Welcome to the August 2008 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.
    You are welcome to use these writings or pass them on. All we ask is that in all things you remember the Author and give Him the glory, and remember this vessel which He has used to bring them to you. Peggy Hoppes
























Scripture on this page taken from the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.

A WORD FOR TODAY, August 2008

August 1, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 10, 2008: 1 Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33

Psalm 85:8-13 I will hear what God Jehovah will speak; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth springeth out of the earth; and righteousness hath looked down from heaven. Yea, Jehovah will give that which is good; and our land shall yield its increase. Righteousness shall go before him, and shall make his footsteps a way to walk in.

I went to an outlet center yesterday on a quest for something that Victoria needs for college. I found it quickly and so I had time to wander in a few other stores. I was shopping with a friend of mine. We weren’t looking for anything in particular, just hoping to find some incredible deals like we sometimes do.

We went into one store, a name brand outlet that has been rumored to be having some financial difficulties. I have even heard that they are going out of business. I am not sure about their plans, but it appears, from the state of the store, that they have cut back on their employees recently. Now, even though this was an outlet store, this particular location was always neat and well organized. As with some of the name brand outlets, the stores have a few things that are specifically manufactured for the outlets or discontinued items that are ‘outlet priced.’ Most of those stores also have every day merchandise as you might find in the retail store at the mall. I usually find things on the clearance racks, where the prices are rock bottom.

Unfortunately, when we went in the store yesterday we found it to be a mess. The clothes are stacked on tables, not hung, a recent trend in retail. In a regular store, with plenty of help, the stacked clothes are kept neatly folded and organized. In this store the tables were a mish-mash of disorder. It was impossible to find specific sizes. Many tables held a hodge podge of different items, wrinkled and with tags stuck together. It would have taken too much time to wade through the merchandise to discover anything of value. If the merchandise had really been inexpensive, we might have tried. However, those items were nearly full price. We spent just a few minutes in the store and left with nothing.

As I left I felt as the people in that particular store had just given up. Maybe they are doing the best they can do, but there is no way they will get out from under their problems if they make it impossible for people to shop. There are certain rules that will make a business run well. Whether it is just that one location or the entire company, I could see why the rumors were being reported. Something is wrong in the company, or at least that store, and it may eventually lead to its end. If only they would look toward their customers and what would serve them better, the customers might just save their store.

God does not save those who fear Him, but those who fear God see His salvation. His salvation is available to all those who turn to Him, who listen to Him, who hear His Word of peace. The psalmist says, “But let them not turn again to folly.” Having heard the word of peace, let us remember to keep our eyes on the truth, which is where mercy dwells. If we turn from the truth, we’ll turn away from the peace that comes from the assurance of faith in God’s salvation. If we keep our eyes on God, well see the new growth that flows from faith growing and flowing into the world.


August 4, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 10, 2008: 1 Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33

Romans 10:5-15 For Moses writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby. But the righteousness which is of faith saith thus, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:) or, Who shall descend into the abyss? (That is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!

There was an online article a few months ago that quizzed readers about the logos of famous companies. They wanted to see how observant we are. Could we recall whether the character faced left or right? Did we know the order of colors in the logo? They showed the real logo alongside a fake and asked, “Which is the true logo?” It was amazing how many I got wrong. The differences were so miniscule, like using a red line instead of an orange line or making the eyebrows of a character show a different emotion. In another online article with quiz, the goal was to understand the symbolism of the logo. Why did the company use a specific word or design the character with hands in a specific position? It is amazing how subtle these things can be. Sometimes they are so subtle that you may not even realize there is something to be seen.

I found this to be true of the FedEx logo. I had never noticed it before that article, but the FedEx logo has a hidden arrow. The arrow represents the forward movement of the company, which is why the arrow faces to the right. You can see the arrow in between the “E” and the “X” in FedEx. Though I had never noticed it before, I can’t help but notice the arrow now. It only took someone pointing it out to me to make it obvious.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you passed by a place daily for days, weeks or months, not noticing something, but then someone points it out to you? You ask, “When did that go in there” and they answer, “Months ago.” You did not see it on your own; it took someone else to point it out to you. From then on you can’t help but see it. Has anyone ever drawn your attention on a song or a television commercial which you then hear or see all the time? Has a neighbor talked about a dog that you did not realize lived in the neighborhood, but then you realized you’d been hearing it bark all along? We sometimes need someone to point out the obvious for us to see it.

Have you ever wondered why there are people who do not know the grace of God in Christ Jesus? Those of us who know the Lord Jesus can't imagine what life would be like without Him. We wonder at those people who are able to live day after day without some relationship with God. We can't fathom the atheist who claims there is no God, especially when we see a perfect rose, a brightly colored rainbow or feel a cool breeze on a hot day. We see God's hand in the coincidences that seem to occur at just the right moment in just the right place to answer our prayers. We see Him in our relationships, in our worship, in our lives as we walk forth in faith. So, we can not understand how they do not see Him also.

Yet, even as we do not understand how they do not see Him, do we show them? It is like that arrow in the FedEx logo. For many it was invisible until I mentioned it today. Now you won’t be able to look at the logo without seeing it. Those who hear us speak about the Lord may not believe when they hear. They may not even believe a week, a month or years after they heard. However, once they know that God is there, it is hard to miss Him. But how will they know if we do not tell them?


August 5, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 10, 2008: 1 Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33

Matthew 14:22-33 And straightway he constrained the disciples to enter into the boat, and to go before him unto the other side, till he should send the multitudes away. And after he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into the mountain apart to pray: and when even was come, he was there alone. But the boat was now in the midst of the sea, distressed by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night he came unto them, walking upon the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a ghost; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto the upon the waters. And he said, Come. And Peter went down from the boat, and walked upon the waters to come to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and took hold of him, and saith unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were gone up into the boat, the wind ceased. And they that were in the boat worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

An enthusiastic young Methodist minister was posted to a small town where there was both a Catholic church and a Jewish synagogue. The Catholic priest and the Jewish rabbi welcomed the young minister warmly and offered any assistance he might need in his new charge. Then they invited him to go fishing with them. As they were sitting in the boat about fifty yards from shore, the priest said he was thirsty. But they had left the cooler on the dock. The Rabbi said, “I'll get it.” With that he stepped out of the left side of the boat, walked to the dock, and returned with the cooler. Later the rabbi hooked a large trout, but the net had been left on the dock also. So the priest stepped out of the left side of the boat, walked to the dock, and returned with the net. By this time the young minister was a little red in the face. Then the old priest said that he had left his knife on the dock and he couldn't get the hook out of the fish's mouth. The young minister stood up and said, “I'll get it!” With that, he stepped out the right side of the boat and promptly sank to his eyebrows. The rabbi turned to the priest and said, “Well Father, if we're gonna' help this boy, we should start by showing him where the steppin' stones are.”

Peter saw Jesus walking on water and he wanted to believe. He wanted to believe so much that he thought the only way he could do so was to prove to himself, and to the others including Jesus, that he had enough faith to walk on the water. He was doing well, keeping his eye on Jesus. Then suddenly he turned his attention to something else—the storm. His thoughts turned inward, to his safety and the ridiculous nature of what he was trying to do. He could not walk on water and by stepping out of the boat he was sure he would drown.

The joke is funny because the priest and the rabbi didn’t really walk on water. They knew about stepping stones that would take them to the dock safe and dry. The young minister did not know there were stones. He thought that the priest and the rabbi had so much more faith and he thought he had to prove to himself and to them, that he was a faithful and holy as they. His purpose for going to the dock was not to serve the others but instead was self-centered. He was motivated by his need to be as good as the other clergy in the town.

I suspect that none of us will have the opportunity to walk on water. No matter how great our faith, we do not need to prove ourselves by doing something impossible and amazing. However, Jesus calls us out of our boat all the time. He calls us out of our comfort zone into situations where we can serve others even though we are not entirely comfortable. He calls us to come to Him in ways that are beyond our ability so that we will learn to keep our eyes on Him for our strength and power and grace. The problems come when we turn our thoughts inward. We get into trouble when our motivation is self-centered, when we allow fear and envy to guide our steps. When Jesus says, “Come” to us, calling us out of the boat, we will stand as long as we keep our eyes, and hearts, on Him.


August 6, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 10, 2008: 1 Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33

The names of the characters in the ancient myths and legends have often become words we use in our daily lives to describe things or people that are similar to those characters. Echo, for instance, was a woodland nymph that loved to use her voice. She sang and talked and always had the last word. One day a goddess was looking for her husband when she came across Echo. Echo, knowing her husband was cavorting with other woodland nymphs, held her in conversation until everyone was safe. When the goddess discovered the deception, she cursed her. From that day on Echo could only repeat someone else’s words.

Now, Echo met a young man named Narcissus who was very handsome. Many a nymph had fallen in love with him, only to be rejected. He refused to fall in love with anyone. Echo followed him in hopes that he might speak first to her, since she could not speak first to him. One day the youth, alone in the woodlands, shouted out “Who’s here?” Echo replied, “Here.” Narcissus could not see the source of the voice so called, “Come.” Echo replied “Come.” Narcissus called again, “Why do you hide from me?” Echo replied with the same words. “Let us come together,” Narcissus called. Echo repeated the invitation, went to Narcissus and flung herself into his arms. He was startled and yelled, “Get off, I would rather die than let you have me!” Echo repeated, “Have me.” But it was too late. Narcissus was gone and she was left alone. From that day on she lived hidden away in caves and withered until all that was left was her voice. She still has the last word and that is why we call an echo and echo.

Narcissus was another character whose name became a common word in our language. We all know what it means to be narcissistic. Narcissism is excessive love or admiration for oneself. It is self-centeredness. Narcissus was a beautiful young man who was beloved of all the woodland nymphs but he had no desire to fall in love and so rejected them all. At his birth, a prophet told his mother that he would live to a ripe old age if he never knew himself. One day, Narcissus was hunting in the woods when he became tired and thirsty. He knelt down next to a creek and saw his reflection for the first time. Thanks to a spell by Artemis, Narcissus fell was enraptured by the face he saw in the water. Eventually he realized that the face was his own and that he would never be able to possess the thing he loved the most. He was thus tortured in the same way he tortured all those whose love he had refused. He killed himself, the last self-centered thing any man can do.

We are all a bit narcissistic. As a matter of fact, it is a normal stage of growth in humans. As children we believe that the world revolves around us, that everything happens for our sake. It is often true because parents learn the necessity of giving up oneself for the sake of their offspring, at least for awhile. Some narcissism is healthy because it helps us to protect ourselves and to spur us on to follow our dreams. It can also have negative consequences, affecting our relationships in every aspect of our lives. When we make ourselves the center of our universe, we miss out on the possibilities this life has to offer. Some of the best opportunities we have are found in selflessness.

A report in 2007 discovered that today’s college students are more narcissistic and self-centered than any generation before them. The researchers believe that this has to do with the ‘self-esteem movement’ which had parents and teachers focusing a child on his or her uniqueness. “You are special” we’ve all heard a million times, and while this is a truth it has led to a generation of children believing that they are not just special, but more special than others. The study has shown that narcissists “are more likely to have romantic relationships that are short-lived, at risk for infidelity, lack emotional warmth, and to exhibit game-playing, dishonesty, and over-controlling and violent behaviors.”

Our relationship with God is not the same as our relationship with others, particularly those of a romantic nature. However, I wonder if the conclusion of this study can be juxtaposed with the state of the church today. We might not think it possible for a religious or faith life to be narcissistic, but it is in many chases. How many people change churches because they “weren’t being fed” at their old church. We might not directly ask the question, “What is in it for me?” but many of our decisions are directly affected by the impact it will have on our lives. When God calls us, do we go without concern for ourselves? Do we really stand in faith when we get out of that boat? Or are we like Narcissus, always looking back to ourselves, thinking only of ourselves?


August 7, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 17, 2008: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 Thus saith Jehovah, Keep ye justice, and do righteousness; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Also the foreigners that join themselves to Jehovah, to minister unto him, and to love the name of Jehovah, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and holdeth fast my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. The Lord Jehovah, who gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith, Yet will I gather others to him, besides his own that are gathered.

It is hard to believe, but school begins in just a few weeks. We have been doing some back to school shopping, trying to figure out what the kids will need for their classes. The stores have lists for the Elementary schools, making it possible for parents of younger children to be prepared ahead of time, because the departments at those schools get together and coordinate the needs for all the children. But with high school and college students it is more difficult. Individual teachers have different requirements. Some want notebooks with lined paper. Others want spiral bound notebooks. Yet others prefer folders for storing papers. It is the responsibility of the student to have the right supplies. It is certainly an expensive time for parents.

Our next big expense will be for t-shirts. In the next few weeks, Zachary will come home numerous times with requests for money to pay for organizational t-shirts. These shirts are specially designed for the students to help define them as part of that organization. The students will receive points whenever they wear their t-shirts at meetings and events, giving them incentive to purchase the shirts. Now, the students are not required to purchase the shirts. They can be part of the group without the t-shirt.

I’ve heard people say about someone, “He (or she) looks like a Christian.” What does a Christian look like? Does it have to do with what they wear? Can race, nationality, physical features or gender act as identifying marks? Does wearing a piece of jewelry with a cross mean a person is a Christian? We all know the answer to these questions. Of course, there are some outward signs that may make a person’s faith obvious. Certain communities require certain clothing. Some kids love the faith t-shirts they can wear. But the outward signs do not guarantee commitment to God. A person can be a Christian without wearing a t-shirt saying so.

For the people in Isaiah’s day, the identifying mark of God’s people was national and religious heritage. The Jews were Jews because of where and who they came from, not who they were. At least, that’s what they thought. Through Isaiah, God tells them that it is not their race or nationality, or any other outwardly identifying marks, which makes them people of God. The ones who do justice, who wear righteousness and obedience, are those who will be found joyfully worshipping in the Temple. They are the ones whom God will embrace, whose sacrifices God will accept. It doesn’t matter what they wear, whether or not they can pinpoint their genealogical line. God sees their hearts, and the world sees that they live according to the ways of the God of Israel.


August 8, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 17, 2008: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

Psalm 67 God be merciful unto us, and bless us, And cause his face to shine upon us; Selah That thy way may be known upon earth, Thy salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise thee, O God; Let all the peoples praise thee. Oh let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For thou wilt judge the peoples with equity, And govern the nations upon earth. Selah Let the peoples praise thee, O God; Let all the peoples praise thee. The earth hath yielded its increase: God, even our own God, will bless us. God will bless us; And all the ends of the earth shall fear him.

Richard Pryor played Montgomery Brewster in the movie, “Brewster’s Millions.” Monty Brewster was a minor league baseball player who was having trouble making ends meet when rich relative died, leaving his entire fortune to him. He would get the money—$300 million—if he could spend $30 million in just thirty days. At the end of the thirty days, Brewster could have nothing leftover. He could not have any new possessions. He could not be one penny richer at the end of the thirty days than he was before he learned of his new fortune. He also could not tell anyone the conditions of the inheritance.

So, Brewster went out spending his fortune, the $30 million dollars that everyone thought was the total of his inheritance. He hired friends to help him. He rented the most expensive penthouse and rented furniture to fill it. His employees thought that their job was to help Brewster keep his money. They made savvy investments, recommended buying things instead of renting and got upset by his unbelievable waste. He ran for mayor, but when it looked like he might win, he changed his tune and insisted that he’d be a terrible mayor. He still didn’t want the other candidates to win, so he changed his campaign. He convinced the entire city to vote for “None of the Above.” He bought an extremely rare stamp for one million dollars and used it to mail a letter to someone. He even rented the Yankees for three innings so that he would have the chance to pitch against his dream team.

The point of the exercise was to ensure that Brewster would not waste the gift he was given. How many people receive a windfall—a lottery win, a tax refund, an inheritance—only to spend it too quickly. Brewster’s relative wanted him to be sick of money, so sick that he would not be foolish with it. Brewster truly did get sick of spending. He was almost ready to give up, especially in the very last minutes of the exercise when it was ‘discovered’ that $1000 was set aside (by one of the lawyers so that Brewster would lose). The lawyer claimed that it was extra for something and that he ‘forgot’ to give it back to Brewster. How could he spend $1000 in a few minutes in a room full of lawyers who wanted him to lose?

Brewster was not allowed to just give the money away, so it was impossible to just donate it to charities. However, along with the frivolous nature of his spending there was also a sense of compassion. He hired the most unusual employees, people that he met on the street. Though he did not need competent people to do what he wanted from, he still paid outlandish amounts for ridiculous service. He was generous with his friends, sharing his fortune by ‘hiring them.’ He even held a magnificent party for them toward the end of the month, to thank them for their help. He was almost broke and ready to be done with the game. They had loved him so much, had told the world about Brewster’s virtues and then when he was nearly at his lowest point in the movie, they took up a collection to help him. He, of course, went nuts because he had to be penniless in just a few hours, but they wanted to show their appreciation by sharing back what he had first given.

The psalmist today joins with the congregation of believers singing the praise of God. They seek God’s blessing on them, but unlike many of our prayers, they wanted to be blessed so that they could be a blessing. They wanted to be able to share His blessedness with them so that they could share it with the world. They wanted the entire world to sing His praise. $300 million was a lot of money, and Brewster’s rich relative knew it. He wanted Brewster to receive it with the knowledge that it was not something to waste, but something to use rightly. Brewster won, and hopefully so did the community as he took his blessing into the world.


August 11, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 17, 2008: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 I say then, Did God cast off his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God did not cast off his people which he foreknew… For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of. For as ye in time past were disobedient to God, but now have obtained mercy by their disobedience, even so have these also now been disobedient, that by the mercy shown to you they also may now obtain mercy. For God hath shut up all unto disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.

Have you ever noticed how many times the stories we read and watch are similar to the stories that we hear in the Bible? Oh, those stories are different—different time, different people, different circumstances—but what they have to tell us are very much the same. Throughout all time, from the beginning until today, people have not changed, and neither have the stories. Different experts have different opinions about the number, but literary experts all agree that there are only a certain number of stories. Despite the number of books available, there are only about fifty plots. We just change the details to make the stories real to us. It might seem like a stretch to some, but all those plots can be found in the Bible.

Now, the Cinderella story is just one of many. The usual plot has a girl who has been abandoned to a horrible situation by the death of her only relative, her father, who had recently married a woman that wanted his wealth. The daughter is left with nothing, treated poorly and even enslaved. A conquering hero, the prince, comes to save her by taking her away from her wicked stepmother into the life she was meant to live. There is usually a moment of transformation, of redemption and even forgiveness. There are several biblical characters whose stories might fall into this pattern, like Jesus’ mother Mary and Queen Esther. Different details, but in both stories a lowly girl is given a new life by a savior.

“A Cinderella Story” starring Hilary Duff is a modern day version of the Cinderella story. Hilary Duff plays Sam Montgomery who lives in California with her father and step mother until he is killed during an earthquake. The step-mother then takes advantage of Sam, forcing her to work extreme hours at the family owned restaurant and insisting that Sam will never get any farther. Sam meets a boy in an online chat room who turns out to be the school football hero. However, their relationship was anonymous and she did not know his real identity. He also did not know hers. She would have never guessed his true self because the boy she knew online was poetic, independent and had very similar goals as she. The football hero was exactly the opposite.

While the story of Cinderella is wonderful, it is the story of Austin Ames, the boy on the Internet, which interests me today. Austin wants to be a writer, but his father has much different goals for him. Austin is a great quarterback, the star of the team and likely to be offered scholarships to his father’s alma mater. He wants to go to another school, but does not know how to tell his dad. He lives behind a façade, wishing he could be one thing while pretending to be another. This brings trouble to his relationship with Sam, who breaks free from her own prison and wants him to do the same.

At the end of the movie, Austin realizes that if he does not turn around he is going to lose her, and her love, forever. He walks away from the big game, from his chance to prove himself to the college football scouts and his father. He lets go of the man he isn’t to become the man he is. His eyes are opened and he sees the truth. I think that’s the story we see in today’s scripture.

Paul is in agony over the question of his people. He knows three truths: first, that Israel is God’s chosen people; second, that God is faithful; and third, something new has happened. People around Paul have claimed that Paul is rejecting God’s Word of promise to Israel by claiming something new has happened. Paul, having experienced the love and mercy of God can not understand how the rest of Israel has not embraced Jesus. But he knows God is faithful, so he has found comfort in the reality that Israel is, at that moment, wearing a mask. He is certain that the truth dwells within and that one day, when the time is right, their eyes will be opened and they will believe. For now their hearts are hardened, but there is hope. There is hope because God is faithful. We are no different, no better, because we believe. We were, and are, also disobedient. But He is merciful, transforming us into the people He has created us to be. Now, we are called to be merciful, to live in hope assured that God is faithful. He does not forget His promises.


August 12, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 17, 2008: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

Matthew 15:10-20 And he called to him the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth the man; but that which proceedeth out of the mouth, this defileth the man. Then came the disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind guides. And if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit. And Peter answered and said unto him, Declare unto us the parable. And he said, Are ye also even yet without understanding? Perceive ye not, that whatsoever goeth into the mouth passeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But the things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings: these are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not the man.

A few weeks ago we looked at the parable of the sower. Now, this is an interesting story and one that can be interpreted from several different points of view. We can see ourselves as the sower, those whom God has called to sow the seed. We can also see ourselves as the soil, as in the song, “Lord, Let My Heart be Good Soil.” We can see the field from outside the story, and in this case I find myself grieving for the seeds that fall on the path, the stones and in the thorns. After all, we can see those as the people who have received the seed by for whom it did not have a lasting affect. The seeds in the stones withered away. The seeds in the thorns were chocked.

The seeds on the path didn’t stand a chance. They were snatched away by the birds, which represent the devil. As I was listening to the reading and the sermon that Sunday, it occurred to me that God can do the impossible. Though it is a bad thing for the birds to steal the seed that fell on the path, many plants grow because a seed has passed through a birds system and ended up in good soil. As a matter of fact, in James Michener’s book, “Hawaii,” a good portion of the beginning tells the tale of how the volcano created the islands. Eventually the islands were large enough to be higher than the waves of the ocean and the volcanic debris became rich soil. The islands were then planted with seeds from birds as they flew over the new ground. When I was sharing this thought with others that day, I said, “It would be really hard to preach ‘bird poop,’ wouldn’t it?

It isn’t bird poop, but leave it to Jesus to work such a natural human (creation) function into a sermon. He says, “The food we eat just goes out the other end.” That’s what Jesus does. He takes the things about life with which we are very familiar and shows us how it fits into the life He is calling us to live. It is shocking, almost offensive, to think about human waste as a topic for religious discussion. Yet, we learn a very important lesson in this passage. It isn’t what goes into our mouths that makes us unclean, it is what comes out of our mouths.

They say, “You are what you eat,” and in many ways that is true. If you eat only junk food, your body will become unhealthy. A good and balanced diet is important for good health. Scientifically we understand that not everything that goes into the mouth actually comes out the other end. Fats and toxins can damage organs and cause dis-ease in the body. God knows this, which is why some of the sanitary laws existed in the Jewish world. Pork was dangerous to eat. Dirty hands can spread disease. The laws themselves were not a bad thing.

However, the traditions of the elders had become more important to the keepers of the Law than the reality of God’s laws. In the passage before our scripture for today, Jesus questions the Pharisees about a law that actually dishonors fathers and mothers, against the commandment of God. Though tradition can begin as a way of living out the intent of God’s Word, it can become something completely different because we insert our human frailty into all we touch. We are sinners and everything we touch is spoiled by our sin. And that’s the point. God’s creation is not bad; the food we eat is good because God made it. The sin that lives within us defiles us, and manifests in the words that come out of our mouths. Let us remember, however, that God is not offended as we are. We might be disturbed by talk of bird poop, but God is disturbed by the real things that defile us: evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and railings.


August 13, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 17, 2008: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15:[10-20] 21-28

Matthew 15:21-28 And Jesus went out thence, and withdrew into the parts of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanitish woman came out from those borders, and cried, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a demon. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But she came and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. And he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs. But she said, Yea, Lord: for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it done unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was healed from that hour.

To what sort of person would you say the words, “Great is thy faith”? When we think of great faithfulness, we think about the people in our lives that lived an obviously Christian lifestyle. We think about those whose life is one of service. We think about those who praise God even in the midst of hard times. We think about those who are dedicated to the life we live together as a body in Christ. I can remember people, usually older women, from every congregation who exhibited to me “great faith.” A few pastors and other church leaders also impressed me with their great faith. We can name several famous people, like Mother Theresa, who would find themselves on the list. The Saints throughout the ages showed great faith. There was something special about those folk. They stood out in the crowd. They were people who were recognized as Christian even by those who did not have Christian faith.

Considering that we’ve had two thousand years of Christian history, however, that list is very small. Most Christians do not stand out in a crowd. As I look out my window at the homes in my neighborhood, I can’t say without a doubt which ones are even Christian. I am aware of a few who go to church. I know some of them do really great things in the community. Most would give me the shirt off their back if I needed it. But I doubt I would ever say, “Great is thy faith” to any of them. I’m sure my neighbors would think the same of me.

I bet the woman in our story today was exactly the same as my neighbors and me. She was not part of the faith community. She was an outsider who came to Jesus to be healed. She must have heard about His power, perhaps she was even in one of the crowds who had heard Him preach. Maybe she was in the crowd who ate the fish and the bread a day or so before this story. The people who were thought to have great faith were those to whom Jesus addressed the previous message: the Pharisees and teachers of the law thought they were faithful because they obeyed all the religious rules and did what tradition demanded of them, but they aren’t the ones to whom Jesus says, “Great is thy faith.”

Jesus is not radically rebelling against the faith of His fathers in this story. As a matter of fact, when the woman approaches Him, He refuses her at first. His points out that His ministry is for a specific group of people—the lost sheep of Israel. Even after she worshipped Him, He said, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.” She becomes bolder, but at the same time more humble, by saying that the dogs eat the crumbs. She doesn’t let Jesus go, she continues to pursue His help, but accepts her place in the world. She is not one of the lost sheep. She is one of the dogs. Even so, she says, “Please help me.”

It is to this woman that Jesus says, “Great is thy faith.” We might never know those whom Jesus calls faithful because they won’t fit into our idea of how faithfulness should appear. We think in terms of the things that are manifest in their lives—and there is some truth to that. They will, indeed, know us by our love. However, some of the most faithful people are not those who live with their Christianity on their sleeve, but are those who at the point of their greatest trouble are bold and humble enough to turn to the only one who can bring healing and transformation.

We may not ever know what God has done in their life. Was there a crowd around Jesus when the woman appeared before Him? We do not see anyone respond to this story. This may have been a private conversation between a woman and her Lord. The same is true of people in our community. We can’t see their faith and may never know about their miracles. But we can live as if everyone is like that woman, willing to boldly and humbly seek God in their troubles and offer them a glimmer of God’s grace in this world. We might prefer to linger amongst those whose faith is obvious, but sometimes we’ll see the greater faith in those who don’t fit into our idea of faithfulness.


August 14, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 24, 2008: Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

Isaiah 51:1-6 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek Jehovah: look unto the rock whence ye were hewn, and to the hold of the pit whence ye were digged. Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you; for when he was but one I called him, and I blessed him, and made him many. For Jehovah hath comforted Zion; he hath comforted all her waste places, and hath made her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of Jehovah; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. Attend unto me, O my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall go forth from me, and I will establish my justice for a light of the peoples. My righteousness is near, my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the peoples; the isles shall wait for me, and on mine arm shall they trust. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.

My brother and his wife along with my sister came to visit my family yesterday. My sister also lives in Texas, but in another town, and my brother lives in Pennsylvania. We do not see each other very often. The last time we were all together was at our father’s funeral. Funerals are definitely a time for remembering, but it is highly emotional and there is little time. There are also so many people around that also need to share in the memories, it is hard to deal with each other as siblings.

My brother was born eleven years before me and my sister was born six years before me. I’m the baby. I barely remember the relationships we had as children. By the time I was an interesting individual, my brother was headed off to the army. My brother and sister apparently had an interesting sibling relationship, fighting over everything. He picked on her, she tattled on him. Since he was so much older, he was often left as babysitter for the two of us, but since he was fairly young he was not the most reliable caregiver.

As we visited last night, they shared stories about our childhood that I could never remember. Apparently we had a pony for a few months and went on vacations I will never remember. I learned that I had a broken leg when I was just a baby, having fallen down the stairs under my brother’s watchful eye. I heard stories that will only be part of my memory because they shared them last night. Although I will never remember those events or many of the people involved, they are a part of my history and I am who I am because of them.

In today’s passage, God is speaking to His people through the prophet Isaiah. He says, “Listen to me you who seek the Lord. Look to your history, your father Abraham and your mother Sarah.” Although none of those to whom Isaiah was speaking would have known Abraham personally, they would not know the stories of Abraham’s life beyond those that were passed down orally in the religious traditions. They didn’t know the stories about Abraham and Sarah’s every day life. Yet, the story of Abraham and Sarah are irrevocably woven into their lives. The promise on which they live was given first to Abraham, a man alone with no hope for a future to whom God fulfilled His promise of becoming the father of many nations. The people listening were the fulfillment of that promise. They were the children of Abraham.

We now, listening to these stories, are also the fulfillment of that promise. We are of those many nations that came from the bosom of Abraham and from Sarah, his wife. Because the promise was fulfilled, we can rest in all God’s promises, including those found in this passage. We will be comforted. God will look upon His children with compassion. He will restore His people and they will rejoice. We will become the light that shines to the world, manifesting God’s justice and peace. God will grant us His righteousness and His salvation. It is ours to live in hope waiting patiently for that which will last forever.


August 15, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 24, 2008: Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

Psalm 138 I will give thee thanks with my whole heart: Before the gods will I sing praises unto thee. I will worship toward thy holy temple, And give thanks unto thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. In the day that I called thou answeredst me, Thou didst encourage me with strength in my soul. All the kings of the earth shall give thee thanks, O Jehovah, For they have heard the words of thy mouth. Yea, they shall sing of the ways of Jehovah; For great is the glory of Jehovah. For though Jehovah is high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly; But the haughty he knoweth from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me; Thou wilt stretch forth thy hand against the wrath of mine enemies, And thy right hand will save me. Jehovah will perfect that which concerneth me: Thy lovingkindness, O Jehovah, endureth for ever; Forsake not the works of thine own hands.

August 15th is the day we commemorate the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. There are other important days in the church year when we remember events in the life of Mary, but August 15th is the day we remember her. The only thing that makes her stand out from the crowds is the nature of her child. She was the “theotokos” or “God-bearer.” Her son Jesus was God incarnate. We remember her faith, her willingness to be subjected to the ridicule and scorn of those who did not understand God’s choice in bringing salvation to His people. She was a lowly maiden, unmarried and pregnant against all societal conventions. She was a nobody; we might expect that a queen would bear the promised King.

In the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) Mary says, “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.” Mary’s blessedness is not found in the great things she has done, but in the things that have been done for her by God. She’s not great because she was the mother of Jesus Christ, Son of God, she is remembered because God chose her to be the God-bearer. She is glorified not in her own works or accomplishments, but because of God’s hand in her life. Though she is remembered for her humble faith, it is because at this moment of upheaval in her life she signs the words of praise about God’s goodness. She glorifies God, and in her song we see God’s glory shining right back on her.

Although today’s psalm has similar language to the Davidic psalms, most experts suggest that it was written after the exiles returned to Jerusalem. Singing a song of praise brought the singer into the presence of God. He dwells where His name dwells. He dwells in the hearts and on the lips of the faithful who sing about His goodness. As they sing, they not only show their praise to God, but they reveal His wondrous goodness to the world. Thus, God is made known to those who have not believed through the praise and thanksgiving of God’s people. All other ‘gods’ are brought low as the Mighty One is raised high.

Both Mary and the psalmist speak about God’s name because where His name is spoken He is. God dwells amongst those who remember His goodness and pray for His continued care. He helps the poor and humble, raises the lowly and sets the prisoners free. Both Mary and the psalmist remind us that God brings down those who raise themselves up and stands far off from those who are haughty.

It is interesting that we might talk about glory in this time when the Olympics are at the center of the entire world’s attention. There at the games many are being glorified for the things that they do. They are receiving magnificent medals, placed on pedestals and honored by the crowds for their gifts. Yet, we are reminded in today’s passage that there is a much different type of glory, a much more spectacular glory, which is found not in our accomplishments but in our faith. As we sing praise to God, He is glorified. He is found dwelling wherever His name is praised. Amongst His people, even in their times of trouble, His glory shines for the world to see. We are blessed and the world is blessed as we shine God’s glory into their lives.


August 18, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 24, 2008: Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

Romans 12:1-8 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think as to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office: so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another. And having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching; or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness.

The world’s eyes are on Beijing right now, as we are all watching and cheering for our Olympic athletes. It has been an exciting time, as so many men and women have broken records and come back from impossible positions to win medals. We’ve heard their stories and held our breaths as they have competed cheering for them in their successes and crying with them in their failures.

One person stands out, at least for the Americans. That is swimmer Michael Phelps who won a record eight gold medals at this year’s Olympics. In the past few weeks, he’s been interviewed and profiled; every aspect of his life has been reported including his eating habits. I even heard one radio program try to duplicate his calorie intake, an impossible feat for the average person. We’ve met his mother and sister and seen their faces as Michael won contest after contest. We’ve heard from his teammates, coaches and friends back home.

He has been the center of attention. This has been good in some ways—he has brought a great deal of attention to swimming. His amazing races have been replayed on the large screen monitors at football and baseball games around the United States. Young people are thinking more seriously about the sport. There will probably be a rise in sign-ups for swim classes in the coming months. This was one of Michael’s goals. He wanted more youth to be interested in swimming so that the next generation will accomplish even more than he was able to accomplish.

The attention on Michael Phelps has had its disadvantages, however. There has been little attention paid to some of the other astounding athletes. There is an American woman who has dominated women’s swimming this year, winning six medals. Added to the five medals she won four years ago in Athens means she has won eleven medals, one in every Olympic event in which she has competed. This is an amazing feat, too. She is the first woman to do so. She’s set her own records. But we hardly know her.

Natalie is taking it in stride. When interviewed and asked how she felt about Michael Phelps getting all the attention, she said, “He deserves every ounce of respect and admiration and attention that he gets because what he's doing is incredibly phenomenal. I am not jealous one bit. Being his teammate for so many years, you get desensitized to how amazing he is. I think many years down the road, me and the other members of the team will realize what an incredible performance he put on for everybody here.”

No matter how good Michael Phelps is at his sport, he’s also humble enough to realize that he could not have done this by himself. He’s always so thankful for the support of his family, bringing up his mom at every opportunity. His coach is like a father. And his teammates are vital. At least one of his record breaking gold medals would never have been his without the incredible push during a team relay race by his friend and teammate Jason Lezak. They were in second place until Jason took off during the final meters of the race. He took over the lead and won by eight hundredths of a second. That does not sound like much, but in Olympic timekeeping, eight hundredths of a second is an eternity.

No matter how good a person is at what they do, they can’t do it by themselves. Michael Phelps earned those medals through his hard work and commitment, but he is not the only one who deserves the credit. Credit also goes to his mom and family, his coach and to his teammates. Together they accomplished this great feat. The same can be said about our faith journey. We might accomplish great things for the kingdom of God, but we can never take the credit on our own. We are part of a bigger body, a body filled with gifted and committed people who also serve the Lord our God. Together we share God’s kingdom with the world, taking His mercy and His grace to those who need to know His love. We can’t do it alone. We need one another. Most of all, we need God, for all we have comes from Him.


August 19, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 24, 2008: Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

Matthew 16:13-20 Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he the disciples that they should tell no man that he was the Christ.

Tony Shaloub plays Adrian Monk, an obsessive compulsive detective who, though unable to carry a badge as a detective for the San Francisco Police Department, is often hired as a consultant. He is a brilliant detective, able to see the details that most of us miss. He is afraid of all germs and everything that might spread germs. He’s afraid of things that do not seem frightening, like milk. Everything has a place and must be in its place or he will obsess about it until it is in its place, driving his friends crazy. He notices when a book is out of place and a picture is tilted which most people would ignore. Monk finds the answer to the question in those details; he solves the crime by seeing the things we do not see.

“Monk” is a mystery which draws the viewer into Adrian’s world. As we watch the show, we want to see if we can solve the crime alongside Monk. Can we find that detail that will bring light to the truth? I’m usually pretty good at doing this with other shows. I can guess the outcome of a sitcom five minutes into the show. I can usually see where a drama is going to go long before we get to the final scene. There are only so many types of stories and I am pretty good at seeing which plot line is being used.

However, I’m often wrong when I am watching Monk. I, like the police with whom Monk works, see the surface evidence and I miss those details. The captain will think they’ve solved the crime but Monk always knows there’s something else. “He didn’t do it,” Monk says. Then he lists a number of questions that need to be answered first. “Why is this like this?” “Why didn’t he do this?” “How did this get here?” Monk will go about answering those questions until finally he has a lightbulb moment. “Here’s what happened,” Monk says.

We don’t know the whole story until we’ve seen it played out. We do not know the answer until we come to the end of the show. Then we can see all the details and know the truth. As Monk reveals that last detail, we can see how the crime really happened and who the culprit was.

Today’s scripture is perhaps one of the best known passages. It is the source of much debate about the nature of Jesus, the nature of the church and the relationship of Peter to the church. We could spend hours discussing these questions, noting Peter’s confession of faith and how he fails to understand fully what he has said. What is important in this passage is that God has revealed the truth to Peter and that there is more to come. Peter and the disciples have not seen the whole story. They may think they understand, but until the end, until the resurrection and Pentecost, they will not fully understand what God is doing in and through Jesus.

It always surprises us that Jesus says, “Don’t tell anyone.” After all, it was not that long after that Jesus commands the Church to tell the world. Why the silence in this passage? Shouldn’t they tell the world that Jesus is the Messiah? After all, it would help the crowds to know Jesus better, to follow Him with more commitment, to establish His authority in His day. That’s the point of Jesus’ call to silence. Jesus’ authority was not built solely on His life. The authority He has now, over life and death, was established in its fullness on the cross and in the empty tomb. Peter thought he understood, but he would not understand until the story was complete. A detail still needed to be revealed. A light still needed to shine. Then, and only then, could Peter, and the Church which he represented in this story, could fully live God’s calling in this world.


August 20, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 24, 2008: Isaiah 51:1-6; Psalm 138; Romans 12:1-8; Matthew 16:13-20

He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am?

It used to be that when the phone rang, you had no idea who was on the other end. You had to answer the phone to know who was there. There were no answering machines, no voicemail. There was no way to get the message unless you answered the phone. In the early days of the phone, however, it was likely that the phone call was important. There weren’t telemarketers trying to see you everything from roofing to magazines. Since phone calls were expensive, even locally, neighbors tended to holler over the fence rather than call on the phone. If the phone rang, it was someone far away, someone willing to pay to talk, someone with something important to say.

As telephone service became more affordable, more companies sought to get your attention through the telephone. At the same time, answering machines were being developed. Eventually people got tired of answering the phone to hear another salesman at the other end, so answering machines became a way to screen phone calls. It was nice to have the machine when you were out of the house, but it was also nice to know that if you decided not to leave the dinner table to answer yet another telemarketer, that the answering machine would get any important messages that might come through. The telephone companies eventually developed voicemail boxes, so it wasn’t even necessary to set a machine to catch the calls. Another modern invention is the telephone with caller ID, making it possible to see who is on the other end of the line without ever picking up the phone. With our cable service, we have called ID on our television. When the phone rings, we do not even have to get up off the couch to know whether or not we want to answer.

In those olden days, when there was no way to know who was on the phone, many callers assumed the recipient would know who was on the line. Instead of saying, “Hi, this is so and so,” many callers just said “Hi.” Often the voice was unrecognizable. It was difficult to know what to do next. If it was someone close, it would be disappointing to hear, “Who is this?” “You don’t recognize my voice?” they might say. The trouble is, we don’t realize how much technology changes the way we sound. So, if we aren’t expecting someone to call it could be very difficult to guess the identity of the speaker. I have embarrassed myself more than once by assuming I’m talking to someone when it is really someone else. I’m sure we’ve all done the same.

People like to play a game called “Guess who.” They will sneak up behind a person, put their hands over their eyes and say “Guess who.” The person whose eyes are covered has to guess who has snuck up behind them. I never liked that game very much, for the same reason I wanted people to identify themselves on the telephone. I didn’t want to make a mistake and guess the wrong name. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by assuming they were someone different. I wanted to know to whom I was talking without having to guess their identity.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Who do the people say that I am?” The disciples gave Him a list of interesting choices. They thought Jesus might be John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet like Moses or Jeremiah. They were looking for God’s voice in their world, for a prophet that would give them hope for their future. They wanted deliverance. They wanted freedom. They wanted to be the great and golden nation they had once been, and they were looking for God’s representative to tell them how to make it happen.

Jesus then asked another question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” We know this is the right answer because Jesus tells Peter that he has said something only God Himself could have revealed. Peter still didn’t understand. He didn’t understand what it meant that Jesus was the Messiah. For him, the Messiah was to be a military hero, a crowned king, and earthly ruler. Yet, by God’s grace Peter at least recognized that Jesus was the Messiah. It would not be until after the crucifixion, resurrection and Pentecost that Peter and the disciples would fully understand.

We are Easter people, living after the story has been completed. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ has been revealed to us and we can know who Jesus is and understand what it means to us today. He still asks us the two questions. He asks, “Who does the world say that I am.” We can see a thousand different answers to this question today. To the world He was a teacher, a rabbi, a miracle worker and a good man. He was a radical willing to stand up against the injustice of His day. He’s a friend, a comforter, a guide whose example we would do well to follow. These are good answers, but they by no means reach the depth of the truth of Jesus’ identity.

It doesn’t matter what the world thinks anyway, because Jesus asks each of us the next question. “Who do you say that I am?” We spend our lives pondering the answer to this question, as we grow in faith and understanding about God’s grace in our lives.


August 21, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 31, 2008: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Jeremiah 15:15-21 O Jehovah, thou knowest; remember me, and visit me, and avenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered reproach. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy words were unto me a joy and the rejoicing of my heart: for I am called by thy name, O Jehovah, God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of them that make merry, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand; for thou hast filled me with indignation. Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou indeed be unto me as a deceitful brook, as waters that fail? Therefore thus saith Jehovah, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, that thou mayest stand before me; and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: they shall return unto thee, but thou shalt not return unto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fortified brazen wall; and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith Jehovah. And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.

Jeremiah had a right to complain. God called him to a tough job. He had to preach a hard word to people who wanted to hear only warm fuzzies. He was persecuted for doing the job God called him to do. He suffered at the hands of his own people. He lived in fear for his life and his future, but he had no choice. He had to do what God called him to do. The book by his name is one of the most honest and personal of all the prophetic books in the bible as Jeremiah admitted to God and to those of us who read his words his unhappiness.

Names have meaning as is often noted in Bible notes. A person’s name defines some aspect of their life: personality, purpose, or heritage. Experts are uncertain to the meaning of Jeremiah’s name, although it has been suggested that it means “the LORD exalts” or “the LORD establishes.” These both make sense when we look at Jeremiah and his place in God’s story. The LORD raised Jeremiah up and established him as a prophet. Others have suggested that Jeremiah means “the LORD throws.” As we listen to Jeremiah’s words, this name also makes sense. Jeremiah feels he’s been thrown to the wolves, tossed into a hostile world to face difficulty and persecution.

Throughout his book, Jeremiah makes several confessions, admitting to God his hurt and pain. In this passage, Jeremiah even says, “wilt thou indeed be unto me as a deceitful brook, as waters that fail?” This is a bold statement, blaming God for his heartache. He wants to know whate God is in the midst of his troubles. Why has he been abandoned? Why hasn’t God done something! Jeremiah is disappointed in his God and is not afraid to admit it.

I wonder how many of us have felt the same in our own pain. I wonder how many of us have screamed “Why?” when we are faced with fear and doubt. Have you ever felt abandoned and alone? Have you turned your hurt and pain on God? I am sure we have all done this because we do not know who else to blame. Jeremiah could not take his complaints to the people because they would just see him as foolish and false. He had no family, no wife or children. He was alone, with only God as his companion. When he felt as if he had been abandoned by God, he felt he was completely alone in the world. That’s enough to make any of us complain.

Jeremiah was not alone, though. He’d lost his way. The LORD answered, “Turn around and there you will see me. I’m right here with you. Times are tough but I will not abandon you. Speak what is good and you will see my hand do amazing things.” In his confession, Jeremiah was doing and saying what is worthless. Complaints do not change things. Complaints only make things worse. We all do it and those of us who are honest admit that we do it. Yet, our complaints have no value. Even when things seem like they can’t get any worse, we find peace and hope in the precious words of God’s promises. Transformation comes from the utterance of God’s word. We may feel alone at the moment, but as we stand in the presence of God we will see His mercy and His grace in our lives and in the world.


August 22, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 31, 2008: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Psalm 26:1-8 Judge me, O Jehovah, for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in Jehovah without wavering. Examine me, O Jehovah, and prove me; Try my heart and my mind. For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes; And I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with men of falsehood; Neither will I go in with dissemblers. I hate the assembly of evil-doers, And will not sit with the wicked. I will wash my hands in innocency: So will I compass thine altar, O Jehovah; That I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard, And tell of all thy wondrous works. Jehovah, I love the habitation of thy house, And the place where thy glory dwelleth.

Today’s psalm is a prayer of one who has been falsely accused. David faced persecution from Saul because Saul knew that he was no longer in God’s favor. Saul suspected David of conspiring against him and did everything he could to demean David in the eyes of the people. The reality is that the accusations of Saul about David were the very things Saul was doing. I once did a study on the word “seek” as it is found in the story of David and Saul. In every case, Saul sought after David while David sought after God. Saul wanted David dead, David wanted to follow God’s heart. We see that in the last verse of this passage as David says, “Jehovah, I love the habitation of thy house, and the place where thy glory dwelleth.”

There was a time when an accusation was automatically assumed to be true, leaving the accused no recourse. A false accusation can destroy not only the life of the accused but also the lives of those whom he or she loves. A false accusation requires lengthy and expensive investigation and trial. Unfortunately, all too often the false accusation is a means to gain something besides ‘justice,’ especially when it occurs in cases of divorce.

A study in Ontario, Canada discovered that child abuse allegations occurred in 60% of the divorce cases. Two thirds of those allegations are unsubstantiated. The trouble with false accusations is that they do not only affect the one being accused. False accusations require an investigation that puts the supposed victim through a psychological and physical strain that is not necessary and might actually cause harm. False accusations can also cause financial stress that lasts long after the extended court cases and the emotional harm may never fully be healed. False accusations do nothing to end the bitter battle between people; they make things far worse. The parent who makes false claims about an abusive relationship is, in reality, the abusive party. They make the accusations for the wrong reasons, hoping to discredit the accused and gain the advantage in the battle. Unfortunately, since the number of false accusations is so high, most people do not take accusations as seriously, leaving real victims with no justice.

The people in Jeremiah’s day did not like what Jeremiah had to say. So, they accused him of being a very bad man. The same can be said about David. They were persecuted by people who wanted their way, who wanted to do what they thought was right. Their truth was dependent on their desires and their motivation was totally self-serving. As we read passages like today’s psalm, it might seem as though David, and Jeremiah, are self-righteous as they talk about their goodness and seek God’s favor. Yet, this prayer is one of humble supplication before God, seeking His help in their troubles. We tend to respond to persecution and false accusation with a desire to vindicate ourselves, but David asks God to look at his life and do what is right according to His word. We are not asked to see David as a perfect person, or to see David as one more righteous than others. Instead, we see David's example of faith in God's mercy and justice and learn that even when we are being persecuted, we can still live the life God has called us to live, to keep our eyes on Him and trust that He will do what is right.


August 25, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 31, 2008: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Romans 12:9-21 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another; in honor preferring one another; in diligence not slothful; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing stedfastly in prayer; communicating to the necessities of the saints; given to hospitality. Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits. Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men. Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Today is the first day of school in our area. The first day of school is usually ordered chaos, especially at arrival. It has become necessary in some school districts to change the bus system because of the cost of gas. Children farther from the schools will be expected to walk. However, many parents will choose to drive the children instead, causing havoc in the unloading zone of all the schools. There will be more traffic, and the traffic will be made worse by those parents who do not understand the established traffic patterns. Buses that run two routes, one to elementary and one to secondary, will get behind because of the additional traffic. It has not been unusual for Zack’s bus to be late the first few days of school until everyone settles into the patterns required for smooth mornings.

It is very easy to get angry and frustrated during these first few days of school. Besides the traffic, many parents will experience the inevitable shock when the kids come home with a pile of papers to sign and a list of supplies that were not on ‘the list’ they found at the department store. One parent complained last night that she had gone to the store to buy the things on the list and she found the shelves empty. An employee just said, “Sorry, we are sold out” and the parent was unable to get what her child needs for school. Secondary school students have it worse because there is no list available to help them know what to buy. I’ll have to go shopping tomorrow to buy the specific types of folders, notebooks and pens that Zack will need for his specific classes. Hopefully I’ll find what he needs.

Ordered chaos is also happening in the classrooms. Children are discovering their new rooms, meeting their new teachers and getting to know the other students. There will be some old friends, but there will also be new students. The children will make friends with some of the students, but it is inevitable that some will find it difficult to get along. Some students will not like their teachers, so in these first few days there may be assignment changes as parents and administrators find solutions to the problems. The students will need to learn new rules and procedures; teachers will need to discover the strengths and weaknesses of their students. It is a crazy time, but exciting. There are bound to be problems. It will take time, but eventually everything falls in place and everyone finds their place in the community.

There are problems because everyone is unique. The teachers are different than the teachers the children have had before, so the children have to learn new ways and do new things. The children are all unique, so the teachers have to learn about each student and find a way to help each individual find success. In the midst of this there will be stumbling blocks. Some students will not get along. Some parents will not cooperate with the system. Some teachers will not know how to deal with the stress and chaos. The best we can do is to what Paul calls for in today’s lesson. “If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.”

It would be tempting for us to react negatively to the chaos that will occur this week. I was ready to call the bus office when my son’s bus was more than twenty minutes late. Instead of complaining, I waited. There was still time to get him to school if something happened. It would have been an inconvenience, but better than adding stress to an already stressful day for the dispatchers. It will settle eventually, and if it doesn’t then we’ll have to work on a peaceful solution. It will be a much better day for all if we treat one another with grace.


August 26, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, August 31, 2008: Jeremiah 15:15-21; Psalm 26:1-8; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

Matthew 16:21-28 From that time began Jesus to show unto his disciples, that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall never be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumbling-block unto me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds. Verily I say unto you, there are some of them that stand here, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

I got lost a few weeks ago trying to find a building where I needed to deliver some paperwork. I knew I’d missed my turn just after I passed it, but there was no easy way to return to that spot. So, I worked my way through a neighborhood, always trying to go toward the place I needed to go. The building was near the junction of several major roads, so most of the side roads were limited by those roads. The neighborhood I chose had several dead ends because they were so close to the highways.

There were, however, some dead ends that did not make sense. I was on one street and knew I needed to be on the next street over, so at the next crossroad I tried to turn left. I could not reach the road because they had put up a large barrier. Somebody did not want traffic driving through that neighborhood. I suppose with the highway junction so near, they probably did get too much traffic as people tried to avoid the inevitable traffic jams that always occur during rush hour. However, those barriers made it difficult for me. I could see the road I needed. It was right there and there was no way for me to get by. I just wanted to say “Get out of my way.” I did eventually find a way out of the development, luckily it was right were I needed to be and I found the building very quickly. It was a little frustrating having to wind my way through the housing development to find my road.

In this passage Jesus says, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumbling-block unto me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men.” It is so easy to see Jesus saying this to Peter because Peter was trying to convince Jesus to do His mission in a different way. Peter did not want Jesus to die, so he rebuked Jesus for talking about sacrifice and death. Peter was just seen having great faith, by the grace of God recognizing Jesus for who He was. Yet, in the next breath Peter’s thinking was lost to his own needs and wants.

I don’t think Jesus was saying that Peter was Satan, or even that Peter was trying to block Jesus’ mission. Satan here is not necessarily a person or thing, but instead a point of view that made seeing Jesus clearly impossible for Peter. Peter had seen Christ by God’s grace, and by God’s power, and knew that Jesus was the Messiah. However, Peter had his own expectation of what the Messiah would do and how He would accomplish the work of God. Peter could not see the truth, something was ‘standing in his way.’ It was not something tangible that needed to get out of the way, but something intangible. Peter was not Satan, but Peter was not seeing Jesus clearly. His own expectations were in the way.

I’ve heard too many people use the phrase, “Get thee behind me, Satan” in a way that suggests the person to whom it was spoken is Satan. This is used by people who do not like what has been said to them, especially if they truly believe that the work they are doing is from God. They see any question of their authority or power as an attack from Satan and the person speaking is the conduit. However, it is more likely that Satan is in the midst of the situation in both perspectives. Satan needs to get out of the way so that they can each see Christ in the other. Christ in one is well meaning, trying to live the life God has called them to live. Christ in the other is a brother or sister in Christ helping to stay grounded in their calling and the will of God. We are all failures, like Peter, when it comes to fully knowing what God intends.


August 27, 2008

If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.

Zack is getting tall. He outgrew me this summer and is quickly catching up to his father. When people have not seen him for awhile, they are shocked and surprised at how tall he has become. I agree when they say it but it doesn’t really occur to me until there’s some reason to notice. That’s the way it is with our children. They keep growing, but we don’t notice until someone else or something else reveals it to us. I usually notice when Zack appears in pants that are way to short. I don’t know how they go from fitting perfectly one day to being high water pants the next, but it seems like they do.

It is hard for us to watch the kids grow up, but it is even harder for those who live far away to believe they have grown up. Our family and friends who have not seen Zack for years still think of him as he was when they last saw him. That is the memory they have of him. They have not seen him grow and mature, so they still see him as a little boy. It hasn’t happened to Zack, but I’ve heard of teenagers receiving gifts for young children because the gift-giver was buying for the memory rather than the reality.

I’ve heard it said that God does not abandon us, but it sure does feel like He has sometimes. The trouble is, when we feel abandoned, it is not God who has left, but rather it is us that have turned away from Him. We may be just like Peter, looking right in the face of God but not seeing Him as He is because we are blinded by our own ambitions and perspectives. Peter knew Jesus was the Messiah, but he did not yet understand what it meant for Jesus to be the Messiah. When Jesus said, “I have to suffer” Peter rebuked Him. God was ‘growing up’ and doing something new, something He’d promised since the beginning of time. Unfortunately, most of the people misunderstood what God intended to do, Peter included. They doubted what Jesus was saying. They worried about His attitudes. They wanted to direct God’s plan in a direction with which they were familiar and comfortable.

But God says, “Look at me.” He calls us away from our ambitions and our perspectives to see the world as He sees it. He has promised that He will take care of us. We are quick to make things go our own way, but when we do this we miss what God is saying and doing, trying to take care of ourselves. God says, “Look at me” so that we will not take matters into our own hands. We see our ‘enemies’ as Satan, we seek our own revenge. We strive to keep things going our own way, unwilling or unable to see the reality.

That’s why God calls us to the life about which Paul has written. How hard it is for us to abide in a command such as “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” For too many people, peace means staying within the status quo, avoiding change in our thoughts and minds. Peter was given a gift of knowledge directly from God, that Jesus was the Messiah. But he still wanted to Jesus to fight the way the people expected an earthly king to fight for a kingdom. He would not be at peace until Jesus overcame his enemies. Peter was even willing to cut off the ear of a guard to protect Jesus. Yet, Jesus says, “Look at me.” He wants us to see Him as He is, to live as He has called us to live and to do everything we can to be at peace. This is not a peace that has overcome problems, but it is a peace that gets us through problems.


August 28, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, September 7, 2008: Ezekiel 33:7-11; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:5-20

Ezekiel 33:7-11 So thou, son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die, and thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way; that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thy hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, and he turn not from his way; he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul. And thou, son of man, say unto the house of Israel: Thus ye speak, saying, Our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we pine away in them; how then can we live? Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

We learn from our mistakes. I have taken up tatting, which is similar to crochet. It is often used to make doilies or lace collars. The stitches are very easy, but it takes some concentration to follow the complicated instructions for some of the projects I want to make. I keep making mistakes and in the end the projects look nothing like they are expected to look. I have learned a great deal about tatting from my mistakes, however, and I’m learning how not to make the same mistakes. I am also learning how to use my mistakes to create my own designs for future projects. We really do learn from our mistakes.

Our children also learn from their mistakes. It is tempting for us to stop them from making mistakes so that they won’t get hurt. Yet, we know they have to fail once in a while or they will never grow and learn. So, we walk on that fine line between allowing them to make mistakes and keeping them from harm. A good parent will certainly not let a child go so far that their mistakes will cause lasting damage. We might allow a two-year-old to touch some things that could get broken, but we will not allow them to touch a hot stove. We give teenagers a chance to drive a car, but if we are aware of irresponsible behavior, we take that car away. We don’t want our children to get hurt, or worse, to die. It is our task to ensure they have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to keep them safe. There’s a fine line between the two.

Sin leads to death, not only in the spiritual realm, but also in the world in which we live. Smoking causes lung cancer. Irresponsible driving causes accidents and even death. It is our responsibility to call for the repentance of those who cross our path, bringing attention to the sins that might cause harm to others or to themselves. It is a very fine line we walk when we talk about the sins of our neighbors. As a matter of fact, in our world today most people would be offended by our interference in their personal lives. This is especially true if we are talking about spiritual things. Who are we to judge a person’s heart? Yet, sometimes God does call us to intercede in the lives of our neighbors for their sake, to shine a light so that they might see their error and repent.

God does not want any to perish. Ezekiel was called to a hard task: to tell the people of Israel about their sin against God. The truly prophetic voice is not something that anyone would choose by their own will because God’s Word is not something the world wants to hear. By the time we reach this chapter in the book, Ezekiel has spoken about God’s judgment not just on Israel, but also on Judah and the nations. But in chapter 33, God begins to speak words of consolation. It is the beginning of hope because the words of judgment brought repentance.

“As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” God does not want any to perish. We may suffer the consequences of our failures, experience the cost of our mistakes, but God is ready with a word of consolation for us. We may be the one called to give that word to a brother or sister. The call for repentance is the beginning of hope, a revelation of the mercy and grace of God. We might be afraid to speak those words, but God calls us to this ministry so that none will die. He calls us to share in the life-giving promise of His word.


August 29, 2008

Scriptures for Sunday, September 7, 2008: Ezekiel 33:7-11; Psalm 119:33-40; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:5-20

Psalm 119:33-40 Teach me, O Jehovah, the way of thy statutes; And I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; Yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; For therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, And not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, And quicken me in thy ways. Confirm unto thy servant thy word, Which is in order unto the fear of thee. Turn away my reproach whereof I am afraid; For thine ordinances are good. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: Quicken me in thy righteousness.

I spend way too much time in bookstores. I like to read and I buy most of my books. I have always bought books for my kids, giving them as many opportunities to read as I could. I sometimes purchase books at yard sales and second hand stores, but I keep the major bookstores both in the mall and online in business. I generally try to buy books that people suggest and I look for books about subjects that interest me. I especially enjoy reading historical novels, although I also read many books on theological subjects and church issues. I try to read a little bit every day, even if it is only a few pages.

When I go to a bookstore, I scan the shelves for something new. It is hard buying a book by an unknown author because you just don’t know whether you’ll like what they write or how they write. Some writers are difficult to read. They use hard to understand point of views or have too many characters to keep straight. Some use language and words that are beyond the reader’s understanding and ability to read. This is especially true in some of the theological books I read. Other writers use unusual writing styles that can be a challenge to read.

When I go to a bookstore, I spend some time looking through the books by authors I do not know, to see if they have a style I can enjoy. I usually try to read some pages in the middle of the book, skimming through a few chapters to get an idea about their style. I also read the comments on the book jackets and all the reviews. At that point I can make a decision about whether or not to buy, but I never really know if I’m going to be happy in the end. It isn’t until I read the whole book that I’ll know whether or not I will enjoy the author.

I bought a book a few months ago by a man named Jasper Fforde. “The Thursday Next” novels (a series of five right now, and Mr. Fforde has several other books) is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever read. It is bizarre, but funny and intelligent and a joy to read. His books are fiction, with a mix of sci-fi, mystery, adventure and even a little bit of romance. Thursday Next is a detective for a literature governing department in the government of an England in a parallel universe that is centered on literature. She is able to jump in and out of fiction, to fix problems in the books and seek out bad guys who attempt to change books. When I first came on the book in the bookstore, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would enjoy his writing. I’m on my fourth book and I am enjoying it tremendously. There is no way I could have known how the book would go from that cursory reading in the bookstore. I needed to sit down and read the whole thing.

The book was so bizarre that even the first few hundred pages did not sell me on the author. Because his subject matter is literature, he makes references to books that I have not necessarily read. Some of his greatest jokes are lost to my lack of knowledge. At first I thought that he was an intellectual elitist, using the references as a way of making the average ready feel like an idiot. I did some more research, checking his website and I learned that the exact opposite is true. Jasper Fforde is making fun of that literature that most academics take too seriously. Now, there is purpose to the English classes where we learn how to understand the words on the pages of classic literature, but it is also good to have fun with it. Mr. Fforde has a lot of fun.

We see Psalm 119 a great deal during the church year. It is the longest of all the psalms, made up of 175 verses that are divided into 22 sections. It is an acrostic, each section using a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet as the first word of each stanza. Each section focuses on God’s Word, using every possible word to describe it. In today’s passage, we hear the psalmist talking about God’s statutes, law, commandments, testimonies, word, ordinances and precepts. This passage, as well as the other stanzas from Psalm 119, establishes God’s Word as the center of the psalmist’s life. We do this by reading the scriptures. For most people, the Bible sits unopen on the coffee table, barely cracked and dusty from lack of use. We need to do more than skim through a few chapters. We need to meditate on it, day and night, to study the scriptures, learn them and know them in the depths of our heart.