Welcome to the January 2001 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.
A WORD FOR TODAY, January 2001
January 1, 2001
Resolutions This morning many people are rolling out of bed a little late. The revelry of bringing in the New Year is exhausting. At least a few people will wake up promising never to drink or eat that much again. At the beginning of every year, millions of people set for themselves some goals to change the way they are living their lives. They resolve to break year old habits that are destroying their health or their relationships.
Today, many people are making promises for change. On New Year’s day it is as common to hear “Are you making any resolutions?” as it is to hear wishes for health and prosperity in the days to come. Since January 1st is the beginning of a new year, it seems like a good time to make ourselves new. So, we promise to give up smoking or some other bad habit. We promise to spend more time with our families and friends. We promise to eat better, exercise and begin new intellectual pursuits for our physical and mental well being.
Unfortunately, by mid-January, most of those resolutions are broken and long forgotten. Change is not something that happens overnight, it is a process we go through in life. Too often, we make rash decisions about changing some bad habit in our life, going cold turkey. But we do not go through the processes of finding the root reasons we have those habits. Men decide to quit smoking, without realizing the nicotine habit is related to the stress they have at work. Women go on a diet without seeing that the habit of overeating is related to loneliness. People begin exercise programmes without realizing that there is a physical problem with some part of their body. The first moment they feel stress, loneliness or pain they give up the resolution and go back to the old habits.
If we find the root of our problems, then we can make a total change. The man who feels stress at work will give up smoking easier if he deals with his job. The woman who is lonely will not overeat if she finds a friend to spend that time with. The person who needs to exercise can find a better programme by learning the proper exercises for their physical condition.
Read Luke 5:36-39
Today, as you consider the possibility of making some change in your life, look deeper into you heart and mind. Find the real reason for the habit you want to quit. Realize that change is not something that can happen suddenly on one day a year, but should happen every moment of every day. Most of all, look toward God as your strength, wisdom and hope, and ask Him to help you make the right changes in your life. If you are going to make any resolution today, make it one to listen and obey the Lord your God and do according to His will. Thanks be to God.
Housecleaning As the day draws closer when we move out of our house, we are working endlessly with the deep cleaning. Everything must be spotless – the walls, the floors, the appliances. It is a daunting task, made even more difficult by our limited time and other commitments. We spent yesterday hard at work, cleaning every inch of the house, into the smallest crevices.
Just as we thought we were almost done with a room or appliance, we turned around and found something that we’d missed – a closet, behind a pipe or a drawer. Even today, we know there are still many hidden places we have to search out to clean. We found dirt and grime in places we just did not understand. We had never even used the broiler on the stove, how could it become so dirty? There were a few moments when I wished we had just hired someone to clean for us. As professionals, they would have the right equipment and products for dealing with the hard to reach areas.
One of the advantages about having a professional clean the house is that they have to be present when the house is inspected. If the inspector finds something wrong, they are right there to deal with it and make it right. Since we’ve done the work on our own, we have to be ready with bucket and water to fix whatever is wrong. Hopefully we will have done a good enough job that he will not find anything.
The hidden grime in our house is just like sin in our lives. So often, we try to clean the dirt – say a few words, go to church, do a good deed or two. We do a surface cleaning on our life and things look pretty good. Yet, there are times when we turn around and discover something we missed – an old anger, a long established habit or anything else that makes us unclean. Those are more difficult to remove from our lives. It takes a professional with the right equipment to do it properly.
Read Hebrews 9:11-14
No matter how hard we try to clean the sin in our lives, there is always something hidden or impossible to reach. But Jesus Christ was born and died as the perfect Lamb of God – a professional with the right equipment – to do the job for us. Now, when we face the inspector – the Lord God Almighty – it is Jesus’ work that He sees. Everything is made clean, just like new. Thanks be to God.
Faith Faith is difficult to define. When asked, most people would say it is “to believe in something”. What does it mean to believe? According to the Oxford dictionary, to believe means “to accept something is true; feel sure of the truth of” or “hold (something) as an opinion; think or suppose”. Even these definitions do not establish a solid understanding of faith.
Throughout my life, I’ve believed many things. I believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. I believed the anchor of our local news programme when he told the news. I believed my mom and dad when they told me they loved me. At times I’ve even overused the world. When someone asked, “Does this road go to the mall?” I would answer, “I believe so.” At times, I have nothing of substance on which to base my answer. What I accepted as true very often turned false. The definition of belief that uses the word “feel” is particularly disturbing. Our feelings are not always accurate, so if we believe based solely on some feeling, then we will often be proven wrong.
Since our belief in something is often subjective, we have to be careful about expecting people to believe as we do. When someone asks for the best directions to the mall, two people may believe that their route is better. One will describe the route that goes by the park, the other a route that is more direct. Both may be equal in every way, but each believes his to be the better route.
Faith does not simply believe in something. Faith is to have absolute trust and confidence. We can believe many things, we can trust people and be self-confident. But, at times these things will fail. There is only one thing in which we should have faith – God the Father Almighty, in the name of our Lord Jesus. When the people and things of this world fail, God stands firm and faithful.
Read Hebrews 6:13-15
A time has come in my life when I have to step forward in faith, knowing that no matter what awaits around the corner, God is with me. I will have to trust the people who will help us through this transition – the movers, the pilots, our family and friends. Yet, I know that at times those people will fail. I must even avoid self-confidence, because I will fail in the coming days. I will be tired, stressed, uncertain, afraid and sad. It is a time of upheaval, stress, uncertainty, sadness, and expectation. Through it all, I will keep my faith pointed toward God. The one thing that remains consistent is that God our Father is faithful. Thanks be to God.
Our computer will be packed and shipped in the next day. We will have limited access to a computer but will try to send A WORD FOR TODAY, as we are able. Please bear with us through this time of transition. Thank you for your love, prayers and encouragement over the past 17 months. God is truly amazing. He has touched us deeply through these writings, bringing us ever closer to Him. Please continue to pray for our family as we move from England to Arkansas.
Days We have turned over our house, are living in a hotel, and are waiting to board the plane tomorrow morning. We spent most of yesterday taking care of some last minute business that needed to be done. Late in the afternoon, I had several phone calls to make, people I needed to talk to before we left. Unfortunately, I've spent the last few weeks planning to have lunch, or at least see these people, and we have just run out of time.
Time always moves more quickly than we expect. There is always just one more place or person we want to see. But time does not stand still. We need to be sure not to miss the opportunity to do those things while we have them.
I'm sure we all face simililar situations -- when we know someone who has died, when friends move away, when we get a new job or graduate from school. I have regrets from the past of apologies never given or words of love never spoken to people who have disappeared from my life.
Read Psalm 90:12
Our days here in England have been numbered, and I knew it, yet I let the days come to an end without finishing a few things. Our days on earth are numbered, we do not know when we will be finished, so do not wait to say or do all those things you have been meaning to do. Take a moment today while you still have time. Thanks be to God.
Black Madonna At the Monastery of Monserrat in Spain is a statue that is said to have been found in a cave late in the ninth century. It is an image of Mary holding Jesus. The face of the Madonna is dark skinned, and the statue has long been a place of pilgrimage.
A friend told us of his visit to see the Madonna. He's led a less than exemplary life, one filled with moments of sin. He often visits Spain, but never thought himself worthy to visit such a holy place, but one day he decided to see the Madonna. The line was very long, and it would take him at least 45 minutes to reach the place of the statue. The weather was lovely when he began his wait, warm and sunny. As he neared the entrance, a sky darkened with a horrible storm. The closer he got to the Madonna, the worse the weather became. When the lightning and thunder began, he gave up standing in line, certain that God did not think he was worthy enough to go inside.
The Madonna is just a statue, though an important place of pilgrimage to many people. Unfortunately, our friend's attitude about the statue was also his attitude about forgiveness from God for his past failures. He is not willing to approach the throne of grace and receive the forgiveness that comes so easily from God our Father through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He continues to live the life turned away from God's Word, because he doesn't think God would be willing to forgive him.
Read Mark 4:35-41
When my friend shared the story of his trip to the Madonna, I told him that forgiveness is right there, you just have to weather the storm. So often, we look at the storm around us and consider it the wrath of God meant to chase us away from the holy life. However, God does not chase us away, He stands close, ready to help us by chasing the storm away with just a word. Are you afraid of something? Have faith, God is in control.
Felix Felix our cat has had a difficult month. This move has interrupted his normal daily routine of roaming the house, playing with toys, eating and sleeping. He has had to live in a cattery for weeks at a time, move around in a small travel kennel, ride on an airplane and in a car. When we finally took him out of the kennel, he found himself in a brand new place, a house he did not recognize with none of the familiar things around him.
Ever since we arrived here in Pennsylvania, he has been a constant companion. It is like he wants to know where we are at every moment because he is afraid of being left behind. Yesterday afternoon, Bruce and the kids went out to the grocery store. Felix did not know I was still in the house. He began to cry at the door until he heard my voice. He came running and seemed satisfied to know that I was still there.
There is nothing consistent about his life right now and everything seems like a punishment to him. He is being exemplary, as if his good behaviour will make a difference in our taking him with us.
Read Jeremiah 17:7-8
There are times in our life when we suffer difficulties that are difficult to handle. We get sick or have to move. We have financial troubles or our relationships go bad. We often feel like Job, or Felix, whose entire life was taken from him, and we do not understand why. But if we trust in God, He will provide all we need to see us through the rough times. In the end, we will find that the trials made us stronger, healthier and happier. Felix will learn to trust that we will never leave him behind, just as we learn that God is always with us, to the very end of the days. Thanks be to God.
Love What does it mean to love someone? I have recently been following the story of the teenage girl in England whose parents are giving her a check for $5000 as a birthday present. The check is going to be used for breast implants. The medical community is against this surgery because the girl is far too young. Her body has not fully developed at this point, and therefore any additions could cause irreparable damage to her body.
Her parents have given her this gift because they love her and want her to be happy. They run a business where they council people about cosmetic surgery. This girl has seen, through their example, that her physical appearance is the source of happiness. In this gift, her parents are showing her that they connect happiness with having larger breasts.
Our society equates love with the fulfillment of desires. Children expect gifts like a new car on their sixteenth birthday and if they do not receive that gift then the parent does not love. Friends expect you to like everything they do and say because you love them, and often turn away when you share concerns about some aspect of their life. Parents or spouses expect to be honoured and obeyed, and yet do not return the love found in that respect.
Throughout the scriptures, we see Jesus having many discussions with the teachers of the law and the leaders of the temple. They discussed the Law and the Kingdom of God. He was asked, "What is the greatest commandment?" The questioner was thinking of the 613 individual statutes of the law found in the Book of Moses and wondered which Jesus thought was the most important.
Read Matthew 22:37-40
The love in this passage is not simply a feeling that leads us to fulfill the desires of those we love. It is a total commitment of ourselves to God Almighty. We are also to love others with the same commitment, as a natural outgrowth of our love for God. It does not necessarily mean we will fulfill every whim and desire, but we will be committed to doing what is good and right and true. When you show love today, start first with your love of God, and let that love flow to those who cross your path.
Overwhelming When we found out we were moving to England four years ago, many people told me about the differences in culture I would face. In many ways, life is so much simpler there, with far fewer choices. The TV, even with cable, offered about 30 stations. The grocery store only had one or two brands of the different products we use. There are not as many choices of restaurants or entertainment. After four years, we learned to live with less of everything.
When we found out we were moving back to America, many people talked about the culture shock we would face. We didn't think it would be too much of a problem, since it has only been four years and we did make some brief visits in that time. However, we have found it to be overwhelming. We are astounded with the number of choices we have in Walmart and the grocery stores. We have been amazed at the changes that have occurred in our hometowns. The TV has nearly one hundred stations.
During this time of transition, there is so much to accomplish. Friends and family want to visit. We need to buy some new clothes for the children. There are so many things we have missed such as our favourite fast food places and our home churches; so much to do we that we do not even know where to start. It is even overwhelming to pray. We find it difficult with so many decisions to make and concerns about our future to even ask God for help.
Read Romans 8:26-27
Yesterday in the grocery store, we knew we needed to find something to take home to prepare for dinner, but there were too many things we wanted to have. We feel the same way with our prayer requests today. There are often moments in all of our lives when we face multiple problems -- health, financial and relationship all at once. During those times, we know we need to pray and ask for prayer, yet it is so difficult. It is at those times that we have an intercessor, the Holy Spirit, who goes to God for us to ask for everything we need according to God's Will. Thanks be to God.
Busy signal It can be quite annoying to call someone and get a busy signal. That 'beep, beep, beep' is probably one of the most horrible noises ever created. It is especially hard when you are trying to reach someone because of an emergency. When the call is important, you keep trying until you get through. Many times when the call is just to chat, you don't bother to try again. At those times, both parties miss out on something because the line is busy. I have been involved in telephone prayer chains. The general policy of these chains is to call the next number on the list. If that number is busy or noone answers, the caller goes on to the next person. The person who is skipped does not hear the request and does not have the opportunity to help pray.
In this age of the Internet, busy signals are far more common as people tie up the phone line spending time online. We have missed important calls because our friends or family were unable to get through. My dad works on a part time basis for a car dealer. We realized yesterday that with my time on the net, he could not get the call he needs to go to work. So, now we have to schedule our time online to accomodate the possibility of a call coming through.
God calls. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus says, "He who has ears, let him hear." There are times, however, when the call just can't get through. Our lines are blocked by something -- fear, worry, pain, pride, anger or hate. When those things block our hearing of God's Word, then we miss out on the peace that comes with obedience to that Word.
Read 1 Peter 1:1-2
Theological debate often centres on the question of God's grace verses our responsibility. For those involved in such discussions, the answer is one or the other. In actuality, it is not either/or, it is both. According to Peter, the Spirit draws us into a relationship so that we will be obedient to Christ and what He has done for us. Too often, however, we let the things of this life block the call of God in our lives, that work of the Spirit. So, we miss out on what God would have for us. Thankfully, God knows how important this call is for His children and He keeps trying. Today, keep the lines open and listen for His call. Then answer, and you'll know His peace.
Family One of the disadvantages of military life is living so far from home. We miss many of the joys of being close to family -- grandparents, watching nieces and nephews grow, enjoying holidays and other special events with those we love. We keep in touch through mail and pictures, yet it is not quite the same.
We have been spending time with our families. It has been amazing to see how big the children have grown, how mature they are becoming. We have heard stories of parties and picnics we were not able to attend and heard about the people who have become part of their lives. In some ways it has been difficult, almost like we are outsiders. Yet, through it all, we have been made to feel at home.
Read Ephesians 2:19-22
God is our Father and He has made us a family in Christ. There are times in our life, however, when we move away from that family. We get distracted by so many things and we find that being part of the family is not possible because of time or convenience. Many people have stopped going to church, finding Sunday mornings a good time to sleep in or go play golf. For others, it is the only day they can get some housework accomplished or spend time traveling. There are many who have walked away from the church because they have been hurt or they do not like the people or politics of a congregation.
While it is possible to have a relationship with the Father outside the family, it is better to be in fellowship with your brothers and sisters. Unfortunately for many, leaving a church is just the first step on a journey that leads them away from God. They do not continue a daily regiment of study and prayer. Without the fellowship that comes from corporate worship and study, they do not get the necessary edification and correction needed to continue a walk in Christ.
Bruce, the kids and I have sure enjoyed being part of our family here in Pennsylvania again. I pray, for those of you who have wandered from the family of God, that you will take a moment to visit again. By Christ's blood, we are not outsiders when we are with our brothers and sisters. We are part of a family, thanks be to God.
Crystal One of excursions we made while on our trip to Austria was a trip to the Swarovski Crystal factory. We went to tour the factory and purchase some of the incredible pieces of art they create. When we arrived at the factory we were told that due to the top secret nature of some of their products -- lenses and other things for military use -- we were not going to be able to walk through the actual factory. I was somewhat disappointed because I like to see how things are made. We come to a better understanding of the value of things when we know what has been done to create it.
Instead of a factory tour, we walked through an art gallery of sculpture all made with crystal. Some of the art was quite beautiful and some was unusual. There was a very large wall made from crystals -- glass blocks filled with crystals of every size, shape and colour. There were replicas of other pieces of art such as "Melting Clock" by Salvadore Dali made in crystal. We saw the smallest jewelry crystal stones that have ever been cut -- barely the size of a pinhead with eighteen cuts. Another display showed the largest stone ever cut. It was larger than a basketball with one hundred facets. It was so clear and perfect that it looked like diamond magnified.
After the gallery, we visited the shop for a chance to spend our money. One gentleman was surprized at the cost of these fine items, saying that the diamonds in South Africa were cheaper than 'this glass'. Another woman was disappointed because she could not find any of the larger crystal items, such as bowls or glasses. The shop only offered figurines and jewelry.
I showed my ignorance of the process by saying that the factory produces items made of cut crystal straight from the mine. This would make them as valuable as the diamonds, particularly for the size of raw crystal that would be necessary to create such items as that stone displayed in the gallery. I wondered where they would have found a raw crystal large and clear enough to be able to cut such a stone.
Later we visited Rattenburg, a small Austrian village where they have been making crystal for centuries. Here we found the blown glass items. One of the workers shared the process of glass making with us. It was then I began to understand how those other figures were made. The crystal, quartz, is ground into a very fine powder. Metal, such as lead or silver, is added to the mixture. This is all heated to incredibly hot temperatures until it is a molten liquid. The liquid is shaped, cooled and then cut to create the desired item. It is in the process of creation that the item is made more perfect and valuable than the original stone out of the mine.
Read Phillipians 3:20-21
Our Father in heaven is just like the crystal maker who grinds, mixes, melts, molds, and cuts the raw materials to create a most extraordinary piece of art. In the process, God removes from our lives the impurities that exist and adds that which makes us shine. He doesn't create junk. You are becoming an incredible work of art, the best that can be created. Just like Jesus. Thanks be to God.
Parables Spiritual things are difficult to understand. Our human flesh needs to have something physical to grasp -- with our physical eyes, ears or fingers. The things in the spiritual realms cannot be understood by sight, sound or touch. We must see, hear and touch them in our spirits. Most people do not know how to look beyond an earthly understanding of things. They see, hear and touch the world at their fingertips, but leave the heavenly things to more spiritual people.
Jesus came to share the Kingdom of God with His people. He wanted them to understand that there was something beyond their human experience, something so incredible that it cannot be understood simply by sight, sound and touch. The message was simple -- God, our heavenly Father loves you so much that He came to dwell among you and make you an heir to His Kingdom. In their experience, this simple message was hard to understand. After all, we could not see, hear or touch God. As a matter of fact, God dwelt in a room in the temple where noone was allowed to enter except the High Priest. Even he could not see or touch God, covering the Most Holy Place with smoke before entering. There were patriarchs and prophets who heard the voice of God, though most people only heard God speak through a few chosen people.
Jesus came, as God in flesh, to show His children the truth of His love. He spoke so that they would understand, in stories that touch on their earthly experiences of life. He often talked of farming or fishing, normal activities for the people who were listening to His teaching. By using parables, earthly stories with a heavenly meaning, He conveyed the spiritual ideas to the people in a way they could understand.
Read Matthew 13:3-9
Many did not understand, however. Jesus' disciples asked Him why He used parables. He told them in verse 15 that He speaks that way so that those who have hardened their hearts against the Word of God will listen with their spirits and turn back to Him. Today as we study the scriptures, there are stories that bring confusion to many. It is even worse for the people of this day because the stories of farming or fishing do not touch on their normal experiences of life. Many people just brush off the scriptures as being antiquated and insignificant to our lives today. But the message of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ is as life-giving and true as it was when He walked on this earth.
This week, we will look at this parable and Jesus' explanation of its meaning, so that we can apply it to our lives in this modern age.
Read Matthew 13:18-23
Seeds One of the most important things for a farmer to learn is the proper way to plant seeds. A seed is a living thing, but death must occur for new life. When the seed dies, its environment is necessary for the new plant to grow out of it. If a seed is planted too deeply in the earth, it will not recieve the sunshine or oxygen necessary. If a seed is not deep enough, it will not be protected through the early stages of life.
Some seeds need to be placed carefully into the ground, several inches below the surface of the earth. The farmer plows a row, places the seeds and then carefully covers the seeds with dirt. Other plants must be nurtured in a pot before they can be planted in a garden. Grasses and grains can be scattered across the field with little care to the placement. I recall a time when Bruce seeded our lawn. At first he used his hand to scatter the seed, but he had little control over the seed and where it fell. He purchased a handheld spreader designed to throw the seed evenly across the ground. However, no matter how carefully he directed the tool, some seed still fell on the sidewalk.
All the seeds died, but the seed that fell on the sidewalk did not have the necessary environment to grow. Those seeds withered away and died again, producing no new life. The seed on the earth grew into a lush new lawn.
Read Hebrews 2:14-15
We all fear the unknown, including death. The message of Christ's cross is often very hard for us to understand, particularly the part about having to share in His suffering and die so that we can have new life. Those seeds are scattered into our hearts, yet some hearts are not prepared to receive such a hard lesson. Those hearts do not understand. The devil -- not some evil looking horned creature but a sly fox ready with the right words -- is waiting to steal away that seed. He offers life, but not true life. The seed is snatched away from the truth and devoured, just like the bird that snatches the seed from the path and eats it.
We must not be afraid of the death to self that produces new life. We can spend time in prayer and scripture studies so that we will recognize the false life presented by the evil one. It is by Christ's death that we have new life, and the devil no longer has power over us. "He who has ears, let him hear." Thanks be to God.
Read Matthew 13:18-23
Saved! I was in a chat room the other day. During the time I was there a person was led to Christ. It was an exciting time for many in the room. They rejoiced over the fact that they gave that person the words necessary for understanding that caused them to receive Christ as their Saviour.
It is always a wonderful thing to see someong brought into a relationship with God our Father through Jesus Christ, however there were a number of problems with that scenario. As new folk came into the room, the ones involved in the conversation took credit for the person being saved. "I saved someone today." I cannot be certain, however I was not convinced that the person was completely forthright with the room. It seemed as though this person knew too much about Christianity and that the decision came too fast. In the past, I have seem people 'get saved' and then come back hours or days later with the same actions and words.
After the conversation in the chat room, when the new believer left, I asked the person involved whether they were going to follow up on the event. He ignored my question. I told him that it was necessary to follow up, to ensure that the new believer seek out a fellowship of believers so that they will receive the necessary education and edification for a strong foundation in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. There are many who are willing to share the Word of God, to bring salvation to people, but that is all they do. After the initial rejoicing they move on to another lost soul, leaving a new believer to be blown by whatever wind or doctrine they hear.
The parable of the sower shows that many will receive the word with joy but the new life that is created withers and dies because the roots have no foundation for nourishment. When our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the Great Commission, He did not stop at baptism. He went on to say that we must teach them to obey His commandments. Evangelism is not a once and done event. It is the beginning of fellowship.
Read 1 John 1:7
Today, if you share God's Word with another, make a committment to stay involved in that person's life. Do not settle for the initial joy of knowing they've heard the Word, but continue to share with them the faith your Father has given to you in Christ Jesus and the Word He has placed in your heart. Help them to understand that a life in Christ is a topsy turvy life -- one that is filled with great blessing among the thorns of suffering. Show them how to walk in the light that has just been turned on in their life. Thanks be to God.
Read Matthew 13:18-23
Worry There was a pastor who was getting bogged down in the every day worries of life -- bills were piling up and the family was facing the care of a sick relative. He began to pray, "Oh Lord, if only I could win the lottery, I would be able to pay some of these bills and take care of my relative." This became a standard prayer for the pastor until after awhile when the prayer was not answered. Finally the pastor said, "Oh Lord, I have trusted you throughout my life to provide all I need and I have served you. Why won't you give me this one simple request to ease the burden of my worries?" God replied, "My son, you can't win the lottery unless you buy a ticket first."
While this joke is rather humourous, the statement it makes is a condemnation of the faith of some Christians. Very often we think that when we become a Christian we will be immune to the suffering in this world or that God will give us whatever we desire. When sickness, poverty or temptation attack us, we question God and our faith, worrying about tomorrow.
Though we have eternal life in our Lord Jesus Christ, we have not yet been given our glorified bodies, so our corruptible flesh still gets sick. Poverty and emotional adversity focus our hearts and minds toward worry. We are still tempted to act upon our fear, hatred, anger and pride which causes hurt and suffering to others and ourselves.
Read Luke 12:22-26
In the parable of the sower, some of the seed fell in ground that is covered in weeds. Weeds tend to take all the nourishment and the energy from the ground, leaving nothing to help the plant to grow. When we get bogged down in the every day worries of life, we have no energy to focus on our life in Christ. Our faith is choked by these sufferings, causing some to even reject God. Do not let the worries of life cause you to turn away from God, your heavenly Father. Trust in Him to provide all you need and hold on to that life you have gained by the blood of our Lord Jesus.
Read Matthew 13:18-23
Fruit The whole purpose of planting seed is to produce fruit. Farming is difficult work. It takes a great deal of investment -- time, money and energy. A farmer does not just by a plot of land, scatter a bit of seed and then watch it grow. He must first prepare the field. He turns the soil and removes whatever rocks and roots he finds. He mixes fertilizer with the soil to give extra nourishment to the plants. When the field is fully prepared, then the farmer scatters the seed. The work does not end at that point. The farmer continues to work the field -- watering, weeding and feeding the plants ensures the best possible growth. The farmer harvests the crop when the time is right, and he expects his field to produce a good crop -- the greater the investment, the greater the yield.
In the parable of the sower, we learn that some people receive the seed of the Gospel with understanding. God's Word is planted in our hearts and we produce fruit in keeping with that Word. He does not just scatter the seed, however. He prepares our hearts to recieve it, by His grace and mercy. He puts people in our lives who will help us to hear the Word and recieve it with understanding. He waters, fertilizes and weeds out the things that threaten the life He has given us.
God does not do all the work. He gives us the gifts we need to work the field and scatter the seed. We can't just go out and throw it around. We have to prepare the fields, too. If someone is distracted by the cares of this world, the Word will fall on the path, rocky or thorny ground. It will be plucked away, wither away or choked. We must feed all their needs -- physical, emotional and spiritual. Then they can recieve the Word with understanding.
Our job doesn't stop there, for we need to continue to work the field until the harvest, continually providing prayer support, edification and instruction.
Read Matthew 28:19-20
Jesus sent us into the world not only to spread the seed, but to help cultivate the crop. We do this not only for others, but also ourselves. Prayer, scripture studies, fellowship and communion -- all these things will make the soil rich and clean and perfect for new and continued growth. Through it all, we know that we do not work alone. God is with us, always. Thanks be to God.
Self-evident The Declaration of Independence reads, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." The definition of self-evident is "being clear to the vision or understanding without proof or reasoning." To be self-evident means it speaks for itself. The truths of the Declaration are self-evident, and yet men and women over the centuries have written volumes interpreting those truths.
In Matthew 13, Jesus told the people the Parable of the Sower. This story spoke about spreading seeds over a field and how some of those seeds will not produce good fruit. Many in His audience could identify with a story about farming, because it spoke to them in terms they understood. The truth within Jesus' stories is self-evident, meaning God's Word speaks for itself. Yet, many who heard Jesus speak did not understand how it applied to their lives in God's Kingdom.
After Jesus finished the story, His disciples asked Him why He speaks in parables.
Read Matthew 13:11-17
The disciples had been given spiritual understanding of God's message, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who do not understand have hardened their hearts against God and cannot see nor hear His Word. Even though the disciples do hear and see, Jesus went on in verse 18 to say, "Listen to what the parable of the sower means." Jesus explained to them in very natural terms what they already understood about the Kingdom of God. Jesus' disciples were not farmers. Some were fishermen; Matthew was a tax collector. They did not identify with the language in the parable. So, Jesus explained it to them in spiritual terms.
In this story, we see that God uses very human, natural examples to help His children understand what they know in spirit. He uses His creation to explain that which is self-evident. Everything we know about God comes from God Himself. At times, He gives us that understanding through very real, very natural stories from men so that we will hear and see with our ears and eyes as well as our spirit. Thanks be to God.
On Monday January 22nd we begin our trek from Pennsylvania to Arkansas. We will have access to a computer, however it will be an exhausting drive ending with a hectic time of establishing our life in Little Rock. For the next few days on the egroups.com mailing list, we will repeat a series that was run originally from September 5 to September 11, 1999. We will not update this page at all for the next few days. You can access the writings at London Series. God touched us dramatically during a trip to London, showing Himself in many ways. We hope you'll enjoy this repeat, its one of our favourite series of writings. Please keep us in your prayers.
Rejoicing Shortly after our Lord Jesus was born in that stable in Bethlehem, a great company of angels appeared to some shepherds working in a field. An angel told these simple men the most incredible news, that the Saviour had been born in Bethlehem. In that stable, a young girl recovered from the physically exhausting task of bringing forth that child. Mary was a normal girl undergoing the most extraordinary experience... yet, it came about in a most normal way. She became the mother of our Lord Jesus.
Women go through childbirth every day; they have visitors every day. They marvel and wonder at their infant children, uncertain of the future they will face. Visitors share their own hopes and fears for the new life that has been given to this world.
Read Luke 2:16-20
Mary looked upon these very normal moments of life, visitors who spoke words of hope for her son, and treasured them as special. She saw these very simple moments in life as what they are – a moment of God's incredible hand directing His will and purpose in this world.
For the past week – months – I have watched God’s hand in my life. He brought us safely to our new home, provided for every aspect of life in a perfect and timely manner. He has shown His incredible power and grace by answering my fears and giving me the gifts necessary to continue His work in this world. He has answered our prayers in His time and way. I am treasuring these very normal moments in life and pondering them in my heart as they reveal God to me in an ever increasing way.
I did not want to come to this place, but God has shown me that this is exactly where He wants me to be. Today, I am treasuring these very normal moments in life and I am pondering them in my heart. I do not know what tomorrow holds, but God continues to reveal himself to me each step along this path. I share these tiny miracles with others, so that many can go back to their own normal lives glorifying and praising God for all they have seen. Thanks be to God.
Early learning Today our children will begin to study at their new school. They will be part of an education programme that focuses on international studies, particularly language development. Each child spends time each day learning a second language, such as French, Spanish and German. It is good for the children to begin this type of learning early in life. Young students achieve fluency more easily, are more receptive to other people and cultures and develop stronger communications skills. They also do better in other subject areas. We hope that a second language will broaden our children’s intellectual horizons and provide a solid foundation for their future.
While it is important for children to learn language to succeed in this world, there is something even more important to teach our children early in life. That is the scriptures and a knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are times, when we talk about God in our home that I wonder if my children understand all that He did for us. Yet, when we ask those simple questions of faith, they are certain that the answer is Jesus. It is written on their hearts.
Read Psalm 71:5-7
It is wonderful when someone comes to a realization of the love, mercy and grace of our Lord God Almighty at any time in their life. But it is a joy to see our children grow in faith each day, walking in the ways of the Lord from early in life. Just like the children who become fluent in foreign languages by learning early, so too our children become fluent in the Word of God by being exposed to it consistently all through their life.
Do you have children who need to hear the Word of God today? Grandchildren? Share God with them today. Give to them the greatest education they can ever receive. Thanks be to God.
Excuses Organizations need people to help so that all the work will be done. At school, a mom is needed to do superfluous paperwork. At church, a caretaker is needed to fix the plumbing that goes awry and to shovel the walks when it snows. In scouts, parents are needed to be scoutmaster and to bake cakes for the cake sale.
When you get involved in an organization, you are bound to get called to help. How do you respond? At times, the task is impossible because of previous commitments or other responsibilities. At times we just don’t feel like doing the task. There are even times the task seems beyond our ability. So, we say no, adding some excuse to our answer to justify our decision.
There are times when we should not take on a task. When we put too many hours into our volunteer work we ignore our family responsibilities. If we do not have the knowledge or talent to complete a task, then we should help by doing the work that would free up the people with the ability to do the task. When there is a valid reason for declining a task, we should be honest with our reasons. Excuses come when we know we should do something but we walk away from what we’ve been called to do.
When I was a young girl, I heard God call me into ministry. Serving in God’s Kingdom is never an easy task, filled with responsibility, commitment and persecution. I sought the advice of people I respected, and they were honest about the difficulties involved. I have never been one to take the hard road, preferring to find something I felt was more suited to my abilities. I did not think I was capable of serving God in ministry.
In the days of the prophets of Israel, there was born a man whom God called to speak His Word. His name was Jeremiah. When Jeremiah was just a boy, God told him of His plan. But Jeremiah made excuses.
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10
Has God called you to do a task that you are refusing to do? What is your excuse? Do you think you are too young, too old, too tired or too busy? Do you think that you do not have the gifts necessary to do what God is calling you to do? There may be tasks in this world that you should not take on, but when God calls you to do something, don’t run away. He will not call you to do something you are incapable of doing. He will give you everything you need to accomplish it. Be obedient in the knowledge that God has touched you with His Word. Go and serve the Lord, thanks be to God.
Home Moving is a stressful time. You live out of suitcases for days, weeks, even months. You go to a new place, unfamiliar with the people, roads and the location of the important places. Even the processes to accomplish the daily tasks of life, like checking out at the grocery store, can be different. In a new home, we do not have people to call on to help us with our questions about these things. So, we often drive around the town lost because we cannot find the places that we seek. People get angry when our confusion causes us to do something different than expectation, because they do not realize we are uncertain about the new things.
The faster we learn to live according to the culture and understanding of our new home, the quicker we will make it our own. When we are obedient to ways that surround us, we will be drawn into the community. It certainly helps when the community reaches out to us, to show us how to live and move with them.
When we become a Christian, it is like moving into a new region of the world. The culture is different. We have to find our way through the new roads on which we are to walk. We have to learn the processes of obedience to this new way of life. Spiritually, it is like we are living out of suitcases, no longer living in our old familiar surroundings.
It helps to have solid Christians surrounding us in fellowship and direction who can teach and lead us into the right ways of living. Through the Church – the body of Christ – and the Holy Spirit, God shows us how to belong to our new home – His Kingdom.
Read John 14:23-24
The most important thing to remember is that when we are obedient to the culture that exists in our new region, it will become home. For those of us learning to walk in God’s Kingdom, there is one standard – the scriptures. In God’s Word and by His Holy Spirit, we will not be lost and we will know how we are to act. The Christian life is one of living the Word daily, shining the light of Christ. In this life of obedience, God will live in us and we will truly be home. Thanks be to God.