Welcome to the June 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, June 2001
June 1, 2001
School Bus The children ride to school on a school bus. It is a long ride for them, about an hour, since their school is a long distance from home. This particular bus takes children to three different schools from our area. That is a long time in a confined place for kids to behave themselves. The bus driver has an incentive program to help. She gives all the children lollipops if they all behave well for a whole week. This way, the peer pressure is for positive action rather than negative, since all the children want a lollipop. They didn’t get a treat every week; there are times when kids will be kids. The good thing is that even if they have had a bad week, they start the new week with a fresh slate. The past is forgotten and the children have a new chance to earn the treat. They came home with lollipops yesterday.
The youth on the high school bus were not so lucky. When the driver stopped to drop the neighbourhood kids off near our home, they were noisy and rambunctious. The driver put the bus into park and disciplined the youth for their actions. Such behaviour is dangerous since it distracts the driver from her task. She has to keep one eye on the kids and one eye on the road. This can lead to an accident, and even death. For many school districts, repeated misbehaviour can lead to suspension of bus privileges. In some cases the punishment is permanent – no fresh slate.
Rules are established for our protection. God has done this for His children, by giving to us the gift of His good and perfect Law. In the Old Testament, we see the Ten Commandments, a set of rules which covers all manner of behaviour. There are many other rules throughout the scriptures, designed to keep us safe from harm. The food and hygiene laws protected the health of God’s people. The laws about authority and justice kept the people from unsocial behaviour.
Though God gave these rules for good reason, there were only two that mattered to Him. In the New Testament, Jesus simplified the ten laws into two – love God with everything you are, and love your neighbour as yourself. It is on these two laws that everything of God rests. Unfortunately, throughout the history of God’s people, we have done a horrible job of keeping even those two commandments. The Israelites often turned from God, seeking the things of this world and falling for the peer pressure of the nations that surrounded them. At times throughout history, it was necessary for God to provide discipline to His children, to turn them back onto the road of right living in His love.
Read Zephaniah 3:1
Our God is just and His will is perfect. Though at times He does provide discipline for His children, one thing remains our hope. We know that in Christ Jesus, we have been given a fresh start every day. God our Father loves us and rejoices over us. Our Lord and Saviour gave His very life so that our punishment would be removed. Death has been turned away, and we have the assurance of eternal life. Thanks be to God!
Commencement Last night we attended the graduation ceremonies of the colleges and universities that provide degrees through the education on our base. After many years of hard work, fitting classes in between temporary duties around the world, moves and the other inconveniences of military life, Bruce received his Bachelor’s degree. It has been a long road, but last night Bruce finally received the reward for his perseverance.
As we sat watching the ceremony, Vicki asked what the word commencement means. I told her it means the beginning. Schools all over the country are holding commencement ceremonies – from kindergarten classes, to high school, to college. In some ways, these are sad times. When we graduate from one school, we have to leave friends as we move on to the next phase of life. However, we must look at these ceremonies as the beginning of a new phase of life, as we take what we learned in the last and apply the knowledge and wisdom to our journey. Bruce finished school last night, but he’s just begun a whole new journey. In the next few months, we have to look toward the future. He is close to retiring from the Air Force, and he needs to decide what he will do with this education and his years of experience in the military. These decisions will include where we want to settle. We have to take into consideration the children, my own career plans and the financial aspects. Though Bruce has finished walking one road, it is not an end, but rather a beginning.
On the cross, Jesus yelled the words, “It is finished.” Yet, we know that in these words, the work of Jesus was not ending, but rather it was just beginning. That moment on the cross was a commencement, a new way of life. We no longer face death; we are given the great gift of forgiveness and new life in Christ. When we realize the greatness of this promise, the glory of this hope, we begin a new journey.
Read Proverbs 9:10-12
Last night, dozens of students received degrees that are the beginning of new life for them. They will prosper in their military careers as well as in civilian life as they are successful in good jobs.
As Christians, we know that our new beginning is in Christ, and we live with a reverent wonder about the graciousness of our Lord God Almighty. This is wisdom – to know from whom we get everything – our life, gifts, opportunities and possessions. When we know the truth, we live in the light and life of Christ Jesus and are rewarded with the hope that does not disappoint. We are rewarded with eternal life in the presence of the Lord. The journey is just beginning each day. Thanks be to God.
Pentecost When I was in school, I took several years of French classes. My knowledge of the language is very limited. I did not learn conversational French, and I lost what little I knew from lack of use. On a trip to France several years ago, I made an attempt to use the few phrases I could remember. It was in a Disney Store in a mall, and the young man behind the counter knew I was not French. He responded to my simple hello with an endless monologue. I had to say, “Stop, I don’t speak French!” He laughed and said, “I know, I was having fun with you,” in perfect English. We laughed and he asked me if he could stow away in my suitcase since he always wanted to go to America.
Throughout the world there are thousands of different languages. Even if you travel across the United States, you will find regional dialects and word usage that is difficult for someone from another place to understand. It is important in any sort of debate – such as politics, theology or social justice – to define the meanings of words so that there are no misunderstandings in the discussion. I have often participated in discussions online that go awry because of semantics. Some people use a modern understanding of the word, others ancient. It is even more difficult when we try to understand something that has been translated from another language. In the language of the Eskimos, there are many different words that are translated as the English word ‘snow.’ It is difficult to fully understand what a person is saying without the specific word in Eskimo. The same is true about Greek. There are several words in Greek that can be translated into the English word ‘love.’ A misunderstanding of the word ‘love’ causes many disagreements about doctrine. Why are there so many languages?
Read Genesis 11:1-9
God confused the language of the world because mankind was reaching to be like God. They joined together in one voice to build a city that would bring glory to themselves. God continued to work in the lives of His chosen people, guiding their footsteps and saving them from the dangers of this world. They often wandered from the love of God, but God was always with them. In Jesus Christ, God reconciled Himself to His people once and for all. By His blood and resurrection, we were brought back into a right relationship with God. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised His followers that they would be given the Holy Spirit, so that they would speak with one voice for the glory of God.
That promise was fulfilled at the feast of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples like tongues of fire and they began to speak in words that people understood, despite their language. They spoke in the language of God – love and mercy which leads to reconciliation.
Today we celebrate that day, when God overturned the confusion from Babel and gave the people a common voice to share His message with the world. Today is Pentecost, and my prayer is that we will continue to be filled with God’s Holy Spirit beyond measure so that we can speak those words that give hope to the lost of this world and bring them home to Christ. Thanks be to God.
Capital Building We went to visit the Arkansas State capital building in Little Rock on Saturday. The place was nearly deserted, except for a handful of tourists, a few security guards and a gentleman working on a big project. The gift shop was not open and we were unable to locate any brochures to guide our tour, so we began to roam the halls. The children and I were in the section of the building with the governor’s offices. I was busy looking in the conference room, but the children were bored. They were hanging out in the marble hallways when Wes came out of his office. He asked the kids if they wanted a pen and pencil. We went in and he gave the gifts as well as a mini flag of Arkansas and asked if we wanted a tour of the building.
We waited for Bruce and his parents to catch up and then Wes began to give us a tour of the building. He told us the history of the building with its controversy and the wrongdoing. The contractor went over budget, using inferior materials but he still charged full price. The officials refused to pay the bill, so the contractor brought in troops and took over the building. State troops forced their way through the fence and retook control of the building for the people of Arkansas. The governor who was in control when the building was in its final stages was so certain that the contractor was creating a substandard building; he did everything he could to prove it. He had 500-pound bags of cement dropped on the floor and even set one floor on fire for fifteen days!
Throughout the capital there are paintings and busts of the governors and other important officials from the history of Arkansas. Wes pointed out certain men and shared interesting stories about their lives and terms of office. He told us about the governor who was known as an ethical man because he refused a bribe from one mafia boss. “I will not let the mob in our state.” It was soon discovered he was on the payroll of another mafia boss. There were stories of drunken behaviour and duals. One of the early territorial governors was a very learned man. When he moved to Arkansas, he brought a rather extensive library with him. The people said, “Why would anyone want to read when they can drink and shoot?”
Wes was not a typical tour guide and we greatly enjoyed the stories he told. It was rather amazing to think that such a beautiful place could be filled with such foolishness. Yet, the same would be found to be true in any of the state capitals. As human beings, we tend to remember the behaviour of our leaders that is less than ideal. Even as we look at the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, we remember their negative actions as well as their positive. We remember that Peter denied Jesus and that Paul persecuted Christians. We remember Judas who betrayed our Lord. We don’t often think about Barnabus who sold property so that he could give more money to the church. We forget Philip who risked his life by approaching the Ethiopian eunuch because God told him to go. We do not often talk about Timothy, a young pastor mentored by Paul who grew from birth living a God centered life.
Read 2 Timothy 2:8-13
We can laugh as we remember the stories from our history. We all have stories from our own childhood and journey through this life that will be retold by the generations to come. However, as Christians there is one thing we must remember; that Jesus Christ died for us and the life we live is in Him and for His glory. Though our past may be checkered, we now live so that the Gospel message will be spread throughout the world for the sake of our Lord. Through it all, He will remain faithful to His promises. May we always walk in His righteousness, no matter what this world throws our way. Thanks be to God.
Waiting Several weeks ago, we got a call from a telemarketing firm doing work for our cable company. They were offering a special on premium channels. Since we were considering upgrading our cable to one with more channels, we jumped at the chance. The person on the phone told me we would get the eleven new stations within three days. After a week, we still did not have the stations, so I called the cable company. The telemarketing firm offered the special and they had no record of it on our account. She added it to our account and promised the stations would be in place by the next day. I waited several days and called again. This time the woman on the phone was not at the main office, but she would have someone who understood my situation call me back. Several days later, I received my cable bill. The new price was listed, and yet I still did not have the channels. I called once more and explained the situation. I told the woman my story. Once again she promised to take care of the situation. A month after the original call, we are still waiting.
We want to see the affects of our work immediately. When we teach a child the difference between right and wrong, we want to see them live accordingly. When we share the love of our Lord Jesus Christ with a friend, we want to see the affects of His salvation in their lives immediately. However, it often takes a great deal of time and patience to achieve our desired results.
In the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Acts, Paul was sent to Caesarea and was facing trial before the governor named Felix. He was charged with being a troublemaker, inciting riots among the Jews. The lawyer presenting the case gave a powerful summation. Paul rebutted the argument with eloquence.
Read Acts 24:22-27
Paul was in prison, waiting his trial, and spent two years sharing the message of Jesus Christ with Felix. Felix heard the message, though was not willing to commit to the Way because his heart was still hard and focused on his own desires. The scriptures give us no further indication what happened to Felix after he left Caesarea. Paul waited for years to see the affects of his work, to no avail.
How often do we speak the Word of God expecting to see some automatic response? We share the Gospel with our family and friends, with strangers we meet along the way. We love the Lord so much that we cannot imagine living a life without Him. Yet, at times it takes years of sharing the Word until it gets into the hearts of those to whom we speak. I am still waiting for a conclusion to my difficulties with the cable company. We often wait years before we see the fruit of the seeds we plant for Christ. Be patient and share the message as often as you can with love and mercy. God knows just what He is doing.
Awards The end of the school year brought many awards to the children as they finished this grade level and prepared to move on to the next. They both received special certificates from President Bush, the President’s Gold Award for Academic Achievement. They received other certificates that commended them on attendance, grades and other activities. I was so proud as I watched them receive these awards because I knew that they were the evidence of their hard work this year.
The children did not do their schoolwork for the sole purpose of receiving the awards. As a matter of fact, their last school had no such presentations. We moved here in the middle of the school year and they had no expectations. They did their work because they knew that it was the right thing to do, that they would learn and grow because of their actions.
As Christians, we are expected to work to expand the kingdom of God. We are commanded by God to share the Gospel with the world and teach the believers to live in obedience to His commands. It is not an easy life, submitting ourselves to God our Father and living as servants to our neighbours. We are persecuted for our faith, but we must stand firm through all our trials. We do this not for the reward we will receive, but because it is the right thing to do. However, God is greatly pleased when we are obedient to His Will and He blesses us beyond measure.
Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12
As I watch the growth of my children, both in school and in their spiritual life, I am proud of the way they are living their lives. I am thankful to God for them. The same is true of the people in my life with whom I have a spiritual relationship. It is such a joy to see the actions of faith in the lives of the Christians with whom I fellowship. Just like Paul, I boast about your perseverance and faith. Thanks be to God.
Birds We have a bird feeder hanging just outside our window. The finches and sparrows love to come eat the seed as they sing and chatter to one another. I enjoy seeing the beautiful colours of the different birds and watching their antics. We have other bird feeders around the house, but the one outside my window is my favourite.
Felix likes this particular feeder also. The birds come in flocks for the feed and he sits by the window watching them play just inches away. He sits on the bed or on a dresser near the window in pounce position waiting to attack. If a bird gets bold enough to sit on the sill, Felix pounces. He takes off at such great speed that he often smashes into the window. The noise and commotion of Felix’s attack sends all the birds into a flurry for a moment until they remember he can’t get through the window. They return to their feeding and he returns to his crouched position while he waits for the next opportunity to attack. It is so fun to watch the silliness of it all, but poor Felix is always blocked from accomplishing what he has set out to do.
What sort of walls are in the way of our accomplishing our work for God, our Father? Do we have personal biases or agendas that keep us from doing as God intends? Does the world put walls in our way? Society has certain expectations that make it difficult for us to accomplish God’s work. Our geography, gender, age, health, financial situation and relationships put up roadblocks. How do we overcome the walls in our way? Too often we get angry, frustrated, impatient or doubtful. We take God’s work into our own hands thinking that our way must be better and we end up ramming our head against the brick walls.
In the sixth chapter of the book of Joshua, we are told the story of the battle of Jericho. God promised the Hebrews that they would live in the Promised Land. Yet, there were other nations standing in their way. Their first hurdle was Jericho, a walled fortress that was tightly sealed from the outside world. God told Joshua how to defeat the city and Joshua believed him. The plan was crazy! The army was supposed to hike around the city once a day for six days with the ark in front and priest playing horns. On the seventh day, they were to hike around it seven times, then play the trumpets and yell. The people believed God and were obedient to His plan.
Read Joshua 6:20
Felix will never accomplish his goal, because we do not intend on letting him catch any of our bird friends. So often in our Christian walk, our intention is not according to God’s will. He will not allow us to do something that will kill one of His children. However, if there is a wall in our way and we are unable to do His work according to His plan, He will provide the right way to break it down. We must have faith that no matter how crazy His plan seems, it will accomplish the purpose. Thanks be to God.
Project Vicki did well on her final project for fifth grade. Each child was required to put together a report about Arkansas. They earned points for each specific fact they gave about the state and its history, people and natural elements. This project is a regular requirement each year for the graduating fifth graders. The children who had attended the school since Kindergarten were well familiar with the specifics that would help them get good grades. Those with older brothers and sisters had a greater edge, and were even competing against the grades they received years before.
Since we had no previous experience with the project, we were going into it without understanding all the details. The instructions were limited, but Vicki’s teacher helped Vicki and the other students do the best they could. When it was all over, we all learned some interesting facts about the state of Arkansas and we look forward to learning even more.
Some of the children did not do so well; a few never turned their projects in to the teacher. Though they knew how important it was to complete this work so that they could move on to middle school, they did not bother. The main problem for some of these children is that they did not have the necessary parental guidance and help. The teachers discussed the possibility in future years to have mentors to provide these children with the encouragement they need. That solution will help some of the children, but not all. There are some children that will not accomplish the work no matter how much help they are given.
Read Luke 16:19-31
Though we did not have any previous experience with this project or truly understand the details and its importance, Vicki still worked diligently to complete it. Other children had past experience but still did not do the work. Even though the additional help will not change some children, the teachers should try to provide the adult guidance they need.
Unfortunately, there are people in this world who, though they have heard the Word of God, reject the love and mercy that is given so freely through the grace and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. They do not live according to the promises and commands given to us by our Father. Those who reject and defy His Word will suffer an eternity separated from Him. Let us continually walk in the light of our Lord and share His message with all that cross our path. Perhaps one day His Word will touch them in a life changing way. Thanks be to God.
Fred Fred was a beta fish that swan endless in a brandy snifter near my kitchen sink. Beta fish are graceful, beautiful creatures and it was relaxing to have him there while I accomplished the work in my kitchen. He died yesterday. We do not know what happened. I found him in the sink. We do not think that Felix went after him; there were no signs of a struggle. We think that he jumped out of the glass himself. Fred laid in the sink, far from the very substance that kept him alive, water. His body shriveled and he could no longer breath. This lack of water led to his death.
Our own bodies are 98% water, and without it we too will die. We do not need to live in the water, but we need to replenish the liquids that are lost through normal bodily functions. We need water to grow plants to eat and to feed the animals we use for our food. Water is vital to life. There are places around the world that are suffering from drought. The people are dying of hunger and thirst because there is no water.
The land where Jesus roamed and taught was very dry. They relied upon wells that were dug deep into the ground that provided the water necessary for life. Many of these wells were thousands of years old, having been placed there by the patriarchs. One day in Samaria, Jesus settled beside a well that had been built by Jacob. During the heat of the day, a fallen woman came to the well. She came at that time because she was unwelcome during the cool of the evening when the other women filled their jars.
According to the rules of the day, Jews did not speak to Samaritans, and a man like Jesus would not have spoken to such a woman. Yet, Jesus asked her for some water. She was shocked that He would do such a thing.
Read John 4:10-14
Fred needed water to live and he died when he fell into the dry sink in our kitchen. We too need the water that would come from a well such as Jacobs, and without it our physical bodies will die. More important, however, is the living water that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. We are children of the Living God, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and we have His life-giving Spirit within us. It is this water that gives us true life, eternal life. Thanks be to God.
Witness Phillips Brooks was the nineteenth century Episcopal preacher who penned the song, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” He was highly influential in the church in his day and many of his sermons have been published. In “Lectures on Preaching” he says, “There is a power which lies at the center of success in preaching, and whose influence reaches our to the circumference, and is essential everywhere. Without its presence we cannot imagine the most brilliant talents making a preacher of the Gospel in the fullest sense. Where it is largely present, it is wonderful how many deficiencies count for nothing… The power is the value of the human soul, felt by the preacher and inspiring all his work.”
Read Isaiah 43:10-13
The Lord God Almighty, who was, is and will be, has placed great value on the human soul. Not only did He come in the flesh, to live and die so that we will have eternal life in Him; but He also has chosen you to be a witness to His greatness. God, our Lord and King, has called you to share your story. You may not think you have anything to say, however your story testifies to the love of Christ.
By the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, we have been saved. He is the one and only Saviour, without Him we would still be under the curse of sin and death. We have been given a glorious gift, the promise of life with Him that can never be taken from us. As children of the Most High God, we are given a great responsibility. We are His witnesses, called to share the message of Jesus Christ with the world. Every human soul has value and as heirs to the Kingdom, a royal priesthood, we should desire that all would know His lifesaving grace and mercy.
Trust in God as you journey into Today. Remember His presence is with and in you. There is nothing in this world, either physical or spiritual, that can take Him away from you. As you walk in His light, shine for all to see. Tell your story, be a witness and remember that the human souls to whom you speak are valuable to God. Treat every person with the same love and mercy that God has given to you. Thanks be to God.
Proofreading I have found that I am really good at proofreading other people’s written works. I can find the typographical and grammatical errors quickly and thoroughly. As I read, the mistakes stand out and I can easily find a better way to say what I believe is the writers intend.
Since you have all seen examples of my own mistakes, you will realize that I have far more difficultly proofreading my own work. There are several things that block this ability. First of all, I have a habit of reading my work as I write it, not really seeing the words on the page, but rather what I remember putting there. Spelling errors are easily missed because I do not look at every word. I often write as I talk, so grammar errors that come from my own dialect are passed by. The statement sounds right to my ears so I do nothing to change it. When I find some highly creative way of saying some deep concept, I simply do not want to change it, whether the technical aspects are incorrect or not. I am blind to my own failure because I allow so many things stand in the way of the truth. I appreciate those in my life who remind me of the errors in my work so that I can avoid making the same mistakes at other times. I also find myself doing a more thorough job of proofreading so that they have nothing to catch.
Sin is a lot like those writing errors. It is very easy for us to see the improper actions of the rest of the world, and yet we are blind to our own faults. We find ourselves, as Christians, speaking out against the sin of the world, boldly proclaiming the Law of God. We preach repentance and condemn the people we see living unrighteous lives. Yet, we never seem to see our own sin, often appearing hypocritical to those who do not know the forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the sake of Him who died to forgive our sin, we must consider our own error before we point our fingers at others.
Read Psalm 139:23-24
Do you easily notice the sin in other people’s lives? Perhaps God is holding a mirror before your heart, showing you your own failure to live according to His Word. God is so faithful. When He shares the truth of our lives – when He shows us our sin – He also shows us how to defeat that sin in our lives. He gives us the wisdom, courage and strength to change that aspect of our lives. He also gives us patience and understanding of those who continue to walk in that sin. We learn how to speak to their hearts, in love and mercy, sharing the truth, which convicts rather than condemns.
When I began writing the daily word, I did not like the corrections. Yet, those people who edited my work not only helped me write more clearly and consistently, but they also helped me become a better proofreader – not only for my own work, but also those who I help. Today in prayer, ask God to reveal to you the ways you offend Him. Ask Him to change you and bring you deeper into His presence. As you are cleansed of the things that you do against Him, you will be called into situations where you will be able to share the same understanding of sin that you have learned by the grace of God. Remember to look inwardly first. Then you can speak the Word of God with integrity and confidence, but most of all love. Thanks be to God.
Superstition The scene is familiar. A man is desperately searching for some piece of clothing in his closet or drawers. He finally calls to his wife and asks, “Honey, have you seen my blue shirt?” The husband wears this shirt everywhere and the wife is embarrassed by its tattered and torn condition. She has tried to switch it with a brand new shirt of similar colour and style. She has tried to hide it from him. Finally, it ends up in the garbage. An argument ensues as the husband shares why that shirt is important to him. It was the shirt he was wearing when he met her and he considers it his lucky shirt. They go together to the dump and dig through the garbage until they find the shirt.
Every television sit-com starring a married couple has produced an episode similar to the one above. They take a humourous look at our human condition, which tends toward superstitious activity. Most real life situations are not this exaggerated; yet we all have had our ‘good luck charms’. For some it is a penny, for others a pen. Some people follow some sort of ritual before they go to a job interview or take a test. We hold on to ancient superstitions like throwing salt over our shoulder if it spills and believing we’ll have bad luck if we break a mirror.
Webster’s defines superstition as, “a belief, practice, or rite held in spite of evidence to the contrary, resulting from the ignorance of the laws of nature or from faith in magic or chance.” We can easily recognize the superstitions that are based on sorcery or pagan ideals. Yet, there are many Christians who have similar rites based their limited knowledge of Jesus Christ. They use certain words or actions as some ritual, expecting to be blessed by the action. However, it becomes a like a mantra – a mystical formula of invocation or incantation – rather than right worship of God in spirit and truth.
Read Acts 19:11-20
The sons of Sceva used the name of Jesus Christ without having the authority that comes from having a personal knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. What is the state of your own life of faith? Are you approaching God in a humble, submissive manner, speaking the words in faith and knowledge of God’s promises? Or are your actions superstitious, with an expectation that God will give you just what you want? Is your prayer life a mantra, or are you praying in a manner that glorifies God our Father? Incredible things can happen by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name and by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord. Thanks be to God.
Soundproof There is a commercial on the television that always makes me laugh. There are two guys sitting in a car that is stopped at a light. The car is very quiet and they are looking rather bored. Outside the driver’s window, a car with two lovely ladies pulls up. They have their window rolled down and try to get the attention of the guys. They need directions, so begin to yell and wave. Inside the car is still quiet and the guys are still bored. This scene goes back and forth several times until the driver says, “Why is it so hard to meet chicks?” The light changes and they drive away, missing the chance to have just what they seek.
The point of the commercial is to demonstrate in a humourous way that the car is so tightly sealed that you have a peaceful haven from the world inside. Yet, it is dangerous to be so closed off from the world that you do not hear anything. The driver would not hear a siren until it is very close. He may not hear someone honking if there is a danger ahead. He will not hear the young children playing along the road that might run out in front of his car.
How often, in our Christian walk, do we block the noises that help us as we journey? There are many Christians today that are not willing to listen to teaching that is founded firmly on the Word of God as found in scriptures and as taught by those who are truly preaching the Gospel of our Lord. They listen to the teachers who speak to their desires.
Read 2 Timothy 4:3-5
The car is designed to give the people inside a sense of peace. Yet, in that peace, as the funny commercial demonstrates, they miss out on exactly what they are searching for. So, too, with our Christian walk. We listen to the teachers that teach and preach what we want to hear, and think we have found peace in such lessons. However, when something happens – like an emergency vehicle or a child appears out of nowhere – the peace we had is taken away.
Jesus Christ never promised that we would be without suffering. He promised that He would be with us always. By His strength and power, we can accomplish all things that He has ordained for our lives. In what ways is your hearing blocked that you do not hear the Word of God? Are you looking for someone to tickle your ears or are you willing to hear the Gospel of our Lord?
Octopus Mom Yesterday, I had the chance to visit with a mom with a very young child. She had her hands full of the usual paraphernalia that moms carry – diaper bag, purse, carrier and baby. She was also carrying a camera because she was taking pictures for Vacation Bible School. Each item had its place – on her shoulder or under her arm. She was burdened with so much baggage and yet she could still take care of her tasks. Moms just seem to gain a few hands during those early days of childhood.
There are times when even a mom needs help. Doors provide a difficult obstacle particularly when they are locked or open toward us. At times it is necessary to put down the burdens we carry to be able to get through the door. How joyful it is when we have someone who will help us through. I recall times when I was a young mom when I rejected the help offered at such times. It was almost like I had to prove I was Supermom, able to defeat even the toughest door.
We often think we can handle the burdens of life ourselves. Even as Christians, we tend to carry our own pain, unwilling to burden our family or friends. We try to be SuperChristians, defeating the greatest evil with our own power.
During His ministry, Jesus met a rich young man who wanted to know what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus questioned him and the young man ecstatically declared that he had kept the Law for his entire life. Then Jesus told him to sell everything he had, give it to the poor and follow Him. The young man was greatly distressed at this answer. Perhaps he was looking for Jesus to tell him how great he was for having followed the Law so diligently. He wanted to receive praise for his goodness and encouragement to continue to live the life he was living. However, Jesus challenged him to give everything to God, including his very life.
Read Mark 10:22-27
How hard it is for moms to enter into a building or a car, carrying so many things. Yet, when we put down our burdens, we find it much easier to accomplish the task. In this story, Jesus references a gate called, “the eye of the needle”, a tiny gate that led into Jerusalem. It was convenient to the trading routes, but was so small that a fully loaded camel could not fit through. It was not impossible – but the merchant needed to unload the camel, lead him through, and then reload the things onto his back.
We need to unburden ourselves of everything that keeps us from walking through the gate. For the rich young man, it was his wealth. Our burdens are individual, but none are so great for God. We just need to give everything to Him – the good things as well as the pain. We need to give Him our families, our wealth, our bodies, and most of all our hearts. Jesus tells His disciples in the following verses that because they have given up their very lives for Him, they will receive blessings far greater than they left behind. The same is true for us, we will be blessed for our submission. Our treasure will be in heaven. Thanks be to God.
This story is found in its entirety in Mark 10:17-31.
Vacation Bible School We are finishing our week of VBS today, a chance to share God’s Word with the children at the chapel on our base. The focus has been the text from Luke 10:27, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” The children have learned about ways to be a good neighbour – helping, sharing, inviting, giving and telling.
As I sat at my computer working yesterday, I found myself singing the songs that we have learned this week. Worship is my favourite time during the day, as we teach the children the concepts of the week in music and praise. The children love the songs so much that they sing them for weeks afterwards, continuing the learning and application of those lessons. They share those same ideas with their friends, and other children benefit through the music.
Children are so free to praise God. They sing without fear of what others think, the songs come so easily. How often do we as adults break out singing songs that glorify God? Too often we won’t even talk about our relationship with God with those who cross our path. We stay silent because we do not want to offend someone, or we are afraid of rejection. Yet, God teaches us through His Word that we are to help, share, invite, give and tell our neighbour so that He will be glorified. As we do these things, we sing praises to God in our life and magnify His greatness.
Read Psalm 86:8-13
As children of the One True and living God, we are to praise him with our very lives. The two great commandments of God – to love Him with our whole selves and our neighbour as ourselves – will give Him the honour and glory. Today, walk in the light and life of our Lord Jesus Christ, remembering all that He did for you. Then, allow yourself to be child-like and free, breaking forth in song praising God and sharing His greatness with your neighbour. Do not be afraid to speak about your relationship with Him. He alone is God, and will grant you all you need to share His Gospel today. Thanks be to God.
Preachers A story is told about a preacher who was in revival services in a town where a mental institution was located. One of the deacons employed at the institution asked the preacher to speak to the inmates at the chapel service. He agreed and after he had been preaching for a couple of minutes, one inmate stood up and said, “That’s the worst preaching I’ve ever heard.” This disturbed the preacher but he continued. After another five minutes the same inmate stood up and repeated, “I said, ‘This is the worst preaching I’ve ever heard.’” Turning to the deacon who invited him, the preacher whispered, “Maybe I should stop. This man might get violent.”
We can laugh about a story like this, because we have all sat through bad sermons at some point in our lives. The preacher must have had an impact on the deacon during the revival services to feel led to invite him to the institution. Yet, that one sermon was off the mark.
Unfortunately, in today’s Christianity many people are walking away from corporate worship at a local congregation for reasons such as this. They hear one bad sermon and they judge the pastor to be unworthy to be preaching. Christians are forsaking the fellowship of believers and replacing it with following the teachings of televangelists and Internet ministries. Many of these ministers are no longer teaching the truth of the Gospel.
Read 2 John 7-11
In the days of the early church, there were people who were called Gnostics. They believed that they have been given special revelation from God and that their understanding was beyond that of the Apostles. The Gnostic teachings are being revived today and are spreading throughout Christianity. These false teachers are convincing the sheep to leave their congregations and seek personal revelation from God.
God does speak to each of us personally, however we should not forsake that which God has given us – the gifts and wisdom of His chosen servants who teach and guide His sheep into truth. Your pastor may give a bad sermon once in awhile, after all, he is human and can have a bad day. However, do not walk away from a shepherd into the den of wolves. Test the spirits; we can know who is true. If they do not teach the Gospel of Christ, they are not from God; no matter how gifted they seem to be. Beware, the wolves seek to devour God’s sheep. If you must leave your home congregation, find another fellowship of believers. Do not try to find the truth by yourself. Christianity is a community of believers, not an island of solitude. Listen to those whom God has gifted for His service and do not follow the deceivers. The reward of true life in Christ is beyond anything we can know in this world, thanks be to God.
** Story found in “Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes” by Robert J. Morgan.
Father’s Day We have a running joke in our house. “Father’s Day? Every day is Father’s Day, why does he need a special one?” Of course, I am the only one who finds this humorous. The children love their daddy and will do everything they can to make sure he knows it. They want to take advantage of every minute they have with him, constantly asking him to play games or watch movies. There are times when this constant attention is too much. Bruce needs to have time to do the things he wants to do – to read, woodwork, or just watch the news. The children will leave him alone for a moment, but they always return for more.
I think that they have such a desire to be in his presence because of all the times he has had to go away with his job. He has been sent into dangerous situations on some of his trips. During the conflict in Kosovo, more than fifty percent of the children in our school had a parent who was deployed to that region. We did not talk about the situation – our fears and frustrations – yet the children knew that something was wrong. Now, whenever he is home, they enjoy every minute together because we do not know when he will be gone again.
Another reason they children adore him is because it is a pleasure to be with him. He laughs and horses around. He takes them fishing and lets them help with his projects. He is determined to give them everything they need and provide for their future so that their life will be even more blessed than his. He leads them spiritually, by encouraging prayer and active lives within our community of fellowship. The children are obedient because they want to please him.
Read John 14:12-17
Bruce is a wonderful daddy, and though every day is Father’s Day in our house, we will try to make him feel extra special today. As Christians, we have a Daddy that is even greater than any human can possibly be. He will never leave us and will provide for our every need. He will even give us the power to do great things in His name so that He will be glorified. He has blessed you so that you will be a blessing. What a great and wondrous love He has for us, His children. I pray that on this day and every day you will desire to spend every moment with Him, and obey His commands. Thanks be to God!
Profit On an episode of “Seventh Heaven” Ruthie and Simon found a fifty-dollar bill on the ground. Simon convinced Ruthie that it would be best for them to use the money to purchase something for themselves rather than bother their parents with the situation. He was certain that they would be forced to find the owner, or put the money in a bank. So, they bought a pair of ferrets, which they hid in their room. In the usual humorous way, the ferrets got loose and were found by the family. Ruthie and Simon got in trouble for not telling their parents about the money. Everything worked out happily ever after and, as usual, the children learned a valuable lesson.
The children made a really bad choice when they spent the money, but the parents were more upset by the fact that they had not told the truth. I think everyone has had the experience of gaining financially through some windfall – found money – even if it is just a twenty-dollar bill in an old coat pocket. How do we use that sort of money? Do we hide it from others and use it for ourselves? Or do we share it with our family, friends, but especially God?
In the days of the early church, the believers shared everything. They lived in community, ensuring that no one was hungry or cold. Those who had more, gave food and clothing to those who had less. There were some members who were even selling property to help the church.
Read Acts 5:1-10
God did not cut down Ananias and Sapphira because they kept some of the money for themselves. They died because they lied to God. If they had gone to the apostles and said, “We sold our property and this is a portion of the proceeds,” Peter would have gratefully received the money and used it to glorify God. However, Ananias and Sapphira wanted to have their cake and eat it too.
When you have some sort of financial windfall, it is indeed yours to keep. However, consider carefully what you will do with that money. Do you claim to tithe your resources to God? Then He should get a portion of that windfall, or you are no longer keeping the promise you have made to Him. God blesses us so that we will be a blessing. This is true in Spirit and in the world. Be honest with yourself and with God about your stewardship of the gifts He has given to you. Remember, as Christians we believe that God has provided everything we have, and it is all His. Thank Him for the windfall and use it to His Glory.
Management Several years ago, I was beginning a retail management career. I worked for two different national chains, and was progressing quickly up the ladder of success. My management style was unusual compared to many of my peers. They considered themselves greater than their employees, too important to take on menial tasks. The employees knew the manager had no respect for their abilities and they approached the work with contempt. These store managers generally have a high turnover rate for employees.
I feel that it is important for a manager to show respect to each and every employee, whether they are the janitor or the bookkeeper, the stock boy or cashier. I never asked an employee to do something I had not done myself, and at times I was found scrubbing the bathroom or unloading a truck. Employees rarely grumbled about doing something I asked, because they were aware that I had done the same tasks. I understood that the job was difficult or disgusting, physically exhausting or emotionally draining – because I had done it. After a time, the employees independently worked on the tasks without a direct order, because they understood the importance of my job and knew I should not be weighed down by those burdens. They were willing to do them for me, because I was a manager with integrity who respected them and their jobs.
We all want to be important. In our walk with our Lord Jesus Christ, we have opportunities to hold positions of authority. We are elected to the council or asked to teach a Sunday school class. Many of us have jobs in the world that give us the responsibility of leadership. Our relationship with Christ should show in the way we take upon those responsibilities.
Read Mark 10:35-45
Jesus Christ was the ultimate manager. He is the Servant King, one who did far more than He ever asked of His disciples. He went to the cross and died for us. Now, those of us who are in Christ Jesus, by the forgiveness that comes from His blood, walk in His light and do His work with joy. We should not allow our position in God’s Kingdom become one where we consider ourselves more important than another. We are called to be servants, knowing that Christ did it first for us. Thanks be to God.
Answer Martin Luther was an extremely intelligent young man. He was given the degree Master of Philosophy at the age of twenty and was encouraged by his family to go into the study of law. A short time later, he suddenly changed his mind and sought to enter the College of Augustinian Monks at Erphord. His family and friends advised against such a change, after all he would find greater worldly success in practicing law. However, Luther was determined. He had been raised in the faith of Christ – fear of God and obedience to his duties.
The story is told that one day Luther was walking on a road during a thunderstorm. He was so terrified by the storm, he cried out, “Help St. Anne, and I’ll become a monk!” He survived and fulfilled the vow. He wrote, “not freely or desirously did I become a monk, but walled around with the terror and agony of sudden death, I vowed a constrained and necessary vow.” He studied diligently and succeeded in becoming a priest and professor.
Luther lived in an age replete with superstition, which was firmly entrenched in the church. He was so terrified about his own sin, and how it would affect the congregation, that he spent hours every day in confession. These thoughts were so heavy upon him, that he was nearly insane with fear. He was crippled by his guilt and nothing was able to lessen his difficulties.
Luther worked so hard to be justified before God in his works, and he knew he was unable to do so. He feared the wrath of God that was certain based on his guilt. However, he studied the scriptures and the writings of church fathers such as Augustine and found the truth that eased his mind. Luther was seeking the scriptures to understand the meaning of ‘the righteousness of God’ when he found the grace of God in the words of Paul that we are justified by faith.
In that knowledge, Luther lived the rest of his life teaching his students and congregations to rely upon God’s salvation from their burdens. God answered his prayers – to save his physical life and then his spiritual life, and Luther praised God for the answers. King David experienced the hand of God similarly throughout his life. After God saved him from his enemy, David wrote Psalm 34, a song of praise and instruction.
Read Psalm 34:1-6, 11-14
We may not have ever experienced God’s saving hand in our physical lives as dramatically as that as Martin Luther and King David. However, we are given salvation through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in that knowledge we should live lives that praise His glorious name. We are blessed by our relationship with God, and our lives are witnesses to God’s power and mercy. Our praise of thanksgiving should lead to words that will help others know how to live in the blessedness of such a relationship. Thanks be to God.
Competence Our understanding of the world is limited by our environment and experience. A person who spends their whole life on a farm cannot comprehend the activities of one who lives in the hectic pace of the big city. For those who live in the city, life on a farm seems strange. An old Jewish folk tale speaks of this concept.
There were once two brothers who lived in the city. One day they decided to go to the country to see what it was like. As they wandered down a road, they came across a farmer who was plowing. They did not understand why he would go back and forth turning up the dirt of a meadow and decided he had no sense. Later that day, they returned to find him throwing wheat into the dirt. Once again they found his actions nonsensical. The first brother returned to the city because he decided life in the country was definitely not for him. The second brother stayed to see more.
As time went on, the brother saw the wheat grow and the field became ripe with the fruit of his labour. The brother reported this amazing thing to his brother in the city. The first brother returned in time for harvest. They watched as the farmer cut the wheat down and the first brother refused to watch such silliness. He could not understand how the farmer could destroy that which he spent the summer creating. The second brother had more patience, so he stayed to watch. The farmer collected the wheat, separated the chaff and stored the grain. He saw that by sowing a bag of seed he harvest a field of grain.
The actions of Christians in this world often seems nonsensical to those who do not understand. In our Christian walk as we share the Gospel of Christ we often do things that seem silly or crazy. Yet, when we walk in the light of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are confident that the work will do will produce fruit that will glorify Him.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
The farmer had faith that the seeds he planted will grow into a field that would feed many. The first brother had no patience to wait and see what would happen. The second brother was more willing to watch and he came to understand the farmer’s actions. He saw the fruit that was produced through the work. We do not always understand why God has called us to do the things we do. We have to step out in faith – confidence – that God knows what will be harvested in the end. When we live in Christ and minister according to His Word, He will use us to bring new life to the fields we work. Thanks be to God.
Words In 1927, the movie “The Jazz Singer” was released into movie theatres, providing viewers with the first motion picture with sound. It took a number of years for the technology to develop, but in the decades that followed the film industry has contributed a multitude of memorable quotes from both its stars and from the movies themselves. Marilyn Monroe is quoted as saying “Hollywood is the only place where they will pay $50,000 for a kiss but only 50 cents for your soul.”
My favourite radio station has been taking calls from its listeners who are sharing the most memorable quotes from movies. “Go ahead, make my day.” “Frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a damn.” “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” As I listened to the suggestions from the callers, I realized that many of the quotes were memorable because they were shocking to the audience. Words make a difference and we often apply these lines in our own lives. What parent hasn’t used the phrase “go ahead, make my day” when a child is about to do something wrong? These phrases are written on our hearts and their use comes very naturally to our speech.
As Christians, we should not include many of these phrases in our experiences. Threats, uncaring, false humility are all characteristics of those who are still in this world of evil and death. We are to be transformed by the Word of God and speak His words to the world. It is necessary for us to be in an intimate relationship with God so that His word is written on our hearts. We need to be in prayer, study and constant fellowship with Him.
The prophet Samuel lived in such a relationship with God. He was a gift to his mother Hannah, who was barren but prayed that God would bless her with a son. When Samuel was born, she gave him back to God, and he grew up in the temple. God’s voice was not heard in Israel at that time, but He spoke to Samuel one night. Samuel remained faithful to God’s voice, always speaking that which God had lain on his heart.
Read 1 Samuel 3:19-4:1a
As Christians, we have been called into a similar fellowship with God. Through Jesus Christ He has given us His Holy Spirit, and He is never quiet to those who listen. It is so easy for the words of this world to become a natural part of our lives, yet that is not the language we should be speaking. God’s Word should be what is written on our hearts. It is His love and mercy that should be spoken in our lives. Thanks be to God.
Saint Pantaleon The lives of those throughout the history of the church who have been honoured as saints often give us real life examples of biblical narratives. Saint Pantaleon is an excellent example. He was the son of a wealthy pagan father and a Christian mother. She brought him into the faith, though she died when he was very young. Pantaleon became a highly respected and talented physician and was hired into Emperor Maximian’s court. There he lived a self-indulgent lifestyle swayed by the worldly ways of the court. He lost his faith.
A fellow Christian named Hermolaos reminded Pantaleon of the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ and he was transformed. He sold his acquired property and gave the proceeds to the poor. He healed them without charge. Several miracles were attributed to him, including the healing of a blind man. His father watched that miracle, was converted to Christianity and was baptized because of it.
The other physicians in the court were jealous of Pantaleon, and so used his faith to discredit him. It was a time of Christian persecution. He was arrested with three other Christians, including Hermoloas, and they were martyred early in the 4th century. The legend holds that they were unable to kill Pantaleon, though they tried several times. Finally, after he asked God to forgive them and agreed to die, they beheaded him. It is said there was a halo of glory around his head. He is known as one of the patron saints of the medical profession and his name means “the all-compassionate.”
Though some of the legend behind the saints may not be accurate, the story of Pantaleon is a real life example of the parable of the lost son that Jesus told to His followers. In that story, a man had two sons. The younger son asked his father for his inheritance. He left home with everything and lived a life of self-indulgence. When he had nothing left, the son decided to return home and work as a servant for his father rather than live with the pigs. When he returned, his father saw him coming and ran to greet him. He showered the son with the finest robes and jewels, hugs and kisses.
Read Luke 15:21-24
Pantaleon was that lost son. He left his faith behind in a life of success and great wealth. Yet, when the time was right, God drew him back into His Kingdom by sending Hermolaos to remind him of the place he once held. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Pantaleon was able to heal the sick and draw others into the Kingdom. God gave him the wisdom and strength to leave the old life behind and live a life that truly glorified our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you know someone that has walked away from the faith? Are they leading a life that is self-indulgent? Do not be discouraged. Remember that God our Father is compassionate; He will welcome the child home and even run to greet him. Pray that for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Father will draw all His children into His Kingdom that we may all glorify Him for eternity. Perhaps God will use you as the one who brings them home. Thanks be to God.
John the Baptist Jesus had a cousin named John. John was born of an elderly couple, Elizabeth and Zechariah. Zechariah was a priest in the temple and Elizabeth was barren, but God spoke to Zechariah and promised him a son. When Zechariah questioned the angel that gave him the good news, he was struck dumb – unable to speak. When the child was born, everyone thought the child would be named after his father, but Elizabeth said he would be called John. They asked Zechariah, since it was not a family name. He said, “His name is John.” At that moment, Zechariah could speak again, and he praised God for the blessing of this son.
Read Luke 1:67-79
John grew in spirit and lived a most unusual life. His parents died early and he lived in the desert. He went around the country preaching repentance. He baptized the people, a baptism of repentance, and preached the coming kingdom of God. He said “I indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire.” (Luke 3:16)
One day, Jesus came to John to be baptized. John tried to refuse but Jesus said it needed to happen. When John saw Jesus, he exclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) John knew that he came to witness to the coming of the Christ, the Saviour of Israel. He was a radical and preached against the leaders of the day. He condemned Herod for his life and was beheaded.
Today is the day we remember John the Baptist, his life and ministry. If there is one thing to remember about John, it is that he knew his place in God’s kingdom. When Jesus began his ministry, John’s disciples reported that everyone was going to Him rather than to John. John told his disciples that he was not the Christ. He confessed to his disciples, “He must become greater; I must become less.” He came to point the way to the Lord Jesus, and he accomplished that mission. He was not jealous that Jesus was the focus. He lived, and died, in the joy of knowing that He had finally come to save His people. Thanks be to God.
Microchip The invention of the microchip has truly changed the world and our lives since it was first tested in 1958. Nearly every item in our home has been touched by this marvel of modern technology, either directly or in its production, distribution or promotion. We certainly would not have the computers we are using to write and read these words. Before the invention of the microchip, it was necessary to use miles of wiring and so many connections it was impossible to build the high-tech powerful electronic devices the engineers envisioned.
In July of 1958, a young man was working in a lab at Texas Instruments considering the problem. His story is not typical of those who have succeeded in the technology industries. He was not a prodigy; he had even failed MIT’s entrance exam. After serving in the army during WWII, he was hired by a small electronics firm and eventually by Texas Instruments. Engineers all over the world had paper solutions for the problem, yet none were feasible. Jack Kilby realized that they needed to eliminate the wires. His boss gave him permission to test his theory by building a simple circuit. When Jack presented his chip to the Texas Instruments executives, it worked and changed the world.
Jack was able to come up with the answer because he was not locked into the established thinking of the day. All the other engineers were following the same thought processes, but Jack was able to look at things differently. His mind was fresh and was not mentally blocked against the things the others felt were impossible.
Jesus often used children as examples of the way we should think about the kingdom of God. As adults, we have established a mindset we find difficult to overcome when trying to understand the mysteries of God. However, Jesus tells us repeatedly we have to think with a fresh new mind, like a little child. He is not insisting we should be immature in faith, but rather that we should be willing to set aside our insistence that everything is impossible.
Read Luke 9:46-48
Engineers all over the world were racing for a solution to the problem they faced. It took a young, fresh mind to find the answer. What if Jack’s boss had rejected his plan? What if the Texas Instruments executives had refused to witness the test? Another may have figured it out – as a matter of fact, Robert Noyce did arrive at the same conclusion several months later. He even found an easier way to manufacture the microchip. Yet, Jack Kilby changed the world without being changed by it. He was not greedy – he did not seek fame or fortune for his great idea.
Jack Kilby received the Nobel Prize for physics for his invention of the microchip. Do you know someone who seems childlike in faith? Receive them in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and listen to what they have to say. They have not conformed to the ways of the world, blocked from believing God’s ability to do the impossible. Those who trust in Him for the answers will be given the most glorious rewards by our Father. Thanks be to God.
Music Music plays such a key role in the performing arts. On television, in theatres and movies, the music sets the tone of the event, provides sound effects and guides our emotion through the story. Take, for example, horror films. The background music is composed to speed up your heart rate and get you excited for that moment when the villain attacks the helpless victims. Romance films have songs that speak of love. Comedies use music that makes you happy and brings on a laugh.
Music is used during other recreational events. We attended a game of our local baseball team and enjoyed the songs of the organ player. Of course, he began with the “Star Spangled Banner” and used the usual baseball hits such as “Take me out to the ball game.” We sang along and danced. The organist played certain songs at specific times, such as when someone made a good play or when the struck out, so the music helped us to follow the game.
I have always wondered why the military would have people specifically assigned to a band. Of course, they do use music as an important part of their events. The National Anthem and other patriotic songs are often presented to open meetings and other functions. The band also provides for the morale of the troops, particularly during times of war. The USO during WWII provided a moment of rest from their duties and fears, and so they went back into the conflict ready to face the battle with a clear mind.
None of these examples would be the same without the music, however the music is nothing without the storyline, the ball game or whatever purpose the people are gathering. No self-respecting military commander would send the USO out into the field to sing to the enemy!
Read 2 Chronicles 20:20-24
In this story, Jehoshaphat sent the choir to the battlefield before the army. They sang praises to the Lord God Almighty who they trusted completely. God caused the enemy to destroy itself so that His people did not even have to fight. Even though the battle plan seemed outrageous, Jehoshaphat heard the word of God and was obedient to His command.
What battles are you facing in your life today? What is your plan of attack? Spend time in prayer to God our Father in the name of Jesus our Lord and ask what He wants you to do. Sing praises to Him, for He is your strength, wisdom and courage. He has already defeated the enemy, and He will walk with you through the continuing trials of life. Trust in Him and you will be blessed. Thanks be to God.
Approval Suzanne Sugarbaker was a character on the hit television series “Designing Women” played by Delta Burke. Suzanne was somewhat conceited, a former beauty queen with a great deal of wealth from a prominent southern family. She often looked down on those who did not fit into her ideal of refinement and class. By the later years of the series, she had gained a great deal of weight and lost her money to a crooked accountant. She was humbled by her circumstances, living as those she had once put down.
On an episode I watched recently, Suzanne attended a high school reunion. She was very hurt when she overheard her old friends talking about how fat she had become. She was awarded the prize that was given to the person who was voted the most changed. She spoke with her typical grace and shared how hurt she had been by the comments. She told her friends that she hadn’t noticed their receding hairlines or graying hair. Then she received the award and told them she would treasure it because she truly had changed. Her heart was new because she realized her standards had been superficial and her judgment unkind. She sought the approval of men but eventually realized that the opinions of men did not matter.
The writer of the book of Hebrews says, “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. For therein the elders had witness borne to them.” (Hebrews 11:1-2) He goes on to list the great men of faith – Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham. Each of these men lived by faith in the promises of God and gave to Him their heart, soul, strength and mind.
Read Hebrews 11:13-17
The writer goes on to talk about Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab and many more who did the impossible because they believed that God was with them and that He would be faithful to His promises. According to worldly standards, their lives were not always charmed. Joseph was put into jail, David lost a son to his sin, and the prophets were killed for their words. “And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise.” (Hebrews 11:39)
Today, we have eternal life by the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We have been given the promise that the ancients only knew by faith. We have been called to be children of the Most High and to live in that promise, which is a present reality as well as a future hope. We must keep our focus on Jesus and live as our forefathers lived – walking in faith that God will keep His promises as He has done since the beginning of time. We do not need the approval of men, for God will commend us for our faith. Thanks be to God.
Friendship Cartoons often make statements about life, politics and religion in a humorous but also powerful way. In those few small frames, cartoonists such as Charles Schultz, Jim Davis and Bill Keane make us think about our lives and relationships. Sometimes we are offended by what we read, but most often we laugh at our own foolishness.
A few days ago, “The Family Circus” cartoon touched on our relationships with God. The picture showed the mom and one of the children sitting in church. The young girl said to her mom, “Is our pastor a friend of God’s, or do they just know one another through business?” This is a very funny statement, and yet one we should be asking about all our spiritual leaders.
How do we know the difference? One who has a close personal relationship with God lives a life that is constantly in communion and communication with him. In the book “Hearing God” Dallas Willard writes, “Authority in spiritual leadership derives from a life in the Spirit, from the minister’s personal encounter and ongoing relationship with God.”
Our business associations are limited. We work with people from 9 to 5 every day, but we do not share an intimate relationship. It is easy to turn from our associates for the sake of business because we are not hurting a friend; we are simply doing our job. For those Christians who live a Sunday morning faith, it is easy to do things during the week that go against God’s Word. They are not friends of God.
Read James 2:20-24
Our works does not save us, but our works are the evidence of our salvation. Do you have a personal relationship with God, one that shows your faith to the world as you do everything God has commanded you to do? Or are you just a business associate, working with God when it suits your needs, but turning from Him when it doesn’t? Your faith is made complete by the actions of your life. Walk in faith and be obedient to God’s Word – by the power of His Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus for the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Memory Children have very selective memory. They have this uncanny ability to bring up promises you made months ago and yet they cannot remember whose turn it is to do the dishes. The particularly difficult times come when I have given some directions to the children about staying close to home or doing a chore around the house. When I discover that they have not done as I asked, their answer to me is invariably, “I forgot.”
Yet, when we make a promise to them, they remember for days or even months. There have been a few times we have been unable to give the children a birthday party, we have promised something special the next year. When that birthday rolls around, they are ready to keep us to our promise.
Last week, we discussed the possibility of going out to lunch, and I completely forgot. Yesterday they asked what we were going to do today. I told them we would stay home and rest because we had been very busy this week. They were certain to remind me of the promise of lunch!
Our memory is no less selective when we grow older. When we have a fight with our spouse, we remember every time they failed in the past and we bring it up as a weapon. Yet, we do not recall our own failures. Our own past experiences and the accompanying emotions are brought back to life when we find ourselves in similar situations. We do not take responsibility for our own actions at those times, and then throw blame at anyone who reminds us of the pain.
God has a selective memory, also. However, His memory is much different than ours. We remember only the things that we think might benefit our lives – the promises people make and other people’s failures. We easily forget our own faults and promises. Our Father sees things much differently.
Read Jeremiah 31:31-34
This promise was fulfilled in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in His death at the cross. His resurrection and ascension gave us the hope of eternal life. He forgave our sins and promised that we would live in His light and life by His Power. He gave us that power at Pentecost, when the Comforter – the Holy Spirit – came upon all flesh. This moment brought into fulfillment the promises of the Old Testament, such as prophecy from Jeremiah. We cannot remember our promises to God and we forget our responsibility for suffering in this world, yet God does not remember our sins against Him. He fills us with His Spirit and writes His Word on our hearts so that we will be in a personal, intimate relationship with Him. Thanks be to God.
Excuses In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus speaks about the cost of discipleship. The first man in this passage tells Jesus he will follow Him wherever he goes. Jesus says that if we want to follow Him, we should expect to give up the comforts of home and the lives we are used to living in this world.
Jesus calls a second man to follow Him, but he provides a worthy excuse. “Let me bury my father.” The father was not yet dead or the man would have been dealing with the burial. The man wanted to fulfill his responsibilities of the commandments, to honour his parents until their death. It could have taken years for the father to die. Jesus told the man that he should let the dead bury their own dead so that he could go proclaim the good news. Jesus was asking the man to give up his reliance on the laws of Moses to follow His command.
A third man volunteers to follow Jesus but adds that he would like to go back and say good-by to his family. He wanted to tie up loose ends, but Jesus’ call is immediate. He tells the man that those who look back are not fit for service in the Kingdom. This final story brings to mind Lot’s wife. Sodom and Gomorrah, the home she knew and loved, was to be destroyed, along with her family and friends. The angels rescued Lot and his family from the destruction but commanded them not to look back. Lot was obedient, but she could not resist the temptation to turn back to the old life just one more time. She was turned into a pillar of salt.
Read Luke 17:30-33
Jesus Christ is calling you to follow Him. Are you ready to answer the call immediately, or are you preparing your excuses? What is keeping you from doing God’s Work? Is it your family, your job, your finances or your spiritual understanding? The cost of being a disciple for Jesus Christ is great. He asks us to give up our family, friends, material possessions and our religious ideas. We need to rely on God to provide for our needs – physically, emotionally and spiritually. When we trust in Him and live in obedience to our calling, we will find ourselves blessed with everything we need to do His work. The greatest joy is that God uses the gifts He has already given to you – your family, job, and finances – to do His work through you. Do not make excuses, rather step out in faith and do what God has called you to do – by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, amen. Thanks be to God.