Welcome to the August Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.
A WORD FOR TODAY, August 2000
August 1, 2000
Anniversary One year ago, on August 1, 1999, I began a two-week commitment to send a word of inspiration to a group of friends. Halfway through that commitment I wondered how I'd ever have enough ideas to make it to the end. At the end of the second week, I still had a few thoughts to share, so I continued to write. As people learned of the writing, they asked to be added to the list. Today, we begin our second year together.
Someone suggested that I should post the writings on the web, so they would be available to anyone who would like to access them. So, I tried. And failed. I tried a number of different programmes and editors, but I failed miserably. On September 17, as I sat at my computer tired and frustrated, I cried out to God, "If you want this to happen, you will have to make it happen!" At that moment, an old friend struck up a conversation with me online. We had not seen each other for some time, so we talked about our lives, our triumphs and failings. I told him about my desire to build a website to share these writings.
He said, "Peggy, do you know what I've been doing for the past six months?" Then he sent me the link to his first paid website. That weekend, Vic walked me through the process and taught me everything I needed to know. Since that day, we've worked together to put God's Word on the web, and I am so thankful for everything he has done.
The style of writing has developed over the months. The mailing list has grown and the format has been changed. One thing has remained consistent. Each morning when I wake up and sit at the computer, God gives me the message for the day. Some days I am distracted or tired. Some days I sit at the computer with an agenda. Some days it seems like I'll never manage to get a word written. Though my weaknesses seem insurmountable, God remains ever faithful and His light shines out of my foolishness.
Read Phillippians 1:3-11
So, on this, the beginning of the second year of A WORD FOR TODAY, I would like to thank my Lord and my God for His mercy, grace and love. Thank you Jesus for all you have done. Thank you God for speaking to me and through me by the power of your Holy Spirit. Thank you God for the gifts you give us; your Word, divine inspiration and the people you have placed in our paths. Thank you God for this ministry, for the gifts and abilities necessary to carry it through to your glory.
Thank you, my friends, for your support, love and encouragement. I do love you all, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us praise God together every moment and may He be ever glorified in A WORD FOR TODAY and in our lives.
Butterflies Our neighbor is creating a beautiful butterfly garden. She has plants of every size, shape and colour. It is not a formal garden, but rather a hodge podge mess giving it the most wonderful wild look. Several of the flowers and bushes were chosen specifically to attract the butterflies. I was admiring her garden the other day and I saw butterflies on every flower of one bush. It was such a delightful sight, watching them land then take off again was such a joy.
I got very close and put out my hand. One of the butterflies nearly climbed on, but I moved my hand closer to give it a boost and it flew away. I tried to become friends, and I chased it away. I think at times we do that with the people who cross our path. We try too hard to make relationships fit our needs and desires.
Relationships can be very complicated. We do not always understand why God has brought two people together. Some relationships are long lasting, others are meant for a brief period of time. Some people touch our lives in many ways; others have only one lesson to teach. It is difficult to let go of the people who mean so much to us, particularly when they have such a positive impact. At times, however, we work too hard to keep hold of something which does not belong to us. When something stands in the way of a relationship, we need to let it go and move on.
Read Luke 9:61-62
When the butterfly took off, I tried to catch it, to no avail. There have been times in my life when I have tried to hold on to people who were no longer meant to be part of my life. I was willing to do anything to grasp hold of the friendship. However, those actions made me look back rather than forward, keeping me from doing the work I’ve been called to do.
We need to move on, without even a good-bye, and continue our work in the fields of God’s Kingdom. The day may come when the butterfly lands not on the flower, but rather on your hand, but you cannot seek the experience. God will move the people in your life. In His time and way, if it is His will and purpose the friendship will return to you. Keep moving forward; you never know what blessing may wait around the corner.
Bad News As our time in England draws to a close, we are beginning to look forward to our next base. It is a long process of waiting and wondering. We found out recently that the only job available for Bruce is in Little Rock, Arkansas. This was not good news to our ears. Little Rock is as far away from everywhere we wanted to go as we can get. So many things we had planned for our next assignment may have to be put on hold or done differently than we expected. On the day we heard the news, my only good thought was “At least I know there will be a Wal-Mart close by.”
We have grown to accept, and even look forward, to our time in Little Rock due to the kindness of many strangers. In our web research, we have contacted people through email who live in Arkansas or are familiar with the state. Bruce has talked to people who have been stationed there. Each person has given us something that has eased our worries and fears. I am very thankful to a pastor in Little Rock who has gone out of his way to help us ease into the transition. Though this assignment is less than desirable to us, we know that God will help us to rejoice in our circumstances and continue our work in His kingdom.
It seems that in this world today there are so many people who are sick in body, mind or spirit. There are people who are hungry, angry, poor, bitter, afraid, sad and lonely. Everyone needs someone to help him or her through the valleys of their lives. The world needs compassionate people who are willing to give of themselves to help others. Charity is not only giving money to some cause; it is about giving love to the people who need it most. One of the greatest callings of the Christian faith is to be charitable.
Read Matthew 25:34-40
Today, someone will cross your path that needs you to be charitable. Perhaps you will simply need to supply a word of hope, a smile, or a simple glass of water. Grasp hold of those opportunities to share the light and love of your Lord Jesus. Whatever you do in charity this day for someone in your path, you do for Jesus Himself.
Queen Mum On this day one hundred years ago, Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon was born. There are seven thousand people turning 100 this year in the United Kingdom, so what makes Elizabeth so special? The Bowes-Lyon family is descendent from the Scottish royal family. Her ancestral home is Glamis Castle, and she spent much of her childhood there. When the first World War began, her home became a hospital, and though she was only 14 years old and could not be a nurse, she did help in the care of the patients. The high rank of her family meant that she was able to spend time with the royal family. In April 1926, she became the wife of HRH The Duke of York. After the death of his father and the abdication of his brother Edward, Elizabeth’s husband became King George VI. Together they ruled an empire that spanned to the four corners of the world. During World War II, it was suggested that Queen Elizabeth take her children to the safety of North America, however she preferred to stay in London to share in the difficulties with her people. She was in Buckingham Palace when it was bombed.
Elizabeth is the mother of two children, Elizabeth and Margaret. At the death of King George in 1952, Princess Elizabeth became the reigning monarch her mother became the dowager queen. The Queen Mother has continued to serve the people of Britain and is one of the most beloved members of the royal family today.
As she celebrates her 100th birthday, people from all over the kingdom are lining the streets of London to join in the party, hoping to catch a glimpse of this lovely woman who has dedicated her life to serving the people she loves. In 1997, at 97 years old, she made 58 official visits. She is incredibly youthful in appearance and spirit, still enjoying the great outdoors and her favourite sport – horseracing. At her official party several weeks ago, she smiled with great joy at each person who took part, grateful to the people who cared so much to wish her well. She is loved because she loves. This is what makes her such a special lady.
Over the past few months, the media in England have been focusing on centenarians. As people reach the 100th year of life they are often asked, “What is the secret to long life?” There is a different answer for every person, such as right living, good diet, exercise and happiness. The book of Proverbs provides an answer to the question.
Read Proverbs 3:1-8
Today we wish HRH Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother a very Happy Birthday and pray that she will celebrate many more. My prayer for each of you is that you will heed the Proverb and that you will live a long and prosperous life in obedience to His life in you. Thanks be to God.
Running It seems that in today’s society there are many people who are running away from the troubles they face. Children run away from home because their parents mistreat them. Employees leave their jobs because they are not respected or paid what they are worth. People walk away from friendships because some need is not being met. Marriages break up for many reasons.
In many cases, there is good reason to dissolve such a relationship. There are people in this world that are abusive and unfaithful. However, there are times we run for the wrong reasons. We are selfish and run because we want to find a place where things work more to our favour.
In the book of Philemon, Paul writes to a dear friend and brother in Christ who is a slave owner. It seems that Onesimus, a slave, stole from Philemon and escaped. He spent time with Paul, learning about our Lord Jesus Christ and became a Christian. In this letter, Paul mediated between the two to restore their relationship.
Read Philemon 1:6-21
This story says so much about how we are to act Christ-like in our relationships, doing the things we know are right according to God’s Word. We need to be responsible for our actions. We need to be loving and merciful. We, like Paul, need to appeal to ‘Christ within’ the people we face in our lives. Though we do not always understand the reasons and purpose of times of separation, we do know that God works everything for the good of those who love Him. When the time comes for restoration, then we must receive them with the heart of Christ.
Linen closet We moved into this house 2 ½ years ago. At that time, we put a box in the linen closet, filled with health care products. It has gone untouched for 2 ½ years. In my effort to simplify our life before our move, I attacked the linen closet this week to rid us of the unnecessary garbage that has been collected. I pulled the box out, and was amazed at what we had left untouched in that box. There were full bottles of shampoo, skin cream, razors, and other things that were still usable. I also found over the counter cold medications, cough syrup and other remedies for our ills. These medicines were long out of date, and should have been destroyed a long time ago. On some of them, the expiration date precedes our move here. In other words, we carried with us junk that was not only unnecessary but also dangerous.
Why do we hold on to such things? These things aren’t even treasures, they are useless garbage that gets in the way. It seems as though we are unable to get rid of the things that are dangerous for us. We do this in our lives with Christ, too. We hang on to things such as our ideas, hopes and dreams. In some cases, these things are not only junk, but are dangerous to our Christian walk.
Our children are prone to peer pressure. We, as parents, see that some of their friends are not good for them. Yet, they hold on to those friendships for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they fear no one else will be their friend. Or they are drawn to something they see as special in that person. As time moves on, the friend brings things like drugs or alcohol into the relationship, and the child is on a one way road to destruction.
Read Matthew 6:19-24
What are you holding on to in your linen cupboard? How about the things or people that are in your life? Are there friendships you know are dangerous, that will lead you on the road to destruction? Do you seek wealth or fame in a way that turns your eyes from God our Father? Are there habits that you should give up for your health, physical as well as spiritual? The things on which we focus our hearts are the very things that distract us from hearing God. Time to clean out the closet.
Beans Jack and his mom were starving. All they had left was one cow. Jack’s mom sent him off to market to sell the cow to buy the things they needed to survive. Along the way, Jack met a man who offered him a handful of magic beans in exchange for the cow. Perhaps Jack was too lazy to walk all the way to market or too stupid to know a cow is worth more than a few beans. Either way, Jack accepted the deal with the faith that the beans were the solution to his problem and he went home.
Jack’s mother did not have the same faith. She was angry and upset, even threw the beans out the window. She then went into despair knowing that her family would perish. The next morning, when they awoke, there stood outside their window an enormous beanstalk. It reached all the way to the sky. Jack, in an effort to redeem himself, climbed this beanstalk and found the castle of a giant at the top. I’m sure you know the rest of this story. Jack finds the goose that lays the golden eggs, destroys the mean giant and the family lives happily ever after. Jack trusted in something that seemed ridiculous to others, and his faith brought him everything he needed.
Bruce, Vicki, Zack and I face a crossroads of our life. We do not know what tomorrow holds, even though we thought we did. Where will we move in the coming months? Will it be Arkansas, or somewhere else? We cannot be sure what we will be given until the day finally comes. However, we will wait patiently in faith for God to give us what we need.
Read Psalm 40:1-5
Our faith in God is not a fairytale, and God’s love and mercy are not some magic beans. We know that God loves His children and will provide whatever they need for today. We have to trust that whatever happens tomorrow will be according to His will in our lives. May God grant us the patience and trust we need in times like this, and may we continue to praise Him for all His goodness and mercy.
Cotton Candy There is nothing redeeming about cotton candy. It is sugar with a touch of colour and flavour which is heated and spun into a fluffy, sticky mess of pure delight. This treat can be found on any boardwalk or carnival fairway. Children love it because it is pure sugar and such fun to eat. Parents hate it because it provides nothing nutritional for the children and fills them with that energy that comes from a sugar high. Yet, the child in every adult seems to win, and it is easy to find families consuming this delicacy at the beach and the fair every summer. There’s something so neat about the feel of the cotton candy as it melts on your tongue.
We are celebrating God’s story this week at Vacation Bible School. Yesterday, we learned that God cares for us. We heard the story of Moses as a baby, and how God protected him from the cruel infanticide of the Egyptians. The children were asked about their own worries and how God has taken them away. Children do face stress in their day to day lives, and military children face some incredible worries. We do not always realize how much they know about what is going on in the lives of their parents, but they can sense when there is something to worry about in the home. Children know when the family faces financial troubles or sickness. They know when their parents are angry with one another. They know when the active duty member is in danger at their job. Children face peer pressure and the normal cares and concerns that come with growing up.
The theme “God cares for you” is to teach them that God is there to help them through all their troubles. At the closing prayer, each child was given a lump of cotton candy. When the prayer leader asked God to remove all our worries, they were told to put the cotton candy in their mouth. It just disappeared. When we take our problems to God, the fear and worry disappears. This does not always mean the problem will go away. We might still be sick or our daddy might still be in some foreign land. But we give those worries to God in faith, knowing that He will hold our hand and love us through the most difficult of situations.
Read Matthew 7:7-11
Today, give your cares and worries to your Father in heaven. The time spent in prayer with Him, in the name of Jesus, will give you the peace that comes as your cares are lifted. The worries will disappear like cotton candy in the mouth of a child.
Protection When a child is just an infant, we are easily able to keep them in one small place, for their protection. They sleep in a crib or play in a playpen, and we do not have to worry about them wandering away. As they grown older, we need to give them more space. One of the difficulties of being a parent is watching the children grow into independence. We want them to mature but we have to allow them out of our zone of comfort. We want to be able to see them every moment, to protect them from the dangers of the world.
It is impossible for a parent to protect a child from all harms, though we try to do our best. Yesterday at Bible School, the theme was “God protects us.” At the closing show in the sanctuary of the chapel, a teenage girl was asked to stand in a small blow up pool. She was well protected with a raincoat and an umbrella. Under the pool was a large sheet of plastic. Every precaution was taken to protect the church and the people. Then Veronica stood on a chair and held a bowl of cool aid over the umbrella. Even though she poured very slowly and carefully, drops of cool aid fell on the people who were standing nearby. Even though she was well protected, the young lady stood in the pool in bare feet and the cool aid got in between her toes. They were demonstrating how God protects us from harm. We also learned that sin continues to touch our lives.
We heard more about Moses and the way he was sent back into Egypt as the deliverer called to save the Israelites. God sent plagues to convince Pharoah of His power, but Pharoah’s heart hardened against the people and they were treated more harshly. Through it all, Moses continued to obey God and praise Him because he knew the day of deliverance was to come.
Read Psalm 92:1-8
Just as a mom is unable to keep a child from getting a scraped knee even under her watchful eye, sin still affects our lives with God’s protective covering. Let us praise God in every moment, knowing that even when sin touches our lives, He will deliver us from evil. Thanks be to God.
Ooo Ooo You’ve heard that noise. That is the noise of kids volunteering to do something in class. You know how it is. The teacher says, “I need a volunteer.” Suddenly 80% of the class raise their hands, get on their feet and push forward toward the teacher. This is accompanied by that sound. When the teacher describes the sort of job she’s requiring the volunteer to do, at least half the kids drop their hands and do everything in their power to hide, so that they are passed by when she selects the student. The students who do not wish to be chosen tend to sit in the back, slump down in their seats, thereby covering themselves from the eyes of the teacher.
Pharaoh rejected God’s mercy nine times, and each time God sent a new plague on the Egyptians. Moses went in once more and told Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Pharaoh said “No” and threatened to kill Moses if he ever appeared before Pharaoh again. The fate of Egypt was set. The first born of Egypt would die.
God instructed the Hebrews on how to prepare for their deliverance. They were to prepare a meal with unleavened bread and a sacrificed lamb. They were to take the blood of the lamb and paint it on the tops and sides of their doorframes. When the angel of the Lord passed through Egypt, he passed over the houses with blood. There was loud wailing in Egypt that night; there was death in every home. But there was no death in the homes of the Hebrews. Pharaoh told Moses to get out of Egypt. Death passed over the homes of the Hebrews and they were released from the bondage under which they lived.
Our Lord Jesus was the final Passover lamb. He was sacrificed on the cross and His blood in painted on our hearts. Now, death passes us by and we are given eternal life in Him. We are set free from the bondage of sin.
Read Romans 5:9-11
The theme of VBS yesterday was “God loves us.” He showed the Hebrews His love by telling them how to be covered when the angel of death passed through Egypt. He also instructs His children today how to be covered from the death that comes from sin. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will have eternal life. Thanks be to God.
Butterflies There are four stages to a butterfly’s life – egg, larvae (caterpillar), pupa and butterfly. The egg and pupa stages are inactive. They are times of transition from one form to another in which the creature does nothing such as eat or move. The larvae stage is quite destructive. During this time the caterpillar eats everything in it track. Trees and other vegetation often die when there are large numbers of caterpillars. After a time, the caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon and becomes a pupa. During this time the creature does not eat, but rather goes into a period of dormancy and transformation. A beautiful butterfly breaks through the covering when the transformation is complete.
The butterfly’s eating habits are much different than the larvae. While the larvae are destructive, the butterflies are productive. Rather than eating the leaves of the trees and plants, a butterfly lives on the nectar of flowers. As they pass from one flower to another, they pollinate the plants and provide for new life. Not only is the butterfly’s physical appearance is changed during the pupa stage, but also its nature.
Our life is similar to that of a butterfly. We are born in this world with a sinful nature. When we are born again, by God’s Word and His Spirit, then we are transformed into a new creature. We may not look different physically, but our lives will appear to be different to the world.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:12-18
The theme at Bible School yesterday was “God saves us.” The snack for the day was created to look like a butterfly on the plate. We learned about Jesus’ death, and how He takes away our sin and transforms us into a beautiful creature that glorifies Him. Once we were destructive and sinful. Through His mercy and grace, we are made beautiful and productive. Thanks be to God.
Translation I took two years of French classes when I was in school. That was many years ago, and today I can only remember a handful of words and phrases. Languages are best learned at an early age and the best way to retain that knowledge is to use it. Unfortunately, I did not have many opportunities to speak French in my home or town. Several years ago, I took a bus trip to France. We went to a mall, and I stopped in a Disney Store for some gifts for my children. Remembering a few key phrases, I approached the teller.
“Bonjour,” I said. He proceeded to speak quickly about the time, weather, or some topic. I did not know. My remembrance of French was so limited that he lost me after the first word. When I told him to stop, that I did not speak French he said in perfect English, “I know, I was just playing with you.” Differences in language can cause great strife between people. When a word or phrase is misused or misunderstood, people are unable to work together for the betterment of society.
One of the activities at VBS this week had the children make up a false language, then try to communicate with the other children in the group. It was impossible to tell what the children were saying to each other because the languages were so confused. We learned about the day of Pentecost, when God sent His Holy Spirit to live among the believers.
Read Acts 2:4-8
On that day of Pentecost, the Church was born, and the disciples were sent out to all nations to preach the Word. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He gave His people the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20. He told them that they should go out into the world baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching His Word. He also made a promise. He told them He would be with them to the very end of the age.
God made that promise real and true on the day of Pentecost when He sent His Spirit to live in the hearts of His children. Today we know that God is always with us, in times of stress, joy, weariness, success, failure, health and sickness. He is with us when we share His story. We need to share His Word, despite the language barriers and trust that His Spirit will bring about understanding.
Commitment One of my favourite shows on television is called ‘Early Edition.’ The main character’s name is Gary. He is given tomorrow’s newspaper today and he takes that information to change the circumstances around certain events to cause a better outcome. He’s quite the hero, saving people’s lives and stopping bank robberies. But the news is not always easy to change, and it often involves someone he knows. On one occasion, he saw an article that described how he was shot because he had been the witness to a crime. He was able to stay out of the line of fire, and that story did not come true. However, ‘Early Edition’ is just a television programme. What if you knew what would happen tomorrow? Would you try to change the events?
Paul had met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. Before that event, he was persecuted Christians, but afterward, he shared the story of our Lord Jesus to people from many lands. He went on four missionary journeys to the far corners of civilization. He met with Christians, taught the Word and edified the church. It was not an easy way of life, he faced boat wrecks, persecution and imprisonment. Yet Paul continued to do God’s Will.
As he neared the end of his third journey, the Spirit of God had given prophets the knowledge that Paul would be persecuted in Jerusalem for his faith. The Christians wanted Paul to avoid Jerusalem, but Paul refused to retreat.
Read Acts 21:10-14
Paul knew that God had a purpose for his persecution in Jerusalem. He listened to the voice of God in his life, and he refused to take the advice of the people around him. He would not turn from the path that he knew was God’s will.
Have you ever faced a decision knowing the outcome would be less than pleasant? We do not know what tomorrow has in store for our lives, but we can hear God’s voice and follow His direction each step of the way. Our friends and family may warn us of the dangers such a path, but we know that we must follow Him. Are you committed enough to your Lord and Saviour to be like Paul? Would you go to Jerusalem?
Colour My partner and I are building a website for a friend. This has been quite a challenge since there is something wrong with the colour on his computer. He created a well-designed logo, but the colour scheme was not quite right, the blue was not purple enough and the ocean was too gray. He changed the colours in his editor and sent me the new logo. He had selected lime green and bright orange. It was a most bizarre combination, but it was perfect! Together, with my partner as the hands and myself as the eyes, we created a logo that has pleased our friend.
Computers are basically the same, yet they are very different. Each computer has basic hardware necessary to carry out the functioning of the machine, but the software installed makes each unique. Each computer can be set up differently, which means that each user will see the pictures on the screen according to his or her own settings. Some have high resolution, some low. Some have only a basic colour pallet; some have far more available colours. The way we see the colours on a computer does not change the intention of the creator. Also, the way we carry out our tasks is dependent on the software we have installed.
Read Romans 12:4-8
If my partner’s computer had been working in a way for him to see true colour, he never would have tried the perfect combination. Also, he would not have needed my help. We make a great team with our individual perspectives working together to a common goal.
The diversity of God’s people is like the diversity of computers. Each person has been created with the same basic hardware, but we’ve each been given unique software. At times, we see things differently, but that does not change the intent of our Creator. His message remains the same whether we see it in blue and gray or lime green and bright orange. He has given each of us certain gifts, which we use to see, understand and share His message. God brings our diverse thoughts together to a common purpose to His glory.
In A WORD FOR TODAY on August 14, I referenced Romans 12:4-8. In this scripture, Paul lists seven spiritual gifts that have been given to members of the church for the glory of God. It is important that all Christians become aware of their spiritual gifts, so that they can clearly understand God’s call in their lives. Romans 12:4-8 is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start the discernment process.
Prophesy You can’t turn on the TV today without seeing some ad for a psychic friend’s network. The papers all have regular columns written by astrologers. There economic gurus who try to foresee what the stock market will do tomorrow. Weathermen try to predict the weather. In each case the successful professional is able to make it appear as though they have been given a special gift. In reality, they are simply well trained in their craft and are able to recognize certain trends, which help them ‘see’ the future. A psychic knows psychology; an astrologer knows patterns of human behaviour; an economist recognizes market trends; and a weatherman understands atmospheric conditions. Each has a talent they use to do their job.
The spiritual gift of prophecy has nothing to do with fortune telling. The prophets of God in the Old Testament did point forward to the life of Christ and His saving work, however prediction of future events was not their sole purpose. They were called by God to speak His Word to the people. For men like Isaiah, Elijah, Jeremiah and the Minor Prophets such as Joel, the Word was the future deliverance of God’s people through the Messiah. At times the prophets were given a vision of a future event. Most often, however, the words they spoke talked of repentance, preparation and hope.
In the New Testament, prophets no longer had to point forward to the Christ, but rather pointed directly at Jesus Himself. The prophets of today are those who speak forth God’s Word. They are gifted from God with the ability to share the Gospel message in a way that is easily understood by the people of their time. This ability comes from God, by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Read Joel 2:28-29
There are some that are gifted and called specifically to be prophets of the Lord. Their message is sometimes a call to repentance, sometimes a reminder of the promise. However, the gift of prophecy is not as rare as one would imagine. After all, we have all been blessed by God to be a blessing and to speak the Gospel to the world. Perhaps we are not all eloquent like the televangelists, or trained like an ordained minister. However, if you have ever spoken God’s Word to someone by His power, then you have prophesied in His name. Thanks be to God.
Service Enter a church on a Sunday morning and you will find a great deal of activity. Someone is in the kitchen starting the coffeepot for the fellowship that follows the service. Someone else is preparing the elements for communion. The ushers are handing out bulletins and tending to questions. During the week, people take care of so many details, such as production of the bulletin and arranging for those who will serve at the upcoming services. There are multitudes of little tasks that need to be accomplished around the church and the people who accomplish them are vital to the spiritual welfare of the congregation.
How could a coffeemaker be so important? The ‘after service fellowships’ offer an opportunity to share and care, to edify and encourage the congregation into a cohesive unit for the glory of God. Someone has to make the coffee. As for the other tasks, they must also be done. In many congregations, the pastor does tasks such as the bulletin. Every moment he spends photocopying or making coffee is a moment he is distracted from doing what he is called to do; that is, to preach the Gospel.
In the book of Acts, we hear about the early church. The Christian community shared everything and one of the tasks was to distribute food to the widows. There was some division occurring between the Grecian and Hebraic Jews because some of the widows were forgotten. The problem was taken to the apostles who realized that they could not take upon themselves the task of overseeing the distribution of food. They decided to find seven men who could accomplish this task to free the apostles to the sharing of God’s Word and prayer. God gave those seven men the gift of service and the church prospered because of their work. (see Acts 6)
Read 1 Corinthians 16:15-18
We often look down upon the coffeemaker and the usher because their tasks are so unspiritual. Yet, Paul holds the household of Stephanas in high esteem for the work they do for the church. The word for servant in this passage can also mean minister. The servants minister to the congregation while the priest ministers to God.
Have you been given the gift of service? Always remember that when you are doing the work the Lord has called you to do, whether it is as priest or coffeemaker, you will know His peace and joy in your tasks. Every congregation needs people who are like Martha, who make things ready for the Lord. However, we must not worry about the work to be done. Use your gift of service to the glory of God, and do not forget that all Christians, from the priest to the coffeemaker, are called to share the Gospel with the world.
Teacher There is a difference between a talent and a gift. A talent is a natural ability given at birth, while a gift is a supernatural ability. A gift is given to a believer at rebirth and is used to communicate the truth of God’s kingdom to the world. There are many talents that are not necessarily spiritual gifts, however God has given those with such talents other gifts, which are manifest through their ability. I have a friend who is a very talented musician. His God given ability to play the piano, sing and write music is a God-given talent he’s had since his birth. God has also blessed him with other gifts, which make the message of his music come alive with God’s Word.
The difference between a talent and a gift is most clearly displayed in the gift of teaching. A teacher is someone who shows others how to do something or who provides knowledge and insight. Some people have the natural ability to communicate information to others. We can all remember teachers from our school days that had a powerful impact on our lives. They had something special, and we walked out of their class better in some way.
The gift of teaching is the supernatural ability to communicate the truth of God’s Word in a way that brings a change in people’s lives. People with the talent to teach have not been necessarily given the gift. We all know bible teachers who are incredibly good at sharing the information about theology, history and language. Yet, the knowledge they impart does not bring about involvement from the student. If a person is tested on the information, they would pass with flying colours, but what happens when the fire of God’s Spirit tests them on the concepts? The fact that a person is a teacher in the world does not mean that he or she should teach in church.
Prophecy (preaching) and teaching are closely related and are often mentioned together in the scriptures. Some people are gifted at proclaiming the message of God’s Kingdom, while others are gifted at explaining it. It is vital that churches find those who are gifted in teaching, so that the congregation will learn how to apply the lessons learned from those who prophesy.
Read James 3:1
Gifted teachers are not lacking in God’s Kingdom, however they are lacking in the church. Many are afraid to take on the responsibility of teaching because they are afraid of many things. A teacher has great influence on his students. They look at scripture like this one from James and do not want to be held accountable. They think that because they are not trained that they don’t have what it takes to teach God’s Word. We must remember that when God gives us a gift, He gives us everything we need to use that gift. He gives us the right words, courage, wisdom and strength to teach. We should develop the gift with training and practice, but if you have it, use it! Thanks be to God.
Exhortation We are all very familiar with the story “The Wizard of Oz.” In this story, a young girl named Dorothy is transported to a land far beyond the rainbow. The people are different, unusual, and her only desire throughout the story is to go home. During her journey to the Emerald City, a place where she may find a way home, she encounters many people. Some of these encounters are good, some bad, but all help Dorothy to grow as a person. She meets the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Woodman. These three characters also have desires, so they join Dorothy on her journey. Together they face great obstacles including a wicked witch who sought a pair of ruby slippers that Dorothy wore on her feet.
Another character that they meet along the way is Glinda the Good. Throughout the story, Glinda has the answers to the things our friends are seeking, but she knows they need to learn the lessons gained by the journey. Along the way, Glinda offers encouragement and protection to the four travelers. Just when they want to give up, she stirs in them to desire to go on. This is the gift of exhortation. It is the ability to share some words of comfort and encouragement with people, so that they can continue doing what they need to do.
Throughout the book of Acts, we read about one man who was given the gift of exhortation. Barnabas was like a big brother, spurring others on to greatness while he followed quietly with love, direction and kindness. He sold property so that the church in Jerusalem would have the financial resources necessary to feed the poor. He endorsed Paul before the Jewish leaders, bringing him into the fold of the church. He also helped Paul develop into a great leader. This action was done for the glory of God and the strength of the church, resulting in Paul assuming a position above that of Barnabas. His unselfishness gave the church a great leader that may have been lost to oblivion without his use of the gift of exhortation. He encouraged the gentile church of Antioch. He took his nephew Mark under his wing, seeing the potential in this young man and helping him in the ministry even after Mark deserted the group.
Ministry is a difficult course of life to travel. Attacks come from every direction trying to keep the ministers from doing the work they are called to do. Ministers need people like Barnabas who will help them continue to see the potential of their gifts, to spur them on in joy and obedience. Exhortation may come in many forms. It can be a word of kindness, a gift of financial resources, a message of correction and rebuke. When it comes from God, it is an act of comfort and edifies the one to whom it is given.
Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Like all the gifts, there may be moments when you are called to exhort those around you. There are some to whom this is a gift and they are called to give of themselves in a way that the church will prosper and grow under the direction of those who receive those words of exhortation. To me, this is a most beautiful gift, a gift that builds people and the church, a gift that most brightly shines the character of God. It is about love and obedience no matter the circumstances. Thanks be to God.
Giving This is probably the most difficult gift to discuss because it leaves the impression that one does not have to give if they have not received this gift. Yet, as with all the gifts, we know that lack of the gift does not excuse us from obeying the commands of God.
I could list a thousand people whose generosity over the millennia has built hospitals, schools, libraries and churches. These people had a heart to give, and they gave. The scriptures tell us of a widow who gave her last two copper coins to the Temple. Of course, for every person who gives abundantly, we can name a thousand people who do not give enough. After all, we are commanded to give back to God the first fruits of our labours. The Bible specifically tells us to tithe ten percent of our income. So, how is it that not everyone is given this gift if we are all required to give back to God what He first gave us?
The gift of giving is not about our duty, but it is about having the heart to give beyond our duty. In all things we should do so in joy and remembrance that nothing we have is our own, but rather everything belongs to God. In the early days of the church, members shared everything so that all would be equal, but there were some that gave beyond expectation.
Read Acts 4:32-37
The next story in Acts is about Ananias and Sapphira. They also sold property and gave a sum to the apostles for the work of the church. However, they withheld a portion for themselves, though claimed they gave the entire sum. The sin they committed before God and the apostles was not withholding the money, but rather making it appear as they were giving everything to the Lord. The punishment that followed was instant death, so that the church would know that God would not tolerate hypocrisy.
We must never forget that it is our duty to give back to God what He first gave us – ourselves, our time and our possessions. We must do so with joy. In Ephesians 3 we learn that God has given to us out of the abundance of His glorious riches. This means that He has given us great wealth out of His own great wealth. All Christians are called to do the same; some are gifted to give more.
Leadership At her death, Queen Victoria was known as one of the most beloved monarchs the islands of Great Britain and Ireland had ever seen. She was only nineteen years old when she was crowned queen, and she ruled for sixty-four years. The early days were difficult. The country was considering the absolution of the monarchy. In her youthful days, she was protected and constantly in the company of her mother or some advisor. Her ascension to the throne was the first time in her life that she had freedom. It was a time of rebellion, late nights and parties. In retrospect, she considered that time “the least satisfactory time in her whole life.”
In time, she surrounded herself with people who were able to help her develop into the beloved queen the country remembers. Under her leadership, the country prospered in economics, industry, science, culture and the military. By the time of her death, even the future of the monarchy was secure because she had made it respectable once again. The political atmosphere of the day required her active involvement. While there were political enemies during her reign, she ruled with a firm but fair hand.
She was married to Albert and he was her strength. Under his direction, the personal finances of the queen prospered, they even paid off the debts incurred by former monarchs. He became her personal secretary, leaving her free to run the country. Together Victoria and Albert also had nine children. Though there were servants in the household to help care for the children, Victoria and Albert played an active role in their upbringing. Albert died at a very young age. Victoria became a widow when she was only 42 years old. Her youngest child was only four. She never remarried.
What made Victoria a successful leader? How was she able to prosper a nation while maintaining a loving home? At all times she sought the best for her country and people. She did not seek power, but rather humbled herself by consulting those who could best direct the decisions, though she did not allow them to control her. Her success was an achievement of character; her reign was one of honesty and simplicity.
Just as a nation needs a leader, so does the church. The gift of leadership is one given by God to ensure the proper direction of the church. The scriptures are filled with instructions for God’s chosen leaders. The words used for leadership are not about power, but rather servanthood.
Read Hebrews 5:1-4
Though we look at our church calendars and think that perhaps we have too many committees, we have to realize that these are necessary for the day to day running of the institution. What is important is that we place at the head of the committees the proper leadership that will lead those committees in a manner that will prosper the Church and will glorify God. Those leaders should be like Queen Victoria, who developed into a leader whose character was beyond reproach and whose servant-rule brought prosperity. This is a gift from God, and we should carefully discern if those we elect to leadership have this gift.
Mercy In Genesis 33:19, the LORD says to Moses, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Then in John 3:16-17 we hear, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Mercy is the very heart of God; and this not merely words, but action.
I have a friend who is a nurse. He does not simply care for the medical needs of his patients, but he also takes a moment to care for their hearts and minds. He identifies with the pain and suffering they feel, and he treats them with compassion and love. He prays with them and for them, and tells them about our Lord Jesus Christ. Many have come to know Jesus through my friend. He was nearly fired for his actions, however his mercy on the patients did not disrupt his performance of his job and there was an obvious difference in the healing of his patients. He did not simply say, “I will pray for them.” He did something for them.
How often do we face someone who is in a troubling situation and we say “I will pray for you,” or “If there is anything I can do to help.” We never hear from the person, so we assume everything is fine. However, if you have ever faced such distress, you will realize that most people do not realize the things that need to be done. A wife whose husband has died forgets to eat. A family who has lost their home in a tornado is too shaky to call the grandparents to let them know that everyone is safe. A person of faith who gets sick does not want to admit their fear. Mercy is like the Nike ad that says, “Just Do It.” Those with the gift of mercy share in the suffering around them and do something about it cheerfully.
Read Ephesians 4:29-32
All Christians should be merciful. After all, Christ died on the cross in the ultimate act of mercy, forgiving us of our sins. We should forgive and have compassion on those who suffer, and we should do so with joy knowing that the very character of God shines in acts of mercy. There are those who have been given the gift of mercy, like my friend the nurse, through whom God not only relieves the pain, but also touches the heart and spirit of the one who suffers. Thanks be to God for those who show mercy.
Discernment Over the past week, we have looked at the seven spiritual gifts listed in Romans 12. There is no simple way to discern which of those gifts (or the others I did not discuss) you have been given. That discernment is vital, not only to your peace but also to the unity of the church. When each member of the body is functioning according to the gifts given to them by God, then the whole unit functions better. Every member of God’s kingdom has been given at least one gift.
Discernment is a process, not something that necessarily happens overnight. When we receive His Holy Spirit, He gives us gifts. He also gives us the desire and opportunity to use those gifts. Then the gifts are developed. We may not even realize we are using the gifts in the beginning. It is through prayer and obedience that those gifts are stirred in us. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:6 that we should stir up the gift in us. The use of this word is like the stirring up of a dying fire to rekindle it. The spark is there; we just have to uncover it.
I have always had a desire to write, but I was not very good. When we moved to England, so many of my friends wanted to know what it was like to live here, so I began to share travelogues about our adventures. I often had the opportunity to share my Christian faith in those letters and others. Then I began writing A WORD FOR TODAY. God gave me the gift, desire and opportunity. With each travelogue, letter and devotional, the style of writing has developed into what it is today. The knowledge of knowing that I am doing just what God has called me to do brings such joy and a sense of peace that is beyond human comprehension.
Read 1 Peter 4:7-11
I pray that each of you will take time to consider your own spiritual gifts. When everyone is doing what he or she was created to do, the Church is like a well-oiled machine. It is not working very well in this day because too many Christians are not doing what they are called to do. There are plenty of resources available on the Internet that will give you a more in-depth understanding of all the gifts. Where do you begin? Begin with the knowledge that as a child of the Living God, you have what is necessary to do His work. Go do it. All Christians are called to serve Him. Through prayer and experience you will find the sparks within to do exactly what God has called you to do. Be in fellowship with other Christians, because they can help you see more clearly. The spark within will turn to flame and God’s light will shine! Not only will the other members of the church benefit from your use of God’s gifts, but also you will know His peace and joy. Thanks be to God.
*** Note… Throughout this writing, I referenced an excellent book on the spiritual gifts. The book is called “19 Gifts of the Spirit” written by Leslie B. Flynn. This book is available through many of the online book distributors and is not expensive. The book describes each of the seven gifts, plus twelve others, is easy to read and understand. Dr. Flynn then helps you to discover your own gifts.
Frame I love to visit museums to look at all the beautiful paintings. As they hang there on the wall, I almost envy the talent of the artists. When I sit at a canvas with a paintbrush, I have a vision of what I want to produce, but I am not able to reproduce that vision. I used to watch Bob Ross on PBS, amazed at how he was able to dip his brush in the paint, dab it on the canvas and produce the perfect cloud or reflection. When I try a similar technique, I get a blob of paint.
There is more to painting then just knowing how to apply the paint. It is important to understand the entire process, from choosing the right materials to finishing it with the right frame. There is a science to knowing the best type of paint to use to get the illusion you envision. The proper canvas is important, because oil paints will not work well on watercolour paper, and vice versa. Oil paints need oil and turpentine, but those materials do not mix well with acrylics. An artist can sketch with a dark pencil on an oil painting because the opaque nature of the paint will cover any markings made under the paint, but the watercolourist must use a much lighter touch when applying a line drawing as a guide. Even the frame is important to the finished product.
The composition of a painting is vital. A painter uses the subject matter to draw a viewer into a picture, then uses colour, brush stroke and placement to keep that person inside. In the museums I generally walk right by the paintings that are of dead animals on a table. However, I am drawn to the landscapes. Once inside a painting, my eyes move around, catching each detail as it comes to life in my imagination. A good painter will compose the painting to keep your eye moving, but always coming back to the main subject or focus of the painting. Your eye will follow the leaves blowing in a tree or the course of a waterfall or a blotch of contrasting colour. If there is nothing to catch your eye as it follows the direction of those leaves, your eye will just leave the painting and you’ll go on to the next.
A well-chosen frame stops your eye from leaving the painting while not overwhelming it. If a frame is too gaudy, it will become more important than the subject will. If there is no frame, or it is too small, there will be little to draw the viewer back into the painting to focus on the subject. The perfect frame does not allow the viewer to leave the painting while being completely invisible to their mind’s eye.
Read Colossians 1:24-29
God is a master painter, and you are His masterpiece. He has chosen the perfect materials and applied them to the canvas in a way that will draw the world to see the subject, which is God Himself. The church is like the frame around a painting. It should keep the viewer focused on the subject in the painting, God, while being completely invisible to the mind’s eye. How would you describe your frame? Is your life’s connection to God’s Church too gaudy, overwhelming the message of Christ? Is it too small or non-existent, so that the world passes by without seeing His body which works together to share his message? Let us work together to share His story to the world, one body focusing on Christ!
Praise I woke this morning with a song in my heart and all I want to do is praise the Lord. Thanks be to God!
Read Psalm 96
Back to School The children begin school Monday morning, but we are going to school today. Each of the schools is having an open house so that the children and parents can go into the school, find their classrooms and meet the teachers. The administrators are hoping this morning of confusion will make the first day of school more organized. The children will be better prepared because they will know where they are going and what they should do.
Since I have been active at the school as a volunteer, we are quite familiar with the teachers and policies. I am sure the volunteer organizations will have tables set up for membership drives and assignments. The principal will be speaking about plans for the coming school year. These aspects of today’s orientation are not nearly as important as taking time today to meet Zack’s teacher and learn what he will need to properly begin the school year.
Vicki is beginning classes at a new school. We have to divide our time between the two schools. It is particularly important for us to go to Vicki’s school this morning because we do not know anything about it. I am not familiar with the administration or teachers. We do not know anything about the layout of the school or the volunteer policies. They do not know anything about Bruce and I or the roles we could play in the education of the children. It is more important for us to go into the unknown to share and learn rather than spend time in a place where our reputation is established.
Paul traveled the world to share the Gospel message. He wrote many letters of encouragement to the churches that were established around the world. The church at Rome faced a particularly difficult battle, because the Christians faced much persecution. Though Paul understood their need to see him, he wrote to say that he needed to go into the unknown and share the Gospel message with those who had never heard it.
Read Romans 15:20-22
It is difficult to walk into a new place on the first day of school. We much prefer to stay in the familiar places. Vicki will miss seeing her favourite teachers in the hallways and giving hugs to the principals. I would much prefer to continue helping in the school where my niche is established and the relationships are strong. However, we need to step into the areas of the unknown so that we can share our faith with those who have not heard. Where can you go today that you might be able to witness to a stranger? Hear God’s voice and obey His direction. You never know what sort of blessings are in store.
Saints When Bruce and Vicki went to York several months ago, they purchased a small stained glass window decoration from the York Minster Bookshop. It is a duplicate of the rose window that graces the wall of the south transept of the cathedral building. This window has intricate stone tracework and colourful detail in the glass. The gift is one of my favourite remembrances from England, because I love to see the beautiful stained glass windows of the churches and cathedrals. The symbolism of that particular window is not religious, but rather political as it speaks of the union of the Houses of Lancaster and York when Henry 7th married Elizabeth of York. Most of the windows in the cathedral portray scenes from the Bible or church history. There are also pictures of the saints.
A story is told of a young boy and a trip to a cathedral with his grandmother. As they wandered the aisles of the church looking at the windows, the woman asked her young grandson, “Do you know who the saints are?” The young boy answer, “They are the people who the light shines through.”
As we look back on the lives of those who have been called saints throughout the history of the church, we see that though they were humans and imperfect, there was something about their life that shined the light of Christ. Today is the feast day of St. Zephyrinus, pope from 198 to 217. He was charitable to those who had speculated on aspects of doctrine by restoring them to the church when they repented of their false ideas. Some saw him as too lax, but he stood strong to the Truth, while being charitable to those who saw the error of their ways. It was in his charity that the light of Christ shone to the world.
Read Matthew 5:14-16
There are those whose pictures grace the walls of cathedrals all over the world that have been named saints by the church. They are people who throughout history have shone the light of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul refers to the members of the Church as saints throughout his letters to the churches. Today, those of us who are children of God’s Kingdom by the blood of our Lord Jesus are also saints. Do we serve God in Jesus’ name, sharing His light with the world? Today, let your light shine, so that the world will see God and praise His Holy name.
Chapter Vicki is an avid reader. It seems she always has a book open with her nose stuck in the pages. There are times when it is very difficult to get her out of it. I find myself calling her several times when there is something we need to do. “Ah, Mom, let me just finish this chapter.” I understand her point of view. A book is divided in chapters to bring some sort of closure to some aspect of the story line. Even though you still want to go on to the next chapter to continue the story, at least you can stop for a moment.
The first chapter of the history of Israel was the story of the Patriarchs. These men were chosen by God to lead the Hebrews into the Promised Land. This part of God’s story took nearly nine hundred years, beginning with Abraham and ending with Joshua. Abraham was called to leave his life to follow an unknown god into an unknown land. This call came not from some pagan god, but rather from God, the one true and living God. Abraham followed. Life was not always easy. Abraham’s seed faced persecution, death, slavery, and destruction. They faced hunger and fear. Isaac and Jacob toiled under God’s leadership to build wealth for a nation. Joseph faced the betrayal of his own family, but God’s purpose prevailed when Joseph saved his family from death. Four hundred years after Joseph, the Hebrews were under the yoke of slavery in Egypt. God sent Moses the deliverer to lead the people to their final resting-place, the Promised Land. They still wandered for a generation before Joshua led them into the land promised to Abraham.
The time came for Joshua to pass from life into eternal sleep. God speaks through Joshua at the close of this chapter in history, reminding the people of all He did for them. (Joshua 24)
Read Joshua 24:14-15
The Israelites commit to serving the Lord. Joshua tells them it is not possible for them to do so, but they insist that they will.
Read Joshua 24:22-24
The story did not end here, of course. Throughout history, the Israelites proved Joshua correct by not serving the Lord. Through the ages of the Judges and the Kings, they repeatedly turned away from God to worship idols and false gods. Through the ages God stayed with Israel, disciplining them when necessary, but always blessing their obedience.
We have received official word of our next assignment. We are moving to Little Rock, Arkansas in just four months. Just like Abraham, we are setting off into an unknown place. Unlike Abraham, we know whom we are following. We are following the one true and living God. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Games Moms seem to know everything, don’t they? Moms know exactly how many cookies are in the cookie jar, or which kid is beating up which kid today. Zack has been playing a game with me lately, trying to sneak around when I’m busy doing something. He hides behind the walls, slowly approaching until he gets close enough to jump out and say, “Boo!” It never works, because he’s always just a little too loud and I know he’s coming. Then he says, “Did I scare you?” I say, “No, I heard you coming.” He’s terribly disappointed and tries again later. He’s getting better, but something always gives him away.
I have two friends, Will and Norma. They use the same screennames on the computer. At times it is impossible to tell which is online, particularly since Will likes to play with me and he pretends he is Norma. He knows it drives me nuts not knowing with whom I am speaking. He began greeting me as Norma does, though it took him a few tries to get it right. Now I have great difficulty distinguishing who is saying hello, though once the conversation is underway their individual styles shine through. Eventually something gives them away.
These are fun games we play, and yet in other aspects of life people are quite deceptive. Some children go too far with the sneaking until it is no longer a cookie or chance to scare mom they seek, but rather things that are dangerous to their health or spirit. There are people who create false identities online to deceive people for many reasons. False teachers twist the truth of the Gospel just enough that though it sounds good, it leads the people down a wrong path.
Read Luke 12:1-3
How can we tell the false teachers from those who really teach the Gospel of our Lord? Something always gives them away. The deception is always found. Gossip and secrets have a way of making their way into the open, true identities are found. Though these things in themselves may not be reason to believe someone is a false teacher, any sort of hypocrisy destroys the credibility of any teacher. Paul tells Timothy in the 6th chapter of the first letter to this young teacher that he should keep doing all he is called to do without spot or blame, and pursue the good things of faith. Beware of the false teachers, and avoid the actions in your own life that may appear as hypocrisy before men. Everything will be revealed.
Epistles The New Testament is made up of three sections. First we find the story of Jesus and His Church, which is found in the four Gospels and the book of Acts. The final section is the Book of Revelation, which is a book of hope that looks to the future of the Church when God’s people will finally stand in His presence to worship Him in the fullness of Spirit and truth. In between, we find a group of twenty-one books. These books are letters written by the apostles to individuals and the churches, to edify and encourage them as they walked in this strange but wonderful new understanding of God.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains that Christianity was the first great missionary religion, founding communities far from Jerusalem, cutting across the barriers normally formed by geography and race. Since there were no established documents which the local congregations could use to teach the truth of the Gospel to their members, the founding apostles wrote letters to deal with situations which are found in the churches. Paul writes about false prophets and teachers, about faith, hope and love. Christianity is one that is founded on personal relationships. First God came as Jesus Christ and had a personal relationship with His apostles, who then established communities with whom they continued to share this unique witness of God.
Since it was difficult for the apostles to visit each congregation regularly, they sent letters to help the people deal with the problems they face until they were able to appear in person. Many letters circulated throughout the Church in those days, copies were made so that other congregations could hear the words sent out by the leaders. Others were writing letters, but not all were recognized as being of the Spirit. In one of his own letters, Peter writes about Paul’s letter writing.
Read 2 Peter 3:14-18
Paul’s writing was not easy to understand, but these letters have been held sacred for generations. His letters as well as the ones from John, Peter, James and Jude have established the doctrine of the church that we still use today. Though Christianity has changed in many ways since the days of the apostles, one thing remains the same. It is still a missionary religion, in which those who know the Saviour on a personal basis share their witness through personal relationships. Today, we share that witness in our homes, neighbourhoods, work and school. We can also share through written letters of encouragement. Is there someone to whom you can write today to share the light of our Lord Jesus? We live in an awesome time, when letters can be sent instantaneously all over the world. Write a letter today!
Inflict Class size is an important factor in the proper education of our children. The more children in a class, the less able a teacher is able to accomplish the established goals. Studies have shown that no matter how much funding goes into the other factors, such as textbooks or media, the only thing that makes a real difference is smaller class size.
A teacher may be a very good teacher, even with a large class, but some things seem to get lost in the shuffle. When I spoke to one teacher yesterday, she told me that it was not until the end of the school year that she discovered how much one young boy had bullied the class. He was smart, managed to get the other children to do his dirty work so went unnoticed for months. The children were terrified and they did not want to speak out against him. A bully can hide his actions for a time because he or she is a master of manipulation and lies. The actions are not always physical. Many bullies verbally assault their victims in a way that causes emotional anguish.
I have been in situations with spiritual bullies. These people inflict pain that is meant to affect the faith of those they victimize. They manipulate conversation and twist the Word in such a way that it is difficult to see that the truth is not present. They are arrogant and controlling. Yet, at times they have a façade of charm that catches their victims off guard.
The Corinthians had a problem with someone in their church that was causing trouble. Paul was witness to this problem and wrote a severe letter to the Corinthians so that they would deal with the situation. When the problem was discovered, the agitator was punished. Paul wrote again in a letter of encouragement to remind the church to forgive.
Read 2 Corinthians 2:5-11
We will face these same types of situations in our churches and other Christian fellowship. When is bully is discovered, punished and repents of their sins it is vital that he or she is forgiven and restored to fellowship. We do not always understand the situation from a spiritual perspective, and Satan has this way of deceiving people into thinking what they do is right.
I pray today that if any of you face such a situation in your church or other Christian fellowship, that you are able to forgive the bully. Christ won the victory on the cross when He died for the forgiveness of our sins. Now, let us continue winning the battles as we forgive those who have grieved us in our life situations. Thanks be to God.
Joseph Jacob had many children, but Joseph was his favourite son. Joseph was the son of Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel; he worked fourteen years to earn her hand in marriage. Joseph’s brothers saw the favouritism, particularly when he received a lovely ornamented robe. His brothers were envious of the relationship. One day Joseph had a dream in which he ruled over the members of his family. When the time was right, they plotted to kill him. The brothers were greedy however, and so when a merchant caravan passed, they sold Joseph to the wandering Ishmaelites, and made it appear as though he were dead. Jacob mourned.
Joseph ended up in Egypt. There he worked and prospered in the house of Potiphar, one of the Pharaoh’s officials. The house was greatly blessed by Joseph’s presence. One day Potiphar’s wife, who found Joseph to be quite attractive, seduced him. Joseph refused. She accused him of rape and he was put into prison. While there, Joseph continued to prosper. Two other prisoners had dreams, which Joseph was able to interpret. One dream foretold of impending death, the other prosperity. Both interpretations were true. One prisoner was hanged and the other set free. The one who was set free promised to speak to the officials about Joseph, but forgot his promise.
Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream. No one in the kingdom was able to interpret this dream, but the man from the prison remembered Joseph. Joseph knew that Pharaoh’s dream foretold of a period of prosperity then drought. Joseph recommended storing up food while the crop was good, then they would survive the drought. Pharaoh appointed Joseph as his highest official.
The dreams proved to be true and in the midst of the drought Egypt prospered. People from all over the world came to Egypt to buy food so that they would not die. Jacob sent his sons. Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him when they came to Egypt. Joseph not only supplied their needs; he gave them back their money and brought them into Egypt to live. Israel was warmly welcomed into this foreign land, and Jacob’s house flourished. When Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared that he would seek revenge.
Read Genesis 50:15-21
The scriptures tell us throughout the story of Joseph that God was with him. We hear of God’s blessings in the house of Potiphar and in the prison. When Joseph is asked to interpret the dreams, he says he is not able but that God will provide the interpretation. At times Joseph was quite arrogant about his blessings, such as when he told his brothers of his dream. However, even in the midst of his imperfections, God continued to be with him. Joseph recognized this throughout his life. When his brothers sold him into slavery, they sold him into a life of suffering. However, that life brought him into the powerful role that saved many from death. Joseph could not act as a god and punish his brothers for an act that the one true and living God used in an incredible way.
Joseph exhibited two Christ-like qualities that should be apparent in our lives. Joseph trusted God. Joseph forgave those who sought to destroy him. Do you see the circumstances of life as Joseph? Those things that are meant to hurt us are used by God to accomplish great things. Trust Him, and forgive your enemy. Thanks be to God.