Welcome to the August 2001 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. Where scripture is quoted, I used the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.
A WORD FOR TODAY, August 2001
August 1, 2001
This week we are looking at the scripture from James 4:7-10, ten commands to root out pride in our lives.
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”
Closeness It is nearly impossible to have an intimate conversation with someone in the middle of a crowded bar or party. The noise and other distractions make it difficult to hear a person speak, let alone understand what they are saying. When we are in such situations, we tend to draw very close to the one with whom we are speaking, to hear their words and share our own.
In Old Testament times, the Levites had the unique position of being priest in the Temple. It was their responsibility to minister to the LORD. They were the only ones who could enter into the holy rooms of the temple to present the offerings and execute the others duties such as lighting the candles and burning incense. God specially chose them for these duties and it required special training and commitment.
The holy places in the Temple were where God dwelt. When the priests entered those rooms, they were entering into His presence. The other Israelites did not go in those rooms, and were even frightened at the thoughts of doing so. They preferred to have someone as a middleman in their relationship to God. They did not want to hear the voice of God for themselves. It was much better to have the priests deal with Him.
Things changed with the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. The veil in the Temple was rent from top to bottom, opening the doorway for all to enter into God’s presence. In Christ, we are all now priests, called to minister to Him. We can not do that from a distance. We must draw near to Him, to hear His voice and be heard in prayer.
Read Psalm 73:27-28
It is safe in God’s presence. The Israelites were frightened to be close to God because they were not clean enough and thought they would die. Jesus Christ cleanses us from the sin, which stood between God and man, so now we do not have to be afraid to stand near. Now, it is not only possible, but also necessary for us to be close to Him, for He is our hope, our peace, and our strength. He is our refuge, and it is in a close relationship with Him that we truly live.
The Israelites were right about something. In God’s presence, we die. But it is not the physical death they feared. In His presence, we realize how truly sinful we are, and how impossible it is for us to stand before Him. Yet, in Jesus we know we can do so with confidence because He has made us clean. We die to ourselves, and we live in Him. Draw near to God, die to self and then be close enough so you can hear as God guides, protects and loves you. Thanks be to God.
This week we are looking at the scripture from James 4:7-10, ten commands to root out pride in our lives.
“Cleanse your hands, ye sinners…”
Hands A funny thing happened on an episode of Seinfeld we watched recently. Jerry was at a restaurant with a date, when he needed to go to the men’s rest room. On his way in, he bumped into the chef who was on his way out. The chef never washed his hands. When Jerry returned to his table, he could see the chef handling the dough with his dirty hands. He was so disgusted by the thought of eating the food, he had to leave.
We teach our children from a very young age the importance of washing our hands after we have been to the rest room or before we eat food. Dirty hands can pass germs very quickly from one person to another. Florence Nightingale made a tremendous contribution to modern health care by beginning the practice of frequent hand washing by the doctors and nurses she served with in the war.
James tells us that we are all sinners and we must wash our hands of the filth that makes us dirty. As we learned yesterday, by the work of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, we are made priests in the Kingdom of God; called to minister to Him. However, we cannot approach God with dirty hands.
Read Exodus 30:17-21
We know that it is best for us to wash our hands with soap and water before we eat or prepare food. The priests were required to wash their hands and feet before they entered into the holy places of the Temple, so that they would not take the dirt of this world into God’s presence. So too, we must wash our hands with water, for health and sanitation, but also symbolically in an act of repentance. Confess your sins to God, recognize the dirt that is on your hands so that it can be removed by the mercy and grace offered so freely in Christ. Wash your hands of the sins you have committed by confessing, repenting and receiving that forgiveness. Then you will be ready to enter into God’s presence and minister to Him as a priest in His kingdom. Thanks be to God.
This week we are looking at the scripture from James 4:7-10, ten commands to root out pride in our lives.
“…and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded.”
San Antonio We spent the day in San Antonio, Texas yesterday. San Antonio is a town known for the Alamo, several old Spanish missions and its Mexican heritage. We learned about the war with Santa Anna and walk around a Mexican market. Another thing San Antonio is known for is the Riverwalk. This canal loops through the center of the city and is lined with shops and restaurants. The designers took advantage of every opportunity to use water in the decorating, so waterfalls pour out and small streams run through the buildings.
The restaurants that line the river are decorated with palm trees and other plants as well as colourful, festive umbrellas and banners. People can sit outside and watch the river tour boats go by or enjoy seeing the people as they stroll along the walk. It is a lovely place to spend the day.
The river itself is rather murky and dirty. Things from the restaurants often fall in, dirtying the water. For health and aesthetic reasons, the city empties the river once a year, cleans the bottom of the garbage that has collected, then refills the canal with clean water.
Our hearts are muddied by the things of this world that build up in us – our desires, sins, doubts and fears. In Old Testament times, the Jews had a special ritual they performed each year on the Day of Atonement. The priest sacrificed an animal for the sins of Israel. The forgiveness that came from that day was never lasting; the priest needed to do it every year. When the time was right, however, God sent His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be the Lamb whose blood set us free to be people of God.
Yesterday, we looked at the verse from James about washing our hands of the sin that dirties our body. That cleansing was on the outside. Today, however, we see that it isn’t enough. We must also cleanse our hearts – the inside. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Yet, as we continue to have the garbage of life gathering there, the waters are murky and we cannot see. We try to be both of this world and in God’s kingdom. This is double mindedness to think we can do both. We need to fill our hearts with the pure Word of God so that we will be able to turn away form the things of this world and see God.
Read Psalm 12:6
The Riverwalk in San Antonio needs to be cleaned regularly of the garbage that builds up. The nation of Israel needed similar cleansing from their sins. Jesus Christ offered the final, perfect sacrifice with His own blood, so we are cleansed for eternity. Yet, we must purify our hearts by filling them with God’s Word. Through regular prayer, scripture study and fellowship with other Christians, God’s Word is poured into our hearts, burning away the garbage and leaving his light and life. Thanks be to God.
Liquor People suffer the consequences of our sins every day. When we do something wrong, our actions touch our own lives as well as the lives of those around us. Take, for example, alcohol abuse. Have a few drinks occasionally is not a bad thing for most people. As a matter of fact, medical science has shown a moderate amount of wine or beer can have a positive affect on our health. However, regular consumption of large quantities of alcohol can have a very negative affect on lives. Drunk drivers kill to many people. Men and women are more susceptible to temptation such as sexual promiscuity and violence.
There are several good organizations that help people deal with alcohol problems. It takes agreement by the abuser for these programmes to work. Many with alcohol problems have ready answers and excuses when confronted about their problem. They do not realize how badly their drinking affects the world in which they live, so they pass the blame or reject the help. Yet, the time often comes when their drinking causes irreparable damage to others. Drunk drivers kill. A sexual liaison can pass disease or cause an unwanted pregnancy. It is difficult to confront someone about a problem such as alcohol abuse, however it is necessary to stop such behaviour before the consequences are permanent.
Read 2 Corinthians 7:8-13a
We all commit sins that affect others in negative ways. For some, the sin is pride or greed or lust. We get angry or tell lies that hurt people. Brothers and sisters in Christ are called by God to help one another grow in faith and action for our Lord. At times, this means pointing out their sins. Paul dealt with a situation in Corinth that caused the Christians to grieve. They could have responded by passing the blame or offering some excuse. They could have grieved because of the consequences of their action. However, they responded by grieving in a good an right way; they were sorry for their action and repented. They turned back to God.
James tells us in his passage that we should grieve. This grieving should be our sorrow over the things we do wrong. We must take responsibility for our actions and repent. Paul was sorry that he had to cause such grief in the lives of his brothers, but he was very happy they responded with proper grief – one that brought them closer to God. How will you respond if a Christian brother or sister confronts you about some sin in your life? Will you be like the abuser of alcohol who passes the blame or makes some excuse? Will you grieve over the fact that you were caught? Or will you respond with repentance and do God’s Will in the situation? Thanks be to God that we have been given the forgiveness necessary to bring us back into a relationship with Him. Now, grieve rightly – have sorrow over your sins and repent. In this way, you will walk in the light of our Lord.
Death In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden in perfect harmony with God and His creation. Satan destroyed that paradise by convincing them that they should try to be like God by eating the fruit from a special tree. But Satan lied to them, since they were already like God – created in His image. Eating the fruit was an act of rebellion against the Word of God. He said, “Do not eat,” and when they did they broke the perfect relationship between God and man.
For their sake, and the sake of their descendants, God put them out of the Garden away from the tree of life. They could not live forever in this broken relationship. From that day on, human beings have suffered the death of our physical bodies.
Since that day, societies have dealt with death in many different ways. Ancient Egyptians spent weeks preparing the bodies – embalming them so that they would last forever in the after life. They even preserved the organs in jars. They believed the gods would give them life on the other side. The tombs were fitted with every necessity – food, clothes, tools, servants and animals – so that they would be prepared to continue to live.
There was an early Christian community in Italy that also prepared the bodies. Today you can visit those catacombs and see the people dressed in their Sunday best hanging from hooks near the ceiling. Every Christian was brought to this place, from Bishop to baby. It seems almost like they are endlessly involved in praise and worship of God.
Around the world there were societies that practiced human sacrifice. It was an honour for the family if a member was chosen as the offering. They would do everything they could to keep their daughters pure and perfect for the day they would be given to the gods. These rituals included joyous celebrations because they saw death as a necessary part of success and prosperity for their community.
The ancient Jews had a completely different attitude about death. They understood it was not God’s intent that we die, so they mourned the loss of life. Loved ones clothed themselves in sackcloth and ashes, then spent a week wailing in the streets. If there was enough money, professional mourners were even hired to cry with the family.
Read Ecclesiastes 7:2-6
One advantage of the Jewish process of mourning is that it is healthy to our bodies, minds and spirits to release the pain we feel at the loss of our loved one. In our society today, we tend to hold in our sadness. We avoid tears and wailing. We offer consolation to one another with hugs and a shoulder to cry on, yet we encourage those to mourn by telling them they should stay strong. For many, this means they should not cry. Instead, they think they must put on a brave front with a happy face.
As Christians, we do have a hope that reaches beyond the tomb – the promise of eternal life. Too often, however, we reject the idea of mourning because we know our loved one is not truly dead, that he or she lives in Christ. Yet, death was never God’s intent for His children. The death of our bodies was brought about by our sin, which broke our relationship with Him and made it imperfect. We should mourn in sackcloth and ashes, with cries of pain and sorrow caused by our rebellion against God’s Word. In this way we will truly understand the depth of love our Father has for us by giving His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we are restored into that harmonious relationship we had in the Garden of Eden. Thanks be to God.
The End Imagine what it must have been like for Jesus’ disciples the day he was tried, convicted and crucified. They had come to love Jesus intimately, like a friend and brother; but also they looked to Him for guidance and protection. They knew He had a special relationship with God and they did not understand how the Messiah could have ended up in such a horrible situation.
While Jesus was being tried, Peter was roaming around the city trying to be in conspicuous, but also desiring information. He did not want anyone to know he had been with Jesus. Just hours before, at the last supper, Jesus told Peter that he would disown Him three times before the rooster crowed. Several people accused Peter of being with Jesus and each time he denied it. After the third incident, a rooster crowed and Peter remembered the words of his Lord. Peter must have felt deeply pained and sorrowful at that moment. He had promised Jesus that he would stand and die if necessary. Yet, here he was, far from Jesus and afraid. Where was God? Why was this happening? How could I have rejected my Lord? Peter went outside and wept bitterly. He cried over his failure and mourned the loss of his friend, teacher and brother. After three years under Jesus’ ministry, Peter still did not understand.
Throughout the history of Israel, God desired them to know Him and seek His face. He was their Creator, King and Father. He was willing and able to provide everything they needed – protection, provision and love. Yet whenever they faced difficulty, they sought the help of other nations. The Israelites even turned to other gods in times of drought and war. God gave them the freedom to do so, yet He also removed the cone of protection they had under His care. They suffered the consequences of their decision. Eventually they realized that they needed to repent – to turn back to God. They cried out to Him.
Read Lamentations 2:18-19
In the days of mourning before the resurrection, the disciples thought they had reached the end of Jesus’ ministry. They were scared and confused. Jesus had spent three years teaching them how to overcome adversity. He taught them to cry out to God in prayer – thanksgiving and praise, confession, supplication, submission and petition. Yet, they did not put that knowledge into action. They hid themselves in a locked room and spent three days trying to figure out what had happened. When Jesus rose, He returned to them to continue teaching. The resurrection gave the disciples a new understanding of the depth of God’s love, mercy and power. Jesus finished His teaching during those forty days. Then He ascended into heaven.
Though Jesus was gone in flesh from their lives, they did not mourn. Instead, they joined together constantly in prayer calling out to God. They waited patiently for the promised gift that they would be given to continue Jesus’ work on earth. On Pentecost they were filled with the Holy Spirit and on that day the Church of Christ was born.
How do you deal with adversity? Do you reach the end of your rope and give up? Do you do like the Israelites and turn to other people or gods for help? Do you do like the disciples who hid and mourned because things weren’t going their way? Or do you cry out to God as Jesus taught. James tells us to wail – cry out to God. Do this in your times of distress, and you will know His comfort, His protection, His provision and His love. Thanks be to God.
“Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.”
Caves One of the things we wanted to do while visiting Texas was to see some sort of caverns. The children have never been in any caves before. There are several popular choices near Austin, so we spent some time researching the different sites. I was excited about visiting a typical wet-formed cave with flowstone, stalactites and stalagmites. Yet there was one site that seemed unique. Wonderworld is located in San Marcos, and is part of a tourist attraction with several activities for the children. We visited a petting zoo, an “Anti-gravity room” and we rode to the top of a tower to see the hills and planes of Texas. The best part of the day was the tour through the caverns.
Running water did not form this cave; there is no underground stream. Rather, the water that flows through the stone is filtered and becomes the pure drinking water of the Edwards Aquifer, a major source of water for Texas. According to researchers, Texas was once under a prehistoric ocean, which covered most of the coastal plains. A long time ago, an earthquake rattled the foundations of the land. It caused the earth to crack and the sea floor to rise and fall upside down in some places. The ocean receded into the Gulf of Mexico and the cave was left behind. The earthquake also formed the Balcones Fault, a crack in the earth that runs north and south between Laredo, Texas and somewhere in Oklahoma. This cave is right on the fault line.
As we wandered through the rooms, the guide shared information about the formations, as well as joked about certain aspects of this cave. He turned out the lights to show us what it is like to be in total darkness. He showed us the different types of rock and explained how they were created. At one point, he shined his flashlight at the ceiling and told us it was the long hardened remains of that prehistoric ocean floor. There were other areas we could see the fossils of sea creatures and their habitats on the ceiling. It was an upside down world. The cave had very few flowstones or other formations like a wet-formed cave. There was no evidence of bugs or bats that typically uses the rooms for their habitat. Everything was topsy-turvy.
The Kingdom of God is just like that cave, very different than our expectations. The world teaches us independence, material wealth and happiness. God expects us to submit to Him, to be satisfied with whatever He provides which is always just what we need. Jesus also taught us to set aside the typical feelings and ideas of this world to conform to Him. He tells us to put away silly emotions and desires.
Read Luke 6:24-26
James encourages us to give up the earthly emotions that fill our lives, such as laughter and happiness. These moments are a different sort of joy than that which the Lord desires us to feel. To laugh at a joke that is offensive to someone, or to play a practical joke that may cause harm, is not as God intends us to live. We are not expected to walk around with a frown on our face. The Lord teaches about rejoicing in His life and light; He shares a joy that is beyond the happiness we are used to feeling. It is better to mourn than to laugh with the ways of this world. It is better to understand the gloom of separation from God than to be joyful over our worldly stuff.
Things in God’s Kingdom are not as we would like them to be. I would have enjoyed sharing a typical cave with my children, and yet this unusual cave was a wonderful change from the norm. Don’t fulfill your earthly desires. Seek to stand in God’s presence, away from the expectations of this world. Turn your world upside down, look up and see the foundation that is Christ. Rejoice in knowing the ways of our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.
“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you.”
“Use me, God.” In 1957, Ingrid Bergman starred in a film called “Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” This film was the Hollywood version of the real life story of an English woman named Gladys Aylward. Gladys was quite embarrassed by the movie and the fame it brought to her life. The story was inaccurate and she felt the love scenes ruined her reputation. Even more so, Gladys did not need, nor want, such fame. She was a simple woman who served God with her whole self.
Gladys was born in 1903, the daughter of a mailman. She left school early because of a learning disability and became a parlour maid in rich west end London manors. She grew up in the Anglican Church, but one day she attended a revival and rededicated her life to the Lord. She learned of the need for missionaries to China so she applied to the board of the China Inland Mission. She failed the test and was rejected. However, she learned that there was an aging missionary, Mrs. Lawson, who was looking for a younger woman to continue her work. Gladys wrote to Mrs. Lawson who responded in agreement if she could find her own way to China.
Gladys took her purse and emptied it onto her bed. Two pennies fell onto her Bible. She said, “O God, here’s my Bible! Here’s my money! Here’s me! Use me, God!” She was rejected and poor, but at the lowest moment of her life she was still willing to serve God.
She worked hard to save her money and eventually had enough to take a train to China. It was a hazardous way to travel because of an undeclared war between Russia and China, yet Gladys did not care. She was so determined to accomplish her mission that she traveled on train, boat, foot, bus and mule to the inland city of Yangchen and her mentor Mrs. Lawson. The locals refused to listen to the two women because they did not trust foreigners. They decided the best way to reach out to the people would be to open an inn for the mule traders that passed by frequently. The set up the inn and waited for the first caravan to pass. Gladys ran to the lead mule, grabbed the reigns and led the train into the courtyard. The mules followed willingly, knowing that it meant food and drink and the muleteers had no choice. Gladys and Mrs. Lawson fed the animals and offered hospitality to the men. They fed their bodies and their souls as they preached the Gospel to their captive audience. In the days and weeks to come, they did not need to force anyone into their home; the stories of their graciousness and the affordable inn spread. Though their preaching did not convert all to Christianity, the stories they told were shared by all those who visited.
When Mrs. Lawson died, Gladys continued the inn for a time. In 1936, she became a Chinese citizen and found herself in the position to preach the Gospel to more people. She was a frequent visitor to the palace of the Mandarin, and was given a very important position in the government. She settled a prison riot by offering suggestions for prison reform. She adopted several children. She lived frugally, dressing like the natives, which made her far more effective. When war broke out between China and Japan, Gladys helped one hundred orphans escape to Sian. After a bout of sickness, she established a Christian church in Sian and continued her work throughout China. Finally, her war wounds were too much and she returned home to England in 1947. She died in 1970, one of the most famous missionaries of the twentieth century.
Read Luke 14:7-11
Gladys was given the name Ai-weh-deh, which means ‘the virtuous one’ in Chinese. She was known for her brokenness, her humility and her willingness to serve God. She once said, “I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done in China. There was somebody else… I don’t know who it was – God’s first choice. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing… And God looked down… and saw Gladys Aylward.”
James tells us to humble ourselves. Gladys did exactly that, humbled herself in her brokenness and gave herself fully to God. God took this woman who was rejected by the world and used her to preach the Gospel to many people in China. Have you given yourself fully to God? Have you given Him everything you own, and willingly stepped forth in faith to serve Him? Humble yourselves and God will lift you up, just like Gladys. Thanks be to God.
This week we have been looking at the scripture from James 4:7-10, seeking an understanding of God’s will in our lives – a will that we should live according to His Word rather than the ways of the world.
Creator Samuel Brengle, a great leader from the Salvation Army wrote about that distinction in his diary. “If I appear great in their eyes, the Lord is most graciously helping me to see how absolutely nothing I am without Him, and helping me to keep little in my own eyes. He does use me. But I am so concerned that He uses me and that it is not of me the work is done. The axe cannot boast of the trees it has cut down. It could do nothing but for the woodsman. He made it, he sharpened it, and he used it. The moment he throws it aside, it becomes only old iron. O that I may never lose sight of this.”
The English word ‘humble’ comes from the Latin ‘humus,’ which means ground or clay. The Greek word used in the passage from James means ‘humiliated’ but can also mean ‘depressed, cast down or lowly.’ In the beginning, “And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7) We began life humble, molded by the hands of the Creator from the dust of the earth. Yet, God gave us a will and the freedom to make our own decisions, so we followed the words of the serpent rather than the Word of God. Today, we still follow the wrong course of life, living in pride and fulfilling the lusts of our flesh.
James 4:6 says, “ God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” God takes those who have been humiliated and He molds them like the clay from whence they came. It is those who have been cast down from the pillars of pride that God can change. The commands found in this chapter of James are hard – submit to God, resist the devil, wash your hands of your sins, purify your hearts, grieve, mourn, wail and change your joy to gloom. Worst of all, we are expected to humble ourselves. How can any human accomplish such incredible expectations? We can’t. That is why our Lord Jesus died on the cross and rose to new life. He did it so that we would be brought back into the relationship we had with God our Father in the Garden, where He molds us and guides us in His way.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Our Lord Jesus, and His life in you, gives you everything you need to accomplish the commands found in James. He gives you the strength, courage, wisdom, hope, faith, love and joy to walk according to God’s ways rather than the world. God did this for you, so that you would not only live in His light, but also be a vessel by which He shares His blessings with others. He has given you the grace to live as you were created to live, in a perfect relationship with Him. Thanks be to God.
I pray this series has been a blessing to all who have read, and that each of us will seek God’s face in prayer and allow Him to mold us each day.
Or bust! When I was a teenager, my mom and I took a road trip to Kansas to visit my aunt. A few hours into the trip, we put a sign in our window that said, “Kansas or Bust!” Throughout the trip, we faced several problems with our car, including a major breakdown in the darkness of night. We had to rely on the kindness of a truck driver who took us to the closest truck stop. We called AAA and our car was towed to a garage. We slept in the car and when the shop opened the next day, the mechanic fixed the trouble. We roamed around a shopping center as we waited, and a few hours later we were back on the road, with the sign safely dumped in the trash. We were very thankful that we survived that experience, however we weren’t looking for any more trouble.
A story is told of a reunion between St. Francis of Assisi and his brothers. They met in a remote monastery in the Umbrian mountains of central Italy. The brothers shared their travel adventures after the arrived and greeted one another. The first two brothers shared harrowing life threatening experiences and were thankful to God for saving their lives. Then St. Francis said: “Let us thank God for his wonderful works. I did experience the greatest miracle of all on my way. I had the smoothest, most pleasant, completely uneventful trip.”
Read Psalm 68:19-20 Read
My mom and I were very thankful for God’s protective cover over our lives during our travel adventure. St. Francis of Assisi’s brothers were thankful for God’s saving grace as He brought them out of danger into safety. I am certain every person who reads this can share similar stories of God’s hand in their lives. We certainly should be thankful to Him those times when He has saved our lives from the dangers of this world. Even more so, we should be thankful to Him for His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who has saved us from a greater death. Our life, true life, comes from Him.
Many of us are facing difficulties – financial, personal and health. We are praying for each other that God’s hand will bring us through safely. This day, let us pray together in thanksgiving and praise for His many blessings. Let us especially be thankful for the little things of life. Too often we forget to thank God for the smooth waters. St. Francis remembered that they are as much a miracle as when God saves us from the danger we face. Thanks be to our God who bears our burdens daily, whether they are small or large. Amen.
Action A minister was approached by a man who wanted to join the church. “But,” the man said, “I have a very busy schedule. I can’t be called on for any service, such as committee work, teaching, or singing in the choir. I just won’t be available for special projects or to help with setting up chairs or things like that. And I’m afraid I’ll never be able to go on visitation, as my evenings are all tied up.”
Statistics show that in today’s church a very small portion of the congregation does a majority of the work. We have come to accept that there will be pew potatoes – people whose Christian faith is visible for only one hour a week. They come to church, give an offering and then the rest of the week they go on living as if they never heard the name Jesus. Oh, they manage enough time to be at congregational meetings to tell argue against proposed changes or define the budget for the year, yet the aren’t willing to do the work necessary to keep the ministry strong. Some don’t even bother going to church. They sit at home and watch some TV evangelist, forsaking the fellowship and opportunities that comes with attending a local church home.
Faith is active. We can’t be a Christian and sit around all day watching worship as if it is entertainment. We are given the gifts of grace and Spirit so that we will share the Gospel with the world. It is in those times of sharing that we truly receive the blessings of faith.
Read Philemon 1:4-7
We do not fully understand the love and peace that comes from faith in our Lord Jesus if we do not play an active role in the community of believers. God has perfectly created His church, giving every good gift to those who are called together to worship Him. However, too many Christians do not use their gifts, claiming they do not have the time to serve. The small percentages that do all the work become burnt out and unable to do continue. Then the church dies. So, today, be active in sharing your faith, build up the church with your gifts and show the love of Christ to the world.
*Story found in Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes.
Library One of the places we visited during our trip to Texas last week was the L. B. J. Library in Austin, Texas. This library holds the papers and other items from the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. It is located on the grounds of the University of Texas and is a tasteful statement of the work of this man. There is a chronological accounting of his life and career, which points to the high points of his time in office. Video accounts mark the major events in his life, such as the assassination of President Kennedy, the Vietnam War and the turbulent sixties as well as his personal milestones. A great emphasis was put on the Great Society, one thousand laws created to bring about reform in our country. They addressed the needs of the poor and minorities and included Head Start, school lunch programs and equal rights protection.
LJB was known for his sense of humour and for his great storytelling ability. One of the most interesting displays was an animatronic life-size replica of LBJ. The realism is amazing, with LBJ leaning on a rail fence turning his head and moving his arms as if we are just neighbours stopping by for a quick chat. The stories were funny – some old tales from the past, others experiences he’d had during his life. It is a wonderful remembrance of the man, as well as a valuable teaching tool for the children of today. We need to remember the stories of the past, so that we will continue to do what is right and good and turn away from all that is against God’s intent for His creation.
We all have elderly relatives and friends who can spend hours sharing their memories. The twentieth century was filled with incredible changes in every aspect of our lives. Modern technology has made international communication and travel quick and relatively inexpensive. Modern science has changed the way we live. Modern attitudes have changed the way we think about God and religion. In many cases the new ways are not necessarily better than the old.
God knew the time would come when every generation would set aside the things of the past and step forward with new knowledge and abilities. From the beginning of time, people have found new and better ways to live and work in this world. In the beginning we were gatherers and hunters. Then we learned how to farm and irrigate the land. In the beginning we lived in caves. Then we learned to make bricks and build buildings. In the beginning we drew pictures. Then we learned to create characters to make words and language. Eventually we were able to put those characters on easy to transport scrolls, then books. Now, we can hit a few keystrokes and send messages all over the world in a matter of seconds.
Through all this change, one thing stands true from the beginning until Today. The name of the LORD deserves our praise for all that He has done. He has had it written so that we will remember, not only this generation but every generation to come.
Read Psalm 102:18-22
We can all go to the L.B.J. Library and remember the work of this great man. With proper permission, you can even research the millions of papers that were saved from his presidency, from the bills signed to his personal correspondence. It is good for us to remember so that future generations can continue the good work and can avoid the failures that came from such an incredible period of our history.
Today, many people are realizing the importance and value of writing down the stories and ideas of those who have walked this earth through most of a century. Families are recording the history in written word, on video and audiotape as well as posting these words on the Internet. God knew long ago that we would need a written record of His love, so He gathered together a library of His story, the Bible, so that we would praise Him together as we assemble in worship to our LORD. Thanks be to God.
Boob job We have a friend who is a chaplain in the US Air Force. We spent time together recently and we shared ministry stories. The life of a military chaplain is quite exciting because they need to meet the spiritual needs of people from many different faiths, including no religious preference. He and his wife were acquaintances with a commander and his wife. The woman had no interest in spiritual things and even told my friend not to pull his ministering on her. They had an interesting relationship.
One day my friend and his wife discovered this woman was in the hospital. They were very concerned about her welfare, but could not find anyone who could tell them the purpose of her visit. She had indicated that she wanted no pastoral care, which concerned them even more. They thought perhaps it was a serious problem and without the faith that comes from a relationship with God, she was simply rejecting everything that had anything to do with Him.
My friend finally decided he needed to pay her a visit, as a friend not a chaplain. He walked in the room and she was very excited to see him. She showed him her breast and said, “What do you think?” She’d had a boob job, and wanted his opinion. He was somewhat shocked but managed to treat this woman with compassion and mercy.
There are times when the people in our lives shock us with their attitudes, lifestyles and actions. We cannot expect the world to live as we do, or be obedient to the Word of God. We must simply share the Gospel at every opportunity, with our actions not just our words.
Read Matthew 18:21-35
Our Lord Jesus Christ has forgiven us everything. My friend the chaplain recognized the incredible debt that He paid for us. In that knowledge, we need to pass the forgiveness of Christ to those who cross our path. We do this by word, sharing the Gospel. However, there are many people like the woman in the story who refuse to hear anything of God. So, we pass the forgiveness through our actions, until the day they are willing to listen. Today, be a merciful servant. Share the love of Christ through mercy and compassion, even with the ones who shock us with their lives.
Acting The Missoula Children’s Theatre is visiting our base this week, putting on a show with our children. The troupe comes on Monday to audition the children then the begin rehearsals immediately with those chosen. On Friday they do final rehearsals, then present a full stage show with costume, music and acting in the evening and again Saturday in the afternoon. The children are expected to learn their lines and cooperate during the rehearsals so that they will be ready to present an entertaining show.
The youth range from Kindergarten to High School, with the speaking roles going to the older girls and boys and the chorus roles to the youngest. My daughter Vicki was selected for a speaking role; she’s a troll. The story they are performing is Sleeping Beauty, and quite frankly there isn’t a single version I’ve ever seen of that story that includes any trolls. However, as Vicki and I were running her lines last night, I found myself giggling with anticipation to see this particular version of the story. They have taken an age-old story and made it new and fun for the kids.
Most of the children have watched the Disney version of this story so often that they can quote the lines and songs from heart. This week they have to overcome their deeply embedded ideas about Sleeping Beauty as they memorize their lines and practice their songs. They have to commit this new story, its music and lines, to their minds and their hearts.
We come into this world with an age-old problem. We are separated from God and His goodness by sin. This separation leads to death. However, our Lord Jesus Christ came in flesh to change the story. He died on the cross so that we can be forgiven and restored into a personal relationship with God. He rose from death into new life so that we can live with Him in eternal life.
Read Isaiah 46:8-13
We need to commit the story of God to our hearts and our minds. God has provided His story for us, through the witness of the saints from the beginning of time. He has given us the Holy Bible as well as the testimony of the men and women who have served God through eternity. Most of all, He has given us His Holy Spirit, and by His power we can know of His salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. The age-old story has been changed through Jesus Christ, though God has remained the same. His promise has remained true from the beginning of time and He has always been faithful to His promises. The promise found in this verse of Isaiah was fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ. Remember this and see the glory of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
M.A.D.D. When I was sixteen years old, a drunk driver killed one of my best friends. She was an only child, and her death had a powerful affect on her mother. It was the early days of the organization ‘Mothers against drunk driving’ and she became a vocal advocate for drunk driving laws. It was through the work of M.A.D.D. and other similar groups that the people in America were educated about the dangers of driving under the influence.
Ten years later, a drunk driver hit my car. The impact of the crash spun my car several times, and sent an unopened can of soda crashing into the dashboard. The can exploded when it hit. I know that I would have faced a similar fate had I not been wearing a seatbelt. The man was not only drunk, but was also high on drugs. He was driving illegally – without insurance and with a suspended license. I thought about my friend, and realized that even after 10 years there were still people who did not realize the danger they pose when they drive while intoxicated.
A few years ago, a young man in a chat room was angry because his friend died. He wanted to know why someone so young, who had so much to live for, was gone. He was angry and said God was unfair. I tried to help the young man realize that though the death was not as God intended – God does not want any to die – He would use the tragedy for good. The next day, the young man wrote to tell me his friend had died from alcohol poisoning. This group of friends decided to stop drinking because their friend’s death showed them the dangers of alcohol abuse.
Each of these stories began as a tragedy, and even today as we look back at the events we are saddened by the impact of evil on our lives. However, in each case God used the tragedy to bring about some change in the people involved.
Read Philippians 1:12-14
Paul was imprisoned several times during his missionary journeys. He stood firm in his faith through the persecution he suffered, knowing that God would find some way to use his imprisonment to further the Gospel. In this particular case, Paul’s arrest gave his brothers in Christ a greater boldness to speak the Word of God. Paul was in prison not because he was guilty of any wrongdoing, but because there were people who did not want his work for Christ to continue. Though this could have frightened the other disciples into silence, they spoke with courage.
How do we react to persecution and suffering? Do we hide from opportunities to share the Gospel or do we speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly? The tragedies involving alcohol throughout my experience taught me lessons about abuse of such substances. Now I speak boldly about the dangers and ways to prevent disaster. When you face some sort of tragedy, like Paul’s imprisonment or the death of a friend, ask God how to use your experience to advance the Gospel. God will give you the gifts necessary to step forth in faith and use tragedy for good. Thanks be to God.
Waterbed I was changing the sheets on our waterbed when Felix decided to come help. Felix, our cat, helps by laying and playing on the bed so I am unable to do my work. It becomes a moment of play for both of us. He was especially fun to watch today. Normally the movement of the water is not nearly as noticeable beneath the layers of covers. However, with only the mattress cover there seemed to be something moving just beyond his reach. He tried digging into the mattress, but when he did the water moved so he pounced in an effort to catch his prey. Then he would dig again until he caused another wave. This game went on for a while until he got tired and fell asleep on the bed.
There are often times when Felix seems to see things that we do not see. He sits for hours watching the air or a corner. He is usually watching a fly or a spider that we just haven’t noticed, but at times we have no idea. We just look at him, giggle at the silliness of his play and wonder about what he sees or thinks he sees.
That is the way the world treats Christians. They see us looking toward God our Father and laugh or wonder about what we see. They do not understand the spiritual life that comes from life in Jesus Christ, so they think it is just play or foolishness. They see us digging through the scriptures, looking for understanding of something that to them is not there. There are others who do believe in God, but they think he is unknowable.
Read Acts 17:22-31 Read
The Greeks had a god for everything. There was a god for love and war, sun and rain. They also knew there was something else that they could not define – an unknown God. Paul spoke before the people and showed them that the unknown god was really the One True and Living God. He is the Lord God Almighty, the only god who can truly be known. He is our Father, and by Him we have life and breath.
Felix knew there was something under that cover, and he was right. There is water that moves giving him moments of fun and excitement. Even though he was unable to catch his prey, it will continue to be there for him to play with another time. So, too, it is with God in our lives. Though we cannot grasp Him with our hands, like the gold, silver or stone gods of the Greeks, God is always there, moving in our lives. Thanks be to God.
Job I have had some unusual jobs in the course of my life. I spent a summer doing door-to-door evangelism for some city churches. My partner and I worked with the churches to prepare for Vacation Bible School, we invited the local children, we helped at the school and then did some follow up work. I spent 3 years as a mobile disc jockey, spinning records at weddings, parties and school dances. These jobs took me out of my comfort zone and dropped me into different cultures within our society. I learned a great deal about myself as well as about other people.
I have a friend who is learning to be a patient at a local medical center. She acts sick so that the doctors and nurses in training can learn to recognize the symptoms of disease and make a proper diagnosis. There was an episode of “Seinfeld” that had Kramer and a friend performing such duties. Kramer was so good at his first assignment that he was constantly used for the same disease. It wasn’t a very fun disease, so his effort to fail at being sick brought about change provided many laughs for the audience.
Television shows such as “Seinfeld” are accompanied by laugh tracks that play at the appropriate moments. At times they pre-record people laughing, then just lay the track over the audio portion of the film. At other times, they invite people to be in the audience so that the laughter happens spontaneously. I saw a report several weeks ago about the people who are used in these situations. They are paid to laugh. One woman reported earning $20 an hour to provide any sort of laughter on cue. She could giggle or burst out in raucous hilarity. Her job is to make the people who are watching join in the fun and laugh along with the show. What an interesting job to have – doing something that comes so naturally.
Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2-7
The world is filled with unusual jobs, but the best jobs are those that come naturally. The lady who laughs for a living loves her job because the laughter comes naturally. Paul wrote to the people of the church in Thessalonica to commend them for the work they were doing for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. They followed the model of Jesus and Paul, and then became models themselves. They suffered persecution, yet continued to do as they were called and gifted to do.
We have a great deal of work to do in this world. Many people have not yet heard the Gospel and are lost in the darkness of sin. God has given us the power to do His work, and with His power within us the work comes naturally. Though you may suffer, we pray you will endure to the end – moved by faith, prompted by love and inspired by the hope given by our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.
Keeping in touch The British Royal Postal Service ran a series of commercials that showed people finding the most unusual items and sending them to friends. The jingle was “What will you send today?” It was meant to get people to use the post to keep in touch with their family and friends. Who could ever forget about the “Reach out and touch someone” commercials from a few years ago. There was always a son calling his mother or some other tear-jerking situation. Comedians and writers still use the effect those commercials have on women in their performances and stories.
Keeping in touch is not always so easy. At a church meeting a couple nights ago, we were looking over a list of members past and present who we would like to invite to a special service next month. They found several people who had recently moved and the addresses were incorrect. Some of the committee members knew the proper address, or where it could be found. We will be able to keep in touch.
However, those of us who live a transient lifestyle know how easy it is to break off friendships simply from lack of communication. Oh, when someone moves away, we promise to write. We share hugs and addresses during the tearful good-byes. For the first few months we make a valiant attempt to write. After awhile, as we settle into our lives and new friendships, the letters grow farther apart in time. Eventually our communication is down to a Christmas card. Then one day, the card is returned with a sticker “Forwarding time has expired,” and that friend is lost.
Our relationship with God is a friendship, one that requires constant communication. He has chosen us to be His sons, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection. Yet, if we do not keep in touch, it seems as if we have lost Him forever.
Read 1 Chronicles 28:4-10
God our Father has chosen you to be an heir with His son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In that relationship, it is important that you continue to seek Him, through prayer and scripture study. Though I doubt you’ll ever get a returned prayer with a sticker that says, “Forwarding time has expired,” how great and wonderful it is to always be close to the Lord. Through constant communication, we hear God speaking His life into us and it flows out of our hearts to the world to fill others with His Word. Keep in touch with God, spend time today in prayer and reading His scriptures. If you seek Him, He will be found by you. Thanks be to God.
Peripheral vision Children have a tendency to behave themselves quite well when they are in direct view of their mothers. When a family takes a trip to the store, the children are perfect angels if they are walking in front of Mom and Dad. However, as soon as they manage to get positioned behind the parents, they begin to disobey. They touch everything, including their sibling, whispering sweet nasties in their ears. They get caught up in playing games with the merchandise, chatting with every stranger and doing whatever they can to get their brother or sister in trouble. They think we don’t know.
Yet, mothers seem to have an amazing sense of what is happening. They can see beyond the normal scope of vision. Its like they have eyes on the back of their heads. There are many reasons for this ability. The most important is our sense of protection. They do not want their children to face danger, so they learn to see everything that is happening around them so that they can do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Another reason is that a mother knows her children. A lifetime of experience in the grocery store gives her an edge. She knows what are children are planning because she has watched every move they have made over the years.
We have a similar childlike view of God. We think that we just have to behave ourselves for an hour a week when we go to church. After all, that building is where He lives. When we step out into the world, we are free to do whatever we want because God doesn’t see us anyway, does He?
Read Jeremiah 23:23-24
God is not only at church or in heaven, but He is close to us every moment. He does not only watch us when we are walking in front of Him, like kids in the grocery store. He also sees when we are trying to hide from his face. Every action, every word and every thought is seen and heard by God our Father. He fills heaven and earth.
As children grow, they come to realize that Mom is not going to let them get away with anything. Through the discipline that mothers use over the years, they understand the reasons for obeying the rules. They learn, sometimes the hard way, the consequences of disobedience. When Vicki was just a toddler, we were shopping at a department store. She was playing under the clothes racks and disappeared. After a frightening search through the store, with fears of kidnapping and injury running through my head, she was found crying in a changing room at the other end of the store. Though I was angry that she had disobeyed me, I was too grateful to be upset. I showered her with hugs and kisses, all the love I could give.
God does not want us to suffer a similar fate – to be lost and alone. He desires that we obey His commands so that we will stay safe and in His care. Though we may think we are out of sight, we should remember that God’s peripheral vision is even better than Mom’s. He sees and hears everything. He knows our very heart, because He loves us and He has a lifetime of experience watching us. As a matter of fact, He knew us even before we were born. When we do step out of line, we will face the consequences of our actions, yet God will continue to shower us with His love. Thanks be to God.
Tickets We went to a baseball game yesterday. The Arkansas Travelers are the farm team for the Anaheim Angels, and they play at a field here in Little Rock. The weather was lovely, though a little warm, and our team won the game. It was fun to cheer on our guys and to join in song with the organist. The Travelers, like all the other ball teams, have special promotional days to thank the community for their support. Yesterday was a day for Little Rock Air Force Base. We were given tickets to the game, so we had all this fun for free.
There were added bits of entertainment throughout the day. A couple of men played ‘dizzy bat’, several children raced wearing flippers and a little girl raced Shelly the mascot around the bases. The winners received prizes for their efforts. You can purchase a program that gives statistical information about the teams and you can read highlights about the home team. There are also plenty of ads for local attractions, restaurants and other businesses. Many of these advertisers offer prizes, such as coupons for dinner or gift certificates for merchandise.
On one page of our program was a signature. We thought it was part of the advertisement until they announced it was special – we won a prize! When I went to the office, I received two free tickets to Six Flags over Texas, a theme park just outside Dallas, Texas. The retail value of such a prize is nearly $100. We were excited about our luck until we realized that we probably would be unable to use the tickets.
Dallas is a five-hour drive from our home. The park is already operating at minimum hours, just weekends and holidays. The children begin school this week, and our weekend schedule is filling quickly with activities. Our financial situation is less than ideal to take such a trip. Though the tickets are free, the trip could cost us hundreds of dollars – gas, hotel, food and tickets for two members of our family. The tickets are only good for this season, so they will expire in just a few months. This is an expensive prize, but it is worth nothing for us because we cannot use the tickets.
Read Matthew 5:13
You have been bought at great price, by the blood of the Lamb of God. You have been given the gift of true life because of His love for you. He has also given you many gifts, which are to be used to His glory. By His power you are called to speak His Word into the world, to share His love and His truth with all those who you meet along the way. What good are you if you do nothing with the gifts of God? Just like the useless tickets, if you do not use the gifts God has given you, they are worthless and might as well be thrown out. God still loves you. Yet, He has wonderful plans for you. You have been blessed to be a blessing, and when you bless you will continue to be blessed. Use your gifts; they are never-ending, like the love of our Father. Thanks be to God.
Traffic safety It is that time of year again, when our children return to the hallowed halls of academia, or simply go back to school. It is time for drivers to watch more carefully during their commutes because children are present along the roads, waiting for school buses or walking to school. Public service announcements remind adults of precautions to take while driving, so that everyone will remain safe.
It is important to remind our children of their responsibilities on the road. They have gotten used to the freedom of summer, and it is hard to remember the importance of safe travel to school. Many schools will take time in the next few weeks to review bus rules and conduct expectations. They will discuss the right way to walk to school, particularly how to cross the street. To help children, we teach them the phrase ‘stop, look, listen and think.’ When they approach a road, it is important that they stop at the curb, look both ways to see if any cars are coming, and listen if there is a car they cannot see but is just around a corner. Then children then need to think about what they see and hear and then make the decision if it is safe to go.
This phrase is valuable for Christians to follow. So often we act and react to the things in this world, without considering the consequences. A child who runs into the road without checking for vehicles could get hurt or even die. The same is true of a Christian who acts without spending time in thought and prayer about their actions.
Read Colossians 3:1-10
You will face decisions today about many things, some small and some big. You’ll have to decide what to wear and what to eat. You will have to react to the people and events that touch your life. You may even have to make decisions about your life, job, home and future. Before you rush into anything, follow the traffic safety advice we give our children. Stop. Look. Listen. Think. Stop what you are doing so that you can look at the situation thoroughly and listen to God. Don’t only use your heart, but also use your head. Ask yourself questions such as, how will this affect the people around me? Is this God’s Will for my life? What brought me to this moment, and where will it take me?
When we spend time thinking about our actions and their effect, we do not just run out in the street. Our flesh desires to do so many things that are not good for us and go against our commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ. Are your actions glorifying God?
Ordination I received a letter in my email box yesterday sharing a campaign being waged by a group of people who practice the earth religions, such as paganism and wicca. They are joining together by wearing purple ribbons in support of each other’s beliefs. I spent several hours following a chain of links from one site to another, learning about their understanding of religion and spirituality.
I found one page with the picture and information about the leader of the group. She was an ordained reverend for her ‘church.’ I followed the link to the main church page, and discovered that I could be ordained in a matter of minutes. They require no education or statement of beliefs, just a name and other personal information so they can contact you if they need you to minister in your area. I found a page on that site with a list of dates when their computer was down. If you went through the ceremony any of those days, it was necessary for you to repeat the process because the ordination was not legal.
Most Christian ministers, particularly those of the mainstream denominations, spend years in study learning how to shepherd their flock and preach God’s Word. Though a person can speak God’s Word without a college or seminary education, the mentoring and knowledge they receive helps keep the student on a good, right and true path of ministry.
Paul had a young pastor that he mentored, named Timothy. Timothy had grown up in a God-centered home. His mother and grandmother had great faith and passed that faith to the young man. He traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys, learning how to teach and preach the gospel. When the time came for Timothy to minister on his own, Paul continued to write to encourage him. Timothy had a tough task to accomplish. The church of Ephesus was dealing with false teachings and the church was growing quickly. Timothy was a young man and some of the elders objected to his ministry. Paul wrote at least two letters to Timothy, reminding him of the Gospel, of his call to serve and his love.
Read 2 Timothy 1:13-14
Timothy was brought up in the faith, learned how to minister under the instruction of the Apostle Paul, was called and ordained by the church elders with the laying on of hands. Even after he began to minister, his instruction continued. The same should be true of those who minister in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. A five-minute online ceremony and a call to teach spirituality according to ones own path does nothing but bring confusion and false teachings to the world.
Timothy was given the Gospel of our Lord to teach and preach to his congregation. Paul exhorts him to remember in mind, and action, the word that he taught. As I wandered through those websites yesterday, I saw some things that had some basis for truth. However, they all denied the truth of Jesus Christ. When we are out in the world we must carefully guard the foundation of our faith. This happens by the power of the Holy Spirit, who often uses men and women of faith to help us along the way. For Timothy, it was his mother, grandmother and Paul. He provided the pattern for those to whom he ministered. Today, we have the Bible as well as men and women of faith who are called and ordained to share their faith and love in Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God.
Fish Once a rich industrialist, disturbed to find a fisherman sitting idly by his boat asked, “Why aren’t you out there fishing?”
The industrialist in this story thought the fisherman was lazy because he was not working hard to get ahead in this life. The fisherman was happy with what he had; he was content to catch only as much fish as he needed for that day. In our society, material wealth is often associated with happiness, and yet that is very rarely the case. In an effort to get ahead in this world, we often cut off the people and experiences that actually give us joy, such as our family and friends.
When I was in retail management, I worked very long, exhausting hours. I was single at the time, but rarely had time for my family or my friends. I worked many Sundays, and when I did have a Sunday off, I was too tired to travel to my home church or search for one close to my apartment. As a wife and mother, it would be impossible to work that sort of job and keep my family in tact. It has been a blessing that I have been able to be a stay-at-home mom for our children. I am able to participate in school activities, volunteer for church and other groups, and keep up this ministry. Yet, there have been times when I have been approached like the industrialist to the fisherman, “Why aren’t you working so that you will have more?”
Read Hebrews 13:5-6
Charles Spurgeon once said, “It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” In these uncertain times, we often rush into decisions based on our desires rather than our needs. We think that if we just had the money to buy one more thing or go one more place, then we’ll find some sort of joy. Yet, real happiness gets lost in our pursuit, because we lose touch with the things that matter most – ourselves, our families, but most of all, our God. The fisherman has found contentment in what he has, while the industrialist is working hard to get to that point. What are you working for – today’s bread or tomorrow’s leisure? Contentment is not about laziness, but about enjoying that which has been given to you by God our Father. Thanks be to God.
*Story found in Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes.
Middle School The children began a new school year yesterday. It is a year of change and new things for Vicki as she moves from the simple life of Elementary school to the greater responsibility that comes with Middle school. She no longer has one teacher to direct her day, who carefully watches over her children like a mother hen watches her chicks.
In Middle school, the children have to move from teacher to teacher. They are responsible for their supplies and they must arrive at their destination in a timely manner. The teachers expect them to be prepared for class, with all assignments complete on time and presented in a neat and orderly fashion. The children have a locker where they can keep their things. I tried to explain to her some of the differences that she would find in her new school, but she needed to be a part of it to really understand.
We visited the school on Tuesday for an orientation; giving the children a chance to see the school, get their schedules and lockers. We walked around the school, looking for classrooms and meeting teachers. It was a new and different environment for Vicki and all the other children. There were a few things we did not understand, about the organization of the school and the schedules. However, through the orientation, teachers and staff explained everything. We were able to leave that day confident that Vicki would get along just fine in school this year.
We were used to the old ways but with proper knowledge Vicki was ready for the new way. When we become Christians, we move out of the old ways into something very new. There is no way for us to understand it without some help from the One who has the knowledge. It is by the Holy Spirit that we can know the things of God.
Read 1 Corinthians 2:10b-16
Middle school will be a wonderful experience for Vicki, as she continues her quest for learning and grows in maturity and responsibility. The teachers drew her in, showed her the way and filled her with confidence and excitement for the coming school year. They shared the spirit of the school with her so that she could become a part of it with them.
God draws us in to His life, shows us the way and fills us with the confidence we need to continue His Work. We can know His good and perfect will because He has become a part of us and us a part of Him. He shares His spirit with us so that we can know His mind. It is far different from the world – a kingdom of love, hope, mercy, faith and joy. By His power, we can and do live in that kingdom, no longer subject to the world but rather to the King of Glory. Thanks be to God.
To be continued As fall draws near, the television is filled with commercials for the new line-up of programming. Many of the shows are take offs of the ‘real life’ adventures that have been so popular lately. The shows that are returning from last season are finishing up summer reruns, bringing its audience to a state of expectation. Many ended the season with a cliffhanger, something to make their viewers come back in the fall to hear the end of the story.
In the history of television, there has been no summer advertising campaign like that put forth by the producers of the show “Dallas”. J.R. Ewing was shot at the end of the season and the audience had to wait three months to find the killer. Those summer months in 1979 were filled with commercials, buttons, souvenirs, toys, t-shirts, and ever other possible scheme to make money as well as create expectation for the coming shows.
The writer of the book of Acts leaves us in a similar predicament. The last few chapters focus solely on the story of Paul, his missionary journeys and his trial that took him from Jerusalem to Rome. Every step along the way, Paul shared the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even when the Jews were persecuting him, Paul stood firm in his faith and shared the Word of God. The closing verses of Acts show Paul under house arrest for two years in Rome, where he boldly preached the kingdom of God. The story ends there. The New Testament of the Bible does include many letters from Paul to the churches, some of which were written after his release from Rome. We hear bits and pieces about the early churches, their problems and their joys, through the Epistles. Yet, the Bible leaves us hanging, “What happened to the church?”
The story doesn’t end in the scriptures because it has not ended yet. From the day of Pentecost to today, Christians continue to witness to the Gospel message through their lives. We have the testimony of the saints of long ago, whose lives shined the light of our Lord Jesus Christ. They stood firm in faith through persecution, even proclaiming the truth to their deaths. Modern day Christians persist in speaking the Word to the world, and we gain strength and courage through their witness.
Read 2 Timothy 3:14-15 Read
The writer of Acts leaves us with a cliffhanger, because the story wasn’t finished yet. We are the continuing witness to the salvation of the God through Christ Jesus. The Apostles, the early church fathers, and every generation since the beginning of the church has shared the Gospel with the world. What is your testimony? How will you continue to share the story of Christ? The words of Paul written to Timothy are for us all, so that we will continue in faith each day. Thanks be to God.
Byron White Byron White retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993 after a long, exciting, diverse life in the limelight. He was born in 1917 in Fort Collins, Colorado. His fame started when he was an All-American football player at the University of Colorado. The thing that made Byron different from many of the other players was that he was also an extremely gifted scholar. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Valedictorian in 1938. He played professional football for a brief period, earning an incredible $15,000 dollars one season. His fellow players were jealous of his fame, intelligence and salary. Through it all, however, Bryon hated the attention and just tried to do the best he could.
He went to Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar and later graduated from Yale with a law degree. He served in the Navy during WWII. He then began his law career, first as a clerk for a supreme justice and then in corporate law in Colorado. President Kennedy appointed him deputy attorney general and later he was given a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite his fame, he tried to keep a low profile and do his job to the best of his ability.
In his life, there were many who were jealous of the very thing that he despised – his fame. He would have rather stayed out of the limelight, though his talent and circumstances put him on center stage. It is hard for us to understand how one man can have so many blessings. Yet, he had success in life because he used his talents to the best of his ability, and he remained humble in the midst of it.
Jesus told many parables to help his disciples understand the kingdom of God. He told a parable about a man going on a journey who entrusted his servants with his property. To one servant the man gave five talents of money. The second servant received two talents. The third was given just one. The man left and the servants used the money to expand his kingdom. When the man returned he called the servants back to settle their accounts. The first and second servants doubled their money.
Read Matthew 25:21
The third servant did not do so well. He was afraid that the man would take advantage of him, so he buried his coin in the ground and it made nothing for the man. The servant wasted the time and the talent, so the man took it away and gave it to the first servant. The man knew that the servant was not trustworthy to have such a gift, so it was given to one who would use it to the best of his ability.
When we look at the life of a many like Byron White, we wonder why he was so blessed. Yet, it is easy to see that he used his talents, not burying them. Though he did not like the limelight, he continued to use his gifts and became quite successful in school, pro football, the navy, law and eventually as a judge. Do you have talents you are burying because of fear or selfishness? Are you using your talents to the best of your ability, giving joy, hope, peace, love and service to mankind? Don’t look at another’s life and wonder why they are so blessed with talent, look at your own and ask God how to use your gifts to His Glory. Thanks be to God.
Swinging feet For the past few years, our church has been busy planning, financing and executing a building program. We have doubled the size of our building, adding a beautiful new sanctuary and plenty of classrooms for religious education. Each week, when we arrive for worship, we are surprised by the latest change to the building. One day the walls are painted, another the floors laid. The past few weeks we have been fitting furniture into place. After all these months we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Our work is nearly complete.
This week, we arrived to find new cushions have been installed onto the pews. The cushions are made of very firm three-inch foam. They look nice in the sanctuary and they are comfortable to sit on. There is only one problem. Most of the members found themselves with swinging feet. The cushion raised us up high enough that our feet no longer touch the floors, particularly for those of us who are short. Pastor, who is a very tall man, had no idea this would happen, so during the announcements one woman said, “We need footstools.” He walked around looking down each pew to see his congregation swinging their feet, just like children. We laughed together at the silliness of it all, and began worship with a childlike joy in our hearts. I think we all sang a little louder and prayed a little freer because of that joy.
Read Matthew 19:13-15 Read
How many times do we go to church and find ourselves annoyed by the little children who can’t sit still? They are constantly moving, swinging their feet, kicking the back of the pew. They whisper and whine, laugh and cry, play with their toy airplanes by crawling over the other members of the congregation. Yet somehow, in the midst of their play, they hear the story of Jesus and know that He loves them. They sing along as best they can, even conduct the choir at times. They share in the prayers by joining in voice as we say the liturgy, because those words of God have been written on their hearts. They sing a little louder and with so much joy.
For one day, our congregation knew what it was like to be like a little child in worship. We were swinging our feet to the music, singing loud and with that joy that comes in the knowledge that Jesus loves us. Thanks be to God.
Salt The Dead Sea is a most unusual body of water. It is the lowest place on the earth, 1320 feet below sea level. The water has an extremely high salt and mineral content and is used for health and beauty treatments. People visit the region to take advantage of the water, mud and hot springs that are found there. There are companies that produce products for the skin that are available around the world. Though humans have used the sea for many thousands of years, it is unable to sustain any aquatic life.
The land surrounding the sea is as fascinating as the sea itself. There are deserts as well as oasis. The hills are dotted with ancient ruins from civilizations that were founded long before our Lord Jesus walked on earth. Mount Sodom is one particular site that has attracted visitors and pilgrims for thousands of years. It is a 12 km ridge of pure salt believed to be the ancient city of Sodom. The hill is speckled with pillars of salt that are created when the dense salt water evaporates. When the water disappears, the salt precipitates and forms the standing pillars. The salt pillars bring to mind the story of Lot and his family fleeing from Sodom and Gomorrah.
Abraham had a nephew named Lot who joined him in his journey when he left Ur to follow the voice of this new, strange God who spoke directly to Abraham. The holdings of both Abraham and Lot grew substantially as they added wealth and people to their families. They agreed to separate because the land could not longer support both households. Lot chose to live in the valley near the city and Abraham stayed on the plain. In time, the Lord was grieved by the actions of those living in Sodom and Gomorrah. It needed to be destroyed.
Abraham pleaded with the Lord, negotiating a deal to save the cities if there are any righteous people within the walls. None were found, except Lot. Lot was told to take his wife and family and flee from the city before God rained down the destruction. Lot tried to save others, but they thought he was kidding, so they stayed to continue to live in their sin. Even Lot hesitated about leaving his home, but the angels grabbed him and led the family to safety. They ran to the safety of Zoar, and the Lord sent burning sulfur upon the cities. The refugees were warned that they should not look back upon the city or stop anywhere on the plain.
Read Genesis 19:23-26
Lot’s wife did not believe the word of the Lord. She was offered salvation from the destruction to come, but she ignored the warnings. She stopped and looked back at the life she left behind. Solomon writes in the Apocryphal book of Wisdom, “She [wisdom] it was who, while the godless perished, saved the upright man as he fled from the fire raining down on the Five Cities, in witness against whose evil ways a desolate land still smokes, where plants bear fruit that never ripens and where, monument to an unbelieving soul, there stands a pillar of salt.” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:6-7) Our Lord Jesus spoke in Luke 9:62 saying, “No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
When we are saved by the blood of Christ, we are to walk forward in the life we receive from Him. There is no reason to look back and it can distract us from the work we are called to do. It is important for us to leave our sin behind us – to not return to the ways we lived before salvation. We also should practice forgiveness, to ourselves as well as those who have hurt us in the past. The salt and minerals in the Dead Sea are so dense that no life can be sustained within the water, but they also produce healing and life-renewal. Is our witness to the world one as a pillar of salt showing our unbelief and lack of growth or do we walk in faith in Christ always moving forward toward His promises?
Travel I have had the opportunity and pleasure of traveling extensively around the United States as well as Europe. I have driven across the U.S. several times, visited places along the coasts, and now have the pleasure of living near the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. I have stood atop one of the Alps in Austria and at the edge of the coast of England at Land’s End. I’ve seen rainbows, wildflowers and many kinds of animals. The colourful spring wildflowers in England, the awesome summer storms of the Midwest, the changing autumn leaves in New England, the sparkling silver icicles hanging from the trees after a winter storm in the north all speak to my heart and my spirit.
Each adventure has its own memories – the people, the places and the history. There are certain moments that will remain with me for a long time. I remember getting up long before daylight to sit on the beach in Virginia and watch the sunrise. I remember standing in a grove of Redwood trees in California. I remember climbing down a steep mountain in the Rockies to make a snowball in June. I remember seeing the world from the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado and marveling at the greatness of creation.
Katherine Lee Bates stood at the same place in 1893 and was so inspired by the grandeur that she wrote the song, “America, the Beautiful.” One of the lines in that song is “God shed his grace on thee.” God did indeed shower America, and the rest of the world, with His grace and love. We can see it in His creation, in the care He has taken to mold the mountains, to set the rivers flowing, to paint each sunset with a new palette of colour each day. In the creation we see the greatness of our God, not only as Creator, but also as Redeemer, Teacher, Provider, Shepherd, Lord and King of kings. It is by His hand we have life, not only in this world, but also in the world to come.
Read Psalm 111
As you journey through today, look for God in His creation and praise Him. Praise Him for everything He has done for you, to you and by you in this world. Praise Him for His Word. Praise Him for His Son. Praise Him for life. God’s creation is a constant reminder of His never-ending presence and His faithfulness. He is worthy of our praise! He has shown us His love, through the life of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lived and died with the creation so that we would be reconciled to God our Father as we were created to be. He then rose again, so that we would live eternally with Him. Thanks be to God.
Home parties I was invited to a jewelry party several weeks ago. The company has a variety of necklaces, earrings, bracelets and other gold and silver accessories. A hostess hires a consultant to visit her home and she invites all her friends to share in fellowship and munchies. Each guest is given the opportunity to purchase some jewelry and the hostess earns free pieces with every sale. It is also possible for the hostess to earn other prizes, if people agree to host a party of their own. This type of sales has become quite popular over the years, with companies selling everything from plastic storage containers to lingerie. I have purchased English lace, baskets, cooking supplies, candles and Christmas decorations from similar parties.
I have hosted a few parties. It is exciting to prepare for the event, to invite your friends and decide on the snacks to serve. I have agreed to have a party so that a friend will get credit for certain items they desire to have. When the big day arrives, I wait in hopeful expectation that my friends will come and enjoy the time. One party was particularly disappointing. The consultant arrived early to set up her display. When the time came for the party to start, none of my guests had arrived. When I gave the invitations, my friends showed interest, but on the night of the party they had excuses for not coming. The consultant wasted her time and I had prepared food for an army of women. The guests found better things to do, so they did not come to the party.
Read Luke 14:16-24
We have been invited to a great feast in the life to come. We are to dine with the King of kings and Lord of lords. This invitation has been offered to the world, yet there are those who will find some excuse not to come. The man with the field and the man with the oxen claim they needed to go see and try their purchases. Yet, would one purchase something that they did not see or test? The third man was recently married and claimed he could not come. According to Jewish law, a newly married man did not have to go to war. In this case, perhaps the man thought he would be expected to return the favour in some way. He used the law to get out of his commitment.
What excuses do we give? God has invited us to a great banquet, which we celebrate regularly at church through the Eucharist, but also through our lives of service to God. Both are a foretaste of the feast to come. When you are called, do you come willingly, or do you give some excuse? If you don’t do the work of God, celebrating in His kingdom and glorifying Him by your life, then He will call others. He knows the humble of heart and those who will come to His banquet without excuse. Will you be there?
Cola wars There has long been a battle between the leading cola producers, meant to draw customers to purchase their product verse their competition. Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola spend millions of dollars on advertising, promotions, packaging and new products all designed to show they are the best. One of the summer schemes is the Pepsi Challenge. Representatives from Pepsi go out in the towns around American challenging people to choose the best cola. They have blind taste tests – Pepsi against Coke. They claim more people choose the Pepsi. Coke has continued a campaign that has moved way beyond sales of just the drink. They have lines of collectibles and toys. Each company will do whatever they can to create user loyalty.
Of course, when it comes to cola products, people are extremely loyal. Those who prefer Pepsi wouldn’t be found with a Coke in their hand and vice versa. Never marry outside your taste, because cola wars in families can be wicked! I write this in jest, because I doubt there have been any divorces over this issue. Yet, I have known people to get into lengthy discussions about cola, even thinking the opposing opinion is foolish.
There really is no winner in the cola wars. The success of these companies rises and falls with the season, but hold their market share consistently. They have the same failures – products that don’t sell and accidents that destroy the supply of cola to the stores. Just yesterday there was an accident in Little Rock, which left pop cans scattered all over the roadway. A Pepsi truck and a Coca Cola truck collided, leaving a haphazard display of both kinds of cola strewn and leaking everywhere.
Loyal cola drinkers look at each other as enemies. We do the same thing at times with our brethren of faith who disagree about issues of faith. The lengthy discussions often lead to challenges and battles, leaving people hurt. It is inevitable for one or another to call their opponent foolish, or even question their Christian faith. At times we look at brothers or sisters in Christ as our enemy.
Read Matthew 5:43-48
Who is your enemy in this life? Is it someone who prefers a different kind of cola? Is it a person at your workplace or neighbourhood with whom you have butted heads? Do you get into tangles about politics or religion? Jesus tells us that the rain falls on us all. The truck accident harmed both companies, by destroying their property and supply, and both companies will receive the same free exposure. God, our Father, created us all and we should love everyone, including our enemy. Though you may disagree with someone, always treat him or her with kindness and respect, calmly sharing the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. It may seem impossible for us to be perfect in love, yet we can grow each day in Christ Jesus so that His love will be made perfect in us. Thanks be to God.