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Our Lord Jesus Christ loves you.
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« Reply #2895 on: February 24, 2009, 11:36:48 AM »

 "Forgetting Valentine's Day"

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7

If I was a policeman, there would be laws that would be easy to enforce and others I'd implement with reluctance.

An easy-to-enforce law would be: "Arrest anyone who is selling drugs to children."

On the other hand, it would be difficult to evict someone from their home when they've fallen on difficult times.

Easy laws. Hard laws.

If I was a policeman in Saudi Arabia, I think it would be hard to enforce laws that ban the celebration of Valentine's Day. That same law also discourages anyone from celebrating Mother's Day and birthdays.

Still, that is what happens. Around Valentine's Day, the police start visiting the stores and order anything red to be pulled from the shelves. Yes, that's right: anything red.

Red hearts, red roses, red teddy bears, anything red. Naturally anything shaped like a heart and says, "I love you," has to go.

The reason? Those holiday celebrations are Christian and the government of Saudi Arabia doesn't want anything that smacks of the Savior. You understand why those laws would be hard to enforce.

The author of Hebrews has it right when he says, "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God." Now, that's a law I could encourage people to follow.

I'm comfortable asking people to remember the writers of Scripture who first told us of humankind's creation, of our fall, and the redemption that comes to us through the Savior's Calvary cross, and His empty tomb. I can encourage the remembering of parents, pastors, professors, and teachers who have taught the faith by word and example.

Yes, there are laws that are easier to enforce and a religion that is better to believe.
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« Reply #2896 on: February 25, 2009, 09:38:09 AM »

 "We Don't Know, But God Does"


Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. Job 38:16-18

If I were asked to identify my favorite chapters of the Bible, the 38th chapter of Job would be in the top 10.

In that chapter, with words poetic and dramatic, the Lord shows He is in control.

Recent events show humans not to be in control. That statement is motivated by the deep-sea collision that took place between British and French submarines. They had the entire Atlantic in which to maneuver, but they still managed to bump bows.

What are the odds? Pretty small, I'd guess. Even so, it happened.

But there's more. The week before, 500 miles above Siberia, a Russian and a United States satellite managed to collide. Those satellites had more room to maneuver than did the submarines. Still, they clobbered each other hard enough to leave a cloud of space debris.

It doesn't make any difference: high or low, we humans don't know everything that is going on around us. This is just one more reason why we need the Lord.

The Lord's omniscient eye sees everything. His omnipotent hand protects us from accidents, pains, bruises, and hurts we never knew were a threat to us.

Divine protection is just one of the many blessings treasured by those who have been given faith in the Savior. When we are brought to the Christ and adopted into the Father's family by the Holy Spirit's power, we are given forgiveness, hope, comfort, a friendly face in heaven, and eternal life.

That's a comfort when things as diverse as submarines and satellites are bumping into each other.
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« Reply #2897 on: February 26, 2009, 08:18:17 AM »

 "The Peanut Gallery"


Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Ephesians 4:29

Four months ago, Northwest Airlines of Minneapolis merged with Delta Airlines of Atlanta.

Most people didn't notice the merger.

What many people did notice was this: Northwest Airlines, which used to serve pretzels on its flights, is now serving Delta's peanuts. How's that for big news?

Actually, it is big news! It's big news for people who are worried about the national salmonella outbreak that seems to be centering on peanuts produced by the Peanut Corporation of America. They have a plant in Atlanta, where Delta is headquartered.

It's news for people who have a nut allergy. And you know what I mean by that, so please don't laugh. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that 3 million Americans have an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts.

One fellow who heard about the switch to peanuts said, "My wife's allergy is so severe that if someone is sitting next to her and eating peanuts, the odor is enough to trigger an allergic reaction." Peanuts on the plane are big news for people who have to watch what they put into their mouths.

On the other hand, what comes out of the mouth ought to be a concern for every Christian.

That's what Paul wrote to the Ephesian church: He said, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth." The only Person I know who kept a complete lid on corrupt communication was the Savior. His Words were always appropriate for what was needed. As the old expression goes, "He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable."

His is an example we Christians need to follow. People are sensitive; their feelings can be easily hurt. This is why, as much as we are able, we should say that which is good, edifying, and offering grace to all who hear.
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« Reply #2898 on: February 27, 2009, 10:09:16 AM »

 "Love In Action"

God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Coming up with a definition for "love" can be tough. Teenagers talk about love and paint it with all sorts of flowery images and syrupy notions. Couples who've been married for years know it as a steadfast and reliable bond tested by time and strengthened through adversity. Between lovers the word means one thing; between parents and children, it means another.

Between God and man, it means something else altogether.

That "something else" is the eternal, sacrificial love of God for His creation. Sinful, dying, and eternally lost without His intervention, man's only hope is God's mercy. Jesus, the Son of Man, "came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10b). That was His mission; that was His desire - that no one should perish. Finding the lost wasn't difficult for Jesus. Then, just like today, the lost are everywhere. Look around. Look at your family, your friends, yourself. Anybody among those people lost?

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way," the Scriptures say in Isaiah, "and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). No, God finding the lost wasn't difficult at all. It was saving them that cost Him the life of His Son. Consider Isaiah again: "and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."

Jesus is love in action. He died and rose from the dead to show us the perfect, forgiving love God has for mankind.
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« Reply #2899 on: February 28, 2009, 09:09:30 AM »

 "The Light"


Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

It was a nasty Sunday afternoon a few years ago when my younger daughter and I were talking about her Sunday school lesson.

It had been on the 23rd Psalm.

When we walked into the kitchen, it was pitch black because of a thunderstorm outside. Suddenly there was a close flash of lightning and an immediate, loud boom.

We both jumped and my little girl turned to me and sweetly said, "Daddy, I know even when we're walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we don't fear any evil. But can we turn on the light, please?"

I like that. She had, and still has, a very practical outlook when it comes to her faith.

She believes in the Lord Jesus as her Savior; she trusts in Him for protection and salvation. She knows that Jesus' love comes to her in a multitude of ways.

Although she may not completely understand the miracles and mysteries of the faith, which God gives through Word and Sacrament, she trusts they come from a loving Lord. But she also knows the Lord has shown His kindness and care through electric lights and a doctor's prescription.

With a complete faith in God's goodness she can say, "I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff they comfort me."

It is a confidence I pray all of us have today and always.

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« Reply #2900 on: March 01, 2009, 09:50:13 AM »

 "List Of Thanks"

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your steadfast love in the morning, and Your faithfulness by night. Psalm 92:1-2

The Army tells us if you join them, you can "be all that you can be."

It's a good advertisement. It appeals to the sense most of us have that we haven't reached our fullest potential.

That idea wasn't shared by baseball pitcher Dizzy Dean. Diz had a pretty good idea of who he was and what he wasn't. For example, he never claimed to be an intellectual, or a lot of other things.

You can see that reflected when, in 1953, as he was brought into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he confessed: "I want to thank the good Lord for giving me a strong right arm, a strong back, and a weak mind."

Now, that may not seem to be much of a list to thank God for, but it worked for Dizzy.

Inspired by him, I started to draw up my own list of things for which to thank God.

True, there are a lot of things I know I'm not, a lot of things I will never be able to do.

On the other hand, the Lord has given me reasonable health, a wonderful family, and allowed me to write these Daily Devotions to you almost every day. He has taken me to places I never thought possible.

Yes, the Lord has given me a lot of gifts, the most important of whom is Jesus, my Savior. As I say, that's the beginning of my list that is labeled, "Things For Which To Thank God."

Possibly you have such a list? If not, maybe it's time to draw one up. Write things down and you just might be amazed at how you, along with the Psalmist, can say, "It is good to give thanks to the Lord for His steadfast love and His unending faithfulness."
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« Reply #2901 on: March 02, 2009, 08:51:53 AM »

 "The Awards"


And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Romans 1:28-31

I don't get to go to the movies very much.

Maybe that's why I made it a point to try and watch the 2009 Academy Awards. What amazed me was this: I hadn't heard of most of the movies nominated for "Best Motion Picture of the Year."

Out of curiosity, I looked up the plots on the films nominated. Finding out what I did, most didn't make it onto my "do-not-miss" list. That's because most of these films deal with topics and themes that neither interest nor intrigue me. When I spoke with friends about these films, most said, "Hollywood makes those movies because they make money."

Really?

When you adjust for inflation, the top-ten money-making movies in history are: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Exorcist, Doctor Zhivago, Jaws, Titanic, The Ten Commandments, E.T., The Sound of Music, Star Wars, and number one -- Gone With the Wind.

Looking at that list you will find some common themes: most of those films show good winning over evil; most show ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and most deal with individuals who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good or benefit of others.

While I'm not saying uplifting themes are altogether missing in modern cinema, I do believe many studios desire to titillate rather than educate and most actors long to play parts that shock rather than encourage. The end result is Hollywood, by appealing to our dark and sinful human natures, has recreated the bloody and perverted spectacles of the ancient Roman games. The only difference is this: today's fake gore substitutes for the real thing.

As our text shows, God has warned us what dark things can come from debased minds that don't acknowledge Him.

At the same time, He warned those of us who have been redeemed to live differently. Jesus entered this world to sacrifice Himself so that, by God's grace, we might be turned from what we once were and become those who imitate Him. This is why, this devotion encourages us to reflect God's grace by what we do, what we say, and what we watch.
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« Reply #2902 on: March 03, 2009, 09:13:17 AM »

 "No Rescue"

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. Isaiah 45:22

Stuart Armstrong and Andrea Davison are serious sailors.

They are serious sailors, but that doesn't mean they are sailors with whom you'd like to travel any distance.

Halfway on their journey across the Atlantic, the rudder of their boat jammed and sent them drifting in circles. Armstrong called the Coast Guard, but the Coast Guard said they were too far out to sea to be rescued. Although the news was disheartening, the pair had plenty of food and equipment to make fresh drinking water. They didn't worry -- too much.

Their confidence began to erode when their boat was hammered by storms, and it was undercut when, after weeks, they began to run out of food. Things really started to look bad when a power failure knocked out their water-purifying equipment.

Eventually, the Coast Guard asked an oil tanker, the Indian Point, to make a five-hour detour to save the pair. An observer on the rescue ship said they were "scared and wet and happy" to have been saved.

I can understand why they would feel as they did. I can understand because, figuratively speaking, their story is ours. Like them, we were without spiritual power and divine direction. Like them, we were adrift and going nowhere. Even worse, as our human limitations became obvious, our sinful condition took us beyond the reach of human help.

Thankfully, we, like this pair, were not forgotten. Our Father in heaven mounted a rescue mission and sent His Son to save us. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Of course, our redemption was not a five-hour diversion; it was a lifetime commitment.

Through His life, His suffering, His death, and His resurrection, Jesus has saved us. The Holy Spirit has lowered the life rope and brought us to repentance, faith, and safety.

And how should we feel? Not necessarily wet and maybe not scared, but we certainly ought to be thankful and happy for what God has graciously done to save us.
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« Reply #2903 on: March 04, 2009, 08:59:25 AM »

 "Marvelous Things"

As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number. Job 5:8-9

What do you know about the Cincinnati Red Stockings? If you're like me -- not much.

Last week, I had to read an Associated Press article to find out the Red Stockings were the first professional baseball team in the United States.

That was interesting.

What was more interesting is the Red Stockings also had a baseball card. Bernice Gallego, an antiques dealer from Fresno, California, came across just such a card in a box of junk she owned. She put the card up for sale on eBay. The bidding started at $10.

Eventually, and on another venue, Gallego sold the card for more than $64,000. Now, that's my kind of junk.

When I read Gallego's story, I started to think why doesn't that kind of thing happen to me? How come all my junk is, well, junk?

That was my first thought. Thankfully, my thinking didn't stop there. In truth, I, like you, are extraordinarily blessed. As the book of Job says, we have a God "who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number."

If we have nothing else, we still have a lowly manger. And in that manger we see our Savior, born true Man and true God. If we have nothing else, we still have a rough-hewn Roman cross. And on that cross hangs the Redeemer carrying our sins and dying our death. If we have nothing else, we still have an open and empty tomb. And at that tomb we see the risen Lord who gives us eternal life in heaven.

Should I go on? Should I speak of how each breath is a gift of God, each heartbeat a miracle?

Should we talk of all the accidents that don't happen or those simple pleasures that are too often taken for granted?

In truth, we do have a God who does things, marvelous things without number.
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« Reply #2904 on: March 05, 2009, 07:03:20 AM »

 "A Young Witness"

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. Revelation 2:10 (KJV, emphasis added)

Twelve-year-old Lia entered her school's speech contest.

She had something to say, something that was important to her. She had something to say, something people didn't want to hear. Lia was told to pick a different topic. When she refused to do so, she was told she couldn't participate in the contest.

Eventually, the authorities had a change of heart and allowed Lia to speak. During the course of Lia's presentation, one of the judges stepped down; then her speech was disqualified, and then it was undisqualified. Eventually, Lia was declared the winner!

Moving up to another level in the competition, Lia was asked to remove an offensive line from her presentation. What kind of offensive line? I thought you'd never ask.

The politically incorrect line was: "Fetuses are definitely humans knit together in their mother's womb by their wonderful Creator who knows them all by name."

Now you know. Lia's speech was against abortion and for life. Apparently, that's controversial, at least in some circles. And what did Lia do with her offending words? Lia thought about it and eventually decided to leave them in.

She didn't win the regional competition. On the other hand, the Lord has allowed this witness made by a 12-year-old girl to speak to over 400,000 people on YouTube. (The link is provided below.)

Well, Lia has taught me -- and maybe some of you -- a lesson. By her conduct, God has shown those who take a stand for the Savior will suffer tribulations and trials; He has let us see there are costs and crosses if you follow the Savior.

Even so, we who know the Christ, who have seen His sacrifice, suffering, death, and resurrection, cannot -- dare not -- keep Him hidden.

It is our job, our duty, and our utmost privilege to share the Savior and His story of salvation.

This sinful world still needs to hear.
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« Reply #2905 on: March 06, 2009, 09:27:29 AM »

 "A Life Compass"

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to Your Word. Psalm 119:9

Today, we are witnesses to the planet's newest technologies. Everywhere around us the world is abuzz with some new gadget or contrivance hawked by the companies that sell them as being the next best thing to sliced bread. Communication between people and across continents takes place like never before. If there's a calamity or disaster, men have emergency numbers at their disposal -- police, firemen, ambulance services, crisis hotlines, and the list goes on. However, despite the fact there are all these ways of getting help, man remains in strange isolation.

Faced with various ideologies for success and roads leading to happiness, man is bewildered. Helping him forget about his troubles -- and his bewilderment -- drugs, booze, and a host of other diversionary options beckon him in several directions. Falsely promising a way out of the maze, these suggestions darken one's path, taking them away from God, the Creator. At the end of it all, the question persists: "How can a young man keep his path pure?"

There is only one way -- holding close to God's Word. In a world of endless chatter and constant suggestion, the Word of God is the one, sure beam to illumine our walk through life. In fact, the Bible tells us so: "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105). God's Word is a lamp ever directed to Jesus as our Lord and Savior and lights the way He would have us live.

Unfortunately, many young people think God's Word and His laws are obstacles to their happiness. It is quite the opposite. Through His Word, He provides light on an otherwise dark and uncertain trek through life. We gladly follow, not to earn eternal life but in gratitude for God's free gift of salvation in Christ. Will you take delight in following the rules of God's road with the help of the Holy Spirit?
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« Reply #2906 on: March 07, 2009, 09:45:15 AM »

 "God's Love"


Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven. Matthew 5:11-12a (KJV, emphasis added)

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names," well, you know the rest.

Maybe, but I still don't like being called names. Do you? A lady, with whom I visited many years ago, gave me an insight into how a Christian deals with anti-Christian behavior.

She was from India where her mother still lived. The lady shared how her mother had been persecuted by the neighbors when she converted to Christianity. No, the persecution wasn't violent or bloody. It's just that people shunned the mother and her little ones. Seeing what their parents were doing, the village children started to call the family names when they walked to the market.

One of those children yelled out, "You're the ugliest old woman I ever saw!" The mother's reply was most remarkable. She stopped, turned, and said, "Isn't it wonderful how my Savior can love an ugly old woman such as me."

What a fantastic response!

Now, I don't know what that lady looked like on the outside, but I know on the inside, the part that God sees, she must have been beautiful. She would have been beautiful because this lady had the risen Savior in her heart and Jesus had transformed her. Where this lady might once have been devastated by the children's cruel comments, now she was able to respond with a strong statement of faith in her Lord.

I share that story with you because there are a lot of Christians who, right here in our country, are being persecuted in ways both harsh and subtle. We can learn much from this lady. Rather than folding or getting furious at such an onslaught, we -- like this woman -- should rely on the Savior to give us a response.

In so doing, we can turn away the criticism and bear a powerful witness to the Christ. Then, when we're done, we can rejoice and be exceedingly glad the Holy Spirit has used us to tell the Savior's story.
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« Reply #2907 on: March 08, 2009, 11:08:56 AM »

 "Priorities"

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. John 10:27

By the time the fire department arrived, flames were leaping high into the air from the burning house.

That's when a young man appeared at an upper window in his pajamas. The firemen encouraged him to climb down the ladder that was placed against the house for his assistance.

To their amazement, he yelled down that he had to get dressed first.

The firemen shouted, "Come as you are!"

No one knows why the man did what he did, but they do know he refused the help being offered. He refused and his negative response led to his unfortunate and unnecessary death.

It occurs to me this young man is representative of a great many people -- people who have managed to get their priorities way out of line.

They eagerly pursue all kinds of things unimportant and do so at the cost of that which is truly essential.

Jobs push aside families. Attaining money takes precedence over friends. Watching television or playing golf precludes time spent with children and spouses.

In contrast to our questionable priorities, our loving Lord made saving us His primary and principal imperative. Rejection by those whom He had come to save, betrayal by a disciple, crucifixion on a cross - all these did not make Him lose sight of His goal.

Now, there's no way that sinful human beings can live with the same kind of faithfulness as did the Son of God. Still, if we're going to escape the fires of this life (and the next), we need to let the Lord keep our priorities in order.

And what does that mean? In part, it means, when our Lord says, "Come as you are!" we don't debate, argue, or hesitate. We heed His call, and we follow Him.
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« Reply #2908 on: March 09, 2009, 09:42:29 AM »

 "Come Out"

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." John 11:25-27

Lori Smith had a baby on New Year's Day.

Shortly after the delivery, Lori developed a headache; fifteen minutes later, she became nauseous and then unresponsive. That is how she stayed for the next month and a half.

Michael, Lori's husband, made the decision to pull her off life-support. Before he did so, he thought it best his other children, Megan and Katie Beth, be given the chance to say goodbye to their mother.

It was the right thing for the father to do. More right than he knew. You see, Megan wasn't ready to say farewell to her mother--not without a fight. "Mom", she said, "if you love us and you hear us, move your eyes." Mom did love them, and she did hear them, and she did move her eyes. Megan said she had never lost hope she would get her mother back.

The words of that little girl reminded me of Martha who welcomed Jesus to the graveside of her dead brother Lazarus. At that time Martha also professed her faith in Jesus' ability to restore her brother, to resurrect Lazarus from the dead.

Now I would never say these stories, the resurrection of Lazarus and the return of Lori Smith, are common. They're not. They are exceptional. People seldom come out of comas, and far fewer walk out of their graves. Still, the only difference between Megan and Martha and the restoration of our loved ones in the Lord is a matter of time.

Many of you have had to say goodbye to someone you love, someone whose passing has left an emptiness in your heart and life. If that accurately describes your sense of pain and loss, then allow me to say this: "because of Jesus there is a reunion, because of the Savior the day will come when His people will exit their tombs and be reunited with you and their Lord."

If you have buried a loved one, Jesus' question is for you: Do you believe He is the resurrection and the life and all who believe on Him will never die? By God's grace, may you confidently be able to join Martha in replying, "Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." May you say, "I always knew I would get my loved one back."
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #2909 on: March 10, 2009, 09:40:05 AM »

 "Really Precious"

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7

We all have various trials.

My trials aren't yours and most of us, fortunately, haven't had the particular trial that befell Allison Berry.

On January 14th, Allison flushed the toilet at the Black Bear Diner. When she did, her engagement ring dropped in and was whisked away.

That's $78,000 worth of engagement ring.

City workers opened a pipe outside the restaurant and tried to flush the ring through. When that didn't work, they called Mr. Rooter, a plumbing company in Waco, Texas.

Mike Roberts, the general manager of Mr. Rooter used a tiny video camera to spot the ring -- three feet down and five feet over from where it had last seen the light of day.

After an hour and a half of jack hammering and pipe removal, the ring was recovered. Ms. Berry gave the men a kiss and a hug; her fiancÚ gave them a generous tip. I can understand why. That ring was valuable!

When I read that story, I wondered if would I spend the time and money fishing for my $78,000 diamond ring? (If I had one, that is.) I knew the answer: of course, I would! Then I wondered, would I do the same for other valuable things in my life?

How about my faith? What is that worth? Most people would say their faith is worth a lot. Still, more than half the members of any church don't go to Sunday worship, even less attend midweek Lenten services. How about our children, what are they worth? Their value is great, but I can still remember Sunday's procession of parents who dropped their children off for Sunday school, but didn't go to Bible class themselves.

What's important to you? I don't know your answer, but I do know we ought to cherish important things. A genuine faith demands it; our Lord and Savior who gave Himself for our salvation would welcome our praising, glorifying, and honoring Him.

It's not a hard thing to do -- if something is valuable to you.
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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