Welcome to the July 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, July 2000
July 1, 2000 to July 8, 2000
Rest and Be Thankful We are home. In the past week, we logged over two thousand miles on our car, climbed thousands of stairs, and walked miles through the country and cities of Scotland. We witnessed five thousand years of history, ate pounds of shortbread and bought a stack of books to read about all the places we visited. It was a lovely time spent together as a family. We are all a bit worn from our adventures, but ready to take on whatever journey lies ahead for us.
I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t have some powerful spiritual experience. I was hoping for some touch from God that would be life changing. As we wandered through the wilderness, I knew He was there. When I prayed throughout the days, I knew He heard me. When I read the scriptures each day, I heard His voice. I was at peace with God and my life, and yet I wanted more.
Last Sunday, we drove through the Argyll Forest Park. We were on our way to Inverary Castle, the lovely home of the Earl of Argyll on Loch Fyne. The modern road through the park is difficult; in three miles you climb nearly a thousand feet. The Old Highway is a single-track dirt road, built a century or so ago by a unit of military engineers. Before that road was built, travel through Glen Croe was nearly impossible. At the completion of the road, the builders set a stone of remembrance so that all that arrived at the summit would rest and be thankful to the men who risked their lives to build it. They laid the foundation for better travel through this hazardous place.
Jesus Christ built a road for us to travel on. The way is still difficult; we have many hazards to face along the way. Satan will tempt us, our family and friends will forsake us, and our own flesh will desire to go another way. Our goal is that summit, that place called “Rest and be thankful.”
Read Proverbs 3:5-6
I did not have any powerful spiritual experience during our adventure in Scotland, but as I look back upon the journey, I realize that the goal was to rest and be thankful. I have made it up the difficult road. As I look forward, I know that my journey is not complete; more road lies ahead. For now, I’ll just sit on the summit and be thankful for all He has done. Thanks be to God.
Carnival The summer months have arrived, and the countryside is filled with fairs. The 4-H organizations are getting their young men and women ready for competition, the farmers are getting their animals ready for sale and the farmer’s wives are preparing their cakes and pies that they might win a blue ribbon or two. It’s an exciting time in the country, as everyone looks forward to the fair. There is something for everyone, even those not so interested in the animals - such as concerts, art exhibits, and of course the carnival rides.
Lined up along the fairway are rides and attractions designed to entice even the stodgiest person into giving up their hard-earned money. The rides are a thrill a minute, with whirling contraptions and haunted houses. There is always some sort of Ferris wheel and a looping roller coaster. In between the rides are booths of games - darts, basketball, and my favourite ‘ping pong ball in the fishbowl.’ The fish always lasted just long enough for the family to go to Woolworth’s to buy a whole kit for its home.
Along the fairway, the barkers call out to passersby to attract them to their game. “You look like a strong man, come show your pretty lady how macho you are!” “You can win this giant stuffed polar bear if you just sink one putt!” They make it sound so easy, and so much better than all the other games. The purpose is to get you to spend all your money at their booth, to win their prize.
As I prepared for our trip to Scotland, everyone had suggestions about the places we had to visit while there. “You have to see this castle!” “This town is the prettiest in all of Scotland.” Before long, our list of ‘must sees’ would have kept us in Scotland for two months. We had to choose which sites would be best for our family and our circumstances.
Do you ever feel like the church is doing the same thing? The denominations claim they are the most ‘spirit-filled’ or that their teachings are more Bible oriented than the others. In some cases, they bicker among themselves, seeking to gain the most people in their pews. There is more sheep stealing in the churches today than real evangelism to those who need to know Jesus Christ.
Read Galations 4:12-20
At the carnival, my goal is to have fun. In Scotland, my goal was to see as much as I could see - a little piece of everything. In our churches, our goal is to share the message of Jesus Christ and His life in us. We should be satisfied that the world is hearing the Gospel message, and work together in the unity of His Holy Spirit to bring many sheep into His Kingdom.
Who is trying to make you zealous for them in your life today? Be zealous only for the Lord Jesus, and let Him guide your footsteps each day. In this you will find peace and joy. Thanks be to God.
Next Now that we are reaching the final days of our tour here in England, the question I’ve heard regularly is “Where will you go next?” The process is just beginning, and today we do not have that answer. In the next few weeks, we will see a list of possible job situations available for Bruce. He will make changes on his ‘dream sheet’ to reflect our desires, by listing as our choices the bases where we would like to be sent. In the weeks that follow, jobs will be assigned taking into consideration many factors. Sometime in August, we should have our orders and can begin the process of moving from England to our new base. In the midst of that process, things can change. We do not know what tomorrow holds, so we do what needs to be done on a day to day basis.
How often do we plan our lives so far ahead, setting goals for five, ten, even twenty years in the future? There is nothing wrong with setting goals so that we can work toward them. However, at times we get so caught up in the goal, we get angry at ourselves and those that stand in the way of our achieving it, not realizing that God could be setting us on a different path for His Will and Purpose.
Take for example my own life. I went to college to be a schoolteacher. When I reached the final semester, my student teaching experience, I realized I was not gifted to be doing what I’d worked so hard to do. I was angry with myself for wasting 4 years and at those who guided me into that career path. Now, fifteen years later, I realize that those years were not wasted, but that God has used them to prepare me for the career path He has ordained for my life.
At times, I look at the lives of those who have already been successful in the goals I set for myself, and I wonder why they made it and I haven’t. At times it doesn’t seem fair, particularly when those with the success are not as talented or do not work as hard as we do. Yet, we have to remember that we do not know what tomorrow holds, and we have to trust that God has a purpose, even in our apparent failure.
Read Ecclesiastes 7:13-14
The day will come when we will know what comes next in our journey in this life. Until then, and even after, we will walk trusting that God is directing our every footstep for His Glory. We will be happy, in our success and our failure, for they all are gifts from God.
Recipes On our travels around Scotland, we learned about many different eras in history. The guidebooks we purchased included information about the lives of the people whom inhabited the areas that we were visiting. This included fashion, occupation, hygiene and food.
We visited Hadrian’s Wall, the wall built by the Romans to keep the ancient people of Scotland out of England. In the shop I found a cookbook. This book describes the food the Romans ate as well as how they cooked. They used mostly earthenware jars, which is becoming increasingly popular in kitchens today. They ate plenty of fruits and vegetables, seafood, beef and pork. They used strong sauces and herbs to hide the taste of the meat, particularly when they became rancid from storing too long. The cookbook has some recipes of typical Roman food, some of which have unusual ingredients. This book includes a recipe for snails, which describes how to fatten the snail with milk before frying it. This was a delicacy for the men and women who ate it. Inside the book is a disclaimer from the writer that he did all he could to be sure that the recipes were accurate. However, the chefs who helped him edit the book refused to test a few of the recipes, such as the one for snails. So, he does not guarantee the results to those who may try them.
I don’t think many people purchase that book with the expectation of living as the Romans lived. However, when you purchase a modern cookbook in a regular bookstore, you expect the recipes to be accurate so that the food will be edible. The integrity of the author is at stake, so the recipes will be tested and tasted to be sure that the food is good.
The Bible is our recipe for life. Inside the pages of God’s love story for us are the directions for living a life which is in harmony with Him, so that we might be part of His Kingdom, as we were created to be. To understand and follow the directions in this book, we must read and study it on a regular basis and follow the directions. Throughout history, the words in this book have been tried and tested, and have been found to be the Truth.
Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Do you follow a regular pattern of scripture reading? It is good to begin with a devotional such as A WORD FOR TODAY, but do you do more? Do you read the scripture used in context and ask God what it should mean in your life today? Do you have His Word written on your heart so deeply that you are able to share it with those who are placed in your path?
It doesn’t do much good to have a cookbook in which the recipes are never tried. Neither does it do much good to have a Bible whose spine is never cracked. Get out your Bible today. The words within have been tried and tested over the ages, and are Truth. Read it, then live it. That’s how you will know true peace. Thanks be to God.
Stone of Destiny In Edinburgh Castle is a room filled with treasures. There you will find the Honours of Scotland, the symbols of the rulers who once stood charge over this land. There is a crown, a scepter and a sword, all made from gold, silver, pearls and precious gems. There value is priceless, not only because of the materials used in production, but also because of the history and symbolism for which they stand. These objects belong to the Scottish people and stand for their independence.
In the Crown Room, protected by the same guards, glass case and alarms, is an unusual object. Several cubic feet in size, looking rather worn with rough edges and rusted hooks, is a rock. This rock looks so out of place with the other honours, being of little value in our society today. After all, a rock such as this can be found in any quarry or tumbling castle ruin. However, this block of stone is no ordinary rock. It is the Stone of Destiny, and has been used in the coronations of every monarch of England for the past seven hundred years and for all the kings of Scotland for at least four hundred years before that. The monarch sat upon this stone, or above this stone, during the coronation ritual. There is something about its power that has great meaning to the people.
The history of this stone is unknown. There are some that say the stone’s importance goes even further back into history, perhaps even to the days of Iron Age man. There are others who say that the rock is a fake, of no real value at all. However, it stands in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle, more valuable than all the gold and gems of the regalia of the kingdom.
Read 1 Peter 1:3-9
Our faith is built on a rock, that of our Lord Jesus Christ. This rock is more valuable than all the gold and gems in this world. The Stone of Destiny gives an earthly kingdom to those who rest upon it, but Jesus Christ gives His children an eternal kingdom if they rest upon Him. Believe and receive. Thanks be to God.
Finish I worked in retail for several years. I always enjoyed being part of the environment – the customers, the new merchandise and the work. My favourite tasks were shelf layout and window display. Fitting the merchandise into a small area was like putting a puzzle together. There were many tasks I disliked but when we are employed, we do our job.
I spent several years as the manager of stores for a couple major retailers. In my years working for those companies, there is no task within I store I did not take on at some point. I scrubbed the floor, took out the garbage, unloaded boxes from trucks, cashiered, worked at the snack bar, counted receipts and the list goes on. It was my policy as a manager to have experience in every task I requested from an employee. No one could deny doing a job with the remark, “You never do the dirty work.”
Over the years, I found there were several different types of employees. On rare occasions, I had the joyous experience of having an employee who loved their job and did every task with enthusiasm. Then there are those who mumble and groan about every little thing, but manage to accomplish the tasks at hand. Another type is the employee who speaks with great enthusiasm about the tasks, but never gets around to getting it done.
Read Matthew 21:28-32
Which employee describes your attitude in the kingdom of Heaven? Are you like the enthusiastic employee, willingly doing each task with joy? Or do you moan and groan about every task, questioning God’s judgment about the things that He has called you to do? Or are you like the son who said he would do the work, but did not go?
The chief priests and elders who were talking to Jesus in this story spent their days saying that they would be obedient to God’s Word. However, when they heard the True Word, from John and from Jesus, they continued to live life in their own way.
So often, we make a big deal about the work we are going to do for the Lord. We will pray – tomorrow when we have more time. We will begin to read the Bible – on January 1 so that we can follow this daily reading programme. We will feed and clothe the hungry and cold – when we have a few more dollars in our pocket. We say we will do the work the Lord has called us to do, but do we ever get around to it? Do we ever have more time or money?
Amazing My favourite magicians are Penn and Teller. They are funny in their presentation and amazing in the tricks they do. I think what I like most about them is that in the end you see how they accomplished the trick. In one programme, they did an act with some tissues. The tissues ‘fell up’ and danced toward the ceiling. At the end of the act, the camera angle pulled back and we saw that the two men had been hanging upside down for those five minutes, and there was nothing amazing about the action of the tissue. Our impression of the event is much different than the real thing. The truth does not take away from the incredible nature of the trick. Can you hang upside down for five minutes without looking like you are hanging upside down? Other magicians did not accept Penn and Teller they gave away such secrets, and knowing the truth behind the trick takes away the mystery.
Magicians want to give the impression that they can control the natural elements in an unnatural way. By showing the truth, we realize that the magicians are merely controlling the natural elements in a natural way. These men are still artists, who can create illusion before our eyes. In showing the truth behind the trick, we see that it isn’t something mystical but rather down to earth.
Read Galatians 6:12-16
Penn and Teller did not allow the opinion of the others in their field to affect the way they did their act. They continued to show the world the trick behind the trick, amazing all that watch. Their goal was to entertain, not to make themselves seem to be like a god controlling the world around them.
Those of us in the church today could stand to follow their example. Often, we do things in our walk with God to make an impression on those around. We volunteer for committees or go to church because it is expected of us. We go to meetings or worship in a certain way because of those around us. We should be living and walking in truth, no matter the consequences in this life. The impression we make with our good works is not that which is truly amazing, but the truth that lies below. It is by and for the cross of our Lord Jesus that we live and breathe. Thanks be to God.
Online I spend a great deal of time on the computer. Most of it is spent writing, but I do spend many hours a day online. I enjoy time in chat rooms and working on my websites. Very often, I find myself in the middle of deep conversations, ministering to someone who just needs a friendly ear. There are days when I intend on just popping online to pick up my mail, and I end up talking to someone for an hour. Afternoons seem to be the worst. I know I need to be cooking dinner, but I nearly always end up in a conversation with someone that takes too long. Then suddenly, I hear the key in the door and Bruce is home from work ready to eat. On one hand, I know helping the person is a good thing, but on the other, I know that I should be taking care of my family.
So often, we know what we should be doing, but we get caught doing something else. The kids, while cleaning their room, get caught up in playing with toys, which they find in the process. When I go to check on their progress, I find that the work has barely been started. At work, we seem to do accomplish our tasks in good time when our boss is looking over our shoulder. When he’s out of the office, our attitudes are often different. As they say, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
Read Luke 12:42-48
Just as we sometimes get caught up in doing the wrong thing at home or work, like spending too much time on the Internet, it seems as though we also get caught up in doing the wrong thing in God’s Kingdom. We have waited so long for Jesus to come again, and in our disappointment we get distracted by the things of this world.
What will you be doing when He returns? Will you be doing the task He has assigned to you, or will you be getting drunk on life’s pleasures?
Prophet The word prophet invokes remembrance of the great figures of the Old Testament. We don’t think of many people in this age as being prophets. We understand a prophet to be something like a fortuneteller, a seer, someone who predicts the future. However, the word prophet is more accurately defined as “one who speaks by divine inspiration or as the interpreter through whom the will of a god is expressed.”
In the Old Testament, we are given the witness of many prophets, major and minor, who point to the coming of the Messiah. Zechariah says, “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the LORD.” Malachi says, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty. “ Isaiah tells us, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
These prophets all point to the future event of the coming of Jesus. For the last two thousand years there have been people who have pointed to the future event of Jesus’ return, some even predicting the moment He would arrive on the clouds. The predictions were taken seriously enough by some. There were even a few who quit their jobs so that they would be in the right place at the right time to be received by Him. However, those days have passed, and we still wait.
John the Baptist was a prophet, however he spoke differently than the prophets of the Old Testament. His words were not pointing toward the coming of the Messiah, but rather he pointed at the Messiah. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
Read Romans 1:1-6, 8-12
God does still give people the divine inspiration to speak of what is to come in His Kingdom. I have noticed that predictions I make come into fulfillment about as often as a weatherman’s forecast is accurate. Yet, I’ve realized that it is better to be like John, pointing at the Saviour, rather than like the Old Testament prophets who merely pointed toward Him. In this day, we are called to preach the gospel message, to share the life of the Living God with the world. Let always point at Him while waiting for that future moment when we are with Him in body forever. Thanks be to God.
Braveheart The year was 1290. Queen Margaret, the seven year old queen of Scotland died from seasickness, and the throne of Scotland was left without an heir. Edward I of England, who desired to expand his own kingdom, choose a man who he deemed worthy. Edward saw John Balliol as being someone he could control, like a puppet. However, John was not as loyal as expected and was sent to the Tower of London. The throne of Scotland was up for grabs.
William Wallace was a man of noble character, who was strong in faith, courage and loyalty. His deepest desire was for Scotland to remain a free nation under God’s heavens. He fought valiantly against Edward, winning some battles and loosing some.
These two men were fighting for the same corner of God’s green earth, but they had much different motives and practices. Edward was selfish, desiring a greater portion for himself and he did so by killing, raping and pillaging anyone or anything that stood in his way. He sought the death of his enemy. William loved the land of his ancestors and desired that the people have all they deserved, freedom. He did not seek the death of his enemy, only killing when necessary. He did all he could to protect the women, children and churches in enemy territory. He even punished a group of his own men who committed sacrilege in an English church.
William eventually lost the battle and was brutally executed by Edward. However, the work William did around Scotland gave the people the courage to stand strong against Edward, and they remained free for several more centuries. William is a national hero. When Edward died, his heir was weak and destroyed much of his work, so the ultimate justice prevailed.
Read Romans 2:6-11
There are times in our life when we have to do things we do not like to do. As parents we must discipline our children. Judges must condemn the guilty. Rulers must fight for their kingdom. When we are in such positions, it is the righteous man who does so in a manner, which is Christ-like, with compassion and mercy. Edward was self-seeking. William desired good for the land he loved. What is the attitude of your heart?
Will I went to the post office the other day and discovered we had a box waiting for us. This is always an exciting moment, particularly when we are not expecting anything. When the clerk gave me the box, I found that it was from Kansas, a gift from my aunt who died a few months ago. She had specifically requested that my family be given this item which meant a great deal to her. It was a very simple gift, a Christmas decoration that always played a prominent role in her holiday celebration. The people who are taking care of my aunt’s estate have done all they could to see to it that her wishes have been carried out.
It is a difficult task for anyone to be the executor of a will. This task is made easier when the will has been written clearly and concisely, without many changes. Legal documents follow a strict pattern, so that nothing can be added or changed.
We have seen several copies of the Magna Carta. This great English document, a constitutional charter from early in the 13th century, became the basis for constitutions all over the world. It safeguarded many rights and privileges of people under an unjust king. When the Magna Carta was written, over forty copies were made, but only four copies still exist, two in London, one in Salisbury and one in Lincoln. Each copy needed to be identical, with no room for changes to be made in the text. The letters are very closely spaced, from edge to edge, giving no margin for additional comments. When the copier finished the work, and the document was signed, the page was folded up from the bottom to the edge of the text. A seal was placed at this spot, so that no one could add anything to the bottom of the page. That seal guaranteed that the document would remain unchanged.
Read Ephesians 1:11-14
Legal documents are sealed to guarantee the wishes of the person are carried out without change. The Magna Carta was sealed to guarantee that all the copies would remain unchanged throughout history. The Holy Spirit of God seals us to ensure that the world can not change the promise of the inheritance to come. You have heard the Word of God, believed and received the seal. Enjoy a taste of the coming glory of God, by living in His life according to His will.
Fast Food During our trip to Scotland, we took a moment to stop at a Burger King to stretch our legs, use the facilities and get a bite to eat. The young man who served us noticed our American accents and said, “Do Americans really prefer Burger King to McDonald’s?” I certainly do, because I think they take more time preparing the food. I am willing to pay a few extra pennies and wait a few minutes for a sandwich that is put together when I order it, rather than one that sits under a heat lamp for a time.
We do rely upon fast food a great deal, at least in American society. The kids have so much going on with activities; it is so convenient to just pop through the drive-thru to get dinner. The kids can even eat in the car as we travel from one place to another. However, that type of meal does not sustain us. It is filled with fat and sits terribly on our stomach because we did not take the time to relax as we ate. Plus, we miss out on the family time sitting at the table together discussing our day.
We are much healthier in body and mind when we eat good meals at home with our families. We receive the proper nutrients to keep our body in shape. We also enjoy love and fellowship with our families, which are so important for our emotional health.
We also need a proper meal for our spiritual health. We need that close relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. He is the bread of life. We receive Him daily through our time in prayer, those moments when we talk to God, and listen to His Word for us. The Bible tells us that we are to pray unceasingly. Every moment of every day is to be lifted to God. In doing this, we begin to live the life He has called us to live, asking His will for everything we think, say and do.
How often does our prayer life become more like a trip to McDonald’s, grazing on whatever food we can grasp rather than taking the time to have a good meal? Prayer is communication between you and God, but if you are only lifting your voice to Him when your spirit moves, are you receiving the fellowship you need? Just as it is important to sit down to have a meal with your family, to fellowship with one another, so is it important to sit down with your Father and fellowship with Him. It is during those moments when you set aside time to pray when He can truly speak to you.
Fast food is OK as long as it is not the sole source of nutrition for you. ‘McDonald’s prayers’, those quickie moments of lifting someone before God when the Spirit moves, are good as long as they are accompanied by the quiet moments alone with God in worshipful prayer. When we do not take the time to bow our knees in humble supplication to our Father, we forget who He is. He becomes more like ‘God Ol’ Matey’ rather than God Almighty. Take time each day away from the hustle and bustle of the world and talk to your God. Your life will never be the same.
Read Psalms 61
Water guns We finally had a moment of summer the past few days. The sun has been shining and the temperatures have nearly reached 80º. Several weeks ago, we purchased a large array of water guns, which the children have been unable to use because the weather has been so cold and rainy.
So, when the perfect day finally arrived, the children begged me to let them get wet. I did. They had a blast, squirting each other until they were dripping. When Bruce came home, the children tried to get him to go out ‘for a surprise.’ They wanted to get him all wet. I armed him with my own gun, distracted the children, while he ran around the house and snuck up on them from behind, getting them all wet instead. After this short battle, Bruce came in the house and saw Felix. He showed Felix the gun, which Felix sniffed out of typical feline curiousity. In a moment of silliness, Bruce decided to squirt the cat. Perhaps he was too close, or the stream of water was too strong, but Felix nearly jumped out of his skin and took off to hide from the world.
Bruce felt so bad. He quickly put the water gun down, out of sight, and slowly approached Felix. With soft words and outstretched arms, Bruce apologized profusely. He filled Felix’s food bowl, as a reminder of all the good things he does, picked him up and petted him softly and got a favourite toy to distract him from the pain of the event. Bruce did everything he could to make Felix feel calm and relaxed again.
When we do things to hurt someone we love, what do we do? One of Bruce’s coworkers had a horrible day of actions, which made his wife unhappy. Bruce suggested he take flowers. When we do something that hurts a friend, we call them up to apologize and offer them a trip out for lunch. When we do something against our children, we offer them a toy or something to make up for our wrong.
When we sin against God, what do we do? In the Old Testament, the people had certain sacrifices that needed to be done to atone for their sins. They offered rams or other animals to be cleansed of the sins that separated them from God. However, God found a better way. He gave His own son as the final sacrifice and now requires so much more.
Read Micah 6:6-8
God paid the debt; offered the sacrifice for our sins. Now, we must walk in His light and act according to His Word in our lives. Justice, mercy and humility are what we can offer, ever remembering that He is God Almighty is our Father and we are His children. Thanks be to God.
Travelogue Since we arrived home from Scotland, I have been working diligently on the travelogue from our trip. Each day, it gets longer and more complicated, as I discover small bits of history that need to be shared. Some of the history is difficult. There are stories of murder and lies, ethnic cleansing and betrayal. As you visit the lovely glens with towering mountains and cool flowing streams, it is hard to imagine the blood that flowed in those very places. I wrote about a rather horrible period of history yesterday, and after it was over, I found myself exhausted.
The same often happens when I listen to the news, or read the paper. When I read about the latest dictator to massacre his people or the latest story about a murdered child and I wonder if there is any end to the cruelty this world can offer.
This morning, I found it difficult to sit at the computer and write. I suppose the thoughts of the thousands of people who were deported from Scotland or killed to make room for sheep still played on my mind. I distracted myself for a bit with busy work on the computer. Then I went into a favourite chat room, just for a moment. Together, we began praising the Lord. There was joy and laughter in that place. In the midst of the cruel reality of the evil in this world, we were able to find a moment of peace together in the presence of God.
Read Psalm 67
It is impossible to ignore the truth of history or the situations in the world – that is that there is evil, which seems to rule from day to day. However, my prayer is that we will all praise God for the good He does, so that we might be blessed by His presence in the midst of it all.
Glencoe In the Highlands of Scotland, there are many beautiful valleys with flowing streams, which are surrounded by high, rocky mountain peaks. These are places of mystery, often the source for myth and legend. The bards of old told stories of monsters and heroes who roamed the paths or lurked in the waters, and those stories live on today. Those places have taken on an ambience that speaks of the past.
Glencoe (Gleann Comhann in Gaelic) most likely means ‘narrow valley’ but it has come to be known as ‘valley of sorrows’ or ‘valley of weeping.’ It has even been referred to as ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’ Glencoe has become a favourite place for hikers and climbers to visit – a challenge for even the most experienced people. The mountains tower over the valley with steep rocky cliffs and gullies that are filled with water descending into the River Coe. There is not much vegetation, though at one time trees covered these mountains. There is wildlife in this place – birds of prey, otters, wild cats and red deer. Myrtle, heather and other plants thrive in the boggy places, and grasses cover the valley. Yet today, Glencoe seems to be a place where little life is sustained.
Glencoe is known for its rough beauty, but even more so for its history. It was here in the year 1692 that government troops tried to massacre an entire clan of people. The chief of the MacDonald Clan was late in making a vow of loyalty to the king of England. The men in charge were glad to have an excuse to be rid of these people. The betrayal was incredible. The government troops moved into the homes of the MacDonalds and enjoyed their hospitality for ten days. Then one bitter winter morning, the order was given to slaughter the entire population of Glencoe. Most managed to escape, thanks to the warnings of the troops. Only 38 people were killed that day, including children and elderly. Some also died in the harsh weather. Those who survived returned to Glencoe to restart their lives, however the place was never the same.
Read Psalm 23
All of God’s creation is beautiful, and we are given life to live in this wonderful world. Glencoe is a place of beauty, but the pain of death lingers on in our minds as remember the massacre of 1692. It is equally impossible to walk through this life without being reminded of the pain of sin and death. We must always remember that God is with us, He loves us, and we have nothing to fear in this life. Life does go on, even in the most desolate places. Thanks be to God.
Laughter When I was a young adult, I went to a conference in West Virginia with a group of my friends. My mom went along as a chaperone. We shared our hotel room with one of my best friends. One evening, we must have been quite tired from the day’s activities, someone said something silly. We all began to giggle. The giggling turned into laughter. After awhile, we could not even recall what caused the giggling, but we were out of control. Everything made us laugh harder. After awhile, our bellies hurt from the laughter. It was a most silly time, but it was a moment I will never forget.
A friend and I were chatting the other day, and she admitted that she was somewhat jealous of some things about my life. I laughed and said, “I’m jealous of you!” Together we realized that God gives to us individually, and we should never be jealous of another person’s gifts or opportunities. If we had not shared our envy with one another, the jealousy may have simmered and destroyed our friendship. However, God used that moment, a tender moment of joy and laughter, for us to learn an important lesson.
God does have a sense of humour. Jesus often joked when he preached about God’s Kingdom, though often the humour is lost in today’s understanding. Jesus and the disciples are often found around a table with a meal. These were social events with friends. I’m sure they often laughed and enjoyed each other’s company.
There are several places in the scriptures that suggest that in our sin we should not laugh, but rather mourn. In Ecclessiastes 7:3 we hear, “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” Laughter is seen in a negative light, so many go about taking life too seriously. However, throughout the scriptures, we hear about the joy of God’s deliverance. When the Israelites made it across the Red Sea, Miriam danced. When the Ark of the Covenant arrived in Jerusalem, David danced. It is very difficult to dance in celebration and joy without laughing!
Read Psalm 126
It is said that laughter is the best medicine. I think that may be true, but even more so, joyful laughter shows the world the condition of your heart. Joy comes from God, and when we know He loves us, we feel the joy of His salvation. When we know the joy of the Lord, it is impossible not to laugh. When we do, the world sees that God has done a great thing for us. Thanks be to God.
Golf We visited St. Andrews when we were in Scotland. One of Bruce’s goals was to stand at the first tee of the Old Course. Men have played on this course for at least 250 years, perhaps longer. People who are interested in golf desire to play on this course, just for the experience. Unfortunately, since so many people want to play a round, there are strict rules about who may use the course. The Old Course is used for the most important tournament in Britain, The Open. This tournament is possibly the most important in the world.
The Open was played this weekend. There exists a man in golf today with incredible ability. Tiger Woods is the best golfer of this age, and perhaps the best of all time. There are several men whose name stands out of the crowd, though none more than Jack Nicholas. For many years, Jack was the unbeatable man on the course. The competitors sought to defeat him, to push him off the mountain. In recent years Jack has suffered from ill health and it appears as though at age sixty he has played his final Open. There was a day when the world asked if there would ever be a day when Jack did not reign on the golf course.
The same questions are being asked today of Tiger Woods. By winning the Open, Tiger broke several records. At age 24 he is the youngest to ever win the Open. With a score of 269, he broke the tournament record. His closest competitors, Ernie Els and Thomas Bjorn, had a score of 277, equally the record of an eight-stroke lead set 83 years ago. He also is the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam, meaning he has won all four major tournaments in his career.
There are many wondering today is Tiger Woods can ever be defeated. We only have to look back at the career of Jack Nicholas to know that the normal course of life changes will move him into other directions or that one day someone better will come along.
In the book of Matthew, a rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus says that he must obey the commandments. The young ruler said he had done all that, then asked what else was necessary. Jesus told him to rid himself of all he had in this world and follow Jesus. The young man walked away sad.
Read Matthew 19:23-26
Pro golfers today are looking at the career of Tiger Woods and wondering if he will ever be beaten. There are times when we look at the lives of people we love and wonder if they will ever know the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, enough to give up our lives for Him. We cannot know what tomorrow holds. For with God, all things are possible.
Siblings Summer vacation is well under way. We’ve had over a month without the normal school routine, and we aren’t strangling each other, yet. The kids manage a battle or two a day, usually over silly stuff. Often I am able to ignore them to allow the children to end the dispute in their own way. Those times when I have to mediate, I must carefully consider the circumstances. My decision seems unfair to the losing party. As I consider the battle, I must take into consideration the age of the children. Take for example a battle involving Vicki’s freedom to go farther from home when playing with her friends. She is older and is trustworthy when it comes to crossing streets and watching the time. Zack will grow into that position as he grows. Today, it seems unfair to him that she can do something he can’t. In other battles, Zack is the winner because he is younger and has not been given the same responsibility as Vicki. There is never a winner in sibling rivalry.
The bottom line when it comes to battles between the children is that if they get me involved, they must stand by my decision. I do not come to it lightly, and when Mom says “No,” she means “No.” Thank goodness we don’t go through this often, and when we do, it is fairly easy to solve. I occasionally make mistakes. When I make a mistake I rectify the situation as best I can. However, it never does any good to whine to me about ‘fairness.’ Each child is equally loved, but completely different. Fair does not mean identical but rather just.
Read Matthew 20:1-16
There are times when life does not seem fair. We see our brothers and sisters receive things that we think we deserve and we get angry with our parents, often whining about unfairness. The same happens in the kingdom of God between brethren. We work hard at church for years, and then someone else gets the distinguished volunteer award. We see others being blessed with gifts of ministry and wonder why God would not give the same gifts to us. We spend our lives as committed Christians and think it is unfair that some mean old man makes a deathbed confession of faith, and is received into the kingdom.
Christ died for all, and His generosity is unlimited. Let us be thankful for that which God has freely given to us, and stop envying that which He does for others.
Umbrella Tree The neighborhood where we live is densely populated. Most of the families have young children. Our yards are all very close, and the children spend many hours a day playing together. It is fun for them to have playmates, but it seems there is never a time that they can be alone.
When I was a child, we had a large umbrella tree in our yard. This tree had branches that reached to the ground and the inside was like a cave. This was one of my favourite places to hide. I would spend hours reading and playing inside this tree, and often people were unable to find me. It was lovely to have a place to be where I felt secure and I could spend time alone. There, I was even protected from the rain, because the branches were so thick, the ground beneath stayed dry.
It seems in today’s society that we are constantly finding things to do in a crowd. We get our kids involved in activities 5 nights a week, we have parties or gatherings with large groups. It is almost as if we are afraid to be alone. Those moments of quiet are the times when we really hear the voice of God and we are not happy with what we hear. In the midst of the crowd, we often see ourselves as better – more successful or even holier. When we get into the quietness of time alone, we realize that we are not better than the crowd, but that we are simply sinners in need of God’s grace. When we know this, then we turn to God in Christ Jesus for deliverance from that sin. That is where we find peace.
Read Isaiah 32:17-20
I had other places I liked to sit to read, however none of them were as private as my umbrella tree. God is like that umbrella tree. His arms cover us to protect us from the world, from the rain. We can find happiness and success in the world. However, it is in Him alone that we can find true peace.
Clouds There are times in our lives when God grants us a vision of what heaven will look like. Sometimes it appears in a dream, but often He simply uses the beauty of His created world to give us a foretaste of the world to come. I’ve seen heaven in the laugh of a baby; from the top of a mountain overlooking a hidden valley; in a meadow filled with flowers; in a rainbow after a storm. I can’t see these things and ignore the majesty of my Creator.
Yesterday, as I stood at the kitchen sink cleaning the dinner dishes, I saw the most incredible sight in the sky. In an otherwise cloudless sky, there was a large, dark mushroom shaped cloud. The waning sun was behind this cloud and the rays shown from behind, creating a halo around the cloud. It was as if God was behind a curtain, and His light was trying to break through to the world. As I continued with my work, the bottom ‘stem’ of the cloud began to split, like the curtains on a great stage. The sun’s rays broke through, and the stage behind was breathtakingly beautiful. This foretaste made me long for the day when I will stand in His presence and worship Him at His throne.
Read Revelation 1:4b-8
God reveals Himself in His creation so that we will have a vision in our hearts and our minds of the heavenly realms. He gives us a glimmer, to draw us ever closer to Him and to keep us on His path. We just have to take the time to see Him, to witness the beauty of His creation and His constant presence in His world. How will He reveal Himself to you today? Perhaps it will be the kind words of a friend or the awesome power of lightning in a thunderstorm. Go about with your work today, but be ever mindful of His presence. Perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of heaven.
Stand Bob is a sixteen-year-old Christian. He is growing daily in his faith and his strength in God’s love. He works at a job where the boss is not a Christian, he is a practicing Satanist. One of Bob’s co-workers has recently come to know Jesus Christ and has left a life of Satanism to begin a new life in Him. One day, Bob’s boss approached this new Christian and asked how he could believe in a book filled with fairy tales. As this young man began to tell the truth of the Gospel, the boss turned up the radio, which was playing some rather raunchy music.
Bob went to the radio, turned it down and said, “I am a Christian and that music is inappropriate.” Then Bob went back to the young man and listened to him talk about Jesus. The boss changed the station, and remained quiet for the rest of the workday.
Bob knew what he risked by standing up for the Gospel. He did not let that stop him from doing what he knew was right in the eyes of His Father. At 15 years old, Bob showed a new Christian what it really means to be committed to the Gospel of our Lord. Are you willing to stand up for Jesus?
Read Matthew 24:9-14
It is difficult being a Christian in today’s world. So many people see faith as silly foolishness. Some Christians find it easier to remove themselves and lead a life cloistered away from the world. However, we need strong Christians in business, in politics, in the schools, in our neighbourhoods. We need people who are willing to stand up for Jesus in the world, no matter what circumstances they face.
Thank you, God, for young men like Bob, who show us what it means to be a Christian. Help me today to do the same. Amen.
Pasta After years of cooking meals for my family, there are still some things I just can’t get right. When I cook spaghetti, or any sort of pasta, I always cook too much. As I drop the uncooked pasta into the pot it appears as though there is not enough, so I double the amount. When I set it on the table, it is four times what I need.
In the Scriptures and throughout history, we find that sharing a meal is an important social event. In sharing a meal, the participants show that they accept each other. It is a time of trust and friendship. Potluck dinners are a favourite way for Christians to fellowship. I’ve never seen a potluck fail to provide plenty of delicious food. There have been times when the table is set when the planners worried whether there was enough food. At one school event, we even sent someone out to purchase more food, just in case. However, in the end, we had way too many leftovers.
There are stories in the scripture of God providing food for His people. In the wilderness, God provided plenty of manna for the people to survive. In 1 Kings, Elijah asked the old woman to give him the last of her bread. When she did, there continued to be flour and oil in the jars. During Elijah’s stay, the woman’s son grew very ill. Elijah asked God for mercy, and the boy lived. Through Elijah, God provided bread and life.
Read 2 Kings 4:42-44
In the Gospels, we hear the story about Jesus throwing the ultimate potluck. A crowd had gathered to hear Him speak about the Kingdom of God. The day was near an end and there was no food for the hungry people to eat. The disciples wanted to send the people away to find food for themselves, but Jesus told them to find food. They found a boy with a meager meal, just five loaves of bread and two fish.
The bread and fish served five thousand and there were twelve baskets full of bread leftover. In sharing that meal, Jesus not only provided the food for their bodies and the word for their souls, but He also demonstrated acceptance of the people by eating with Him. Jesus provided food for their bodies and real life in His Word.
There are times when we think we are not cooking enough, like the pasta. Yet in the end it is more than we need. There are also times in our lives when we think what we have to offer to God is not enough, yet God always multiplies our meager offerings into a glorious feast for His children. Give all you have to God and you will find that the blessings will be overflowing!
Mountains I recall a time when my sister came to visit our family in California. She and her husband had spent some time in wine country, then came to our home. The Sacramento Valley is rather flat, but it surrounded by mountainous regions. Since carsickness is a trait in our family, my sister found the travel difficult to bear. When they left the wine region and got into the valley, she was quite relieved. In the middle of the Sacramento Valley, fairly close to where we lived, is a tiny mountain range called the Buttes. As they approached this small mountain range, my sister moaned. She nearly told her husband to turn back because she could not face traveling through more hills. The road does not go through the mountains, but rather around, so they arrived at our home safe and sound.
Does your life seem like a constant battle overcoming the temptations that face us each day? We all have something that has a hold on our lives, such as weight troubles, smoking or relationship troubles. Just as we think we have overcome, another mountain stands in our way. Those temptations keep us from accomplishing our work for the Kingdom. Sometimes our focus is on the wrong things or the bad habits keep us from proper health.
Read Matthew 21:18-19
This story is often read with a sadness and confusion. Why would Jesus curse one of His creation? A fig tree in full leaf should be loaded with fruit, but this tree was barren. Jesus cursed it so that it would not fool another hungry person. There are many people today in ministry who are unable to bear fruit and they wonder "Why?" They have the desire to serve the Lord, but often there are temptations, mountains, that stand in the way.
Read Matthew 21:20-22
The disciples were amazed that Jesus caused the tree to wither. Jesus told them that they too could do the same and more. He said that they could tell the mountain to move out of the way. Perhaps that mountain was blocking something that the fig tree needed to bear fruit, such as sunshine or rain.
Are you aware of a ministry that is not bearing fruit due to an inability to overcome temptation? You have the authority in Christ Jesus to curse the ministry. However, you also have the power of Christ Jesus through prayer to remove the mountain that stands in the way. In other words, rather than trying to topple bad ministries, we should be edifying the people so they become good ministers.
We must always remember, whenever Jesus teaches us something about others, we must first apply the lessons to our own lives. Is your ministry bearing fruit? If not, what is the mountain standing in your way?