Welcome to the July 2002 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.
A WORD FOR TODAY, July 2002
July 1, 2002
Ducks We attended a graduation picnic yesterday at a lovely park by a creek. There were plenty of kids around, young and old alike. There was always something to do, whether it was to swing, play volleyball or just wade in the water. Toward the end of the day, the father of the graduate brought out a bag full of rubber duckies and boats. “Let’s have a duck race.” All the kids were excited, some because they knew they would be allowed back in the creek after moms had said, “No more!”
The race wasn’t very organized. Each child picked their boat or duck and got into the water. A few decided to just let theirs drop from the bridge. Just as they were about to begin, someone realized that there needed to be someone at the other end of the race to catch the toys. It was too late, the race was on. The kids that were in the water had to chase all the toys down the creek. A few were easy to follow, those that had fallen into the slower running water. However, though the creek was very shallow, there were parts that ran fast over the slippery rocks. A few children slipped as they tried to keep up with the ducks.
It was all great fun and everyone laughed and cheered. The toys were all caught and the waders all returned safely to shore. Some of them wanted to do it again. Organizing the race might have made it like a competition, though I don’t think it would have been half as fun to watch. Just before the race began, I offered to get in the creek at the end of the race to catch the toys, but there was not enough time. I could not have removed my shoes and socks and waded into the water before they would have been on me. The creek was wide enough that I’m not sure I could have caught all 20 toys by myself. However, I would have enjoyed being in the creek with the other kids. In the end, there was no specific winner, but rather everyone won.
I probably would have done things differently when planning the duck race, but everything worked out well. The only real concern I had was that Zack nearly fell while trying to walk upstream after catching his duck. It is very easy for us to look at such an incident from the negative and think of ways we might have done it better. How often do we do that even with our Lord? We don’t always understand the things that are happening in our life - the places or circumstances in which we find ourselves. We wonder what good will come of it all. Sometimes we even try to do things differently, thinking our ways are certainly better than what God intends.
Read Isaiah 55:8-9
The picnic with its duck race was a wonderful afternoon spent with family celebrating. Nothing would have made it better. As we travel through this journey of life, we must learn that we aren’t in control of everything. We shouldn’t even try. Sometimes we go through things that do not seem to be worthwhile. Sometimes these experiences are painful or inconvenient. Yet, God uses them for our good, to bring us to a deeper faith and closer relationship to Him. I can’t think of any good that may have come from Zack falling in the creek, but I bet he would have had a lot of fun getting wet. As we look back on those times when we want to be in control, let’s always remember that God does know what He’s doing, and His ways are always perfect. Thanks be to God.
Vacation We have been here for a week now, a fun filled week with family and friends. We are staying at Bruce’s parent’s house and they have taken good care of us. It is not easy living with someone else for even a few days. Our presence means more food to be cooked, more bodies using the bathroom. We run on different schedule. We have been running all over the place to see all our family and friends. They never know when we will be here. We don’t want to be in their way as they go about their lives. Though they would not think it, we try not to be an inconvenience.
That often means being inconvenienced ourselves. We can’t live as we would normally live. We need to fit our baths into the routine, eat when the food is prepared. We don’t have a computer to access our email and our favorite television shows are hard to find because they have different stations. Our bodies have had to get used to different water, different time zone. We aren’t sleeping normally and other bodily functions have been affected.
As I was going through some old files on our laptop last night, I found a daily from February 2001. It was when we were moving to Arkansas from England and we had been living in suitcases for months. I had mentioned to a friend how tired I was and she reminded me that I shouldn’t complain, it could have been worse. She was right, of course, though I didn’t really feel like I was complaining. As I shared some of my thoughts about our trip this year, another friend reminded me that I shouldn’t complain. Yet again, I didn’t consider it a complaint, I was just stating the facts as I saw them.
In both these situations, the words I were speaking were not perceived as I meant them to be. I realized that I should be aware of my words and speak in thanksgiving of these circumstances. After all, we are home enjoying the company of those we love and experiencing many joys during these days. The minor inconveniences are nothing compared to the good things that are happening.
Read Matthew 12:33-37
Our time here has been wonderful, despite the inconveniences. We will remember this vacation for many years to come. I am very thankful for everyone’s love and they care they have taken of us over the past week. I pray that as I share our experiences with my friends that I will do so only with good words, ignoring the negative aspects of this trip. The same is true about every aspect of our lives. It is easy to complain about the bad things that happen, but in doing so we show the world what is in our hearts. Our Lord Jesus has been good to us in every way, even in the midst of the things that seem bad. Let us always guard our tongues and speak only in thanksgiving and praise. Thanks be to God.
Schoolhouse Rock, LIVE! We recently attended a performance at Muhlenburg College in Allentown, PA. They have a summer theater program including something for the kids. This year’s show reaches back into our favorite educational children’s show, Schoolhouse Rock. They story involves a young teacher, a recent college graduate who is waking up to his first day as a teacher. He has the usual doubts and worries, afraid he will be unable to impact the lives of the eight year olds whose lives he is about to touch. His thoughts appear as characters, five actors who lead him into a remembrance of why he became a teacher and how he can really share his knowledge with the kids. They sing the old Schoolhouse Rock songs that helped us all learn history, math, grammar. Tom, the teacher, was reminded of how creative teaching can be.
The young actors and actresses, all students or recent graduates of the college, really enjoy performing this show. You could see the smiles on their faces as they interacted with the audience. Shawn, Leah, Jessica, Phillipe, JR and Arienne sang and danced their hearts out just feet from those of us watching.
The show was held in the studio theater at the college. There was no stage, the lowest row of seats was level with the actors. That is where we sat and all through the show the actors were not more than a few feet from us, often looking right into our eyes. We laughed and sang with them, they even seemed tempted to drag us on stage to join the show. After it was over, I asked if it was difficult for them to perform so close to the audience. Arienne told me that at first it was, but you get used to it after awhile. She said it is most wonderful when there are audience members who participate.
It made me think about my life as a Christian. Though we do not always realize it, our actions are greatly affected by the people with whom we interact during our journey. We are less likely to enjoy tasks when we are in situations where everyone is negative, or when they stand by and just watch our every movement without joining in. We’ve all been involved with organizations or ministries where just a few people do all the work. It is exhausting to be one of those few. We get burned out, tired of doing the job. We often become discouraged and even angry. But when we are in good situations, where people get involved even if it is only to rejoice with us, we are more positive and joyful in our work.
Read Acts 11:19-24
The actors on a stage cannot control their audience. Each show is different – some crowds enjoy the show, others sit like lumps on a log. We also cannot control the people around us – those to whom we minister and with whom we minister. However, we can remember what it is like to be on the other side and do whatever we can to be like Barnabas. He encouraged those who were working to share the Gospel of Christ and gave them the strength to continue a difficult task. May we always become part of the lives of those who cross our path, and make it a joyful experience for them. Everyone will benefit. Thanks be to God.
Old roads When I was a baby, I lived in the country. I don’t remember much about it, only what my family has told me over the years. When I was still very young we moved to the city, and that is what I remember from my youth. Years later, my brother and his family purchased a home not far from where we lived in those early days. The farmland has disappeared as housing developments have sprung on these lovely hills.
Today I went to visit my brother and his family and I missed the turn. We took the next road in the hopes of finding a crossroads that would lead me to my destination. Though I was not familiar with these particular roads, I knew the direction I needed to go and we found the way. Many of these roads have remained unchanged for decades, and I am sure that if I lived here I would have had no problems. We have traveled a great deal over these past few weeks, visiting our favorite places from when we were kids. Many of the old roads have changed a great deal – new homes, new businesses, new schools. We never really got lost, though the landmarks have changed, the roads remained the same. It was interesting to see how much our hometowns have grown over the years.
God is just like those old roads. As we grow older things look differently, our perspective changes or things really are new along the way. Yet, God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His promises are as true today as they were in the beginning. The destination we seek is eternal life, the road is our Lord Jesus Christ.
Read Isaiah 43:1-3b
The old roads in eastern Pennsylvania have changed a lot in the days since we wandered here in our youth, and yet we can still find our way. We never know what surprises we may find along the way. So it is with our relationship with God. Things change over the years – we grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus, we learn new things from our experiences and have a different perspective. And yet, the road to eternal life is unchanging. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and He leads us to the greatest destination, eternal life with our Father in heaven. He is our Savior, giving Himself even into death ad the grave so that we might be reconciled to God. As we continue our journey of faith, we may make wrong turns, pass through the waters or walk through the fires of life, we can rest in the assurance that God is with us every step of the way. Thanks be to God.
Tours We visited a famous local attraction yesterday called Crystal Cave. It was founded in 1871 when two men happened upon in while they were working in a stone quarry. It has been a sight of fascination for visitors ever since. A hotel, gift shop and other activities have grown up around it and many people still visit it today.
The only way to see the caves is to join with other visitors and follow the directions of a tour guide. She explained the rules and showed us the most interesting aspects of the cave. The tour took about 40 minutes. During that time we saw most of the cave and had the chance to photograph the special rock formations. Whenever I travel in such a group, I always find it helpful to stay toward the back. Then, as the group moves on I can get a picture without the distractions of the crowd.
Our guide was very thoughtful throughout the tour. She always waited until everyone was in her sight before she began explaining the next area of the cave. She did not want anyone to miss the information she was about to give. Since I was always in the back, when she saw my face she knew she could start. I was quite thankful because I enjoy hearing the talks as much as I enjoy taking the pictures. As I caught her eye each leg of the way, we exchanged brief smiles and she went on with the tour.
Its not easy being the last in line, being the one who is left behind. For many people, this is their life. In school, work, relationships and other aspects of living in this world, they find themselves always bringing up the rear. Learning is difficult or they just can’t get a handle on that new job. Others succeed and surpass them as they wonder if they will ever really understand.
This is even true in our faith journey. We have all known someone whose spiritual life is so mature and we often envy their discipline and prayer habits. We listen to others in Bible study and wish we had the same understanding. We see their faith and the joy they have in serving the Lord and wonder if we will ever get past our failures. But Jesus doesn’t look just for the ones who are in the front of the line or right under His nose, He gives special care for the ones who are bringing up the rear. And He teaches us to do the same.
Read Matthew 25:40
Jesus was discussing the end of the ages with his disciples when He shared this promise. It is followed by a warning – that when we leave behind those He loves, we too will be left behind. A warning is never comfortable. We hear such words and they rattle our souls because we wonder if we have forgotten to do something for Jesus – feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, bring in the strangers, clothe the naked, heal the sick and bring hope to those who are imprisoned.
Yet, there is comfort in the warning also, for we are often those who are hungry, thirsty or alone. We can take comfort in the knowledge that our Lord Jesus waits for the one who is falling behind the rest of the world – in any aspect of life especially spiritual. He has gifted people like our tour guide at Crystal Cave; someone who will care for those who would otherwise be left behind. May we always remember to do the same when Jesus puts us in that position – to do whatever is needed for the least of His brothers – because when we do, we are doing the same for Him. It is in serving the Lord that we find our greatest joy. Thanks be to God.
Convention I arrived yesterday in Philadelphia for the national convention of the Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Thus far we have done little but prepare for the convention which officially begins this morning with worship. During the next few days the organization will conduct the business necessary to keep such a group going in this world. Officers will be elected, ministry plans will be made and the women from all over the country will learn about the resources available to address their local issues in church and community.
The weekend will be filled with workshops, Bible study, prayer, singing and fellowship. There are opportunities to enhance our spiritual lives, learn about active service to those in this world who need a God’s healing love and how to use our gifts in our every day lives. It is all designed to help churches and individuals grow in grace and live as God has called us to live. God has planned and created the perfect machine – His Church – to do His work in this world. Unfortunately, human beings have this tendency to what they want and we often miss His Will in our lives. We tend to want to put screws where nuts belong. When we are not aware of our own spiritual gifts, we try to do things we are not designed to do.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
As I was looking over the opportunities for growth being offered here in Philadelphia this week, I’m excited about learning how to recognize God’s plan for our church and for my own life in this world. Paul writes in this scripture that God gives gifts to everyone of His children. Those who are born by the Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord are given everything necessary to do God’s work in this world. One has wisdom, another knowledge, yet another faith. All of us are bound together by the Holy Spirit and it is by His power that we have the ability to share the Gospel and meet the needs of those who are lost and perishing in this world.
He calls us to provide His Word that they might hear, to bring healing to their lives and to share His love with all who cross His path. As we wander from worship to workshop to Bible study, it is my prayer that each woman present will hear God’s voice and take home to her individual congregation the knowledge that we must find our place in God’s Church so that we will be the well oiled machine He has designed us to be.
What are your gifts? How is God calling you to serve Him in this world? At your baptism in Jesus’ name, your Father gave you everything you need to get through this life of faith. Our work is to believe in Him, and in that faith God will use you to share His message of hope and the healing that comes from it with the world. Thanks be to God.
Listen The theme for our convention has been, "Listen, God is calling." The focus has been discerning God’s voice in our lives and in the life of the church. Today we worshipped together, learned about spiritual gifts and how we can use them for God’s Glory. Through it all, our speakers and worship leaders have always pointed us to the Lord Jesus who is the reason why it is possible for each of us to hear God’s voice for ourselves. He came in flesh to live and breath as a man, the very presence of God walking amongst His people. He did not come to teach us how to live, though the lessons He taught are guidelines by which each of us should live. He came to die on the cross to reconcile us to God.
The world needs to hear the message of Christianity – that we are sinners in need of a Savior and by the grace of God we have one in Jesus. Other religions have power images of God, mighty beings that bring wrath or love or even blessings. Yet none have a god like the One True and Living God. He is the God that comes to us, who gave up the glory of heaven to become a man living in flesh among those for whom He came. His death may seem like foolishness to the world, the cross a ridiculous way for man to come to faith. Yet, the only way we could have been returned to the perfect relationship which we were created to have with our Father and Creator was by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The story of our Lord does not end with the cross. God did not leave Jesus in the grave. He rose to new life and with the faith we are given when we believe we are given the greatest gift of all – eternal life. With this new life are filled with the Holy Spirit and given gifts so that we will share the Gospel with all the world. We do this for the building up of the church – bringing souls to Christ and to help those who have been saved grow in faith and love. We are set free from sin to serve. Our actions, by the power of the Holy Spirit, glorify God and show the world that He is truly a God that comes to us.
Read Luke 17:20-21
Today we were encouraged to hear God’s voice in our lives, to discern our spiritual gifts and actively seek God’s will for our individual and corporate lives. We are being called daily to live in the faith and share the Gospel of Christ with all who cross our path. The message the world seeks is offered by God in the love of Christ and His presence in our lives. Through the pain, suffering and darkness that comes from our sinful nature, a light shines to bring hope, peace and healing. Many are seeking God in different ways; they are looking for Him in all the wrong places. For God cannot be found by our works – He comes to us out of love. The Kingdom of God is within you, by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. Will you hear God’s voice calling you to share that message today?
Global There are women from all over the United States and representatives from our sisters in other nations at our convention this week. Since I was already in Pennsylvania for our family vacation, I told the women from my area that I would find them when I arrived. We had no idea how difficult it would be. I knew they would be wearing some sort of vest which would identify them, but I did not know what they looked like. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. Finding twenty women among three thousand turned out to be a most impossible task.
My search was made more difficult because I only knew many of these women through the Internet. They are from a community other than mine, friends from a distance, yet with something in common. Had I not connected with them prior to leaving for the convention through email, I might not have tried so hard to find them. Yet, because I knew we had things in common and I was excited to find them among so many so that we could encourage one another. I needed their fellowship among so many strangers, even if they were unknown to me in many ways. I finally found one sister in a crowd of women. Then, during the worship that evening, I turned to share God’s peace with my neighbor and discovered another friend.
Today at the convention we talked about the global community. We had visitors from Africa, Asia and South America, women who participated with us in praise and thanksgiving to God. Our worship was styled after that which might be found in churches in the churches of Africa. These believers come from places where they are few among many non-believers. It is difficult to find others in their homelands to support their ministries, to encourage them. On top of it all, they all live in places where Christians are persecuted, women are oppressed and life is very difficult. They need us to willingly look beyond our comfort zone, to seek them in the midst of their troubles to provide fellowship and the love of Christ so that they don’t feel alone in this world.
Read Psalm 22:25-28
Modern technology has made the world a very small place. We turn on the evening news and we can see events from all over the world as they unfold before us. War, natural disasters, treaties or royal alliances are presented before us and we feel like we are right there while it happens. Yet, all those things are still very distant from our experiences here in America. It is hard for us to believe that while we live in relative peace and safety, there are people who are being bombed every day by leaders who are greedy for power and wealth. With our tables full of delicious food it is difficult to believe that there are thousands who are dying daily from hunger. Nearly every family in our country has at least one Bible in their possession, even though many of them are not read. Yet in many countries people are dying to share even a page or two of the Holy Scriptures with others. It is easy for us to ignore those of other places, but God’s world extends far beyond our own backyard.
As we consider how we will use our gifts to share Christ’s love in the world, we need to remember to reach across the borders that could easily divide. Our God rules the world; His hand does not stop at the end of our street. Though we may wish to stay within our comfort zone, God’s calling to us today reaches into the global community. The love we share should be more than just a few dollars, though that helps tremendously. The ladies today asked that we join them in praise, in fellowship, in prayer. And they reminded us that we are bound by something far greater than that which divides. We are sisters in Christ, bound together in the unity of the Holy Spirit and called to the same mission in this world – to share the Gospel with those who are lost.
At the convention I wanted to find my sisters from Arkansas and Oklahoma at the convention and God made the impossible happen. God is doing amazing things in the global Christian community, bringing people together for encouragement and support. Listen, God is calling us to bear the burdens with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering around the world. Are you willing to take up the challenge?
Liberty Bell As the conference was drawing to a close yesterday, we took a few hours to visit the historic part of the Philadelphia to see where our founding fathers began this great nation. We did not have the chance to tour the inside any of the buildings, but we wandered around the streets and took a few pictures. We did get inside to see the Liberty Bell, our national symbol of freedom. After standing in line for a half hour waiting our turn, we were crowded into a small room around the bell. The guide gave us a brief history and then allowed us time to take photos.
Through the window we could see Independence Hall. Though today it is dwarfed by the modern skyscrapers that surround it, Independence Hall was the largest building in the colonies at the time it was built. Such an impressive building needed an awesome bell. Since there were no bell makers in the colonies at the time, they ordered one from England. When it arrived they had some difficulty raising it into the tower and they soon discovered a hairline crack. They don’t know if it was created during travel, when they tested the bell or during the installation. They tried to send it back to England, but the captain of the ship refused. Some local metal workers tried to fix it. They built a mold, melted the metal and recast the bell. The sound that came when that bell was rung was so horrible, they recast the bell again.
The Liberty Bell was originally called the Independence Bell and was used to proclaim everything in the colonies except the time of day. It was often rung 10 hours a day. The inevitable effect of such use is another crack and such a hairline crack will eventually cause the bell to break. By this time the bell was so important as it was that they could not melt the metal for recasting as they had in the beginning. The danger with such a crack is that the metal rubs against itself, so they actually cut into the bell to make the crack larger. This is the crack that has become so famous but it is not the crack that made them stop ringing the bell. In the mid 19th century while they rang the bell to commemorate George Washington’s birthday they actually heard the sound of metal against metal – another crack was forming. This time the crack went through the words that have come to mean so much to us today, "Proclaim Liberty." So the bell was removed from the tower and put on display for all to see.
At the end of the talk, the guide asked us if we thought the bell still worked. After a few mumbles from the crowd he told us that the purpose of a bell is to draw people together. Then he asked where we were from. There were people from all over the United States and the world. "It has drawn you here today." Without a sound, the bell did its job. Even broken it is still relevant.
The words "Proclaim Liberty" are taken from Leviticus 25:10, a command from Moses which established the year of Jubilee for Israel. The fiftieth year was to be a time of freedom, when prisoners were set free and debts were forgiven for all. The Liberty Bell is still relevant for us today because it reminds us that we in America were set free from the oppression of England to live as independent people in this world.
Read Luke 4:18-19
Though Jesus was quoting a verse from Isaiah, it was a remembrance of the promise of the Jubilee – a time of freedom and forgiveness. He was the bell that rang to the people who were oppressed, not by a nation but by sin and death. Though many would say that the Liberty Bell is irrelevant because it is no longer useful, I cannot agree. Seeing that icon of American freedom and the beautiful people who were drawn to see it, I agree with the guide when he said, "It still works."
There are many who claim Christianity is irrelevant in today’s world. Modern reasoning has reduced the story of our Lord to nothing more than myth or legend to many of today’s intellectuals. Yet, people are still drawn by the message of forgiveness and the freedom we have in Christ to live as God created us to live. We should never stop sharing our witness, proclaiming liberty to those who are lost and alone in the darkness of this world. Just as the Liberty Bell bears testimony to the work of our founding fathers, so too do we testify to the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Proclaim liberty to someone and see how relevant the message of Christ still is today.
Return Our vacation is finally over. We arrived home on Tuesday evening after two long days of driving. We have managed to get some rest, to launder our clothes and return to some semblance of order in the house. There are still a few things that need to be put away and we have not quite recovered from our three weeks of gallivanting, but we are getting there.
I did have trouble with one thing. Yesterday morning I sat to prepare the daily and I was stuck. There was nothing to write. I was distracted by the luggage and laundry. I was sidetracked by the email that was overflowing in my box. I was tired and ached from such an exhausting trip. Every time I sat at the computer to write, my vision was blurry and my mind empty of any message to share. I skimmed through the scriptures, and though there were wonderful stories, I just couldn’t put a devotional into words.
Human beings are habitual. For some the ritual includes a shower every morning, or a cup of coffee. Others need to read the newspaper while they wait for dinner to be prepared. Yet others always mow the lawn on a Saturday morning and go out to eat on a Saturday night. There are harmful habits such as smoking or excessive drinking that can cause disease and death.
I have often heard that it is not good to get into habits or rituals of faith, because eventually they become rote and we do them without heart. The concern is that some day the action will be meaningless, no longer edifying to the participant. Though I agree this is a danger, I believe that habits are very powerful tools the Lord uses to keep us on our journey though this life of faith. I know my day goes much better when I wake to a moment of prayer and time in the scriptures. God has helped me develop habits of faith that encourage and edify my life so that I can share my faith with others. But it is very easy to fall out of a habit and fill the time with other things. During our vacation, I did not have the access to the Internet needed for daily messages, so I was able to set aside my usual pattern of study and writing. Now it will take discipline to return to my daily routine and refocus my thoughts on the Lord so that He can help me do the work He has called me to do.
Read Hebrews 3:6-7
Human beings are habitual; the question is whether or not our habits are healthy physically and spiritually, or if they are destructive. If I were unable to return to my daily routine of prayer, study and writing, I would likely fill that time with donuts and television. Though it has been difficult to begin this daily writing after so many weeks of inactivity, I know the Lord is faithful and He will give me the strength and encouragement I need to become disciplined again.
I thank you all for your prayers and patience during this time of rest, relaxation and recreation spent with family and friends. I pray that you will be blessed by the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ each day and will continue in the good habits of faithful living the Lord is using to build up your relationship with Him. Thanks be to God.
Signs Over the past few weeks we drove nearly three thousand miles, traveling to Pennsylvania, throughout the state and then back home here to Arkansas. The driving was exhausting but went without any major incidents. The trip on open highway was easy. We simply set our sites on our destination and we were able to follow the routes without getting lost. The cities provided the most challenging situations, with road construction and turns in the road. It helped to know the next major city on the journey and follow the signs that lead there.
The greater difficulty came when we were driving on the back roads of Pennsylvania. The signs to guide our way were not always as we expected them to be. At times I followed instinct rather than instruction and I got lost. We were never far off course and we managed to find our way eventually, but it took time, patience and determination. Our time spent wandering through the hills and valleys of Pennsylvania could have been better spent. Several times we found ourselves returning to a familiar place to follow the directions as they were given. The signs were always there, we just missed them in our effort to go our own way.
I was given good instruction, but in a few cases I felt that I knew a better way. Isn’t that how it often is with our journey of faith? God blesses us with guidance from pastors, teachers and parents, yet there are times we wonder if there isn’t a better way. When we do this, we find ourselves wandering, lost and confused. God does not direct us into confusion; He leads us through this world according to His love and mercy. His way is the best way.
As Abraham grew old, he called his chief servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. He was very specific with his direction. “Go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” The servant was concerned that he would not be able to convince a young woman from a distant land to return to marry a stranger. Abraham trusted in God’s promises and assured the servant of His faithfulness. He then told the servant if the girl were unwilling to come, he would be released from the vow.
When the servant arrived in the town of Nahor, he called to the God of his master and asked for a sign so that he would know of the LORD’s faithfulness. Rebecca was the answer to his prayer.
Read Genesis 24:26-27
The servant did not know the God of Abraham, but trusted his master’s word and set out on the journey. When he arrived and found everything as Abraham expected, he realized that the LORD is faithful. When Rebecca’s family wanted time to think about the situation, the servant answered, “Do not detain me, now that the LORD has granted me success to my journey.” The servant left his master and went to the strange land unsure if he would be successful. But when he got there, he followed the word of his master and trusted in the faithfulness of God and His promises. From there, God guided his footsteps into a successful outcome. The servant could have easily followed his own ideas. Abraham was old, near death. If Isaac were not married before he died, he would never know the outcome of the journey. Yet, he was obedient and honored his master’s wishes. In Nahor, he found the LORD to be faithful and success in his task.
Even though I had asked for directions because I was unsure the best way to go, I either missed the signs or thought I had a better way. We often do the same with our spiritual journey. We turn to pastors, teachers and other faithful servants of God to hear what they have to say; yet we go on our own way. In our own faith journey, God often provides signs to help us along the way. He does not leave us confused and wandering. We simply must trust in His promises and seek His guidance along the way. He will prove to be faithful every time. Thanks be to God.
Decorating There is a new show on The Learning Channel called, “While you were out.” On today’s episode, a husband made arrangements for his wife to be out of the house for forty-eight hours. In that time, a crew of decorators came in and totally redid the bedroom. The woman was an amateur decorator, constantly painting the walls or changing something about their house. The man, in his own words, is useless when it comes to the work she does on the house.
During the show, he did a lot of things to help the process. He sewed and painted. He made decisions that would affect the outcome of the show. He even let them change the furniture even though his mother-in-law warned him against it. Throughout the program, he made sure his wife did not come home, kept in touch with those who were in on the plan. When it was over, the woman was amazed with the room. It had been transformed into a luxurious, romantic bedroom. She kept saying to her husband, “You did this?” shocked that he would even raise a finger in an effort to redecorate.
As the couple and the crew gathered to discuss the day, the woman told them how surprised she was to be on the receiving end of the project. She heard about the show before her husband and had also applied to have them come – but to do a room for her husband. The decorator had the tables turned on her and became the one to be served. Even after it was over, she still had a hard time believing that he would do this for her, but she was thankful.
Read Luke 22:25-30
The man turned the tables upside down in his house, showing himself and his wife that he is not completely useless when it comes to decorating. Jesus turned the tables upside down, showing His disciples that the ways of His kingdom are different than the world. Jesus gave up the glory of heaven to be our servant, to take our sin upon Him and die in our place. Great things await those who stand with Him in service, for they will be given a place at His table in the kingdom of heaven. It is sometimes hard for me to believe how much Jesus loves me, to understand why He died for me or why He would promise such wonderful things. Through it all, I know His way is best and I am thankful. His love and mercy will never end. Thanks be to God.
Animals I’ve always been fascinated by the places I have seen wild animals. People have complained about finding bats in their attics or skunks in their basement. These creatures are not generally welcome where they are found. In Pennsylvania, groundhogs are found in every field, and they are quite destructive. They attack vegetable gardens for food and build tunnels under fields. We saw quite a few of these critters while we were visiting Pennsylvania. Conversations were often centered on the best way to get rid of the rodents, particularly for those who have been most deeply affected by the damages of groundhogs.
The deer and bear aren’t any better. They go after crops, garbage cans and bird feeders. It is necessary for these things to be protected, particularly at night when they roam. Each night the residents move their bird feeders into sheds to keep them from the destructive paws of the bears. However, one afternoon the bear decided not to wait until the cover of darkness. We heard the neighbor yelling and someone riding by on her bike said, “There’s a bear in the yard.” So we all wandered over and stared at this huge black bear who was trying to get at the seed.
There was a time when I was hiking with some friends when we stumbled upon an old cemetery. We wandered through the overgrown grass reading the names and dates on the tombstones. I found a secluded corner of the cemetery where years of harsh weather had caused the graves to sink. There was a fawn laying in one of these holes – the perfect resting place on a hot day. It was rather amazing to see new life living in a place of death.
Read Mark 5:1-8
The man Jesus encountered in that region was possessed by numerous demons that made him an outcast of society. He lived in the tombs with the dead, and the people of that region did not know what to do with him. But Jesus saw something more; He saw a life that needed cleansing. He cast the demons from the man and sent him to be a witness to His power. He does the same for us. We might not be filled with demons, but we are sinners in need of a Savior. He cleanses us of our sin, granting forgiveness by His blood. We are given new life in Christ.
We are upset by bats and skunks in our homes because they don’t belong there. We fight the groundhogs in the garden because they cause destruction to the crops. The bear in the yard was a surprise to all of us – attempting to do the things of night during the day. I rejoiced when I found the fawn in the grave because I saw hope in the midst of death. I am still fascinated by the places we find animals, but I realize that they aren’t always welcome.
When Jesus saw the man, He had mercy and cast the demons from his life. But the people in the region were not as enthusiastic about the healing. The demons went into a herd of pigs and rushed into a lake to drown. We do not know whether the people were upset by their loss or surprised by the power Jesus exhibited, but they asked Jesus to leave. The man, however, was transformed by the love and mercy of Christ. We are often like the animals – in a place we don’t belong, unwanted by those who think we want to destroy what they’ve built. The world that surrounds us is filled with darkness and death. But we have hope – we have been cleansed and have life in Christ. Thanks be to God.
Golf Zachary attended a golf clinic today at the base golf course. The professionals that came to teach the children come from an organization called “The First Tee.” It is an organization created by the World Golf Foundation to help introduce children to the sport. Their mission is “to impact the lives of young people around the world by creating affordable and accessible golf facilities to primarily serve those who have not previously had exposure to the game and its positive values.” Thanks to many volunteers and the staff from The First Tee, nearly fifty children were given the chance to drive, chip and putt some balls with the guidance of experienced players.
The First Tee has more than one hundred facilities around the United States and other countries, all designed to teach golf skills to the children. But the program is much more. The children are required to participate in “The First Tee Life Skills Experience,” a course that focuses on nine key values, which the children can use on the golf course as well as in life. Those values are honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. This program will help the children as they grow into adulthood.
As we scan through the scriptures, we see that God has a similar plan for those of us who have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. It isn’t enough to know how to play the game – to go to church on Sunday, to keep a bible displayed on the coffee table, to visit a homeless shelter once in awhile to help. It is about living our faith day in and day out, knowing Christ in our waking and our sleeping.
Read John 14:25-27
I watched a bit of the clinic today and I was impressed by the way each child was treated with respect and encouragement. The key values were used during the lessons, as the teacher reminded each child to be patient, respectful and courteous to the others. Normally rowdy kids stood in line and encouraged each other. Zack learned a few things about golf, but he learned far more about life. The values they learn through The First Tee program give them the confidence to do so many wonderful things with their lives, not just golf.
Faith in Christ is more than a Sunday morning thing. We are filled with the Holy Spirit of God and we are transformed by His life in us. He teaches us everything, not about how to be a good churchgoer, but rather about how to live in this world as a Christian without fear. He gives us His peace to get us through every aspect of our life – at work, in our families and social relationships. This peace of Christ is more than a lack of violence or happiness about our circumstances. It is a total immersion of our lives in the Lord Jesus and what He has given us through the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.
Advertising As the owner of a website, I get many emails from different companies trying to sell me the latest greatest way to get business. They offer services that will boost traffic to the site. The more people that visit mean a better chance of making a sale – more cash in my pocket. They obviously have not read the site or they would realize that we are a non-profit organization with nothing to sell. Most of these services cost money, a financial output that I can’t afford. While I have submitted the site address to many of the search engines, I rely mostly on word of mouth for visitors.
I once heard a pastor say that if he had been Jesus’ press agent, he would have recommended that Jesus wait until now to come. After all, in ancient Palestine, there was no multimedia advertising available. In today’s world, one or two well planned miracles in front of CNN cameras, and Jesus would be an overnight sensation. However, that’s not how He worked.
Read Mark 1:40-45
By the time Jesus met the man with leprosy, He had already healed many people. The word was spreading and people came from all over to see Him. They wanted Him to touch them and make them well. Leprosy was a horrible disease, one that made the victim an outcast of society. You could not even touch a person with the disease or you too would be unclean. Jesus didn’t care; His compassion went far beyond expectation. Jesus could have simply spoken the words “Be clean,” and the leprosy would be gone. But Jesus touched him physically, reaching beyond words into the man’s heart.
Jesus warned the man to keep quiet about the healing, but to go offer a sacrifice to the priest. Instead he spread the good news. Jesus was not looking for popularity; He wanted to establish the kind of Messiah He was to be. Unfortunately, he was receiving notoriety too quickly – people were not coming to hear Him preach about the kingdom of God, but rather to be healed of their infirmities. This is why Jesus did not wait until our modern age, when a few minutes on television would bring Him fame and fortune.
Christianity is religion that is based on personal relationships. It is about being willing to touch the outcasts and the sick. It is about sharing our faith with those people who cross our path each day. But most of all, it is about having a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. How tempting it can be to respond to those emails from Internet companies wanting to sell some new scheme to expand the website. Yet, that’s not the purpose. Jesus touched people’s hearts by curing their ills, but His purpose was always to give them the kingdom of God. Our Christian journey is the same as His – to give a bit of our hearts so that they will see God, know His love and mercy, and have a personal relationship with Him. Thanks be to God.
Burden Though it may seem hard to believe, our summer vacation is drawing to a close. The children begin school again in just a few weeks. The days will be filled with “Back to school” preparation – new clothes and supplies, registration and the expectation of discovering teacher’s names. It is an exciting time, though the kids aren’t too sure if they are ready to go back. It has been a wonderful summer.
For many, however, summer travel won’t begin until August. In many areas of the world the children have year round school, so their window of opportunity for vacation is much smaller. In the coming weeks, here and abroad, suitcases will be packed, cars loaded and airplanes boarded. Many of those travelers will wear a small metal on a necklace around their necks, picturing a large man carrying a small child. Though the Catholic Church no longer recognizes the feast day of this man of faith, he has long been the patron saint of wayfarers. It was commonly thought if a person looked at an image of St. Christopher, he would be kept safe for the day.
It is interesting that so many would put their trust into St. Christopher. His story is based solely on legend, developed years after his death. It is likely he was martyred in the third century, but the stories of his life became popular in the middle ages. It is said that he was a very large man who sought to serve the greatest king on earth. At first he served a great king and Satan, but realized neither was the greatest – the king feared Satan and Satan feared the cross of Christ. He became a Christian and decided to serve his Lord by helping travelers cross a deep river. One evening a child called for his help. As the two traversed the river, it became rough and the water level rose so high even Christopher stumbled. As they went on, the child became so heavy it seemed as though he had the weight of the whole world on his shoulder. Christopher cried out to the child who answered, “I am Jesus Christ – the king whom you serve in this work. And on my shoulders I bear the burdens of the world.”
The name Christopher means ‘Christ-bearer’. Though he did not really know this Jesus Christ, he sought to serve Him the best way he knew how – with strength and power. Every traveler was protected in the name of Christ. Yet, when Christopher tried to carry Christ Himself, it was a struggle. When we try to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders, we quickly learn it is too hard a burden for us. But when we carry the love of Christ in our hearts, we are reborn anew and overcome the world.
Read 1 John 5:1-5
Though we all have things we look to for encouragement and hope – a small angel pin on our lapel, a cross on our wall, an open bible on our nightstand, the memories of men and women of faith – we must always remember that Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith. Nothing will carry us through the storms of life, not even a gigantic man like St. Christopher. We all have ways in which we serve the Lord; Christopher carried wayfarers across a deep river. He has commanded us to love one another and meet the needs of all His creation. It is so easy to make such a command a burden, as we take it upon ourselves to try to overcome the world on our won. Christopher learned that there was a burden too great for him to carry. Many will look to their St. Christopher metals in the coming days as they begin their holiday journeys, but I pray they will see the child on his back and remember that it is the Christ who carries our burdens. His yoke is easy and his burden light. Thanks be to God.
Ring A few weeks ago, I noticed that one of the prongs on my engagement ring was severally bent out of shape. I should have taken it off the moment I noticed it and put it in a box until I could take it to a jeweler to be fixed. However, the stone still appeared to be solidly held in the crown, so I kept it on. The next day we were going to a water park for a day’s recreation with the boy scouts. Sometime during the hustle of preparation, the stone fell out. We were at the meeting point on base, ready to drive away, when I realized it was gone. I jumped out of the car and several parents helped me look around the parking lot. Nothing. I took off the empty ring, squeezed out a few tears and we headed on our way.
During our trip I tried to recall every move I made that day. When could it have fallen out? What would have jarred it enough? I asked the kids to be very careful taking their swim clothes and towels out of the bag – it could have easily fallen out when I stuffed those things inside. I told them to be careful when taking things out of the cooler, it may have fallen when I cracked the ice and dumped it in. And though it was just a diamond, it is special because my husband gave it to me; we said a short prayer asking God to help us find it.
I had settled down tremendously by the time we arrived at the water park. I looked around inside the car, under the seat and by the door. We opened the trunk and took a quick peak in the cooler. I moved the bag filled with swim clothes around a bit, trying to feel anything out of the ordinary. Still nothing. As I picked up the bag to give it to one of the kids to carry, I found the stone lying in the trunk. Imagine if it had fallen out in the pool or in a field that day. It would never have been found.
When I took the ring to the jeweler, the man said that the prongs had all been worn down – a lost stone was inevitable. I thought it was strange that the ring had become so worn. Though I do wear it constantly, it never really looked bad. Even with a bent prong, I thought all was well. Now that it has been returned to me with a new crown and a polish, I realized how dirty and old it had gotten.
Our lives of faith can often be like that worn out ring. New Christians are full of life; they shine bright with enthusiasm for Jesus. As time wears on and we settle into our new life, the things of the world wear down our Christianity just a little at a time. The luster and shine disappear, the things holding it all together wear down. If things get bad enough, the gem itself – our faith – might even get lost. However, God is always faithful.
Read Psalm 103:1-5
The jeweler restored my ring, making it appear as new. It has its old luster and shine. There have been times in my life of faith when I have felt like a raggedy old ring, the gem barely holding in the crown. But my Lord Jesus has never let me go. He forgives my sins, heals my dis-ease, redeems my life, and crowns me with His love and compassion. He makes me new again, each day, for His glory. Thanks be to God.
Battery The children and I headed out to a movie yesterday afternoon. We took our normal route and got stopped by a red light at a very busy intersection in town. When the light turned green, the car wouldn’t move. It didn’t stall like any car I’ve ever known. It simply would not move. It was still running, the air was blowing, the engine idling and the car in gear. I tried shifting, and then shifting back. Nothing. I tried turning off the car, hoping it would work properly when I started it again. Big mistake. I was unable to get it to start. I got out of the car and mouthed an “I’m sorry” to the line of cars that were building up behind me. One lady gave me her cell phone to call Bruce, another man offered to call the police. Another lady offered to help me push. Finally, we got the car out of the way, and we waited for help.
When something like this happens, everyone has an opinion. Since I know absolutely nothing about cars, I didn’t have any idea what was wrong. Bruce came with jumper cables in hand and jumped the car – the battery was dead. Then he drove it around the parking lot because my description of what happened seemed strange. He thought there must be more wrong than just the battery. Indeed, the car jumped and bounced with every gear change. Bruce followed us home in case the car would stop again, then worked hard to change the battery. When he had finished that job, he took it for a test drive around the neighborhood. Everything seemed fine.
He didn’t want to leave the job undone. He was afraid that if we drove anywhere with something still wrong with the car we would be stuck again, so he called a mechanic and described the problem. The mechanic explained that everything in our car’s engine is run electronically. If the power source is shot, the rest of the engine will not work. He warned us to watch for the ‘check engine’ light; if it doesn’t come on, all is well. I have since driven the car and it is working just fine.
Read 2 Corinthians 13:3b-6
Paul was dealing with a difficult situation in Corinth. Some of the believers were taking a different path, following a false Gospel. This was manifesting in actions and behavior that were unchristian. They were questioning Paul’s authority, because they did not want to believe his words. But Paul knew the source of his power – Christ. In this letter he asked, or rather warned, the Corinthians to be certain they knew the source of their own power.
Unlike a car battery that will eventually become worn out and die, the power we have in Christ is everlasting. Many in this world put their faith into things that are perishable – the things that feed our flesh and honor our own strength and power. How is your power source? Who is your power source? Our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself at the cross, so that in our weakness we might live with Him in His power. Thanks be to God.
Diapers There’s a commercial on TV for a diaper company that shows a mother who is fanatical about every aspect of caring for her child. She won’t let anyone else hold the baby or do anything to help. Then she discovers this name brand of diapers and willingly lets her go from friend to friend. The implication is that she was afraid the child’s diaper would leak, but once the child was well protected its ok to let her go.
However, most mothers are that obsessive about their children for other reasons. This is particularly true with the first child. They sterilize everything. The temperature of food and drink, bathwater and even the air in every room must be perfect. Diaper bag is filled with extra clothes suitable for every situation. Mothers are often afraid of letting even experienced caregivers hold their children. Such a mother might hand over a child for a brief moment, but will hover close by and take him back immediately if there is any sign of discomfort from the child. She keeps a book on childcare close at hand and follows every rule to make sure she is doing everything perfectly. One of the reasons for this obsessive behavior is fear. She has been given an incredible gift – a new life to nurture. She doesn’t want anything to happen that might hurt her baby. Another reason is pride or arrogance. Yet another reason is doubt. She thinks to herself, “I just can’t do this.”
By the time a second or third child is born, this obsessive behavior is long gone. The mother has realized that there is more to life than standing with a thermometer in the bathtub or washing sheets in just the right detergent. She doesn’t give up on the important things – the child is loved and cared for, given good food, a warm home, clean clothes and a comfortable bed. All that is missing is an obsession for rules.
The Jews in Jesus’ day had an obsession for rules. The books of Moses listed hundreds of specific laws – ceremonial, social, hygiene, agricultural, governmental and dietary. Every one was to be obeyed perfectly. If someone sinned, there were consequences to be paid, sacrifices to be made. Though obedience is a good thing, for God’s laws have been given for a reason, they became obsessed with the rules and lost sight of the Law.
Read Psalm 119:129-136
Psalm 119 is the longest book of the bible, with one hundred and seventy six verses that speak about the writer’s love for God’s Law. It is filled with words such as statutes, decrees, precepts, commands and laws. It is easy to see how someone might get lost in the obsession of following the rules. The Jews lost sight of the purpose of God’s Word, which is to reveal God’s love and mercy to His people, and they made it a burden that no man could bear. They used the words to make outcasts of those who did not do as they expected and oppressed the common man with threats of punishment.
The new mother who is afraid, proud, arrogant or doubtful makes things far more difficult for herself and loses sight of what is really important – the love she gives to the child. As time passes, most mothers realize their mistake and do things well without trying to be perfect. She quickly finds that when she focuses on her love, everything is as it should be naturally. The same is true of God’s Word. When we remember His love and mercy, living according to His statutes, decrees, precepts, commands and laws is as natural as breathing the air. Thanks be to God.
Bracelet I inherited some of my mother’s jewelry when she passed away several years ago. Among the pieces was a bracelet that had originally been her sister’s. Aunt Martha’s husband celebrated each anniversary by adding a link, but she died long before it was long enough to be complete. My mom had some extenders added so that she could wear it, but they were not long enough for my wrist. When I took my ring to be restored a few weeks ago, I also took the bracelet. The jeweler helped me consider the options and we chose the perfect chain. The work was not cheap, but when I picked up the bracelet I could see it was worthwhile. It was finally a piece I could wear, a beautiful reminder of my mother.
Jesus often spoke in parables, to tell the people about the kingdom of heaven in a language they would understand. For those of us in twenty-first century America, some of those parables are difficult to understand. We don’t farm or fish as they did in Jesus’ day. We buy our bread and pottery at stores rather than making it ourselves. Attitudes have changed; many things that were once considered bad are now acceptable in our culture.
Take, for instance, the parable of the found treasure. Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Can you imagine someone going to so much trouble today? After all, we live in a ‘finder’s keepers, loser’s weepers’ sort of world. Why didn’t he just take it with him? He didn’t because he knew it didn’t belong to him until he owned the land on which it was found.
This parable tells us that something worth having is worth paying a great price. The kingdom of heaven is not something we can steal from another, it is not something that we can just pick up and take home with us. When we find something so wonderful as the love of Christ, we willingly give up everything to claim it for ourselves. After all, Jesus first gave up everything – the glory of heaven – to claim us.
Read 1 John 3:16-24
My mother’s bracelet has been nothing more than a dream for me for the past few years. As it was, I could not wear or enjoy it for myself. I owned the bracelet but it sat useless in a box. Though the cost was great, it is now truly mine. How many of us have received the faith of our mothers or fathers and yet have never really claimed the gift for ourselves? Is your life filled with the love of Christ, a love that is seen and not just heard? We can have confidence before God, know we belong to the truth and rest in His presence; we need only to believe in the name of Jesus and love one another. We live in Him because Jesus Christ first bought us with His blood, gave us His Word and filled us with His Spirit. Claiming that gift will not make it ours any more than fixing the bracelet made it mine. However, it will become more real – seen and not just heard – and we will have confidence before God to live in His promises now and forever. Thanks be to God.
Salesman I have been to a number of conferences where professional speakers have been invited to share wisdom as the keynote speaker. They are often published authors and travel extensively to share their message. I have noticed that there are two different types of speakers. The first is a person who loves the message they’ve come to bring. The other wants to sell books.
It is easy to distinguish the two when listening as they speak as is clear by these two examples. The first, a man, loved the Lord. This was obvious by the way he spoke, by the way he dealt with the individuals at the conference. Despite the fact that there were hundreds present, he found a moment to speak with every person who approached him. He lingered after each session, willing to listen and answer questions that the people had. It was several sessions before I even realized he had a book available to purchase. During the book signing, each signature was to the individual based on a moment of conversation between writer and reader.
The second, a woman, loved the Lord. I could the message was meant to draw people into a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. However, she also loved to sell books. She mentioned them during every session, read directly out of several. She plugged her book table at least once during every talk. She disappeared immediately after sessions, never available for comments or questions. During the book signing, she had no interest in what her listeners had to say, she signed every book the same.
Though I do not deny the lady’s love of the Lord, I found myself uninterested in her message after a few sessions. It was difficult to attend. I listened carefully but found error in her words; questionable doctrine was taught to the people present. Jesus was hardly to be found in the talks. I bought a few of her books early in the conference, but they sit barely used on the shelf. On the other hand, I was eager to attend the talks the man gave. I use his book as a reference and often remember things he shared during that time. What he spoke was truth, pointed directly at Jesus Christ and helped those who heard grow into a deeper relationship with Him.
Read John 7:16b-18
Jesus did nothing to bring fame upon Himself. When He did something miraculous, He asked that the recipient keep silent. He spoke words that pointed to His Father, glorifying Him with every word and action. He did not concern Himself with keeping His schedule, with promoting His agenda. He loved each individual and gave them whatever they needed personally. By His words and His actions, you could see He spoke the truth and that His words came from God.
Though most of us will not be speaking at conferences or selling books, we should always remember these words of our Lord. When we share the Gospel in word and deed, it should never be to gain honor, wealth or power for ourselves. To God be the glory in everything we do, so that all we speak will be seen as truth and bring the lost into the light of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.
Wolf There once lived a young shepherd boy who easily became bored with his task of watching the sheep. It was a lonely job, sitting on the hillside by himself all day long. One day he decided to shake things up a bit. He cried out “Wolf, wolf!” a call that immediately brought the townspeople to his aid. When they reached the hillside, the boy was laying on the ground giggling hysterically at the people running up the hill. They were angry when they found there was no wolf, so they reprimanded the boy and warned him to behave.
The boy thought it was funny, but when they explained the danger involved he apologized and promised to behave. However, several days passed and he got lonely and bored again. Recalling the fun of the previous incident, he cried out “Wolf, wolf” once again. The townspeople came running, stumbling up the hill much to the boy’s amusement. Once again the townspeople realized they had been fooled. They gave a sterner warning and returned to their work.
Though the boy remembered why the townspeople were so angry the first two times, he got lonely and bored again and played his trick a third time. When the townspeople ran to the hill and saw there were no wolves, they told the boy they would not come again. Several days later, a pack of hungry wolves attacked the flock of sheep. They boy yelled for the townspeople to help, but they ignored his cry. He had been sorry three times, but never showed true repentance for his misdeeds. They did not believe him when he spoke the truth because he refused to change his ways. The wolves ate the sheep and left the shepherd boy to face his master.
Jesus taught often about forgiveness. When He healed the dis-ease of those who came to Him, He also forgave their sin. For Jesus, healing was not just a physical thing, but also a spiritual change. He taught the necessity of forgiving others so that we will know forgiveness. His stories often showed that if we are unable to forgive, we are unable to be forgiven. Jesus even said that even if someone sins against us seventy times seven times, we should forgive them every time.
Yet, Jesus also ties forgiveness with repentance. He tells those whom He forgives “Go and sin no more.” Though forgiveness comes through the grace and mercy of Christ, He is looking for a change of heart and mind, a turning from sin to the love of God. Most people regret their bad actions. They are mentally sorry for what they have done, because they have suffered the consequences. Others are remorseful, they are mentally and emotionally sorry – the consequences have touched their hearts as well as their minds. Those who repent are sorry in thought, word and deed. They turn from their old ways and are changed.
Read Isaiah 45:22-25
The townspeople should have forgiven the shepherd boy, and perhaps they did. We don’t know the rest of the story. What happened to the boy when the master learned of the loss of his sheep? Would the townspeople have allowed him to suffer hunger or homelessness? We really don’t know. We do know that throughout the story the shepherd boy did not repent. He regretted his action, perhaps was even remorseful. Yet, he returned to the old ways over and over again. His concern was for himself – his loneliness and boredom – rather than for the sheep.
Our Lord has promised salvation to those who turn to Him. That’s what repentance is – turning to God. The desires of our flesh, our human needs and lusts are powerful in this world. But when we are transformed by the love of God, everything changes in our minds, hearts and bodies. The boy was not transformed. He heard the words of the townspeople – the reprimand and warning – but it changed nothing in his mind, heart or body. When we hear the words of God in the Gospel, when we learn of His love and mercy in Christ Jesus, regret and remorse are not enough to satisfy our desire to please God. We turn to Him and are saved. Thanks be to God.