Welcome to the June 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.
Scripture on this site taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
A WORD FOR TODAY, June 2002
June 1, 2002
Yard Sales I love to visit yard sales. As they say, “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure.” Some of my greatest purchases were found at yard sales. I have a twelve-place setting of milk glass luncheon plates and cups that I found at two separate sales in two different states. I have found some great toys and clothes for the kids. You never know what sort of treasure might be found at the house next door.
I don’t like having a sale nearly as much as I like visiting others. You work hard to gather together a mess of stuff that might be treasures for other people, put it on display with prices you think they might be willing to pay. The funny thing is that when it is your own sale and stuff, it isn’t so much junk, but just things you no longer need or have room to keep. Its hard to watch treasures be sold for a dime or a quarter.
After you work hard to set up your sale, you sit and wait. All day long people wander in. Some people buy. Some people don’t. Some people even whisper that there is nothing but junk on the tables. After a few hours, you realize that even though you have made a few dollars, it really hasn’t been worth the time or energy. For a long time, I packed all the leftovers in a box to save for the next sale. After a few sales, when the same items were packed in the box over and over again, I realized that it was pointless to keep it. So, now we give it away so that it will help someone else.
There comes a time in most things when you simply have to learn to move on. This is particularly true when it comes to sharing our faith. It is good, right and true to tell the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ with all those who pass us on our journey. It is pointless, however, to try to force our faith on anyone else. We simply speak the truth – the forgiveness and salvation that is found in Christ. Then we let God do the work. Sometimes, those to whom we speak will continue our conversations, asking questions, seeking more. At other times, they reject what we say and refuse to believe. Paul experienced this often in his missionary journeys and he knew when to move on.
Read Acts 19:8-10
The greatest difficulty we have with having a sale is that we know there is still value in the things we want to sell and we don’t like rejection. So, we keep trying to sell these things in the hopes that we might get something out of it. The same is often true of our witnessing. We know the deep and wonderful value of God’s love and all those who refuse to believe make us sad. We fear being maligned, fear the world thinking that we have failed. So, we keep trying.
Paul knew that it was pointless to keep sharing the Gospel with those who outright refused to believe and he didn’t care what they said about him. He moved on to share the Gospel with others. He did not give up on them – he kept them in prayer, hoping that they would hear and believe according to God’s good and perfect will. In the meantime, God used Paul elsewhere and many heard the word of the Lord. As we share the Gospel today, let us remember that we can never force faith on anyone. Speak God’s Word then move on and pray. It’s the best we can do. Thanks be to God.
Telemarketers Last year, I got a phone call from a telemarketer selling a special deal for the cable company. I accepted the deal and then spent six months setting my cable straight. The cable company began charging me for the new stations, but they never changed what I actually received through the box. I had great difficulty dealing with the situation because the telemarketer was not part of the cable company and I had nothing in writing to tell them the details of the agreement. In the end, I had the original contract with the cable company restored and my bill was finally fixed.
Ever since then, I have been very hesitant to accept any deals over the phone. Even when they sound too wonderful to refuse – low interest rates on credit cards, better phone service – I will not make a verbal agreement. If I am interested, I will ask the person on the phone to send me something in the mail so that I can take time to read the agreement in its entirety and think about it before responding. Then, if a problem arises later, I have physical evidence of the agreement. I am really no different than human beings throughout history. There have always been some physical sign – a handshake or written contract. Many deals were sealed in ancient days by cutting a covenant – using animal sacrifice to establish the terms of the agreement.
God understands our need to see something to know His word is true. Whenever He did something extraordinary for the children of Israel, He used some physical element as a sign so that they would know His word could be trusted.
Read 2 Kings 2:19-22
It was not the salt that made the water well, there were no magical properties involved in pouring the salt into the spring. It was by the Word of God that the spring was healed of its poison. Would the people have believed the water was healthy if Elisha had simply spoken the words? The salt served as a sign to the people so that they would trust God’s word. Unfortunately, we often attribute the healing to the physical element and forget that it is God’s Word that makes it true.
We do the same today with the great promises of God and the sacraments by which He gives His grace. It is not the water of baptism that saves us; it is the Word of God that makes it true. In the water of baptism we see God’s presence and trust in His faithfulness. There are no magical properties in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper; it is by God’s Word that He is present with us in communion. The greatest sign He gave was sending His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be born in this world in the flesh of man. In Christ we see God’s promises for ourselves. There was nothing magical about Jesus. The wonderful things that followed in His wake – the healings, the forgiveness, and the faith – did not happen because Jesus did them. They happened because God’s Word is true.
Telemarketers try to convince you that what they have to sell is a great deal, but I have difficultly trusting their word without some proof of their promise. God understands our human needs and provides everything to help us on our journey of faith. He has given us the written word, the sacraments and the fellowship of the saints to help us to trust in God’s promises. Most of all, He has given us Himself – first in the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, then in His Spirit to dwells in our hearts and by His grace we live in faith. Thanks be to God.
Martyrs Most of the saints seem to be from so long ago, in such a different time and place, that we have difficulty identifying with their lives. Their deaths were so horrible and inhumane that we cannot imagine it happening in more modern times. Yet, there have been martyrs in every era, from the earliest days of the church to this very day. Christians in the third world countries of Africa and the East are suffering under the hand of leaders who care only about power and wealth, not the people they are meant to serve. In some cases it is pure hatred for the message of Christ, in others it is out of fear of the effects of their own sin.
In Uganda in 1885, King Mwanga appointed a young Christian named Joseph Musaka Balikuddembe to be his chief steward. King Mwanga’s lifestyle was filled with wickedness and he tried to get others to live as he did. Joseph did all he could to protect the young men of Uganda from the evil ways of the king. One day a missionary from England arrived. King Mwanga distrusted all foreigners, especially those from England. The British government had given the king his power and he feared the Anglican bishop would tell of his debauchery. When Joseph protested this murder, he was burned alive.
Mwanga did not turn from his evil ways. Six months later he discovered that the Christians were teaching others the faith. One teacher was killed with a butcher knife. Then the king ordered that every Christian that was living within the walls of the walls of his royal home should be killed. Despite this order for death, five pages were baptized that night. Thirty-two Christians were led away to be put to death. Some were killed along the way; the others were burned to death. One man, a district judge named Matthias Kalemba, said, “God will rescue me. But you will not see how he does it, because he will take my soul and leave you only my body.”
Those who willingly give up everything for their faith, including life itself, know that this life is perishable and nothing compared to the life that God promises. They know that God is with them and will rescue them from all that seeks to destroy their flesh. Though they may suffer incredible pain in their bodies, they rest in the promises of God. The world looks at their faith as foolishness because they cannot see how God is protecting those He loves.
Read Hebrews 11:24-27
Moses died long before our Lord Jesus Christ was born. He never saw Jesus’ ministry, death or resurrection. But by faith Moses stepped forth into the unknown in faith because he knew that God is faithful to His promises. He left everything behind – wealth, health, and pleasures of the flesh – for the promise that he would never see. But, He saw God through the eyes of faith, trusting in those promises that would be fulfilled one day.
We live in a much better time than Moses, because we have seen our Father fulfill those promises in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The promise is not something we have to look forward to, eternal life is for us today by faith in Christ. Throughout the ages, whether they died a gruesome martyrhood or a natural death, the believers who have passed through this world before us lived and died in the hope of those promises. They saw what is invisible – the love, mercy and grace of God. May we all see with the same eyes of faith. Thanks be to God.
Beta I have an old Beta VCR, which I purchased early in the days of video recording. At the time it seemed like the best purchase. The clerk who sold it to me said that Beta sales would soon surpass the sales of the other recorders available and it was easy to buy Beta videos at that time. So I purchased the machine and enjoyed it for some time. Eventually, however, I realized that Beta was going nowhere. It became increasingly harder to find videos. The newest hits were not being produced in that format. Now, it is nearly impossible to find anything that can be used in that machine. I’ve had it in storage for years now. Its only purpose is to gather dust and be a footnote in the history of technological development.
I am not sure if it even works since it has been unused for so many years. Everything looks fine on the outside, but who knows what may have occurred in the inside. Belts could have hardened; moisture may have gotten inside and rusted metal parts. Mechanisms that normally would move freely may have gotten stuck together as lubricants dried. Even if the VCR does work, it is rather useless sitting in the storage shed. It might as well be dead.
God gives us faith for a purpose. Through faith we know the salvation that comes from Christ. In faith we trust in God’s faithfulness to His promises. We walk in faith, living a life of obedience to God’s Word, sharing the Gospel of Christ. Though our faith rests in that which is unseen – the love and mercy of God – faith itself is not hidden. It is visible to the world through the works of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Read James 2:14-17
Faith does not save. The Word of the Lord is what saves. It is by His power and His mercy that we have eternal life. He gives us the faith to believe and He does so with a purpose. It is through our faith that He reveals Himself to the world – in words and deeds by the power of the Holy Spirit. If there are no words or deeds, the faith is dead. The faith is not dead from lack of use, but because it is not true faith in Christ. We can have faith in many things – our church and its traditions, other people and our selves. That faith will not save; only faith in Christ will bring us into a right and true relationship with God.
I bought the wrong VCR and now it is useless. It is sitting in the storage shed as good as dead. Faith in Christ is active as the Holy Spirit manifests through our lives. The world sees our faith through the fruit He produces – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are things that cannot be seen except through deeds.
The only faith that will save is faith in Christ and He is active in the lives of the faithful. If there is no visible fruit as seen through deeds, then the faith is not true faith in Christ. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, receive this most valuable gift and live in the faith He has given you. God will reveal Himself to the world through the fruit you bear as they see Him in the good works that you do. Thanks be to God.
Titles Literature, movies and performance art use the same basic themes to bring entertainment to our lives as well as teach us a lesson. As we read the scriptures, we find those same themes in the stories we find in passages. Cinderella is a story about transformation, and her story is much like that of Paul, who was transformed by the power of God. Jack in the Beanstalk is a story of courage and is much like David who stood against the Philistine without fear. The Prince and the Pauper is a story about mistaken identity – the two boys are nearly identical in appearance and when the prince disappears, the pauper is put in his place.
These stories can be very funny in the way they deal with these mistaken identities. However, such experiences are not always humorous in real life. We are embarrassed if we call someone by the wrong name or title. We trust people in positions of authority, and if we identify someone by a title that is not theirs, we may place our trust in the wrong person. The Internet provides the anonymity necessary for those who want to pretend to be something they are not. There was recently a story on the news of a young girl who was killed by a man she met on the Internet, who she thought was a friend.
The scriptures give us stories about mistaken identities. Esther was a beautiful Hebrew girl who withheld her nationality from King Xerxes. Abraham called Sarah his sister rather than his wife to protect his life. Even Herod was misidentified. He was the tetrarch – a regional ruler of part of a kingdom – but he was called a king. It was a popular title for him among the Galileans, who sought to have a king of their own. It was also used in a sarcastic way among those who did not see him having a rightful rule over their lives.
Herod was filled with pride and human foolishness; he considered himself much greater than he was. He killed John the Baptist for a few minutes of sensual pleasure, though he feared doing so because the people called John a prophet. When Jesus began his ministry, Herod heard rumors about the identity of this man who was doing incredible things. He desperately wanted to see him to find out his real identity.
Read Luke 9:7-9
Herod did not want to kill John but his life was filled with foolishness. He was called a king, but he held no kingdom. The people gave him honor and respected his authority, but he was not deserving of such respect. He rejected the truth and followed his flesh. He killed John because his wife was offended by the truth of John’s words. Out of his own pride, he offered a young girl anything she desired because she made him feel good. When it came to Jesus, he was unable to recognize Him for who is really was. Herod does not meet Jesus until His trial, so we do not know how he may have greeted him. If he continued to assume Jesus was a resurrected John, might he have tried to have him killed again?
Though the stories about mistaken identity might be funny at times, at others it can be quite dangerous. It is important for us to see others as they are, but even more importantly to see Jesus as He is. Jesus is the Lord, our Savior. He is not some past prophet resurrected or the reincarnation of a great teacher. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. At times our own human pride and foolishness may stand in the way of our seeing His true identity. We think ourselves greater than we are, living in titles and roles that are not given to us by God. There are even some in our day who take upon themselves the role of prophet or king. As we live in our mistaken identities, we often miss the truth of God. May He always give us the wisdom to see people for who they are, but most of all for Christ as He is – our Lord and Savior. He is our refuge from mistaken identities – our own and those of others. Thanks be to God.
Schoolhouse Rock Music has always been a way for people to learn. Very young children learn their letters through the alphabet song. I can rattle off all fifty of the United States because of a song I learned in elementary school. The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution is firmly imbedded in my brain because of the wonderful program called Schoolhouse Rock! Though many of these videos were originally produced decades ago, they are still commonly used in schools to help teach science, math and history to the children.
In ancient lands there were minstrels or bards who traveled from town to town to tell their stories and sing their songs. This is how the history of the nation was remembered from generation to generation. Even the Hebrews sang such songs. Many of the Psalms recount the creation of the world and the exodus from Egypt and the wonderful works of God’s hands. These psalms were hymns sung in worship in the temples as well as in their homes. Mothers used them to teach their children about God. Through the passing of these stories, every generation of Israel knew the mighty deeds of the Lord God Almighty. The stories gave the people courage, hope and peace. They edified their warriors and built up the nation’s faith in God’s promises as they looked back upon the victories of their past. Israel was always blessed when they were living in God’s Word and remembering His mercy.
Read Judges 5:10-11a
Schoolhouse Rock! was designed to make children excited about learning. In today’s modern world of technology, many of the old ways of teaching have been lost. With calculators and word processors, the academics of mathematics and proper English are not emphasized and many children do not have a basic understanding of these important subjects. Though videos cannot replace good teaching, they do help lay a foundation so that the children will remember the basic facts. If we do not learn history, we are doomed to repeat it. The songs about the United States and our government help children understand the good and the bad from our history so that as they grow they can work to make this a better place.
Today’s passage was taken from the song of Deborah, which celebrates the righteous acts of God and His people. It calls for faith in God’s promises so that the people can step out and face whatever battles lie ahead. As we walk this journey of life in Christ, we need to remember these words from Deborah. Remember the mighty deeds of God, and the blessings given to those who have followed Him in faith. We will face many battles in this world – some in the flesh but also against spirit. We cannot face such battles without the strength, courage and wisdom that come from God. Hear the voices of those who sing of His praises and remember His righteous acts. From there we can step out in faith and live in the blessings of life in Christ. Thanks be to God.
Technology While Vicki, Zack and I were out running errands yesterday, when out of the blue Zack asks how much six divided by seven would be. Zack came up with some strange answer, Vicki started to answer and then said, “You can’t do it; seven is bigger than six.” I told them that you can solve the problem, but the answer will be a fraction. Vicki answered, “Oh, we learned to figure them out on the calculator.” There is that technology, again.
Even child’s play has become a world of technological marvels. As I look back at the dolls I had when I was a child, there were dolls that made sounds and wet their diapers, but they were very limited compared to today’s toys. It was necessary for the child to push a button or pull a chord to make things work. Now little girls carry dolls that breath, laugh and cry at the touch of the child. Techno-animals respond to voice commands and tiny computers act like real pets that need proper care or they ‘die’. Even with these technologically sophisticated toys, a child is still needed for the toy to fulfill its purpose. It takes human effort to put batteries in the toy and turn it on. The child gives it life in their play by touching, talking or caring for it. Without the child, the toy would be lifeless.
Read John 5:19-23
Jesus spoke these words to the Jews because they were persecuting Him for working on the Sabbath. He had healed a man who was an invalid for thirty-eight years. He was lying by a healing pool, but there was no one to help him in when the water was stirred. Jesus healed him right then and there, even though it was the Sabbath. Since such work was forbidden on the Sabbath, the Jews questioned Jesus about it. His answer made them even angrier because He compared Himself to God. He told them God was always working – in creation and in man – bringing life and hope for His glory.
Jesus did not do or say anything unless it came from the Father, the Lord God Almighty. The two are One, with the Holy Spirit, working together to constantly create and recreate the world. He is just like the toys throughout the ages, even those in this technological world. He would do nothing without the Father moving in and with Him. By faith we are like Jesus. Our very life is the breath of God in us, the Holy Spirit that dwells in our hearts. He moves through us, giving us the words to speak about His love and mercy and He works through our bodies to bring healing and peace to the world. This is possible only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gives us this life. Thanks be to God.
Evel Knievel Evel Knievel was a motorcycle daredevil. It seemed like he’d jump just about anything that would draw a crowd and make him a few bucks. He loved the thrill of it all and he made it seem so easy. His jumps were not always successful. He broke 35 bones over the years, underwent 14 surgeries and ended up in a 29-day coma after his worst crash outside Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. During one of his surgeries, he was given blood tainted with Hepatitis C and has suffered from liver disease. In 1999 he underwent a liver transplant, and was still alive in 2000. His fame has withered away; his final years are being spent fighting the greatest battles of his life.
Evel was interviewed in 1998, nearly forgotten by the throngs of fans who followed his career. They awed at his perseverance and courage. When Evel fell, he got back up, seemingly unafraid of anything. In an interview with Kevin Smith at “the-vu” Evel said that anyone who thought he wasn’t afraid is wrong. “I was scared. I'd have a shot of Wild turkey whisky before each jump to calm myself. "I'd get this knot in my stomach and this lump in my throat every time. And I love that feeling. Fear is high-octane fuel for success. You have got to know how to handle it, how to harness it. If you risk your life you have got to have fear. ”
He lived his life following after the thrill of fear and is now paying the price. Years of alcohol abuse, promiscuity, and the physical abuse of his body have caught up to him. Even with the liver transplant, the hepatitis will eventually take his life. He says he is not scared to die; he just does not want to die. Throughout his career he chased after the thrill, but it was his determination that made him get on his bike over and over again. He must have believed he could do it, despite the fear he faced.
Christians do not face the danger of a daredevil like Evel Knievel, but we live our life based on faith. At times it seems God is calling us to do the most outrageous things. In a society where independence is held in high esteem, God calls us to be like children and rest in His care. In a world where the one who has the most toys wins, we are asked to give it all up for the sake of our Lord. In a culture where reason is more highly respected than faith, we are asked to believe in the unbelievable.
Read Mark 9:20-24
Our lives of faith are not much easier than the life of a daredevil. The hurdles we jump are not rows of cars or canyons, but we face temptation and transformation. Satan tries to get us to do his will, drawing us into a life of sin. God gives us His grace and through His Word and Spirit changes us so that we will be like Him. It is hard for us to reject the world and believe in God. We can only do it with God’s help.
As we journey through this life, we will face times that we believe but we can’t help but say, “if you can do this Lord.” Evel Knievel feared the task that lay ahead, but he got on his motorcycle knowing he could do it. We, too, step out in faith despite our uncertainty, knowing that God is with us. “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” Step out in faith today knowing that God loves you. He will hold your hand and help you overcome your own unbelief. Thanks be to God.
Toaster We have a typical modern kitchen counter with too many small appliances for the plugs available. In one small area we have a coffeemaker, toaster and can opener, plus that is where I set my crock-pot when it is in use. There are only two electrical plugs, so I am often unplugging one thing to use another. All too often in the morning rush, I have put two pieces of toast in the toaster then moved on to get juice or do some other quick task. After a few moments I check on the toast and I find that it hasn’t even begun. I forgot to plug in the toaster, and it won’t work without electricity.
In yesterday’s story, a man came to the disciples so that they might heal his boy who had been possessed by a demon. The demon rendered the child speechless and often threw him to the ground in violent convulsions. It has even tried to kill the child by throwing him into dangerous situations such as water or fire. The disciples were unable to cast out the demon. Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and it left the boy, though it left so violently that the child fell to the ground and appeared dead. Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet. The boy was healed. Later, the disciples asked why they were unable to cast the demon from the boy.
Read Mark 9:28:29
Jesus and his disciples were quickly gaining notoriety because of the miraculous works they were doing. The disciples had been sent out earlier to heal and preach the kingdom. When they returned from that experience, they were excited by the power and amazed at the things they could do. They saw people transformed before their eyes. As is true with all human effort, the disciples lost sight of what gave them the power and began to take for granted the gifts given to them.
The rest of the disciples were left to wait while Jesus, Peter, James and John went to the high mountain for Jesus’ transfiguration. A large crowd had gathered expecting to see something miraculous. Their reputation was spreading. People were flocking to these men who could do such incredible deeds, even without Jesus around. The disciples were basking in the glory.
Among those in the crowd were the man with the demon-possessed boy and some teachers of the law. The inability of the disciples to heal this particular ailment sent the whole crowd into an argument. They ran to greet Jesus when they saw Him coming. Jesus quickly dealt with the situation and dispersed the crowd. He did not want the attention that the disciples craved. When the disciples were alone with Jesus, they asked Him why they could not heal the boy.
They were not asking God to heal him through prayer; they were trying to do it on their own volition. Just like the unplugged toaster will not work, the disciples could not bring healing without that connection to their power source – God. The disciples needed to pray, to stay in constant touch with God. They were seeing and doing incredible things, but they were being distracted from their true work – faith in God – by the glory of this world.
We face similar situations in our life of faith – times when we are more focused on the glory of what is happening than on glorifying the One who makes it happen. We lose touch with our power source, stepping forth in faith to work, but it is misplaced faith. We do not do so with prayerful faith, but by faith in our own abilities. When you are facing similar questions – why can’t I do this – remember Jesus’ words to His disciples. “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Rest in the faith that has power – faith in the Lord God Almighty and in Jesus Christ our Lord. Stay plugged in through prayer, and you will see great things. Thanks be to God.
Oldies Today is the twenty-first anniversary of the day I graduated from high school. It seems impossible that it could have been that long ago, at times I feel like I am still seventeen. Last night as we were riding in the car, a song by Whitney Houston came on the radio from the early eighties. I started singing along and Zack asked if I liked the song. I said, “yes” and told him it was Whitney Houston. He was surprised and said she sounded different. Of course, to him, the music from my youth are oldies, just like the music from my mother’s generation were oldies to me.
I realized that Zack knew Whitney Houston from the role as fairy godmother she played in the movie “Cinderella” a few years ago. I did not hear the difference because I was familiar with the song, but Zack said it didn’t sound like her. Her voice has probably matured over the years. She has gone from being a pop musician to starring in movies.
As I look back over the past twenty-one years, I realize that I have had the joy of experiencing a great many wonderful things. I have been through college, gotten married and had children. I have had several different jobs, lived in many wonderful places and have seen much of the world. Though it seems impossible to believe that the songs I loved when I was young are considered ‘oldies’ I would not want return to that time. Just like Whitney Houston has matured in the roles she plays in the entertainment industry, my own life has matured over the years as God has used my experience to bring transformation and growth to my life.
Read James 1:17-18
The music my children love is different than the music I loved when I was there age, just like my music was different from that of my parents. It has been twenty-one wonderful years since I bid a fond farewell to my youth and took that diploma at my graduation. It has not been all good; there have been times of pain, fear, confusion and uncertainty. Yet, even the bad times have been gifts from God.
The things of this earth change with the seasons, not always for the better, but change is inevitable. From year to year they are transformed by the experience of living in this world. For some the change is not always good. They try to hold on to their youth or try to avoid the change that is bound to come from life’s experiences, both good and bad. They harden their hearts against the lessons we learn from our times of adversity and prosperity. For others, this life is one of growth and maturity as they learn the lessons of life and apply them each day as they walk in faith.
Though change is inevitable – the things of our youth are bound to become oldies one day – one thing remains the same. The love of God is unchanging, because God Himself stays the same. Every good and perfect gift comes from God. His Word is true and cannot change from generation to generation. He helps us through our times of success and suffering so that we will grow into that which He has created us to be. He is constantly moving in our lives, recreating us daily so that we will be the ones who will bear the fruit of faith, sharing the Gospel with the world.
My conversation with Zack last night made me feel very old, my youth passed away long ago. Yet, there is one constant… though I will continue to grow and change, decades of experience will not change what God has done for me. Thanks be to God.
VBS We began Vacation Bible School at the base chapel yesterday. Nearly a hundred children are enjoying music, fun and crafts, learning about God’s Great Gallery. The stories are teaching them that God has made them to be a beautiful, wonderful creation with gifts and talents that will help others know God’s greatness. A ministry like this does not fall into place without some work on the part of coordinators and staff. For the past few months, leaders have been in prayer with paintbrushes or telephones in their hands making props and finding help.
Anyone who has put together a Vacation Bible School knows that even on day one there are things that still need work. Everyone needs to learn where they need to be throughout the day, late registration puts things behind, and kinks in the system are discovered and worked out. The first day seems chaotic to those who have planned for so long to make it perfect. Yet, it is not disorganized and the children had a wonderful time.
I receive daily devotional that had a quote from St. Augustine today. He said, “We take for granted the slow miracle whereby water in the irrigation of a vineyard becomes wine. It is only when Christ turns water into wine, in a quick motion, as it were, that we stand amazed.” The miraculous acts of God should not be reduced to nothing more than daily occurrences, however we should never take for granted the daily touches from God as He continues to change our lives with His love and grace. We are a miracle in the making, one that began in our mother’s womb and will continue until the day we stand in the presence of our Lord Jesus.
Read Psalm 139:13-14
Vacation Bible School doesn’t happen by itself. It takes prayer and hard work on the part of those God calls into His service for this purpose. The coordinators and leaders will continue to fix the glitches until Friday, always looking for something that will make the day run more smoothly. Meanwhile God will work through them to share His Word with the children. By the end of the week, they will know they are a beautiful masterpiece created by God with special gifts they can use to show His love to the world.
Miracles that happen every day, and some are extraordinary. We shouldn’t forget to thank God for the slow miracles – the ones that take a lifetime. He is actively creating and recreating our lives daily, to build us up into that which He created us to be. He helps us to develop our gifts, to learn how to use our talents. He moves the people around us to give us opportunities to serve Him and show the world His love and mercy. God’s works are truly wonderful, we know that full well. Thanks be to God.
Mallery Vicki and I are working together at Vacation Bible School. We are leading the opening assembly time. Vicki is being a puppeteer for a character named Mallery the Gallery Mouse. Everything had gone fairly well, Vicki is doing a terrific job. Each evening she goes over the script, asks me questions about whatever adaptations we need to make and practices her lines. She is well prepared with markings in her book and props ready.
When it comes to this type of thing, I am used to working alone and ‘winging it.’ I like having the freedom to move around and speak as I feel led. Since I have a partner this year, I have to be careful to follow carefully so that I don’t make a mistake that will affect her role. Perhaps one day we will be able to ‘wing it’ after she has had more experience and we learn to work together. Until then, I need to prepare like she does. Unfortunately, I haven’t. Yesterday I read one of her lines. Today I cued someone at the wrong time and I missed cueing someone else. Once I forgot to turn on her microphone at the appropriate moment. Of I were better prepared, with notes in the margins of my script, I would not be making these mistakes each day.
It is fun to watch Vicki grow in faith and develop her talents through experiences like this VBS. While she is teaching, she is learning. Not only is she beginning to understand the bible stories with more depth, she is learning how to apply them to her life and share them with others. After our opening assembly, Vicki spends time with the children – greeting them with the Mallery puppet and helping them however she can. She has been somewhat disappointed with the negative reaction of the older children to the puppet. The fifth and sixth grade boys think its lame. Yet, she continues to do whatever is necessary to make this Vacation Bible School the best it can be.
Read 1 Peter 3:13-16
We have two more days to work together with this Vacation Bible School. I have already gone over some of the work for tomorrow, making a few notes so that I won’t forget something important. As for Vicki, she will continue to do what she is doing – sharing Christ through her wonderful gifts and continue to grow in faith. She still has much to learn, as do we all, but experiences like this are helping her become an awesome witness of the Gospel. She has even been gracious to those fifth and sixth grade boys who just want to beat up her puppet and leave it tattered and torn.
When we face similar circumstances, are we prepared to share Christ, no matter what? Are we able to be gentle and respectful when those who question us about our faith are rude and malicious? Do we fear the repercussions of being witnesses for Christ, or are we ready with the answers that will plant the seeds of hope in another’s life? No matter what you face today, in your hearts set apart Christ Jesus as Lord. God is with us, of this we are certain because He has promised and is faithful. You are blessed to be a blessing, and in being a blessing you will be blessed. Thanks be to God.
Today’s Word was originally run on June 13, 2001. The message is still appropriate, please forgive the repeat.
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?
Crafts Summer vacation is filled with opportunities for children to attend different types of summer schools or camps. Today was our last day of Vacation Bible School. Next week Zack will go to Boy Scout Camp. Some children are registered at youth centers for day camps; others are enjoying sleepover camps away from home. There are theme camps where children learn about specific things such as sports, music or space. Other camps are designed to give parents day care while they continue to work throughout the summer.
Most of the schools and camps include arts and crafts. Our Vacation Bible School had a time when the children made projects that related to the stories they heard. Today we made different butterflies. Some of the projects were simple, others more complicated. They were designed for the different age levels that would visit the craft area. To make it easier to teach the craft and get it finished in the short period of time, the coordinator prepared many of the materials ahead of time. Even with all this preparation, every child's project is unique.
I never really understood the phrase “you have your work cut out for you.” This usually means that the task that lies ahead is a difficult one. Yet, when you think of it in terms of Kindergarten craft projects, you’ll see that it is good to have the work ‘cut out for you’. The teacher does the cutting to make it easier for the students. Though the work might be hard, it makes it easier for the teacher in the long run. Some children are not able to cut very well, or might cut something improperly, ruining the project. Yet other children go overboard with their creativity, using more materials or time than are available. By preparing the materials, a teacher limits the actions of the child for the sake of the whole class.
Read Proverbs 16:9
The Lord is much like a Kindergarten teacher at summer camp. He has prepared our way. We have our work cut out for us, by our Father who knows what is best for us and for all the world. Yet, if we look at that phrase as it is used, God has His work cut out for Him. We seem to make it difficult, making our own plans, choosing our own course. Yet, just like when a youngster decides to do whatever they want in arts and crafts time, we soon discover that our own choices are not always the best. We discover that time is lost and we make mistakes that ruin the project. Our improper use of the materials ruins the experience for others because there is nothing left for them to use.
This simple scripture for today is seen by the world as foolishness. We want control of our lives – we want to be able to do things for ourselves. Individuality is seen as the ideal, each person doing whatever they feel is best. However, this attitude is selfish and leads to selfish behavior. As a parent, I’m glad to know that at whatever camp the children attend, they are given the opportunities to share their gifts within an environment where every child is given the care they need.
God has created each of us as individuals, but has given us life within a community of people – believers and non-believers. We make things difficult by trying to do things our own way, planning our own course. However, God is still in control. He cuts out our work for us, directing our steps for the benefit of the whole. We can rest in this knowledge, knowing that God has carefully planned our life in this world and will help us through. Thanks be to God.
Helper I had one very simple job at Vacation Bible School this past week. I led the opening assembly, interacting with Vicki the puppeteer to share the message of the day. The rest of the day I just wandered the halls looking for something to do. Because everything was so well planned and positions were filled, there was really nothing left for me to do. Most of the time I was just under people’s feet and found myself spending more energy getting out of people’s way rather than actually helping them with their tasks. Several days I simply left for a few hours. The other days I found a place where I would not disturb anyone and I watched the activities.
At the end of the program we sent the children out with the commission given to us by our Lord Jesus. The scripture was from Mark 16, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Throughout the week we learned about children who found some way to reach out and share Jesus with someone in need. The mission stories included a clown team, dancers and the ‘Good Sams’ a group that makes crafts for shut-ins. The children were encouraged to do the same this summer – find some way they could use their own God-given gifts to reach out to the lost and lonely.
Such mission work is hard sometimes. Not everyone who needs our help or love wants it. They reject our intrusion into their lives and chase us away. There are many reasons for this, such as pride or self-centeredness. Some people don’t want help because they want to be independent. Others think that we are only doing it for some personal gain. Yet others are certain it is just too good to be true. When we go to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ with those who are lost and perishing, many reject us for the same reasons.
Jesus knew this would be the case. When He first sent the disciples to preach the kingdom of God to the lost sheep of Israel, He told them to recognize when they were not wanted.
Read Matthew 10:11-14
Jesus sent the disciples out to do a specific ministry – to share the coming kingdom with a people who had wandered away from the Lord. Many would reject the disciples, but Jesus did not want them to be burdened by this. They had a job to do and they would wallow in pity and self-doubt if they did not move on. Jesus told them to shake the dust off their feet and leave it to God.
It was hard for me to leave VBS and go off to do other things. I really wanted to help in some way other than my given task. Yet, God had others appointed for those jobs, and it was best for me to just move on. When we are rejected, either our service or our words, we need to give it to God and move on. The disciples could have wasted all their time trying to convince people they needed this message. Instead Christ told them to keep moving forward in faith. How often do we try to force people to have things we cannot give them – faith, peace, hope or love? Christ has commanded us to go out and share the good news, but He has also told us to trust in Him as we do His work. Sometimes that means walking away in faith, knowing that God is in control.
Search engines Have you ever gone looking for something on the Internet and had difficulty finding exactly what you wanted? I usually begin with the search engine in AOL, typing in a few key words. After a few moments, a screen pops up with lots of different places to visit. Sometimes my request is so obscure that nothing is found that has anything to do with my search. So, I change the words, I get more specific or I try to look at it from a different perspective. If I’m still unsuccessful, I’ll move to another search engine like AltaVista or Google. Sometimes that helps. If I still can’t find anything, then I give up.
I do the same thing when shopping for some unusual object. This happens most often when I am preparing some craft project. I have found that trendy crafts are impossible to find after the trend has faded. I often love the materials used but never when they are in vogue. Unfortunately, when I want to use them they have disappeared from the shelves. I will try at the most likely and convenient store available. If I am unable to find the item, then I spread out to other stores until I succeed. If I am still unable to what I am looking for, I give up on the fruitless search and think of something else to do instead.
Throughout the history of God’s people, there have always been enemies who wanted to defeat them. The Old Testament is filled with stories of war between the Israelites and the nations. Though at times they were defeated, it was only temporary. God promised to bless His people and God does not go back on His promises.
But there was always some enemy ready to do anything to defeat Israel. After the escape from Egypt, the Hebrews moved slowly into the Promised Land. The nations that had already settled in the territory that God promised to Abraham were unwilling to make room for such a large contingent of people. By God’s blessing and power, the Israelites defeated all those who stood in their way. By the time they arrived in Moab, the Moabites were frightened by what the Israelites had done. Balak, the king of Moab, knew there was no way to defeat them militarily, but he knew they needed to be defeated. So, he sought the blessing of the gods. He sent for Balaam, a pagan prophet and diviner who was well known at the time.
Though Balaam was not a believer in the one true and living God, the LORD spoke to him and told him not to do what Balak requested. After some difficulty, Balaam arrived in Moab and Balak took him to see the Israelites. “Curse them for me,” was Balak’s request. Balaam tried to do things as he would normally do – sacrifice and divination – yet God met with him and put His word in this pagan prophet’s mouth. The words were not curses but blessings on the chosen people. Balak got more upset and desperate each time his request was denied. He took Balaam closer to the Israelites so that he would see how powerful they were. “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!” Though Balak was not a believer, God used him for His purposes. Balaam said to Balak, “Must I not speak what the LORD puts in my mouth?”
Read Numbers 23:19-20
My quest is not always successful when I go searching the Internet for information or searching the stores for supplies. It usually doesn’t matter if I find what I am looking for, I can turn to some idea that is much better in the long run. As for Balaam, though the LORD used him for his purposes, he never really turned toward the one true and living God. He went on to continue his pagan divination despite the incredible work of God through his life.
As we go out into all the world to share the Good News of Christ, we will face people like Balak and Balaam who want to put a stop to our journey into our own Promised Land. They won’t give up easily, always looking for some way to bring a stop to our work. However, we can step forth in faith knowing that the words God gave to Balaam are true. God does not lie; He does not change His mind. God acts on His promises, fulfills His covenant with His people. He has blessed us and He is faithful. He may even use non-believers to help us on our way. Thanks be to God.
The full story of Balak and Balaam can be found in Numbers 22-24.
Tattletales Parents have a tough job when it comes to teaching our children about when to report wrongdoing. We don’t want our children to become tattletales, to keep coming to us with all the bad things that the other children have done. When Vicki and Zack find themselves in the middle of some sibling rivalry, I find myself in the middle of a war of judgments against each other. “He did this.” “She did that first.” Having not seen the event with my own eyes, I cannot make a judgment based on their words against one another. We have to teach our children responsibility for their actions. They need to learn the consequences of their bad behavior. However, stories from tattletales are not always our best source of information for teaching and discipline.
When we are in the middle of a battle such as this, when I don’t have all the information needed to make a decision between them, they suffer the same consequences and receive the same mercy. It is not unusual to hear “hey, that’s not fair!” when on child thinks they have gotten the small end of a deal. However, we talk about what has happened and we talk about mercy. The children like to have mercy poured upon them when they are the ones in trouble. They have some difficulty with it when it’s the other child who is the recipient.
On old television shows we often saw the bully on the playground beating on a kid until he or she cried “Mercy,” then the bully will stop and move on to his or her next victim. And yet, mercy is far more than just holding back our wrath. When Christ went to the cross to die for our sin, He put Himself in our place and received our punishment. When I talk to the children about telling tales, I try to help them see how they themselves have misbehaved and how they deserve the punishment also. They are learning that when we love each other sometimes we have to have mercy and forgive.
Read James 2:8-13
In this scripture, James was referencing a story we find in the Gospels about how Jesus dealt with the leaders of the temple. They claimed to be living the Law of Moses perfectly, so they had the right to bring judgment upon the sinners. That judgment manifested in their rejection of those who did not live up to the Law, making sinners outcast from the community of faith. They did not have mercy, recognizing their own sin when they put them out of the synagogue.
James tells us that if we keep the royal law, which is the law that says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” we will have mercy on those who do us harm. We do this because we know that we don’t keep the law perfectly ourselves but that Christ died in our stead by the wrath of God. If we want mercy, then we need to look at others through the eyes of Christ and grant the same mercy we desire. The religious leaders thought they were doing everything right, but they were judging without mercy. They too would face judgment without mercy, just like the children who tattletale find themselves under the same punishment as those who have harmed them. Christ died that we might have mercy. May we all have the strength we need to be merciful. Thanks be to God.
Helpers Our church is currently offering a program for people to learn about the Christian faith called Alpha. The course is designed for people seeking information about Jesus and Christianity, particularly those who have no familiarity with what we believer, but also for Christians who would like to better understand their faith. Part of the course is a meal, a chance to fellowship with other people to get to know them on a personal and individual level. It’s a time to make friends and learn.
I’m in charge of making sure that everyone’s physical needs are met. There is a crew of people who help to keep the drinks filled, serve the food, clean up the dishes and keep everything running smoothly. Each week we have volunteers who make enough food for the hungry crowd. My job is simply to keep everything organized and make sure everything is done. It was amazing to watch this week. Every time I turned a corner to see if something needed to be done, it was already complete. Dishes were washed as soon as they were in the kitchen. Pitchers of iced tea and lemonade were never empty. The guests were quite satisfied and could focus on the lesson and discussion without being distracted by any physical needs.
After this week was over, I realized I had barely lifted a finger all night. The crew was so good and the food so well prepared, that there was nothing left for me to do. And yet, because it was my job to see to this aspect of Alpha, I received the thanks and praise. I could only answer, “I didn’t do it, but will pass your thanks on to those who did.” Even then, I couldn’t help but know that it was God who was taking care of it all. We are seeing miracles in action as God makes a little bit of food feed dozens of people. Unplanned help is showing up out of the blue. But then that’s the way it is when we do things by faith in Jesus’ name.
Read Acts 3:11-16
God will do miraculous things as we walk daily in faith and do as He has called us to do. Each one of us is valuable to the whole thing, but underlying it all is the One who gives us every good and perfect gift to accomplish the task. The evening would not have been so well received had there not been such wonderful helpers to prepare and serve the food. If I’d tried to do it all myself, pitchers would have been empty and tables would not have been cleared.
Peter and John brought healing to the beggar’s life, but they knew it was not their work that made it happen. When everyone saw the man was healed they looked at Peter and John with awe. But they used the event as an opportunity to witness the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever we do, wherever we go, let us always remember to do all things by faith in Jesus’ name and He will bless us beyond our wildest expectations. Thanks be to God.
Salt In the movie “Osmosis Jones” Bill Murray plays an animal keeper at a zoo that has a less than healthy lifestyle. In the first moments of the movie we see ‘Frank’ eating a hardboiled egg. He squirted a packet of mayonnaise on it and then began to pour salt on top. He continued to shake the salt through a conversation with his daughter in which she was trying to convince him to take better care of his body and eat right. Meanwhile, the monkey in the cage near where they stood grabbed the egg and began to eat it. Frank grabbed the monkey, managed to choke the egg from his mouth and it fell on the ground. Frank picked it up and ate it. He ended up with a germ that was a highly contagious disease and we spend the rest of the movie seeing that battle inside his body to stop the germ from killing Frank. During that scene, Frank used so much salt on the egg that the natural flavor would have been lost.
Salt is a wonderful addition to many foods. I know there are some things that I much prefer with a touch of the white stuff, but I don’t put it on everything. What we don’t realize is how much sodium is added to the food we eat that is prepared elsewhere. Canned vegetables and prepared food have much more sodium that you expect. Unfortunately, many people must be very careful with amount of salt they take into their bodies. Heart disease and other illnesses are made worse by the use of this wonderful flavoring; so many people must cut back on their intake of salt. This is just one of the considerations we must make when we are cooking for something like the meal we serve at our Alpha course. If we add too much salt to the recipe, we could actually be endangering the lives of those with health problems related to its use. It is best to use little or no salt in the preparation and then put saltshakers on the tables for those who can use it on their food.
Read Romans 14:19-23
Paul was writing to a group of Christians that were facing the difficulties of living in a multicultural environment, where people of many different faiths interacted on a daily basis. For those believers that came from a strict Jewish background, eating the meet that had been given to an idol was against what they believed. It did not bother the Gentile Christians. Paul’s writing tells us that there is nothing wrong with that food, however it will make someone feel guilt, then we should not force them to eat. We should even avoid the things that would make them uncomfortable.
In our society we do not offer animal sacrifices to any gods, so this particular question is not one that comes up in our lives on a daily basis. And yet Paul’s writing is still relevant for today’s Christian because there are things that are potentially harmful to others, which we should be careful about using. Salt is just one example, and avoiding its use in cooking may help someone with their health. Drinking alcohol, watching television, listening to music, or playing on the computer are not inherently bad, although these can lead some people to feelings and actions that are not appropriate. When such things may cause someone else to fall, the most compassionate action we can take is to avoid it. May our Lord Jesus give us the strength and wisdom to avoid that which would be a burden to another. Thanks be to God.
Bumper Stickers Many radio stations use bumper stickers to advertise their stations. Some even use them for contests. If some sort of ‘prize patrol’ sees their sticker on your bumper, you could win anything from a dinner at a fast food restaurant to something larger like a trip or a chance at a car. The station uses prizes such as this to get people to put the sticker on their car for cheap advertising.
Schools – from elementary school to college – offer bumper stickers to the parents. All around town you might see “My child is an honor student at…” or some other statement of pride in a child’s accomplishments. These stickers are often used help the parent/teacher organization fund some special project. Other groups like boy or girl scouts use them for similar purposes.
Bumper stickers have long been used to put forth some agenda or make a statement. In just a few words, people can let others know where they stand politically, their favorite charity or cause, and what they believe. Unfortunately, bumper stickers leave little room for proper explanation. Even Christians use these stickers to share sound byte theology with the world in the hopes that someone may come to know Jesus. However, one or two words are not enough to share the depth of God’s love and the truth of the Gospel.
I saw one the other day that said, “Jesus is coming. Look Busy.” While there is a bit of truth to this statement, it really doesn’t say what needs to be said. Looking busy when Jesus comes is not enough. Our society is constantly busy. People are always headed off to some activity, some event. The children are involved with school, and during the summer there are numerous of opportunities for them to learn and grow. Men and women spend their days at a job, often working overtime to get everything finished. Even our churches have plenty of opportunities to look busy. Yet, is it enough when Jesus comes?
Read 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
It isn’t enough for us to look busy when Jesus comes. He is looking at our hearts. Are we living in faith, walking in His promises? Do we love one another and the rest of the world in a way that they will see Him and know of His love and mercy? When Jesus comes He will be looking for those who believe in Him and all He said about God our Father and the kingdom.
We are busy these days, busy in good and wonderful ways. As a non-Christian looks at a bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is coming. Look busy,” they can easily say, “Well, I got that one right. I’ll just show Jesus my day planner and I’ll be fine.” Even some Christians take on that attitude when they think about all the things they do at church and for the church. Yet, Jesus is not looking for busy people. He’s looking for people who are living in His heart, people of faith who are busy believing in Him and through whom He is shining His light to the world. Thanks be to God.
Crown Royal I heard a story on the news today about a man who had been recently paroled from prison. He had quickly returned to his old ways, breaking in to a house to rob the owners of its contents. In the process of searching the home for goodies, he found a bottle of Crown Royal and decided to take a few sips. The owners later came in to find this man passed out drunk on a chair. He was arrested and returned to prison.
It is amazing when we walk in the darkness how easily it is slip and fall into more and more sin. Many of those who are in prison began their criminal careers early, using illegal means to support some habit like drug or alcohol abuse. They need cash, so take to robbing people and business to fund their addiction. This even leads to violent behavior, when a criminal finds it necessary to use force to get what he wants. It is probable that the paroled man was just looking for enough cash to be able to go buy a case of beer or a bottle of cheap booze. When he found the Crown Royal, he no longer needed any cash.
Most of us aren’t robbing our neighbors or waving a gun at our friends, but we all sin. We do not always treat people with love or respect. We get angry with our children and our spouses, gossip about others, take things that are not ours. We fall to the temptations this world has to offer. We sin against God and our neighbor in our thoughts, words and deeds by what we do and what we fail to do. However, Christians have something that others do not have. We don’t have to walk in darkness because we have the light of our Lord Jesus Christ and His forgiveness. We know by faith that even when we fail, we can turn to Him for forgiveness and help through our troubled times.
Read Psalm 130
The man on parole was looking for some solution to his troubles in all the wrong places. First he thought stealing would help him get a new start on life. Then he thought drinking would help him through. However, he got caught in his sin and instead of beginning a new, he was sent back into the life of prison, bound by the consequences of his sin. The correctional facility released him on parole with the expectation that he would stop leading a life of crime; he was returned to the world and given a new chance on life. When he failed, his past failures were recalled and he was punished more severely for his crime.
However, our life in Christ is different. When we fail and turn to God for forgiveness, He not only grants that forgiveness for the sake of our Lord Jesus, but He also forgets our sin. We don’t have a record or else we would become buried in the prison of our sinful nature. As we live in this hope, we find ourselves walking in the light of Christ, covered by the unfailing love of God and reconciled to Him by His own blood. When we wait for the Lord and watch for Him, we are less likely to fall into the temptations of this world. Though we may still fail in our daily walk of faith, when we put our hope in the Lord and rest in His forgiveness we will see that He never fails. Thanks be to God.
Stories Zack is a storyteller. If he catches your ear, you are bound to hear our life’s story in a matter of minutes as he tells you where we have been, what we have done and even how old I am. It is funny to listen to him as he talks about his latest accomplishment on his Game Boy or the fun he had at camp this week. Sometimes his stories come with a lesson. “Did you know that if you do this, so and so will happen?” Then he will go into his story of how he came to learn such a thing.
Throughout history, storytellers have used stories of real people and experiences to help others learn the lessons of life. Though fairy tales have fictional aspects added – such as places and people that do not exist – the story itself is often based on a real event. Each generation takes these stories and makes them their own, changing the place and the people to fit into their own culture. Some stories that teach a lesson are called parables. These illustrations draw from the nature and human life of the people listening. Jesus often used parables in His teaching, to help the people hear the message of God’s kingdom in language and experience they all understood. Though many city dwellers in today’s world would not understand the many parables Jesus used about farming, those to whom He spoke those stories knew exactly what He was talking about.
As Zack tells his stories, I often find myself remembering times from my own past when I had a similar experience or learned the same lesson. By placing myself into Zack’s story, I can learn from his lesson. Many in our modern world consider the Bible irrelevant to our times. After all, there are far more people who are unfamiliar with agricultural techniques and terminology. However, the ideas within Jesus’ parables are still very important for us to know and understand. We simply have to place ourselves in His stories and learn what He is telling us.
Read Matthew 13:24-30
This story is one that helps us to see that God knows best how to deal with the enemy’s tricks. As we are sharing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, we will notice that there are some who are teaching a false gospel. It is very easy for us to get angry and want to stop those teachers. We argue and debate over doctrine hoping that we will be the ones to once and for all establish the proof the world needs to know right doctrine. Yet, the false gospel has been preached since the beginning of the church. If it had not, Paul and the other apostles would not have had to deal with it in their letters.
Zack can drive us all nuts with his stories, but he enjoys sharing his life with others. At times he is able to convey some lesson about life. Jesus’ parables were not always easy to understand by those who heard Him speak, and they are certainly not easy today. The false teachers can twist and turn His words to fit their own ideas and agenda. Yet, this parable teaches us what to do. We are to leave it to God. We are to care for the fields until the harvest and let Him deal with the enemy in His way and time. God always knows best.
Vacation We are preparing to take a vacation. We leave tomorrow for a few weeks at home in Pennsylvania. Preparation means more than just packing a few clothes. We have had to deal with the cat and fish, plants, newspapers and mail. We had to inform the housing office on base that we would be out of town and tell them who would have a key in case they needed access to our house. We had to arrange for people to take care of our responsibilities at work and church. It has been a busy week, but I think we are ready to go.
The cat is staying in a kennel; the mail and newspapers have been stopped. We decided to ask our neighbor to the east to take care of our fish and keep the key. They have a son who is Zack’s friend who will also water our plants and mow the lawn while we are gone. This worked out well because yesterday we discovered that the neighbors we usually ask are also going away this week. They would not have been any help at all during our absence.
It seems all too often that we turn to the wrong things for our help. If we had asked our neighbors to the west, either they would have rejected our request or they would not have done a proper job. This was a simple problem, easily solved, but we deal with much greater troubles in our lives. Loneliness, suffering, doubts and fear plague the lives of many in our world today. Some turn to chemical dependency, others focus their entire lives on career or they seek out moments of pleasure. Yet others commit themselves to bad relationships and promiscuous behavior. We think these things and people will help us will help us overcome our loneliness and pain. Yet our greatest trouble is not facing these human emotions, but rather the wickedness of the world and our separation from the One who can help us through.
Read Psalm 94:16-19
As we look at our troubles today, to whom have we turned for help? It is good that we have neighbors and friends in whom we can trust with our daily needs, who will care for our garden while we are away. There are even those who can share in our pain, pray for us and listen to our problems. However, in all things there is only One who is our true help – the Lord God Almighty. He lifts us out of our loneliness, comforts us in our suffering, casts doubt from our hearts and gives us a refuge from our fear. When we face the troubles of life, the Lord is there even when there is no one else to help. Without Him, we would have fallen to our own sins and desires and been overcome by the ways of the wicked. Our Lord Jesus changed all that. He loves and forgives us so that we will have life and joy in the midst of our suffering. Thanks be to God.
Windshield Have you ever noticed how distracting your windshield can be if you notice that it is there? As I was driving yesterday, I noticed something on the windshield of my car. It was right in my line of vision, just a tiny chip or bug stuck to the window. It did not matter how small it was, once I noticed it was there, it was nearly impossible to keep my eyes off of it. I could get my eyes to watch the road, but they were always drawn back to that one tiny spot. Whenever I was looked at it, everything outside the car was fuzzy because my eyes were focuses on the windshield. To arrive at my destination safely, I had to forget about the spot and keep my eyes on the road. I found the only way to forget the spot was to concentrate on my destination.
We are all on a journey in this life. For Christians, our destination is eternal life with our Lord Jesus Christ. The journey is not always easy, and we will face ‘spots on our windshield’. Sin, pain and doubt are among the difficulties we may run into. The people we meet, both good and bad, can keep our focus away from our Lord. Our physical needs and desires can be very distracting. If we keep our eyes on those things rather than road on which we are traveling and the destination to which we are going, we will go off course and even face danger. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus – who is both the road and the destination.
Read Matthew 20:29-34
During His ministry, Jesus healed several different people who were blind. Though most of us do not have that problem, Jesus heals a different kind of sight in us. He gives us vision to see His love, mercy and grace. He helps us to see things with a new perspective. He opens our eyes to the spiritual life and the true destination toward which we should be moving. He saves us from ourselves and draws us into His life so that we will be with Him eternally. Unfortunately, the desires and needs of our flesh still distract us, but Jesus’ forgiveness will wash the windshield clean and He will help us on our way.
We are leaving this morning on another kind of journey; we are going home for a visit. The drive will be long and exhausting, but with God’s help we will make it safely. As long as we keep our eyes on the road and the destination in our mind’s eye all will be well, even if we face some difficulty along the way. Wherever we go in the days, weeks and months to come, may we always keep our eyes on our Lord – the way and the destination to which we are going. He will get us there safely. Thanks be to God.
During the next few weeks I will have Internet access, but I do not know how often I will be able to write and post A WORD FOR TODAY. I will be on vacation, a much needed and well-deserved rest from the hustle and bustle of life, however I will post as God inspires. I will pray for you all during this time and ask your prayers for my family and myself. You are always welcome to visit the website at www.awordfortoday.org to access the archives and studies from the past three years. Or visit my link page for a few other devotional sites you can enjoy. Be blessed, and I pray God’s blessings for you this day and always. Keep your eyes on Jesus; He will get you home safely.
Lightning bugs We arrived safely in Pennsylvania on Tuesday evening and spent time catching up with family. We sat on the front porch enjoying the warm summer evening, watching the world go by. As the sun began to set, one of my favorite things began to happen – a flash of yellow light here and there in the field. The lightning bugs were waking for the evening. The kids have never lived in a place where there are lightning bugs, so they were fascinated by the light show. We ran out in the field to try to catch some – to see what they looked like up close and feel them tickle as they climb on our hands.
As I lay in bed last night, I watched the lightning bugs outside our window. The show was beautiful, flashing yellow spots all over the night sky. I wondered about the purpose of these fascinating little creatures. Worms make good dirt, butterflies and bees pollinate the plants. Even termites perform a service in the forest by helping fallen trees decay. Yet, lightning bugs seem to have no practical purpose. They also do not destroy anything. Larvae and caterpillars often kill the trees on which they feed, and a termite can bring a house down. Lightning bugs don’t do anything but light up the night sky, as if they were created simply for our pleasure.
I used to do horrible things to the lightning bugs, they were fun to play with. Now as I see these lovely creatures flash in the field I wonder how I could have been so cruel. We have lived in so many places were they do not exist, I have come to appreciate them so much more. They seem so useless, but are one of the reasons I wanted to come home. They bring joy to my heart and I thank God for them.
Read Psalm 135:5-7
We often wonder about our own purpose in this life. We wander from job to job, work in some career for years. We marry and have children, enjoy the simple pleasures of life. And yet we often wonder, “Why did God put me here? Why now? What is the purpose of my life?” For many the answers do not come and they wander through this world unsatisfied with their life.
Those of who know our Lord Jesus Christ, though we may not seem to have a purpose, do understand one thing. The LORD is great and He does what pleases Him. Though it may seem to the world that our existence is pointless, we were created simply to please the Lord. He has made everything in the world to glorify Him, including you and I. During our journey in this life He gives us opportunity to do things that will bring Him joy – giving a glass of cold water with a thirsty child or sharing the Gospel with someone longing for a relationship with out Lord Jesus Christ. We are like lightning bugs to Him, flashing in the darkness to bring joy to those who see. Thanks be to God.