Welcome to the March 2001 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves. Where scripture is quoted, I used the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.
A WORD FOR TODAY, March 2001
March 1, 2001
Wiseacre It is said that this word came into existence in the pub called the Devil on Fleet Street in London. Ben Jonson was a writer and actor who lived during the Elizabethan years in England. While visiting the pub a local landowner boasted of his wealth. It is said that Jonson replied, "What care we for your dirt and clods? Where you have an acre of land, I have ten acres of wit." The gentleman retorted by calling Ben, "Good Mr. Wiseacre."
Though Ben Jonson was able to write and answer with great wit, his wisdom was not necessarily one we should emulate. He was known to be arrogant and to lose his temper. He shot and killed Gabriel Spencer in a dual. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death. Due to an ancient law that saw clergy as touched by God and above human law, Ben Johnson was released. He was not a priest, but he could read Latin, something he had taught himself to do.
He was a stubborn and angry man, but had many students. He was greatly respected by the literary establishment. He changed religions numerous times. His plays put down the establishment and foolishness of the world in which he lived, yet he was honoured by kings and queens. He was known to be wise, though his life did not always show true wisdom.
Read James 3:13-18
True wisdom comes from God and is revealed in the way you live your life. If you are quick to anger or seek to advance in the ways of the world, then your wisdom is earthly. James tells us how we can recognize those who have wisdom from heaven. They are not 'wiseacres'; they are considerate, submissive, and merciful. The fruit that is produced is the good fruit that comes from the Spirit of God. Peace follows wherever they go. Thanks be to God.
This Word first ran on March 2, 2000.
Dr. Seuss "Do you like Green Eggs and Ham?" "I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like green eggs and ham."
Theodore Seuss Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, wrote these infamous words. Dr. Seuss was born on March 2, 1904. Today we are celebrating the utter foolishness written by this man. This literature that seems to have no reason within has made an incredible contribution to the education of our children.
Children love to sit and read Dr. Seuss books because they have fun pictures, interesting characters and exciting stories. The catchy rhythms catch the attention of the children and draw them into the stories. The repetition helps them to learn to read the simple words and patterns used. The stories, though they seem silly, are filled with life lessons which help the children learn and grow. In Green Eggs and Ham, Sam-I-am convinces his friend to try something new. After fifty pages of certain disgust at the thought of eating green eggs and ham, the gentleman discovers that he likes them.
That which seems like foolishness is filled with wisdom.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:20-25
In today's world, so much of the Christian message is viewed as foolishness. We are called to submit to God, and yet the world claims there is no God. We are called to love our neighbor, and yet the world says that we should love our selves. The Gospel tells us that God in flesh died so that we might have life. What foolishness! Yet, God is wiser and more powerful than anything we can imagine, and we know that He loved His children so much that He did everything necessary to reconcile us to Him. I'll take Dr. Seuss above a grammar book and God's foolishness above my wisdom, any day!
Public Speaking On a rerun of “WKRP in Cincinnati” I recently watched, Mr. Carlson was set to speak in front of a crowd of broadcasters, and he was very nervous about the experience. He received plenty of advice as people shared with him different ways to relax. He was told to practice his speech in front of a friendly audience, the employees of the radio station. Jennifer told him to imagine the entire audience in their underwear. After all, how could he be nervous with a smile on his face? Somehow Mr. Carlson got through the experience, but it is not something he would readily volunteer to do again.
In the past few years, I have had several opportunities to speak before conferences and congregations. I enjoy the opportunities to stand in front of a group to share my faith and knowledge of scriptures. I usually do not volunteer to do such tasks, perhaps because I prefer to be asked rather than seem too forward or pushy. Unfortunately, I recently discovered that if I do not let know my talents and gifts, they feel awkward about asking. After a speaking engagement in England shortly before moving, someone said, “Why do we always realize a person’s gifts on their way out the door?” The lesson I learned was that we need to ensure that those around us know how we are gifted to serve the Lord so that they can help us find the work to do. We are expected to put our gifts to work for God’s glory.
Read Luke 19:13
In this parable from Jesus, the master gave his servants money to work while he was in another country. When he returned, he found one of the servants had doubled the money. The second servant had earned half as much back. The third servant did nothing with the money, simply buried it, because he knew the master was harsh and would take the earnings for himself.
The first servant was given charge of ten cities. The second servant was given charge of five cities. The third servant received nothing, and everything he had was taken away. Jesus says in verse 26, “ I say unto you, that unto every one that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away from him.” Do not put your talents to waste. Make sure those around you know what you can do, so that they will help you find a way to serve. Jesus expects us to be doing as we are called to do when He returns. Will you be actively serving Him or simply sitting and waiting for someone to ask you to do something? God gives gifts to be used. Go and serve the Lord.
World The weather reports and news are filled with stories about severe storms and the accompanying wind, tornadoes, floods, ice and snow. Earthquakes and volcanoes are wreaking havoc on cities around the world. In other parts of the world drought is causing crops to fail, increasing the hunger and poverty in places where children are already dying. Leaders around the world seek fame, wealth and power above justice and mercy. Innocent people are dying in useless wars over things that really do not matter.
Many men look at the world and say; “There is no God.” At times, even those with great faith wonder why there is suffering in the world. We cry out to the Lord for healing and peace, yet we do not see the relief we expect from our pain. So, the world turns to its own solutions – money, material possessions, drugs and weapons of violence. They deny God and make gods of the perishable things. They try to draw us into the same tempting us with fear, anger, lust, pride and hatred. They say that power, wealth and fame are the rewards of faith. The world puts an emphasis on self glory, denying the Almighty God.
Read Psalm 115:1-8
Many deny the existence of the one true and living God. They say there is no God. Yet, they have made gods out of things that are made with human hands. Those who live by that – the ways of the world – will be as the world. The world is perishable, all things created will pass away with time. One thing is imperishable, and that is the Lord. In Jesus name, and by His blood, we can have eternal life. We know where our God is, in heaven and in us, and it is in Him that we can speak, see, hear, smell, feel, walk and cry out to the Lord. Do not be as the world, know who you are and whose you are, and continue in faith that God is in control. To God be the glory, honour and praise.
Tile Our church is under construction. God is blessing us with a larger facility so that we can expand our ministry in this town. Our programme is called, “A Holy Place for a Holy People” and this expansion has not simply been in a new building. The spiritual life of our congregation is growing through prayer and the study of God’s Word. The members are doing much of the work. They call it sweat equity, putting yourselves as well as you money into the work.
This weekend, we laid the first tiles on the floor of our new sanctuary. If ever you wondered how many Lutherans it takes to lay tile, the answer is 10. As one member knelt with trowel and tile, others were standing watching. It was an important moment for the progress, and we wanted to be a part of it. Yet, our standing there did little to help the cause. The one who was working was the one on her knees.
Read Ephesians 6:18
After the first tile was laid, we went back to work, each with their own task. Yet, at that moment we were all humbled by the greatness of the work that lies ahead for us. We do not know who will walk on those tiles. Many will come into our place, seeking a relationship with the one true and living God, to be forgiven of sin and begin life anew. We must face this work, as they did as they lay tile, on our knees in prayer.
You too must begin every task on your knees, praying at all times for God to bless your life and Christ’s church. On your knees, humbled before God in submission to His Will, you will accomplish great things for His Glory. Thanks be to God.
Icarus and Daedalus There is a famous Greek myth called Icarus and Daedalus. Daedalus, the father, was a very clever builder, so he was called to Crete to build a prison for King Minos’ Minotaur. Daedalus took his son, and they built a Labyrinth, which was impossible to escape. Minos was so impressed by the work, he did not allow the two to leave the island, locking them in a tower beside the sea. Every ship leaving Crete was searched, because Daedalus was clever enough to escape such a tower. There seemed to be no escape, but Daedalus refused to give up. He realized they could escape by air, so he used his gifts to create wings for each of them out of feathers and wax. When the wings were complete, he taught his son how to use them and warned him of the dangers. He told Icarus not to fly too high or too low – too high and the sun would melt the wax, too low and the sea mist would make the wings too heavy.
The two took off, and the flight was wonderful. Icarus felt great joy at the freedom he had flying through the air. He soared higher and higher. Daedalus shouted a word of warning, but Icarus did not hear. He rose to such a height the wax melted and his wings fell apart. He crashed into the ocean and his father was never able to find him again.
It is important for us to listen to those who teach and warn us about the dangers of life. We raise our children, warning them to stay away from the stove, to be careful when the cross the road, and to study hard. Teachers show us how to do things, and help us to avoid making the wrong decisions in life. We are blessed with people in our churches and lives that help guide and direct our path through God’s Word. As we grow in faith, it is important to listen to those God sends our way to teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness.
Read Psalm 34:8-14
When someone speaks a word of warning, such as Daedalus spoke to Icarus, it is to guard and protect you from harm. There are times in our spiritual growth that we must listen to the warnings of others, because we feel the joy and the freedom that comes from life in Christ, but we do not always see the dangers ahead. If someone has spoken a word of warning from God, listen and receive it. Do not fear the dangers that come, but know they exist and avoid them. Do not fly too high or too low. Live as you should, in truth and peace and love – in Christ. He is your refuge, and will provide all you need. Thanks be to God.
Shooting This week, yet another school is dealing with the incredible fear and pain that accompanies an event such as happened in San Diego. The school has been cleaned, repainted and the students are returning to classes today. But new paint doesn’t take away the emotional distress they have gone through. As investigators try to discover the reason this young man took a gun to his teachers and peers, one thing is clear. This boy did not hide his plans from the world. He spent the weekend telling people about how he was going to ‘Columbine’ the school. They heard and, and were concerned, but he assured them that he was kidding. An adult who overheard the statements questioned the boy, but did nothing because he thought he was kidding. They did nothing to stop the shooting.
In Little Rock yesterday, a school went under complete lock-down for most of the day. A note threatening a teacher was found and the authorities did everything necessary to avoid catastrophe. Every student, teacher and staff member were searched, as well as lockers and possessions. They heard the cry and acted upon it. They are still searching for the person who made the threat, but today there are no dead children or teachers.
People speak to be heard. When we hear what people say, good or bad, we need to act upon it. If the words spoken will bring pain or suffering, we should do all we can to stop the evil. If the words spoken will bring hope, peace, joy, love and life, then we should act upon it by doing what the speaker encourages us to do. Our Lord Jesus came speaking words of life, and He desires that we act.
Read Matthew 7:24-27
If someone had acted upon the words of the young man in San Diego, the lives of those people would not have been disrupted in such a painful way. Jesus Christ came bringing an incredible message of hope and love, but many did not hear. Even today, there are millions of Christians who have heard the message of the Gospel, but do not act upon the words Jesus spoke. Are you living a life of faith, with your house built on the rock? Or is your life of faith being built on shifting sand, as you do not obey the words He spoke? Put your faith into practice, so that the world will know the greatness of God and seek their own relationship with Him. It could be a matter of life or death.
Invisible I recently saw an episode of “Frasier” where Frasier felt invisible. Roz was in charge of a big project for the station and Frasier was going to help with it. At a meeting that was held to discuss plans for the project, Frasier repeatedly offered suggestions. Each time, Roz shot him down, turning to others for ideas. At times, the others gave exactly the same ideas and Roz loved them. Frasier became so upset by the attitude Roz was taking that he set her up by having someone else present his ideas to her. She loved them and he asked her why. She said that he always takes over things, always needs to be the middle of the attention, and this was her project.
There are times when we just get tired of listening to folk like that – people who do anything to be the center of attention. At times, we’ll even ignore everything they say, despite the fact that they are good ideas or even tell them to be quiet. At times they are so starved to be heard, that they will seek attention in a negative way.
In the days of Jesus, people who suffered from disabilities had great difficulty earning a living. They were seen as being sinful and unclean. They were set aside, received no help and no care. There was no training to be offered to help them care for themselves, so they inevitably turned to begging to make a living. During times of pilgrimage, they could be found calling outside the city gate to the pilgrims. The people passing would often ignore them or tell them to be quiet.
Read Luke 18:35-43
So often, people just want to be heard. They even may have a good idea. In the case of this beggar, he just wanted Jesus to hear his request, but the people following Jesus didn’t want him to be bothered. The beggar knew that Jesus was the Son of David, a title that referred to the Messiah, and he knew Jesus offered him hope. But the people told him to be quiet. Jesus called him over, and told him that his faith healed him. The beggar received his site and went praising God.
Do you ever face people who want to know the Saviour face to face, but you have a million reasons why you won’t share Him with them? People just want to be heard, and to know the Gospel. So, the next time you see someone calling out to Christ, don’t ignore their cry. Listen with open ears and share with them the Lord Jesus Christ.
Daniel and the Lion’s Den Daniel the Prophet lived during the time of the exile. He was found to be a great prophet by the Babylonians when he interpreted dreams and solved difficult problems with his insight, intelligence and wisdom. He was able to tell Belshazzar that the writing on the wall he had not humbled himself before God as his father Nebuchadnezzar had done. He would die because he had set himself up against the LORD. When Belshazzar was slain, Darius of Mede became the new king.
Darius appointed Daniel as one of three administrators over the rulers of the kingdom. Daniel was such a good administrator, that Darius planned to set him over all the others. The other administrators and rulers did not like Daniel, so they plotted to be rid of him forever. They went to the king and said that he should publish a decree that for 30 days everyone must worship only the king and that all that worship another god will be put into the lion’s den. When Daniel heard of this decree, he went to his room and prayed to God. He continued to pray to God despite the danger.
The administrators caught Daniel in the act of prayer and told Darius about his disobedience. Darius was disturbed by this turn of events because he had great respect for Daniel, but a written decree could not be revoked. Darius tried to save Daniel, but at sundown he was thrown into the den. Darius said, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
Daniel was left in the den, which was covered with a stone and it was sealed by the signet rings of the king and the nobles. The king could not eat or sleep through the night. At dawn, the king went to the den and called out to Daniel asking if his God had saved him. Daniel was indeed alive, protected by an angel of the Lord and found innocent before Him. The men who plotted Daniel’s death were then thrown into the den and crushed by the lions.
Read Daniel 6:25-27
In this story, God proves His faithfulness to those who continue to walk in His ways and keep their eyes set toward Him. Daniel was willing to risk His life to stay in a close relationship with God. Darius liked Daniel and would not do anything to see him hurt, but the others touched on his ego and convinced him that all were in agreement to the decree. They lied and manipulated the situation to make their plan work.
Sometimes, those in this world who do not know the Lord God Almighty allow themselves to be set up by those who hate our faith. Satan uses such people to wreak havoc on the Church and believers. They do not understand what they have done. God protects His children, and in the end all see His greatness and His power. There are times when it appears that evil is winning in our world, but we know that God has already won the war. In the end all knees will bow before the Lord. This will happen by choice or by force. Which is true of you?
Stars When we go out on a cool summer evening, we inevitably look up at the stars in the sky. In the city, even in the quieter sections of town, we can only see a few hundred, perhaps a thousand stars, but we know there are far more. The lights from the city, even our neighbour’s living room lights, block the twinkle of the fainter stars. He was a man whose life depended on the continuation of his family line. For him, everlasting life was land and sons. Even herds of cattle or household wealth were fleeting. One bad year or an outbreak of disease, and a family could be ruined. When Abraham was a younger man, he believed in local gods, household icons that brought rain, children or crops, whatever was needed to live day by day. One day, however, a strange new God spoke directly to him and said, “GO”. Abraham didn’t know where he was headed, but he took his wife and possessions and followed the voice. This God promised Abraham that he would become a great nation and that the world would be blessed through his life. After years of following the voice of this strange God, Abraham and Sara remained childless.
Time passed and in Genesis 15, Abraham was in his seventies and Sara was in her sixties, well past childbearing age. Abraham asked God about the promise. After all, he was aged and had no heirs to carry on his life. His inheritance would go to a servant in his house, rather than a son. God spoke to Abraham saying, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. So shall your offspring be.” The sky Abraham saw was filled with millions of stars because there was no city to blot out their twinkling lights. It was an incredible promise – impossible without even one son. Yet, Abraham believed the LORD, and it was credited to him as righteousness. God did not judge Abraham according to an established measure of law – there was no written law at this time. Rather, Abraham was found righteous because he responded to God’s Word with faith. True righteousness is having a right relationship with God – to trust in Him above all else; above our thoughts, desires, wishes and dreams; and to live a life of faith that shows that trust.
Read Romans 4:1-8
God fulfilled His promise to Abraham, and at 100 years old he became the father of Isaac. After Isaac was Jacob and the Israelites, then through Jesus Christ every child who believed in His name was a child of Abraham. He became the father of millions. The promise seemed impossible, but God was faithful. The promise in today’s scripture, that our sins are forgiven and forgotten, seems to be impossible. How could God forgive the things we have done against Him? Yet, we are blessed by such a promise and the faithfulness of our God through our faith in Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.
Change We were having a lovely dinner last night, the whole family eating and sharing in the fellowship of a close family unit. We were laughing and sharing stories about our day. Dinnertime in many families can be a hectic time, with kids needing to be taken to some activity or parents going to meetings. Most times, families do not even talk to each other. They simply eat and run separate directions, living their own lives. The parents are as guilty as the children are. There are times when I would just rather not even talk to anyone.
As we chatted last night, I realized how incredible my children truly are. They both spoke with wisdom far beyond their age. Zack in particular said something that made us laugh and think. He has, in the past, tended to be rather bossy toward his sister and parents. Last night he said, “I’m not so bossy anymore, I’m a changed man.” He knew he was doing something wrong and he has started to change his ways.
Read Matthew 18:1-4
We can learn so much from our children. When we do not spend time with them, we miss out on the lessons of life they can give to us. Take time to have a good dinner tonight with your family. Don’t just eat and run. Sit and fellowship. Listen to the things the children have to say, the changes in their own lives. Pray for them and with them. Grasp on to their hopes and dreams and make them part of your own vision for the future. Learn from them, about how to be humble, how to change your ways. And thank God for your children. They are a gift.
More Change Our church is undergoing a major improvement project. We are building a new worship space, fellowship hall and classrooms for our expanding educational programmes. Yesterday we came to a great moment in the process. We were able to move the furnishings from the old sanctuary to the new. After our service, everyone worked together to lifting and hauling, pushing and placing every item out of the way so the next phase of construction could begin. For many of the long time members, it was a difficult time. They had worshipped the Lord in that place for a long time. Though they love the work He is doing in our church, they were sad to see a part of their life pass away.
Since the work was heavy and dangerous, the children were corralled in the basement to keep them out of harms way. Tiny people have such a way of getting underfoot. At one point, three-year-old Mary Claire escaped and found her way into the old sanctuary. She became quite upset. We forgot to warn her about the work we would be doing. We often push the children aside, forgetting to make them a part of our experience of living in Jesus Christ.
Read Mark 10:13-16
It is a wonderful, hectic, frightening, joyous, sad and blessed time for all of us, including the children. We need to allow them to be a part of it, to sit on the lap of our Lord and be blessed by His comfort through these confusing times.
Is there some way you are keeping your children away from Jesus? I’ve heard Christian parents say that they will not push their faith on their children, wanting them to choose Jesus for themselves. They do not take them to Sunday school or pray with them, hoping that one day the children will understand and have faith.
How will they know Jesus, the changes that can occur in our life in Christ or the joy of the promises of God if we do not share our faith with them? Take the children to Jesus and let them be a part of your life of faith in every way. He will touch them, love them and bless them. Thanks be to God.
Success Success is important in our society. We want to graduate at the top of our class, rise to positions of authority in our career, have the perfect family and fill our homes with things that show the world our success. For some, the end justifies the means. How we get to the point of success doesn’t matter, as long as we reach our goals. Many believe that integrity is something that matters only at the top – that we can do whatever is necessary to get there. On an episode of ‘Designing Women’, Suzanne said, “I’m going to lie, cheat and steal my way to being the most trusted woman in America.”
We take the same attitude about our Christian walk. We justify our actions as Christians by the outcome. We have our own thoughts and attitudes about living the Christian life, and we present those thoughts in a way meant to bring others to salvation. Unfortunately, our own human response is often against God’s word, using techniques that humiliate and force or bring fear and accusation to the lost. We claim that people are no spiritual enough or we will abandon them if they do not believe as we do. We bring them to Christ by making them afraid. This is not a holy fear, however. They do not fear the Lord with a reverence that brings them on their knees in prayer and submission to Him. Rather, they fear missing out on something, or losing something, because of our own focus.
Read Romans 5:15-17
In the beginning, God created us good and gave us the freedom to do His Work as one with Him in the garden. When Adam was disobedient to the Word of God, we were removed from the Garden and every human since has been born into a sinful existence. We try to be like God, choosing our own way of doing things rather than His way. Salvation comes from one place – Jesus Christ. We can try to justify our actions by the outcome, after all it is by our words and deeds that people see and hear the message of Christ. However, it is only by His Spirit that they know the Truth of the Gospel, and that Spirit is not in fear, force, humiliation or accusation. Speak the Word of God today – in the peace, love and joy of our Lord Jesus, and do all things in His name for the Glory of God the Father.
Yeast When making bread or donuts, it is interesting to watch the yeast. It is a living organism, so when the proper life giving ingredients are added, it breathes and grows. The reaction of the yeast to sugar and water causes the dough to rise. Yeast ferments, which is why it is also used in the production of alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine. It has been used for thousands of years, ever since the days of the Egyptians, though it was not until the last few centuries that scientists have gained an understanding in how yeast works.
Yeast is also used for flavouring foods. The yeast works its way through the dough or liquid and enhances the flavour of the other ingredients. It gives the food a better texture, making it more pleasurable to eat or drink. Yeast has long been a valuable additive to food and is found today in everything from snacks to meat products.
In Matthew 13:33, Jesus compared the Kingdom of God to yeast. He also repeatedly warned the people to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. As in all things in our world, yeast may be good or bad. The Pharisees and Sadducees were living self-righteously, teaching the people and placing a heavy burden on their lives, while they were self-righteous in their words and actions. They lived according to the Old Covenant and considered themselves better than the rest.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, many of the followers of the Way considered themselves to be better than others, falling into sin because they were boasting in the wrong things, just like the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Read 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Eat the bread of life, the bread that has the kingdom of God running through His life, the bread that is Jesus Christ. Do not eat bread that will perish. Fill yourself with God’s Word, in prayer and study of the scriptures. In this world today, there are many ideas about Christianity that are working their way into the belief systems of many. Unfortunately, they are of the Old Covenant, not of the Way of Jesus Christ. Rid yourself of any teachings that do not fill you with the truth.
Julius Caesar “Beware of the Ides of March,” a seer once told Julius Caesar. However Caesar was a man without fear. He expanded the Roman world by conquering many lands. His success led to his destruction, since his rule became oppressive. As he conquered more and more peoples, he took upon himself a title that was not deserved, but seized. He became a dictator, taking away the authority of other men. “I came, I saw, I conquered,” words spoken by Caesar, speak not only to his military victory but also to every aspect of his life.
When the seer warned Caesar of the impending doom, he was indifferent. Men who he deemed loyal surrounded him. Take Marcus Brutus, his friend and a man who he pardoned from punishment. On March 15, 44 BC, Brutus led a group of upper statesmen in the murder of Julius Caesar. They were unhappy with the manner in which Caesar had usurped their authority. He named himself dictator of the empire, making the Senate worthless. Caesar expected men like Brutus to remain loyal because they reached their positions of authority by his grace. They did what they felt was necessary for the empire.
Caesar was not God; he was not even a god. He was a man who stepped over the line of his given authority and stole an empire. However, murder is never a right solution.
Read 1 Peter 3:8-12
We do face oppression in this life from authorities that try to take more power than is given to them. They use the ways of deceit and violence to gain a higher place in this life. Though this is wrong, we should not repay the deceit and violence with the same. When you feel you have been wronged do not seek revenge, but rather turn your eyes to God and let Him deal with the evil.
Cream Cheese There is a commercial on TV for Philadelphia brand cream cheese. A pretty angel is sitting on white, fluffy clouds preparing to eat a bagel, which is loaded with cream cheese. She says, “I love heaven because I can use real Philadelphia cream cheese on my bagel.” She thoroughly enjoys eating the bagel. Then she says, “I think bagels without Philadelphia should be a sin.” Lightning flashes and thunder rumbles as God reminds the angel who decides what is sinful and what is not. She says, “It was just a suggestion!”
How often do we decide what is sinful? Throughout history, moral authority has been based on societal pressures. There have been pockets of time when words or actions that seem normal to us, have been deemed inappropriate behaviour and called sin. Dancing, smoking and drinking have often been banned by the religious leaders. Every society has an expectation for proper dress and behaviour. Those who do not fit the mold of the day are called sinners. More tolerant societies tend to place the label on those who preach and teach against the things, which are accepted by the majority. In today’s world, those who speak against certain behaviours are guilty of judging, hatred and intolerance.
So, how do we define sin? We should not be disobedient to the laws prescribed by the world, but there is only one who decides what is sin. Sin is anything that separates us from God.
Read Psalm 5:4-8
While sin separates from God, it is only by God’s grace that we can be brought back into relationship with Him. It is by His mercy, His love, His standard in Jesus Christ that we can approach His throne and live in His life. God is in control. Let Him decide what is sin, and provide the measure by which you are made clean. Thanks be to God.
St. Patrick Earlier this week, I received a mailing offering the true story about Patrick driving the snakes from the shores of Ireland. This mailing came from a person who is a pagan. The myth claims that Patrick beat a drum and caused all the snakes to dive into the sea. Another legend claims that there was one ornery serpent that refused to go. Patrick made a box and told the serpent to get inside. The serpent claimed it was too small. Patrick was certain he would fit, so the serpent said he would prove it by getting inside. When the serpent was in the box, Patrick slammed the lid shut and threw the box into the sea.
Ireland never had snakes, so this story has no truth in it, or does it? According to the mail I received, Christians used the snake as a symbol of paganism. Apparently the ‘snakes’ driven from the shores were people, not animals, and that Patrick committed genocide to rid the island of the non-believers. The writing claims that many people died at the hands of Patrick.
Though I have not found any record of such genocide in the history of Ireland, in a spiritual sense this story may be very true. As Patrick neared death, he shared his testimony in a statement called “The Confession of St. Patrick.” In this writing, he tells of his life in bondage of slavery, his escape, his training in missionary work and his return to the land of his captors. After he’d been in Ireland for a number of years, he sought passage back to his home in England. The ship refused to take him, so he returned to his hut and prayed. The captain changed his mind. The ship was filled with pagan sailors. It is likely that they were slave traders, a typical occupation in that day and age. Patrick was with them on the ship for three days. Then they spent 28 days roaming through deserted country. They grew hungry and weak. The pagans came to Patrick and asked why he would not pray to his God for them.
Patrick said, “Be truly converted with all your heart to the Lord my God, because nothing is impossible for Him, that this day He may send you food on your way until you be satisfied; for He has abundance everywhere.” Patrick writes that by the help of God, a herd of pigs came and satisfied their hunger. The pagans that Patrick met on that ship did suffer death – death to their own selves in Christ.
Patrick went back to Ireland after being trained in missionary work. He was not the first missionary to be sent to that land, but he was by far the most successful, bringing thousands of people to faith in Christ Jesus. The nation was transformed, no longer trading slaves or sacrificing humans. The people died to the old way of life, but lived in Christ.
So, the pagan writer was right, Patrick killed the pagans – spiritually. But while he is mourning the death of his spiritual ancestors, we can rejoice with the angels at those who have found true life in Christ because of St. Patrick. In his confession, Patrick showed himself in true humility and obedience to God. He thought himself to be the least among his brethren, a sinner and unlearned. Yet he spoke boldly about His Lord Jesus Christ, and changed the world in which he lived.
Read 2 Corinthians 10:1-5
There will be some offended by the message in today’s writing – to see death so boldly proclaimed. Yet, we are fighting a spiritual battle. God’s Word has the power to kill and to bring to life. Patrick has been honoured over the centuries as a man who brought life to the island of Ireland. Today there is someone who wants to place blame on this man for the death of many. Let us take that thought and make it captive and obedient to Christ! Patrick brought death to the Irish. Even more so, however, he brought true life, that which was bought by the blood of our Lord Jesus. Thanks be to God.
Counterfeit Several years ago there was a story about two men in Australia who decided to get rich quick. They created the perfect one million-dollar bill – American dollars and took it to the bank to be deposited. They thought that by using a counterfeit American dollar in a foreign bank, they would be long gone before the bank knew it was fake. Unfortunately for the men, the bank teller was smarter than they and they were arrested for trying to pass off a denomination of dollar bill that did not even exist. The Treasury department does not even produce a million-dollar bill.
When I was in high school, there was another story of counterfeiting. At that time, soda machines were just beginning to take dollars and copy machines were becoming quite advanced. The boys who hung out in the print shop discovered that a photocopy of a dollar bill was close enough to the real thing for a soda machine to recognize it. So, they kept themselves in soda for a few days until the school figured out what was happening.
Those who make counterfeit money generally use denominations that are heavily used. Today, they use twenty-dollar bills because they are small enough to be highly used, but large enough to make it worth their time. The amount of change adds up more quickly. Yet, people rarely question a twenty. It is foolishness to try to counterfeit something that does not exist. There will be no question as to its validity – million-dollar bills just do not exist, so there is no question whether or not it is true.
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:7-10
Satan is much more intelligent than the two guys in Australia. He does not counterfeit that which does not exist. Rather, he takes the truth of God and adds a twist, and though it appears real, it is not. God still performs miracles, signs and wonders. He is active in His creation even to this day, showing His love through healing, visions and dreams. We must be very careful to discern those events because Satan is also performing. We must line up all our experiences and revelations to the written Word of God, the Bible. God speaks to people but He will only speak that which has already been spoken. There is nothing new under the sun, but it is new to individuals. Listen and hear God speaking to you this day, through His Word and creation.
Coffee Shopping for books is becoming a whole new experience these days. Bookstores are no longer just stark shelves of books. There are often comfortable chairs so that you can relax while you skim through the books and decide which you would like to purchase. Many places have even opened coffee bars to sell cups of cappuccino or flavoured coffees to enjoy while you browse.
Several of the Christian bookstores in our area offer free cups of coffee to their shoppers. They have children’s play areas and plenty of staff to help you make your purchase. Finding the right materials for Bible studies or religious education programmes can be a difficult task. They want to make it as easy as they can for you to enjoy the process and find the perfect items. In some cases, it is simply a gimmick to get you into their store. In this day of easy Internet shopping, the local merchant must do something to bring people through their doors or they will go out of business. We tend to be quite cynical, thinking that there must be a selfish motive for anything free.
Read Isaiah 55:1-2
Some people are so cynical about free gifts that they refuse to visit stores that offer the extras. Many in our world reject the free gift from God and they refuse the good things He has to offer. God will provide for your every need, and as you grow in faith and trust, He will fill your heart with the desire for the good things in life. Jesus Christ is the bread of life. He is the Word made flesh. He was sent from heaven to live, die and rise again to new life so we can freely live in the love and glory of the Most High God. It costs us nothing. Eat and drink the gift of eternal life. Partake in the bread and living water that is Christ Jesus, and be satisfied. Thanks be to God.
Unexpected Company We have been preparing for a visit from family. My dad is visiting my sister and they were planning a visit later this week. There was an unexpected change in plans and they left a few days early. They drove all night and we received a phone call at 5:30 am, they were in town.
I had planned on cleaning the house today. I needed to clean the floors and vacuum. I needed to sponge the bathrooms and dust. I needed to shop for food and take care of the other details that makes a house ready for company. I did manage to get a few things finished last night, but the house is not nearly as clean as I would have liked. Fortunately, my sister and dad were coming to see us and do not mind a bit of dust on the furniture.
We never know when company may show up on our doorstep. It is good to have our house in shape at every moment, because a neighbour may visit to chat or someone may come from work to discuss important business.
Read Luke 12:35-40
Jesus could come at any moment. Throughout the Christian Church, there are many ideas about when, where and how Jesus will return. Whatever our understanding, we do know we will one day be face to face with our Saviour. Are you ready? Jesus won’t come looking at your floor or your bathtub. He will be looking at your heart. Have you taken care of all the cobwebs? Are there people to whom you need to offer forgiveness? Or do you have any unconfessed sins for which you need to ask forgiveness? Is there a member of your family or a friend that should hear the message of our Lord Jesus? Are you ready? Jesus is coming and we don’t know when. Be prepared in your heart and know that He is coming because He wants to see you. Thanks be to God.
Familiar Relationships It was a very short visit, but a lovely chance to spend time with my sister and dad. We enjoyed some food and adventures around Little Rock. We managed to get lost a few times but saw some lovely old homes and other historic buildings. We drove by the old Central High School, where the racial riots began in 1957, when Daisy Bates and eight others courageously took the steps necessary to stop segregation in the public schools.
During our day, we spent time catching up on our lives. Our geographic location has been so distant for so long, that we have lost touch on many things. We talked about our children and the lives we have made for ourselves. We shared our hopes and dreams for the future.
Through it all, we realized that in many ways we have changed. Our separate lives have provided each of us with new experiences that have shaped our thoughts and beliefs today. We also realized that much of our life is based on our early life experiences and the relationships we have with our family. The way we react to our circumstances is directed affected by our childhood. These personality traits are sometimes good, sometimes bad. As we mature, we learn to deal with the world differently. People who have grown up in a home filled with anger will lash out violently. People who grow up as a younger sibling will compete against the memory of an older child. Young girls, who grow up in homes where there is a lack of love, will often seek that love in inappropriate ways.
As we realize the aspects of our personality that are not healthy for our relationships, we can work to transform our reactions to the experiences we face. For many, it means psychological help and even medical intervention. For others, it takes no more than setting our mind to do things differently. For the Christian, the transformation comes in our relationship with Christ.
Read Matthew 19:28-30
We do not need to seek to justify ourselves before our friends and family. We do not need to gain approval or achieve the same things as those who have been part of our lives. We should not continue in attitudes of violence and hatred. As Christians, we are called to leave our old life behind, and live a life of Christ in this world. When we are transformed into His likeness, the hurts and failures of the past are washed away, granting us many blessings of hope, peace, love and joy. Thanks be to God.
Library One of the biggest tasks that I needed to accomplish during this move was to go through our books and weed out the unnecessarily volumes. We had many old college textbooks and paperbacks. These books were no longer of value and were just using up space. Some of the books were even inappropriate for us to have, such as books with illicit sex or violence. There were also books from our journey in faith, many of which taught a false gospel or doctrines that do not line up to the scriptures.
These books filled a purpose, either for information or entertainment. Yet, I found that they were no longer useful. We filled several boxes that we will give away. They will provide some source of entertainment or information for another.
As I wander through today’s bookstores, there are many books on the shelves I would not purchase for my own library. Even in the Christian stores, there are books that teach a false gospel. In magazines, newspapers and other medium such as TV and radio, there are many people who are sharing new revelations of faith that do not line up to the written Word of God.
Read Jeremiah 8:4-8
God spoke through Jeremiah so that the Israelites would know that there were some that were mishandling the Word of God. Things do not change; there are scribes today who are using a lying pen. Be careful what you read and be certain to line it up to the scriptures. God’s Word is perfect and true, but Satan is out there, adding a twist that brings confusion and sends people on a wrong path. Hear and obey the Word of God.
Bad News Yesterday was a day filled with bad news. Yet another child fell under the weight of the world and exploded in violence against his peers. A young mother in Dallas rushed to begin her job and forgot to drop her son off at the day care. He died in his car seat. Relations between the United States and Russia are strained because there is a lack of trust due to spies. Many were concerned that the space station MIR would go off course and cause serious damage or injury. It was a day filled with anger, hatred, fear, discouragement and disappointment.
Anytime things like this happen, we gather around the water cooler and the back fence to discuss how we could have avoided it. The experts on the news bring thoughts about the issues. Politicians present new laws to combat the problems. Many of the experts think the best solution to many of our problems is to be good neighbours, to be aware of people’s problems have help them in very real ways. There seems to be a trend of troubled youth going on shooting rampages around our country. Others are combating the hatred, fear and lack of hope with suicide. It may have taken just one person to reach out and touch that person to keep tragedy from happening.
The Bible offers the perfect solution. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” Who is our neighbour?
Read Luke 10:30-37
We need to be more aware of our neighbours. Is there a troubled youth in your neighbourhood who could use a friend? Are there any young mothers who need a mentor to teach them to be a good mother? Do you know of any political relations in your city, school, church or recreational activities that needs someone to bring peace and understanding?
There are many ways we can show mercy. We offer help to heal their wounds, such as the Good Samaritan. We can feed, clothe or help them find shelter from harm. We can be their friend, companion, teacher or mentor. We should offer comfort, wisdom, discipline and hope. We should always share the Gospel of our Lord. Be merciful and the world will know the Lord’s mercy through you. Thanks be to God.
Boxes It only took a few weeks for us to empty all our boxes and be fully settled in our home. Toward the end, however, there was one box that we kept tripping over as we tried to avoid dealing with its contents. There was no place to put these few items. I did not want to do the job, so I left the box sit until Bruce took care of it.
It seems that we all have things we would rather not do. Parents do not like to discipline their children. Children do not like making their beds. Teachers do not like grading papers. Pastors do not like preaching about certain topics. What jobs do you avoid?
God often calls us to do things that we would rather not do. He calls us to share the Gospel with our neighbour, but we are afraid we’ll sound like a Jesus freak. He calls us to feed the poor, but we don’t want to give money to a drunk. He calls us to rebuke or correct a brother, but we think, “Who am I to do this? I’m not perfect or intelligent enough to do what God wants me to do.” We ask God for confirmation, for a clear sign that it is Him that we are hearing. We put off the task because we fear recrimination or we have doubts of the calling.
Read John 14:8-12
I put off emptying that box until someone else did the job. How often do we put off what God is calling us to do until He gives the task to someone else? They are the ones who experience the incredible power of God in their lives. They receive the joy and peace from doing His Work. God is still moving in His people in powerful ways. Are you experiencing the greater things of God’s Kingdom in obedience to His calling? Or are you waiting for the right sign? Step out in faith knowing that God will never give you more than you can handle, and that it is His power that accomplishes the task. Thanks be to God.
Light The new fellowship hall of our church has been a dark, damp catch-all for the garbage of construction. The workers have used that space to cut sheetrock and to do the other messy tasks of construction. There are a couple of windows and they hung a few small lights so they could see. However, the room itself was very uninviting. We often went in there and wondered how it would ever serve its purpose as a hall for fellowship.
The crews put a great deal of work into the room this week. The garbage was cleaned off the floor and the lights were installed. Though work still needs to be done, the room is now bright and airy. We can now imagine the joyous celebrations that will be held there as we share our love of Christ with each other and the world.
There was light in the room, but it wasn’t enough. The same can be said for the Jews in Paul’s day. Many of them came to know the Lord Jesus, but they were not transformed completely by that knowledge. They held on to the things of the Old Covenant, the laws, which they were requiring of all who came to know Jesus. Unfortunately, they were not living by that law, they were simply teaching about it.
Read Romans 2:17-24
The Jews were meant to be a blessing to the world, to shine the light of Christ so that all would know the greatness of the one, true and living God. However, they did not live according to the words they were teaching and the world rejected God for it. What about our walk in Christ? Are we lights to the world or is the world blaspheming God because of our actions? The dark, damp fellowship hall had the potential to become a place of celebration and joy, but it seemed like a pit. When the garbage was cleaned out and the light filled the space, we could see the possibilities. What garbage is still hanging around in your life, making it impossible for God’s light to fill your light? Get rid of the garbage and let His light shine so that the world will speak blessings, not blaspheme because of you. Thanks be to God.
Discouragement I met a Christian man in a chat room recently who was very discouraged. He had been run off the road by a carload of young people. The car had a bumper sticker identifying them as Christians. We do not know for sure if the people in the car were actually Christian. The bumper sticker could have been from a previous owner. This does not negate the discouragement many people are feeling.
A friend has left her church. The pastor was not preaching the Gospel but rather some false Christ and when she spoke up the elders of the church set her aside. The pastor was preaching words that tickled their fancy, and they didn’t want to hear the truth. That pastor and those elders were not living according to God’s Word. They were lying, cheating, stealing and committing adultery. They talk the talk but do not walk the walk.
Other Christians are feeling the same discouragement. Many ministries spend more time promoting their products than the do sharing God’s Word. Christian websites are filled with money making opportunities. The temple is becoming a marketplace to sell tapes, books, videos or health care products. Even churches are filled with shops where visitors and members can buy these materials.
The world sees God through us. The man in the chat room said, “What sort of witness is it when Christians run others off the road?” My friend said, “What sort of witness is it when the leaders of the church are still acting according to the sinful nature?” What sort of witnesses are we in this world? Do they see God and our desire for Him? Or does the world see our material wants and wishes?
Read Psalm 42:1-11
What sort of witness is it when we do not walk the walk that we talk? The writer of this Psalm was also discouraged. In the midst of our discouragement, we have one thing on which we stand. That is our hope in God our Father. When the world looks at you and asks, “Where is your God?” turn your eyes to Christ and live in His love, so that the world will see Him in you. God has not forgotten you or His promise. Thanks be to God.
Value One of the greatest reasons for our discouragement is the lack of encouragement we receive. Ministers, whether ordained or lay, work to share the Word of God with the world. For their effort, they are often persecuted, abandoned or shamed. The man from the chat room and my friend in yesterday’s devotional both thought that they were being ignored. They thought they were alone in their fears and hurt.
We have to always remember that when the words we speak about God are rejected that it is God who is being rejected. Yet, at times it is good to be encouraged by our brethren. I recently read a quote from Oswald Chambers that reminded me why I do what I do. “There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfill His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purposes, and yours may be that life.”
Read 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
I will take Oswald Chambers’ words one step further. Your life is of priceless value to God’s purpose. He sent His Son to the cross so that you could be in that personal relationship with Him, and so that He could accomplish His purpose through you. Everything that God does is a miracle. Every good and perfect work of the Holy Spirit brings the world closer to the moment of full reconciliation to our One, True and Living God. All this because Jesus Christ loved you so much that He died in your stead, making you a priceless part of God’s Kingdom. Thanks be to God.
Wisdom Bruce is working on his final class for his bachelor’s degree. He will graduate in May. It has been a long process for him, many years of one or two classes at a time. He can finally see the end of this long journey. We are very proud of the work he has done, and look forward to what opportunities he will find when he retires from the Air Force and moves on to the next phase of his life.
Educational opportunities abound for adults in our society. Universities are offering classes that can be taken via mail order, Internet or night class at extension campuses. A degree is available to anyone who has the time and money to spend on the required classes.
We can easily gain a degree, but do we find wisdom in the hallowed halls of academia? I recall my first day at the university. One of the speakers addressed the freshman class with this famous line, “Look to your left and to your right. One of you will not make it to graduation.” For many students, time at college is a time to party and get a piece of paper that will get them a good job when they finally grow up.
For those who are sincere about their desire to find wisdom, where can they find it? Many seek wisdom through studying at school or reading books, magazines and newspapers. They seek wisdom at the feet of teachers and professors. They will pay any price in the hopes that they will find what they seek. In the book of Job, chapter 28, Job describes the search for wisdom like mining for precious jewels. He says that wisdom cannot be bought.
Read Job 28:20-28
We can get an education, learn new things and get a degree. We can stay on top of current events and understand the things of this world. We can buy knowledge by purchasing books and attending lectures. But there is only one place we can find wisdom. It is only in a right relationship with God – awesome reverence of His power and a turning from our evil ways – that we can know true wisdom. Thanks be to God.
Forgive and forget The kids are on spring break this week. Spending so much time together always leads to those moments of sibling bickering. One or the other finds something to complain about, such as not playing a certain game or being too pesky. They whine and pick at each other until it drives me out of my mind.
Yet, the next moment, I hear laughter and playful banter coming from their rooms. One minute they are at each other’s throats, but then they forgive each other and can play like nothing happened. Unfortunately, it is not so easy for adults to forget. Very often, family fights last for years, never coming to a place of forgiveness. At times, those battles divide families so much so that they never see one another. At other times, the family still gathers, but there is an underlying tension. Past sins simmer in the back of their hearts and minds. They may say that they forgive, but they never forget. Thank God His ways are different.
Read Psalm 130
We can learn so much from our children and we should learn from God. Adults are able to say the words, “I forgive,” but they often do not forget. The past sins are brought up over and over again. Jesus Christ came to forgive our sins, and for his sake God no longer remembers. The Psalmist looked forward to the day that God would redeem Israel. We have that redemption today, in our Lord Jesus Christ. I know my Redeemer lives and for that I am eternally grateful. In thanksgiving, we should walk in His ways and not only forgive the sins against us, but also forget. We can do this with God’s help. Ask Him to help you not only forgive but also forget. Thanks be to God.
Clothing One Sunday, a congregation came to church to be greeted by a dirty, horrible looking man sleeping on their doorstep. The members looked at him with disdain, walked over him as they entered into worship. They settled into their seats and awaited the pastor to begin the service. They chatted with each other; they shared news of their week. Not one member took a moment to help the man on the doorstep.
A few minutes after the service was scheduled to begin, the pastor still had not entered the sanctuary. A loud noise at the doorway drew the attention of the congregation. They saw the dirty man from the stoop entering into their haven. Sounds of shock and dismay echoed through the hall. The man walked to the front of the church, entered into the pulpit and took off his hat. The congregation was humbled and embarrassed to discover that it was the pastor. He was testing them, to see if they heard or understood the Word of God, which he preached to them Sunday after Sunday. (The originator of this story above is unknown, found on the Internet in email.)
Read James 2:1-6a
The remaining verses of James 2 talks about living your faith. Do your actions show that you have heard the Word of God and are living according to that Word? Or do you climb over the poor and needy on your way to worship God? True worship of God is to love your neighbour, be merciful to all that God puts in your path, and glorify God in all your actions. Do not simply pay lip service to God, because some day He may test you, just as the pastor tested his congregation. It is a life of faith in action that God is calling us to live. Thanks be to God.
Hunger Felix gets fed in the morning, when we are getting breakfast for the rest of the family. It is nearly impossible to fix a bowl of cereal for the kids since he is underfoot until the minute his food is put in the bowl. We generally try to do his breakfast first, so that he’ll stay out of our way. Some mornings he gets hungry early. So, he decides it is time for the rest of the family to get up. This morning his first try was at 3:30 a.m. He sat next to Bruce loudly purring and tapped him on the shoulder. Bruce petted him and tried to go back to sleep. Felix repeatedly tapped him on the shoulder and sought his hand for petty. It didn’t work. Bruce went back to sleep and succeeded in ignoring him.
At 4:30 a.m. it was my turn. Felix sat next to me purring loudly and tapped me on the shoulder. I petted him and told him it was not time to get out of bed, to go back to sleep. It did not help. He continued to tap me on the shoulder and he put his cold, wet nose to my face in an attempt to startle me awake so I would go feed him. It didn’t work. I went back to sleep and succeeded in ignoring him.
The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. We needed to be up this Saturday, but not quite that early. We intended to use the snooze alarm to ease ourselves out of slumber. But this time Felix was relentless. He knew that that alarm meant someone had to get out of bed. Bruce decided that he would go feed Felix despite the fact he did not need to be up so early. Felix ate, was satisfied and is now sleeping comfortably once again.
Read Romans 5:18-21
We are born with a sinful nature. We hunger for things that are not God’s intent for our lives. We act upon our lusts, and those actions separate us from God. We know we are sinning against God because we have the law that shows us like a mirror our sinful nature. However, we have the Lord Jesus Christ, who makes us righteous by His life. Felix was hungry. In his hunger, he bothered us to feed him. When the alarm went off, like the law, he increased his behaviour until someone fed him. When he finally got what he needed, his joy was incredible and now he’s at peace.
We are born with a sinful nature. As we grow and mature, we learn the rules and realize the difference between right and wrong. It is in that knowledge we realize our own sinful nature. Grace is being forgiven for our trespasses. Jesus Christ brought that forgiveness to us on the cross. Sin increased because we became aware through the law that we were not doing according to God’s will. Grace increased because Jesus Christ died for us all. In Christ, we are righteous in God’s eyes and we will have eternal life with Him. What a glorious message! Thanks be to God.