Welcome to the January 2008 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
    You are welcome to use these writings or pass them on. All we ask is that in all things you remember the Author and give Him the glory, and remember this vessel which He has used to bring them to you. Peggy Hoppes


Topics

Gift

Epiphany

Gentleness

Fear

Boundaries

Baptism

Spirit

Value

Thanksgiving

Grace

Community

Impact

Hope

Glory

Leadership

Call

Work

Worship

Opinion

Prophecy

Transfiguration

Knowledge

Good


A WORD FOR TODAY


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




A WORD FOR TODAY, January 2008





January 1, 2008

Scriptures for January 6, 2008, Epiphany: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise-men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him. And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written through the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah, Art in no wise least among the princes of Judah: For out of thee shall come forth a governor, Who shall be shepherd of my people Israel. Then Herod privily called the Wise-men, and learned of them exactly what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search out exactly concerning the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word, that I also may come and worship him. And they, having heard the king, went their way; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Ray walked into his parents’ house very excited with a box full of compact discs. Frank didn’t really care; the gift was meaningless to him because he had no idea what a compact disc could do. Ray asked him where he had put the CD player that he and Debra had given them as a gift for some past holiday. Frank answered, “Ask your mother.” She was downstairs hanging laundry. When Ray asked about the CD player, she pointed to a pile of gifts, electronic equipment and other modern conveniences that had been unopened. There was a microwave, or two, DVD player and an electric carving knife. Ray asked his mother about the pile and she said, “What would we need an electrical knife for?” The gifts were useless.

Ray gave those gifts because they thought the items would make life more enjoyable for his parents. He found the CD player and plugged it in. The compact discs were recordings of his father’s favorite music. His records had been destroyed years ago, the blame fell on Ray. Ray wanted to make up for the incident, so found the compact discs and bought them for Frank. The settings were wrong and when he turned on the music it blared so loud that it scared his parents. In the end, they decided that they did not want Ray to buy them any more presents because everything he chose was wrong.

Ray’s heart was in the right place, but some people are hard to buy presents for. They have everything or want nothing. They are particularly picky about their possessions, insisting on specific brands or colors or items. They make an impossible shopping list or choose to return everything. I heard a story from an acquaintance about a phone call she received from a niece a few days before Christmas. This person had chosen a special gift for the girl and was excited about it. During the call, the girl told her aunt that she wanted only money or gift cards for Christmas. She was very sad because she thought the gift was perfect. “If all we are going to do is trade money back and forth, why do we bother?” And yet, many people have turned to the practice of giving gift cards because it is so much easier than suffering the humiliation of getting the wrong gift.

I still prefer to buy the gift. I agree with my acquaintance that it is foolish to be trading money back and forth. Gifts mean something. They tell a person that you have something you want to share or that you recognize something special about the recipient. Getting a book about roses for a gardener tells them that you know they like to garden and you thought about them when you saw the book. One of my daughter’s favorite gifts from this Christmas is a penguin mp3 speaker. It glows and dances with the music. When I saw it in the store, I know that it would be very special for her. She loves penguins and this speaker is absolutely adorable. The thought was as important as the gift itself.

The wise men took gifts to Baby Jesus that had deep and important meaning to his purpose. These foreign wise men from a nation far away recognized the star in the sky as a sign of the new king. They traveled a dangerous and difficult journey to go worship this child. The three gifts they brought – gold, myrrh and frankincense – foresaw the work of Jesus. The gold was a symbol of royalty and wealth. It had a practical purpose, too. The escape to Egypt would cost a great deal of money and the gold would help with the care and protection of Jesus. The frankincense was a sign of Jesus’ ministry, a foreshadowing of his role as High Priest when He would present the perfect lamb – Himself – to atone for the sins of the world. Myrrh was an expensive ointment that was used only for the anointing of the dead. By giving this gift to Mary and Joseph, they pointed to the day when it would be used for Jesus’ own flesh – not the most appropriate gift to give to a new mother. However, it also indicated the importance of Jesus’ death in the purpose of His life.

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January 2, 2008

Scriptures for January 6, 2008, Epiphany: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee.

On Christmas Eve, our pastor predicted that Christmas would be over for the world by noon on Christmas Day. He was right, though I wouldn’t call that a miraculous prophecy. For most people, the season leading up to Christmas Day is so exhausting that we are tired of it all by the time the day arrives. The radio station that had been playing Christmas carols for more than a month before Christmas was back to regular music by the morning of December 26th. Our neighbors have been slowly, but surely, taking down their Christmas lights. Trees are starting to stack up on the curve waiting for the garbage men to come take them away.

One of the great debates involving Christmas is what is meant by the twelve days of Christmas. Many people think it means the twelve days leading up to Christmas Day. The reality is that Christmas, for the Christian, does not begin until the 25th. Then we begin counting through the twelve days. The final day, Twelfth Night, is January 5th and then on January 6th the Church calendar begins a new season: Epiphany. The days leading up to Christmas is called the season of Advent. Instead of singing Christmas carols until all the packages are unwrapped, we begin singing them when the real gift – the Christ child – is given at the celebration of the Nativity.

Today is the ninth day of Christmas. If we were receiving the gifts found in the famous song, we would have nine lords dancing ladies knocking on our door today. According to legend, the song represents the catechism and was used during a time when it was dangerous to be a Catholic in England. There are those who call this an urban myth because there is no evidence to prove that origin. There is also no evidence to discount it. It is a memorization device for children that might have had religious significance. If it was a catechism for the Twelve Days, today we would be learning about the nine fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

If we were to purchase the gifts from the song in today’s dollars, it would cost us $78,100 to purchase the 364 items (buying each item as repeated in the song.) Can you imagine getting twelve partridges, twenty two turtle doves, thirty French hens, and so on. If someone wanted to spend that much money on one gift for me, I think I would prefer a new car or a diamond necklace. The logistics of having twelve trees, 184 birds, 140 performers and forty cows running around the house is ridiculous.

So, Sunday is Epiphany. This year we have the unusual opportunity to celebrate the coming of the Magi at on a Sunday. There is so much that we can take from our scriptures this week. Isaiah brings up the glory of the Lord which shines to the entire world. The psalmist prays for a righteous king who will rule with justice and mercy. Paul reminds us that the gift is for the whole world and that in the gift we are given a revelation of God that had previously not been revealed. In the Gospel lesson we see the difference between belief and unbelief, between knowledge and faith, between those who are inside and those on the outside, between the powerful and the powerless. Epiphany is that day when we take a deeper look at that which was given at Christmas, seeing more fully the purpose of Christ as the revelation of God in this world.

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January 3, 2008

Scriptures for January 13, 2008, Baptism of our Lord, Epiphany One: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Isaiah 42:1-9 Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. A bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench: he will bring forth justice in truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set justice in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law. Thus saith God Jehovah, he that created the heavens, and stretched them forth; he that spread abroad the earth and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house. I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images. Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.

In 1938, Roy Plunkett was trying to create a new kind of refrigerant, but he had difficulty with his equipment. He discovered that there was a chemical reaction within a storage container that created an entirely new substance. The fluorocarbon resin or 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 substance has been developed into Polytetrafluoroethylene which is better known to us as Teflon © which is used by the DuPont company for many products we use today. Teflon © pans make cooking easier, but Teflon © is also used in apparel, automotive, household, personal care and industrial products. Teflon © can keep clothes from staining, windshields clean, carpets fresh and nails brightly painted.

The discovery was first used for machine parts during World War II, but it continued to be developed. Frenchman Marc Gregoire was using the product on his fishing tackle when his wife begged him to try it on her frying pan which went to become Tefal products. In the United States, Marion A. Trozzolo marketed the first frying pan called “The Happy Pan” after using the substance on scientific utensils in 1961. The product is used extensively by the Space program, and can be found on many products throughout our homes.

Teflon © pans are made using a three layer process. There is a base layer which adheres the substance to the metal, a middle layer which gives it strength and a top layer which makes for ease in cooking and clean up. The process includes baking, layering and spraying. This makes the pan strong, but not indestructible. Manufacturer 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 the purpose for which it was designed. It is important to be gentle with the pans or else they will be ruined.

The same is true 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.

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. Our passage from Isaiah describes the one whom God has chosen to lead His people. Jesus was not expected to be a man with a sword, but with an even more powerful weapon – love. 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.

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January 4, 2008

Scriptures for January 13, 2008, Baptism of our Lord, Epiphany One: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Psalm 29 Ascribe unto Jehovah, O ye sons of the mighty, Ascribe unto Jehovah glory and strength. Ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name; Worship Jehovah in holy array. The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters: The God of glory thundereth, Even Jehovah upon many waters. The voice of Jehovah is powerful; The voice of Jehovah is full of majesty. The voice of Jehovah breaketh the cedars; Yea, Jehovah breaketh in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild-ox. The voice of Jehovah cleaveth the flames of fire. The voice of Jehovah shaketh the wilderness; Jehovah shaketh the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of Jehovah maketh the hinds to calve, And strippeth the forests bare: And in his temple everything saith, Glory. Jehovah sat as King at the Flood; Yea, Jehovah sitteth as King for ever. Jehovah will give strength unto his people; Jehovah will bless his people with peace.

There is a show on one of the cable channels called “The Twister Sisters.” The show follows the work of two women who give “tornado tours.” They take guests on an adventure as they follow storms in the hope of catching a glimpse of a tornado. The Twister Sisters also have some friends who also chase the storms, so we often see the storm from different perspectives as we see it through the eyes of other storm chasers. These teams of storm chasers keep in touch during the storm to help one another find the right spot and stay safe.

I don’t know why I like to watch the show. I think these storm chasers are out of their minds. They pull right up to the storm, park their cars and get out to watch as a tornado forms right in front of them. At times they park so near to the storm center that they put themselves in danger. Of course, the television program gives us the most exciting parts of the chase. I imagine that most of the video is dropped to the cutting room floor because it is so boring. So, we only see the parts that thrill the people and the viewers.

I think what is most amazing is that the guests on these storm chases pay to go along with the Twister Sisters. They choose to do this for their vacation. They choose to put themselves into danger as a way of relaxing and enjoying themselves. The hardest part is when the tornado does real damage. It is heartbreaking to them to see a house, or a town, that has been destroyed. They help if they can and cry along with the victims when they can’t. Some of the storm chasers are scientists who are studying the storms in the hope of understanding what happens. They keep in contact with the National Weather Service – it is often their calls that prompt warnings and watches that help keep us safe.

I don’t need to see a tornado. Thankfully, we have only experienced the fear of that type of storm a few times and it was never really a dangerous situation for us. In Little Rock, a tornado warning came about the time that Victoria and Zack were dropped off by their school bus. The bus driver had to pull over and asked if the children who were still on the bus could stay in our house until the threat passed. A very small tornado briefly touched down about a mile from the house. Late one night in Texas I woke to the sound of fierce winds. When I looked out the window, I saw a child’s plastic pool fly by our house. There were tornado warnings that night but nothing materialized near our home. It is frightening to be in the midst of the storm.

A little fear can be healthy and life-saving. For those who storm chase, it is the fear of the tornado actually catching up with them that keeps them at a safe distance. It is the fear that makes them get in the car and drive away when there is a chance that the tornado will turn on them. It is fear that makes a bus driver take his kids off the bus and into a safe place during the threat. It is fear that puts us in our safe room during a warning so that if a tornado comes, we will get through it. While fear is a healthy and life-saving thing, through our storms we can look to the One who will be with us through it all. God is in control. He is more powerful than the most dangerous tornado. He is stronger than the trees, deeper than the oceans. He can shake the deserts. Through it all, He gives us strength and gives us peace. He deserves our praise.

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January 7, 2008

Scriptures for January 13, 2008, Baptism of our Lord, Epiphany One: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Acts 10:34-43 And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him. The word which he sent unto the children of Israel, preaching good tidings of peace by Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all.) -- that saying ye yourselves know, which was published throughout all Judaea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the country of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom also they slew, hanging him on a tree. Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, not to all the people, but unto witnesses that were chosen before of God, even to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is he who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. To him bear all the prophets witness, that through his name every one that believeth on him shall receive remission of sins.

In the movie “Pretty Woman” Julia Roberts starred as a prostitute named Vivian who found herself in the most extraordinary circumstance. The ‘john’ she picked up was an extremely wealthy business man in town on business. He decided to hire her to be his companion for the week. He promised her a large salary and all the clothes she would need to appear respectable at the business and social events they would attend. He gave her a wad of cash and she went to Rodeo Drive in Hollywood to find the perfect clothes to wear. She had the money to buy any dress she desired but she didn’t belong in the stores – it was obvious by the clothes she was wearing and her demeaner.

She walked into a store and found a lovely dress. She asked the clerk about the price who answered, “We do not have your size.” Vivian reminded the clerk that she asked price, no size. The clerk answered, “We don’t have anything for you.” She refused to serve Vivian based on her appearance and mannerisms. With the help of the hotel manager, she managed to get a dress, but she still needed more clothes. Edward (played by Richard Gere) took her to a store the next day and the spent an “offensive amount of money” to clothe her well. Vivian returned to the store that rejected her and reminded them of their foolish rejection. Waving her bags in the clerk’s face she said, “You people work on commission, right? Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.”

We are taught very early in our lives not to just a book by its cover. Sometimes something that looks terrific is not so and sometimes we find exactly the opposite. A grubby homeless man can teach us far more about life and grace than a seminary professor with a doctorate of theology. A prostitute might teach us more about virtue than a prim and proper lady. Our impressions of people aren’t limited to their appearance. We see people through the eyes of our biases, too. We are more likely to commune with people who are like us. We choose our acquaintances by age, race, gender, geography, education, career, hobbies and religion.

Peter preached to those who adhered to the same religious ideas and practices as himself until God spoke to him in a miraculous way. Peter had a vision that showed him that God does not choose people just because they fall into a specific narrow understanding. He wanted to be offended because Cornelius was not a Jew, but he realized that God’s mercy is not given just for those we want to receive it. God loves all nations. Christ does not play favorites. The wisdom of heaven is impartial. Jesus Christ did not come to the world for only a few people or a chosen race. God’s mercy reaches farther than our lives. He came for our family and friends, our neighbors and our enemies. He came for those people we like and for those who drive us crazy.

Peter says, “And he charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is he who is ordained of God to be the Judge of the living and the dead.” Peter and the disciples were the first witness, but God continues to charge us to preach the Gospel to the world. He calls us to share the story of Jesus with all, including those who do look or act the way we think they should. Rejoice when God has mercy on your enemy who turns to Him in faith, for in Christ you are then no longer enemies but rather you are brothers. The world would truly be a much better place if we all loved our enemies enough to share the Gospel of Christ with them so that they will become our brothers in faith.

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January 8, 2008

Scriptures for January 13, 2008, Baptism of our Lord, Epiphany One: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Matthew 3:13-17 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John would have hindered him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffereth him. And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

We are called to live in our baptisms. We are called to live a life in which we are daily reminded that God is with us, walks with us and helps us to serve Him in this world. We are called to live the life that Jesus Christ modeled for us in the scriptures.

Jesus lived in His baptism. This might seem odd since Jesus was who He was. He was the incarnation of the living God – Christ, Messiah, Son, Immanuel. He did not need a baptism of any sort, particularly not one of repentance as John was giving. He had no sin to forgive and He had no need for reconciliation because He was not separated from God. He was the living Word of God in flesh.

Yet, Jesus was also man. His baptism was far more than just an example for the rest of us. He went under the waters of the Jordan because it fulfilled the purpose and plan of God. In that baptism, Jesus identified fully with humankind. He took on our brokenness. He became like you and I. In this story, Jesus took upon Himself the very nature of man, yet through it remained without sin. His baptism, like ours, defined His identity. God reached out of the heavens and claimed Jesus as His own Son. By going to John, Jesus demonstrated His humble obedience to the will and purpose of God. It was right for Jesus to be baptized, even if John thought it was wrong. There, in the Jordan, Jesus made a public confession of faith and God made a public acceptance of Jesus as His Son.

Jesus did a great many things in private. He prayed in private. Some of His most incredible miracles were done behind closed doors with few witnesses to tell the story. He often told the recipients of His grace to be silent, to not tell anyone about their healing. Though there were a few visitors, His birth was relatively unknown. There weren’t great crowds at his circumcision. He slipped away into hiding as a child and then we have no reliable record about His life between twelve and thirty.

It is no wonder that people wondered whether or not Jesus was the one for whom they were waiting. He came out of nowhere one day to be baptized by John. John recognized Him, but what is it that he saw in Jesus? Later, in the eleventh chapter of Matthew, John asks Jesus “Are you the one?” John, a relative of Jesus, must have known about His life before that moment. Perhaps John saw Jesus as a righteous man, right with God and right with man. He knew that Jesus was not like the others who came to be washed of their sin.

At His baptism, Jesus became a public figure. He began His ministry. He made known the will and purpose of God. The things He said and the things He did were not always what the people expected. There was room for doubt because He did not follow their expectations. They thought they knew what they were waiting for; they thought they saw it in Jesus. They heard the voice of God. But it is easy to doubt. It is easy to forget. It is easy to assume we were wrong. That’s why we are called to live in our baptism daily, so that we won’t forget. God claimed Jesus and He claimed us, too, when He called out our names at our baptisms.

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January 9, 2008

Scriptures for January 13, 2008, Baptism of our Lord, Epiphany One: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17

Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.

January 9th is the feast day for a saint named Adrian who lived during the seventh century. He was a Christian from North Africa who became the abbot of a monastery in Italy. He was well known by the secular and religious leadership of his day. When the Archbishop of Canterbury died, Adrian was offered the job. However, he felt he was unworthy for such an important position and he declined. The next person to be selected was extremely ill and could not take the position, so it was offered again to Adrian. Again he refused, but he nominated another man – Theodore of Tarsus. Pope Vitalian agreed to this choice on the condition that Adrian would serve as his assistant. Adrian agreed and they went to Canterbury.

Christianity arrived in England officially in 597 with St. Augustine. Though there were Christians on the island long before that date, it was then that King Ethelbert was baptized and Christianity began to spread throughout the country. At Christmas of that year, 10,000 of King Ethelbert’s subjects were baptized. A monastery and bishopric was established in Canterbury. It was to this monastery that Adrian and Theodore were sent. Adrian was made abbot almost immediately and he ran the ministry well. Many credit the growth of Christianity in England at that time to the work and ministry of Adrian. His students went on to become church leaders and saints. He also built up the education system in England, founding several schools around the country.

He was said to be an astonishing teacher, not only giving the students a sound religious education but also knowledge in poetry, astronomy and math. He taught his students Latin and Greek; they often spoke those languages as well as they did their own. Bede, the English historian, wrote about Adrian, “He poured the waters of wholesome knowledge day by day.”

This is an interesting image as we think about the baptism of Jesus. When Jesus was baptized, the water poured over Him. When He came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit poured over Him. It was at that moment when Jesus became His ministry. We know so little about his life before that time – a few stories about his birth and childhood. His life between thirteen and thirty is a mystery. Some have made claims – including those who say that Jesus spent those years in England, learning from the Celtic druids (who were highly intelligent educators, with universities that taught many of the same things as Adrian.) There are also claims that He went east to the Orient to learn. We simply do not know. There is no authoritative record of that time. All we know is that at about age thirty, He appeared before John the Baptist to be publically anointed for ministry.

The anointing did not come from human hands, it came from God Himself. The Spirit poured out of Him in word and deed as He spoke about the Kingdom of God and healed the sick. The Spirit continued to be poured on the apostles who told their stories and passed on their faith to others. Generation after generation, the Spirit poured out on to people all over the world, on people like Augustine, Adrian and those who shared it with us. Their love, knowledge and faith poured out upon us so that we too might be taken to the waters of baptism and made a son or daughter of God. Jesus was just the first and it is through Him that we join in the fellowship of God, reconciled and forgiven by His grace. In Jesus, God started something new, a new covenant through Jesus Christ. It all started at that river and continues to today.

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January 10, 2008

Scriptures for January 20, 2008, Epiphany Two: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

Isaiah 49:1-7 Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye peoples, from far: Jehovah hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name: and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me: and he hath made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he kept me close: and he said unto me, Thou art my servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified. But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with Jehovah, and my recompense with my God. And now saith Jehovah that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered unto him (for I am honorable in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God is become my strength); yea, he saith, It is too light a thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Thus saith Jehovah, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers: Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship; because of Jehovah that is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who hath chosen thee.

I taught a workshop a few years ago. I prepared for weeks and had plenty of materials available. I was passionate about the subject and well prepared. I had interesting stories and examples to teach my subject. The audience was excited and visibly reacted to the lessons with nods of agreement and positive comments. I was teaching a subject about which most people were aware and had a personal belief about how it related to their lives. My goal was not to change their minds, but to expand them. I was asked to lead the workshop so that the people who attended might see that they have much more to offer than they think.

The workshop was about spiritual gifts. The audience to whom I was speaking was made up largely of older church women. These are the women in the congregation who are always in charge of making the coffee and organizing the pot luck dinners. They all went into the workshop believing that their gift was hospitality. It made sense; the tasks of hospitality always fell on their shoulders. It was also something they did well.

After the workshop we gathered together so that the women could take a spiritual gifts assessment. We wanted them to see that God may have given them something more than they realized. We get stuck in the idea that we have one specific gift and we do not see the possibilities and potential that God has given to us. Some of the women did find hospitality high on their list of gifts after we took an assessment. It was not the only gift that was discovered that day, however. Some of the women were very surprised to discover that they had other spiritual gifts and even more surprised at what those gifts were. They shook their heads at the results and some even said, “I can’t do that.”

I was disappointed. After spending a couple hours talking about how we are able to do what God gives us the gifts to do, most of the women left that workshop unchanged. They were unwilling to see themselves as everything God created them to be. It seemed as though the whole thing was fruitless. Why do we bother? I know I have experienced that kind of disappointment at other times. I’ve seen it when I have tried to teach preschoolers about faith and teenagers about God. My words are often met with frozen faces and a lack of comprehension. I have felt like Isaiah, laboring in vain for nothing.

However, I have learned that we don’t always see immediate change, that sometimes what we do is simply plant a seed. It is God who brings change to people’s lives. I do not know how many of those women went back to their churches and were given opportunities to do something different. Perhaps something I said gave them the confidence to boldly accept. I have seen some of my preschool kids and I have seen their faith growing. I have nearly broken down in tears as I have seen those teenagers developing a deeper relationship with God. God has helped me to see that He is able to use the ministry we do each day, no matter how insignificant and inadequate it may seem to us. It is not in vain to help others to learn about faith and grow in Christian maturity, because God is the mover and source of our ministry. He is faithful, He has chosen us to be His witnesses and He will give value to our work.

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January 11, 2008

Scriptures for January 20, 2008, Epiphany Two: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

Today’s Word is an edited version of a post from September 2004.

Psalm 40:1-11 I waited patiently for Jehovah; And he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay; And he set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: Many shall see it, and fear, And shall trust in Jehovah. Blessed is the man that maketh Jehovah his trust, And respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O Jehovah my God, are the wonderful works which thou hast done, And thy thoughts which are to us-ward; They cannot be set in order unto thee; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered. Sacrifice and offering thou hast no delight in; Mine ears hast thou opened: Burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I am come; In the roll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God; Yea, thy law is within my heart. I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great assembly; Lo, I will not refrain my lips, O Jehovah, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great assembly. Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Jehovah; Let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.

When I was a preschool teacher, we had some sandboxes on the playground. One day our sandboxes were filled with water from recent rains. We decided to allow the children to play in the sandboxes anyway, and we covered them in smocks hoping that they would not make too much of a mess. It was fine at first, only the occasional slip of the shovel that brought droplets of muddy water onto the arms and smocks of the other children. As the sandboxes got more crowded, some of the children began to play without smocks. By then the splashing mud was no longer an accident, they were throwing mud at one another. Several children were covered from head to toe in mud. When I tried to intervene, they got mud on my clothes.

We aren’t much different than four year olds even though we are grown. Our toys are different and the mud we sling is not necessarily made with dirt and water. We are selfish and vengeful. We will do anything to get our way no matter who gets hurt in the process. Unfortunately, many of these battles are not so easy to clean up – mud comes out of hair and clothing, but spiritual mud can be difficult to remove. We are wallowing in the mud of sin and death and the consequences are sometimes eternal.

I tried to be a peacemaker from a distance, to tell the children how they should act with kind but firm words. It did not help. I had to get right in the middle of the situation, take some of the mud myself, before I could make a difference. We closed down the sandboxes and took the messy children inside. The bathrooms became muddy messes. We put clean clothes on the children that were extremely dirty. We will have to adjust our rules for the sandbox to ensure that this problem did not happen again.

All this happened because some children were selfish and vengeful. This sounds a great deal like our own lives, even as adults in the world. We don’t see the affects of our own self-centeredness but there are others who follow in our wake that suffer from the effects. There are no sins that affect only the sinner – they all spread some degree of darkness and destruction into the lives of others. This is true for all of us, for we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

The words of the psalmist are the words of a child of God who has realized his own sinfulness and has cried out for the saving grace of his God. God is the peacemaker who went into the middle of the battle and shed His blood for the sake of others. He is the teacher that tried for many generations to speak the truth into their lives, but they did not hear. They did not see the truth even as the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, stood and spoke in their presence. So, He went to the cross and took the wrath that was released by our self-centered behavior. He brought us out of the mud, made things new and gave us a new life to live in Him. Thanks be to God.

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January 14, 2008

Scriptures for January 20, 2008, Epiphany Two: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, even them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus; that in everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye be unreproveable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Donald Trump has a new show on the air called “The Celebrity Apprentice.” The point of the show is not for a business person to win a place as an apprentice in Mr. Trump’s corporation. Instead, the show is designed to earn money for the charities of the celebrities. Each week’s task ends with a celebrity delivering a check to an organization of their choice.

The first check was for more than $65,000. The money was earned during an afternoon of selling hot dogs. They did not sell thousands of hot dogs to earn that much money—they sold a few for a lot of money. In one case, a hot dog was sold for $5000. The point of the task was for the celebrities to use their fame and their connections to get large donations for the hot dogs. Some of them did a very good job making phone calls to people they knew who would be very generous. The team that used their celebrity to benefit the cause was the team that won.

The team that lost decided not to take advantage of their connections. One member, a former Playboy playmate, refused to call her extremely wealthy former boss, hoping to save his generosity for another day. In the boardroom, Mr. Trump fell all over her for ignoring the obvious advantage of having such a connection. “My friend (her boss) would have written you a check for $100,000 in a heartbeat and your team would have won the task.” She lost not only the task, but her place on the show. She was fired.

Name-dropping has become something like an art in our society today. It is necessary in some aspects of our world. In many job situations, you have to know someone to get your foot in the door, and the right connections can help you rise in the ranks of both business and other organizations.

The Corinthians were not name-droppers in the modern sense of the word, but at least a few took advantage of the name Jesus Christ. In God’s grace, the Corinthians had a sense of self assurance about their faith, an almost haughty understanding of their spirituality. They were a gifted congregation, both in word and in deed, able to do amazing things in the name and for the sake of the Gospel. Yet, they were also arrogant, thinking perhaps that they were a little better than others