Welcome to the January 2002 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 2002
January 1, 2002
Hangover Last night was New Year’s Eve and many people partied well into the morning. For some, it was a night to overindulge in drink, food and merriment. Too many woke up this morning a little later than usual with a bit of a headache and the other symptoms that accompany too much of a good thing.
As we roll out of bed this morning, many people are making promises for change. Resolutions are as much a part of entering a new year as watching the ball drop in Times Square. January 1st is a good time to set goals for the coming year. What do we want to accomplish? What do we want to change about ourselves? Are we planning to diet, get a new job, or renew our relationships? It is good to want to break old habits that are potentially dangerous. Yet, old habits die hard.
By mid January, many resolutions have long been forgotten. We have cheated on our diets or gotten angry with our kids. Spur of the moment promises for change make little difference. The people who succeed with New Year’s resolutions are those who have prepared their hearts and bodies over the past few weeks and months. Take for example a smoker who decides to quit. The person who begins early by seeking medical advice will be far more successful than the one who decides to do so cold turkey. It takes support and preparation to make such major changes in our lives.
Even when we have such support, old habits still die hard. Human nature doesn’t change and our effort doesn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things. Resolutions are forgotten, old friends fall away, and we gain weight because we constantly turn back to our old ways. Sin is a part of our lives.
Read Ecclesiastes 1:3-11
We are excited about the changes that could occur for our lives as we break the bad habits and transform our lives into something much better than it has been. Yet, we all know that we will fail in the days and weeks to come. Listening to the words of the writer of today’s scripture makes us wonder why we bother? What good will it do to try to change? We have to remember that true change does not come by human effort.
The universe and human nature is the same now as it ever was, “utterly meaningless” in the words of the writer. Yet, God is also unchanging, always faithful and perfect. Though our ability to seek change in our lives is hampered by the fact that there is nothing new under the sun, we have something even greater than the things of this world. We have God, our heavenly Father, who through His unchanging love transforms us. The transformation has nothing to do with New Year’s resolutions and does not come by our human effort. It comes only by the grace of God and by His power in our lives.
As you wake up today and consider the possibility of making some dramatic change in your life, remember that the only way you will succeed is with the proper support and preparation. Turn to the Lord your God in prayer. Ask His help and guidance through your resolutions. He has defeated the sin in our lives by His love and blood. With Him all things are possible.
Fallen tree An old news story from New Hampshire tells of an ice storm that brought heavy damage to the area. Fallen trees blocked the roadways creating travel problems for drivers. One such situation was on Route 9 where a large tree completely blocking the road stopped two women. Jean was on her way home from work and Heidi was going the other direction to her job. Instead of staying in the cold with their cars or trying to find another route home, the women traded cars. Heidi took Jean’s to work and Jean took Heidi’s home. They met the next day to trade back their cars at the end of Heidi’s work shift.
The situation was very difficult. Those two women chose the easiest solution for both of them, and yet it was a difficult thing to do. Imagine the questions they had? What sort of driver is she? Will she make it through this weather with my car? Will she return the next day when she promised? Yet, any other solution presented more troubling questions. Would there be downed trees on other roads leaving me stranded and alone? Would the other routes be ice covered and dangerous? The women trusted each other so that they could make it home and to work safely.
Read 1 Peter 4:7-11
We often run into roadblocks during out journey in this life. We need to face those moments with a clear mind so that we can make wise and mature decisions. The roads of New Hampshire were dangerous and those women were facing a very difficult situation. It would have been easy to panic, worry and doubt. Yet they willingly turned over their vehicles to a stranger in a solution that helped them both reach their destinations safely.
At times God sends us people to help us overcome the roadblocks we face, at other times we are the helper. In the situation with Heidi and Jean, the help was mutual. In every case, we should be receptive and willing to do what is necessary to help one another. God will give you all that is necessary – the strength, courage and gifts – to accomplish His work. Most of all, we love because He first loved us. Whenever we are forced to deal with a roadblock, whether it is one we face or if we need to help a brother, let us do so to the glory of God.
Kings When the Israelites were settled in the Promised Land, they realized they were different than the rest of the nations. They did not have a king to lead them. Until then, God led them through prophets and judges, but they wanted to be like the rest of the world. The people went to Samuel and he was displeased with their request. He took it to the LORD in prayer. The LORD answered, “They are not rejecting you, but they are rejecting me as their king. Tell the people I will grant their request but also tell them solemnly what the kings will do.” Samuel spoke to the people and told them how the kings will use their sons as soldiers and their daughters as servants. The kings will whatever they want of the people’s property and they will become his slaves. They still wanted a king.
The first king was a man named Saul. Saul’s actions were displeasing to the LORD and eventually the kingdom was torn from him. Samuel anointed a young shepherd boy to be the new king. For many years, Saul sought after the one who would replace him as king. He became desperate when he discovered it was David, one of his own servants. Saul became jealous and pursued David relentlessly. David had opportunities to kill Saul but did not touch him because he was sill the LORD’s anointed. The difference between Saul and David is that Saul sought after the things of this world, but David always turned to the Lord.
In one situation, David and his men were hiding in a cave near the Crags of the Wild Goats. Saul entered the cave to relieve himself and David snuck up behind him and cut a corner of his cape. He could have easily killed Saul. After Saul left the cave, David called out to him. “Why do you pursue me? I have done nothing wrong. I could have killed you now, but I spared your life.” Saul responded in repentance and called David more righteous. “I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.”
David knew that Saul could not be trusted, so he stayed in the stronghold in the desert. Saul continued to pursue David, who had other opportunities to slay him in cold blood. Eventually Saul took his own life, ending the reign of the first king of Israel. Because David sought the LORD in all things, he and his house were greatly blessed.
David wrote many of the Psalms. At times they were songs of praise, at others they were cries for mercy. David knew from whence his strength came, from the Lord God Almighty, his refuge. When he was in the cave near the Crags of the Wild Goats, David sang a song of prayer. In the darkest moments of his life, he knew to whom he could turn.
Read Psalm 142
Do you feel like some enemy who seeks to destroy is pursuing you? Saul was jealous of David and feared his own life, so instead of turning to the LORD for his help he sought to destroy his enemy. David turned to the LORD in prayer, praise and faith. He did not kill his enemy, because he knew that God would fulfill His promises and that his enemy would eventually destroy himself. His was righteous before God because of his faith.
The same is true of us. We are found righteous not by any action of our own but by our faith in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is our refuge and our portion. He will hear our cry and answer. When an enemy pursues you, turn to the Lord in faith and praise Him for His goodness. Thanks be to God.
Twelve Days of Christmas When we lived in England, we visited a country home called Oxborough Hall. It was a beautiful brick building that was shaped much like many of the castles we had visited. It had towers, gardens, grand halls and even a moat. What was most interesting was a thing called a priest’s hole. The family who has lived in the manor since the 15th century has been persecuted for their faith. There was a period of several hundred years when it was not only unpopular to be Catholic, but it was dangerous. Any evidence of adherence to the Catholic faith could mean you would lose everything you owned, and even your life. The Bedingfield family were always loyal to the crown, but continued to worship according to Roman Catholic practice. A priest even lived in the manor house. The priest’s hole led to a small hidden room where the priest could hide if someone came to inspect the home.
During that time, the people were unable to keep any written documents to help the young learn the tenets of their faith. So, they learned through song. One of the songs created to help the children with their catechism was the favorite Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Today this song is seen as fun and nonsensical, but it is filled with hidden messages about the Christian faith.
The true love is God Himself, the source of all great and good gifts to His children. When the catechist sang the song, he or she recognized the wonderful gifts He gave to His children. The final verse lists all the gifts, from last to first. The twelve drummers drumming represent the twelve points of doctrine found in the Apostles creed. Eleven pipers piping are the eleven faithful apostles who continued the work of the Lord after Pentecost. The ten lords a-leaping are the Ten Commandments. Nine ladies dancing are the nine fruits of the Spirit we find in Galatians 5:22-23. The eight maids a-milking are the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-10. The seven swans a-swimming represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the seven sacraments practiced by the Catholic Church. The six geese a-laying are the six days of creation. Five golden rings are the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch that tells the story of the fall of man. The four calling birds are the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The three French hens are Faith, Hope and Charity. The two turtledoves are the Old and New Testaments.
The first and most important gift given to a believer by his or her true love is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is represented by the partridge in a pear tree. A mother partridge is known for willingly pretending to be ill to lure the enemy away from her children to protect them from harm. Our Lord Jesus hung from the cross so that our enemy could no longer bring us harm. He died so that we would be forgiven and to set us free from the bonds of sin and death. He was like a mother hen, and the song is reminiscent of the words of our Lord Jesus.
Read Luke 13:32-35
Every year, some economic expert finds the value of the gifts in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. This year the total value of those twelve drummers, eleven pipers, ten lords, nine ladies, eight maids, seven swans, six geese, five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtledoves, and that partridge in a pear tree is $15,748. But the value of the true gifts, the gifts of faith given to every believer by God the Father, is beyond measure.
The twelve days of Christmas last from December 26 until January 6th, the day we celebrate Epiphany. As we sing this fun song, let us remember that it was far more than nonsense to those who sang it in an age when they were persecuted for their faith. As we face our own persecution in this world, hold fast to the gifts your true love, the Lord God Almighty, has given to you. Thank and praise Him for that partridge in a pear tree, His Son, our Lord Jesus who died on the cross. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Ruthless Herod the Great first ruled as governor of Galilee and later as king of Judea. He appointed to these positions by the Roman rulers of the day rather than by God’s will. He had many enemies, but he was a strong king. He managed to stay in power through political turmoil, defeating those who laid claim to his throne. He had any person who threatened his position killed, including his wife, mother-in-law and brother-in-law. Many people fell under his sword.
The Pharisees disliked him because he was an Idumean, a half-Jew, and friendly with the Romans. The Sadducees, who were the aristocracy of the day, preferred his rival. Herod had forty-five Sadducees executed and confiscated their property to pay the Roman demands. The Hasmonean family was upset with Herod because he replaced the High Priest with a brother-in-law. Cleopatra of Egypt desired more land, so she connived to get Herod to battle with Malchus of Arabia. She hoped they’d both weaken enough that she could move in and confiscate everything. Despite the work of his enemies, Herod held his throne and Judah prospered.
There was a period of great prosperity in the middle of his reign, which lasted from 37-4 B.C. He built new amphitheatres, hippodromes, palaces and a large urban port named Caesarea. His crowning achievement was the rebuilding program for the Temple, which he began in 20 B.C. This work was complete in 63 C.E. His kingdom grew as he gained more territory, but all was not well. He was too Romanized; he violated Jewish law with his introduction of quinquennial games. He had many wives and many sons, all who thought they would be the next heir. The rivalry between the sons made each quite weak and no other Herod had the power of Herod the Great.
To Herod, the most important thing in life was to keep his throne. He did everything he could to defeat those who threatened him and his family line. He knew that his position was on shaky ground. The Jewish scriptures spoke of a king who would come from the House of David who would set the people free from the nations who oppressed them. During Herod’s reign, political and religious groups grew out of the people’s desire to be free. Things were very tense around Jerusalem.
One day, a group of foreigners showed up in Jerusalem seeking the new king of the Jews. They said a star had risen in the east and they came to worship him. When Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed because he knew this could be a real threat to his power.
Read Matthew 2:4-10
After they visited the home where they found the child, the magi were warned to not return to Herod. When he realized the magi had outwitted him, he ordered that every boy under two in Bethlehem be killed. His desire for power was so great that he was willing to ruthlessly murder innocent children. Joseph, the new king’s father, was warned in a dream to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt for a time so that the child would live. Many children lost their life that day due to the greed and fear of a man who was not the rightful king. The story of the Nativity was extraordinary in every respect. God incarnate, born in a stable, visited by the most unusual visitors. But this innocent babe in a manger also began life with enemies who would do whatever was necessary to defeat him. Let us rejoice and praise God today for His greatness and His power to defeat the world, especially a king like Herod who prospered by his ruthlessness.
Epiphany Throughout the history of the Jews, God promised to send them a Messiah, a king who would deliver them from their bondage. The Old Testament is filled with words from the prophets and kings that speak of that promise and God’s faithfulness. The Jews longed for the day that promise would be fulfilled. This was especially true at the time of Herod the Great’s reign. The people wanted to be a free nation with a proper king, a king from the House of David. They thought the promise was for just Israel and that the promise would be fulfilled with an earthly king.
The Glory of Zion would not be prosperity – wealth, fame and honour. That Glory was to be the Light of the World. From the beginning, the Jews were chosen and blessed so that they would be a blessing. The Saviour of the world was to come through them and the world would see the greatness of God through their lives. Isaiah writes, “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:3)
Jesus Christ was the morning star, His birth was the dawn of a new age. He was light and brought light into this dark world. A star shown in the sky at the moment of His birth, it was a light to the Gentiles. Far away magi who were studying the skies looking for signs saw this new star appear. They were learned men who were aware of the prophecies of the Jews and knew the sign told of the birth of a king. The left their homes and traveled to Jerusalem seeking this newborn king of the Jews.
They went to Herod; certainly the new king would be born in the royal household. But there was no child there. Herod called to the priests and asked of the prophecies found in the scriptures. They told him about the words of Micah that foretold of a king to be born in Bethlehem, a shepherd from the House of David. Herod told the magi they would find the king there. He asked that they return and tell him the location of the child so he too could go and worship him.
Isn’t it amazing that the promised nation did not see the signs of the coming fulfillment? They did not see the light appear; yet foreigners knew something incredible was happening and traveled far to be a part of it. Even when the magi informed all of Jerusalem of their quest, no one followed. Not one person went with them to find the newborn king. During Jesus’ life and ministry, many of the Jews still did not recognize Him, though He often showed Himself to be the fulfillment of the promises. From the beginning of Jesus’ life, from the moment He was laid in manger, His light shined to the entire world, not just the Jews.
Read Matthew 2:9-12
The passage from Isaiah says, “And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.” The magi fulfilled this prophecy by coming to honour the newborn king and by bringing Him gifts. The gold and incense were symbols of royalty and priesthood. They knew that Jesus would be like the kings of old who not only ruled the people but also ministered to the Lord. But the magi brought another gift, myrrh. Myrrh was a spice used for the burial of the dead. These strangers from a foreign land somehow knew that Jesus was to be more than an earthly king. The gift foretold of Jesus’ suffering and death.
The word Epiphany means, “a revelatory manifestation of a divine being.” On this day the Church recognizes that through the magi God revealed His divine nature of Christ to the world. The promise of a King was not just for the Jews or for this life. Jesus was the light, revealed by God in the light of the star that drew strangers into His promise. The light shines for all the world to see but Herod and the people of Jerusalem missed it. Do you see the light and will you follow like the magi of old? Thanks be to God for His revealed light, that by His power we may see and know Him even today.
Promise A week ago many people made New Year’s resolutions, promises that they would change some aspect of their lives. The news programs had reports, which gave people suggestions on how to keep these resolutions longer than a few days. The shows that focus on the humorous side of life have already sought out those people who have already failed to keep their resolutions. There were people who promised to give up habits like chocolate or lattes, who finished off a one-pound bag of M&Ms in one sitting on New Year’s Day or who went to Starbucks early on January 2nd to get their favorite drink.
Many resolutions are private matters for the people making them. The chocoholic or latte freaks do not generally affect the lives of others with their habit. It could eventually bring poor health, but in general the decision to change that aspect of their life is for their own well-being. However, some resolutions are promises made to other people. Some people promise to spend more time with their spouses or to be available to share in their children’s activities. Others promise their bosses that they will work harder at their jobs. Even children get involved by promising their parents and teachers that they will spend more time on their homework and less time on the Nintendo.
When we fail at those resolutions that affect those around us, we are breaking a promise we’ve made to them. Promises are important, but in our society we have become conditioned to the probability that promises will be broken, so we take them and make them lightly. When we watch the television, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements that promise that everything will be better with their product. The commercials show us our teeth will be whiter, our clothes cleaner and our bodies healthier. At New Years, we make promises that we will probably fail to keep. Even the promises of marriage are no longer sacred, with people divorcing almost as quickly as they marry.
Though human beings have difficulty keeping promises, there is one who is faithful. The Lord our God keeps His promises. He did so throughout the history of Israel, always fulfilling that which He has said. Some of those promises were for the nation, and ultimately God fulfilled them in our Lord Jesus Christ. However many of His promises were personal, given to men and women of faith who waited patiently for God’s word to be proven true. When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised on the eighth day, two people saw the fulfillment of God’s promises to them.
Read Luke 2:25-32
The other person to be blessed on that day was a prophetess named Anna who never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. At that moment she came up to them praising God and speaking about this child. Simeon and Anna were both blessed with a moment in the presence of their Savior and the knowledge of the true identity of the child they held. The Lord promised this to be, and ensured that His promise would be fulfilled.
In this day when promises are taken lightly, when resolutions are easily set aside, we have One in whom we can have absolute trust. Though our family and friends may break their promises, God our heavenly Father will never do so. Rest assured that whatever God has planned for your life will come to be, and in that day you will sing with Simeon and praise God with Anna. Thanks be to God.
Hometown Celebrities are often looked upon as living a special life. Their stories are often filled with exciting events, exciting places and exciting people. It is hard to believe that anyone with fame or talent could come out of some back woods hick town in America. It is almost as if they come out of nowhere into stardom. As I did a search for the hometowns of celebrities, most seem to have been born in California or New York. Yet, we can name famous people who were born and grew up in small town America.
Jesus grew up in such a town. Nazareth was a rather insignificant town. It was not located on any major thoroughfare and was virtually unheard of before His time. It may have been a place of less than good standing because the name Nazareth was synonymous with the word despised. When Jesus was calling His first disciples, Phillip referred to him as “Jesus of Nazareth.” Nathanael responded, “What good can come out of Nazareth?”
How did Jesus come to be from such a small, insignificant town? It was in the plan of God. After the magi finished visiting the home where Joseph, Mary and Jesus were staying, they took a different route to avoid giving Herod the information he sought about the new king. This disturbed Herod, who ordered the murder of all male children under the age of two years old in Bethlehem. The slaughter of these innocent children was meant to destroy his rival.
The Lord warned Joseph of the order and the family fled to Egypt. God planned every aspect of Jesus’ birth and early life so that the prophecies from ages past would be fulfilled. Matthew references the words of Hosea when he says, “And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” How could a carpenter and his small family make such a journey? God had provided the means for this journey in the gifts of the magi. Then the day came for them to return.
Read Matthew 2:19-23
Though the Old Testament prophecies do not specifically say the Messiah would come from Nazareth, they do say He would be despised. Bethlehem was the City of David, the place where the Messiah was expected to live and grow. Nazareth was a small insignificant place where nothing good is expected to come. Jesus life on this earth was not created to be one of fame or glory. He was sent here by His Father to take upon Himself the suffering and sin of this world. Those to whom He was sent rejected him because they did not expect the Messiah to come out of such humble circumstances.
God does such amazing work with the things of this world that are usually looked down upon. The story of Jesus’ early years is filled with people and places that are not what we’d expect. Mary was a young girl, Joseph a humble carpenter. The shepherds were the outcasts of society and the magi were pagans from a foreign country. The birth took place in a stable. The family moved to Egypt and then to Nazareth, both places despised by the Jews. In all these things, God wove the incredible story of Jesus’ life, love and the fulfillment of the Word of God.
Twelve Vicki is twelve years old. It is an age when children are becoming more independent. She is beginning to do some of the things that were my job, such as preparing her lunch for school. She works on her homework with little or no guidance from her father and I. This is an age when children begin to test their rights and learn about responsibilities. It can be difficult age for both the child and parents, particularly when the child oversteps the authority of the parents. Through it all, we encourage our children through their lives on this earth.
Parents recognize the dangers that children face, such as peer pressure. While we understand that our growing children need room to mature, we do not want them to suffer the consequences of bad decisions. Children tend to see themselves as indestructible. They are looking forward to a long life ahead and think that nothing could possibly harm them. At times they take unnecessary risks that have the potential to bring great harm upon their physical, emotional and spiritual lives. They get involved in relationships with people who could lead them down a rocky path. They try new things, go to new places and do so without the constant supervision of their parents. We have to let them go and pray that we have provided a firm foundation from which they can make the right decisions.
We often think of Jesus as some extraordinary child. Though Jesus was God incarnate, He was also fully man. We should not think of Him as the perfect child, never crying or getting dirty. He needed his diapers changed like every other baby in the world. He fell when He was learning to walk, skinned His knees when He played. I’m sure He even dragged mud into the house after jumping in puddles, just like the other kids. He went through the terrible twos and every other stage of life, learning and growing every step along the way.
Jesus was different, though. He was the Word in flesh, the physical manifestation of the Lord God Almighty. His Father was not a carpenter; He was the Son of the Creator of all things. When Jesus’ mother taught Him the scriptures, as was practice in Jewish homes, the words had a deeper, fuller meaning for Him. He understood what they said. A day came when He had to test His knowledge by seeking the teachers who studied the scriptures. His mother and father loved the Lord and they knew His word, but He needed more.
Read Luke 2:41-52
In this story, Jesus overstepped the bounds by staying in Jerusalem without His parents’ knowledge. They did not fully understand their son Jesus and His purpose on earth. To them, He was a twelve year old who was testing His independence. When they questioned Him, He explained it was where He needed to be, but He was obedient and returned with them to His home in Nazareth.
Though Jesus was in many ways an ordinary child, He was also extraordinary. He was the child of Mary and Joseph, but He was the Son of God. The stories of His life are filled with unusual circumstances – visits from shepherds and magi, a journey to a foreign land and then home again, prophets who sing for joy at His presence, and a lesson in the temple. Mary, His mother, watched Him grow through the normal phases of life, but she also witnessed all these things. She treasured and pondered them in her heart, and encouraged her son through His live on this earth.
Mary The story about Jesus in the temple when he was twelve years old is the last we hear about his childhood. Luke wrote, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Mary had so many things from Jesus birth and childhood that she was treasuring in her heart – visits from angels, promises from God, worship and gifts for her child from strangers who were led to her by magnificent signs. Even if the eighteen years of Jesus’ life, from His time in the temple to His baptism was without another incident, Mary had much to ponder.
In that time, God never left Mary. He gave her the strength and courage to face each new day with the hope that her child would be the One to fulfill God’s promises to Israel. She did not know every detail, but she knew that her son would do great things. She was there for Him, loved Him and gave Him encouragement throughout His life.
Read John 2:1-10
This was Jesus’ first miracle, and the moment when He first revealed His glory to the disciples. His mother had many years to ponder the things she’d heard and seen at His birth and in faith she encouraged her son to also step out in faith to do that which He’d been called to do. She did not understand the time frame God had established; she simply knew Jesus was capable of helping the wedding party. Jesus, who loved His mother and honored her, as was commanded in the Law, did as she requested and changed the water into wine.
As we read the stories from Jesus’ birth and childhood, we too have things to ponder. Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? The truth that is found in the scriptures are gifts for us to treasure in our hearts. In faith, we know that Jesus can accomplish great things, change water into wine, for those who need to see the Glory of God. As we recall the treasures that are stored in our hearts – the promise of hope that comes from faith – we can say, “do whatever He tells you,” knowing that Jesus will continue to fulfill His promises. Thanks be to God.
Rejection The show “Carolyn in the City” was a sitcom about a Minnesota small town girl who made it big in New York as a cartoonist. Her friends often made fun of her background, pulling fake accents and joking about cheese. On one episode, Carolyn was to be honored by her town with a park named after her. She was the most famous person who grew up there and they were planning a celebration.
The humor in the show came from the relationship between Carolyn and her brother. It seemed that whenever Carolyn accomplished something good, her brother was always there with something better. She was jealous that her spotlight seemed to fall on him. She was relieved when she found out he would not be able to attend the ceremony because he had to perform emergency surgery on a patient. Unfortunately for her, he managed to finish and catch a ride into the town. While there he saved someone’s life and once again Carolyn was left standing alone, the spotlight diminished.
When Jesus was about thirty years old, He began His ministry. It began very quietly, with a miracle at a wedding. Few people were even aware that something incredible happened. Jesus performed other miracles; enough that word was starting to get around. He went back to Galilee for a visit and taught in their synagogues.
Read Luke 4:16-23
The people were amazed and pleased that their son Jesus of Nazareth spoke in this way. They were seeing the fulfillment of prophecy. They wanted Jesus to give them healing and renewal. However, Jesus answered with a statement that brought anger to the people. He told them that He would be rejected like the other prophets. Like in the story from “Carolyn in the City”, the people were looking for something different than what Jesus had to offer, something they thought was better.
Jesus told of two miracles performed by Elijah, when he fed the widow of Zarephath and cleansed the leper, Naaman of Syria. God’s provision and healing through Elijah came to Gentiles. His own people rejected him because they did not want to hear his preaching. Jesus told the people of Nazareth that they would also reject his teaching. Jesus was showing the people that if they rejected Him, He would be sent to the Gentiles just like Elijah. They were so angered by these words that they tried to throw Him over a cliff, but His time had not yet come to die.
Jesus came for those who would hear His message and believe. Many still reject Him today because they are looking for something different in a Savior. They want someone to provide for their needs and protect them from their enemies. But God does not confine His love to a select few. His mercy and redemption is given for all who hear. Thanks be to God.
Mother Mary was Jesus’ mother. God blessed her with the special calling to care for the child who would be the Savior of the world. She held the wonderful events surrounding the birth and childhood of her son close to her. She knew that God blessed her and that her son was special.
But she was a mother. Even as our children grow and mature, we still worry and do whatever we can to take care of them. There comes a time when we have to let our children go it on their own, but we never let go completely. Mothers advise their children about marriage and career. They pray for their children and watch their lives. When a mother sees something her child is doing, even as an adult, that could cause harm, she is likely to step in and share her concerns.
As Jesus’ ministry began to grow, many people followed Him from town to town so that they could see His miracles and hear His preaching. There were some who were with Him all the time – the twelve disciples and some women whom He’d cured. These women helped support the ministry financially. The crowds that gathered were at times overwhelming. Mark’s version of this story tells us that Jesus’ mother and brothers came to take charge of Him, the take Him away from the crowds because they thought He was out of His mind. Others said He was possessed. (Mark 3:20-22)
Read Luke 8:19-21
Jesus was not being disrespectful to His earthly family by this remark. At the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, we see that Jesus loved His mother deeply. In those final moments, Mary was still standing near her son, weeping for His life. She was His mother, and for His entire life she bore the special burden of knowing that He would serve the Lord God Almighty in a most incredible way. At the cross, Jesus showed His special love for Mary. He united John the beloved disciple with His mother, so that they could love one another as mother and son. In those final moments, Jesus ensured the care of the woman who treasured His life and cared for Him.
For those who loved Jesus and knew Him from childhood, such His mother, the crowds that followed His ministry seemed overwhelming. They cared about Him and did not want Him to be harmed. When Jesus spoke those words, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice,” He was not showing them disrespect. He was simply telling the crowds how they could be part of the heavenly family of God. Mary’s motherly love meant that at times she wanted to protect Him from the purpose for which He was borne into this world. But her love for God was stronger and she stood by her son, the Son of God, to the very end.
Voice One of the most difficult things a young mother must overcome is learning to identify the needs of her child. An infant is unable to say, “Mom, I’m hungry” or “Mommy, I’m wet.” A child’s voice is nothing but noises – giggles, coos and cries. So, in the early days of the child’s life, a mother must test the needs to discover the meaning of each noise. After awhile, the mother can distinguish a cry of hunger from a call for sleep or attention. As a child grows, he or she learns to use words and can share his or her needs in a voice that can be understood.
We communicate with one another through our voices. In speech and song we can share our hopes and desires, our joys and praises. The voice is more than just the words; our voices convey emotions. The noises children make help us to know if they are happy, sad or in pain. As we grow older, words help define those emotions. We learn to recognize each other’s voices, putting together both word and tone so that we will understand each other.
God has a voice. The first sentence in the Gospel according to St. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” As we look back at the beginning, we see that indeed God existed as Spirit hovering over the formless and empty earth. The first manifestation of His presence was His voice. “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” (Genesis 1:3) God spoke and there was light. It was through His voice that we know His existence. God continued to use His voice as He created the heavens and earth and all that lives on the earth. He then spoke to men, first to Adam and Eve, then to the patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets. And He spoke through men, by putting His voice in their mouths. It was not just words that He spoke to the world He created, but also emotion. He conveyed His own hopes and desires, joys and praises.
The Word we see in the writings of John is then made flesh in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. He gave up the glory of heaven to take upon the flesh of man and reconcile us with our Father. When He was about thirty years old, John the Baptist was baptizing in the River Jordan for the forgiveness of sins.
Read Matthew 3:11-17
At His baptism, Jesus Christ – the Word made flesh – switched places with the creation. The purpose of His life in flesh was to take on the sin of the world and destroy it forever, making it possible for men to once again live in harmony with God and one another. The Voice of God spoke redemption into the world by sending Christ Jesus our Lord to die on the cross. Though He was without sin, He was buried in the waters of baptism to stand in our place, taking on our own filthy rags of self-righteousness while giving us His own.
On that day, the Spirit of God once again hovered over the formless and empty earth His creation had become, His voice spoke and there was Light. At that moment, Jesus Christ was anointed with the power to change the world, to bring us back into true communication with our Father. We can hear the Voice of God today, through Jesus Christ our Lord as He continues to speak into creation in love. Thanks be to God.
Teflon In 1938, Roy Plunkett was researching refrigerator gases when he had trouble with his equipment. Rather than disposing of the cylinder, he cut it open and discovered there was a Fluorocarbon resin inside. Tetrafluoroethylene is a chain of carbon atoms surrounded by fluorine atoms. The bond they make is extremely strong, slippery and inert to almost every chemical. This discovery was used to make machine parts during World War II, but was eventually used for more. Teflon was first made into cookware in the 1960’s and today there are Teflon products in every room of our homes and every aspect of our lives.
The process of making Teflon pans includes baking, layer and spraying. This makes the pan strong, but not indestructible. Manufacturers recommendations for care include using mild detergent, non-abrasive sponges and no sharp instruments. If you are too harsh on the surface of the pan, it will scratch and wear down until it no longer provides the non-stick surface. Excessive overheating of the pan can also damage it. Once the pan’s non-stick surface is damaged, it no longer serves its purpose as it was designed to do.
Gentleness is advantageous when dealing with Teflon as well as with people. One of the proverbs says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The word gentle is defined as “considerate or kindly; not harsh, severe or violent.” Too often in our dealings with people, we react with words and actions that are abrasive. In our attempt to bring correction, we do so with harshness that leads to anger. Charles Spurgeon once said, “John Knox did much, but he might perhaps have done more if he had had a little love. [Martin] Luther was a conqueror – peace to his ashes, and honor to his name! – still, we who look upon him at a distance, think that if he had sometimes mixed a little mildness with it… he might have done more good than he did.”
The epistles of Paul mention repeatedly that we should approach each other in gentleness and love. In this way we will be Christ-like, sharing the truth in a manner by which others may hear and be transformed by the saving love of our Lord Jesus. When Jesus dealt with sin, He did so with love and compassion, not force or violence.
Read Isaiah 42:1-4
Jesus presented His message with gentleness and love. He did not bring further hurt to those who were wounded, but rather spoke healing into their lives. He did not snuff out the passion that burned in the people, but fanned it with the truth so that it would burn brightly and rightly. He did not force His message on any; He simply spoke the truth and moved on. Those who did not listen to His words suffered the consequences of their rejection.
Too often we treat our neighbors like we treat our Teflon pans – with sharp edges and harsh sponges. The Teflon pans are ruined by our harsh actions. So, too, people are destroyed by our lack of gentleness when sharing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus brought justice with gentleness. May He give us the ability to do the same. Thanks be to God.
Moderation Many of us are just now recovering from the overindulgence of the Christmas season. The parties and family gatherings are great fun, but we tend to overdo when it comes to partaking of the Christmas joy. We eat too many cookies, drink too much eggnog and get too little rest. The effects of such activities are far reaching – weight gain, exhaustion and susceptibility to colds and flu. It often takes weeks to recover from just a few days of excess.
All too often we want to jump to the other extreme when we suffer the consequences of our actions. “I’m never going to drink again,” we promise. Or we set out to give up all the things we enjoy over the holidays. The key is not avoidance but moderation. We need to learn to leave a few cookies on the plate or chocolates in the box. We can enjoy a glass of wine at dinner without drinking the entire bottle. Even now, after the fact, some people are going overboard with their recovery effort and risking injury with harsh physical regimens.
We’ve heard it said, “Everything in moderation.” This can be a valuable piece of advice, although there are some things that we should continue to do in excess. Robert Benigni is quoted as saying; “It’s a sign of mediocrity when you demonstrate gratitude with moderation.” Thanksgiving is something that we should do continually. We should offer thanks to all who impact our lives in some way. But most of all, we should be living in praise for the One who has given us the greatest gift of all, His Son our Lord Jesus. Our lives should be filled with songs of thanksgiving for all He has done – the life He has given us as His creation, the new life we have in Jesus Christ. We should not moderate our praise or withhold our joy for any reason.
Read Philippians 4:4-7
When we live in thanksgiving to God for His love, mercy and gifts, we have no room to worry about the things of this world. When praise fills our hearts, temptation and desires flee. When we do not moderate our rejoicing in the Lord, we no longer need to overindulge in the things that feed our flesh. He gives us the strength to enjoy this life and the wonderful things of this world without giving in to our desire for excess. When we live in thanksgiving to God every moment of every day, we have a peace that fills our hearts and He helps us to enjoy the things of this world in moderation. Thanks be to God.
Chaos I have a craft closet. This closet is filled with all sorts of supplies for crafts as well as other miscellaneous bits and pieces. The craft closet is a catchall, a place where we put anything that has no specific place to be kept. In the year since we moved into this home, this closet has become a chaotic mess. Over the months the bits and pieces have just been stuffed into any empty spot. Bottles of paint hang on the edge of shelves, cloth and ribbon is scrunched in corners, and instruction books are squeezed between boxes.
I know I need to clean this closet, to organize the materials that are there. I have found it difficult to locate the things I need when I need them. I have had to purchase new supplies to accomplish a project, only to discover the old supplies on my next rummage through the mess. It will be a daunting task, one that must be accomplished but I will continue to procrastinate. The sheer volume of stuff will make organization difficult without some way to store the materials neatly. As it is, the closet is filled with boxes of every size and shape. When the materials are organized in these boxes, the closet will still look disheveled.
So, I put off the job because I don’t see how I can accomplish the work. The problem with this procrastination is that I have a wrong sense of the task at hand. I think that I’m supposed to make the closet look neat and pretty, but really the whole purpose would be to organize the materials. It isn’t a display case of valuable antiques; it is a storage closet. I need to make it accessible so that I can find what I need when I need it. In the long run, it will save me money and time.
So often we avoid doing something because we do not see how we could possibly accomplish the task. Often our procrastination is due to our lack of understanding the task at hand, particularly when it comes to our Christian witness.
Read Isaiah 49:1-6
In this verse from Isaiah we see Israel speaking as an individual as well as a nation. She has been promised since the days of Abraham that she will be a blessing to the world, the source through which God will reveal Himself. She feels that her work has been futile; she is exhausted from working hard for naught. However, she was working for the wrong outcome.
It would be very easy for me to go out and buy a bunch of expensive storage boxes to make the closet look like a showplace, but it wouldn’t necessarily accomplish the task of making the closet organized. It would put a financial strain on my family and would cause even more work in the long run. Israel tried to make the world look clean and pretty – righteous – by forcing a burden of laws on the people. When they could not obey, she thought that she had failed. The LORD assured her through the prophet Isaiah that her purpose was not to make the Jews righteous, but that she was to be a light to the world. The light they were to shine is the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ and the righteousness found in Him. The same is true of us. Our calling is not to bring righteousness to the people, but to shine the light of righteousness into their lives that they too may see, believe and follow. We are a light to the lost, and with God’s help we bring His salvation into the chaotic lives of those who need to hear. Thanks be to God.
Power Point I’m working on a lecture on the Roman Empire in the British Isles to share with Vicki’s Social Studies class at school. I want to use pictures from our adventures around England, along with maps and other types of graphics, so I’m creating a Power Point presentation. Unfortunately, after working for several hours last night, I discovered that my laptop contains a very old version of Power Point and it will not run the presentation I created on a more current version. This is often true of computer programs. Even though they are basically the same thing, updated versions often add new features and files that are necessary to run the presentation.
As Christians we are given a new life in our Lord Jesus Christ. With this new life comes a new covenant, new hope, new peace and new purpose. In Jesus Christ the Old Covenant was fulfilled, the Law was brought into its fullness and we were reconciled to God through the blood of the true Lamb. The old programs no longer run under the new covenant.
Read Mark 2:21-22
Immediately before this comment from Jesus, some people asked why Jesus’ disciples were not fasting like the disciples who followed John and the Pharisees. The people were expecting the followers of someone from God to follow all the usual rules and patterns. When Jesus’ friends did not fast as was required by the law, the people wondered why. Jesus told them that we don’t add new to the old, but rather make everything new. Jesus did not come to add more to the old law, He came to fulfill it and give us another.
In the book of John Jesus gives a new command: Love one another. The world will know us if we love one another as He has loved us. Too often, we preach and teach the ways of men, continuing in the old ways, burdening people with the impossible. The people who asked Jesus about fasting were expecting His disciples to look like all the others. Jesus told them that they would be different, a new creation.
The Power point presentation will not work under the old program, and neither will our old ways work under the New Covenant. We are to love first, as Jesus loved, and in love everything will be made new. Jesus died to bring new life to the world. That won’t happen when we continue in the old ways; it may even bring ruin to those who hear. As you witness to the world about your Lord Jesus Christ, do so always in love, for when you love you are like Him. Thanks be to God.
Hannah There was a certain man named Elkanah who had two wives. Peninnah had children but Hannah was barren. Elkanah traveled regularly to the tabernacle to sacrifice and worship the LORD as was required by law. Each time, he gave his wife Peninnah and her children a portion of the meat, but to Hannah he gave her a double portion. Peninnah was jealous of Elkanah’s love for Hannah and provoked her with taunts about her barrenness. The visits to the tabernacle were most difficult for Hannah because the words of her enemy reminded her that the LORD did not bless her with children. She grieved and wept so much she would not eat. In her desperation, she went before the LORD and vowed that if He blessed her with a son, she would give him to the LORD for all the days of his life.
She continued to pray to the LORD, but her voice was without sound despite the movement of her lips. Eli the priest thought she was drunk on wine and commanded her to give up her wine. She told Eli she was not drunk but was pouring out her soul to the LORD. Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” At that moment she was no longer downcast. She ate, worshipped the LORD. When they returned home, Elkanah lay with his wife and she became pregnant with a child.
Hannah did not forget the vow she made before the LORD. In time, when he was weaned, she returned with the proper sacrifice and presented her son, Samuel, to Eli. Most men were not presented to serve the Lord until later in life, and for only a time. Hannah promised that Samuel would serve the LORD his whole life, so took him when he was just a child.
How difficult it must have been for Hannah to give up her child in such a way. She longed for that boy, so much so that she wept and fasted in grief. But Hannah did not hesitate when it came to give her child to her LORD. She rejoiced, not because she bore a child, but because God answered her prayer.
Read 1 Samuel 2:1-2
Hannah grieved her lack of children but it was more than just because she had an earthly desire to be a mother. Barrenness was a sign that God had abandoned a woman. Hannah grieved because she lacked the love of God, not the experience she was missing in motherhood. Elkanah tried to make Hannah feel loved, but it was never enough. When Eli told her to go in peace her prayer would be answered, Hannah knew she was loved. When the child was born, she easily gave him back to the LORD her God who loved her. When she rejoiced, it was because God delivered her from the disgrace and put her in a position of honor – as one who was loved by God.
Our world today recognizes other blessings as signs of God’s love, but our situation is the same as Hannah. Those who see the lack of our blessings as signs of God’s abandonment taunt us. Others try to help us fill the void with other types of love. But God does not show His love through the things of this world, He showed His love in our Lord Jesus Christ. Today, He is the sign we look to – not health, wealth or children. Let us sing today in praise and thanksgiving to Rock who answers our prayers with the deliverance that comes from salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Desire An ancient story is told of a stonecutter who was very poor. He was skilled at his job, but was not satisfied with his lot in life. One day a king arrived in his village. When the stonecutter saw the power and glory of this king, he wished he could have the same. His wish was heard in heaven and he was immediately changed into a great king. He had everything the king had, but it was not enough.
The heat of summer was harsh on his people and he realized that as a king he had no power against the creation. He wished he was as powerful as the sun and immediately his wish was granted – he became the sun. The stonecutter gloried in his new position; one that he felt for sure was the greatest in the entire universe. He could watch the world go about its business from way up in the heavens. One day a small cloud blocked his rays from the earth and he realized he was not all-powerful. He longed to be a cloud so that he could be so important. Once again his wish was granted. He grew into a mighty cloud and rained upon the earth until it was flooded. The people were awed by the storm and the stonecutter thought surely this was the most powerful thing on earth until he discovered something more powerful.
The massive rocks were unmoved by the raging waters. The stonecutter thought that surely there is nothing more powerful than a rock to stand against the forces of nature. Until one day, a stonecutter approached with his tools and began to chisel at the rock. He realized that there was nothing better than to be what he was created to be, a humble stonecutter. The heavens heard this final cry and he was restored to his original life. From that day forth, he was content.
We all have wishes, dreams and wants. We want more for our lives. We spend so much time seeking after the pleasures of life that we miss out on the joys that come with the life God has given to us. No one is immune to this quest, not even those we deem the richest and most powerful. The book of Ecclesiastes was most likely written by King Solomon, to whom God granted great wealth and fame. Even to him, everything was meaningless.
Read Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
Solomon was granted every good thing because he asked God for wisdom. Wisdom is more than book knowledge about the ways of this world. True wisdom is recognizing our place in the kingdom of God and living accordingly. The stonecutter realized that nothing in creation is greater than anything else. He discovered that contentment is found in being himself. Solomon realized that the quest for pleasure was meaningless. At the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes contentment comes from living in loving reverence for our Creator.
Jesus said, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” In today’s world it seems many are seeking God’s kingdom so that they will be given their heart’s desire. What gets lost in this type of faith is that when we find God’s kingdom, the desire of our hearts is no longer the lusts of this world. Rather, our hearts are filled with the pure desire that comes from life in Christ – to fulfill our purpose and glorify Him in our lives. Thanks be to God.
Identity There are things about our physical bodies that make us unique. There are no two people in the world exactly the same. Identical twins come closest, but even then certain character traits develop that make them individuals separate from the other. At times it is hard, but the mother of twins eventually learns to distinguish between her children. Those differences may seem insignificant to most people, but they still make each person unique.
We recognize people by their unique characteristics. If you want to identify someone in a crowd, you look for the thing that makes them different. When we are in a room full of strangers it is much easier to find someone when we ask, “Have you seen someone with…” and describe their hair color or body type rather than asking by name. Speech patterns and language usage also makes us unique. When we answer the phone, we know immediately our closest family members and friends just by hearing their voice.
It isn’t always easy to recognize the caller. On an episode of the show “Seinfeld,” Elaine was acquainted with a married couple whose voices were very similar. She often mistook the man for the woman when calling to chat. This led to a problem when she said something to the husband that he should not have heard causing relationship problems for the couple. I have several friends who like to call and say, “Do you know who this is?” Since I do not talk to them very often on the telephone, it takes a few sentences to figure it out. It is a game I don’t really like to play because it can be embarrassing to call them by the wrong name.
Physical attributes are our normal way of identifying a person. Unfortunately it is impossible for us to identify Jesus in this way. The scriptures are silent about his appearance and we have no photographs from His life to use. Over the millennia many people have tried to capture Him in paint or sculpture but each image is different. We see Jesus from our own life perspective, from our own biases and culture. This was an intentional act of God, because we must see beyond the physical characteristics to know who Jesus really is.
Read Colossians 1:15-20
No one had ever seen God, but in Christ Jesus we can see the fullness of God. During His ministry, people began to identify Him in many ways. Some said he was John the Baptist, others said Elijah, and still others said he was Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Some people thought He was a teacher, others a priest and others thought He was a troublemaker. One day Jesus asked Simon Peter, “But what about you? Who you say I am?” Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus asks us the same thing today. We cannot identify Jesus by His looks, but we can identify Him. Who is Jesus to you? Is He a prophet or a teacher as many claim? Or is He the Christ, who was before all creation and through whom all things came to be? We can identify Jesus by His Word. Peter’s confession came not by His own power or understanding, but by the power of God. Who do you say Jesus is? He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Amen.
Play date Wednesday afternoon Zachary is going to a friend’s house to play after school. Patrick’s dad is going to pick them both up from school so that they can spend time together. This play date has been in the planning stages for several weeks. When we finally set up definite plans, Zachary began to count down the days. Each morning he wakes up and reports how many days are left until this special event.
When Zack was younger, we didn’t tell him about these special plans until it was very close because he was very impatient. He didn’t understand the concept of time, so every day he wondered if today was the day. There were times when his impatience led to negative behavior, like tears because he wanted it immediately. Even now he is still somewhat impatient, but at least he better understands that it will happen on Wednesday and not before we get to that day. He is excited and can’t wait, but he is waiting.
It is difficult to wait for the fulfillment of a promise. Our Lord God Almighty has made many promises since the beginning of time. The Israelites were not always patient as they waited for God to fulfill those promises. Their impatience led to behavior that went against God’s word – turning to idols and other nations for their protection, reliance on the rules of men rather than the Word of God. The Psalms are filled with cries to God, “When Lord?”
Our Father fulfilled those promises in our Lord Jesus Christ who gave us even greater promises. We know from His promises that we will one day see clearly the things of faith that are in this life clouded by our sin. We know by His word that He will return in glory, that we will see peace among nations and our tears will flow no more. We are anxious for this to be fulfilled and it is difficult for us to wait. We must wait, however, until the fullness of time. Meanwhile, by His power and strength we live in this world in expectation for the day to come.
Read 2 Peter 1:3-11
Zachary is anxious about his play date, but he has learned it is best to wait patiently for the day. He no longer turns to negative behavior to get what he wants because he understands that the day has not arrived. Too often in our walk with Christ we turn away from the ways of God – relying on the ways of men rather than waiting patiently on the Lord. As we wait the Day of our Lord’s coming in glory, let us live as God has called and gifted us to live – in goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. Thanks be to God for giving us the things we need in increasing measure so that we can be productive while we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises to us.
Dollhouse John Bisango, a Houston pastor and author of the book “The Power of Positive Praying,” tells of a time about his daughter and her faith. He was busy reading a book, not paying attention to anything else that was happening. His daughter asked if he would build her a dollhouse. He agreed and went back to his reading. Melodye Jan immediately began taking armfuls of playthings to the yard, laying them in a large pile. John asked his wife what Melodye Jan was doing. She replied, “Oh, you promised to build her a dollhouse and she believes you. She’s getting ready for it.” John later said, “I threw aside that book, raced to the lumber yard for supplies, and quickly built that little girl a dollhouse. Now why did I respond? Because I wanted to? No. Because she deserved it? No. Her daddy had given his word, and she believed it and acted upon it. When I saw her faith, nothing could keep me from carrying out my word.”
Melodye Jan stepped out in the faith that her daddy would keep his promise. In the scripture used yesterday, Peter tells us that God has given us everything we need to live as we are called to live. He reveals Himself to us, through our Lord Jesus Christ and His great and precious promises. He has given His word and through Him we may participate in His life in faith. Our faith bears fruit as the Gospel is shared with the world through our lives.
Read Colossians 1:3-6
Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:5-7 that to be fruitful we should, “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” Over the next seven days, we will look at these Christian virtues and how they relate to our lives of living faith so that we will lead productive, fruitful lives while we wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Melodye Jan did not sit around and bug her dad about the dollhouse; she stepped out in faith. The root of her action was her faith in her daddy. So too, the root of our Christian life – a productive life in which we share the gospel and bear fruit for the glory of God – is faith in our Father’s promises. God’s Word is the truth. In it we have the hope of the fulfillment to come. Let us step out in the faith and love that comes from knowing the God will keep His promises. Thanks be to God.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-7
Wine. I really don’t know much about wine. I do know that it is important to follow the proper procedures when making the wine, caring for the ingredients from beginning to end of the process. Even in storage, the bottle must be handled with care or the wine can go bad. Temperature, light and improper storage can wreak havoc on what was once a fine wine.
The characters of Frasier and Niles Crane on the popular television show called “Frasier” are experts in the field. They belong to a wine club and are constantly showing off their knowledge of the best wines. In an episode I watched recently, Frasier’s dad was given an old bottle of wine. Frasier recognized the bottle as one of the finest wines in the world. The bottle was covered with dust but Frasier was excited to have such a fine wine in his possession. The bottle was a focus of attention throughout the show as each person gave it to someone they thought was more deserving of such a fine vintage. Finally, at the end of the show, they opened the bottle so that they could drink it together, and discovered it had gone bad. It tasted like bad vinegar. Improper storage, perhaps excessive heat, had turned the fine wine into something bad.
Faith, the root of our Christian life, is like a fine wine created by a master. If it is uncared for, it could turn bad, leaving a sour taste in the lives of those who drink from it. Peter tells us to add goodness to our faith. Goodness is virtue in action. Our Lord has given us the gift of faith so that we will live and walk in His life in this world while we wait for His return. Until that day, we should live a life of goodness.
Read Ephesians 5:8-14
Just as a bottle of wine that has gone bad can leave a sour taste in a mouth, so too can such faith leave a negative impression on those who see our lives. Christians are certainly not perfect, we are still human but we are forgiven. The world watches our every move to see if the light of Christ shines in our life. If we continue to live in the darkness of sin and death, doing the things that are against the Word of God, then our faith will no longer be fruitful. Instead, when we live that life of goodness that is found in Christ, then the world sees His light. In that light, the darkness is revealed and the lost recognize their own need for a Savior. The character of God is revealed in our lives and the world turns to Him for redemption. This is the fruit that comes from adding goodness to our faith. Thanks be to God.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-7
Presentation Vicki’s Social Studies class is beginning a unit on the Roman Empire. During many of our adventures in England we ran into Roman history – villas, forts, Hadrian’s Wall, the baths. We saw mosaics, statues and the ruins of temples. Over the years we collected photographs of these places as well as informational booklets that gave the history and other information. I volunteered to share some of these experiences with Vicki’s class.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been hard at work creating a Power Point presentation with pictures and maps. I gathered as many facts as possible to go with the pictures so that I could fill an hour or so of class time. I planned on talking about the history, military life, environment and technology. I gathered all my pictures, coins and postcards into an album and organized my guidebooks. I was ready.
The presentation was yesterday. I arrived at the school an hour early, to ensure everything was ready. The machine to project the Power Point presentation was nowhere to be found. We called around and found one at another school. The technology specialist from that school brought it over and tried to hook it up. Meanwhile, I began to lecture. It never did work, so I handed passed the album pages around the class so they could still see some of the sites. If my lecture had been dependent on the presentation, it would have been an absolute failure. However, I had enough knowledge of the material that I could speak without the pictures. The kids listened and perhaps learned a thing or two.
Peter writes that we should add knowledge to our faith and goodness. The world will see God’s light through our actions, but we also need to be able to speak intelligently about what we believe. In his first letter, Peter writes, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” It takes commitment to Bible reading and study, as well as prayer, to gain the knowledge of scriptures necessary to be able to share our faith with the world.
We also need knowledge of God so that we will know God’s will for our lives. We have many decisions to make in this life – where to go to school, what career, who to marry, where to live. As Christians, those decisions are made even harder because God becomes a factor in the process. How can we use our gifts to the glory of God? The life that glorifies God is one that is lived in obedience. We gain knowledge of the character of God through the scriptures and prayer, and in that knowledge we can discern His will.
Read Colossians 1:9-14
Faith is the foundation of our life in Christ Jesus, but the world sees God through goodness – our faith in action. Knowledge is not simply a biblical knowledge of the facts – many people have book knowledge about God – but it is an understanding of how God would have it apply to our lives. Knowledge shows maturity of faith and when knowledge is added to our faith and goodness, we understand God’s Will and can intelligently share it with the world.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-7
Hypochondriac A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. One of the common problems that medical students face is the belief that they are suffering from whatever disease they are studying. As they read the books and journals that describe the symptoms, they feel those things happening in their own bodies. This happens in both doctors and nurses, as well as with those specializing in psychiatric and all areas of physical medicine. This can be a frightening experience as the student begins to think he or she is dying from every disease under the sun. A little knowledge brings fear.
A little knowledge is also dangerous when it is in the hands of those who have a tendency toward negative behavior. A gossip with a little information about someone will quickly spread that information, often adding embellishments that make the story even worse than it really is. Such gossip can bring irreparable harm to a person’s life and reputation. Someone who is violent by nature would be even more dangerous if he or she were given information on the easiest way to kill or build a bomb. Someone who is greedy could bring financial disaster to a company if they have the right information for a buy out.
Another way a little knowledge can be dangerous is that it gives the person a sense of superiority. This is the greatest danger a Christian faces when seeking knowledge of God. We spend time studying the scriptures, learning the Greek and Hebrew, understanding the history of the people and places. If we do not apply the knowledge we gain to our Christian lives of faith and goodness, we become haughty and arrogant, putting down others for their lack of knowledge. Rather than shining the light of Christ, we become argumentative and rude.
This is why Peter writes that we should add to our knowledge self-control. There are appropriate ways to share our knowledge of Christ with others.
Read 2 Timothy 2:14-16
A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing in the hands of someone who is not able to handle it properly. A student hypochondriac can be an annoyance to her teacher. A gossip can damage a person’s life. A violent man can bring physical harm with the right instructions. A Christian can cause willful rejection of God by his or her improper use of His Word. Our knowledge must be built on our God-given faith and the goodness that comes from life in Him. When we have that knowledge, we must practice self-control so that we will correctly handle the word of truth and shine the light that is Christ Jesus to all who hear.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-7
Scarface There is an ancient Blackfoot Indian story about a young warrior named Scarface. He came upon this name because he was horribly disfigured in a hunt. He was also a poor orphan – little going for him in this life. The chief’s daughter was beautiful and every warrior in the village desired her to be his wife, but she turned them all down. One day Scarface looked at her with such love, but another warrior laughed. “She rejected the handsome men, why would she have you?” Scarface approached the princess and asked her for her hand in marriage.
The princess looked at him with such love, despite his disfigurement, but still turned him down. “I have vowed to the sun god to not marry. If he will release me from my vow, I will marry you.” Scarface set out to talk to the sun god. Along the way he ran into difficulties – none of the animals along the journey were able to give directions. He faced tests of honesty, strength and endurance. Finally he found the home of the gods. The sun god was not present, but until he arrived the other gods cared for him. His strength was renewed after his long journey. During his stay he saved the life of the sun god’s son, and was granted any wish.
Scarface asked the sun god to release the princess from her vow. As a sign of his agreement, the sun god transformed Scarface into a handsome, unblemished man. The gods provided him with gifts and the rich clothing of an Indian chief. He returned home and the princess knew immediately he had accomplished his mission. They married that day and lived happily for many years. Scarface persisted in the midst of trouble.
We will face similar troubles in our Christian walk. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, and they will do whatever they can to discredit, discourage and destroy our faith. Goodness is seen as stupidity, knowledge of God is regarded as idiocy and self-control is seen as weakness. However, Peter tells us to persevere.
Read 1 Timothy 4:9-16
Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him to persevere despite the fact that some of the members in his congregation were putting him down. We, too, are called to persevere in using our gifts to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, no matter what circumstances may stand in our way. Like Scarface, we will have some people telling us that we are not worthy, others who cannot give us direction and others who will test our commitment to the virtues we uphold. Scarface persevered – in faith, goodness, knowledge and self-control.
As we wait expectantly for the Day of our Lord, let us continue undaunted in the faith our Lord has given us, walking in goodness, knowledge and self-control despite the circumstances of this world that seek to stop our journey. We do all this by the power and for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to glorify Him with our lives of faith.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-7
Cleanliness The Romans were obsessive about their bodies. Bathing was a ritual that took hours and they often did it more than once a day. A barbarian chieftain once asked one of the Roman emperors with distain why he bathed once a day. The emperor answered, “Forgive me for my unclean state, I no longer have time to bathe twice a day.” The Romans used public baths for their hygiene rituals. Bathing was about more than just getting clean. It was a holy ritual, a time of fellowship. The baths were used as a place to do networking and make business deals. Some of the Roman baths were even places of healing.
The people sat in a series of increasingly hotter rooms that were like saunas. After each room, a servant used a special tool to scrape their bodies to remove the dirt that had sweated out of their pores. Finally they closed the pores by plunging into a cold bath. Many of the bathing complexes included exercise rooms and a great bath for swimming. It was a place of total body care – physical, emotional and spiritual. To them, cleanliness was next to godliness. Their body was their temple and this long ritual helped them to keep their temple holy.
Peter writes that we should make every effort to add godliness to this series of Christian virtues. Godliness, a good and holy life, is not something we can strive to accomplish. It naturally occurs when we follow Peter’s suggestions for faithful living. This life of faith is Christ-centered as we no longer strive to do the things that will be to our benefit, but rather we humbly submit to doing the Lord’s will.
Read 1 Timothy 2:1-7
We long for the day our Lord will return in glory, to completely cleanse us of the things in this life that still leave us feeling dirty. Until that day, He has given us all we need to live the life of faith He is calling us to live. By His power, for His glory, our lives of goodness, knowledge, self-control and perseverance will manifest into godliness – shining as a light into the world so that all men will see the truth of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, the Roman Emperor Nero was in power. He despised the Christians because they refused to follow the Roman ways. He spent hours a day cleansing his body but his spirit remained contaminated by the ways of his world. Paul reminds Timothy to pray for everyone, including those who were persecuting the Christians. Prayer does miraculous things – it changes people. The greatest change comes in the lives of those who pray, because it is in conversation with God that we true peace in the midst of our troubles. The glory of God is manifested in that peace and there we find the strength to persevere, control our actions, gain knowledge of God and do the wonderful things we are called to do in faith. Thanks be to God.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-7
Rescue In the days and weeks that followed the attack on the World Trade Center in New York, stories began circulating of extraordinary acts of kindness. Every day heroes went out of their way to encourage, protect and rescue fellow victims from the destruction that ensued. There was a man who used his own body to cover an injured woman from flying debris. A doctor from the other side of the city rode his bike into the mess to help as he could. Co-workers took care of one another as they made their way out of the buildings and danger zone.
In one story, there were several rescue workers helping an elderly, injured woman escape one of the towers. It was difficult for her to climb the stairs and finally around the eighth floor she gave up. She needed to rest just a moment. She told them to go on without her, but they refused. They would not leave her alone in the dark stairwell. Suddenly, the tower collapsed around them, crushing the floors below and above. But the rescue party and the woman were safe.
Under normal circumstances, most people would have been too frightened too stay or would have become frustrated by the woman’s inability to move on. However, those rescue workers treated her with patience and lovingkindness. The party was eventually rescued and those victims are counted among the many survivors who got through the terrible incident of September 11 with help of fellow Americans. We were all brothers and sisters that day, willing to do whatever was necessary to save lives.
It is unfortunate that it took such an incredible disaster for us to see the miraculous effect of brotherly kindness in the world. If more people would treat their neighbors with brotherly kindness every day, the world would be a much kinder and gentler place. Peter writes that we should add brotherly kindness to our lives of growing faith in Christ Jesus and hope for His promises. For a Christian, brotherly kindness is far more than simply doing nice things. We are to be in deep, loving relationships with our brethren where Christ shines.
Read 1 Peter 4:7-11
As we’ve walked through these wise words from Peter, it has seemed almost as if we are moving step by step into perfection. However, these steps happen simultaneously as we grow in faith. Brotherly kindness does not wait until we are perfect in the other virtues. In this life, in our bodies, we will not reach perfect goodness, complete knowledge, absolute self-control, utter persistence or true godliness. The effects of sin still wage in our flesh. However, through Christ we grow toward that perfection as we live in fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Brotherly kindness is not a step in the journey, it is how our relationships appear when we live and grow in the faith that God has given us as we wait for His day of Glory. It includes kind deeds, but it is far more. We are to forgive and serve each other according to the gifts God has given us so that the world will see the Glory of God in our fellowship. Living faith – the goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance and godliness that are manifested in our lives in Christ – glorifies God through the community of believers as we show each other brotherly kindness.
Read 2 Peter 1:5-7
Asparagus The tender tips of asparagus are the best part of the vegetable but they are fragile, particularly those that have been precooked and sealed in cans. They are carefully placed with the tips at the top to protect them during shipping and distribution. The cans should remain upright so that the tips remain intact. However, when it is time to open the cans, it is recommended that you open from the bottom. It seems silly to take such care in processing the asparagus and then turn it over at the last minute to open the can. What an upside down world!
We have spent the last few days looking at these words from Peter telling us that we should make every effort to add to our faith certain Christian virtues. It has seemed odd that Peter added love at the end of this list. After all, our whole ability to be able to perform goodness, seek knowledge, practice self-control, persevere, achieve godliness and live in a fellowship of brotherly kindness is founded on the love that God has for us.
The Gospel message in its simplest form is known the world over from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It is upon this Gospel message that our faith is built – God’s love for us was so great that He sacrificed His own Son so that we would have eternal life. We live today in this world anxiously waiting for the day when that promise will be complete as Christ returns in glory. John wrote those beloved words of Gospel truth so that we would hear and the seed of faith would be planted in our hearts. He expounded on the notion of love in his first letter. The love we have, the love we share, comes from God Himself and if we do not love we do not know God.
Read 1 John 4:7-12
The tips of the asparagus are the best part but they are very fragile, so great care is taken to protect them from harm. Opening the can at the bottom is actually the best way to preserve the tender tips. The stalks are laid in the pan bottom first, so that they will not be broken by the impact.
So, too, the love we share is the best part of living in Christ, but our minds are filled with foolish notions of what love really is. This love Peter calls for is not some sort of puppy love or romantic love. It isn’t even the love that a mother has for a child or a husband for a wife. This is a deeper love, a sacrificial love. It is fragile in our hands because we add to our love our own ideas about goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness and brotherly kindness. Peter ends the list of virtues with love but begins it with faith, because the foundation of our faith is God’s love. The living faith that the world sees in our lives will grow daily as we walk in the love of God. In this way our love is made complete – faith founded on love, living in love, manifesting in love.
Peter writes, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is my prayer that while we wait the day of our Lord’s return, we will walk in the faith that is founded upon the love of God that we know through Jesus Christ. And I pray that these virtues will manifest in each of us so that those who walk in darkness will see the light and the seed of faith will be planted into their lives. Amen.
Humidity It has been rather warm at our house this week. Yesterday morning we woke to extremely high humidity. When I went outside to wait for Zack’s school bus everything was wet, as if it had rained. The most unusual aspect of this dampness was that it even covered the places that normally stay dry. Our porch and carport were soaking wet, even under the car. This water did not dry – the sun and wind dried the roads and sidewalks but never reached the covered areas.
We expect the carport and porch roof to keep those areas dry. Yet there are times when the dampness reaches everywhere. There are times when we consider our Christian life something like a carport or porch roof – meant to protect us from the cares of this world. After all, we are God’s children, shouldn’t we have some special consideration when it comes to His blessings?
Martin Luther wrote, “The greater God’s gifts and works, the less they are regarded. The highest and most precious treasure we receive of God is, that we can speak, hear, see, etc; but how few acknowledge these as God’s special gifts, much less give God thanks for them. The world highly esteems riches, honor, power, and other things of less value, which soon vanish away, but a blind man, if in his right wits would willingly exchange all these for sight. The reason why corporal gifts of God are so undervalued is that they are so common, that God bestows them also upon brute beasts.” (Table Talk)
The joy of the Christian life is not that we will receive anything special from God or be protected from the effects of the world. No, the joy of the Christian life is found in blessing God – praising His Holy Name and glorifying Him with our lives no matter the circumstances we face.
Read Psalm 113
Whenever it rains or there is a frost, I am so thankful that we have the carport to keep the car dry and clear, but I’m quick to complain when it is wet from rain or humidity. We sing praise to God for the extraordinary blessings that come our way, but we find it difficult to see God in those less than blessed circumstances. Unfortunately, when we praise God only for the good things, then the world sees God only in the extraordinary and they miss the true depth of God’s love for the whole of creation. How much greater a witness we would be if we praised God for the common blessings so that those who are lost in the darkness will see God’s hand in their life.
Our God certainly does miraculous things, but He is far greater than a parlor magician. He is so great He has given His creation life, breath, sight, hearing and voices so that we can praise His name and glorify Him. Let us praise Him today for the common blessings, for the dew that touches all of creation, and rejoice in the love He has for this world. Thanks be to God.
Cadillac Cadillac automobiles have long been a symbol of prosperity. The people who own and drive these luxury cars are generally upper middle class, middle age or retired Americans. This group has always been the marketing target for advertising. They are the ones who can afford to own such a car.
There was an episode of Seinfeld that involved a Cadillac. Jerry had received a windfall of cash and decided to use it to buy his dad a car. He visited his parents in Florida and delivered his gift. His dad was ecstatic. The rest of the people who lived in the retirement park were envious since they had similar dreams. Having a Cadillac meant you had succeeded. It is a status symbol for the older generations. Younger drivers tend toward sportier or family oriented cars.
The times are changing, or people are just getting older. The target market for Cadillacs is no longer the WWII generation. The Baby Boomers have reached middle age. It was recently announced that the company has purchased the rights to use Led Zeppelin’s song “Rock and Roll” for an advertising campaign. The people who grew up listening to Rock music are older – their children are grown and they have successful careers. Until now, they were more likely to purchase something sporty or something practical for their family. But as with all things, time passes and the youth of yesterday are ready to buy such a status symbol.
Over time, our Christian walk goes through stages. We go from infancy to childhood to youthful understanding. Hopefully one day we will reach maturity. With each stage we see changes in our spiritual experiences. We may go through times of curiosity, discouragement, doubt or apathy. There are times of passion, comfort or satisfaction. The Church as a whole also goes through stages – times of new growth, times of stagnancy and times of prosperity. Over the millennia since Jesus Christ first commissioned the disciples to go out and preach the Gospel, churches have changed with the times – just like advertisers – to meet the needs of the current generation. While change may be good, we need to be careful not to turn away from God’s Word as we seek to draw people into fellowship with Christ.
Read Matthew 24:32-35
The Baby Boomers are getting old – and we can see that in the signs of the times. Several decades ago they were tempted by the world by drugs and sexual experimentation. Then they were tempted to overwork and strive for success. Now that they’ve reached that success, they are tempted by the world to show off with status symbols such as Cadillacs.
The scripture for today comes at the end of a monologue by Jesus about the signs of the end times, when He will return. It is a warning to be prepared and has been timely for every generation since He spoke them. Many have interpreted the signs to be in our world today. In such a state, churches are often tempted to change to meet the worldly needs of the people we seek to draw into fellowship. Unfortunately too often it means turning away from God’s Word. We must hold closely to the words of Jesus that even though the things we know in this world will pass, His words will never pass away. His promises are real and we can be certain that He will be faithful. As we live out those promises in fellowship with other Christians in this world, let us always remember it is by His Word that people will be saved and may we always stay true to it. Thanks be to God.