Welcome to the June 2004 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 page taken from the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.
A WORD FOR TODAY, June 2004
June 1, 2004
Tigger We finally picked up our new kitty Friday afternoon, and we’ve had such fun watching Felix and Tigger get to know one another. Felix is now six years old and he is a huge, but very fit, cat. Tigger is two months old and is little more than a fluff ball. On the first day, the kitten wanted to do nothing but hide. We had some difficulty located him several times because he could curl up in a tiny ball in the most unlikely places. Felix was curious and confused at first. He growled occasionally to let us know there was something amiss. He ate and drank out of the kittens bowls and followed him around, lying near the kitten so that he’d be prepared if it started to move.
They began to play together on the second day. Tigger was still unsure about his new surroundings, and Felix was like a giant to him. Felix tends to rather aggressive when he plays, but he’s always been gentle with children. We hoped he would also be gentle with this kitten. It was hard to tell at first whether Felix saw Tigger as another cat, or if he thought he was playing with prey. He would crouch and pounce, sniff and pat it with his paw. It did not take long before Tigger was also playing. He’d run up to Felix until they were face to face, and then he’d bound away. At one point, Felix was lying on the ground and Tigger noticed his tail. He suddenly ran up and pounced on the tail. Felix took off in a flash.
By the third day, they were really playing together. Felix has been at all greedy about his food or toys. He’s still not entirely happy about this situation, but we are giving him plenty of attention. Last night Felix acted indifferent, ignoring the fluffy little presence the best he could. Tigger is to the point that he is looking for love and affection, rubbing against Felix and wanting to lay close by.
Felix has rebelled. I have found signs of his discontent, but so far they have not been destructive. Some of his play has been a little rough, so we have been keeping a close eye on them when they play. It will probably take a couple weeks until we can trust Felix to love the kitty and play without avarice. Until then, Tigger is sleeping in Vicki’s room and stays there when we are out of the house.
Isn’t it funny that our relationship with God goes through many of the same stages as this friendship between Felix and Tigger? We have moments of curiosity and confusion. We are aggressive and yet also fearful. Sometimes we are greedy and demanding. At other times we are indifferent, ignoring the things around us. We can’t find a way to get along with others. We certainly rebel, fighting the mercy and grace of God. Yet, somehow God’s grace gets through and we learn to live in His love.
“Whence come wars and whence come fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your pleasures that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures. Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God. Or think ye that the scripture speaketh in vain? Doth the spirit which he made to dwell in us long unto envying? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore the scripture saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. Be subject therefore unto God; but resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you.” James 4:1-10 (ASV)
One of the reasons we wanted to get a new cat was so that Felix would not be so lonely. We hate to leave him for even a few hours because he seems to need to be in the presence of others. Tigger will provide him the company he needs when we are off shopping. Eventually he will realize what a blessing it is to have another cat in the house. Until then, Felix is going to rebel against Tigger, establish his dominance and affirm his place in our hearts. He needs to do none of these things, but it is part of the progress when cats are introduced.
People go through a similar process when hearing about God. This might last only a brief moment of time, or it might go on for years. We search for God, but refuse to believe what we see. We test God to see what we can get out of the relationship. We are curious and confused. We are aggressive and afraid. We are greedy, demanding and indifferent. We would much rather ignore and reject the love. Yet, somehow, God’s grace breaks through the hardness of our hearts and we finally submit to Him. In our humility, we are blessed by the grace of God. Thanks be to God.
Germans When we first came to Texas, we were surprised at the number of German towns that are located in this area. Many of the restaurants have quaint German names and German food is far more popular in this Tex-Mex region than I ever thought possible. We wondered how it was that the Germans came to be here. Monday we went to visit one of those German towns and learned at least part of the story.
In the mid-eighteenth century, the German government decided they wanted to establish their own colony in the quickly growing United States. They promised land and money to any German citizens that would emigrate to America. A boat full of people arrived in Galveston and established a settlement in Gruene (pronounced Green). It was tough, but they survived. Some time later, another boatload of German settlers arrived at Galveston to discover that the money had run out and so did the authorities that had come to help the Germans who had come. They were left stranded on the beach at Galveston – no money to return to Germany, no place to go in America. Many died right there on the beach, but they were not willing to give up. The survivors walked one hundred and sixty miles to Gruene. The people there gave them shelter for the winter, but there were too many to stay. So, they took the sixteen day trek to a place they would call home. They named it Fredericksburg after Prince Frederick of Prussia.
It was not easy. They lived in dirt floor cabins with little food. There was disease, war with Mexico and the Indians. The population of the town in the summer of 1846 was five hundred, but ninety people died before November. The cattle were dying from lack of food because the grass was burned, probably by the Indians. A treaty was made with the Comanches early in 1847 – the only treaty with the native Americans that was never broken. In June, the people built their first common building – a church to be shared by the Protestant and Catholic congregations. It was also the town meeting hall and school.
The people survived and so did Fredericksburg. Today it is a quaint little town with several museums. There are historic markers on most of the buildings, including the birthplace of Admiral Nimitz. There is a pioneer museum and that first church building now explains the history of the area. There are dozens of shops along the main street selling everything from antiques to dime store trinkets. The restaurants have an interesting blend of German and Tex-Mex cuisine. They persevered and overcame all the obstacles they faced; they went from that cold and lonely beach in Galveston to become a thriving tourist town today.
“But before all these things, they shall lay their hands on you, and shall persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name's sake. It shall turn out unto you for a testimony. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate beforehand how to answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand or to gainsay. But ye shall be delivered up even by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. And not a hair of your head shall perish. In your patience ye shall win your souls.” Luke 21:12-19 (ASV)
We do not know what might have become of those German immigrants if they had not gone forth in faith. They may have all died on that beach in Galveston. It took determination and perseverance, leadership and courage. Somehow they managed to overcome all the obstacles, and though some died, they are honored and remembered by today’s generation of citizens.
The prophecy given by Jesus in today’s passage was about a specific time and place, but yet it is also for all Christians throughout time. The early Christians faced incredible difficulties. In this conversation, Jesus told the disciples about the destruction of Jerusalem that would happen in just a matter of decades. He warned them that there would be war and rumors of war. Some of those first disciples still lived to see that occur, others did not survive because they were killed for their faith. Yet, the Christian faith persevered because the disciples did not worry about their difficulties – they stepped forth in faith and lived the Gospel so that the world would see God’s grace, and even in their deaths glorified God. No matter what we face in this world today, we know that God is glorified whenever His word is spoken and the lost are saved, even if we suffer in the process. Thanks be to God.
Oracle Balaam did not believe in the Lord God Almighty. He was a sorcerer and diviner who took advantage of whatever god he could summon. Whichever god his customer liked, that was the god he would seek for help. If he was going against a people, he would seek the aid of their god. Balaam was out for himself, doing only what would benefit his own pocketbook.
Balak was getting nervous. The Israelites had come out of Egypt and seemed to have an unexplainable power over their enemies. They were winning every battle, taking over every city they came against. They were filling the Promised Land and settling into the life God had given to them. Israel had camped near Moab, putting fear into the heart of Balak and the Moabites. They knew Israel was blessed with strength and victory, so he called Balaam, an internationally famous spiritist, to curse the people of Israel.
When he was summoned, Balaam seemed to seek the Lord’s word about the situation. When God told Balaam not to go, he refused to go. A second contingent of men came to seek Balaam’s help. He told them he absolutely would not go, but he went back to seek the Lord’s answer again. This time God told him to go, but then stood in his way. This part of the story seems confusing because we wonder why God would tell him to go and then be angry because he went. The Lord knew Balaam’s heart. Balaam did not care what God told him, he did not believe that the Lord was the one true God. Even though he uses the title, “the Lord my God” he did not really believe. It was the term the Israelites used, so he used it to ensure an answer. The words of scripture in Hebrew show that the writer had a great disdain for Balaam and his false faith.
We all know the story of Balaam’s donkey – the donkey who could see the angel in the pathway that the great spiritist could not see. Eventually Balaam did make it to Balak. He told the king he could not speak anything but what the Lord would put in his mouth. Balak tried to get what he wanted several times, and Balaam tried to give it to him. He built altars and sacrificed animals; he sought to speak the curse through sorcery. In the end, God’s word was more powerful than all of Balaam’s magic.
“And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together; and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times. Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honor; but, lo, Jehovah hath kept thee back from honor. And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers that thou sentest unto me, saying, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of Jehovah, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; what Jehovah speaketh, that will I speak? And now, behold, I go unto my people: come, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.” Numbers 24:10-14 (ASV)
As we read this conversation between Balak and Balaam, and see that Balaam is punished by lack of payment for his inability to curse Israel, you might think that Balaam is really a believer. We might even think that by seeing the power of God in action – in the angel, the donkey and the words in his mouth – that Balaam came to see God as the true God. It would be easy to believe that God could work such miraculous things through a believer.
We have a hard time believing that God would prophesy through an unbeliever like Balaam. Why do such good through such an evil man, when He could transform him or send a faithful servant. We do not always understand the reasons why God does what He does. We do know that later, Balaam is the one who instigates the evil among the Israelites, seducing them with indulgences of loose women and false gods. He never intended to do God’s will; he only wanted to get the most out of his abilities.
There are times when people tell us things we would rather not hear. We quickly dismiss those things when the person who is speaking is not a believer because we think that God would not use them to speak His word into our lives. However, God can use anyone, even a greedy sorcerer, to bless His people. When we hear something we would rather not hear, let us not dismiss it quickly, but let us seek the Lord and hear His word, for He will be faithful to tell us the truth. Thanks be to God.
Decorations Our church is preparing for Vacation Bible School. It will not be held for another two weeks, but the church is already filled with decorations. We are doing the program from Group Publishers called “Lava Lava Island” which has a definite Polynesian feel. They have built a volcano, put strings of flowers and leis all over the halls. Some of the rooms have tiki huts and there are leafy vines all over the ceilings. When you walk into the church, you feel like you have entered into another world.
Vacation Bible School programs are filled with hours’ worth of ideas. I am in charge of the opening and of the movie time. I will have only a few minutes to do each of these tasks for the children, and yet the script could take me an hour. Somehow I need to pick through the program and find just what will suit our group and fit into our schedule. The planners realize that every group is different – some will have more time, others less. So they provide enough for every possibility.
The thing I have found to be true no matter where I go is that children don’t need big and complicated activities to learn about God. They only need simple stories and activities that touch their experience and speak to their needs. I sometimes think we go overboard when trying to teach our children about God. Certainly, in our world today, children demand more stimulation. They are used to high graphics video games and fast moving television shows. So, we try to feed them the Word of God in the same manner as the rest of the world feeds them knowledge. Yet, faith in God is not something that can be given through high tech gadgets or showy programs. Simple faith comes from hearing the Word of God proclaimed, and children receive that Word with the simplicity and innocence that is often lost with adulthood.
“And they were bringing unto him little children, that he should touch them: and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me; forbid them not: for to such belongeth the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein. And he took them in his arms, and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.” Mark 10:13-16 (ASV)
We go to a great deal of trouble to make our children happy and satisfied. We want them to come to learn about Jesus, so we make the week of Bible school as exciting as we can to draw them in year after year. Churches often spend a fortune on the materials – cute gifts, the materials for fancy crafts and snacks, a movie and new music for the kids to enjoy. We put our time and talents into the set decorations and into our presentation. This is not only true for Vacation Bible School. Churches do this for Sunday school or other fellowship times with children. Many churches use sports to attract children, certain that if we get them through the door they will learn about faith in God.
Yet, I think sometimes we get so caught up in the attracting that we forget to introduce them to Jesus. We are so worried about getting and keeping them that we do not get around to teaching them about forgiveness. We give them basketball or fun crafts or fancy decorations but we never give them God’s grace. In this story, Jesus shows us how easily the children receive Him. He had no fancy programs or activities for the kids. He simply loved them and blessed them with His presence.
I love what we have done in the church for our kids and Vacation Bible School, yet I hope we don’t get lost in all those flowers, tiki huts and vines and forget to teach the children about God’s love. They will enjoy all the festivities and they will see God’s grace in action through the adults who have given so much of their time and talent to this endeavor. Yet, even children need to hear God’s Word to believe, for it is not our actions that give faith, but God’s Word. Let us remember that children hear and believe so much more freely than us adults because they do not need all the flash to have faith. The kingdom of God belongs to those who are like them. Thanks be to God.
Joke book Zachary has character. What I mean is that Zachary definitely stands out in a crowd. He is easily remembered when he becomes part of a group, appears on stage or even when he is having dinner in a restaurant. He’s quick to tell a joke, most of which come from the joke books he likes to buy. He’s right in the middle of most conversations, telling people his mother’s age or his father’s latest silliness.
Zachary also has character. What I mean by this is that he is sweet, kind and helpful. He is ready to hold the door open for a long line of people at the store or give a classmate some help with homework. He is honest, polite, encouraging and filled with love. He is generally recognized for his citizenship at school and his faith at church.
Zachary is certainly not perfect. He is eleven and a boy, which should explain a great deal to anyone who has a preteen boy. I get a little perturbed by the adolescent humor he finds quite funny, particularly when it happens at the dinner table. Earlier this year his helpfulness caused him a poor grade on a test because he was giving his friend the answers. It can be a bit frustrating for this impatient mom when he holds the door for a dozen people when we are in a rush to get our frozen food home and out of the heat.
His character is both who he is and who he is becoming. All those things that make Zachary will continue to develop as he learns and grows into maturity. One of the things of which I am certain, Zachary’s character is directly attributed to his faith. We have made fellowship with a Christian family a part of his life from the beginning. There’s not been a time when he hasn’t been exposed to the Word of God through worship and religious education, both at home and in church. He has believed in Jesus for as long as I can remember. That faith is developing in his life and is developing his life as he gets older.
“Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness; and stedfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope: and hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us. For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life; and not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans 5:1-11 (ASV)
Zack’s character – that which makes him stand out in the crowd and makes him different from others, is both an outward manifestation of his personality and the inner foundation on which it is built. This is founded on the faith he was given by and through Christ and it is on this faith his entire life is being built. It can be seen in the way he lives, there is just something special about him. Now, for some it is obvious that it is his outward personality – the jokes, the charisma or the kindness. Yet, there is also something much deeper – a peace, a knowledge of the hope that comes from life in Christ. Even if he is not yet mature enough to verbally express that peace and hope for others, it already showing in the things he does.
Zachary is not perfect, neither are any of us. We are growing through our suffering, which produces perseverance, which produces character and that character produces – manifests – the hope that is already within us through faith in Jesus Christ. Zachary may hope that his character – the jokes, the charisma and the kindness – might develop into something as he grows old, that kind of hope is just wishes and dreams. But the character that comes from deep within holds on to a hope that is real and trustworthy because it comes from faith in Christ – a hope that was given through the blood of Jesus on the cross through which we are saved. Thanks be to God.
Half-empty There was a scene in the movie “City Slickers” starring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby during which they were talking about the best and worst day in their lives. Billy Crystal’s character Mitch told his friends about a time when his wife found a lump in her breast. He said for the whole day they worried and wondered if it was cancer. In the end they found out it was nothing. Mitch said, “That was my worst day.” Bruno Kirby – Ed – said, “But that was a good day, it was nothing.” Mitch answered, “Until we knew, it was a horrible day.” Ed said, “But it ended well.” Back and forth they went arguing about whether it was good because the end was good or if it was bad because the whole day was filled with worry. Ed said, “You are really a glass is half-empty kind of guy” meaning that Mitch always say the negative and missed the positive.
We are amazed when we look at faithful/faith-filled people who are suffering from some ailment. They are paralyzed and still go to the food bank every week to work. They are sick with cancer and visit the children’s ward to comfort the kids. They are financially strapped but manage to find enough to take a homeless man to dinner. They see the good in the midst of their affliction and do not wallow in pity for their own circumstances knowing that others need help more than they.
One of the most difficult things for a non-Christian to understand is the idea of goodness in suffering. They want to know, “if God is so good, why do people suffer?” The thing is, they aren’t able to see the wonderful things that come out of suffering. They can’t see the hope we have in tomorrow, even if tomorrow never comes. We don’t see suffering as something bad, but as something through which God takes us to make us better. They want to blame God, call Him an evil being because He puts this horror on people. Or they simply refuse to believe any sort of loving God exists because a loving God would not allow suffering in His world.
In Christ, however, we view things differently. We see the glass as half-full; we see the light at the end of the tunnel. We know that even if our suffering today ends in death, we will not die because we have eternal life in Christ. We know that God does not plan for us to suffer, but that He will be with us through the suffering that comes from living in this fallen and imperfect world. We know that God makes good things happen out of bad for those who love Him and have hope in His promises.
“Remember mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind; therefore have I hope. It is of Jehovah's lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. Jehovah is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Jehovah is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of Jehovah. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silence, because he hath laid it upon him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope. Let him give his cheek to him that smiteth him; let him be filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever. For though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:19-33 (ASV)
I think there are times in every man’s life when he feels like Mitch. Every woman experiences a time of self-pity or of questioning why God would allow the suffering we face. Yet, in Christ we are called to view the world differently, to look at all our experiences through God’s eyes and remember that He is faithful to the end. We know to whom we belong and what He has promised to those who have faith. So, in hope we can get through our suffering knowing that something incredible is waiting for us in the end – eternal life with our Father in Heaven. We know that God will be with us through all the trials we face, not willingly afflicting us but using all our afflictions to bring us closer to His heart. He is truly a compassionate and merciful God. Knowing this we can rejoice in our suffering and walk in faith into the glass is half-empty world with hope and peace. Thanks be to God.
Intermediary Have you ever had a problem with customer relations at a store or business? I remember one incident when we were staying in a hotel and Vicki got sick. We had to do laundry to clean up the mess she made in her travel bed, but the clerks refused to open the room for us because it was late at night. I can recall numerous occasions when retail clerks were not cooperative when I needed help. Many parents experience bad teachers. I think everyone who has ever had a job can tell you horror stories about bad bosses.
What do we do when we run into a situation like this? With the hotel, we wrote to the main office to complain. Our letter was answered with apologies and a free night stay. The management understood that sometimes the rules have to be broken for the sake of a customer. In the retail store, we go to the manager who has the authority to do things the sales clerk does not have. At school and at work, we go to the supervisors, the next level of leadership at the organization. We keep going higher and higher until we find someone who has the power to make us happy.
Of course, we are not always right when we have a problem in that type of situation. Sometimes we must adhere to the rules. Sometimes it isn’t the teacher or boss, but the student or employee that is the trouble maker. Sometimes we have to accept that the answer to our query will be no. When the answer comes from the sales clerk, we think we are getting the run-around or that the clerk is just trying to cover their own mistake. However, we generally accept the answer when we are faced with a person that obviously has the authority and power to do what we ask, but can also explain why he or she will not.
Jesus had authority. There was something about His presence that made people stop and think about who He was and what He was doing. Not everyone agreed that His actions were good or accepted Him for who He was, but they all saw that there was something special about this man Jesus.
“And when he was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth in the house sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And he saith unto him, I will come and heal him. And the centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having under myself soldiers: and I say to this one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. And when Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And the servant was healed in that hour.” Matthew 8:5-13 (ASV)
The centurion was a man of authority. He was boss over a hundred soldiers who would do whatever he asked. Jesus was not anyone’s boss. He was teacher to the disciples, and many people followed Him wherever He went, but he was not a person with a position of influence in the Roman world. Jesus was a wandering preacher, no place to lay His head except that which was offered in hospitality by the people in the villages he visited. Yet, there was something about Him that the centurion recognized and accepted as powerful.
The centurion knew that Jesus should not enter into his house, because to do so would make Jesus unclean. Jesus would have gone into the house without question to heal the servant. The centurion did not want to ruin Jesus’ credibility among His own people and had the faith that Jesus could just speak the word and make it so. He saw the authority of Jesus came not from his role as rabbi but from God. Jesus answered the centurion’s faith with the irony of the situation. The centurion was saving Jesus from persecution from the people who would not believe as he. This foreigner had more faith than all of Israel.
We have confidence in the answer we get when we can see that the person has authority. We ask to see the manager or write to the owner when it seems that the employees will do satisfy our needs. Jesus is the ultimate authority when it comes to the things of faith. We need not look any further to find the answers we seek. Sometimes, we have to remember that Jesus’ answer will be no, but when we respect and have faith in what He says, we know that even the answer we don’t want is the right one for us. Thanks be to God.
Houses We live in a rapidly growing development. At last count, there were two dozen new houses in some phase of construction, from pouring the foundation to the detail work. We moved in just four months ago, and in that space of time an entire field has filled with new houses. People are moving in to these homes as fast as they can be built. You might wonder about the reliability of a home built so quickly, but we have found nothing but minor things such as loose toilet paper holders that are easily forgotten and easily fixed. The wind blows harsh and the rain pours heavy at times, and we feel safe and secure in our home.
We have watched as the new homes have gone up around us. There is a definite pattern to the way the work is completed. Certain crews are tasked with certain jobs and they do their work in a certain order. The first job is to pour the foundation. The ground is prepared, the forms installed, the rebar is laid and then the concrete poured. If any step is missed, or done out of order, then the foundation will crumble with age and the house will fall. The same is true of the rest of the house. Everything must be done properly for the house to stand secure through the storms of life.
Jesus was a master builder. He laid the foundation for faith through His preaching to the people during His ministry on earth. Everything He spoke was a part of the whole, to build temples in the hearts of the believers. His materials were the Word of God, given freely to all those who had ears to hear. Word upon word, faith was built in the hearts of those who believe and they were taught how to live the life God was calling them to live.
“Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and if fell not: for it was founded upon the rock. And every one that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and smote upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall thereof. And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:24-29 (ASV)
These words are the end of what has been called “The Sermon on the Mount.” This discourse begins at chapter five with the Beatitudes and continues through a number of examples, parables and exhortations describing the life of a Christian. The foundation of that life is faith in God, humility before Him. The beatitudes – the beautiful attitudes – show a life of submission and contentment for those who see themselves as they are – poor, mournful, weak, hungry and thirsty. They live as God has commanded – merciful, pure of heart and peacemakers. They might suffer persecution because of their life of faith, but they will inherit the Kingdom.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus goes on to tell the people that they are saved to bless others, to be salt and light in the world. He expounds upon the commandments, not making them more burdensome for His followers, but bringing them more closely to the heart and intent of God. He calls for the believers to love their enemies. He warns them to have a right heart before God, giving and praying not for the recognition of man but for the glory of God. He told them not to worry and warned them that their judgment of others would be brought upon themselves. He promised them that their prayers would be heard and that all their needs would be supplied. He told them that the way was narrow and that false teachers would try to convince them of false doctrine.
Then Jesus finished this sermon with the words in today’s scripture. If we hear and make them an active part of our life, then the temple He has built in our heart will stand firm through anything. If we hear the words but do not make them part of our life of faith, the foundation will be like a house structure that will fall when the harsh winds blow and the rain pours down. Christ is the foundation, and He has given the faith that begins the temple in our hearts. Let us hear His words and make them real in our lives so that we will not fall. Thanks be to God.
Middle Ages. In the early years after to death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Romans continued to rule with an iron hand. There was also beauty and education, art and literature. The technological achievements of the Romans were amazing. They had glass windows, running water, paved roads. Some of the stone buildings of the Roman age still stand and we can see how the amazing bath houses and aqueducts. We still have remnants of the art in mosaics and frescos which are beautiful even after two thousand years. When the Roman empire fell, most of that was lost and the European world entered a time known as the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages lasted from the fifth century to the fifteenth. It was a time of darkness. There was a lack of beauty and of education. The people lived hand to mouth, a great many suffering poverty at the hands of domineering rulers. Few lived a life of comfort, and even those who had great castles had little luxury. There was war between neighbors, abundant sickness and the people turned to superstition for answers to their troubles. Most of the money, time and energy went into building forts and producing just enough food to sustain life. There were no technological marvels invented or beautiful things created.
Yet, the light did not completely go out. There were those who continued to pursue faith and knowledge of God, to teach that faith to others and promote learning and devotion. We remember three of these men today. They lived in England during the Middle Ages and each contributed something that might have been lost if they had not lived. Columba was a monk in the sixth century, founded three monasteries in Scotland and is credited with bringing the faith to the savages of the northern reaches of that country. Aidan lived during the seventh century and was known for his mercy for animals and he had a reputation for charitable action. He could stir people’s hearts into acts of good works with his preaching. Bede was a Bible translator in the eighth century who also wrote a history of the English church and composed numerous hymns. He was the first historian to use the term anno Domini (A.D.) for dating events. The Church of Christ might have been lost during the Middle Ages, had it not been for men of faith like Columba, Aidan and Bede who continued to take the light of Christ to the world.
“And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God.” John 3:19-21 (ASV)
Throughout the ages of time, there have been periods during which it seemed that the love and mercy of God would be lost among the evil of the day. It seemed as though the innate human frailty was greater than the grace of God. Yet, God is greater than even our sin and He is able to overcome our desire to stay in darkness. In those days when it seems that darkness will win over light, when it seems that evil will overcome goodness, God fills the hearts of a few men who continue to shine and teach the Gospel so that it will continue through the valleys.
Just as society goes through these times of darkness, so too does the soul of a man. There are times in a person’s life when he or she just can’t see God, can’t believe in mercy or grace. It is during these times that God is never far off, though He seems to be at the other end of the universe. It is then that God gifts our neighbors, friends and family with the words of life. They might come to us as an evangelist like Columba, or in a pastoral role like Aidan, or in an intellectual manner like Bede. However it happens, it is God who has given the gifts to those who take the light into the world, or bring His light into our world so that we might be saved. Thanks be to God.
Silt We had rain yesterday. It was not just a few light showers, but rather a pouring rain that lasted for hours. The weatherman this morning reported that we received three to four inches of rain. The rain was accompanied by lightning, thunder and wind. The storms lasted about six hours and left behind some problems in its wake. Such a deluge in a desert region always means flash floods. Roads were closed and rivers were very high in their banks. Even today, long after the storms are gone, some of the rivers are threatening to overflow.
The damage was minor at our house. The water flowed through our backyard again, washing our yard away into the drainage ditch. There is a huge hole just below our fence. In front of our house, the water flowed so deep that the road completely disappeared for awhile. The water rose about a third of the way into the yard. The house was never in danger, but there is a pile of debris at the high water line and a mound of silt in the street by our driveway. The mud came from the homes up the street and was dropped by the water at a curve in the road. It is really amazing that so much dirt was left behind. You could see the muddy color of the flowing water, but it was moving so fast. This happens every time we have a lot of rain, but I was hoping that it might be different this time. There is something about the street and the flow of water in front of our house that makes it drop the dirt right there.
The effect of this dirt is obvious. I have to drive around the pile or have muddy tracks in my driveway. Today, as the weather grows sunny and warm again, I will likely have a gaggle of small children playing in the dirt as they have at other times. That flowing water did not know the effect it would have. We rarely know the effect we have on others. During the course of a day we might directly influence a dozen or so people, but our actions could indirectly touch the lives of hundreds, even thousands. If we drive too fast and cause an accident, the traffic jam could inconvenience an entire city. Yet, most of us will never have such a big impact.
We are called to be witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but we wonder what good we could possibly do. We aren’t like Paul and could never preach the Gospel with such eloquence and effectiveness as he. We forget, however, that the mercy of God does its own work in the hearts and minds of those who hear. It is not by our power that people are saved. That’s exactly why God chose you and I to share the kingdom of God with the world.
“For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (ASV)
We are like that flowing water in the street, leaving silt behind in our wake. But the water that flows from our life is not muddy runoff from a storm; it is the living water of Christ flowing out of our hearts. Jesus touches the lives of the people who cross our path, even when we do not know it is happening. He lays the seed of faith into the hearts of those who need His mercy and His grace. He chose us, not because we are great preachers or teachers, or even because we are great Christians. He chose us because it is through our lives that He can do His work. It is because of our foolishness and our weakness that we are perfect vessels for the love of God. By faith, not by our works or abilities, Christ lives in us and we live in Christ. Through us, Jesus influences the world in which we live, dropping a seed of faith here and there that will grow to His glory. We live in honor and praise of God, not boasting in our wisdom or strength, but reveling in our foolishness so that He might be glorified in all we do. Thanks be to God.
King Arthur There are dozens, perhaps even thousands of legends that describe the life of the king known as Arthur. Some of these stories include mystical and magical helps, out of the ordinary circumstances, incredible situations that are beyond our own experience. There are a dozen places in England that claim to be the birthplace of Arthur, others that claim to be the sight of his burial. A number of castles are known for being Camelot or the sight of the round table. The history itself is fascinating, but there are so many conflicting facts that it is like trying to do a puzzle with pieces that will never fit together.
It is more likely that the historical Arthur is a compilation of several different men. The first written record of the man describes someone who did not really fit into the time or place in which he was supposed to live. The clothes, the position and the wars were not from the same era as the legends insinuated. It really does not matter whether or not there was a real King Arthur. There is still a great deal with can learn from the legends.
What we like most about Arthur is that he was a ruler who led with power and authority, but also mercy. He was known for dealing with troubles with an even hand in a time when the powerful served only themselves. Poverty, hunger, illness and death reigned and though luxury was not as we know it today, the wealthy had more than enough while the poor had nothing. It was commonplace for neighbors be in battle with one another, always fighting over the land. It was the peasants that paid the worst price in those wars because the rulers took everything as taxes to pay for their soldiers.
The legends of King Arthur paint a different picture in his kingdom. He did not rule with an iron hand, but had a council of knights to help with the decisions. He did not judge according to his own best interest, but according to what would be best for all the people. The peasants, though still poor because there was no great wealth even among the rulers, had food to eat and a warm place to live. War played a great part of the Arthur legends, but he was always fighting against the evil rulers who had no concern for the people. Arthur was known as a man of the people, a man to whom the afflicted could go for help. He was merciful and full of love.
“Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord: looking carefully lest there be any man that falleth short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled; lest there be any fornication, or profane person, as Esau, who for one mess of meat sold his own birthright. For ye know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place for a change of mind in his father, though he sought is diligently with tears. For ye are not come unto a mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that no word more should be spoken unto them; for they could not endure that which was enjoined, If even a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned; and so fearful was the appearance, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: but ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not when they refused him that warned them on earth, much more shall not we escape who turn away from him that warneth from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more will I make to tremble not the earth only, but also the heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe: for our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:14-28 (ASV)
Whoever the real Arthur might have been, he was not loved by everyone. Those who desire power do not take kindly to justice that ignores their aspiration. Many tried to befriend Arthur so that he might give them what they wanted. Others battled fiercely against all for which he stood. He did not fall under their attempts to suppress him. He stood strong and fought for what he thought was right. Because of his mercy in the midst of power, the weak and helpless felt they could approach him for justice.
In the Old Testament, the only way to get to God was through the Law. The people had to go through the priests, through sacrifice, through righteous obedience to the rules of their faith. This was like trying to make an evil ruler happy just to get a morsel of bread. Even then, it did not work. The evil ruler did nothing to benefit others. In Christ we approach the King of mercy through grace. In this passage, the writer compares two mountains – Mount Sinai with Mount Zion. At Sinai, Moses trembled in fear and anyone, including the animals, that stepped foot on the mountain perished. At Zion, the city of God, the Church can approach God with through the blood of Jesus Christ.
It is easy to see why people would not want to follow the evil ruler who refused to even feed the starving and why it would be different with a king like Arthur. God is not someone who is unapproachable. This is only true, though, because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He died that we might have life and have it abundantly. Why would we want to refuse to live a life of heirs to the kingdom of God when so much is given through grace? This God we know through Jesus is more than worthy of our praise and thanksgiving, manifested in a life of active service in His name. Thanks be to God.
Predictions In 1981, Bill Gates said, “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” Just the other day my sister was perusing a computer catalogue, trying to find her dream computer. There was one that was 240GB for sale. A kilobyte is approximately a thousand bites, while a gigabyte is approximately a billion. While most computer users do not need that much space, 640K is no longer enough for even the basic user.
In 1876, a representative at Western Union had this to say in a memo, “The ‘telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” Today, the telephone is a vital part of international communication. With cellular technology, even the most remote places in the world can be connected through phone lines.
Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society said, “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible,” in 1895. According to the 2003 U.S. Census figures, 612 million passengers fly every year in American air space alone with an average of over a thousand miles each flight. The number of airplanes that take off and land daily is staggering, so it is needless to say that airplane flight is not impossible.
The commissioner in the U.S. Office of Patents, in 1899 made this statement, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” The technological advancements that occurred in the twentieth century were not even imagined by those who lived in the nineteenth century. Even science fiction books did not anticipate things like television and microwaves. In 2001, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued 187, 824 new patents.
These are some of the more notable predictions people have made over the years. It is very easy for us to look at something and say with certainty that we know what tomorrow will hold. Yet, as we can see from these four examples, tomorrow is beyond our knowledge. Sometimes the predictions come true. When we moved to San Antonio, I commented to my sister in Austin that since now we were finally near one another, she would probably move. She is packing her house now. This was not a prophecy; it was a pretty good guess.
Unfortunately, a great many people think they are prophets. They speak a word about something that happens – most often interpreted after the fact and rewritten to fit the situation – and they think they are gifted with special sight. I receive mail daily from groups that claim to know what will happen tomorrow. They occasionally send a confirmation email – this was said then and now see how it is happening now. Amazingly, they had no idea then how it would play out later. Hindsight is twenty-twenty vision. Unfortunately, a great many people believe what they read and plan their lives around the prophecy. Even worse are those who are saved based on this type of prophesying, but who fall quickly when the events do not happen.
“Knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:3-9 (ASV)
Since the beginning of this age of the Church, people have predicted the end of the world. In every era of the history of Christianity, some prophet has interpreted the scriptures and pointed to the signs of the coming of Christ. A few have even seen fit to predict a date. Each one and all their followers have been disappointed. Today, the predictions are coming in even greater quantity. Many who have guessed some future event or made today’s news fit yesterday’s words, call themselves prophets. There are those who even claim to teach people to foresee the future.
Prophetic materials, even novels, are used as evangelistic tools. Friends share books about the end times with their friends, who are saved based on the fear of what is coming. Yet, as the days and weeks pass, and these things do not occur, many of those who live by such shallow faith fall away with a vengeance. They mock and question the faithful, “Where is He?”
We are indeed living in the end times. The Bible does give us a description of what it will be like in that day. But God also spoke to our need for setting dates. We won’t know. Jesus will return when it is time. It could be today, or tomorrow, or in a thousand years. But even if the signs seem to point to Today as being the day, God is not late when we make it to tomorrow. God’s time is different than our time, but His promises are true. We can rest in the knowledge that He will come and not worry about predicting the time. He’s waiting for the full measure of His children to come to faith. His patience is our joy because it just might be our own loved one who needs to hear the Gospel. What are we waiting for? Let us go and share Christ in word and deed until the day He will come in glory. Thanks be to God.
Soapbox The term soapbox has come to mean an improvised platform that is used by a self-appointed speaker to make an impromptu or nonofficial speech. The term comes from early in the twentieth century when the platform was actually a wooden crate that had been used for soap. Now our soapboxes are often imagined, but we still make those speeches and often end with the statement, “I will get off my soapbox now.”
There was a time when those soapboxes were used by street preachers who went out into the market squares or along main street in town to proclaim the coming of the end of the world, to call for the repentance of the people and bring salvation into their lives. Most of these soapbox preachers spoke well of hell and damnation, scaring folk into a very shallow faith that fell when easily under the burden of disappointment or persecution. Some of these folk were self-proclaimed prophets, determined to change society one heart at a time.
We know from experience that these men were false prophets. What they predicted did not come true and the faith that accompanied their words was not true faith in Christ. We are quick to dismiss this type of preacher because we do not see the grace of God in their ranting and raving. Because we have seen so many men live this lie, it is easy to assume that there are no more prophets. However, God continues to give the gift of prophesy in this world, because it is through the proclamation of His Word that people are saved.
What we have to remember is that the way God’s Word has been spoken has changed since the time of the Old Testament prophets. Christ had not yet lived and died to bring forgiveness to all those who believe. He was just a promise. For prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel, there was only the hope of the coming Messiah. They could only point forward to that day and persuade the people of their need to turn to God so that they would know Him when He came. The purpose of prophesy changed after Christ. Now, we don’t have to point to something that will happen in the future, but rather we point to Jesus who brings forgiveness in the here and now. This is something that we should all be doing every day.
“Follow after love; yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in a tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God; for no man understandeth; but in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men edification, and exhortation, and consolation. He that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. Now I would have you all speak with tongues, but rather that ye should prophesy: and greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.” 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 (ASV)
We don’t need prophets who stand around on soapboxes in the middle of the market square warning the population that the end of the world is near or predicting the date of Jesus’ return. What we do need is every Christian willing to speak the word of God with those who have not yet heard, that they might know Christ and be saved through faith in Him. We are called to prophesy in the world today, but we don’t need to act like the Old Testament prophets running around screaming hellfire and damnation to the nation. Rather, we are gifted with God’s words in our hearts and on our tongues so that we can bring the grace of God in Christ Jesus to one heart at a time. Fear never saved a soul, but God’s Word has the power to transform the most horrible sinner into a forgiven saint who will live with God for eternity. Let us go out and be the prophetic voices through which God can bring His salvation to the world. Thanks be to God.
Recorder The music teacher in Elementary school teaches more than just singing. She teaches the children about musical terminology such as tone and harmony, and she teaches them about the different ways to make music. Voice is by far the most popular instrument in the younger years, since everyone can sing even if they do not sing the right notes. It is harder to use an instrument. Most elementary teachers begin with percussion instruments. Bells, drums, tambourines, triangles, sand blocks and other things the children can shake, hit or rub to make a sound.
Some teachers go a step further and teach the children to use the recorder. This is a little more difficult, but it is the first step to playing any of the wind instruments. The recorder is a simple tube shaped instrument with a mouthpiece like a whistle and eight finger holes. Looking at this instrument, it would seem like it should be fairly easy to produce the necessary sounds to make a song. However, there is more to playing a recorder than just having your fingers on the right holes. The holes must be properly covered and you have to blow correctly through the mouthpiece. It is amazing how terrible the sound can be when a wrong note is played out of a recorder.
In the early days of learning to play a recorder, the music is often composed of a number of high, squeaky notes that are nothing like the ones the musician intends to play. The worst part is kids love to play the game, “Guess my song.” Without the proper notes and meter, the music coming out of a recorder can be almost anything. The child finishes his or her performance with great pride for having done it well, and we are left standing in wonderment about which song they were attempting to play.
We are all called to give witness to the Gospel of Christ in this world. This is not easy and many Christians step aside to allow those who have been trained to preach and teach the Word of God. An educated understanding of the scriptures is very good. There are some things that make a great deal more sense to us when we understand them within the context of the language, history and world view of the people to whom they were originally written. These aren’t things we know just from reading. The scriptures are indeed written for us today and we can hear the word of God proclaimed within the words even if we aren’t theologically educated. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God speaks to our hearts with His mercy and grace.
Yet, it is good that there are those who know and understand in a more academic manner the scriptures, especially since there are so many self proclaimed prophets who claim God has revealed something new to them. It is interesting to listen to these spiritual teachers. They ramble on about spiritual things that make no sense. When you ask what they mean, they just say that the Holy Spirit has to interpret it for you and if you don’t understand than you just aren’t listening to Him. They speak in this sort of ‘spiritual tongue’ that only the Spirit can interpret and if you do not understand you are just stuck in the flesh and unspiritual.
“But now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to you either by way of revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching? Even things without life, giving a voice, whether pipe or harp, if they give not a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain voice, who shall prepare himself for war? So also ye, unless ye utter by the tongue speech easy to understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification. If then I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be to him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh will be a barbarian unto me. So also ye, since ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may abound unto the edifying of the church.” 1 Corinthians 14:6-12 (ASV)
The words of these spiritual teachers are like that kid trying to make music out of recorder. In the end, you can’t recognize the song that has been played. Many of these teachers consider themselves prophets, which is ironic since their lessons do nothing to build up the church. The Corinthians had this very trouble within their congregation in those early days. They were too spiritual, forgetting that the gifts of God are not given to the individual for personal edification, but they are given to the Church so that the kingdom of God will grow.
A revelation that can’t be shared is useless. The one who speaks such a revelation should be questioned. If a teacher says, “You do not understand because you are not spiritual enough,” then that teacher should be ignored. The Holy Spirit does indeed help us to understand God’s Word, but some things that are spoken in God’s name are not from Him. They are nothing more than a clanging bell or a recorder that is not being played properly. God gives a great many gifts to His people so that they can speak His Word in this world. That Word brings hope, joy and peace not confusion and uncertainty. We should seek to grow in our understanding of God’s Word so that we can apply it to our lives, but the Gospel message is clear. We are saved by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.
Noise We have completed two days of Vacation Bible School. We are all having a great deal of fun. Over a hundred children from the local churches have gotten together to learn about Jesus. There are moments of mass confusion, chaotic moments when I have to wonder if anyone is even hearing a word we say. By the time that one of the kindergarten groups reaches my classroom – the movie – they are hyped up and can not sit for even a few minutes. They are not really listening.
During our closing program today I mixed a cake using rather interesting ingredients. Instead of flour, I used rice. Rather than sugar, I used salt. Vinegar took the place of vanilla and cat food was used instead of chocolate chips. Needless to say, the cake was horrible but there was a point to make. Someone, probably one of the older children, yelled, “Taste it!” Then they all began to chant it over and over again. They were so loud that they barely heard the purpose of the cake – that it is important to follow the directions.
For the past few days we’ve discussed how we are called to share the Gospel in the world and about how God’s Word saves, giving faith to those who hear. Those of us who know the love of God in Christ Jesus find it so hard to understand how anyone can deny the truth of the Gospel. How can you deny God once you’ve heard the Word, particularly since the Holy Spirit gives the faith to believe? Why is it that there are so many who do not believe in Jesus?
There are many reasons we don’t hear. As in the case of the kids this afternoon, they could not hear because they were busy with their own things. They were too distracted to listen to what was being said. The kindergarteners were tired and restless by the time they reached my class. Some of the children today were not feeling well. I imagine that they had a hard time concentrating on any of the lessons. Guilt blocks their ability to hear the Gospel message, as they think they are not good enough for the blessings from God. Apathy and arrogance both affect the hearing. Physical discomfort – illness, poverty, hunger or thirst – can make it difficult to hear.
“And he spake to them many things in parables, saying, Behold, the sower went forth to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured them: and others fell upon the rocky places, where they had not much earth: and straightway they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell upon the thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked them: and others fell upon the good ground, and yielded fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He that hath ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3-9 (ASV)
It can be very frustrating to try to speak to a room full of screaming, wiggly kids. After the day is over I wonder if they even heard the lesson for the day. Yet, somehow the next day some of the children manage to amaze and delight me with their knowledge. We can’t give up just because we think that we aren’t making an impact. We must continue to cast the seed of the Gospel onto the field and ask God to bring the growth. We can see by this parable that not every seed will fall on good ground. Some of the people to whom we speak the Gospel will not hear because of so many other troubles.
We are like the sowers in the story, casting the seed of the Gospel out into the world. At Bible school, there are some children who will not hear and the seed will be snatched away. Others will be excited for a day or a week or even a month, but eventually faith that has grown will wither away because it has not taken root. The faith of some children will be choked by the cares of this world. These children may have heard the Gospel, but they did not really hear. We can rejoice, however, that many of the children at VBS will hear and it will take root in their lives. They will grow and mature in their understanding of God. For those who do not hear today, we need to pray that God will prepare their hearts for the next time. And then we go on casting the seed into the field, trusting that the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of the lost and lonely so that they will hear and believe and be saved. Thanks be to God.
Fluffball We have had Tigger for nearly three weeks now and it has certainly been an interesting time in our house. Felix has gone through the entire range of emotions since this tiny fluffball entered our lives. He has been apathetic, angry, depressed, accepting, annoyed and happy. Felix likes having Tigger around, at least for a little while. Sometimes they sleep together and I’ve even seen them resting in very close proximity.
The trouble comes when Felix decides he’s done playing, but Tigger wants to keep going. Since Felix is no longer a kitten, well over six years old, he has moments of excessive energy which he lets out in brief explosive play. He tears through the house, jumping on the furniture and chasing after toys. He stops as suddenly as he starts and then sleeps the rest of the day. It is enough exercise to keep Felix fit and happy. Tigger, still being a tiny kitten, plays for much longer periods of time and many more times during the day. He roams around the house during every waking minute looking for trouble. We have found teeth marks on our books and he ends up in the most unusual places. We have watched in amazement as he has learned to climb.
In the beginning, there were plenty of places Felix could go to get away from the kitten. The coffee tables, the top of the couch and our bed were much too high for Tigger. It only took him a day or two to get on the couch by himself. The coffee tables were a little more difficult, but now he just takes a flying leap from the couch. This morning he managed to get on our bed. Now, Tigger follows Felix everywhere. He wants to play even if Felix is not in the mood. He attacks Felix, plays with his tail and does everything possible to annoy him. Felix tolerates it for a time, but then gets up to move to another place. Tigger follows. In the beginning Felix joins in the game, but eventually he gets tired and wants to stop. When Tigger continues to attack after Felix has had enough, Felix gets rough. At first we yelled at Felix for playing too hard until we discovered the Tigger kept going back for more. When Felix makes it clear that he is not in the mood to play, Tigger finally leaves him alone and searches for something or someone who will keep him occupied.
“For ye, brethren, were called for freedom; only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh, but through love be servants one to another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Galations 5:13-15 (ASV)
It has been fun watching the cats getting to know one another. I was worried about Felix for a time because he lost interest in everything. He barely ate, he did not play. He just lay around all day and acted as if the world had come to an end. He has overcome and is beginning to love his new friend. I’ve seen him cleaning Tigger, he lets Tigger share his food. They do play together, running around the house pursuing bottle caps or balls with bells. Felix lets Tigger climb all over him and play with his tail for awhile. Now Tigger need only learn how he can show love to Felix – by leaving him alone when he is done playing. It gets better every day and they grow to understand their differences and learn what makes each other happy. Tigger will be a kitten for a long time and he will get himself into trouble many times until he learns the things he should not do.
Our relationships with one another are much the same as the relationship between the kitties, even in our fellowship of Christians. Have you ever come across a brand new Christian who is so exuberant about their faith that they are almost annoying? They think they know it all, they think they know more than everyone else. So, they try to teach mature Christians, as if they have discovered some new revelation from God. I know I have sometimes wanted to react like Felix does with Tigger and put them in their place, but we have to have love and patience with them. It takes time and practice, but as we recall the command of Jesus to love one another, we can learn to live in fellowship and treat those fluffball kittens and Christians with kindness and compassion. They too will grow and mature in faith, learning to live in fellowship with others in love. Thanks be to God.
Travel There are some people who have jobs that include a great deal of business travel. Just last week Bruce had to go to Alabama for a few days. Many of these businessmen and women spend many hours a week on an airplane, which means they also spend many hours in the airport dealing with lines, security checks and the other inconveniences of frequent travel. I recently heard a story that someone is trying to create a special pass for regular travelers to make it easier for them to get around.
If you asked any of those people what they hated most about their job, it would probably be how much time they spend getting to and from their destinations. It is uncomfortable sitting on an airplane for hours, especially for those who have to use coach. The food is usually less than enjoyable. Running through an airport to reach a departing plane is exhausting. Going from one time zone to another, particularly when the travel is international, is hard on the body. Yet, they do this because it is part of their job.
Every job has inconveniences. Ask any hard working person to name the one thing they hate most about their job, and I’m sure everyone can come up with something. Even mothers like me have something we would love to change about the work we do. To be honest, there are many days I would much rather be somewhere else. As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking how lovely it might be to spend a week on a beach on a tropical island with nothing but a good book, a big tube of sun block and an endless supply of frozen strawberry margaritas. Of course, I’m sure most of us would like to be there, but we have work to do in the here and now. I have kids that need my attention, a house that needs to be clean. My family enjoys eating and they have places they need to be. When I’m behind the wheel again, driving Vicki or Zack to some camp or class, I can’t help thinking about the cool breezes and leisurely naps I could have in Tahiti. Yet, I love that the kids enjoy golf and dance, and I love to watch them grow in their skills. I love the kids and know that this time is short with them. I’m torn, because life with the kids is wonderful but that beach calls out to me.
“What then? only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and therein I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if to live in the flesh, --if this shall bring fruit from my work, then what I shall choose I know not. But I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ; for it is very far better: yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide, yea, and abide with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith; that your glorying may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again.” Philippians 1:18-26 (ASV)
Paul knew what it was like to want to be another place, while knowing he needed to stay right where he was. He was in prison, certainly not the most comfortable place to be stuck when there is so much to do for the kingdom of God. Yet, Paul understood that God would use his imprisonment for good. The Gospel would spread by the power of the Holy Spirit, no matter what the status of Paul’s life.
Of course Paul wished he were elsewhere. As a matter of fact, Paul would have preferred to be in heaven with Jesus at that very moment. I feel the same way, heaven would be even better than that sandy beach in Tahiti. Yet, I know that I have work to do here – children who need me and a husband that loves me. For now, I will rejoice in that which God has called me to do, knowing that He will use me according to His will in some way, even when I am wishing I were somewhere else. Thanks be to God.
Individual Now that Mary Kate and Ashley Olson have turned eighteen years old, many people are wondering what will happen. I don’t think we need to worry about their success. Now that they are of age, they have taken possession of the billion dollar company established in their name. Of course, now that they are adults, the main question we have to ask is whether they will continue to do everything as twins, or if they will become more independent of one another, each pursuing individual interests and talents.
They say a house divided will fall, but that is not really the situation that might happen with the girls. Though they might follow different paths, they have not lost their love for one another or their friendship. They can work together and their differences might even be an asset. They will be able to expand their business as they expand their own horizons. The strengths of one will complement the weaknesses of the other, so that each of their gifts will meld into a whole, greater essence.
They need to be careful, however. There are those who do not want to see them succeed. They will do whatever they can to cause them to fail. If Mary Kate and Ashley allow anything to come between them, if either girl tries to become greater on her own or does anything to cause animosity in the relationship, then their kingdom will fall. There are many hurdles they will have to cross together and separate to make their lives full and successful. This can happen quite easily, they need only remember to hold on to the love they have for one another no matter where their paths may lead.
Unfortunately, history has shown us a great many examples of families that can’t hold it together. Entire kingdoms have fallen because sons have fought for control at the expense of their brothers. Men have fought over the thrones of the world from the beginning of time. One son may dominate for a time, but eventually the battle will weaken the entire kingdom and eventually someone will overthrow the family and take over the throne. It is the smart family that manages to find some common ground to overcome their battles so that they remain strong and undivided.
“And he was casting out a demon that was dumb. And it came to pass, when the demon was gone out, the dumb man spake; and the multitudes marvelled. But some of them said, By Beelzebub the prince of the demons casteth he out demons. And others, trying him, sought of him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you.” Luke 11:14-20 (ASV)
While Jesus ministered in this world, He faced a great many demons. He spoke with authority against them, casting them out of the possessed with no more than a word. The people who watched the exorcisms and His healings were divided about whether Jesus was sane or not and they wondered where He got His power. Some people even thought that it was Satan himself casting out the demons. They wanted some proof from heaven so that they would know for sure who sent Jesus.
Would Satan cast out his own demons? The whole point of the possessions is to manifest his power on the earth. He has no real power, so he abuses and misuses the people whom God has created, manipulating the world through suffering, pain and evil. Casting out the demons from his chosen vessels, Satan would only weaken his hold on the world rather than make his position stronger. Jesus told the doubters to consider how their own followers were casting out demons. If God is doing it in their ministry, then how could it be the devil in His? A kingdom divided will fall.
We should know that Jesus is from God just by His words, but too often we have our own ideas about what God’s word means. This is how it was for the Jews in Jesus’ day. They had interpreted the Law of Moses to fit their own understanding and what Jesus spoke did not fit into their ideas about God. He went against the rules, He did not follow their traditions. He walked in grace, not in law. He had mercy when they thought He should provide judgment. He ate with the wrong people and went to the wrong places. So, when He cast out demons, they did not think it could be from God because He did not fit into their mould. Jesus challenged them with this incident. Satan would not cast out his own demons and destroy his kingdom, so the work Jesus was doing must be from God. In this way, they were called to believe not only the things He was doing but the Word He was bringing because it was indeed the Word of God. Thanks be to God.
Artist License One of the most wonderful things about art is that it is subjective. There is not really a right and wrong way to do things. There are many paintings I love that someone else will hate, just as there are paintings I hate that someone else will love. I took up painting several months ago, after not handling a brush for nearly twenty years. It has been wonderful to put paint to canvas once again. I’m not painting to accomplish anything in particular. It will never become source of income for me. I paint because it is relaxing and so far I have given everything I’ve painted away. My paintings are not realistic, but somehow my vision does end up on the canvas for others to see.
Some artists find my style impossible to paint. If the tree does not look like it does in nature, they will agonize over how to make it appear right. If there should be a shadow, they will work until the shadow looks perfect. They want to translate life onto canvas just as it appears. This is another wonderful method of painting and I am amazed when I see a painting that looks realistic. It is almost as if you can reach out and touch the things in the painting. I have seen some still life paintings and portraits that look so real that I have thought they were photographs.
We may paint differently, but we can co-exist and respect each other for the work we do. I can love a bird life painting by John James Audubon as much as I love the impressionistic work of Vincent Van Gogh. Sometimes we can even learn things from one another. I know I have learned from the women in my art class who paint exactly what they see to take more time to look at things with a more realistic lens while they have learned to let go a little. At first I felt like they wanted to me conform to their way, but over the months they have accepted me and my style.
Daniel was among the exiles that were taken to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar decided to take a few of the young men from the nobility of Israel and train them in the ways of the Babylonians. When Daniel and his friends arrived in the palace, they were given good food and wine as well as an education in the literature and language of the people with whom they were living. Daniel refused to eat the food because it was offered to idols and it was not killed as per the Law of Moses. Instead of rebelling against the house of the king, Daniel made a deal with the official who was in charge of the young men. Daniel told him to give them only vegetables for just ten days as a test. After ten days, Daniel and his friends were healthier than the students who were eating the rich royal food. So, Daniel was allowed to eat according to his conscience.
“And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer, and they were fatter in flesh, than all the youths that did eat of the king's dainties. So the steward took away their dainties, and the wine that they should drink, and gave them pulse. Now as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. And at the end of the days which the king had appointed for bringing them in, the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding, concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his realm.” Daniel 1:15-20 (ASV)
Daniel and his friends stood on their principles and they succeeded even in the Babylonian world. They could have rebelled against everything they saw. Pagan literature is filled with references to things that probably would offend the Jews, yet Daniel learned these ways. The royal food was rich and delicious, yet Daniel ate only what was right in the eyes of God. He grew in wisdom and strength and the king often sought his knowledge in matters of the kingdom. In the end, it was not the learning or the fine food that gave Daniel or any of the wise men their gifts, but it is the Lord God Almighty who reveals things and gives all that is needed to live.
We end up in situations where people want us to conform to the way they do things. This can happen at work, in our neighborhoods and at school. Even in church there are expectations that we will do things one way even when we feel that some other way might work better. We need to remember Daniel. He did not want to be in Babylon, and he did not want to live as the Babylonians. Yet, God blessed him in that situation and he gained the respect of the king because he lived by his principles and obviously had the blessing of a powerful God. Daniel’s ways were different, but he did not rebel or become inconsiderate. He found a compromise that would both honor God and help him to succeed in that strange place. Who knows? Perhaps our neighbors will see that there is goodness to our ways and conform to the will of God. Thanks be to God.
Ties One of life’s greatest mysteries is the answer to the question, “What should we get Dad for Father’s Day?” Most Dad’s don’t really need anything, or the ‘toys’ they want are far too expensive for a kid to buy. Of course, most dads get the proverbial necktie, yet another to hang on that necktie rack they got a year or so ago. All too often those ties are the ugliest ones from the rack, something Dad would never wear. Also, in this age of casual attire, most Dads do not even wear a tie anymore.
Of course, there are those who think Father’s Day is just another creation of the greeting card companies to make a buck. Even with graduations and weddings, they needed a holiday for June to ensure their profit margin for the month. This is not true. Just like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day was begun by a daughter who realized as an adult what a selfless, giving many her father was. William Smart was a widowed father of six children. In 1909 his daughter proposed the idea of a Father’s Day. Others around the country were also doing the same. The first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910 – William Smart’s birth date – in Spokane Washington. In 1924 Calvin Coolidge supported the idea and proclaimed the third Sunday in June a day to celebrate fathers. Congress recognized the holiday in 1956 and Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation in 1966. The holiday was officially established in 1972 by Richard Nixon.
There are a number of jokes that can be made. Why does Dad deserve a special day – every day is Father’s Day in our house! Jay Leno the other night said, “Mother’s Day is the biggest day for phone calls. Father’s Day is the biggest one for short phone calls. Son says, ‘Hi, Dad, Happy Father’s Day.’ ‘Thanks, Son. Here’s your mother’ answers the dad.” Mothers get roses; fathers get to play football in the searing heat of summer. Mom gets a special dinner at a restaurant; Dad gets to grill hot dogs.
While every day is Father’s Day around here, we still celebrate because Bruce deserves something special. He’s a wonderful daddy – loving, encouraging, supportive, strong and intelligent. He gives the children all they need in heart, soul and spirit. His faith has definitely rubbed off on the children and they are growing in their love of Jesus because of all he has done to support their faith. Even with a great daddy like Bruce, it is good for us to remember on this day that we have an even greater Daddy in heaven.
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” Matthew 7:7-11 (ASV)
Not everyone is this world has a father like William Smart or Bruce. Some dads are downright evil, there are those who might give stones or snakes rather than bread or fish. For those who have such a father, thinking of God as a Daddy is difficult if not impossible. To them, the father image brings nothing but pain. However, God is the Father who gives good things to His children – faith, hope, peace, joy, mercy and most especially love. He is the kind of Father that will bounce you on His knee and listen to your every trouble. He is generous with His gifts, providing more than His children need.
On this Father’s Day, we remember our dads and thank them for all they have done with gifts of ties and time spent together. But let us never forget to thank the One who lives in heaven. Thanks be to God.
Harry Potter Vicki and Zack are both reading Harry Potter books. Vicki is on number five and Zack on number four. Both of them are finding the reading difficult. The books are long, dark and not nearly as interesting as some of the earlier books. It is taking both of them much too long to read these books. Zack is getting there. This is the second time he has tried and he is determined to finish it, but he probably will not start the next one.
I know that when I find a book that is hard to understand it becomes very difficult to read. I can finish off some books in a day or two because they are well written and speak in a language I understand. Max Lucado, for instance, is the type of writer that I can read quickly and enjoy. Some other authors use more technical words or try to approach the subject from a more intellectual angle. It is not that these books are unreadable; it is just that they take longer to get through because more thought has to be put into what is being said. I am less likely to recommend these books to a new Christian because they don’t need to stumble over difficult theological or philosophical issues while they are learning to become a Christian. They just need to hear the simple words of God explained in a way they can apply to their lives.
When I first began corresponding with people on the Internet about religious matters, I found there were a great many people – myself included – who mostly liked to hear themselves talk. Sometimes I wondered if we were really discussing theology or if we were trying to prove ourselves to be more intelligent and knowledgeable than everyone else. We used big words and deep concepts. Sometimes the participants wanted to prove themselves to be more spiritual than their adversaries. It was all a game and no one really benefited from the conversations.
The greatest difficulty with this type of discussion is that invariably someone is listening that does not understand the lingo or just can’t grasp the ideology that is being discussed. They are quickly confused and easily deceived by someone who is willing to talk their language. I watched too many give up on understanding Christianity and move on to another – easier – religion. While new age thought, universalism or eclectic paganism may appeal to our minds and hearts because every idea and belief is tolerable. Yet, we know that there is something missing – they don’t have Jesus.
“For our glorifying is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and sincerity of God, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we behaved ourselves in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward. For we write no other things unto you, than what ye read or even acknowledge, and I hope ye will acknowledge unto the end: as also ye did acknowledge us in part, that we are your glorying, even as ye also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.” 2 Corinthians 1:12-14 (ASV)
Paul knew how important it was to speak words that can be understood not only in the hearts but also in the minds of his listeners. God’s Word certainly does cut to the heart and the Holy Spirit does help us to understand the deeper things of God. But until a seeker gains faith in Christ and reaches a certain level of maturity, those deeper things are burdens and stumbling blocks. They can easily cause a person to reject Christian faith completely for something that seems better.
One of the things I learned early in my days on the Internet is that we have to know one another well enough to understand our point of view. Very often the confusion comes from a misunderstanding of language, we attach different meanings to our words. We can discuss the deeper things of God and enjoy debate with one another. However, I learned that in doing so we must be sincere in our desire to communicate and not try to win some sort of game. God’s Word brings life and should never be used to bring others down. There is power in the name of Jesus, for it is He alone that will save. Thanks be to God.
Boring With Vacation Bible School and summer camps behind us, we have begun our summer vacation in earnest, and I’ve already heard the phrase “Mom, I’m bored!” We still have months to go until the kids go back to school and I’m not sure we will survive if we are already fighting boredom. I recently heard a great idea on a radio talk show however. When the host’s wife was faced with a bored preteen son, she told him to go out in the yard and dig a ditch. The ditch has no purpose, except to give the kid something to do. Whenever he says that he is bored, he has to go out an dig another foot by foot by foot sized area to the ditch. Maybe we could have Zack dig our French drain for us when he gets bored this summer.
Our life is not terribly interesting. We have plenty of evenings we simply stay at home and watch TV. Sometimes Vicki and I do crafts, Zack plays his video games and Bruce putters around the garage. Last night was one of those nights. Gerta Weissman remembered such nights with her family – her father smoking his pipe, her mother working at some needlepoint, her brother and her doing homework – and she remembered those nights with joy.
What has to be understood is the Gerta Weissman was among those who were prisoners in a Nazi death camp. After the war she was interviewed on a radio program about her experiences. One thing she remembered was a flower that had grown in the crack of concrete. The women in the camp went to great lengths to avoid destroying that flower – the only beauty they had in a very dark, bleak world. Gerta explained to the interviewer that people often asked her what helped her survive such a horrifying experience. She said she realized that she had a picture in her mind of those boring nights at home with her family and that was what helped her get through it all. She had experienced hundreds of nights like that, but in the end it was those very times that were the driving force of her survival. The women who endured the horror lived in thankfulness for the simple things like that flower and those boring nights at home.
If we were in such a situation, what is it that we would picture in our mind to keep us going? What would we miss? What sort of attitude would we have each day? Would we be anxious, worried and afraid? Or would we live in thankfulness for something, especially the simple things in life?
“But let all those that take refuge in thee rejoice, Let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: Let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou wilt bless the righteous; O Jehovah, thou wilt compass him with favor as with a shield.” Psalm 5:11-12 (ASV)
I can just imagine the flower those women looked toward for hope. It was probably a weed of some sort, half withered with lack of water. I’m sure it was not beautiful, certainly not like a vase full of long stem red roses or a field of wildflowers. We quickly remove that type of flower from the cracks in our concrete – they are ugly menaces and inconveniences in our beautiful landscaped yards. Yet, it was a source of beauty and hope in the midst of a horrifying situation.
We rarely appreciate those evenings at home with our family. During summer vacation, the children often wake up with the question, “What are we going to do today?” expecting that every day will be filled with exciting trips to exotic places. While we will take some fun trips to visit the more interesting sights of Texas, we certainly cannot plan something for every day. Yet, we will find blessings in even those boring days at home if we live them in thankfulness.
When we say that God blesses the righteous, there are those who think that the blessings will be something miraculous – like that vase full of roses or an exciting trip. Yet, most of God’s blessings are far more like that evening at home – the simple pleasures of life are given to us by God and it is for those things we should also be grateful. We tend to live in thankfulness for the miraculous and forget how important the daily blessings of life can be. Let us live today and thank God for those weeds in the cracks and those boring nights at home that we may see His blessing and rejoice. Thanks be to God.
Piety One of my favorite places in England is the cathedral at Ely. In the ancient days, Ely sat on an island in the middle of a marshy land. Several hundred years ago they built windmills to drain the water from the marshes to create some of the most fertile farmland in the world. The dirt there is deep black and is used to grow grains, mustard and lavender among other things.
There has been a religious community at Ely for many years. The current building was started shortly after the Norman Conquest, when William the Conqueror brought European architecture to the island. There was a church on that sight long before then, however, reaching back to at least the seventh century when a woman named Etheldreda founded a nunnery and monastery on the island.
Etheldreda was the daughter of King Anna of East Anglia and was the heir to a great deal of wealth and power. She married twice, but her first husband died after only five years of marriage and her second husband let her go when she wanted to live in the relationship as a brother and sister. When she was released from these worldly relationships, she founded the community of faith and she became the abbess. She lived a live of zealous piety, forsaking everything of her old life to live dedicated to worshipping God. In that day, it was common for the pious to live without any finery, to give up fine linen for woolen garments. She washed only with cold water and she ate only one meal a day. She died only seven years after founding the monastery and nunnery. She is known as the patron saint of those who have neck or throat ailments. It is said that when she died she had a rather large tumor on her neck. They later exhumed her body and found that the tumor had completely healed.
Saint Etheldreda lived the life she felt called to live at a time when such practices were considered honorable and glorifying to God. We are each called by God to live as He intends, to witness to His mercy and grace by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. In the seventh century, a life of piety in a monastery might just have been the best way for Etheldreda to live, especially since her old life would have included the leisurely living of a king’s daughter. For her, it was not a duty but a way she could honor her God.
“But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus. Where then is the glorying? It is excluded. By what manner of law? of works? Nay: but by a law of faith. We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yea, of Gentiles also: if so be that God is one, and he shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? God forbid: nay, we establish the law.” Romans 3:21-31 (ASV)
Today is the day we remember Saint Etheldreda and her pious living. As we look at the lives of saints like St. Etheldreda, we need to remember that we will not earn respect from God by giving up the world as she did. She was called to a simpler life and her witness is found in her willingness to follow God’s leading. However, we can’t follow her example and live piously as a dutiful servant thinking our works will make us grow closer to God. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we will see the glory of God and live for eternity in His presence. Thanks be to God.
Herald A herald is an announcer, someone who proclaims some important bit of information or news. In Medieval times, most of the news was delivered by traveling heralds who spoke to the people in the marketplace. Today’s anchormen are like those ancient messengers, only their platform is much different. A herald might also be an official representative for the leaders of an army, something like an ambassador who helps the negotiations during war.
Another type of herald is someone who announces the participants at a tournament. In the movie “A Knight’s Tale” the young man William, who pretended to be a knight, needed someone to be his representative. His motley little crew came across a man who was naked and needy who was willing to act as William’s herald. In the story, the man’s name was Chaucer and he was full of words, able to arouse the crowd into a frenzy and build William’s popularity on the tournament circuit. In modern terms, the announcer at a wrestling match has the same purpose – to warm up the crowd and make them excited about the battle ahead.
Finally, another kind of herald is the man who proclaims the coming of a king. The picture we have of this type of herald is one wearing colorful robes with a long horn. He blows the horn to gain the attention of the crowd and then yells “Hear ye, hear ye. Here comes the king!” In every case, the herald prepares the way for something greater that is coming. Though the herald himself is of little importance, usually a man of rather low position in the hierarchy of the situation, he has a very important task. If the herald does not get the attention of the people, or if he puts them to sleep with a boring speech, then the message he proclaims will not be heard and the one he announces just might be missed.
“And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of altar of incense. And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: because thy supplication is heard, and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall be turn unto the Lord their God. And he shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to walk in the wisdom of the just; to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.” Luke 1:11-17 (ASV)
John the Baptist heralded the coming of the Christ, proclaiming the kingdom of God and calling for the repentance of the people. He was sent first to warn the Jews that they must turn back to God or they would miss the Messiah for whom they were waiting. The Jews were longing for deliverance – they wanted to be freed from the Romans that bound and oppressed them in that age. Yet, they did not realize they were bound by an even harsher master – sin and death. It was not an earthly kingdom that was coming, but God’s kingdom and the salvation that was to be offered was not for the flesh. Jesus Christ brought eternal life to those who believe and John the Baptist prepared the way.
Today we remember the nativity of John the Baptist, and honor him for the role he played in the ministry of Jesus Christ. We remember, however, that John was just the herald, the one who came before to proclaim the coming of the King. He knew that he was unimportant, and once Jesus arrived on the scene, he willingly stepped aside so that Jesus would have center stage. John is in some ways an example to us today. We are also called to be witnesses to the coming of Christ, yet our role is different because Jesus has already completed the work of salvation. What we learn from John is that we too are called to proclaim Him, but then step back and let Him have all the glory for He is the King. Thanks be to God.
Memory Henry is a jerk. He can’t make a commitment to any one woman, so he takes advantage of every pretty one he meets. He lives on one of the Hawaiian Islands, so it is easy for him to meet tourist babes and have as many one night stands as he pleases. The women are often looking for a wild time without commitment anyway, so it was a win-win situation for both parties. One day, however, he met Lucy. She is a beautiful local girl – no chance for her flying off into the sunset in a day or so. It was love at first sight and Henry went back to get to know her better.
Unfortunately, Lucy suffered from a rare brain problem. After a tragic accident, the part of her brain that controls her short term memory was damaged. She forgets everything she experiences every night in her sleep. Every morning she wakes up as if it were October 13, the day she had the accident. Her family felt it was best to let her live in that day, and so they created a world in which she just kept living the same day over and over again. Henry likes Lucy so much, that he encourages her family to tell her the truth so that she will be willing to spend time with him. Each day he convinces her to fall in love with him.
This storyline is from a movie starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore called “50 First Dates.” At first, Lucy’s family and friends thought Henry was just out for a repeating easy one night stand – after all, if Lucy couldn’t remember the next day, she’d never get attached. But Henry was willing to do whatever was necessary to make her remember, giving himself fully to the relationship even though he knew that she would never remember tomorrow.
It made me think about how we treat God sometimes. He is willing to do whatever it takes to make us love Him, but we easily forget all that He has done. There are many reasons why this might happen. We get caught up in the cares of this world and forget that God will give us rest. When we are comfortable, we think we do not need God, so we forget that our success and prosperity comes from Him. We are easily distracted by the schemes of the devil or just with our daily living that we do not realize how near He is and how much He truly loves us. Once in awhile we wake up to the love and it is on those days we find ourselves truly rejoicing.
In the movie, Lucy’s family realized that Henry was good for her when they discovered that she sang every afternoon on the days she met him. Later she broke off the relationship, not wanting to hold Henry back from a normal life. Why should he give up his career and his goals for the sake of someone who would never remember him the next day? Henry did not want to go, but he did for her sake. In the end they could not live without one another. Though she forgot him every day, he lived in her dreams and in her heart and so they managed to have a joy filled life together.
“But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Romans 8:9-11 (ASV)
Lucy survived the accident and was alive, but she had no life. She was reliving the same things over and over and over again. Her father and brother went to a great deal of trouble to restore the world to what she knew every morning so that she would not be shocked and upset by her brain damage. Henry was alive, but he no life either. He was doing the same thing time after time – one night stands with women whom he would never remember a week or even a day after they were gone from his life.
For both Lucy and Henry, life began when they met because they dwelled in each other’s hearts. That’s what happens to us when we have a relationship with God. He lives in us and we live in Him. His kingdom flows out through our lives by His Spirit. Sometimes we are like Lucy and we forget our God. We forget what He has done and how much He loves us. Yet, God never forgets and He will continue to come to us in mercy and grace to make us fall in love with Him again. He dwells in our hearts and we can rest in the promise that we will be with Him for eternity because of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.
Books Vicki and Zack both love to read. The joy of reading has been part of their lives from very early. We provided plenty of board books when they were infants and there has always been a library of literature at their fingertips. We even have a picture of Vicki ‘reading’ a Newsweek magazine in her crib at just a year old. Of course, she wasn’t really reading the words, but we could see early that she would have a life of learning through books.
I think a love of reading comes from example and opportunity. Children that live in homes where books are available are more likely to excel in reading. Bruce and I have tried to set the example for the kids. I always have a book I carry along with me wherever I go just in case I will have a few spare minutes. We encourage the kids to read every day, so we also do so. We subscribe to the daily newspaper and several interesting magazines so that we all can be up to date on current events. Though we can learn in many other ways, like through the media and travel, there is something wonderful about getting lost in the words of a book.
It takes a willingness on the part of an authority figure or role model to provide a good example for a child to learn a love of reading. The same can be said about many aspects of life. The greatest chefs learned to cook from their mothers, standing by their sides in the kitchens of their childhood homes. Artisans and skilled laborers took on apprentices from an early age, showing them the trade by example. The warrior kings led their armies into war, standing before the front lines and entering into the fray to give the young soldiers courage and strength through his action.
All too often, however, we think people should be able to do things without a role model. Few bosses are willing to show a new employee how to accomplish a task. They give the command and expect the job to be completed. All too often, these are tasks the boss would never consider doing because the job is beneath them and they would rather not get their hands dirty. A landowner does not turn the dirt in a field when he can hire someone to farm it for him. A chef never does the dishes. A manager doesn’t stock shelves or unload trucks.
Yet, in the truly successful businesses, the landowner, chef and manager are willing to come off their pedestal to lend a hand when something needs to be done. The employees see their supervisor pitching in and work harder so that the trouble will happen again. An army is more loyal to the king that rides out in front and will work harder to protect him than the king that commands from the rear while living in the lap of luxury.
It is in our nature to try to make ourselves better. We work hard to get promoted and we would rather not go back to doing the work we had to do to reach our position. The chef was probably once a dishwasher, the landowner once farmed a small plot of land. Many managers start at entry level positions in a company and they earn their higher positions through hard work. No one wants to humble themselves once they have succeeded in their goals.
“And there arose also a contention among them, which of them was accounted to be greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles have lordship over them; and they that have authority over them are called Benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is the greater among you, let him become as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For which is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am in the midst of you as he that serveth. But ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations; and I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and ye shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Luke 22:24-31 (ASV)
Jesus humbled Himself and took on the flesh of man to come to earth and save us. His purpose for living was to die, His function on earth was to bring salvation to all those who believe. But He went further, His ministry was also an example to all those who would follow Him. He lived as He was calling us to live, and did what He was calling us to do. He humbled Himself before God and He loved His brothers with a sacrificial love. He willingly knelt to wash their feet and He got his fingers dirty for the sake of others.
Even his disciples wanted to get ahead. This story parallels others in the Gospels about the disciples wanting a position of authority and power in the kingdom of God. James and John wanted to sit at the right and left hands of Jesus when He came into His kingdom. As Jesus got closer to the cross and began talking about his death, the disciples might have wondered who would lead the organization when Jesus was gone even while they hoped He would never leave. Yet, Jesus established through His life the type of leadership He was looking for in the Church – servant leaders willing to do the work of the Kingdom without concern for their position in this life. He reminds us that God’s ways are different than the ways of the world – the king is not someone to rule over the people, but to serve them in love. Thanks be to God.
Outage You might be aware that weather here in Texas has been unpredictable and stormy. Though we are supposed to be in the dry season, we have had measurable rain at the airport for the last five, and I think there’s been a couple days rain has come that missed them but hit us. It has been interesting. These storms are scattered and are not following a normal course. One day they come from gulf, the next day they come from the west, the next day they are swirling overhead. The other day the storms seemed to be stopped by an invisible wall just east of our house. On another day they come at us with wrath.
Today was one of those days. The weathermen were calling for a lesser chance of rain today as the front that is causing the unstable weather was moving away. We thought we might have a day free of storms. Yet, as we prepared to go to church this morning we could see the sky was getting very dark. We made sure all the windows were shut tight and went to church. There were a few drizzle drops on our way, but nothing terrible. About halfway through our worship service, the lights flickered. Suddenly we heard thunder and the rain pounding on the roof. A few minutes later, in the middle of the prayers, the lights went out.
There was an audible gasp from the congregation, I guess the sheer shock of having the electricity go off. A power outage is always accompanied by some strange crackling noises. Along with the storm outside, it was enough to freak out a few people. What was most amazing, however, is that while this was happening, our pastor continued the prayers without skipping a beat. He was reading through the list of names of people with prayer concerns and he barely even noticed that the lights went out. Truly remarkable was the fact that the rest of the congregation returned immediately to the task at hand – praying – and the chaos that might have ensued was dispelled. Our worship went on as if nothing was unusual about the day. A hymn was planned to close the service, but since we use an electric piano and there were no lights to read the words from the hymnal, the organist asked if there were any songs we all knew by heart that we could sing together. Someone called out “Jesus loves me.” So that’s what we sang.
“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we faint not: but we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled in them that perish: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-12 (ASV)
It would have been very easy for the congregation to panic when the lights went out, but our pastor just kept praying and he drew us along in the worship. Unfortunately, we aren’t always so good at keeping our cool in times of darkness. When crisis strikes our lives, we tend to get caught up in the problem and we forget to be in prayer. When our health fails or a loved one dies, we focus on the darkness and stop seeing the light. When we lose our jobs or we have financial difficulties, we worry about tomorrow rather than keeping our eyes on Jesus.
When the service was over, someone suggested that we should have sang “This Little Light of Mine” which would also have been an appropriate song for the situation, but I liked having “Jesus Loves Me.” It helped us to remember that He is the Light in our darkness and that He is the focus of our faith. When we are faced with difficult times, we can know that He is with us, shining His light into and through our lives. Thanks be to God.
Privacy Have you ever gotten to the point when you just want to go away somewhere to be alone? I find this happening much more during summer vacation. I suppose it is because during the summer there is no time when I am really alone. At least during school – even when I am busy – there are times when I have the house to myself. During summer vacation the kids are home all day or we are out and about doing things together. The few rare moments I have alone is usually at the grocery store or running other errands.
It isn’t that I don’t love being with my kids. We have a good time together. When we are home, they are often in their rooms or in another part of the house and I am alone. Yet, there’s always the chance that the kids will need me for something or that they will show up and bother me right when I want some privacy. It is more difficult to find time to pray because they always interrupt. Though I have a place I like to pray, it is in the center of activity in our house. This is fine when the house is empty but when the kids are home there is no privacy.
Of course, I have to admit that when I talk about getting away from it all, there is an image of a private beach on a desert island that slips into my mind. How wonderful it would be to be away from the phone, the laundry, the dishes, the cooking and all the other responsibilities of life. It would be nice to just lay around with a good book for a few days and get recharged. It is unrealistic to think that this might happen, but it can’t hurt to dream a bit can it?
Well, sometimes it does hurt. Our need to escape can lead to deeper problems. We might find ourselves unable to take care of our responsibilities, our own emotional pain leading to depression or other mental health dis-ease. We find unhealthy ways of separating from our family and friends – perhaps alcohol, drugs or even an affair. We even blame God and get to the point of being unable to communicate with Him. I have a friend who is so tired of her husband’s health problems that she can’t even pray. She’s tired and she no longer knows what to do. Jesus understood the demands of the real world and knew how important it was to get away to pray.
“And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose up and went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed. And Simon and they that were with him followed after him; and they found him, and say unto him, All are seeking thee. And he saith unto them, Let us go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also; for to this end came I forth. And he went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons.” Mark 1:35-39 (ASV)
The demands on Jesus were great. People came from all over the region to receive His healing and hear His preaching. I can imagine that it must have been difficult even for Jesus to meet everyone’s needs. He knew that He could not constantly keep up with strain without taking time out with His Father. So, He often spent hours at night in prayer while others slept, or He slipped away to spend time on a mountain away from it all so that He would not be distracted by His disciples or the pilgrims who needed His help.
Unfortunately, the very times we need it most are the times when we do not get away to pray. Then we get so caught up in our troubles that we don’t remember how to turn to God. We get so angry about our situation, or so confused about why we are suffering that we feel unable to talk to God. We get so sick and tired that we desire to get away, but even then we don’t do it to pray, we do it to get away and feel sorry for ourselves.
What we learn from Jesus is that at the very times we can’t pray or don’t want to pray – those are the very moments that we should pray. We should get up and go away from the distractions and spend time with God. Through prayer, He will give us the strength to meet the needs of our family and friends. Rather than complain, we need only find a way to seek God in the midst of our chaotic lives before we get to deep in our troubles to go to Him with them. He is always with us, let us all find a way to get away from it all, we will see His face and hear His voice in our life. Thanks be to God.
Technology Several years ago, Bruce was sent TDY to some foreign place that was involved in a conflict with which we could give aid. Unfortunately, as in many of the places our military goes, there were no modern conveniences. They had no phone lines or cable. They barely had roads. The accommodations for the men were rough and conditions were uncomfortable. When our military is sent on this type of deployment, it is necessary to send in another unit to establish at least some basic resources for them to do their work. Communication lines are established, tents are raised.
These resources make it possible for the soldiers to do their job, but they do not make it possible for contact with those left at home. We often did not talk for days or even weeks when Bruce was deployed or on temporary duty. We had no email and the cost of phone calls made it impossible for us to talk. Now when Bruce goes away, we have those other resources that make it possible for us to keep in touch on a regular basis.
Modern technology has many positive aspects. Through email and instant messaging we can be in communication instantly with people all over the world. We can be informed about the world through the Internet and other media sources. Cell phones keep us in contact no matter where we happen to be. It is nice to know, as a mom, that when I leave the house during the day to go to the grocery store or do some other errand, that the kids can get a hold of me if there is a problem. I like being able to check the Internet for movie listings or to send a quick email to my family and let them know what is happening in our lives.
However, these technological advancements have made it easier for people to be deceitful. Online predators have preyed on children by pretending to be something they aren’t. Chat rooms are filled with people who are completely honest about themselves, but there are some who use the anonymity to be whatever they want to be. You can create new names and try on a new personality every day. It is dangerous to trust everyone you ‘meet’ online; real people have suffered real harm from strangers on the Internet.
Yesterday I read an article about how cell phones are now being used to deceive people. Cell-phone-based alibi groups are being created all over the world. According to the article, a young man was cheating on his girlfriend. He needed an excuse to go to Colorado where she lived, so he sent a text message to the thousands of members of his group for help. Someone replied and the two arranged the lie. The anonymous responder called the girlfriend and pretended to be a coach from a university who needed the boyfriend for a tryout. She fell for it, and the young man when and had his weekend.
Developers have created sounds that can be downloaded into phones that make it appear you are somewhere else. You can use coughing sounds to make your sick call to work more realistic, or honking horns to pretend you are stuck in traffic. Since cell phones can go anywhere, a person can be in another state and claim they are right next door. The phones make it possible to create an alibi that is really not true. Such deceit is often caught, but not always. Many of these excuses might seem harmless to some, but such lies lead to even greater dishonesty.
“But thou didst follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, patience, persecutions, sufferings. What things befell me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them. And that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:10-17 (ASV)
Lies and deceit are certainly the ways of the world. Satan himself is the king of dishonesty. The worst part is that many people in our world today do not think that it is bad to use such schemes to get out of a blind date or to go to a movie when they should be studying. Most of the members of the alibi club would probably agree that it is wrong to cheat on your spouse or use the alibis for criminal behavior. The article mentioned a woman who got pregnant while her soldier husband was deployed. She wanted to use the club to create some story to deceive her husband, but most of the members encouraged her to tell him the truth.
There are some things that seem harmless on the surface, but they are just the first step to even greater lies and deceit. This is the not the way of the Christian. We are called to live godly lives, to enjoy the gifts God has given without abusing or misusing them. Modern technology is a gift from God, for it keeps us informed and in touch with those we love. However, we should not use the Internet or cell phones to lie, cheat or steal because even the minor infractions will lead to greater evil. The truth matters, and we have the Truth at our fingertips – in the Holy Scriptures. Through God’s word we will find a better way to deal with our problems than an alibi club or dishonesty online. Thanks be to God.
Majorette Vicki is attending majorette camp this week. She is having a great time learning new tricks and techniques she can use with her baton. She is growing in her ability to twirl and she is having so much fun meeting other girls with a similar interest from here in San Antonio as well as from farther away. We weren’t sure what it was going to be like, since we have never been involved with strictly baton related activities like camp or competition. She has taken baton as part of her dance experiences, but many of the girls take only baton and the related techniques courses.
When we arrived on the first day, we felt a little out of place. Many of the girls already knew one another from previous camps, classes or competitions. There were huddles of girls catching up on the news of each other’s lives, hugging and enjoying the chance to see their friends. The old timers were more comfortable with the situation because they understood the language and were familiar with the rules and practices of the group. When I was a child, we were similarly involved in baton twirling, but that was thirty years ago and things have definitely changed.
Vicki was excited to go, but I think she was also a bit nervous. When you enter into a new group like this, you never know if you will be welcome and accepted. It has been a wonderful experience for her and she has learned so much. Yet, I imagine there are many campers out there this summer that are not having such a good time. Kids can be very exclusive, cliquish and impolite to strangers. They will quickly reject others who are different than themselves, even to the point of ignoring possible common interests for the sake of their closed world.
We even do this as Christians. We like to be special, to have something other people do not have. When we meet folk who are different, we often will find whatever reason we can to reject them and keep them outside our little kingdom. We even do this to other Christians. We question their faith and even wonder if they are really saved. I know of churches that will not welcome strangers to participate in the events of the congregation unless they become members and accept without question the beliefs and teachings of that church and pastor.
There are indeed places that claim to be Christian that follow a false gospel and another Jesus. We need to be careful about the teachings we accept as true and the things we do with our faith. God does not ask us to drink poison Kool-Aid or horde weapons in the desert. He does not demand our strict obedience to the rules and practices of men, but rather desires a humble heart that welcomes the stranger into fellowship.
“Thus saith Jehovah, Keep ye justice, and do righteousness; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that holdeth it fast; that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil. Neither let the foreigner, that hath joined himself to Jehovah, speak, saying, Jehovah will surely separate me from his people; neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. For thus saith Jehovah of the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and hold fast my covenant: Unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. Also the foreigners that join themselves to Jehovah, to minister unto him, and to love the name of Jehovah, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and holdeth fast my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. The Lord Jehovah, who gathereth the outcasts of Israel, saith, Yet will I gather others to him, besides his own that are gathered.” Isaiah 56:1-8 (ASV)
This has been a good week for Vicki. She has learned so much and has enjoyed herself. Sadly, I’m sure summer camp will not be a good experience for every child this summer. Some will be left out of the fun simply because they are different from the rest. They are like foreigners in a foreign land. They might be picked on or bullied, laughed at or called terrible names. They will never really know the joy of being part of the group and will probably never return.
I wonder how often people have walked away from our churches or even personal relationships with us because they were made to feel like unwelcome strangers in a foreign land. We need not accept the ideology they bring into the relationship, but we have to consider that they are saved by the grace of God just as we have been and that God does not keep His gifts locked away for just those for whom we approve. He welcomes the foreigner and gives them the grace we sometimes want to hold for ourselves. For this we should be eternally grateful, since we too were once foreigners but He loved us enough to save us, too. Thanks be to God.