Shared E-Mail Stories: Atheist And The Bear

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods, admiring all that the “accident of evolution” had created.
What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!,” he said to himself.

As he was walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look and saw a grizzly bear charging towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in. He ran even faster, so scared that tears were coming to his eyes. He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. His heart was pumping frantically and he tried to run even faster. Suddenly, he tripped and fell on the ground. Rolling over to pick himself up he saw the bear, right on top of him, reaching for him with his left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the Atheist cried out “Oh my God! . . . “
Time stopped.
The bear froze.
The forest was silent.
Even the river stopped moving.

A bright light shone upon the man, as a voice came out of the sky:
You deny my existence for all of these years; teach others I don’t exist; and even credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?”
The atheist looked directly into the light.

It would be hypocritical to ask to be a Christian after all these years, but perhaps, could you make the bear a Christian?
Very well,” said the voice.The light went out.
The river ran again.
The sounds of the forest resumed.

Then the bear dropped his right paw . . . brought both paws together . . . bowed his head and spoke:
Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful.


Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Six

Now, we continue our thoughts on vision, in particular when God gives us a vision of a work He has called us to do, and allows us to see the end result along the way.

I think of people like Abraham, Joseph, and Paul. God showed them how things would turn out-the end result-before the great work began. We must always remember, that often, a large part of a “great work” which God calls us to do, will be a “great work” of faith. Especially at the very beginning. In fact, often, it takes a great work of faith on our part to even get to the beginning, just to “get started.” The old proverb is true: A great journey always begins the same way. With the first step. It could also be said that the largest obstacle we will face at the beginning is our lack of faith; our unbelief. And, once this obstacle is removed, we are, then, at that very moment, “on our way.” It can’t be stated too strongly that one of the reasons that God will allow us to see a glimpse of the end … is to help us with the beginning … to get us “jump-started.”

As with the case of so many like Abraham, Joseph, and Paul, knowing that God would never leave them, that He would see them through until the glorious end, gave them the encouragement and motivation they would need to persevere until the end. Doesn’t it encourage us, motivate us not to quit, when we know how things will turn out? If we will just “hang in there,” not give up, and continue to be faithful to the work?

The greatest example of all is still, and will always be, Jesus. Period. I just like to write that. Jesus, who suffered more pain and anguish than any man who ever lived, also knew how things would turn out, that there would be a “glorious end” to His pain, humiliation, and suffering. This is another reason why Jesus will not leave our side during the hardest, most difficult of times. He really does know what we’re going through, and He will stay with us, encouraging us, motivating us, until “the glorious end.” This is a fact. There is no greater example, nor will ever be, than Jesus, when it comes to “not my will, but your will be done.”

So … hang in there … next time, we look at the importance of “who you hang with,” as we look at the valuable, life-changing message beginning with Haggai 2:11.



Free Online Resource: Matthew Henry’s “A Method For Prayer”

I was recently contacted by Steve Kindorf, who has published a newly transcribed version of Matthew Henry’s “A Method For Prayer”from the classic 1710 edition, with modernized spelling, with all the cross references from Matthew Henry’s original prayerbook included.

Newly typed with poetic formatting of the classics, this is free to all. With added devotional prayers and Bible helps, a Glossary of 2400 words of the KJV, a collection of prayers to Jesus Christ, called My Affection, Psalm 119 written in poetic form, and a daily Bible reading plan. A free audio book for “A Method for Prayer” is also available at the same website.

The book is available in pdf format, or can be downloaded for free to your devices, such as Kindle and Nook.

Here is a direct link to the website, where all the formats are available:

Matthew Henry-A Method For Prayer


Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Five

Last time, we wrote about God’s promises. Today, we discuss God’s vision. In particular, a vision which He gives us, and helps us to fulfill. As we’ve stressed, God will never give us a work to do which we won’t be able to do. Almost always, it will take the help of others to make it come to pass. But first, we must be willing to follow His direction, His leading. Others will join in the effort as we go, but first, we must be “all in” before we can expect God’s help … or the help of others who will come along beside us.

Another amazing thing about when God calls us to do a great work for Him: It will, almost every time, be something that we feel we can’t do. Our first thought is usually one of fear, that we don’t have the talent or ability to do what He is calling us to do. Chances are, you are right: You don’t have the talent or ability-and you won’t succeed-without His help. But, with every vision He gives us, He gives us whatever we need to make it happen. And, again, that will involve the help of others. Perhaps the greatest example is Moses, who responded to God’s call, immediately, with, “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). God’s answer came just as immediate: “Certainly I will be with thee” (Exodus 3:12). And, then, see if this sounds familiar: Moses, when given his first chance to speak after God had laid out His plan for him, told God, “But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice …” (Exodus 4:1). It’s true, then, just like now, that God doesn’t care about our ability … He cares about our availability … God told Moses, “Now therefore go, and I will … teach thee …” (Exodus 4:12).

God’s vision is so much greater than ours. God can see the end result of our labors, and He will encourage us by allowing us to visualize how things will turn out. In Haggai’s time, the Temple was in ruins, but God saw ahead, to a time when the Temple would be finished. This is why it is so important to be a witness, especially to those we don’t want to be a witness to. I pray every day for God to allow me to see others as He sees them, not as I see them. He sees what they will become; we see what they are now. As the saying goes, when speaking about David, “Man saw a shepherd; God saw a King.” I think that it is just as important to ask God to allow us to see ourselves as He sees us. To allow us to see ourselves, what we are right now, through Him. We see someone who has been broken, whose life is in ruins … but God sees what can be … a Temple, dedicated to His glory.

In Haggai, staring at the rubble of what was left of the Temple, just like our shattered, broken, “ruined” lives, God saw ahead, to a time when He would “fill this house (the Temple) with glory … The glory of this latter house (the Temple) shall be greater than of the former …” (Haggai 2:7-9). When God gives you a vision, He will always show you the end result. I always think of Paul. God showed the Apostle Paul things which, perhaps, He has never shown anyone else. Why? I believe that God showed Paul “the end” in order to give Paul the strength and encouragement to make it through the “now.” In 1 Corinthians 2:9, Paul wrote, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” We know that God had taken Paul up into a part of the Heavens which no man had seen, and shown Paul things which no man had ever seen. I believe for the same reason: Paul, who would suffer so much, would need this strength and encouragement to make it through. By knowing the end, he could make it through the middle. I believe that it is the same way with us. Isn’t it so much “easier” to struggle through hard times now, when we know what the results of our struggles will be? I say this knowing that there is just no way I can image the pain, torture, and persecution which so many of the founders of the early church went through. I also say this knowing that most of us just can’t image the pain, torture, and persecution which Christians are suffering in other parts of the world right now. How can they make it? By knowing the end, regardless of the middle.

God knows that by showing you the end result, how things will turn out, it will encourage, even enable us, to go through what is always the toughest part of any work: The beginning, the middle, the “now.”

We’ll continue these thoughts next time.



Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Four

Who would have thought we’d be at part 4, and we’re still in the first chapter!?

We closed Part Three with encouragement to allow ourselves to submit to God’s will. And, if we’ll do that, He will “stir us up” and allow us to do great things. That both understanding and obeying God’s will for our lives will always bring action. God never moves without a purpose, and, along the way, God will “stir frequently.”

Make no mistake: To serve God, to submit to God, to do the work He has called us to do-it takes work. Hard work. And, it is work we must be willing to do. Then (in Haggai’s time), just like now, if God calls you to do a certain work, He will give you the strength and help to do that work to which He has called you. It is true that “where God guides, He provides.” And I have learned this over the years: God rarely calls us to do something that doesn’t require the help of others. God will always provide the people and resources to help you accomplish His goal. Once again, note the wording: It is His goal, His work we are called to do … not ours! Jesus said that “I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). True … if we are in the center of God’s will for our lives … just as Jesus was … “His business” will be “our business.”

Once again, what God calls us to do, He will give us the power to do. When God commands, He enables.

But, first, you must be willing to do the work. In Haggai 2:2, three times God says to “be strong.” As we see in this verse, God’s command applies not just to government and spiritual leaders, but “be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts.” So often, we want all that God has for us, but we aren’t willing to do the work which many of His blessings and promises require. My Pastor used to say that, often, we are more interested in what is in God’s hand than in what is in God’s heart.

Let’s look at this phrase, “promises of God:” If God makes you a promise, He never forgets that promise. Ever. In Haggai 2:5, God confirms that He is true to His Word-regardless of when, or how long ago, that promise was made: “According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not” (Haggai 2:5).

Please allow me to say again one of my most important teachings on the promises of God … and why it is ok for you to keep reminding God of them: It’s ok to keep reminding God of a promise He made to you, and here’s why: It’s not so that He won’t forget … It is so that you won’t forget!

If God has made a promise, yes He will “move Heaven and earth” to make that promise come true! Proof? The promises made to the Jews at the time of Haggai directly involved re-building the Temple in Jerusalem, with an eye toward the future. See, God’s direction is, yes for now, but it will always involve His will for the future. That’s why so many of the prophecies made by the Old Testament prophets were in 2 or 3 stages: Many involved the immediate future, the not-too distant future, and the distant future. God sees the future … that’s why we can so easily trust His Word and promises to us … about the “now.”

Back to God moving Heaven and earth: Here’s what God said in Haggai 2:6-7: “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once (once more), it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house (the Temple) with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Today, we touched on God’s promises. Next time, we’ll talk about God’s vision.
In closing, whenever I read God’s command for us to “Be strong,” always coupled with the fact that He will be with us, I think back to God’s promise to Joshua: “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage … Only be thou strong and very courageous … that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest … Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:5-9).

Just this week, I have seen these very words fulfilled in my life. God can be believed, and He can be trusted. I’ll leave you with this verse from Isaiah, which I saw fulfilled before my very eyes just a few days ago. A verse I held onto while going through a real test … a verse I trusted in … because I trusted in the One who made the promise:
“Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.”



Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Three

Next to Obadiah, the book of Haggai is the shortest book in the Old Testament. With a total of 38 verses, it is the only book which contains a total of 2 chapters.

God always provides a way-regardless of the national political circumstances-for His will and purposes to be accomplished. Haggai was the first of the prophets to minister to Israel following the Jews’ return from captivity by the Babylonians. The Persians had defeated the Babylonians, who had destroyed Solomon’s Temple (under Nebuchadnezzar), in 586 B.C. The Persian king, Darius, was kind to the Jews, allowing them to return to their homeland, and then, allowing them to rebuild the temple.

Here is the situation the Jews were in: Because of their lifestyle, they did much … but had little. Haggai said it this way: “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (1:6). Nothing they did worked out. Why? “Consider your ways” (1:7).

When we understand God’s Word, and His will for our lives, it will always bring action. It will always motivate us to do something. We often read that the first word in “Gospel” is “go.” As we see from Haggai 1:8, when we “go,” when we do God’s work, when our motivation is right, when we are obedient to God’s Word, “I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified.”

In 1:9, we see why God wasn’t pleased: Because the Jews were more concerned with their own will, their own wants, than with what God wanted. Their focus was their own will, not God’s will. The same battle which rages today, which Jesus overcame in the Garden, was the same battle and struggle in Haggai’s time: Their will, not His. If God is not the head of your house/home, then your home is not a sanctuary. This explains why so many people are miserable “at home.” Haven’t we all experienced that co-worker who always arrives at work miserable … and whose intent seems to be to make everyone else miserable around them? Here is the way I always explain it: “They were miserable when they got here.” If God is not head of your home, it won’t be the calming sanctuary it was meant to be … and which your workplace was never meant to be. Haggai explains that “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it (blew it away). Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that is waste (in ruins), and ye run every man unto his own house” (1:9).

The result? “Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from (withholds) dew, and the earth is stayed from (withholds) her fruit” (verse 9). When we don’t seek and do God’s will for our lives, the result is drought and famine.

It is remarkable to me how the people responded to this message from Haggai. They listened to God’s Word, spoken through His prophet, and obeyed God’s message! Verse 12 says that “all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.” We all know what happened when they did their own will instead of God’s … but, what happened when they listened, then responded to God’s Word, and began to do the work which God called them to do?
“I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13). What a great encouragement to us today! When we obey the Word of God, and do His will-and not our own-“I am with you.”

As we read the book of Haggai, we see that it was not only the citizens who responded to God’s message … it was also the government and religious leaders! Wow! We see this throughout the book, and in the verses (1:1, 12,14) we’ve already studied. Want real change? Need we say more?

To close, here is more encouragement for us: When we submit to God’s will … He will “stir us up” and allow us to do great things. Understanding and obeying God’s will for our lives will always bring action. Verse 1:14 says that “the LORD stirred up … the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.”