Insight from Billy Diamond (Illusionist)
BILLY DIAMOND DEVISED DARING escape feats and planned the “disappearance” of major buildings to enhance his career. But the only things that seemed to disappear were his money, his conscience, and his peace of mind.
Billy attempted suicide, but three days after taking a bottle of sleeping pills, he woke up, alive and amazed. Before swallowing the pills, he prayed, “Lord, this is my only way out. If You could just forgive me, if You could only get me out of my situation…I would perform my magic for the kingdom of God.”
But it wasn’t long before Billy forgot his promise. He headed for Hollywood, and his troubles followed him. Soon drugs and alcohol compounded his problems. He was on the verge of another suicide attempt when he remembered two things–his first attempt, when he promised God that he would use his talents for God’s glory, and 1 John 1:9, which says that if we confess our sins, God will forgive and cleanse us.
Ultimately, Billy gave up his career goals. He entered a rehab program for his substance abuse, and he is now keeping his promise to serve God. He says, “Today I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God wants me to use my talents for His glory. Why? Because He’s changed my heart. I know there are no other God’s before Him.”
Point to Ponder:
Sometimes we assume that God doesn’t take our promises to Him seriously, so we pretend we never made them in the first place. Nonetheless, He listens to the smallest whisper of truth that can be heard in the midst of all our shouting–the tiny confession that we really want to do the right thing. It has been said, “Be careful what you pray for, or you’ll get it.” That is surely true when we pray for healing, for righteousness, or for eternal life.
God hears the silent cry of your heart. Are you listening for the response of His still, small voice?
Proverbs 9:10 – Respect and obey the LORD! This is the beginning of wisdom.
Insight from Maria Grzanka (Overcomer of Illiteracy)
MARIA GRZANKA WAS SEVEN years old when she began her lifelong struggle with literacy. Every day at school, she was ordered to stand and read. Terrified, Maria got up and hoped the words on the page would make sense. When they didn’t, her teacher locked her in a closet.
One night when she was eleven, Maria dug a ditch in the backyard, climbed into it with her schoolbooks, and said, “Please, God, kill me or make a miracle! Make me able to read.”
It seemed that God had not heard her prayer. Maria married and had children of her own. She became angry when her sons and daughters were unable to read; she secretly hoped they would teach her, but she realized they, too, were caught in a cycle of illiteracy.
Then a TV announcement made her aware of a local literacy program. She signed up with a volunteer tutor and began to study. Before long, her children joined her. Their grades improved, and Maria’s self-esteem grew dramatically. She even found enough courage to go back to her old high school and speak to the students about the importance of reading. Sitting in the audience was Maria’s proud daughter. Maria realized that the cycle of illiteracy had been broken, and that a thirty-year-old prayer had finally been answered.
Point to Ponder:
We often speak to God during times of great emotion. Then when we don’t experience immediate results, we assume He either didn’t hear us or didn’t care about us. We often fail to consider His view of our lives–His infinite perspective–and His refusal to become entrapped by our sense of the immediate. God is an eternal Being who operates on an eternal schedule. He heard Maria Grzanka’s childhood prayer, and He answered it when it was the perfect moment to bless her–and her children.
God’s unfathomable intelligence determines that the time is right–then He acts with lightning speed.
Matthew 23:12 – If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored.
Insight from Dennis Connolly (Prisoner)
WHILE SERVING A LENGTHY prison sentence, Dennis Connolly began to sense, by reading the Bible and good literature, that he wanted more of God’s love in his life. And he gradually began to see that his family needed to be reconciled.
Twelve years had passed since he had seen or heard from his mother, father, sister, or brother. Dennis said, “I prayed to God in the name of Jesus Christ that if it was His will to bring my family together, it would come about through Him.”
First, he spoke on the phone to his mother, who told him his father had died. Next, he heard from his sister, who wrote him an angry letter, listing past offenses. Before long, the two brothers were communicating on a weekly basis. Then, the sister and mother went to visit Dennis.
Dennis said, “All my prayers to see my mother and sister were being answered…When I reached out to her with open arms, she ran up, embraced me, and started to cry. I cried, too. Then I saw my mother crying and reached out to her without releasing my sister. We were all crying…Why not? We were all witnessing the birth of a miracle…Love!”
Point to Ponder:
It is so much easier to walk away from a hurtful past than to confront the issues. And our hectic, transient culture makes it easy for us to start over far away from the people and places we have left behind. But we discover that we cannot remove the past from our hearts–it is there to stay. And the only hope for true peace with the past is to face it at its worst and, with God’s help, to seek to forgive, to be forgiven, to make amends, and to be reconciled.
No matter how great our hurts or fears, they shrink in the presence of God’s forgiving love.
Proverbs 27:5 – A truly good friend will openly correct you.
Insight from Ruth Bell Graham (Wife, Mother, Author)
“THE JOY OF THE LORD is your strength” is God’s promise to His people (Neh. 8:10 NKJV). And few Christians have taken that promise more to heart than Ruth Bell Graham. Her colorful and very visible life has been interwoven with pain, loneliness, and difficulty. And yet she has chosen to cling to God’s joy.
Although Ruth Bell’s parents were hardworking missionaries, and her father was one of the finest surgeons of his time, the family came first. Ruth grew up in a home filled with music, laughter, and faith. As a young wife and mother, she longed to recapture the joy of that childhood household. But her beloved husband was called by God to minister all around the globe, and she and their five children rarely were able to travel with him.
She faced the children’s growing pains with faith and courage, but not without an aching heart. Volumes of her beautiful poetry record times of despair along with overcoming hope and love.
Ruth Bell Graham continues to share her wit and wisdom. While her husband preaches to countless millions, Ruth reaches out, one by one, to individuals. Her body is weakened by degenerative arthritis, but her spirit is strong. Her smile is radiantly joyful with the joy of Christ whom she has made “her home, her purpose, her center, her confidant, and her vision.”
Point to Ponder:
“The joy of the LORD” is an attribute we receive from heaven. It is both a gift and a choice. The Lord’s joy doesn’t provide constant happiness or shallow amusement. Rather, it is a deep awareness that we are His, and that eternal life is ours.
Joy is not a natural high; it is a supernatural empowerment.
Psalm 37:18 – Those who obey the LORD are daily in his care, and what he has given them will be theirs forever.
Insight from Al Kasha (Actor and Songwriter)
AGORAPHOBIA IS AN INTENSE fear of being in public. Al Kasha had already fought his way through eating disorders, workaholism, drug abuse, and panic attacks when the phobia imprisoned him in his home.
At age seven, Al appeared on Broadway with Ethel Merman in “Annie Get Your Gun.” His brother Larry became a Tony Award winning theater producer, and Al’s career was soon to be successful. He won his first Academy Award for writing the hit son “The Morning After.” The award led to the worst panic attack he had ever experienced.
Al’s battle with agoraphobia intensified, and he and his wife, Ceil, separated. In a rented apartment, Al popped Valiums and sat up all night, trying to figure out a way to get his life back together. He heard a television minister say that fear could be removed by having Jesus in one’s life.
It was hard for Al to say the word Jesus because of his Jewish upbringing. But he finally got the word out and began to pray, then to weep, to confess his sins, and to beg God for reconciliation with his wife.
That night, deep in his heart, Al heard God speak these powerful words: “You are My son and I love you.” His agoraphobia disappeared. He and his wife were reunited in faith. His new life of freedom from fear had begun.
Point to Ponder:
Sometimes inner panic intensifies even though careers are soaring, marriages are flourishing, and finances are multiplying. When we can no longer live with the agitation within our souls, we need help from outside ourselves. Like Al Kasha did, we need to speak the name Jesus aloud. He could calm the Sea of Galilee with a word; surely, He is able to calm the turbulence of our raging, stormy emotions.
With God’s help, we are responsible for our emotions–they are not supposed to control us.
Psalm 34:4 – I asked the LORD for help, and he saved me from all my fears.
NICHOLAS GREEN WAS SEVEN years old when his family took him to Italy for a holiday. Young as he was, the history of Rome captivated him. Then as the Green family was driving one night, robbers pulled the family off the road. Shots rang out. A bullet lodged in Nicholas’s brain, and he never recovered consciousness.
The Green family was brokenhearted. The tragedy nearly overwhelmed them. They were far from home, family, and loved ones. But despite their grief, Nicholas’s family had something to offer the people of Italy. Nicholas’s life was gone, yet he was able to give life to others. In fact while he was still on life support, his family made the decision to donate his organs to five desperately ill young Italians.
The country was stunned. News commentator Enzo Biagi wrote, “Although American values are often dismissed as naive by Italians, every once in a while we discover that your customs, your upbringing are not just talk, and that truly you believe in feelings.” The power of the Green family’s for Italy was reflected in Nicholas’s father’s words upon receipt of a medal from Italy’s president: “It would have been [Nicholas's] most prized possession.”
Point to Ponder:
Overcoming bitterness through forgiveness and generosity has the potential of healing everyone involved. And yet is one of the most difficult acts we can perform. Although the entire nation of Italy had not robbed the Green family of a child, they could have chosen to generalize and hate. Instead, they chose to love. And in loving the five Italian organ recipients, they said, “We love you,” to an entire country, including Nicholas’s unrepentant murderers.
A generous spirit can be a profound statement of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Matthew 5:7 – God blesses those people who are merciful. They will be treated with mercy!
ELIZABETH FRY FIRST VISITED the Newgate Prison infirmary in London in 1813. She recoiled in horror at the sight of such squalor. A few days later she returned to pray with the women prisoners and their children.
Mrs. Fry’s courage in entering the prison was shocking to the guards–the women prisoners were reportedly more dangerous and hostile than the men. Elizabeth Fry was a Quaker and a quietly strong believer in God. She insisted upon entering the prison alone, which she did.
The mother of eight, she voiced her concern for the children’s future. The women listened in rapt attention. Mrs. Fry went to work outside the walls of the prison and established a committee that provided a teacher. Soon a school was begun inside the prison with thirty children.
Elizabeth Fry’s vision spread throughout England and on to Europe and as far away as Australia. Heads of state contacted her to organize similar schools. Mrs. Fry’s love for downtrodden women and children launched a movement of prison reform. And through that movement, countless women and children have come to know Christ.
Point to Ponder:
Generosity comes from our willingness to identify with less-fortunate people, whether they are in need because of unjust circumstances or because of their own failures. When we are willing to say, “There but for the grace of God go I,” we are far more likely to be generous. As we face our weaknesses, we are more able to give wisely–not enabling others to continue to fail, but strengthening them so that they can eventually succeed.
We are more able to be generous when we learn to empathize with the needs of others.
Hebrews 13:3 - Remember the Lord’s people who are in jail and be concerned for them.
FREDERICK RICHMOND MADE HIS fortune in industry, and he always tried to share his wealth with less-fortunate people. He did so from a distance–usually by writing checks and mailing them. Then one night, his sense of generosity required him to become personally involved when he heard on the evening news that a forty-six-year-old father had been beaten to death by three hoodlums. The killers had made off with less than $.050.
Frederick rushed out the door and drove directly to the man’s house in Brooklyn. Unsure what he should say, he asked God to give him wisdom. He just knew that he had to get involved and offer help.
Frederick started a fund for the family, using the media to publicize their plight. The fund bought the widow and ten children a house, including an apartment to generate extra income, and provided an education for each child. Frederick Richmond’s compassion and generosity powerfully changed the mother’s and children’s lives. And those traits deeply touched people who responded to their need.
Point to Ponder:
A generous spirit is a wonderful attribute, but sometimes being generous requires an act of obedience. In Frederick Richmond’s case, his obedience involved both his wealth and his willingness to inspire others to give. His compassion reflected the love of God to the heartbroken family he helped. Whether the gift is time or money, when we are stirred from within by an inner urge toward generosity, we have two choices: (1) we can choose to be generous, or (2) we can make excuses and refuse to get involved. If we are unwilling to give of ourselves, we often miss the greater blessing: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
We have been called to stretch out the hands of God to a lonely, needy world.
Psalm 31:21 – I will praise you, LORD, for showing great kindness when I was like a city under attack.
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