Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How To Have Spiritual Growth In Your Life -- Part Two -- Feast On The Word


The last post concerning spiritual growth should not be perceived to be the most important. In fact, this series will be somewhat disjointed and I will write as things come to mind during my own contemplation of what has gone into my own spiritual growth. I have come to understand that spiritual growth is a constant battle (Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Corinthians 4:4) and it will continue to remain until we are released from our battle. I once heard J. T. Pugh state, “There are no permanent spiritual victories this side of the Rapture.”

The second principle that I find in spiritual growth:

2. Feast on the Word

John Cumming -- The empire of Caesar is gone, the legions of Rome are rotting in the dust, the avalanches that Napoleon hurled on Egypt have melted away, and the pride of the Pharoahs is fallen. Tyre is but a rock for bleaching fishermen’s nets, Sidon has scarcely left a wreck behind but the Word of God still survives. All those who threatened to extinguish it have only added to it and it proves everyday how transient is the noblest monument that man can build and how enduring is the least word that God has spoken.

Bernard Ramm in Protestant Christian Evidences: A thousand times over the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone and the committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.

Augustine -- The Scriptures are our letters from home.

Martin Luther -- The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”

John Bunyan -- I never knew all there was in the Bible until I spent those years in jail. I was constantly finding new treasures.

George Meuller -- The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts.

Charles Spurgeon -- Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.

Robert E. Lee -- In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.

Ulysses S. Grant -- Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties; write it’s precepts in your hearts, and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future.

Woodrow Wilson -- I am sorry for the men who do not read the Bible everyday; I wonder why they deprive themselves of the strength and of the pleasure.

Dwight D. Eisenhower -- The Bible is endorsed by the ages. Our civilization is built upon its words. In no other book is there such a collection of inspired wisdom, reality, and hope.

Ronald Reagan -- I never had any doubt about it being of divine origin. . . . Point out to me any similar collection of writings that has lasted for as many thousands of years and it still a bestseller, worldwide. It had to be of divine origin.

Immanuel Kant -- A single line in the Bible has consoled me more than all the books I ever read besides.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe -- The Bible grows more beautiful, as we grow in our understanding of it.

Sir Walter Scott -- The most learned, acute, and diligent student cannot, in the longest life, obtain an entire knowledge of the Bible. The more deeply he works the mine; the richer and more abundant he finds the ore.

Charles Dickens -- The New Testament is the best book the world has ever known or will know.

Helen Keller -- The Bible gives me a deep, comforting sense that 'things seen are temporal, and things unseen are eternal'.

I am certain that I have really never truly been able to understand the value of the Word of God. In my early twenties, I discovered the depth and the power of the Word during times of forced study during my Bible College days. Since that time what I have managed to tuck away in my heart has affected my entire outlook on life.

When I first begin to put sermons together, because it was my desire for those messages to be so biblically driven, I filled those messages full of Scripture. Admittedly sometimes these early sermons had a lot of the Word in them but still in retrospect, I do not think it was too much. This Word is the only real way for me to understand what God thinks and intends for my life.

Read Your Bible

Far too many only read the Bible when they are in church. This is sad. There is a famine in the land. . . . not a famine of bread but of the Word of God (Amos 8:11). Never has a generation had so many anemic saints. They have no spiritual immunity to fight the enemy with because their “ingestion” of the Bible has been limited to milk and they have never learned to have the meat. 1 Peter 1 urges us to add, add, add, add things to our lives. By adding these things to our lives, our spiritual immunity is built up against spiritual maladies that hinder our progress.

A good plan to read through the Bible exists. To read through the Bible in one year one will have to read only four chapters every day. To fulfill this task in six months, read eight chapters a day. Another method is to take certain books of the New Testament and break it down. For instance, take Matthew 1-7 and read it every day for 30 days. At the end of that time, take Matthew 8-14 and read it every day for 30 days. At the end of a three year period, following this method, one will have read through the entire New Testament thirty times. At that point, there is no doubt in my mind that you will have such a Word saturated life that every decision you make will be filtered through the lens of Scripture.

There are numerous Bibles now that are printed as “one year” Bibles and they have been broken down with daily dates. This makes your assignment very easy. Also, a very good Bible reading program that you can find on Google is Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s chart. You can also e-mail me and I will send an Excell and Word file to you (barnabas14@graceba.net) to assist you.

M’Cheyne’s chart will help you read through the Bible in one year with the New Testament and Psalms twice.

Mark Your Bible

For years, I handled my own personal Bible with great respect (and I still do) and would never, ever would dare mark in it. I felt that to “mark up” a Bible would be anathema. At one time or another, we all have been walking across parking lots and noticed Bibles tossed up in the back window of cars. The heat and the light has caused so much damage to the curled pages that this valuable treasure is good for nothing but the trash. This nearly criminal to see how that someone would not value the words of life. How a man treats his personal Bible says far more about him than one might perceive.

I continued with this thought until I met Kelsey Griffin. His wide-margin Bible is something of a legend and at that point I understood the importance of writing in my own Bible. His Bible and his marginal writings proved to be very helpful whenever he was asked to preach or teach unexpectedly or someone would ask him a question.

After a time of trial and error with marking my Bible, I finally came up with a fairly good system that works for me. First, I would find all the doctrinal areas and mark them in red. Once this verse was underlined in red, then I would write very neatly another verse reference and the topic that I was “chaining” together directly beside this verse. By doing this, the verses would be linked together and I would have a multitude of Scriptures to follow along with. The advantage of using red would key me into understanding that this was an important doctrinal truth and when I was flipping through the pages, the red color would stand out to me. I did use David Bernard’s very handy little A Handbook of Basic Doctrines.

As time progressed, my Bibles (I probably have too many) have become very neatly marked with copious notes. I write side notes, between the lines, in the front and back on the blank pages, all of which have been helpful to me. By doing this sort of writing in your Bible, it becomes “yours” and the real value of this Bible will only come when you have passed on (what a thought).

Marking verbs can really make a chapter stand out to you. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13 and notice what charity or love does. Take a look at Psalm 37 and mark what your responsibility is and what God’s responsibility is. My responsibility is in verse one is simple: Do not fret over evildoers and do not be envious of the workers of iniquity. God’s responsibility starts in verse two: He will cut them down like grass and wither them as the green herbs. The best way to mark this is with two different colors of ink. In my Bible, I alternately used orange and blue.

Another exercise would be to take Psalm 119 and mark all of the descriptions of what God states that the Word of God is. Notice: The Law of the Lord, His testimonies, His statues, commandments, and so on. When you begin to mark this in this manner, it provides you with a fantastic description of what the Word of God is. In this same chapter, look at what happens to the man who finds the Law of God filling his life: Your are blessed, you do not do iniquity, you will walk in the way of God and so on.

Another way to mark your Bible is by writing outlines in the margins. This causes us to “boil down” a passage of Scripture and see the lessons and principles that are brought out. By doing this, you are building your own commentary. I have also discovered that the more that I write in my Bible that more ideas come to me as to exactly what system to use when writing in this Bible.

Another way to mark your Bible is to take an entire book and place notes all throughout this book. You can mark characters, nationalities, cross-references, chapter outlines, and so on. I did this with the book of Acts sometime back and it was very helpful to me.

Another way to mark your Bible is to look for things that are emphasized, things that are repeated, things that are related, things that are alike and different, and things that are true to life.

One friend of mine has started a very noble task with his children. He has purchased several wide-margin Bibles and is writing his sermon notes and Bible studies in the margins and will present them with “his” Bible when they leave home. What an impact that could be made on a child’s life. Obviously, when they initially leave home the value of this will not really hit them but as they get older the value of this spiritual heirloom will heighten in such a way that this very well could be one his children’s most valued possessions.

Make the Characters Speak

Another helpful thing to do with this feast of the Word is to take the characters and make them walk up and down in your living room, office, or wherever you may study. Pull Joseph from the pit, the prison, and the palace and allow the descriptions you have found in Scripture to drive the conversation. Pull Daniel from his prayer room, from the lion’s den, or from the royal halls of the Babylonians and let him “speak” to you. Take a journey with Paul through the missionary trips and let the dangerous journeys encourage you to take a risk and invest your life in the Kingdom.

By making the characters speak to you, you gain insight into how they faced difficulties in life. See Elijah fighting depression, note Abraham and Sarah struggling with doubt, see Jeremiah’s weeping, and allow yourself to feel Ananias’ fear when he was to go pray for Saul (Paul). Put yourself in their shoes and see how you measure up.

Our generation needs godly heroes and the way to gain character qualities in your life is to expose your life to God’s men in the Book.

Apply Your Bible

All the feasting on the Word is worthless if you are only a “hearer” and not a “doer” (James 1:22). So I am going to leave you with a list from an “old” book entitled Living By The Book written by Howard Hendricks.

To apply the Word you have to know yourself. This inventory will help you to get a grasp on the real you.

In Your Personal Life

  • What is the status of your spiritual disciplines—disciplines well known to correlate with spiritual growth, such as Bible study, Scripture memory, prayer, or the reading of devotional literature?
  • What about your physical condition and habits or eating, exercise, sleep, and rest?
  • What behaviors do you especially desire to overcome: a temper, a deception, or sexual lust?
  • What behaviors do you especially desire to establish: patience, or hospitality, or perseverance?

In Your Family Life

  • Do you have a set come-home time from work that your family can count on
  • Do you “date” your spouse regularly?
  • Do you disengage emotionally from work and chores in order to spend unimpeded time involved with your children?
  • Are you upholding your responsibilities to your parents? To your spouses’ parents? To other relatives?

In Your Church Life

  • How often do you place yourself under the instruction of Scripture?
  • Do you faithfully, generously, and joyfully donate money to the cause of Christ?
  • Are you praying regularly for your pastor and other church leaders?
  • Do you know what your spiritual gift is, and are you using it?

In Your Work

  • Do you give an honest day’s labor to your employer?
  • Do you follow through on commitments you make to your customers?
  • Do you read and otherwise stay up on new developments, ideas, and methods in your field?
  • To the extent that you can, do you hold a steady job by which your needs and those of your family are being adequately met?
  • Do you have a family budget? Do you stay within it?

In Your Community

  • Do you regularly exercise your right and responsibility as a citizen to cast an informed vote?
  • Do you pay your fair share of taxes?
  • What is the status of your driving record?
  • Do you maintain your property within the statutes of your community?
  • Are you in any conscious of and involved with the poor and their needs?

There are numerous other questions that could be asked but all of this questions in this inventory are directly covered by instructions in the Word.

Now, go feast on the Word. . . . not just today or tomorrow. . . but for the rest of your life!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How To Have Spiritual Growth In Your Life - Part One - Seek Perfection

“All my life as a musician, I have striven for perfection. It has always eluded me. I surely had an obligation to make one more try.” Verdi

Quotes like these can make an incredible impression on you if you allow them to. If you mind ever gets really stretched by a new idea or new vision, it will never return to its original dimensions.

If I am not growing then I am declining. Those who quit reaching for perfection will find themselves being kidnapped by the urgent and the insignificant. This soon leads to a spiritual shallowness. This shallowness, with the progression of time, will erode the greatness out of the soul.

The question is posed, “How does one obtain such a desire toward perfection?” This desire is never easy and will always be just out of our grasp. But as we strive toward that mark that has been set up before us, great growth of the soul will occur.

These are a few of the steps that I believe helps to stretch us beyond the present and the now.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn -- “The meaning of earthly existence lies not, as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering but in the development of the soul.”

1. Put yourself on a plan for spiritual fitness.

I am amazed at the record keeping of some of my friends in the medical community. Last summer, three of these fellows were training for a triathlon which involved: swimming one mile, running 10 kilometers, and biking for 50 kilometers. Two of these men are in the early training stages for an Ironman (swimming 2.5 miles, running a 26.2 mile marathon, and biking 100 miles). Their personal records kept a multitude of stats. They kept up with all of their nutritional intake, fluids they had consumed, miles they had swam, kilometers they had ran, and the distances on their bikes. With this series of records they could see exactly how much progress or lack thereof they had made in the last week, month, and year. I was very impressed with their meticulous records.

Spiritual growth and maturity does not simply take place by osmosis. Spiritual growth and development will not take place simply because you decided to go to a personal retreat, a revival conference, or any other event. Our generation is very “event” oriented and not very much oriented toward “action.” I have attended one major conference this year and one major men’s event and both of them were extremely inspiring to me. The key word being “inspiring.” However, until I could track my time and my own personal growth after these two events then I had simply wasted my money.

Spiritual growth and maturity occurs when we do more than just show up for “church.” Spiritual growth and maturity occurs when you stretch your brain and your lifestyle into more than just “showing up.” On the other hand, I also know that inspiration without instruction will lead to frustration. I am endeavoring in the next few days to bring some plan of instruction to you that will help you grow beyond your current place now.

I am unwilling to place a yoke of legalism on your life but at the same time, we track our prayer life by a measure of the minutes that we spend in prayer. I am unwilling to place a heavier yoke of guilt on you but time spent in the Word is going to equate into how many chapters that you have read and studied. If you are not writing either in the margins of your Bible or in a separate notebook, you are fooling yourself, because you are not studying, you are simply reading. There is a vast difference!

Furthermore, I do not want to strap your budget, but if you are not buying and reading good challenging books to assist your spiritual growth, you are turning into a Big Mac or a Whopper. You may say that you love God, but your budget betrays you. Appleby’s, Ruby Tuesdays, IHOP, Outback, and Chili’s is clogging your arteries and choking your soul.

The internet has also allowed for us to tap into tremendous spiritual growth tools. For example, Google “spiritual growth” and see where that takes you.

So how do you develop a plan for spiritual growth? I am so glad you asked!!! Go to Walmart and buy a cheap monthly planner and then determine what you will do with the 168 hours every week that is allotted to you. Presidents and paupers all have the same amount of time given to them. Some of the time will be necessary for work and sleep and eating but the rest of this time should be judiciously spent. Time is the coin of life don’t let a fool spend it for you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What hour each day will I spend on cultivating my soul?
  • How much time am I willing to set aside for daily prayer?
  • How many people am I going to positively influence this week?
  • What am I going to say to these people when I interact with them?
  • Who am I discipling at this present time? If I am not helping someone else grow, then why not?
  • Am I willing to make God the center of my life and never allow Him to live on the periphery of my life?

I have a friend of mine (a pastor) who sits down on the 20th day of every month and takes several hours on that day to map out his priorities for the coming month. In addition, he also re-evaluates his progress from last month. When we are willing to commit things like this to “hard copy” and honestly evaluate our progress. . . . then progress happens.

Commit your progress to written records. A few days ago, I mentioned to my wife (in a very serious conversation) that I wanted to preach through the Bible before I died. She told me that she thought that I had made major headway on that goal the last two times that I had preached. Yet on a more serious note, if such a goal is going to be in my life, I must know where I have preached and what I have left to preach. This is where keeping records is crucial.

Write it down!!!! From personal experience, I can tell you that this will be both encouraging and also it will be discouraging. But you need to see the big picture, if it overall is positive then keep going. . . . If the big picture is needing work, then make the proper adjustments and grow a great soul.

I will continue this trend of thought over the next several days. . . . .

Saturday, April 15, 2006

What Do You Want To Be Remembered For?

I spent all of the morning and on into the mid-afternoon today in small town America. I had the occasion to attend a funeral of a man who is very distantly related to me by marriage. His name was William “Bill” Adkinson who lived in Defuniak Springs, Florida. He was born there and he died there. Because of his distant relation to me, I am uncertain if I ever recall having met him. I was more acquainted with his 92 year old father, one of his half-brothers who attends our church here in Dothan, and one of his brother-in-laws.


He had a fairly protracted struggle with a severe liver disorder which apparently had been related to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He was very active in his church, in his community, and with his family. He served as the captain for the Argyle Volunteer Fire Department and had spent the last 23 years involved in this venue. In addition to that, he was a butcher at one of the local meat markets. Because of his trade, he developed a county wide reputation as a man who could grill some of the finest steaks in Walton County, Florida. At his memorial service, it was revealed that he had cooked for practically every benefit in his little town of Defuniak that was known. He cooked for schools, the Kiwanis, Argyle Volunteer Fire Department, and for numerous church fundraisers.

One of the ministers spoke of him and said that he was one of the best friends that any pastor could have. From the support at his funeral, it appears that this was very true about him. The eulogy given by the Fire Chief of Argyle was also very moving. I became aware as the service progressed that he was a godly man who tried his best to help anyone who needed his assistance.

The most moving thing about the funeral actually occurred after the service was over. He was carried not to a hearse but rather to a fire-truck. Six firefighters, in full dress, carried him forty yards or so and then put him up onto the back of a pumper. This was escorted by nine fire trucks along with probably fifty or sixty firemen. While he was being placed in the truck, the sounds of the bagpipes could be heard.

The passing of this man was probably entirely unknown outside of his circle of friends and family but it has caused great thought to burden my mind most of the day. That burden took form of a question: What Do You Want To Be Remembered For?

Life is full of choices and generally those choices that we make set the tone for our lives. Peter Drucker related in The Daily Drucker about how that when he was thirteen that he had a teacher to ask all of his classmates this question of what they wanted to be remembered for. At the time, none of these boys had any idea what they wanted to be remembered for. The teacher responded that this was exactly as he thought their answers would be. He then went on to say that if they did not know the answer to that question when they were fifty then they had wasted their lives.

This is not the first time that I have contemplated this thought. In fact, every time that I attend a funeral, I always walk away with the probing questions of what am I spending my life on and to what am I giving myself? What is the real reason for living? It has come to me more often than once that James, the long dead apostle, was right when he said that life is just a vapor and then it is gone. Only what we do for Christ will last. . .

When you finally decide on what you want to be remembered for, it creates inertia, it creates impetus for living, it adds vitality to your spirit, and if forces you to live above the bar of average. Far too many lives are wasted on the superficial. Superficial things like pursuing comfort, position in life, a place to lay your head, a place that has a lot of square feet, or other trivial pursuits. But in this huge question of how that you want to be remembered, if there is no room made for dreams, for vision, and for desire, you have incredibly wasted your life. Dreams and visions are not artificial opiates of the mind that causes us to live in a dreamy state of unreality but instead our dreams and visions are the very force that drives us. If there appears to be little force in a man’s life, then his dreams are either microscopic or they are dead. Men who change their world are men who are given and submitted to something so much larger than their own personal lives can contain.

Charles Handy wrote a little book entitled, The Hungry Spirit, and in that book he reveals some his inner feelings about his own father. His father was a pastor of a little small country church in Ireland for 40 years. Handy writes that he had very little in the way of material things when he was growing up because of his father’s small stipend that come from serving this little country church. He said that because of growing up in this sort of atmosphere, he determined when he was eighteen, that he would never live under the bondage that the yoke of poverty put on him and his family. In addition to this strong resolution of not being poor or associating with the poor, he grimly determined that he would walk away from the church too for what he perceived had limited him in his younger life.

He went on to write that his father died after having lived a very long life. As he wrote about his father’s funeral he noticed that people literally came from everywhere to honor his father’s life. He writes that he was “staggered” by the sheer numbers of those who came give their last goodbye to their friend, his father. Sadly, he wrote that he had allowed this poverty of the material things to infect him with a much deeper poverty in his spirit. As he surveyed the deep emotions of the people, he discovered that his father had deeply impacted the lives of these folks. Handy wrote, “He had obviously gotten something right which I had been too obtuse to see. And, in the end, too late for him to know, he had affected my life too!”

Our generation has gotten so high tech that we are “high teching” ourselves right out of the crucial things of life. We are letting gadgets override our connection with those people who are closest to us. We are allowing the hustle and bustle of life to hurry us along the path and we are gasping from overloaded lives and empty hearts. Our times are spent and we are as Shakespeare said, living lives that are “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

But today, and maybe just today, but I sort of doubt, Brother Bill, Mr. Bill, Uncle Bill, and a host of other names that Bill Adkinson was known by has forced me to again contemplate that huge, huge question of what am I really living for? What am I spending my life for? What is my soul being expended on?

What do I want to be remembered for?

  • A man who feared God.
  • A man who loved God and His work.
  • A man who loved the Church. Not just the one that I serve as pastor of but this global body of Christ who has been blood-bought and redeemed.
  • A man who was a student of the Word. Not just a superficial student who only spent time with the Book when I needed something to preach or teach, but a consuming passion to know the Word.
  • A man who connected with God in prayer.
  • A man who poured encouragement out.
  • A man who was committed to his wife and children.
  • A man who honored his mother and father and his mother-in-law and father-in-law.
  • A man who simply lived for God. . . .

Friday, April 07, 2006

O Preacher Wake Up and Study . . . .

How To Make A Man of God

I found this quote on another site that I periodically go to. This was quoted in a sermon from John MacArthur entitled "How To Make A Man Of God." The quote is not original with JM and the source is unknown.

It stirred within me a greater desire to proclaim the Truth. It also stirred within me a passion for those people that I preach to every week. May God help us to awaken our own sleepy souls. . . . .

Fling him into his office. Tear the “Office” sign from the door and nail on the sign, “Study.” Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flock of lives of a superficial flock and a holy God. Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God.

Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he’s bruised and beaten into being a blessing.

Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence.

Bend his knees in the lonesome valley. Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God.

Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets. Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God!

Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day-”Sir, we would see Jesus.”

When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day’s superficial problems, and manage the community’s weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can. Command him not to come back until he’s read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he’s back against the wall of the Word. And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left-God’s Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he’s burned out by the flaming Word, when he’s consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he’s privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

For God's Sake. . . Wash Your Hands

I first heard this story in the spring of 1985. In fact it was the opening lecture in my first nursing class. After twenty years, I still think of how important the simple things are. May you think of the simple things too!

The year was 1818 and Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis (pronounced ZEMMELVISE) was born into a world of dying women. The most magnificent hospitals of the day were losing one out of every six young mothers to a mysterious scourge commonly referred to as “childbed fever.” For twenty-six years this disease would continue to incapacitate and destroy young mothers in the throes of labor and at times even destroying the lives of the newborn children.

In 1844, at twenty-six years of age, the now Dr. Semmelweis, decided that there was a connection between the mothers’ deaths and the practice of physicians. A doctor’s daily routine began in the labs where autopsies were performed. It was in the process of the autopsies that physicians would perfect their surgical techniques and their knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Yet there was one alarming practice that occurred in this setting.

Many of these practitioners would leave directly the lab and go from the place of the dying and move to the place of the living. These men would never pause to wash their hands and something from the diseased dead would be transmitted to those battling into the gates of life. In fact the often ignorant and trusting public would look at a physician with a blood-stained lab coat and would see this as a sign of his “success,” a morbid badge of honor. The more soiled his lab coat was, the better physician that he was considered to be. (If you find this hard to believe, you owe it to yourself to read up on the history of medicine in the U.S. and abroad. Semmelweis practiced in Vienna.)

So young Semmelweis was the first man in history to associate this type of practice with resulting infection and death. So he began to wash his hands in a chlorine solution when he left the lab to practice medicine. After eleven years and the delivery of 8,537 babies, he lost only 184 mothers–about one in fifty. This was in the days before C-sections which in itself can preserve the baby in instances of breach presentation, cord compression, placenta previa, and other anomalies. Semmelweis’ average was considered very good.

With this concise record keeping on his part, he began to lecture, debate, even argue with his colleagues, and where he could, he implemented mandatory hand-washing among those whom were his subordinates and interns under his direction. He fought with such vigor and strength that he was accused of madness. He struggled to get doctors to wear clean clothes in deliveries and attempted to get clean wards in which to practice medicine. Still these resistant colleagues of his would refuse to comply with his standards. The standards of Semmelweis were ridiculous and went against the current thoughts of the day.

He once argued, “Puerperal fever (childbed fever) is caused by decomposed material, conveyed to a wound. I have shown how it can be prevented. I have proved all that I have said. But while we talk, talk, talk, gentlemen, woman are dying. I am not asking anything world shaking. I am merely asking you only to wash. . . For God’s sake, wash your hands.

But in his struggle, practically no one believed him. Physicians and midwives had been delivering babies for years without washing and no crazy Hungarian was going to change them today or tomorrow. Semmelweis would die at the young age of 47, practically at the edge of insanity with his wash basins discarded and his peers laughing in his face. . . . and the death rattle of a thousand women ringing in his ears. But he refused to give up. He labored valiantly on. . . . in a seemingly losing battle.

Years passed and the nineteenth century rolled around. Enter another young physician named Joseph Lister. He having come into contact with some of the records and journals of Semmelweis began to soak his surgical instruments in carbolic acid and the results were astonishing. What previously had been considered as risky and hazardous surgery now became routine. Interestingly enough the majority of physicians ridiculed and ostracized Lister also, but he too, plodded steadily on.


Today before you have a surgical procedure, the surgeon will stand outside of the operating room and “scrub” his hands with a Betadine scrub or Hibiclens soap for ten minutes before he even enters the room where the patient is. Just because the majority believe one thing does not necessarily mean that it is true. The beliefs of Semmelweis and Lister have both outlived them and contributed greatly to the world that we enjoy.

It is amazing that something as simple as handwashing would have such an impact on modern healthcare. It is a very simple thing for a healthcare worker to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs. However, too often hospital staff will not wash their hands between patients. Because of this negligence, deadly, infectious microbes are spread about and patients become acutely ill.

So simple yet so crucial.

  • What of those who invest themselves in working for God without first praying?
  • What of those who make life-altering decisions without prayer?
  • What of those who preach but never pray?
  • What of those who sing but never pray?
  • What of those who write but never pray?
  • What of those who allow marriages to seek human counsel instead of godly prayer?
  • What of those who are modifying their behavior but not upgrading their spirit with prayer?

O Lord, Teach Us To Pray!?! Luke 11:1. . . . . .