Welcome to the July 2001 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves. Where scripture is quoted, I used the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.
A WORD FOR TODAY, July 2001
July 1, 2001
Jealousy Just after college, I spent several years as a retail manager. It was a great job for a single woman but it required long hours. When Bruce and I decided to get married, I considered applying for a transfer to a store near our new home. Instead, I chose to set aside my career goals and focus on my family. Seventy-hour weeks leave no time or energy for developing lasting relationships or raising children.
Though I gave up my career, I needed to have a job - if only to keep myself busy. I was going to avoid retail, but one day it just happened. I was purchasing things for our new home at a department store and the manager of the home fashions department hired me on the spot. It was the perfect position for me, part time cashier with opportunities to use my talents in other ways around the department. She was surprised that I was not seeking a management position, but I assured her of my career decisions.
I was quite successful at the position, receiving commendations from the store manager and good reports from customers. I enjoyed my job - the hours, the tasks, and the store discount. However, my manager was not comfortable with my presence. She became quite paranoid that I was after her job. She did everything she could to make me miserable. She gave me the lousy hours, often refusing to work the schedule around days I requested off. She assigned me the dirtiest, most difficult tasks - often in the stockroom where I would not be visible to the customers or other store management. Finally she broke a promise she made and I quit. When I left, I reminded her of our original interview and my lack of interest in a management position. I told her how much I loved my job. For months after I stopped working for her, she tried to get me to reconsider but I was pregnant and ready to be a full time wife and mother.
There are times in our spiritual journey when people we encounter are afraid of our intentions. At times we are rejected from a fellowship because members are concerned about losing their position. John writes to Gaius in his third letter about a man named Diotrephes. John had sent itinerant preachers to the churches in Asia, but Diotrephes refused to welcome them at his. He wanted to be in control and did everything he could to keep the competition away. He even gossiped maliciously about John his associates. John wrote to Gaius to commend him and exhort him to continue doing what is good.
Read 3 John 1:5-8
The manager had no reason to be concerned about my intentions. However, her management practices were questionable and it was after I left she realized how much I helped keep her department running smoothly without hurting her career. The early churches were no different than today's churches - filled with humans who were imperfect in their thought and action. The Apostles sent preachers to help guide the churches and to help them resolve difficult situations. In that age, just like today, some of the leaders of local congregations did not want help. They had selfish desires rather than the desire to share the truth, which is Jesus Christ, with the world.
Dear friends, be faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ by sharing hospitality with those who cross your path with a message from God the Father. Be kind to your brethren in Christ, even if they are strangers. They come to you in His name to encourage and edify for the glory of God. Be thankful for the opportunity to share your gifts and receive that which they have to offer and praise God for His grace.
Ice Cream When my mom was a young adult, she had a job as a soda jerk in an ice cream shoppe. The employees were responsible for making different types of ice cream treats, such as floats and sundaes. It is a fun job but one filled with temptations at every turn. Every time a customer orders your favourite ice cream or asks for some strange concoction, it is tempting to try it for yourself.
The benefits of such a job often include eating your fill of the treats while at work. In the beginning many people overindulge on the ice cream, taking advantage of the opportunity. Yet, after a time they get tired of eating so much and they cut back. The managers find that after awhile the employees are no longer tempted to eat every time they serve a customer. By giving the soda jerks the grace to do what they want to do, the manager actually helps them realize that they really do not desire to do those sweets. We are tempted by the things we cannot have, and it can be very difficult to overcome when we constantly face that temptation.
Our Father realizes that we face temptation every moment that we walk in this world. He knows how difficult it is for us to walk away from those things that are harmful to our spiritual life. Jesus Christ came in flesh and was tempted so that He could truly identify with the failures of our flesh. However, Jesus did not fall into the temptation, He remained perfect and true to the Word of God no matter what Satan offered Him. His understanding of the grace and mercy of God was so perfect, that He was able to keep from sin. By His death and resurrection, we are forgiven our failures and given the freedom to live in His grace and mercy.
Read Romans 6:1-10
Whenever an ice cream shoppe owner allows such actions from his employees, he does so with the hope that they will be responsible enough to eat with care to their health and his profits. At times, the employees take advantage of the situation and get sick from overindulgence. However, he discovers through this grace the employees who are trustworthy.
In Christ, we have the freedom to live in the grace of God. We can certainly go out and overindulge in the temptations of this world, knowing that the blood of Jesus Christ forgives us. Yet, we will continue to suffer the consequences of our sin. By His baptism we are dead to sin, no longer bound to death and the grave. How will you live in that grace? Will you take advantage of the opportunity to overindulge and get sick from the sin? Or will you be trustworthy and walk in the light and life of God, glorifying Him every step?
Ram There is a commercial for Mountain Dew that takes place in a beautiful mountain setting. A bottle of Mountain Dew is shown setting on a rock, with a very large ram close by. A young man sees his bottle and becomes quite agitated by the danger to his drink. The narrator tells us that a man will do anything to protect his Dew. The man and the ram go head to head, literally. The first attack sends the man to the ground. He gets back on his feet and they butt heads again. This time, the ram falls to the ground and then walks away from the battle. The man takes a long drink of his soda and his friends ask how he is doing. He says, “Not baaaaad.” Then he stumbles away from the scene.
This commercial always makes me laugh; yet we have to wonder about this man. The point of the commercial is that the Mountain Dew is so valuable that it was worth the risk to the man’s life. Would anyone really risk so much for so little?
In today’s society, we take that risk daily, by desiring the things of this world above the gifts that God has for us. We fight battles in our flesh over things that really should not matter in our lives. We verbally attack others for differences of opinion. We sue whomever we can to get some sort of compensation for situations that are simply absurd and often our own fault. Too often we attack with more than just words – we use fist or some other weapons. We tend to choose our physical battles carefully, steering clear of enemies that are potentially dangerous. What we do not realize is that by fighting any battles of flesh, we risk the greater gift, which is our relationship with God.
David was a man of God, seeking His will in all aspects of life. Unfortunately, he was also a man who fought many physical battles against the enemies of Israel. David planned to build a temple for God, and he gathered the materials necessary. However, because David brought much bloodshed to the nation, God refused to allow him to build the temple. The honor was given to his son Solomon. David did not act in obedience to the relationship he had with God; he acted in flesh rather than according to God’s good and perfect will. The battles we fight for God are not in the flesh, but rather in spirit.
Read John 18:36
Have you been butting heads with some ram? What battles have you fought this week? Are you trying to fight the Satan, our enemy, with things of this world, or do you stand firmly on the Word of God? When you face opposition, do not fight by butting heads like the guy in the commercial. Rather, fight with your heart and spirit by speaking the words of God’s kingdom – His love, mercy and grace. Thank Him for His strength and protection and walk in the Spirit. God is not asking you to battle with sword, but rather with prayer. Thanks be to God.
Fireworks The fourth of July is Independence Day in the United States of America. It is the day we celebrate the work of our founding fathers, the brave men who signed a declaration establishing this land as a free nation. There will be gatherings all around America. Families will host barbeques and swimming parties, towns will throw block parties and carals. In the evening, citizens will gather in stadiums and at lakes to watch large firework presentations. It is an exciting day for everyone to share in the spirit of patriotism and community.
For the past few weeks, tents have been raised all over Arkansas and filled with fireworks that people can use for their own smaller displays. These noisemakers and flashes of light are fun and yet can be dangerous; so many communities have laws against their use. We are not allowed to even use sparklers in our community. A loose spark could set the dry grass and forests ablaze. They are also dangerous to the physical well being of the one lighting these explosives. Throughout the country, people are hurt when the product misfires or they do not follow the instructions. People have lost their hands and eyes to accidents with fireworks every year.
Nearby there is a building with a business called “Fireworks World.” This company supplies many of the tent sales, but they are also open for to sell directly to the public. When we moved here to Little Rock, we noticed the building and found it strange that there were never any cars in the parking lot. One day, we noticed that this rather large warehouse actually had a false front; the building is actually much smaller than it appears. A few weeks ago, we noticed changes around the site and they finally opened for business. They will probably stay open for another week or so, then close again for the year.
The manufacturers and merchandisers of fireworks put a great deal of effort into selling their product because they have only a few weeks to sell out their entire supply. They use advertising and every sales method to accomplish their task, including deception. They do not warn about the dangers and they make their business appear larger than life to create in you a desire to buy. Thankfully, there are many sources of information about the dangers of fireworks to help us make responsible decisions about the use of these products.
Read 1 John 4:1-6
Satan is like a fireworks salesman. He doesn’t have much time to sell his product and will do everything he can to make sure it goes. He sells a false idea of God, Jesus Christ and your relationship with Him. He puts a false front on his store and his product is dangerous to your soul. But God has given us the ability to recognize the false prophets and ideas that circulate in this world. Many claim to be Christian, but if they deny the true nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, Immanuel which means ‘God with us’, they are not from God.
Enjoy your Fourth of July. Spend time celebrating your history in your community. Whatever you do today, do so responsibly. Carefully follow the instructions included with any fireworks you may use. Be careful not to over indulge in drink, sun or food to the point of endangering yourself or those who cross your path. Most of all carefully discern whether the things you hear are from God and follow His will in all you do. Don’t buy the garbage Satan sells; believe only the truth of Jesus Christ.
Typos It is funny to sit at the computer while visiting an online chat room and watch the conversation as it unfolds on the screen. Dozens of people join in the chat discussing everything from the weather to religion and politics. It is an unusual medium, as everyone is forced to think and type quickly to get their thoughts into the mix. Yet, this fast pace leaves so much room for typographical errors, some of which are very funny.
Last night in a room, someone typed ‘intervines’ while speaking of God’s active presence in our lives. He meant to use the word ‘intervenes’ but the typo was extremely appropriate. Jesus tells us in the book of John that He is the vine and we are the branches. We are to be so fully a part of God that we produce fruit in keeping with that relationship. So, though the writer meant intervenes, it is quite true that God inter-vines with His children, making them a part of His kingdom through His mercy, love and grace and then using them to bless the world.
I remember once when we were discussing clothing, I accidentally wrote ‘satan’ instead of ‘satin.’ It took me months to live down the fact that I wear Satan’s pajamas. Unfortunately, not all typos are so funny. So often, as people enter a chat room and are greeted with a friendly ‘hello’, the writer slips and forgets to add the ‘o’ at the end, leaving the visitor disturbed by such an offensive greeting. Other typos are far more dangerous, using words opposite in meaning to the intent and causing division or misunderstanding between people. Usually it is possible to correct the error and bring harmony back to the discussion, but such typos have led to bitter disputes and broken relationships. Some even lead people away from Christ.
Read Matthew 12:33-37
God will not be testing us on our spelling or grammar when we approach His throne of grace. However, He does care about the words we say and their influence on the lives of those around us. Some typos come because we do not take the time to consider our words before we type them on the screen. The medium leaves little room for editing and deep thought. The same sort of errors come out of our mouths when we speak with people face to face, only these verbal typos are not so easy to fix. In a chat room, there is an understanding that looks beyond the typographical errors. However Jesus warns us in this text from Matthew that the words that come out of our mouth, and our fingers in this modern age, show what is in our heart. Think carefully before you speak, and consider the damage that could occur from your words and your misspellings. May every word you type and speak glorify God and expand His kingdom. Thanks be to God.
Flag A museum in Connecticut has just unveiled a flag from the mid 19th century. This hand-painted silk Treasury Guard flag had been presented by the Ladies of the Treasury Department in 1864. It was one of the five flags that hung in President Lincoln’s box at the Ford Theatre on April 14, 1865 when he was assassinated. The great treasure was found in the cluttered storage area by a librarian who was looking for Civil War memorabilia to use as props for a lecture she was to present.
The flag was found in 1998, yet it took three years to bring it to light. When asked why they did not reveal the flag earlier, the caretakers explained that it took time to prepare the flag and to research its authenticity. The flag was in a case – folded, old and falling apart. It took a conservator weeks to rehydrate the flag and piece it back together. There were legends around the flag, including the story that this was the flag that Lincoln grasped as he fell under the bullet. It seemed hard to believe. After all, how would such a flag end up in Connecticut?
After careful restoration, the flag now hangs in the museum, showing the unusual design of a hand-painted eagle in the center of the blue field surrounded by thirty-four stars. The history of the flag was found to be true. A resident who had inherited this flag, which had passed through several hands over the years, donated it. Now it is an important reminder of the day the president was shot.
The flag is not in perfect condition. It is cracked and there are bits missing; yet it is still incredibly beautiful. So it is with our spiritual lives. Our faith is not always immediately unveiled to the world, but God molds and transforms us while authenticating our story. He reveals Himself to us, and then painstakingly works on our lives until we stand as a testament to His love. Even after that work, we still are not perfect, yet we are a beautiful reminder of God’s grace.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:9-11
Saul had heard the story of Jesus, but did not believe and persecuted the Christians. One day, the Lord revealed Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus. He changed His name to Paul and sent him to into the world to preach and teach the Gospel. The conversion happened quickly with Paul, yet God was still perfecting his life throughout his missionary journeys. Even though Paul worked hard to spread the Good News, he knew it was not his work that made it happen.
The silk flag is beautiful, but it is the story behind it that gives it its value. Paul’s life was beautiful, but it is the grace of God in his life that gives it value. In many ways, we are like Paul. God has revealed Himself to us and by His grace we are what we are – His children working in His Kingdom for His glory. It takes time and patience. Though we are not perfect, He has fashioned us so that we will tell the story of His love to the world. Thanks be to God.
Underdog “Baby’s Day Out” is a hysterical movie about a child who gets kidnapped from his wealthy home by three bungling criminals. He escapes and crawls around New York getting into the most unusual situations. Meanwhile, the crooks chase him all over town, beaten at every step of the way. At the end of the story, we discover the baby has followed the action of his favourite storybook, and that leads the police to the hideout of the crooks. They are arrested and everyone else lives happily ever after. It is a typical underdog story, where the weaker character is victorious against a bigger and stronger enemy.
One of the Bible stories so often taught in Sunday school to our children is the story of David and Goliath. David was the last-born son of Jesse. His brothers were strong and powerful men, but David was small and had fine features. He tended the sheep of the family. Yet out of all the brothers, God chose David to be His anointed. King Saul, the king of Israel, went to war against the Philistines. The Philistines were a mighty army with a champion named Goliath. Goliath was a giant who wore heavy armour and carried substantial weaponry. He came to face the Israelites daily, shouting challenges to the army of Saul. He said, “Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and kill me, then will we be your servants; but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.”
Goliath did this for forty days. Among the ranks of the army of Saul were the three oldest sons of Jesse. David traveled between the battlefield and the flock. He took supplies to the army. While he was in the camp, he heard Goliath shout his challenge and David said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” David’s brothers were disturbed by these words from their brother, thinking him to be conceited and desiring only to watch the battle while others suffer under the sword of the enemy. Saul heard of this conversation and called David to his tent. David told Saul that he would face the Philistine. At first Saul rejected the idea, since David was just a young boy. David shared stories of the danger he has faced while guarding the sheep of his father and said, “Jehovah that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. ”
So, Saul agreed and fitted David with his own armour and weapons. They were too large for his small frame and he refused to wear them. He carried only his staff and shepherds bad with five smooth stones, and his sling as he approached the giant. Goliath was so offended that the Israelites would send such a small, handsome young man against him. “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?” He cursed David and threatened his life.
Read 1 Samuel 17:45-47
As Goliath approached to attack David, he took a stone out of his bag and flung it toward his enemy. The stone hit him and sank into his forehead, knocking him to the ground. David took the Philistine’s sword and killed him, then cut off his head. The Philistines ran from the battlefield in fear because their mighty champion had been destroyed. The Israelites pursued and killed many, then plundered the camp.
David won the war for the Israelites, not with mighty weapons or even wise battle plans. David was victorious because he trusted the LORD Almighty and he fought for His glory. What Goliath do you face in your life today? Trust in God, in the name of Jesus your Lord and know that the battle is His and He has already defeated the enemy. Just like that baby in the movie, you may be pursued by those who desire to harm you, but as you walk in faith following the light of the Word, God will take care of you and stop your enemy from succeeding. Thanks be to God.
Donors The downtown area of Little Rock has been undergoing major redevelopment as the city leaders try to bring more people into the shopping district. One of the projects receiving a lot of attention is the presidential library being planned by former President Bill Clinton. He is in the process of collecting donations to fund the $200,000,000 complex near the Arkansas River. Several legal situations have come up since Mr. Clinton left office that have caused legislators to file bills requiring donor lists to be revealed.
This sort of questioning occurs whenever such a project is undertaken. Politicians want to be certain that none of the people donating to the cause are doing so to buy political clout or pay for favours during their time in office. The political ramifications of such revelations can be disastrous to the parties involved. Many of the donors would rather remain anonymous to avoid such difficulties. Yet, in many cases, they are quite open with their philanthropic activities. All too often, a wealthy donor will give large amounts of money to a hospital or school so that there will be a building or wing named after them. They inform the media so that they receive full credit for the charitable act.
Still, there are many who give financially to support the work of charitable organizations that do want to remain anonymous. They have no desire to broadcast their good works to the world, not because they have something to hide, but rather because they do not need to take credit for their action. A Christian life should be filled with acts of giving – our finances, our time and our lives. Yet, Jesus was very clear about watching our motives for our acts of righteousness.
Read Matthew 6:1-4
Jesus goes on in this chapter to talk about praying and fasting in secret. He is not telling us that no one should see our lives of service to others. He is simply warning us to watch the purpose of our giving, prayer and fasting. Do we want the world to see what good people we are, so we do these things in the open to get credit for our work? Or, are we serving the Lord by giving ourselves in love to those who are in need? We don’t need to have a building with our name on it for the world to see what good people we are. We need to walk the Christ-like walk, willingly giving everything we have and everything we are back to God for His glory. They will know we are Christians by our love, and then He will get the credit for our good works. Thanks be to God.
Big Fish God spoke to Jonah and told him to go to Ninevah to warn the people to repent and turn to the LORD. Jonah did not like the people of Ninevah, for they were his enemies and he wanted them to be destroyed. So, instead of obeying the Word of God, he ran away by hiding on a merchant ship that was going to Tarshish. It is impossible to hide from the LORD and God sent a storm so terrifying that even the sailors were afraid. Jonah knew that God had sent the high waves to rock the boat as a punishment to him for his disobedience. He told the sailors that the storm would stop if they threw him overboard. They did not want to have the blood of a man on their hands, so they tried to row back to shore. They were unable, so cried out to God asking that He not make them accountable for Jonah’s life. Then they threw him over the side of the boat into the raging ocean. The storm stopped and the ocean became calm. They so feared the power of this God of Jonah that they offered Him sacrifice and worshipped Him.
Meanwhile, God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. For three days and three nights, Jonah sat in the belly of this great fish, praying to God in repentance and seeking His forgiveness.
Read Jonah 2:2-9
At this, the fish spit out Jonah and God once again spoke His command for Jonah to go to Ninevah. Reluctantly, Jonah went and preached a message of repentance to the people of Ninevah and they responded immediately by believing God. Even the king tore his royal clothes, put on sackcloth and sat in the dust to mourn. He issued a decree for the city to fast, give up their evil ways and turn to God in the hope that He will forgive their sins and stop the destruction.
God had compassion on the people and forgave them. He did not send destruction to Ninevah. Jonah was angry at God for his compassion, and told Him that was the reason he ran to Tarshish. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” Jonah asked God to take his life, because even death was better to him than seeing his enemy in the favour of God.
Do we ever feel this way? Who are the people that you would rather see perish than share the message of our Lord Jesus Christ? How do you run away from God’s command? God speaks to His children, giving the order to go and preach the Good News to the world. We cannot pick and choose to whom we will preach the words of repentance, we must go and do according to God’s Word. If you try to hide from God, you might just end up like Jonah, in the belly of a big fish. When we do fail to walk as God commands, we can sing songs of thanksgiving knowing that the forgiveness that comes with repentance and commitment to do His work is for us, too. Thanks be to God.
God A well-known English deist, Anthony Collins of the seventeenth century, was walking one day when he crossed paths with a commoner. “Where are you going?” asked Collins.
How do you describe God? In today’s society, there are many different ideas about the nature of God. So many people are looking to fill the hole in their souls, a hole that can only be filled by the One, True and living God. Yet, if you visit the spiritual section of any secular bookstore, you will find large displays of books that teach different ideas about God, even the belief in many gods. There are religions that make the things of creation – nature, materials or man himself – to be gods. The limited ability of human beings to understand the vast truth about the LORD causes us to look for explanations in the things we can see. But God tells us the Truth in His Word.
Read Isaiah 45:5-7
There is no other God but our God. There is only one way to know Him, and that is through our Lord Jesus Christ. He brought reconciliation between God and His creation, giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit so we can seek His face and understand His nature. He is both big and small – bigger than creation, but small enough to live in our hearts. He is so big that everything must submit to His authority, but He humbled Himself and became flesh so that we could know Him intimately. Unfortunately, in our society many people do not acknowledge Him, embracing their gods of nature, materials and man-made ideas. Yet, He still comes to us, invites us into His life and light by the blood of our Lord Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.
Fire We have been enjoying our summer vacation, which is just about half over. We have filled our time with visitors and activities that are fun. With six more weeks of vacation to fill, I am doing my best to find inexpensive but fun things to keep us busy. Since the temperatures have soared into the 100’s, we need to choose activities that will keep us cool and safe.
We found a movie theatre that costs only 50 cents, so yesterday we decided to go see a movie. The theatre is not state of the art and there are very few employees to take care of business, but it is a great way to waste a couple hours in the heat of the day. Unfortunately, our visit yesterday included a bit of an adventure. About 30 minutes into the film, the electricity went out. We were left sitting in the dark in a theatre crowded with children. There were several day care and youth summer programs also visiting the theatre. Though there were adult chaperones, the number was few and the kids were spread out all over the theatre.
I told my children to sit patiently for a few moments. I was certain the theatre employees would either fix the problem or announce the cancellation of the show. A teenager pulled out a lighter and started walking around the theatre, shining the flame in the faces of strangers looking for her friends. It was foolish and brought other children into the aisle to act silly in the light of the flame. It should have been a few moments of patient waiting, but it became a time of chaos with children crawling over each other in the dark. We learn as children that we should never play with fire. Though a lighter is small and relatively harmless, we do not know what sort of chaos we can cause if we use it improperly.
Read James 3:5-6
The Bible warns us about watching our words and actions. The words we speak can bring about good things or they can cause chaos. We often differ in our use of the words based on regional and cultural definitions. This can cause division between people when it is simply a misunderstanding. We must be careful about our use of words. Consider the effect something you say may have on someone you love or on the lives of strangers.
The small flame of the lighter made the children to get rowdy. One word from you can cause another to feel anger, bitterness and malice – thus causing them to sin. Stop before you speak, think and pray about what to say and always use language that will glorify God.
Tongue In yesterday’s writing, we looked at the possible chaos and destruction an unbridled tongue can cause. Our words and actions impact the people in our lives, and at times those we do not even know we touch by our speech. Robert Schuller used a legend from the French Revolution to make a point about taming the tongue.
“It was during the days of the French Revolution that King Louis XVI and his queen were condemned to death. They were escorted to the guillotine in a public square in Paris and beheaded. Then the frenzied mob called for the prince, the dauphin: ‘Bring out the prince,’ they cried. ‘He’s next.’
Read James 3:7-12
In the story, the prince specifically speaks against using dirty words. But what is profanity? Is it just the words that you can’t say on television? No, the definition of profane is anything that shows irreverence and contempt to God and sacred things. God loves His creation, but He has special concern and love for the crown of His creation – man. Anything we do against another man, including the words we speak, shows irreverence and contempt for our God. We cannot curse men and praise God with the same mouth. So today, as you walk in the light of our Lord Jesus Christ, show mercy as your heavenly Father shows mercy. Thanks be to God.
Media Last fall a local BBC news reporter interviewed me about an incident in a village near our home. The servers at a pub in the village were donating all their tips to a charity, and Patricia Cornwell gave them a very large tip to support the cause. The reporter’s focus on the story was, “How much do you tip?” When he interviewed me, I told him that I see these things from a Christian perspective and I felt that her donation was extremely generous and kind-hearted. When I saw the interview on the news that afternoon, the editor had removed every reference to our Lord Jesus. The story gave a false impression of Patricia Cornwell’s intent and American attitudes about money.
Not all the media will so flagrantly reject the Gospel for their stories, however. Recently in Little Rock, a very young boy died when he fell from the balcony of a hotel. The hotel manager, who is a Christian, shared his faith with the reporter by asking the people of Arkansas to pray for the family. The reporter was so impressed by his faith that he printed the plea in the newspaper and many have heard the Word of God.
Our Lord Jesus has given us the command to go out and make disciples of all nations. We must take every opportunity to share our testimony, even if we are rejected and ignored. We never know when our words will land on good soil, and grow to bear much fruit in this world. We have been sent, but we do not go empty-handed. Jesus prepared His disciples for rejection, and thus He prepares us.
Read Luke 10:5-12, 16
We should never shy away from the opportunities to share the Gospel, even if our words may be rejected. In this story, Jesus tells His disciples to give the same message to those who hear and those who reject, “The kingdom of God is near.” Though the world may reject us for our love of God, it is actually rejecting God and His love. Jesus’ words give us the confidence to speak, because we know that at times the Word will fall on ears that hear and lives are changed. Thanks be to God.
Wet The weather here in Arkansas has been hot and humid. The heat is very uncomfortable, so to overcome we have been keeping the doors and windows tightly shut with the air conditioning running. This has been particularly difficult for our cat, Felix. See, Felix is an indoor cat who desperately wants to go outside. He is almost satisfied if he can spend time sitting near an open window, breathing the air and meowing at the birds. Since he has not been able to do that, he has tried very hard to sneak out.
Thursday night, a large storm front moved through our area and left behind large quantities of rain. Our yard was like a marshy lake, with deep puddles of water everywhere. The rain brought cooler temperatures and temporary relief from the humidity. We decided to open the windows to get some fresh air circulating through the house. We opened the patio door, but kept the screen door locked. A little while later, Zack came to me and said, “Mom, there is a rip in the screen door.”
I went to have a look at the damage, and Felix had pushed the corner of the screen out of the frame and escaped into the yard. He wasn’t difficult to find. He was sitting on the corner of the patio soaking wet and shivering. His brief jaunt into the yard brought unexpected consequence.
There are many things that we would like to do in this world. It is tempting to run out the door, away from the safety of our home, to enjoy the freedom we think exists beyond the screen door. Yet, that freedom comes with a price. For Felix, it was wet fur. For us, the wages of sin is death. But through the grace of God and the blood of our Lord Jesus, we are forgiven and have the gift of eternal life.
Read Romans 6:15-23
It may be a few days, but Felix will try to go outside again one day. Yesterday he experienced just one danger that looms. Yet, he still desires to have that freedom he thinks he will have on the other side of the screen door. He does not realize that if he gets too far from home, he could be attacked by a larger animal or hit by a car. We are just like Felix. We want to leave the protection of our home, which is God, to discover the things of the world that will fulfill the desires of our flesh. But as Christians, we have committed ourselves to be slaves in the house of the Lord, obedient to our Master who is God. He has freed us from the bondage of sin and given us the gift of eternal life. Thanks be to God.
Answering Machine When I was single, I worked long hours and spent little time at home. I had an answering machine to take any calls that came in my absence. The message was unusual at times, as I made use of music and other creative ideas. There was one particularly fun message that caused so much confusion – I spoke in French. It took a great deal of work to make this message, because I am not fluent in the language, but with a couple years of learning in school and a reference book or two, I was able to write a short, but accurate message. I practiced so that the words would flow off my tongue and finally recorded the message.
I seemed to get a higher number of hang-ups with that message, though my friends usually realized it was my phone when they heard my name. The funniest confusion came when Bruce tried to call. It was the early days of our relationship and he was living in England. He was sure that he dialed the right number, but when he got this message in French, he wondered if he had dialed the wrong international dialing code!
My strange message caused so much confusion to my friends and the strangers who called. I decided to change it after I had received several calls from a doctor’s office for a Mrs. Johnson. They left messages for her about test results and appointments, but did not leave a number to return the call. I had no way of informing them that they were using the wrong phone number. Even though I loved that message, I finally realized that it was hurting others.
In Christ, we are no longer bound by sin, but free to live according to the goodness and mercy of God. Yet, in that freedom, we must be careful not to harm others with our actions.
Read Galations 5:13-15
As we walk in the light of our Lord Jesus, we must always consider our neighbour and how our actions will affect them. Will what we do make another sin? Will we make them angry or cause them bitterness? Will we make them feel guilt for doing something they think is wrong? Will we cause them to overindulge in something such as food or wine? There are those who lack the understanding and strength to control their response. Someone who is hurt may not be able to control his or her temper. One drop of liquor can cause an alcoholic to overindulge. In all things, be certain that your actions show your love for your neighbour and concern for their well-being. Though you have the freedom to do what you feel is right, do not do anything that will cause another to stumble in thought, word or deed. Love your neighbour as yourself. Thanks be to God.
Summer Vacation When I was a kid, I loved summer vacation. I would spend dawn to dusk swimming in our pool or reading under a tree. We played flashlight tag or caught lightning bugs in the dark of the night. It was a time of carefree living with no responsibilities or stress. When I was young, I thought everyone had summer vacation and that I would continue to celebrate the joys of such freedom even as an adult. It did not occur to me that my parents still went to work every day. As I grew older, I realized the foolishness of my dreams. In my teenage years I got summer jobs and no longer had those three months to play.
Of course, the dream job for any summer vacation junky is to be a teacher. They still get the three months of freedom to play, don’t they? Not really. Most teachers spend the summer preparing for the next year, taking continuing education courses, or working a temporary job. Bills still need to be paid and teachers are required to stay informed.
Read Psalm 134
Another dream job is that of the minister. After all, a pastor only works one day a week – Sunday when he preaches. During the rest of the week they just praise the Lord. Oh, He may have to read a bible verse or two, maybe visit someone in the hospital, but he certainly doesn’t work more than a few hours a week! Actually, a pastor’s job is very stressful and extensive. They are on call 24 hours a day, always available to meet the spiritual needs of their congregation. They must also take care of the emotional and at times physical needs of the people. The church has bills that need to be paid and the building needs maintenance. It takes a great deal of work to coordinate the logistics of all the services and other events, such as bulletin preparation and newsletter publication.
On top of that, a pastor must stay well read on the issues of the day and must be spiritually healthy to deal with the things that threaten the ministry of the church. He must spend time in prayer, intercessing as well as listening for God’s will. A sermon takes time to prepare, so he must take time daily to read and study the scriptures so that it is written on his heart and is prepared to speak God’s word to the congregation.
A minister does not have an easy job. They suffer from stress and burnout quite often because the congregation demands so much and they overextend themselves. Yet, the most important job of a pastor is to minister to the Lord and praise Him. Today let us pray for those who minister in our churches and elsewhere. Take time to relieve your pastor of some task so that he can spend time in prayer, raising his hands in praise and thanksgiving to God for His many blessings.
For all of you who are ministers, I pray that God will bless you this day with His presence and a very real sense of His touch, that you might be filled and strengthened to continue His work in this world. Recall the work of our Lord Jesus, the time He took for quiet reflection alone with His Father and follow in His footsteps. Take time today to praise the LORD and receive the blessings of His love, joy and peace. Thanks be to God.
Cooking hints I was once baking some of my favourite Christmas cookies, a lightly sweet bread-like cookie with currents. It was when my children were young, and were quite a distraction. When the first batch was baked, I ate one just to be sure they tasted right. It was horrible. After some thought, I realized that I had forgotten to add the sugar. I tried to fix the problem, but at that point it was too late. I needed to throw the whole batch away and begin again. At other times I have made similar mistakes, adding too much salt or forgetting some vital ingredient. It takes practice and concentration to become a good cook, and in the process there will be failures.
A bread baker has a particularly complicated job. Yeast is difficult to work with, and the baker must become familiar with each aspect of this ingredient. Since yeast is an active ingredient, a living plant that grows, it must be handled with care. To make yeast work, the baker adds it to water. Other ingredients, such as salt and sugar, cause specific reactions. If conditions are not perfect – the measurements and temperature – the bread will not rise properly or taste right. One of the most common mistakes is using old yeast. Since it is a living organism it is perishable, and old yeast causes problems in the bread.
During our walk as Christians, we cross the paths of many types of people. We meet and work with people who are both believers in our Lord Jesus Christ and those who do not believe. We meet Christians with varying perspectives about scripture, salvation, and gifts. Yet, the foundation of our faith rests solely on our Lord Jesus, and we are expected to manifest lives that show this faith to the world. St. Catherine of Sienna said, “To sin is human, but to persist in sin is devilish.”
Read 1 Corinthians 5:11-12
If we keep using yeast improperly, our bread will never be good. So, to with our Christian walk, we must be certain that there is no bad yeast used in the baking process. If you continue to walk in fellowship with those who continue in sin, the world will be given a wrong impression about what it means to be a Christian. Stand firm in Christ, speak against those who claim to be brethren but whose actions are not as God intends. It is good and necessary to have relationships with those outside the faith, for that is the best way to witness the love of God to the world. However, if someone claims to be of Christ but his actions prove otherwise, then you should not be in fellowship with that person. Today’s church is filled with bad yeast, those who are teaching new age ideas, sharing false witness about Christ and stealing the truth from God’s sheep. Learn, discern and obey as God shows you the truth. Thanks be to God.
Traffic Signals There are eight counties in the state of Arkansas that do not have any traffic signals. This week, the number will become seven as one county installs its first stoplight. For most Americans, this concept is unbelievable. We spend so much of our time stuck in traffic and sitting at stoplights waiting for our chance to pass. America has advanced technologically so far so quickly; it seems impossible that there are still people and places untouched by the hustle bustle of modern living. Yet, there are still areas of our country that don’t have phone and cable service; there are people who live without electricity and indoor plumbing.
As we look around the world, we are fully aware that there are regions that have not yet heard the story of our Lord Jesus Christ. The mission field is vast, though missionaries and the Internet, television and radio take God’s Word to those places closing the window a little bit every day. There are still many who have never heard the Gospel. The people of third world countries, many who live in the East and those who are in Middle Eastern countries, have been denied the opportunity to hear the good news of Christ for many reasons. However, there is a mission field much closer to home that should concern us as much as those far away.
It is hard to believe that many in our own country have never had anyone share the Gospel. We all have neighbours, friends and coworkers who do not know the love and forgiveness that comes with a life in Christ. How can it be that we have missed sharing our hope and faith with those we meet every day? We lack the courage to speak boldly in a society that values tolerance and diversity.
No, I’m not advocating removing the freedom that is the foundation of our Constitution and which our service members have suffered to keep. No, we should not force anyone to become a Christian. However, our Lord Jesus Christ has given us two jobs, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” We do this by sharing the Gospel. We need to be aware of those in our lives who need to hear our story and speak with great boldness.
Read Acts 4:23-31
Today, look at your family, your friends, your coworkers and your neighbours and find those who need to hear the Gospel from you. Let us pray together that God will provide us with the gifts necessary to step out in faith and speak boldly about His love and mercy. Ask God today to open to you the opportunity to share your story and your faith with someone, then go out and do so in obedience.
Life in the counties of Arkansas that still do not have traffic signals is simpler than our ‘hurry, hurry, wait’ lifestyle in the city. People in homes without phone service or cable may have fewer bills and less to worry about. However, in our world there should be none who have never heard about Jesus Christ, and it is our responsibility to share Him today. Thanks be to God.
Denominations Pastor Jack Hayford was once quoted as saying, “Yes, we are all a part of the whole body of Christ, but as Israel camped around the Tabernacle in tribes, so we need to, every once in a while, be with our tribe and accept the ministry given to our tribes.” The tribes of Israel began with the sons of Jacob. In Genesis 49, Jacob blesses his sons, a speech that defined the unique character and fate of each tribe. As the story of Israel unfolds in the Bible, we find that these blessings are true. The descendents of Jacob fulfill the blessings, most notably is the rule of Judah from whom “the scepter will not depart.”
Each tribe had a purpose and was given the gifts and personality to fulfill God’s will for them. Together, Israel was complete but they suffered greatly when they were divided. In the later years, there were two kingdoms and two kings. Under this separation, the Israelites were attacked, exiled and dispersed, never to be whole again. The people turned from God, and were left with the consequences of their sin. However, God our Father is merciful and filled with such love that He sent our Lord Jesus Christ to draw His people back to Him. Jesus brought forgiveness and reconciliation that was not possible through the blood of animals sacrificed in the temple.
The Jews, in the days of Jesus, were looking for a worldly Messiah, a king who would reunite the Israelites and make them a whole nation once again. However, God’s intent had nothing to do with worldly rule. He desired His people to be reunited with Him, whole and holy as He created them to be. For this purpose, Jesus suffered death on the cross, taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world. He was the perfect sacrificial lamb. This was not enough to complete the redemptive process. God desired that we have more than just a life in this world forgiven of our sin. He wanted us to have a personal relationship with Him, not just for today but for eternity. So, our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from death into new life and we are given the hope of eternal life when we live in Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. God our Father, who loves us with a love that is beyond our comprehension, binds us – all Christians – together by this gift.
Read Ephesians 4:1-7
The Israelites were bound together by the promise of God in the days of our forefathers. So too are we Christians bound together by a promise. Their promise was for the Promised Land, ours is eternal life. They had the hope that one day they would be one nation under God. Our hope is in Christ.
In Israel, each tribe was unique and God used their individuality for His Glory. Christians also have unique personalities and purposes, not only as individuals but also as tribes or denominations. Will we follow the path of Israel and separate by choosing to follow earthly kings or will we rejoice together as we follow the King of Glory? Today, let us share in that one hope we all confess, the hope of eternal life in Christ. Be at peace with one another and bear with each other in love. Do all things for the glory of the One who loved you so much that He gave everything so that you might have every blessing He desires to give. Thanks be to God.
Meetings It seems our church calendars are filled to the brim with meetings that are scheduled to discuss some event or project. There are committees – groups of people chosen to take care of the tasks involved in ministry. Each group has a specific role to play, to keep the church in good working order.
Though every denomination is different, many Christian fellowships also have area, regional and national organizations that meet to discuss the issues that affect the church. Locally, churches work together to expand their Christian ministry to the community by sharing the workload. Regions support the work of the local churches in many ways including financial assistance and spiritual direction. The national church establishes guidelines for the local groups to follow, including doctrine and administrative policy.
Many of today’s churches seem to run more like political institutions than the body of Christ, and many Christians have chosen to walk away from the mainstream Christian denominations. It is their opinion that the endless meetings and decisions being made have nothing to do with the original state and intent of Christ’s church. Yes, in many ways we have grown too large and have lost the feeling of closeness and family, particularly when controversial issues bring division and anger within the body of Christ. Yet, such decisions have long been a part of the development of the church throughout the ages. Even in the days of the apostles, the Church has met to come to agreements about the direction and teaching of the church.
Read Acts 15:1-11
The assembly quietly listened as Paul and Barnabas described God’s work among the Gentiles. Paul quoted the prophets to substantiate his claims and the council came to an agreement about how to handle the situation. Together, they wrote a letter to the Gentile churches encouraging them to stand firm in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and to abstain from the things that would turn them from the path of Christ-like living. The meeting was a success and the church established a solid understanding of one difficult issue.
There were many who disagreed with the decision, and I can imagine that the debate that day was as heated as many of the discussions under way in today’s Church. During the summer months, many denominations are holding their national assemblies, to make decisions that will affect their churches. Some of the issues being presented are extremely controversial. Reaction to some of the decisions has been disappointment, confusion and anger. Families are being divided and people are separating from their congregations. There is a call from many Christians to bring the Church back to the beginning, to the way of the Apostles, but as we can see they too argued and debated the issues.
On this issue of circumcision, it seems that the church came to a full agreement; Paul and Barnabas stood firm together and convinced their brethren of the truth. Yet, later in the chapter these two men separated from a disagreement about another issue. The same is true of the Church today. We stand in agreement about some things, but we disagree about others. No matter your opinion of the work being done by another denomination, it is my hope that you will stand firm in Christ and pray with your brethren that God’s purpose will be accomplished in the world today. Remember, the tribes may be different but the goal is the same, to glorify God. We are bound together by His Spirit and His love even when we are separated by our opinions. Thanks be to God.
Mark The disagreement in yesterday’s story between Paul and Barnabas was about a young man named John Mark. As Christians today, we live and breathe the words written by Paul in his letters to the church, many books of the Bible. Certainly Paul must have been right about the situation, he is the great man of God who converted many to the Way. Barnabas was also a faithful steward of God’s Word, but he wasn’t Paul.
John Mark was a young man at the time of the crucifixion. It is generally believed that he was the one described in the Mark 14:51-52, “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”
In Acts 12, Peter was in prison but an angel came and released him. Many followers of the Way were praying at the home of Mary, John Mark’s mother, when Peter knocked on the door. They did not want to open the door because they were frightened of Herod and the Jews. Yet, a servant girl named Rhonda was certain it was Peter’s voice. “And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she confidently affirmed that it was even so. And they said, It is his angel." (Acts 12:15) They opened the door and found Peter standing before them, and he described the events, which led to his escape. The guards did not know what happened, so Herod had them killed. After this, John Mark joined Paul and Barnabas on their missionary trip. Barnabas was his cousin and mentor.
When they finished their work in Cyprus, John Mark left them to return to Jerusalem. We do not know the reason for his leaving, perhaps he was homesick or was unhappy that Paul became the leader of the team. After the journey was complete, they returned to Jerusalem and spoke before the counsel about circumcision and the Gentiles. They left again, to deliver the message to the churches.
Read Acts 15:36-38
The disagreement was so sharp that they went their separate ways. Mark returned with Barnabas to Cyprus. We do not hear about their journey, since the author of Acts, Luke, traveled with Paul. We can tell from the letters, however, that Paul’s attitude about Mark eventually changes. In the letter to the Colossians Paul writes, “Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner saluteth you, and Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (touching whom ye received commandments; if he come unto you, receive him.)” (Colossians 4:10) Then in his second letter to Timothy he writes, “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee; for he is useful to me for ministering.” (2 Timothy 4:11)
In the end, Paul realized his mistake and recognized how important Mark was to his ministry and to the work of God. Barnabas knew of Mark’s potential from the beginning and understood that he was just immature and needed nurturing to grow in faith and wisdom. Today, Mark is best known for the Gospel, which he wrote to share the story of our Lord Jesus Christ with Gentiles. Thanks be to God.
Uncomfortable It is hot at our house right now. It is very early in the morning and the temperature has already reached 80 degrees. By this afternoon, it will peak over 100. When the weather is like this, extreme and uncomfortable, it seems to be the only topic of conversation. Yesterday, a cart boy at the Wal-Mart complained about how hot it was, and then grumbled about how they make him do this job all day.
I felt bad for him, because I had only been outside for a few moments and I was already suffering under the oppressiveness of the air. As I looked around the parking lot, I could see that there were so many carts that were just abandoned wherever the customer left it. In this hot weather, no one wants to have to push a cart even a few extra feet. This makes the job far more difficult for the young men. The lots are designed with cart corals for many reasons. Loose carts are dangerous because they can roll into cars. They make parking difficult because they block spaces. Yesterday Wal-mart had at least three boys pushing carts in the lot. If the customers were courteous, the store would not need to pay so many boys to do one job. They could be doing something more productive.
Despite all this, the hot weather and lack of concern on the part of those who shop at the store, this young man should not have grumbled about his job. He was hired for a specific purpose and no matter the conditions; he should do his job responsibly.
How often do we grumble? There is a story about a woman who was running errands in her town. She complained at every stop because of there was always some horrible stench. When she returned home, she discovered that she had stepped in something earlier in the day, and it was her that was carrying the smell everywhere she went. Our complaints are either something we cause ourselves, or are something over which we have no control. We waste our time grumbling about these things.
Read James 5:7-9
What sort of complaint do you have today? Is it about the weather, your neighbour or job? Do you grumble about the work of God and His slow return? No matter the conditions around us – for we will suffer under the persecution of the world and the consequences of our actions – we must be patient and continue to do our job as we wait for His time. Most of all let us work together in love of one another, edifying and encouraging our brothers. When a small task on your part can ease the burden of another, such as returning a cart to the coral, do so in the joy and knowledge that you have made a difference. The benefits are many. Thanks be to God.
Names When I was pregnant with Vicki, I put very little thought into her name. Bruce and I had decided that he would choose a boy’s name and I would choose one for a girl. Since I was absolutely certain the child in my womb was a boy, I did not bother. One night, shortly before she was born, Bruce said to me, “Honey, it could be a girl.” So, I said, “Alright, if the baby is a girl her name will be Victoria Lynn.” Well, it was a good thing I chose a name because one week later, Vicki was born.
Historically, as can be found in the scriptures, names mean something. Take for instance the child born to Abraham and Sarah. God had promised that Abraham that he would be the father of many descendents. Many years later, Sarah remained childless and Abraham had fathered a child through Sarah’s servant. Yet, God’s promise was for the two to have children. Three visitors to their camp told Abraham that Sarah would give birth to a child. Sarah, who was standing in the doorway of their tent, laughed. She could not believe in her old age she would receive such a blessing from the Lord.
Yet, God is always faithful and His promises are always fulfilled, so soon Sarah gave birth to a child. When he was born he was named Isaac, which means ‘he who laughs.’ “And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh. Every one that heareth will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6) Sarah once laughed because the idea of her being a mother was ludicrous, but she named her son Isaac because of the joy he brought to her life.
Do names really matter? For a long time, as I studied the scriptures that speak of God’s name, I wondered which name? Some Christians believe that God has one specific name and others believe that he has hundreds. When we refer to Him with names such as Counselor, King of kings, Lord, Father, or the Almighty, we refer to His character and His position, but are those His names? Yes, since historically, names mean something – they define the person of whom you speak. This leaves room for the many names of God to be used in prayer – for healing, for hope, for faith. There was a time when my own understanding of faith left much room for the gods of other religions. I felt that we should not reject these names. I wondered if Allah was truly another name of God. Yet, scripture is clear about the name by which we are saved. There is power in the name of Jesus.
Read Acts 4:8-12
I once walked a path of belief that there are many ways to heaven. Yet, the way to eternal life is narrow, and it is through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Christ, our Redeemer, Saviour, Lord, Teacher. He is the King of kings, the Prince of peace, Lamb of God, Light of the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is by His name we are saved. By His name we have power and authority over the enemy, which is death. The name of Jesus means something. It means healing and eternal life for those who call upon Him. Thanks be to God.
Reading Zack loves to read, but he loves playing outside even more. At the end of the school year, he told many people about how reading was his favourite hobby and how he was going to read many books over the summer. We signed up for a several reading programmes, one at the library and another at Barnes and Noble Booksellers. With both programmes, the children earn prizes, such as coupons for activities or free books.
Yesterday we went to Barnes and Noble to get our latest prize. Zack said to me, “Do we have to do this again, Mom?” I told him that he needed to keep reading even though the programmes were almost over. He said, “I know, Mom, but I would rather read for fun.” All this time, getting him to read was like pulling teeth because he was working at it. An activity he loved became work because he was trying to earn something.
The silly part of this whole story is that he could have, and should have, been reading for fun all along. He took the joy out of it by reading with the wrong attitude. How often do we do that with our Christian walk? With the reading programmes, the children received something special for doing something they loved to do. Instead of receiving those prizes with a joyful heart for doing that which he loved to do, Zack made it a hard task.
For a Christian, good works are the natural manifestation of Christ who dwells in us, working through us for the glory of God. Too often, however, we make our walk with Jesus something difficult and it becomes a chore. We take the simple Gospel message and we make it complicated with our theology and interpretation. We go to church not because we desire to go worship the Lord, but because we have committed to be usher or read the lessons of the day.
Read John 6:60-69
Too often, we do what we do out of an obligation rather than as a response to that which Christ has done for us. Just like Zack, who made a joyful activity be a chore, we take the message of Christ and make it a hard teaching. Jesus tells us that He is the bread of life and all we need do is feed on Him and we will have the promise of eternal life. In prayer, study of the scriptures, partaking of the sacraments and fellowship with other Christians, our life in Christ is renewed and we do His work as a joyful response to His life in us. This is a hard teaching because we try to earn our gifts. Receive this gift; do not walk from His blessings. Jesus is Lord; His Word gives life, hope, peace and joy. Thanks be to God.
Juggler We went to the Discovery Museum last night for a special performance by Rhys Thomas, a juggler from the Mid-west. He presented a programme called “Up for Grabs,” part of a science circus being held this week. He is a former schoolteacher, and he taught about scientific principles as he performed amazing tricks of juggling and balance. We spent the evening laughing at his jokes, amazed at his talent and we all learned a thing or two about gravity, force and motion.
He began juggling when he was just sixteen years old, and over the years he has realized how important these scientific principles are to his act. If he is trying to juggle while standing on a board that is on a cylinder, he needs to know precisely the point in his body that is the center of gravity. He also has to understand the different affects of air, shape and distance on the props he’s juggling.
He said, “Juggling is a sport where the juggler competes against gravity.” This is quite difficult for many reasons. Most of all, the concept of gravity is not completely understood by even the most studied and intelligent scientists. They know gravity exists, but are not sure exactly what it is or how it works. They do know that every body has gravity. Mass is drawn to other mass. The larger the mass, the greater the gravitational pull. This is why when you drop a ball it falls to the ground rather than being drawn to you. The largest mass close to us is the earth, so its gravitational pull is far greater than any other body.
Rhys is able to perform juggling so well because he understands the scientific concepts involved in his craft. It took study along with practice. The more he understands, the more difficult and amazing the tricks that he can perform. The foundation of his ability, however, is the acceptance of gravity as a fact even though it is not completely understood or visible to the eye.
Read Colossians 2:1-5
There is so much about God that is beyond our understanding. He created the earth, everything in it and even gravity. There are so many scientific principles that we can’t explain we just know they are. God’s thought is so much higher than our simple human brains can know. Yet, even though we can’t see or completely understand things of science we can study and learn to use the concepts for entertainment or to fulfill some purpose. The same can be said about the things of spirit such as faith, miracles and power. We can an should spend time in prayer and study of the scriptures, learning by the Holy Spirit about these concepts so that we can use them to enlarge the kingdom of God and build up the Church and her members.
Rhys performs his skill to teach children and adults, so that they will have a better understanding of scientific principles. Paul wrote his letters to the churches that they might have a greater understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ, and walk the life they are called to live using their gifts to praise and worship Him. Today, read the words in the scriptures so that you know the treasures He reveals in His life so that you will walk in truth. Thanks be to God.
Why? Human beings have a tendency to seek the reason or purpose for everything that happens in life. Every child goes through that phase when they ask a million questions. Why is the sky blue? Why do the leaves fall to the ground in autumn? Why do lions roar but cats meow? Why do snowflakes melt when they land on my hand? These questions are not always easy, but we can usually find an answer and teach a lesson in science or biology with our children by sharing our knowledge.
The questions are not always so easy. If they’ve had a fight with their best friend they ask, “Why does my friend hate me?” They often want to understand why the world is as it is, with evil and suffering. “Why are children hungry in Africa?” “Why are we at war in Kosovo?” We shouldn’t kid ourselves by thinking they are not aware of these events that affect our lives. They are afraid, hurt or curious about the same things we watch as adults. They want an answer to their problems because it is the only way they can stop being afraid, hurt or curious. As we grow older, we begin to realize that there are simply some things that do have acceptable answers. Some things happen in our world because of sin. The consequence of sin is suffering and pain. It ultimately leads to death.
When someone we know dies, we want an answer to the question, “Why?” Sometimes it seems easy to answer, “She was old and lived a long life.” “He did not take care of his body and it finally gave out.” Other times it is more tragic, such as when a young mother is killed in an accident or a young child dies in his sleep. Yet, death was never part of God’s plan. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve disobeyed God broke the intimate bond that He intended to be eternal. They were put out of the garden so that they could never eat of the tree of life or else they would live forever in that state. We cannot and should not live forever separated from God.
The world and those in it accept death as final, and they live to satisfy their present desires. They do everything they can to continue and enjoy life in the flesh because there is no reason to look beyond it. More people than I can count have asked me, “Why are you a Christian?” Also, “Why do you bother going to church?” To them, I am wasting my time praying, worshiping and praising God. I have looked back over my own life and the times I’ve asked the same questions. “Why is there suffering?” “Why did my mother die?” I come back to the same answer, over and over again.
Read John 3:16
Why am I a Christian? Because in the end, when there are no more questions to be asked and I have to face the final enemy, which is death, I know that I have eternal life waiting for me beyond that moment. Thanks to the work of my Saviour Jesus Christ, death is not final; it is a passing from separation from God into the permanent intimate relationship I was created to have with Him.
Why do I go to church? Because I am so thankful for the promise of God in Christ Jesus that I desire to join in heart, spirit and voice with others as we worship and praise God for His love. Thanks be to God.
Psychics The television is filled with advertisements for many things, from bread and orange juice, and from lawyers and medical supplies. Some commercials are fun and make us laugh. Others are disturbing. Some of the most annoying commercials are those for the psychics. Perhaps I am simply biased against such foolishness, but one woman in particular bothers me.
There is one psychic who reads Tarot cards. People call in and ask her questions, which she answers by reading the cards. The commercials show a typical conversation between her and one of her callers. During the discussion, she reveals deeper aspects of the problem, such as another boyfriend or a past event, which has affected the situation. These are supposedly things revealed to her by the cards that are meant to show how gifted she is. I heard a news report the other day about the network for whom this psychic works. They have been billing clients who have not actually used their service. Many of the people who received these bills were no longer living. The reporter who told this story said, “You would think they would know that.”
These psychics and their activities never really bothered me, after all I know that God is far more powerful than any spirits used for such foolishness. There was even periods of my life when I wondered about the validity of astrology, numerology and other such beliefs. There is enough truth in what those who practice these disciplines say to make it sound true. However, there is danger to following the words of those who do not seek the Lord. The biggest danger is that you may lead another down a wrong path.
Read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13
God our Father created human beings with a spirit that is in His image. Unfortunately, our society no longer seeks to understand the spiritual nature and we spend most of our time chasing after the things that fulfill the needs of our flesh. Our spirit continues to long to be filled with things of the spirit, so we are left with an empty feeling. In today’s world, there are many who are offering things to fill this hole – tarot readers and other psychics, astrology and many religions. There are those who sell magic potions, crystals and other objects to help guide our spiritual lives. The bookstores are filled with racks of books teaching these disciplines.
On the surface, these things seem harmless. Yet, the meat of idols we find in today’s society are these very things – the books, rocks and readings from people who do not follow the Lord. Though they may not hurt our firm foundation in Christ, we do not know how firm the foundation is for others in Christ. They may see our use of such foolishness and think it is fine for a Christian to believe. Remember your brother in whatever you do. Even if you are strong enough to put psychics in their proper place, avoid them altogether for the sake of those who are weak. Keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus, and you’ll need nothing else. Thanks be to God.
Stalker There was a story on the news the other day about a court session being held to hear the case of a stalker. He was in love with his victim and she was fighting to be freed from the harassment. The man represented himself so was the one who questioned the witnesses. When the young lady was on the stand, he pounded her with questions. She became quite upset through the session, more and more angry at every question. During the line of questioning, he was convinced her anger was passion and he was certain of her love for him. He pulled a $5000 diamond engagement ring out of his pocket and asked her to marry him.
This case is an incredible example of foolishness and blindness to the truth. The man was being tried because this woman had rejected him, most likely numerous times. He never took the hint, even though the hint was quite direct and included legal action against him. This is certainly not an act of love, but of the unfulfilled desires of flesh causing a man to see life from a crooked perspective.
What does this story have to do with our Christian life? After all, a Christian would not be a stalker. We do not treat people with such contempt. Yet, I have seen this happen, though in slightly different settings. Take, for example, discussions between Christians about issue of faith and doctrine. I have watched Christians pound each other with questions until they are hurt, upset or angry. I have participated in this myself. In the end, it is almost like someone thrusts a ‘diamond ring’ in the face of another and asks, “Are you going to be a Christian now?”
Read James 4:1-6
The man needed to humble himself before the court and accept responsibility for his actions. Instead, he saw the events as running in his favour and tried to force a woman to accept the inevitable – that she would be his. When we are in fellowship with other Christians, particularly when we are trying to encourage and teach Christ-like living, we have to recognize when we are not doing so in the love and grace of God. We must learn when to back off if our discussions are based on our own flesh desires rather than the Word. The truth is not defined by the one who wins the battle; it is defined by our Lord Jesus Christ. Speak the Word, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit and then let it go. Don’t follow the desires of your flesh to ‘win’, instead humble yourself before God and the truth will always win. Thanks be to God.
Bored As summer vacation continues, there comes moments in the day when the children start doing things that, quite frankly, drive me up the wall. Vicki begs Zack to play a game that he doesn’t want to play, so they begin to argue. Zack starts bouncing around the house making strange noises, which gives us all a headache. They lie around and watch cartoons for hours. It is so easy to say, “Stop it!” or “Go do something!” Yet, those commands rarely do any good.
First of all, they don’t really know what I’m asking them to stop doing. To them, the bickering, noise making and lying around are all there is to do, so they can’t stop. They need some direction, some suggestions of things they can do to keep their minds and bodies active. When they are beginning to drive me crazy, I find a project or task for them to accomplish. This gives them something to do and distracts them from their current direction. At times it is chores, like helping me with laundry or cleaning their rooms. At other times we pull out a craft project or a game.
When someone is moving in the wrong direction, it isn’t enough to tell him or her to stop. We must give positive direction by suggesting ways to do the right thing. In yesterday’s scripture lesson, James told us how wrong it is to be a friend with the world. In that relationship, we fulfill our selfish desires and are separated from God. The lesson was about pride. James does not leave us hanging, however. He goes on to tell us how we should turn around our actions to live in the grace so freely offered by God.
Read James 4:7-10
James gives us ten commands in the scripture that call for immediate action to destroy the pride we have in our lives. Throughout the next week or so, we will look at these ten commands and apply them to our lives in this world. Instead of just saying, “Do not do this,” we will find ways in scripture to do the right thing and live our lives in humble submission to God our Father in Jesus’ name.
God desires that we serve Him with our whole selves. We must be ready vessels so that He can work through our lives. We cannot harbour the attitudes of the world and still be friends with God. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” He will block our actions if we become too self-centered and proud. But He also gives us the right direction to live in His grace. Thanks be to God.
This week, we are looking at the passage from James 4:7-10, ten commands of action to destroy pride in our lives.
“Be subject therefore unto God.”
Discipline One of the most difficult things a parent faces is learning how to discipline a child. It takes time, practice and patience to choose the proper methods for guiding our children into the right path. Unfortunately, many people define the word discipline as punishment. I wrote a poem called “The Hand” which included this stanza:
the child that disobeys the
rules of the Father
that rod is love and will mold the child in
A friend wrote in response to this poem, asking if I could remove this stanza, that she is offended by the use of physical violence against children. Yet, the poem doesn’t mention hitting at all. Discipline is defined as “training expected to produce a specific type or pattern of behavior, esp. training that produces moral or mental improvement.” Discipline includes instruction, encouragement, rules, firm guidance, high expectation and established goals. It also includes punishment, which is not necessarily a physical act of hitting or subduing the child. The reason it is difficult for human parents to learn the proper methods of discipline is because we do not always do so in love. Anger, frustration, pride and discouragement get in our way, and we turn to the wrong methods such as violence and verbal abuse.
However, God is perfect in all His ways, and He does know how to discipline His children. He does not allow more than we can endure, and He does not suffer from the foolish human reactions to disobedience and failure. Discipline is never easy. We do not like learning the lessons of faith because they go against everything our flesh desires, yet we must submit to God.
Read Hebrews 12:7-11
The first command James gives us is to submit to the work of God in our lives. This work will guide and mold us to be who we are created to be. This discipline, which includes positive reinforcement as well as punishment, is brought about by God’s love for us, His children. It is not easy to endure the times of suffering and pain, yet God has promised to never leave or forsake us. We must trust His presence and have faith that He will produce the fruit of righteousness in our lives. Thanks be to God.
You can read the entire text of the poem at The Hand.
This week, we are looking at the passage from James 4:7-10, ten commands of action to destroy pride in our lives.
"But resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
Satan Some friends were holding a Bible study in a public chat on the Internet several nights ago when a stranger joined the group. He greeted the group and wondered if he could ask some questions unrelated to the study. The group welcomed him and his questions. He began by asking, “If Lucifer is God’s most beautiful angel, where did the horns and pitchfork come from?” This shocked and upset the members of the group but one member answered that they were talking about God, not Lucifer. This visitor became upset and left in a huff.
The feeling about this visitor was that either he was a Satanist causing a disruption to the study or some kid playing games. As he left, he tried to make everyone feel bad for not taking up his challenge, as if he was a person asking a very genuine question. Yet, my friend was certain that if he had been allowed to continue, he would have manipulated the group and destroyed the study.
The visit brought up an interesting question. How did Satan become a foolish looking creature? Our image of this being of evil is some dude wearing red tights, with horns and a tail. He seems more like a myth or legend than a very real force in this world. Many Christians even laugh at the mention of his name, because they no longer believe he exists. He certainly has this world fooled, doesn’t he?
Read 1 Peter 5:8-9
Satan doesn’t devour people by eating them or causing them to do horrible evil things. Rather, he roams the world looking for people who can be manipulated away from the word of God. It doesn’t take much; just a slight twist of the truth sets us on the wrong path. He tries to convince us that he doesn’t exist, and that it’s ok to do things we know we should not do. There are many things that are acceptable in our society that the Lord has warned us to avoid. Satan’s job is to tempt us to do those things. He doesn’t do it by force, but by manipulation.
James tells us to resist the devil and he will flee. The visitor to the Bible study did flee when he was resisted. He did not leave quietly, trying until the last moment to instill feelings that are inappropriate for Christians. Yet, the group stood firm in their faith and told him to leave. We should listen carefully to inspired words of Peter, to be self-controlled and alert. Satan is here, and the closer you are to the Lord, the more he will seek to devour you. Resist all his temptations and stand firm in your faith in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.