Ella’s roommate, Irene, suggested that they pray about the situation.  “I get the impression that you need to give Shirley a chance.  Do you know what specifically she doesn’t like about your reports?”

Ella’s response was surprising:  “No, I never reread them.  I just couldn’t bear the fact that she found so much wrong.”

Irene was adamant in her advice: “‘The Word of God instructs us to ‘love our enemies and do good to those who appear to take advantage of us.’  I recommend that you read your reports and make at least some of the corrections she is suggesting.”

Ella bowed her head and asked for the Lord’s help.  After a few moments, she sensed that He was giving her peace about the situation.

The next day, Ella followed Irene’s advice.  She reread her edited reports.  To her surprise, Shirley had corrected the same error in several places.  Shirley had made a couple of positive comments as well.

Ella worked at her latest report all morning.  She carefully included some of Shirley’s suggestions, and thanked her for her positive comments.  She couldn’t see it, but she had just removed the top row of bricks from that invisible animosity wall.

Shirley brought Ella’s edited paper back to Ella’s desk personally.  “I really think that you have a future as a technical report writer, Ella,” she said kindly.  “However, there are a few issues in your writing that you need to address.  Will you let me help you?”

Ella couldn’t have been more surprised.  “You do? You will?   Oh, yes, yes.  Please help me!”

With Ella’s response, the final remnants of the animosity wall dissolved!  Love had provided the solution.

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Love never fails.  I Cor. 13:8

The greatest of these is love.  I Cor. 13:13

Above all love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins!  I Peter 4:8

Perfect love drives out fear!  I John 4:15

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!  Romans 12:21

 

David and the Big Cat

As the youngest of seven brothers, it had fallen to David to take care of his father’s herd of sheep.   Israel was at war with the Philistines and and three of his brothers were  on the front lines defending their country.  The other brothers and David’s father had other herds of cattle and goats that occupied their time and attention.

At only ten years of age, David was alone in this assignment.  He was responsible for seeing that the sheep had grass to eat and water to drink.  He must be constantly vigilant that none of the young lambs got close to the cliff.  It had been a long time since there had been any real threat to the sheep, but all that was about to change.

As the hours in the warm sunshine seemed to slowly lengthen into days, David began to play his harp and sing.  He noticed that music seemed to calm and reassure the sheep.   He was composing a song of worship to his God when he noticed that something had disturbed the sheep at the far end of the meadow.  They had stopped grazing and had raised their heads, their ears pointed in the direction of the supposed threat.  Looking in that direction, David noticed a tawny shape moving cautiously among the low bushes.

He picked up his rod, a large stick, and began to run toward the animal who was now in full view, crouched low, and about to spring on a lamb.  David shouted and threw the stick.  It fell a full three yards short of the cat, but it was enough to scare him away–this time.

About a week later, David was sitting by his campfire when he heard a sharp bleat.  Using a torch lit from his campfire, he ran in the direction of the beast.  What he saw both astonished and frightened him:  the huge cat was devouring his kill!

The next morning David put down his harp and took up his sling.  He had used it only a few times, but now, as his only choice for a weapon, he must become proficient.  He chose a dead tree trunk several yards away.  He loaded the sling and twirled it above his head.  The small stone fell several feet short of the trunk–“God, help!” The throw was closer this time but off to the right.  “God, please help me!”  This throw hit the base of the trunk.

David continued to practice every day while at the same time keeping a watchful eye on his sheep.  It was important to keep the young ones in the midst of the flock where there was safety.  When David was not practicing with the sling, he was singing praises to His God.  His faith in his God grew as he became more aware of His Presence, and learned to hear His voice.

One day it became obvious that David was going to have to move his flock.  The sheep had grazed the grass very short in this meadow.  More grazing would kill the grass.  The only route to greener pastures led through a narrow canyon.   As he studied the canyon walls, David thought that he could just make out the lion’s lair high on the wall.   They would have to pass directly below this spot!  Would the cat be crouching there ready to spring?

Singing “Though  I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me!” He drove the sheep through the canyon.  Every sheep and every lamb safely reached the other side.  God’s protection had been evident!  Passing through the valley of the shadow of death had been a faith-building event!

David was busy setting up his new camp, when he heard another sharp bleat.  Looking up, he saw the herd run across a dusty road into the willows and away from the canyon wall.

When the dust had settled, David saw the deadly beast savagely ripping another carcass.  Two lambs lost!  Where had his Protection gone?  Had he let down his guard?

The next evening just after sunset, he heard another bleat.  Another dead lamb and this time only a few yards from his camp!  The savage beast looked up from his kill.  His golden eyes seemed to pierce David’s own.  Would the lion attack him next?

Later, when David investigated the site of the kill, he discovered a half-eaten carcass.  The lion must intend to return.  David took his knife, and cut off one of the legs.  Returning to his campfire, he placed the leg on a spit to roast.  He laid out his figs, grapes, and goat cheese and begin to eat while he waited for the leg of lamb to cook.

Looking up, David’s eyes were drawn once again to the evil eyes of the beast, this time high up in a neighboring tree.  Was he watching David eat his dinner?  David shivered.  Then came the words of his song, “I will fear no evil, because You are with me.”

He sang it loud and clear, as the lion jumped to the ground and began to charge David.  David grabbed his sling, put in the rock and began to twirl it above his head.  The lion was beginning his leap.  The small stone flew from the sling and found it’s mark.  The lion fell.  David rushed forward and, with his knife, decapitated the beast!

“I will fear no evil, I will fear no evil!  You are with me!”  David, the author of these now-famous words, had learned first-hand their meaning!

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The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. Psalm 23:1-4 NIV

Peter’s “Sifting”

wheat 1The Apostle Peter was talking with a group of young believers in Rome.  They were excited to hear from the distinguished apostle who was revered among believers everywhere.

“This evening I wanted to tell you a little about my experiences when our Lord was still with us in person.  You remember that there were twelve of us disciples.  We spent a lot with time with one another and with the Lord.  I was the talkative one, often the first to speak up, and put my foot in my mouth.” There were some embarrassed chuckles from his audience.

Peter continued, “There was the time that the local religious groups had been testing the Lord.  He turned to us and asked, “Who do men say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-17 )
One of us said, “John the Baptist.”
Another said, “Elijah.”
A third exclaimed,   “You must be one of the prophets!”

“‘But who do you say that I am?’ Jesus continued to press for an answer.
Immediately, I chimed in:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

The Lord commended me saying: “Men have not revealed this to you.  This answer came directly from my Father who is in Heaven!”

Shortly thereafter Jesus began to predict His death.  Filled with confidence from my previous, inspired answer, I blurted out, “May this NEVER happen to you!” (Matthew 16:21,22)

However, this time Jesus responded with, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are an offense to me for you are not mindful of things of God, but of men!”

“OPPS!  I had made a major blunder, speaking the plan of the Enemy rather than God’s plan!”  The old apostle’s visage became increasingly sorrowful as he continued his narrative.

“Jesus continued to warn us of His impending death.  (Matthew 26:33,35). I couldn’t bear the thought of losing Him, so I declared my faithfulness: ‘Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will!  Even if I have to die, I will never disown You!'”

“Jesus responded with a frightening pronouncement:  ‘I promise you that this very night, just before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times!’  Oh, no!  I had misspoken again!”

“Then the Lord told me what was going to happen to me.  A sifting was going to take place.  Thus far, I had received a wonderful revelation of the Christ, and at the same time, blundered terribly several times.  There were kernels of wheat in my life mixed in with a lot of straw!  The sifting would take place so that I depended less on my own efforts (my flesh) and more on Him and His love, mercy and grace.  More wheat and less straw!”  (Luke 22:31)

“We all left the Upper Room where we had just eater supper and went up into the garden to pray.  We could tell that Jesus was in agony that night.  Every time that we woke up we could hear Him crying out to the Father!  He came over to us three times begging us to pray with Him, and each time, when He came back, we were sleeping!”

“His only comment was that our spirits were willing, but  that our flesh was weak!  We were about to find out just how weak our flesh was!”  (Matthew 26:68-75)

“Soldiers with torches were making their way up the mountain.  When they came within striking distance, I pulled the only sword that we had, advanced to the servant of the High priest, and sliced off his ear bravely defending my Lord!”  (John 18:10,11)

“Wrong again!  I received another rebuke from Jesus as He restored the servant’s ear!”

“Some of us followed at a safe distance and watched in terror and amazement as our Lord was tortured and severely beaten!  Why was He letting them do this to Him?   He is God, but He was also completely human and felt pain as much as any of us.”

“While we were warming ourselves near a little fire, several folks came up and questioned me.  They thought that I must be a friend of Jesus, because they recognized me as one of His disciples, or because of my Galilean accent. ” (Matthew 26:69-75)

“Filled with fear, I denied this association vehemently!  I cursed and swore!  No way did I want to suffer what our Lord was enduring!  Why they were even talking about crucifying Him!”

“Then the rooster crowed!  Jesus turned and looked at me sadly, but I saw the love in His eyes!  I couldn’t stand it.”  At this point the old apostle was overcome with emotion.  Totally oblivious to his astonished audience, He broke down and cried as if the event had happened only yesterday.

After a few minutes, the apostle struggled to compose himself, and continued his narrative.  “I ran and hid.  I felt so condemned and afraid!  If only I had spent the night praying, as He had told us to do.  Maybe then my spirit man would have been strong enough to overcome the terrible fear that gripped us all!  I was angry at myself, but I was also angry  at the Lord.  He knew that I was going to blunder.  He could have prevented those folks from recognizing me!  Seemingly, He let it all happen!”

“Well, it didn’t matter now!  He was gone–dead!  How could this have happened?  I continued to pray, and, as I did so, I felt my confidence in my own flesh and understanding diminish!”

A peaceful smile spread across Peter’s face.  “My spirit man seemed to get stronger and more in tune with Him.  I began to understand that His death was all a part of the plan to redeem us and pay for our sins.  He had done it out of His love for us.”

“When, at the dawn of the first day of the week, the women came with the news that His tomb was empty, I already knew in my spirit that He was alive.   I couldn’t wait to get to that empty tomb!  My sifting was over!”

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It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your ways.  Psalm 119:71