Welcome to the February Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.
A WORD FOR TODAY, February 2001
February 1, 2001
Emotions Human beings are emotional beings. We laugh and cry, love and hate. We face fear, doubt, lust, loneliness and pain. We experience joy, excitement, certainty and courage. Emotions are a gift from God, fulfilling a purpose in our lives. Our human bodies are made of three parts - our body, soul and spirit. Our body is the flesh and blood. It is corruptible. We get sick and die. Our soul is our personality, mind and emotions. Our spirit is the part of us that is connected to God. These three parts have been created to work in harmony.
In the garden, our bodies worked perfectly. The spirit was in control of the body, directly connected to God our Father and obedient to Him. Our soul - emotions, personality and mind - acted according to that obedience. Our body was healthy - filled with joy, peace and love. When we sinned, that harmony was destroyed and everything was turned upside down. Our flesh began to control our bodies and we no longer looked to God.
When we face fear, doubt, lust, loneliness and pain, we strike out against those things we think have caused these emotions to appear. We even blame God. We need to take these emotions to God in prayer, and seek through His Word how to deal with them. Jesus Christ showed us in His life and death how to act on our emotions. He always acted on His emotions according to God's Word.
Read John 11:35
Jesus did not ignore His emotions or try to cover up His pain. His tears show us that He was human and that it is OK to share our emotion with others. Too often, we try to ignore or cover up our emotions. After sharing her pain with me, a friend said, "I know I shouldn't complain, others have problems much worse than mine." We also say, "I know God will take care of me, so why do I have these emotions?" The emotions are not the problem, it is how we act on our emotion.
When we are physically ill, our emotions reveal the pain we feel. Emotional pain often reveals itself long before our bodies give in to the physical pain. Other negative feelings can be brought on by very real physical disease such as depression, alcoholism or tumor. Through our emotions, we share ourselves with those around us. When we laugh, others join in our happiness. When we cry, others know how to pray or help us.
Today, when you face emotion, negative as well as positive, give those emotions to God. Laugh and cry always rejoicing in God's faithfulness and goodness. Thank God for the gift of emotions and act on them according to His Word.
Thanks We are drawing near to the end of this long but exciting adventure. Today we took possession of our new house, a lovely little house on the base. Next week our household goods will be delivered and we can finally settle down to a normal life.
As I drove through Little Rock, I realized that we have acclimated to this place very quickly. It feels like home. Everyone has been so warm and welcoming. I have done some adventuring and have found some lovely shoppes that I am sure to frequent.
One of the things that made this move so smooth was our preparation. Thanks to the Internet, we were able to locate a church, school and some friends who helped us with the transition. The school is terrific, the children have fit in so well. We visited the church for the first time on Sunday, and the congregation was waiting for us to arrive. We knew they'd been praying for us these past few months, and we are so thankful.
Paul's missionary work took him all over the Roman world. He wrote letters to many of the congregations, often as a preparation for an upcoming trip. The letters spoke of specific troubles that existed in the congregations, offering solutions and encouragement. He repeatedly spoke of the joy he knew from his relationships with the congregations. He was uplifted by their spiritual growth and understanding.
Read Phillipians 4:10-13
Just like our trip has been long and in some ways difficult, Paul faced many long journeys. He prepared himself and the congregation for his visits. When he did arrive, those who had been listening to his admonitions and encouragement were able to show him how much they cared. Paul did not need anything from the Phillipians, but it was good that they were able to give. He was satisfied with all that God provided. We experienced the same generosity from God and man, and we are very thankful. May God continue to bless this place and every person who lives and loves here - and may we all continue to serve the Lord.
Simplicity Sometimes we just need to let the Word of God speak for itself.
Read Psalm 121
Thanks be to God.
Coincidence We watched the "Grand Canyon" episode of The Brady Bunch last night. This three show series was about a trip the family took to the Grand Canyon and was filled with exciting adventures. An old prospector trapped them in the jail because he thought they were after his gold mine. Cindy and Bobby got lost chasing an Indian boy. These unusual circumstances create tension in the show, give it excitement, and provides a basis for a lesson to be learned.
The exciting things that happen on shows like The Brady Bunch are created to make us laugh and perhaps even think, but they are not real. After all, who ends up in situations like they do? As you have perhaps noticed in the stories I share in this daily, I do end up in the most unusual circumstances. Yet, I think we can all share stories about when we were in the right place at the right time. I call them God-incidents. They are not just coincidences. God put us there for a purpose.
Read 2 Timothy 4:1-2
The producers of shows like The Brady Bunch created and solved a conflict in twenty minutes, insuring that at the end the audience will have gotten something out of the situation. What do we do with our moments of adventure? Do we let them pass, or do we do something to make a difference? The storyline of the show is no accident. It is carefully planned and executed to come to a positive conclusion.
So, too, are those moments when we find ourselves in the midst of some unusual circumstance. We can run away, or we can share the Gospel in words and in deeds. The next time you meet someone new or end up lost in a strange place, remember that God has ordered your steps and that this is no coincidence. Be ready to carry out this charge from Paul. Be prepared to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This devotional was originally written one year ago today.
Drugs Several years ago there was a powerful ad campaign against drugs. The camera focuses on an egg. "This is your brain," the narrator says. Then the camera focuses on a very hot cast iron frying pan. "This is drugs," the narrator says. Then the egg is cracked, dropped into the hot pan and it begins to sizzle in the hot oil. The narrator says, "This is your brain on drugs. Get the picture?"
Drugs had become such a major problem in the US, and the subtle education was not stopping the problem. Drugs destroy the brain and body, but cause more than just the physical problems. They make the user see life in a different reality. Actions such as theft, lying, cheating, and dangerous driving and other irresponsible behavior are seen as acceptable in the mind of the user. Anyone who disagrees is deemed a spoilsport or prude, no zest for life. The reality is that they are destroying their lives and do not know it. That was the purpose for the ad campaign, to show in a blunt manner the reality of drug use.
Read Acts 3:17-21
In this passage, Peter boldly proclaims, "You did not know any better. This is the way God works. Turn to Him now and be ready for God will fulfill His promise when the time is right." This ignorance still exists in the church and the world. False teachings abound, causing people to see a different reality than what is truth. We need to repent, turn to God, so that we too might be refreshed and ready for the promise to be fulfilled.
Tea I once visited a shop that was filled with hundreds of different flavours of tea. Some were fruity, some were mild, and some were very strong. The shop was filled with the paraphernalia necessary to make a cup of tea. As we have traveled around the world, we have discovered that people are diverse in the way they have their tea.
I grew up enjoying iced tea with some sugar. If I had hot tea, it was with a bit of sugar, no cream. When I became involved in a Bible study with our church in England, I watched as they all enjoyed a cup of cream tea. One day, I decided to have some. It was lovely, and now I enjoy drinking my hot tea with a bit of milk. Now that we have moved to the south, we have found it difficult to find a cup of hot tea. Sweetened ice tea is the standard way of drinking tea. In England, they cannot imagine cold tea. In the south, they prefer it cold. I have seen great debates over the proper way to drink tea.
People like to debate things. Everyone has an opinion and most people enjoy sharing their ideas with others. At times, when conflicting thoughts are brought together, the discussion can get intense. They say that discussing politics or religion will kill any dinner party. Even among Christians the differences are vast. Jesus Christ has always had such an impact on the people who are touched by His Word.
Read John 10:19-21
The debate about tea is not life threatening. It is a matter of personal taste. Even the debates among Christians are not that important when you consider the foundation of our faith, which is Jesus Christ. We do face people every day who do not believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. How do we deal with these antagonists? We need to witness to the Word of God in our lives, to share the truth of His grace and mercy and its effects on our life. We need to work together, spreading the Gospel through word and deed, in love and peace. All this for the glory of God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.
Blessings It is really easy to feel blessed when things are going well. If our health is good - our family happy and our job secure - we consider ourselves showered in blessings. If things are not so good, then it is difficult to see the goodness of our experience. Eric Hoeffer said, "The hardest math to master is the kind that makes us count our blessings." What is there to count when we are sick, tired, poor or hungry?
We often hear stories about people who are so optimistic that they can find goodness in everything. We've heard of paraplegics who have the most incredible attitude from their wheelchairs, and the poverty stricken widows who share their last pennies with someone who has nothing. When asked what gives them such joy and hope, the answer is always faith.
Read Psalm 89:14-18
I shared with a friend how tired I am of living out of suitcases. She reminded me that it could have been longer. Though I did not consider my honest portrayal of my feelings as complaining, she showed me that it could have been perceived that way. In this life, we are to count our blessings, not our suffering. Yet, even in our suffering, God always proves faithful, so we should count our suffering as a blessing and glorify God.
As you walk through this day, sing songs of praise to God our Father in the name of Jesus. We have been given the greatest blessing of all, a Saviour who loves us so much that He died that we might have eternal life. He is our rock, our salvation, our hope for all that will be according to God's promise. God is good. Thanks be to God.
Dust Domesticity is not my greatest virtue. In other words, I am a lousy housekeeper. I realized the truth of this statement as the packers prepared our household goods for moving. When they moved furniture away from the wall, I found dust bunnies and all the other things that congregate in those hidden places. I followed the packers around the house as best I could, to dust the furniture before they wrapped it for shipping. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep up with them, so some of the dust remained. As we unwrap everything here, we have to clean that old dust.
How often do we carry along the old dust when we have a new start? When we come to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we are set upon a journey into a new life. This new life is filled with promise and cleansing from everything that once made us filthy before God. By the blood of Jesus, we are made pure enough to enter into the presence of God, to worship Him at the center of His temple.
Read Hebrews 10:19-23
Unfortunately, we often carry with us the things from our old life - our fears, our wishes, our hatred, our sadness, our sin. Those things are hard habits to break. As we move along from day to day and we realize that we are not living our life as God would have us live, we feel guilt and are afraid to continue on our journey.
Fortunately, God is faithful. He remembers His promises and cleanses us from our sin. When we fail, let us always remember that God has forgiven us and that He will continue to love us because of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Stand strong, continue to work at those habits with the help of God by the power of His Holy Spirit, and enter into God's presence with the certainty that the dust has been removed from your life. Thanks be to God.
Honesty It is always so heartwarming to hear stories about children who find something and return it to the proper owner. The newspapers and broadcasters grab hold of such stories and play them up because people get tired of hearing about the evil things that occur in this world. As you scan the headlines, or listen to the news, you'll find story after story about the suffering in this world and those who cause it. It can be very depressing to stay informed of current events. So, when a reporter catches wind of such a story, they follow it, just to keep people interested in their programme.
The stories that are most encouraging is when someone who has reached the end of their rope, living in poverty or under some other burden, and they still give what they have found to the proper owner. In a world where "finder's keepers, losers weepers" is a favourite song of children, it is rare to find such integrity. Yet, in our life as a Christian, it is exactly what we should do.
Read Proverbs 3:21-26
In the book of Romans, Paul writes that perseverance builds character. Character is defined as "the combination of emotional, intellectual, and moral qualities distinguishing one person or group from another." Those qualities define how we get through the day to day struggles of life. Dwight L. Moody is quoted as saying, "Character is what you are in the dark." What we see portrayed at the darkest moments is representative of our true character. Those of bad character will lie, cheat and steal to accomplish their goal. They will justify falsehood when the outcome is good. Yet, in the end, they will stumble and fall because of their lies.
Those who know the LORD are to keep our eyes upon Him, as we strive for the perfection that is manifest in us through Jesus Christ. Be of good character, practicing those qualities that grant you a safe and peaceful journey. Continue to the top holding firmly to the hope that is the fulfillment of the promise, the Life to come.
Love Bill Murray is one of my favourite comedians. His movies such as Groundhog Day, Caddyshack and What About Bob, always leaves me in stitches. We were just watching the movie Ghostbusters II, a funny movie about some men who catch ghosts for a living. They discover a river of ooze below the streets of New York that is affected by the emotions of the people in the city. The guys discover this attribute in their lab by testing the substance. The shouted at it or played happy music, and they noticed that it bubbled with anger or danced to the rhythm. This knowledge helps the Ghostbusters solve the mystery behind the over abundance of ghosts in the city. At the end, they got the people to sing happy songs to calm the evil in the ooze and save the city from destruction.
People feed off each other's emotions. There's a saying, "When Mom ain't happy, noone's happy." We find it at home, in school and at work. When someone is in a bad mood, they take it out on everyone else. Then the whole group ends up cranky and argumentative. But if someone shows love, with hugs and laughs, then the whole group begins to turn around.
Read Romans 12:9-16
When things seem a little tense in your home, school or work, just say a little prayer for the people and bring some joy to their lives. It is our responsibility as Christians to be Christ-like in our communities, serving God in all things, including our attitudes and emotions. When things are down, bring them up with a word about love, hope, peace, and joy! Smile and laugh in the midst of everything, and share the gifts God has given you. Love, just as He first loved you, and that love will spread and calm the savage emotions that surround you. Thanks be to God.
Everyday We moved into our house last week, and have spent the last few days unpacking the boxes that held all our possessions. At first it seemed we would never find the end of it all, yet as the days go by, the piles are growing smaller and the closets are filling. It has been like Christmas, discovering things we had forgotten. The children have been reading books and playing with toys that were buried in toy boxes for years. It is a daunting task and has been quite exhausting for us all.
Unfortunately, as we take on this project, we still need to continue our daily living. We still need to prepare food to eat, clean dishes and do the laundry. The basics do not stop when we are doing something new and exciting. The same can be said about our spiritual life. There are times in our life when we have an inner desire to seek the Word of God in a deeper way. We study the scriptures, pray, and respond more to the voice of God in our lives. At these times, God grants us revelations about His Word, and we have a more spiritual understanding about our life in Christ.
Yet, during those times, we cannot stop doing the everyday living in faith. We cannot separate the new understanding from basics. We still need to fellowship with other believers and listen to them. We need to join our brethren at the table and share in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus. While we dig deeply into the word for understanding, we still need to simply read and enjoy the stories of God.
Read 2 Timothy 3:14-15
Very often, we people reach this stage of their growth in Christ, they stop doing the basics. Many Christians leave their churches because the rest of the congregation does not understand the spiritual things they have learned. They stop reading the bible for the joy of hearing God’s story, spending all their time studying the Greek or Hebrew or looking for some spiritual revelation that others do not have.
When you reach that time in your spiritual walk – that time when God gives you the desire to see Him more clearly – do not forget the basics. Continue in the life God has given to you. A life of faith, walking in His ways and doing the things He has called you to do. Thanks be to God.
Springs As our nation grew in size and population, it became vital to set up transportation networks to get people and goods around. Roads are the main source of transportation around our country. In the beginning, the roads followed the cow path, where the cows roamed. Those paths laid the course of the tiny country roads that line the landscape all over the country. They go up, down and around the hills, turning a new direction every mile. As time when on, men began to build bigger and straighter roads so that we could travel safer and faster.
To make those roads, explosives were used to cut into the hills, leaving rocky cliffs beside the road. Inside those hills are springs of water that were set free in the process. As you drive along those roads, you can see trickles of water flowing from the rocks. People often fill pitchers and jugs with the cool, clear waters from these springs. The water does not stop flowing during the winter months. The cold weather makes it freeze on the rock, creating frozen waterfalls that are a most beautiful sight. It is during those cold winter months when you can see how much water really flows. At other times, most people do not even realize what a wonderful source of water exists in those hills.
Read Jeremiah 17:12-13
Our Lord Jesus Christ said He is a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14). Unfortunately, not everyone recognizes who He is or what He has done for the world. Those who know Jesus as Lord and Saviour have a reason to rejoice because we have Him as our resting-place. Even in the times when things seem rough, the beauty of God’s eternal water can shine as it flows from your life.
It is your responsibility to share His water with those who do not know our Lord Jesus. Take the hope you have and give it to the world so that they will turn back to God. God does not want any to be thirsty, so let them know where they can get the water of eternal life. Thanks be to God.
Henny Penny There is an old English story about a chicken named Henny Penny. As she was working in her garden, something fell on her head. She was convinced the sky was falling so set off to tell the king. Along the way she met up with some friends – Cocky Locky, Ducky Daddles, Goosey Poosey and Turkey Lurkey – and they joined her in her travels. No one questioned her assertion that the sky was falling.
The group met up with Foxy Loxy, a sly old fox who knew that the sky was not falling. He told them that they were not taking the right path to get to the king. Foxy Loxy took them on a path to his hole. He went inside, and then one by one the friends followed. One by one Foxy Loxy ate them up. Cocky Locky saw that Foxy Loxy was killing his friends, so he called out to Henny Penny who ran home, never telling the king about the sky.
In the world today, there are many people who are teaching false things about God. They read the scriptures and something strikes them on the head. So they run with it, telling their friends and dragging them along wherever they go. Unfortunately, just like Henny Penny and her friends, those who follow such teachings are so focused on this idea that they do not see when the evil one is leading them into a hole.
What would have happened had one of Henny Penny’s friends had asked about the sky? Perhaps they could not have convinced her the sky was not falling, however they could have made her slow down and think about what she was saying. They could have helped her understand the sky is not a solid object that can fall on our heads. They could have helped her find the thing that fell on her head so that she could see it was simply a branch or a pine cone.
Read 2 Timothy 1:8-13
Do you hear false teachings as you grow and learn about God and His kingdom? Do not be afraid to speak up, to turn to the scriptures for yourself and share the truth of God’s Word with those who are teaching. It is a matter of life and death, just like it was for Henny Penny and her friends. You will suffer for standing strong in the truth. Your questioning of their spiritual enlightenment may anger your friends. People may call you names or attack you in a personal way. Paul was put in jail for teaching the Truth. Stay strong and walk as you were called to live.
Valentine’s Day There are hearts everywhere. The sale ads for the stores are red and filled with items that would make perfect gifts for your sweetie. The store shelves are stocked with heart shaped boxes of chocolate. The TV and radio are filled with stories of romantic fairy tail love stories. It is a mushy, gushy sort of day. Even the children get into the holiday. All over the country, classes are having parties where the children exchange valentines with all their friends. It is about showing the people you care about how much you love them.
Unfortunately, Valentine’s Day is not a joy for everyone. Since the world has focused on the romantic atmosphere, those who are single find it a difficult day. Others are more interested in the gifts they receive than in the people who give it. Many of the gifts given on this day are out of a sense of duty or because it is expected rather than for love. Other gifts are given with the expectation of something in return.
St. Valentine was a Roman priest from the 3rd century. At that time the emperor thought it would be best for his army to keep the men from marrying, so he outlawed marriage. Valentine continued to perform the ceremony knowing that marriage was a gift from God and was an earthly representation of the marriage between Christ and His church. Valentine has been honoured for his commitment to the word of God, and his day has been transformed into a day that honours the things of men rather than God.
Read 1 John 2:15-17
Today, as you share your love with those who are your valentine, remember that love is from God and our love should mirror that which He first gave us. Do not seek the things of this world, like candy and flowers. Rather, seek to know the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of your relationships. Everything else will pass away, but love endures forever. Thanks be to God.
The Cat in the Box One of my favourite childhood picture books is called, “The Cat in the Box.” It is a very simple story that begins with a picture of a cat in a box. As you go through the page, it is as if a camera is pulling back from the cat, showing more and more of the world in which the cat exists. You see that the box is on a chair, in a room, in a house, in a neighbourhood, in a city, in a state in a country in the world. When you are inside the box, you can only wonder about everything outside the box. With each page, you gain a greater understanding about the cat and its world.
When I was in college, I learned about this sort in a philosophy. We live in boxes, though they are not cardboard like the one the cat lives in. The boxes we live in are our homes, neighbourhoods, schools, work, and churches. We live in boxes that are created by our gender, cultural understanding, education, financial position and politics. Some people are unable to physically leave their boxes, because of health or money. Others prefer to keep their boxes very small, by not traveling outside their city or seeking to learn about other ideas. Many reject new people or ideas because they cannot make it fit into their box.
Unfortunately, many try to put God in a box with us. We define Him according to our own understanding, based on the life we live. The Jews put God into a room in a Temple, defining Him by their history and religion. We try to put Him in our own little rooms, like our churches or our doctrinal understanding. Yet, God is much bigger than we can ever make His box.
Read Isaiah 55:8-9
In the story of the cat, we moved out of the box far enough to see the entire world, yet there is even more beyond that as we can see the galaxy and universe in which we live. It is the same with our understanding of God. We cannot even come close to understanding the fullness of His glory. Yet, we can seek to know Him more, by prayer, study and fellowship with those outside our box. Step outside your box for just a moment and see that there is more than you ever imagined.
Inspirational During a recent visit to a bookstore, I went to the inspirational section. This is that area where we expect to find literature about God and how to live a life of faith. There were shelves of Bibles and other Christian writings as well as books about other faiths. I found many books about other religions, written to help those who seek divine wisdom find the answers to their questions.
I found something very disturbing about these books. The covers and titles spoke of hope, heaven, peace and life. There are people who do not believe in God, yet are looking for something they cannot define. They select these books, hoping to find some understanding of the spiritual. Yet, true life can’t be found in books about witchcraft, crystals or other new age ideology. True life can only be found in our Lord Jesus Christ, who lived, died and rose again so that we will be able to approach the throne of Grace and have eternal life.
Unfortunately there are too many books teaching too many ideas. Those who seek the peace that comes from life in Christ cannot find it in the midst of the confusion. So, many deny altogether the existence of such a life and the One True and Living God. I have been asked on many occasions to prove the existence of God. This is probably the most difficult thing we can be asked to do. Though we believe beyond a shadow of a doubt, we cannot prove the things of faith. Yet God declares His existence
Read Psalm 19:1-4a
Do you doubt the existence of God, or seek to know His divine presence? Look toward the heavens and hear God’s voice in His creation. Look toward the flowers and know that the Creator designed each one out of love for you. Look toward the rivers and know that the waters flow endlessly to bring life to the earth, like the water of life that flows from our Lord Jesus Christ. Most of all, look toward Jesus Himself, in scripture and revelation, and know that God is not found in books about manipulation and self righteousness, but rather He is found in you, by the power of His Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.
Siblings The school the children attend has a sweet programme where the children can send each other letters through an in-school post office. They put their letters in a box and they are delivered during the day. Victoria and Zachary often pass messages to each other. They are simple cards that wish each other a nice day and say, “I love you.” This happens with such regularity that the teachers have noticed their love for one another.
They do manage to bicker now and then at home particularly when Zack wants to play and Vicki just wants to be a prepubescent girl. However, most of the time they show their love by taking care of each other. Sibling relationships are not always so warm. I have heard stories of children constantly fighting, even physically injuring one another for one reason or another. So often, there are deep emotional problems in the families, such as jealousy and anger.
This has gone on since the beginning of time. The first brothers disputed over how to worship the Lord God almighty. Abel gave God the first fruits of his life and God was pleased. Cain, on the other hand just gave some of his fruit and God did not look favourably on this act. Cain became jealous of Abel and attacked him violently, to death.
Read 1 John 3:11-15
Have you ever looked at the life of faith of another and reacted in sibling rivalry? We debate the details of doctrine day in and day out, and even question the faith of our brethren who disagree. Why do we do this when we are called to love our brethren? Are we jealous of the blessings they receive or angry with God for His love to others? Quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder are evil. Those who live by those actions against their brother do not live in the light of eternal life of Christ. Love one another, as Christ loves you. Show your love to one another, like Vicki and Zack, in a way that the world will see Christ.
Fragrance Walking through the perfume department of a major department store can be difficult at times. There are often many different fragrances wafting our way, mixing in a way that is not always pleasant to our senses. Too much perfume can be disturbing to people with sensitive noses. It is even harmful to those who suffer from allergies.
A whole industry has evolved around making the world smell nice. There are hundreds of different scents to be purchased; each created for a specific type of person or for a different purpose. Some people simply want to smell nice. Others use perfume as a way to attract a mate. Yet others use perfumed products to cover smells brought on by physical abnormality. The industry spends millions of dollars a year in research, production and advertising their products.
I recall a commercial for a body spray. A young girl is walking down the street with arms filled with bags of groceries. A young man bumps her and knocks the groceries to the ground. They work together to pick up the mess, and their eyes meet. Just as you think they might become a couple, the young man’s boyfriend jealously draws him away from the scene. The inference is that this perfume is so good that it will bring unexpected changes to the people you meet.
Read 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
Paul wrote many letters to the early churches, helping them to grow in the life God has called them to live. The early churches had many of the same problems that we have today – bickering, financial troubles, personality conflicts, uncertainty of our mission, unforgiveness, fear and hatred. Here, Paul reminds them that God walks with us in victory. It is through our life that God gives His message to others. Unfortunately, just like perfume, not all that hear God’s Word find it attractive. As a matter of fact, many react negatively. We can only wear our faith and let God do the work of spreading His fragrance to the world.
Diamonds I watched a story last night on 60 minutes about diamonds. The story showed that the cost of diamonds is inconsistent with the normal laws of supply and demand. Since diamonds are very expensive, we think that they are rare and difficult to find. However, the value of diamonds is actually based on excellent marketing and the work of a diamond cartel that controls every diamond that is put on the market.
There is a state park here in Arkansas where people can go searching for diamonds. It is a fifty-five acre site where precious gems are found in their natural environment. I often wondered how a state government could afford to allow people take diamonds from their property in such a way. Yet, after seeing that story, I realized that it is not so strange.
The world population is estimated to be just over 6.1 billion people. The cities are filled with human beings living, working and playing. It is difficult in this day and age to find any area where human beings never roam. Throughout the history of the world, there have lived many more human beings. It seems incredible that the Almighty God would care about so many creatures.
Read Psalm 8:1-9
We look at the world and think of ourselves as unimportant and unworthy of attention. Yet, the Lord God Almighty does care for you. He cares about every hair on your head and every tear that you shed. He cares about your pain and your heartbreak. He cares about every thought, word and deed. Why does He care? He cares because He created you, and He planned a special purpose for your life. Rejoice and praise the Lord for He loves you so much. Though the diamond is not as rare as we would expect, the world has placed great value on that gem. As for man, we are a dime a dozen. Yet God has placed the highest value on our life. He has given His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, so that we can have eternal life in the presence of the Most High.
Puzzles Our local paper recently changed the crossword puzzle they publish daily to the one made famous in the New York Times. Unfortunately, many of the local people are distressed by this change. The New York Times puzzle uses clues to things, which Arkansans are not familiar with, such as off-Broadway shows. The editorial page has been filled with letters from people complaining about this change and asking the paper to go back to a locally written puzzle that will have familiar topics.
During Vicki’s first week at her new school, her class was preparing for a big test in the unit they were just completing in Math. The subject matter was something her class in England had not covered, and she was very confused by the material. She became upset with the fear that she’d fail the test. Her teachers assured her she would not have to take the test, and she has since learned how to do the math and is doing very well in her class.
When we are going to do something – in work, school and play – it helps tremendously to be familiar with what we are doing. If we cook, we should know how the appliances work. If we drive a car, we should be familiar with all the parts of the vehicle, where to go for gas, directions to our destination. If we teach a class, we need to know the information we are sharing.
When it comes to living a life of faith, we must know what that means. We find the statutes for living in God’s Word, through reading, study and prayer. God sends teachers our way – our parents, pastors and others – who help us to learn and grow in our knowledge of God’s love.
Read Psalm 78:1-7
Many claim that the truth of God’s message is hidden in mysteries and ‘deep thoughts’. However, knowledge of God’s love is simple and pure. We cannot live what we do not know. Throughout the ages, His Word has been passed from generation to generation through God’s Holy Spirit inspiring our fathers to preach and teach the Gospel. We should not hide the knowledge we have behind a mask of spirituality, but rather share it with our children so that they will live according that Word.
Love Letters Our final shipment of boxes arrived this week, filled with our household goods that were in storage for the past four years. We have been carefully sorting through these boxes, ridding ourselves of the superfluous papers, books and magazines that gave weighed down our life. In the midst of these things, we found things we will still keep, such as childhood memory books and our love letters.
As we read those letters written during our courtship 13 years ago, we recalled the joy of getting to know one another. We had a long distance relationship, so those letters were how we got to know one another. There is a sense of excitement as questions are asked and answered. We laughed as we found things in common and cried as we shared our past fears and hurts.
We all have a long distance relationship with God our heavenly Father, though the distance is not geographic, it is that we live in a whole different world. God lives in the spiritual. He lives in the light, in holiness and purity. We live in the natural world, in darkness, in sin and death. God is perfect and we fail. We are separated from God by our own failure – our attitudes, our hard hearts and our sin. Despite this, God – our Father and Creator – loved us so much that He closed the divide between Him and us.
Read Hosea 2:19-23
God sent us the most incredible love letter, His Word. He gave it to us through revelation and the prophets throughout history. It was written on scrolls to be read constantly so that it would be burned into our hearts. He then sent the Word in Flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ who lived, died and rose again, so that we are reconciled to Him. He now lives in us by His Spirit, and we are His beloved.
Do you reread your old love letters? We should continually read His Word and remember the great love He has for us. Spend time in the scriptures today. Read God’s love letter to you, and relive the courtship you had when you first came to love Him.
Theatre Yesterday Zack’s class went to see community theatre at the local Arts Centre. The troupe did a play that was a combination of the stories of Henny Penny and the Little Red Hen. The show began with the main character, a cute little blonde chicken, trying to get her friends to exercise with her. She was left alone with her earphones on when the fox came along and tried to catch her. He caused a pinchy feeling on her head. She thought that the sky was falling. The fox came along and convinced them he was willing to help. He led them deep into the forest where he tried to eat them. She did not believe that the fox was a bad guy. Turkey Lurkey had to drag her away from the fox to protect her from his charm and his teeth. The friends ran away and got separated.
Just when we thought Henny Penny had been eaten, she found her way home. Her friends had been frantically searching for her. They were relieved to find her. She excitedly told them about something she found during her wandering. She had found a few grains of wheat. She was going to plant the wheat, watch it grow, have it threshed and ground. Then she was going to make it into bread. She asked her friends who was going to help? None had the time, so left her all alone again.
Meanwhile, the fox was back, still trying to eat the friends. Turkey Lurkey, Goosey Loosey and Ducky Lucky all realized that the only way to defeat Foxy Loxy was to work together. Henny Penny came back with the completed bread and convinced the whole crew to be friends. Together they were able to work together and enjoy the freshly made bread.
Read Hebrews 10:23-25
Last week, we looked at the story of Henny Penny and the possibility of false teachings diverting our walk with God. Today, the same story can be seen as a lesson in being active with a Christian fellowship. The wolf, a spiritual enemy, wants to separate us because we are easier to devour when we are alone. Unfortunately, many are forsaking fellowship for private learning and interpretation of the scriptures, and are being deceived.
Do you meet with other Christians regularly for worship, communion and studies? It is not enough to have a few friends online or passing relationships at work or school. If you do not have a fellowship of believers, a church, find one where you know that the Spirit of God is working. If you continue to walk this path alone, beware of the wolf. Satan knows the scripture better than any preacher, and he knows how to lie, twist and manipulate the scripture to make it sound good and lead you into the forest to your death. Who knows… when we are in fellowship with other believers, perhaps we can even convince the wolf to join us!
Bees When we lived in California, our neighbour had a few beehives. He kept them for honey and to pollinate the nut trees in his yard. We were not even aware of his bees until one day when swarm came to visit our house. It was frightening to see that thick black cloud of bees, so many in one place moving toward an unknown location. Vicki was just toddler, and I feared for her safety. When the bees settled in a tree near our house, we were concerned that they would try to take up residence in our attic. However, they just clustered on a tree branch and rested.
Our neighbour noticed the disturbance and came to see what was happening. He called his beekeeper. The beekeeper explained that when a colony overgrows its habitat, a new queen is created and the swarm divides. The new queen and her half of the colony flies to a new place to establish a new colony.
In 1956, scientists brought a group of African bees to South America to breed with the European bees to create a bee that would better adapt to the South American environment. Some of the bees escaped in 1957 and began to breed naturally. This new breed of honeybee is more aggressive than the others and is called ‘killer bees’. The swarms are spreading, as they divide and establish new colonies. The killer bees breed with the hybrids and the whole colony takes on a more aggressive behaviour.
Read Jude 1:17-23
In our world today are teachers and preachers who are like the killer bees. They do not act as they should, are more aggressive and infiltrate the church with their doctrine and mix it with the truth of the gospel. They divide Christ’s Church by creating new denominations or cults based on their interpretation of some specific scriptural idea, ignoring the solid foundation that is Christ our Lord. They claim to have some special revelation from God Himself that you must follow if you are saved.
The enemy is dividing Christ’s Church. Do not fall for the scoffers. Know Christ and live according to the life He has called you to live. Stay in His love, through prayer and study of the scriptures and do all you can to help others be in His love also. Thanks be to God.
The Ugly Duckling Spring had sprung on the lake in the woods. The birds’ eggs were hatching and the surface of the water was filled with new life. Lines of tiny ducks followed mothers as they swam around the lake in search of food and fun. There was one duckling, an unusually large ugly bird that was alone on the lake. He had no mother or father, and needed a family to call his own.
One mother duck felt sorry for the young bird so welcomed him into her family. The other ducklings made fun of him because he was so different. As time went on the ducklings grew into adult ducks, but the funny little stranger became a beautiful swan. We never know what lies beneath an ugly exterior. The most beautiful heart may exist within.
Saul was king of Israel, but had displeased God. God sent Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem to anoint His new choice for king. One by one the sons of Jesse came before Samuel, but none were the chosen man. Samuel asked if there was another son, and Jesse replied that David was tending the sheep. As each son came before Samuel, he was certain by his appearance that the chosen one stood before him.
Read 1 Samuel 16:7
Throughout the past few weeks, we have looked at those who are set to defeat Christ’s church by dividing the flock and leading some astray. We cannot tell by outer appearances whether one is against God. God does not see race, gender, size or hair colour. He looks at the hearts of men and grants gifts that will be used to His glory. He anointed David as king, because He knew that David would always seek God’s will in matters of state and life. Saul was removed from the anointing because he always sought to benefit himself in all things.
We cannot see the hearts of man as God can see, however we can see how God is glorified in someone’s life. We must, by the power of the Holy Spirit, discern who speaks the truth of God and who twists the word of God in a way that will lead us astray. Do not do so by outward appearances, for inside the ugliest of men could be a heart of pure gold. Thanks be to God.
Fear It’s a scary world out there sometimes. This week the state of Arkansas focused on severe weather preparedness. The TV stations did stories on the different types of severe weather and what you need to do in the event of such an emergency. No one knew that we would need that knowledge so quickly. Yesterday we experienced our first tornado and severe storm warnings. Throughout the state of Arkansas tornado vortexes were pinpointed and people in the path of those potential tornadoes were warned to stay indoors and to put their emergency plans into effect. There was damage from those tornadoes, but also from the wind, rain and hail.
There are other frightening things about our world. We fear for our children, with drugs and gangs abundant in cities and rural areas. We fear poverty, hunger, sickness and death. We fear accusation from the enemy. Yet, we should not fear because God is always faithful.
Read Psalm 37:39-40
Today as you face those things about this world that bring fear, concern, worry, anger, doubt or pain, always remember that you are a beloved child of the Most High God. Though the things you fear – tornadoes, poverty, sickness or death – may touch your life, the Lord God Almighty will be your refuge and your strength. He is the only One to fear, and that fear is one of reverence and awe for what He is able to accomplish. Just as we prepare for the severe storms that come our way, by establishing an emergency plan, so too do we have a plan when we face the spiritual storms that threaten our peace. In the name and by the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, we are in the hands of God and trust in His faithfulness to see us through. It’s a scary world, but we live in another and can know true peace, hope and joy. Thanks be to God.
Accuser There are several different variations of a game that children love to play. With names like “Who stole the cookies from the cookie jar?” or “Dem bones.” They choose one child to be ‘it’. When the child has his or her eyes closed someone takes the cookies or the bones and hides them. The children sing and act innocent while the child who is ‘it’ tries to find the cookies. He or she gets a few chances to find the one who has taken the cookies, and in the process often accuses the wrong child. It is a fun game for the children, but that sort of accusation is not fun in the real world.
Have you ever been accused of doing something you didn’t do? As a child, did your siblings blame you for a broken lamp or missing cookies? As an adult, has anyone accused you of hurting your child, doing something wrong at your workplace or being a bad neighbour? It is hard to face such accusation, but we have a hope that does not disappoint.
Read Psalm 25
We may be accused of things in this world, we may even suffer punishment from those false accusations. Yet, there is a harsher accuser, and that is Satan who accuses us before God. Thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, His work on the cross and His resurrection, we no longer have to fear that accuser. God is our refuge and He forgives us of all our sins. Thanks be to God.
Shrove Tuesday Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the church season called Lent. Many people are asking the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?” I respond by asking, “Why?” In many instances, the answer is “We are supposed to give something up for Lent.” Or, “It is tradition.” Shrove Tuesday is named such because it was the day people went to confession and were ‘shriven.’ This means they received forgiveness and were given penance to begin Lent with a clean slate.
I am making donuts today because it is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition to eat donuts the day before Ash Wednesday. There are similar traditions around the world. It is Pancake Day in England. Hundreds of years ago, flour, milk and eggs were forbidden foods during Lent. On Shrove Tuesday, housewives would clean out their homes of these foods by making rich pancakes that were stuffed with any other foods that needed to be used. In New Orleans and elsewhere the people celebrate Mardi Gras or Carnival.
Lent was established in remembrance of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness – fasting, praying and preparing for His ministry. We take this time to learn more about Him and be reminded of our own sinful nature. Fasting has always been an important part of this season. In modern times, people choose to ‘give up’ something until Easter. It is often things such as cigarettes or chocolate. This practice began so that the participants would learn what Jesus went through during His wilderness experience. It is also a time to be transformed into His image.
Read Colossians 2:6-8
Today as you decide if you will fast in some way for the next seven weeks, ask yourself this very important question, “Why am I doing this?” If the answer has anything to do with the past or the traditions of your forefathers, then perhaps you ought to reconsider. If the answer is that you are seeking forgiveness for your sins through some act of penance, then you should not try at all. The purpose for fasting at this time should be to bring you into a deeper, closer relationship with Jesus Christ, and to better understand His ministry.
In most cultures, Shrove Tuesday is a day spent using up the forbidden things so that tomorrow we can begin a new walk with our Lord. Carnival, Mardi Gras, Donut Day, Pancake Day – these are all celebrations which are meant to get sin out of our system. At these celebrations we tend to over eat, over drink and act in ways unbecoming of our position as children of God. After we sin for a day, we go to church to receive forgiveness for our willful disobedience.
This year, spend some time today in prayer, asking God to reveal Himself to you in a deeper, more personal way. It is OK to enjoy your pancakes and donuts, if you do so in moderation. While in prayer, ask God to show you how He would like you to spend the Lent season. Perhaps He will show you some aspect of your life that is standing in the way of your relationship with Him. It is this that you should give up for the next seven weeks. Perhaps it will be the step necessary for giving it up for eternity.
Fasting can be a wonderful experience, when done with the right heart. The decision should be made with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When you fast, it does not necessarily mean giving up some sort of food. You can fast TV or trips to the video arcade. You can choose to fast meat, alcohol or caffeine. How about giving up BINGO for a season? No matter what you decide to give up, replace it with something that will glorify God. Suppose you give up TV, replace your viewing time with a Bible Study. If you choose to give up some sort of food or activity, collect the money you would have spent on such things and give it to your favorite mission. In all things, remember to do it for God’s Glory and to grow deeper in your relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Radio As I was scanning through the radio this morning, I can across one of those typical morning shows designed to shock and provoke the listener. The announcers were discussing the things they intended to give up for Lent. They were going to give up using bad language and distasteful acts with women. In the process of discussing this act of fasting from some aspect of life that keeps us from God, they used vulgar language and references to sex. They were, of course, making fun of those Christians.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Historically, penitents were sprinkled with ashes, clothed in sackcloth and separated from the Christian community until Maundy Thursday. Today, in most liturgical churches, a service of worship is held so that the congregation can join together in confession and repentance. Many people of faith begin a programme of fasting for the next seven weeks. They will be transformed in body, heart and spirit by this time of sacrifice.
In Jesus’ time, the Jews put ashes on their heads when they were fasting. In that way, everyone would know that they were sacrificing something for their faith. They would moan and cry about their suffering. Many people do the same during our time, as they make the world aware that they are giving up something such as chocolate or cigarettes. Jesus makes it clear how we are to fast.
Read Matthew 6:16-18
We are not to be like the radio DJs and make a big deal about our fasting. Nor are we to mourn when we confess our sins and fast. Oil was used during times of celebration. Jesus tells us that we should rejoice and be cleansed of our sin. At our service this evening, we will have ashes imposed on our foreheads as a reminder of our sinful nature and that our corruptible bodies will one day return to the earth from whence it came. Those ashes are mixed with oil as a reminder that we have been forgiven and that the blood of Jesus has been shed so that we will receive the true reward from God, eternal life. For this we rejoice, thanks be to God.