Welcome to the May 2002 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.
A WORD FOR TODAY, May 2002
May 1, 2002
Hubble Space is a mystery to those of us who live on earth. We look up at the night sky to see twinkling lights, distant cloud-like features and other unexplainable entities against the darkness and find it difficult to comprehend the truly expansive depths of the heavens. In the ancient days, man thought that the heavens were a large dome that circled around the flat and stable earth. As the ages passed, men used their God-given intelligence to study the heavens and learn more about the mysteries of space. With the invention of telescopes, we were able to see that some of the shining lights were planets or comets. We could see that the clouds were other galaxies. Even then there was still much we did not know.
Telescopes make it possible to see things we cannot see with the naked eye, but they are still affected by the atmosphere of the earth. As our technology developed, we learned how to send rockets with cameras and equipment to explore the other planets and the expanse of the universe itself. In the middle of the 20th century, artists and writers were just dreaming of the possibilities and today we’ve seen the fulfillment of many of those visions.
NASA has recently released pictures of galaxies taken by the Hubble space telescope. These incredible pictures show us what we can only imagine the universe to look like as we stargaze on a summer’s evening. They almost appear to be right out of those science fiction stories – exploding clouds, masses of stars, UFO shaped images. Through the gifts of many astronomers over the ages, many of the mysteries of space have been revealed to us. There is much more to learn, but today we can see that which was not even imagined in ancient times.
The Hebrews knew God through their fathers. The Lord God Almighty revealed Himself to men like Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He spoke through prophets like Samuel and Jeremiah and He worked through kings like David and Solomon. Even though the people knew the LORD, there were still mysteries about which they had no understanding. Christ came as the final and complete revelation of God to His people. He took on the flesh of man to reveal the truth of God’s love and mercy, and then He died to make it possible for all men to be reconciled to Him and each other. There was one great mystery that still needed to be revealed.
Read Colossians 1:24-29
The greatest mystery was that Christ died for all men, not just the Jews. Modern technology has made it possible for us to see the great and incredible work of our Creator far beyond our own backyard. God has given men gifts and abilities to study and understand His creation for the tiniest microbes to the largest galaxies, and through this knowledge we can know the depth of God’s love for us. The universe is an incredibly large place and God is far bigger than His creation. This great and awesome God loves us so much that He comes to each of us personally, to dwell within us and lead us on the paths of righteousness. He does this for everyone. As Paul labored to share the Gospel, may God always bless us with the gifts necessary to continue the work and share Christ with the world. Though there are still mysteries about the Lord God Almighty, we do know the most important thing – God loved, Christ died, we believe. Thanks be to God.
Root Stimulator Our church recently finished a building project, which nearly doubled the size of our building. We added a lovely sanctuary and new classrooms, necessary additions to support our ministry. There are still a few touches that to be completed, the typical fixes that accompany new construction. This week we began on of the final projects, the landscaping. The plants chosen for our property are not only beautiful, but they are also necessary for proper drainage to protect the foundation and to stop erosion caused by rain. The shrubs and flowers will enhance the look of our church and keep the building from being destroyed by water damage.
One of the products the landscaper added to our order is a root stimulator. This will help the plants to grow stronger, faster and fuller. In an attempt to save a few dollars, it would have been easy for us to ask if the root stimulator is really necessary. Couldn’t we save a few bucks by eliminating this step? It would be foolish to do so, because the product will save us money in the long run, since strong, healthy plants are less likely to die.
The physical building is just part of our building project. We have also been building our ministry in the community. It would be very easy, in the midst of the construction work and planning our new programs, to set aside prayer. We do this in our private lives also, thinking we just do not have the time to pray. However, prayer is the root stimulator necessary for all the seeds we plant in ministry – to help them grow.
On September 11, our nation faced the most horrendous act of violence we’ve ever known. In the days and months following the tragedies in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. Americans have sought opportunities to gather together and share in prayer for our nation. Church attendance rose, Bible sales went up and people began to talk about faith. Seeds were planted because many were seeking something to fill the void in their life. People who had never darkened the door of any sort of religious institution found themselves in the pews listening to the message of the Gospel. Many Christians were excited about what they saw happening in this country. But as with all things, the excitement waned and we set aside prayer for other things.
Read 2 Chronicles 7:13-15
Today is the National Day of Prayer and people all over America will join together in prayer for our nation, its leaders and each other. Many cities are planning opportunities for corporate prayer – in churches or other institutions and in front of government buildings. We cried out together in September for healing and for peace. We got a little lost along the way, but now is as good a time as any for us to cry out to God to bring growth to the seeds that were planted after September 11. Find time today to join with your brothers and sisters in Christ to ask God for His blessings on His creation. And may today be just the beginning of a long outpouring of prayer to our Lord God Almighty in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Festival Zack’s school had a festival last night, the annual spring fundraiser for the PTA, and an opportunity for the children to actively participate in the culture of the country we have studied this year. The country has been Mexico, so the theme of the festival was “Cinco de Mayo.” The food area was decorated to look like a marketplace. There were crafts and games that were typical of the things children might do. Several demonstrations were offered so that the children and parents could see how to make tortillas and how to spin yarn. There were dancers and a singer. We even had a petting zoo and pony rides.
One of the favorite booths sold cascarones. These are eggshells filled with confetti and covered with tissue paper. At the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, children crack these over their friends’ heads. The children loved sneaking up on people with their eggs and surprising them with the burst of confetti, as the egg was broken. The game left an incredible mess all over the school grounds. I found myself to be the victim of two attacks! The children laughed as they ran to get away from me – they knew I was ready to return the favor.
The food was delicious, the games were fun and the displays were educational for the children. It was a wonderful experience for everyone. Though we left tired by all the work and play, we were happy. Vicki had helped at one of the craft tables. Zack won a bunch of prizes. I was just pleased to see the children have so much fun.
Read Acts 8:4-8
Have you ever wondered what it must have been to be one of those early disciples? They faced incredible persecution. As a matter of fact, most of them died horrible deaths for their faith. They were attacked physically, emotionally and spiritually for the work they were doing. Not everyone who heard their message received it. Yet, they saw incredible growth in followers of the Way. Whole villages accepted Christ and saw the work that was done in His name. The disciples saw the great joy that followed the message of God’s love through belief in Jesus Christ; they saw people freed from the oppression of dis-ease in spirit and body.
The festival took a great deal of work to accomplish. It rained yesterday, making it necessary to change plans quickly so that the party could go on. There were a few problems – the children did not obey all the rules, some parents got impatient with waiting and the school grounds were left in complete disarray. But it was all worth the trouble because of the joy the children experienced.
In today’s church we do not see the same incredible growth and experiences that the early disciples did. However, we still see the joy when just one new heart comes to know and believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. He is still working today, through us, to bring joy into the hearts of His Creation. May God grant us the strength to get through the difficulties of witnessing for His kingdom so that we might see that joy in the lives to those whom we speak the Gospel of Christ. Thanks be to God!
Diocletian Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus was the Roman Emperor from 285-305 A.D. The Roman Empire was beginning to fall. The troops were threatening to revolt, particularly those on the distant edges of the empire. Diocletian reorganized the empire, making four regions that were governed by two emperors and two caesars. Though Diocletian ruled the entire empire, it was divided administratively and Diocletian chose the rulers of each region. He believed the gods had chosen him to rule; he regarded himself and Maximian as ‘sons of gods and creators of gods.’ The changes he made in the empire worked, and the anarchy was ended. However, under his rule the empire became a theocracy, a government by a god as the ruling power. Diocletian was that god.
Since religion and government became one, those who did not believe in the religion of the government were persecuted. Diocletian was responsible for unleashing the last great persecution of the Christians. He promised that no blood would be spilled, and yet his edicts brought pain and suffering to those who did not reject their faith in Christ. Though many died at the hand of Diocletian, the Christian faith did not. The faith of the martyrs burned on in the hearts of those who remained and Christianity continued to spread.
Two of the saints who were persecuted under the cruelty of Diocletian were Pelagia and Florian. They died on May 4, 304, though in different locations and circumstances. Pelagia was a beautiful young girl, the daughter of a pagan who came to faith in Christ. It is said that Diocletian’s son wanted her for his wife, but she refused. Diocletian himself tried to convince her to return to the faith of the Romans, but when he failed she was tortured. They put her in a bronze bull and roasted her to death. Florian was a Roman soldier who had been converted secretly. One day he decided to confess his faith to his superior who tried to restore him to the Roman faith. He was tortured but would not give in. They peeled his skin from his body, then rather than kill him honorably with a sword he was drowned in the River Enns.
We cannot imagine the suffering of this woman and man. If Diocletian had kept his vow of no bloodshed, they would not have undergone such horrible deaths. Yet, their stories are a reminder to us that man’s word is not always trustworthy, but the Word of the Lord is. Pelagia and Florian knew that no matter what happened to their bodies, they would be with the Lord forever.
Read 1 Peter 5:6-11
As we look at the lives of those who have passed before us, may we always be reminded of their faith in Christ and their trust in God’s promises. No matter what we face in this world, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and our life in Him will bring us through the suffering and pain. Satan wants us to deny Jesus. He wants us to hide our faith. He wants us to turn back to our old ways. He is willing to do whatever is necessary to make us reject the mercy of God. Reject Satan and his ways, leaning only on God’s mighty hand and grace. He will take care of you. Thanks be to God.
Today's writing was first posted on May 4, 2001. This annual festival in Conway, Arkansas is this weekend and remains a favorite of the locals. The message is timeless as well as timely.
Toads The nearby town of Conway, Arkansas is celebrating their annual festival this weekend. It is called “Toad Suck Daze.” This strangely named festival is a weekend of fun, music, and community spirit. They have toad races and other contests, concerts by local bands as well as internationally known recording stars. There is an emphasis on children with activities to keep them busy as well as opportunities for local high school students to receive scholarships to attend the local university. It is a fun time for all and the benefits for citizens and community are extensive.
Where did they come up with such an unusual name for their festival? The legend goes back into the steamboat days. Toad Suck Lock and Dam was located near Conway. As the steamboat crews moved along the Arkansas River, they often had to stop to wait for the channel to fill. They spent their time at a tavern, drank and carried on so much that the locals would say, “They suck on the bottle ‘til they swell up like toads.”
Of course, today Faulkner county Arkansas is alcohol-free, the tavern has long disappeared and the steamboats no longer move along the river. Today, the people of Conway, Arkansas continues to carry on in the streets of the town, but the fun is much different. They share community spirit with good, clean activities that will please the whole family.
In the steamboat days, the local community received some benefit from the time the crews spent in their town. The crew spent money on drink and food, which provided the residents with income to live. However, the residents had to put up with brawling and drunkenness. Today, the festival of Toad Suck Daze profits the town in many ways, not just financially. The old times are remembered, but done in a whole new way.
Read Matthew 9:14-17
Toad Suck Daze are wonderful, but if alcohol were a part of the celebration, many of the good things would be ruined by the foolishness of drunkenness. The Old Testament ways had some benefit to those who lived in accordance with those laws. The Pharisees lived according to a set of rules that served a purpose to their physical well being. However, Jesus Christ came in flesh to teach us a new way of life. He warned that if they continued to live according to the laws of the old way then both the old and new will be ruined. Today, we need to remember that Jesus gave us a new covenant and that we need to live according to that grace rather than according to the rules established by man. Thanks be to God.
Dishwasher We have a dishwasher, but I don’t use it all the time. When I have just a few dishes, it doesn’t really pay to load them in the machine when I could just wash them myself. Our dishwasher is pretty good; it cleans the dishes well. However, several of our dishes have wells and others that are so light that they tip over during the wash cycle. The water is dirty with bits of grit or food that doesn’t get washed away. These dishes need to be rinsed after the machine is complete to remove this dirt. Sometimes the dishes were just too dirty or they were improperly placed in the machine. Certain food just cannot be removed by the power of the jets in the dishwasher. These dishes either need to be pre-washed or they need to be rewashed after the cycle is over.
Have you ever read a bit of scripture that simply doesn’t make any sense? I know there have been things in the Bible that have taken me several readings or even several years to understand. When I find scripture like that, I often seek the aid of others – a pastor, a friend or commentaries – with the hope that perhaps they have some insight that might help me. Sometimes it helps; sometimes it only makes things more confusing. Commentaries often give several interpretations of the scripture. On one bit of scripture Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.”
So, I have these bits of scripture that I keep filed away in the back of my head in the hopes that one day they will make sense. Often, when I’m not really even studying that particular passage, something will spark a thought that will clear up my confusion. Or, I read the passage again and something clicks. The confusion is gone as God grants clarity to the passage and understanding of His Word. Our Christian journey is not some one-time event in which we are granted perfection. It is a lifetime of growing in faith and continued learning toward a more perfect understanding of God’s grace.
Read Mark 8:22-26
This story is such a comfort to those of us who do not always see clearly that which God is speaking through His scriptures. Jesus touched the man twice. The first touch brought blurred vision, but he could see something. Then Jesus touched him again and he saw clearly. As we study the scriptures from day to day, there may be scriptures that we do not fully understand. We should not give up or doubt that we will ever understand. Jesus will touch us again and again and again until we see clearly. When you have a bit of scripture that seems confusing, pray and tell your Father what you see in the words. Just as I am willing to wash the dish twice to be certain it is clean, He will touch you again and help you to see His truth with clarity. Thanks be to God.
Kit We recently welcomed new neighbors to our street, they moved in to the house next door. They have a cat named Kit. If he were slightly larger and wore a blue collar, Kit could be Felix. They have many of the same mannerisms and even a similar meow. The one major difference is that Kit is allowed to wander outside and Felix is not. Kit often takes trips over to our house to sit on our patio or near windows to visit with Felix. He becomes highly agitated at this invasion of his space. When Kit is around, Felix roams around the house crying to get out. The other day, Kit was sitting on our patio table. I took Felix outside and set him on the table right in front of Kit. I thought perhaps the two would enjoy getting to know one another without a screen in the way. Kit began to growl. Felix sniffed the air and held his ground. Kit soon ran away and I took Felix back inside.
When I’m outside alone, Kit loves to come visit. He allows me to hold and pet him and even take him to the door to see Felix. The cats seem as though they want to be friendly, but only if there is a door or window separating them. It is frightening to be face to face. Felix is harmless – no claws, no experience in fighting. However, Kit spends most of his time outside facing the other animals – dogs, cats and even birds. Felix is larger and I think that Kit’s experiences out in the world made Felix seem threatening.
I think in many ways the world views our God, like Kit views Felix. They would much rather keep God locked inside the churches and look at him through the window. It is good and wonderful for us to believe, but they’d rather not meet Him face to face. Since the world would rather not face God, it is much easier for us to keep Him inside our churches – why take Him out where He will be rejected? However, we have been made witnesses by the grace of God to testify to the love of Christ and share Jesus with the world.
Read Romans 15:17-22
I will take Felix out again if and when the opportunity presents itself. They are both sweet, friendly cats. There is no reason for Felix to become so agitated when Kit comes to visit, or for Kit to growl when Felix is near. They may never become friends, but it doesn’t hurt for me to try to bring them together.
Sharing God with someone who does not believe is a difficult thing to do. It takes patience and perseverance. It may take years before someone is truly willing to meet Jesus, to embrace Him and come to faith. The world will reject our testimony, many will not believe. However, our Lord Jesus has commissioned us to share His love with the world. Paul writes that he would rather preach the Gospel where it hasn’t been heard so that the lost will see and understand. If we hide inside our churches, never taking Christ into the world, many will never hear the Good News. May we also, like Paul, glory in Christ Jesus in our service to God by sharing Him with the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Decisions We are approaching the end of another school year and many students are making decisions about their futures. Seniors in high school are preparing to graduate and move on to a new phase in life. Some will move on to higher education, seeking degrees that will help them obtain jobs in their chosen professions. Others will move directly into the workforce, learning through experience and mentoring programs. At graduation, every student must leave the safe environment of high school and step out into the world. Many young people will also need to move away from home, leaving behind family and friends for a whole new life.
This is a difficult time for parents as well as their children. It is hard to let go of our children, to let them grow up and begin lives of their own. When our children are living hundreds or even thousands of miles away, we cannot help them through troubled times or protect them from the bad things in this world. We must trust that we have guided them onto a right path and that they will remember the lessons of life we’ve taught them over the years. They do not go unarmed. As parents, we spend their early years nurturing them, giving them whatever they will need to one day set out on their own. We send them with our love. The difficulty in letting go is often our own fear that we have failed to prepare them. Though we may not always see it, those life lessons become a part of their lives and our children hold on to them as they venture into the world.
Read John 16:5-15
Our children eventually leave home and begin life anew. In the case of Jesus and His disciples, it was not the children who would leave, but the Master. It was necessary for Him to finish His work on earth and move on to heaven so that the disciples could be given the Holy Spirit to continue the work. Even though Jesus could see that the disciples still did not quite understand the purpose and plan of God, He knew He had to leave. The only way they could understand was by the power of the Holy Spirit, and He could not dwell within their hearts until Jesus ascended into heaven. He spent three years teaching them about the Kingdom of God, but it would not become real to them without the Holy Spirit.
We cannot give our children the Holy Spirit, but our love does go with them when they leave home. We let go and trust that they will hold on to everything we have given them. Though they are far from our sight, we continue to be near them in our hearts, in prayer and in this modern world via computer and phone. If we are able to promise such things to our children, how much more will God be with us? Through the Holy Spirit our Lord Jesus Christ has given us everything we need to step out into the world and live lives of faith. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord, whether you are a young person deciding where to go in life or a parent sending a child into the world. Thanks be to God.
Farewell We are not leaving Little Rock, but due to Bruce’s recent promotion he is changing jobs at this base. Today his squadron and the others he has worked with for fifteen months gave him a farewell lunch. They presented him with many gifts to commemorate his work, including pictures of the airplanes and plaques describing his accomplishments. Among the gifts were a golf club and a caricature that showed some of Bruce’s more interesting characteristics and interests. The pictures were funny, but in some cases surprising – they showed aspects of Bruce we rarely see at home. One object was a set of golf clubs that were mangled as if they’d been tossed and banged around. This picture was meant to represent Bruce’s frustration on the golf course, something his friends see when they go out to play.
Charles Allen is a Methodist preacher who plays golf with a man who gets easily frustrated on the golf course. After particularly bad shots the man is known for getting rather foul-mouthed, yet Charles had never heard such language from his friend. One day Charles asked him about it and the man said, “When I am with my preacher I control myself.” Isn’t it funny how we often act differently with people, depending on who we are with?
Charles Allen used his friend’s comments for a sermon illustration and said, “Suppose one realized that he or she is in God’s presence at all times. What a marvelous difference that might make.” I think too often we walk through life daily forgetting the constant presence of our Father. I don’t think there are any Christians who would deny He is always present, yet we don’t always live as if we know He’s around. Our language, our attitudes and our actions change when we are thinking about Him. In church or when we are with our Christian friends we are more likely to act Christ-like. But when we are out in the world, it is very easy for us to revert to cursing or other such activities.
Read Luke 24:50-53
Today much of the Church is celebrating the day known as Ascension Day. It is the day we recall that our Lord Jesus was taken into heaven to dwell in the presence of His Father. In some ways this was hard for the disciples, but it was a necessary event. Jesus had to be taken into heaven so that the Holy Spirit could be sent to all believers. For a very brief period of time, God dwelt among men in flesh, limited by time and space in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was in love for all of creation that Jesus gave Himself into death, so that through the reconciliation of His blood we can be in the presence of God. However, if Jesus had remained on earth, even in His glorified body, He would continue to be limited by time and space.
So, on Ascension day, forty days after the Resurrection, our Lord Jesus was taken into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God, our Father. At Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Counselor, to dwell within the hearts of all believers. He is always with us. Thanks be to God.
Glory One of my favorite scriptures is from the book of Revelation. It is the passage from chapter four that shows what worship is like in heaven. John describes the throne room of God, a description of something so wonderful that we cannot even imagine the beauty and splendor. John’s words give us a taste of the glory we will see one day, the one on the throne “…had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.”
We think of God’s glory as something like a bright light, something so shiny and magnificent that we cannot even look at it with our own eyes. The scriptures often tell us that death comes to those who see God face to face, for His glory is too much for us to see. When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God put him in the cleft of a rock and covered him with His hand until He passed by, then Moses could see God’s back, but His face could not be seen. Martin Luther said, “We only see the glory of God from behind, in hindsight, for what He has done.”
God’s glory is not just found in this incredible scene of what it will be like in heaven; it is not only a bright light like rainbows or jewels. That vision is something that we look forward to, but will have to wait until we finish this journey of faith in this life. But we are able to see God’s glory today. We see it like Moses did, we see His back as He passes by – catching just a glimpse of the glory through what He has done. We see God’s glory in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. We see God’s glory in the testimony of the witnesses provided through the scriptures and the Christian community throughout all the ages.
Read Luke 1:46-55
Mary glorified the Lord with this song of praise and thanksgiving. She sang this when she had learned she was to be the mother of her Savior. This young girl saw God’s glory in His faithfulness, mercy and grace. She saw it in the way He lifted the humble and put the mighty in their place. She saw it in the way He kept His promises. Though she had not seen an incredible vision of heaven, she was chosen to play a role and be a witness to the incarnation of God! Her soul glorified God by bearing witness to His works.
How I long for the day when I will see heaven as John saw and recorded it in Revelation. Yet, I am amazed at what God has shown to His people in this age – His love that we can see in the life of our Lord Jesus. We can look forward to the day when we will live in His presence and will stand face to face with the Lord God Almighty. For today we can worship God as Mary did, by living lives of thanksgiving and praising Him for His marvelous works! Thanks be to God.
Green screen I love to watch the show “Whose line is it anyway?” It is amazing to watch the comedians come up with funny actions or statements so quickly. They play a variety of games, which are scored in a meaningless and random manner, with the winner earning the chance to continue to make a fool of himself or herself in the end. Though the humor can be raunchy at times, mostly it is just funny to watch the contestants use their talents to make us laugh.
One of the newer games includes a green screen and three of the comedians. A green screen is used in television production, particularly in news and weather reporting. During the evening news, the weatherman is actually standing in front of a blank screen – usually green – and the picture of the radar, satellite and forecasts are added through mixers in the control room. The weatherman can see what he’s pointing at on monitors, but it is still somewhat difficult to move his hand in the right direction, to point at the picture properly to show what he is talking about.
The game on the show uses one of these green screens. They have one comedian standing in front of it, pretending to be someone reporting the action that is happening behind. He cannot see the video that is being shown on the screen. The other two comedians give clues as to the action so that the reporter can guess what he is reporting on. Meanwhile, the reporter must answer their questions without any knowledge of what is happening. One night, the reporter was standing in front of a beach scene where elephant walruses were coming ashore, playing and mating. It is amazing sometimes how they comedians sometimes say something such as “Wow, look at that!” at just the right moment or duck when something is headed straight toward the camera.
Green screens are a wonderful technological development for television production because the picture that is put into the screen during production is much clearer than it was when the weatherman or reporter was actually standing in front of a screen with the picture. They can also be the source of frustration. The weatherman has to practice moving his hands so that he is actually pointing at the right things. It is sometimes funny to watch them as they point at one thing while talking about another. Like the game on the television show, it is almost as if the picture on the screen is a mystery to the reporter.
Read Colossians 2:1-5
Paul’s purpose for writing the letters to the churches was to encourage Christians and keep them united in love. He did this by preaching the Gospel and teaching the pure and simple doctrine of Christ. His letters were written for a specific congregation, but also for all who would read them. The letters were copied and sent to other churches and then saved forever in the New Testament for us to read. Though he did not know everything there is to know about God or the people who would read his writing, he did so in a manner that would bring encouragement to Christians for many generations.
Our own opportunities for ministry may seem like we are standing in front of a green screen, not really knowing what is happening on the video. We are called by our Lord God Almighty to share the Gospel and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ so that He will be glorified. We can only do so by the power of the Holy Spirit. May He always bless us so that we can minister in a way that will touch the lives of those who hear and bring them encouragement and love. Thanks be to God.
Mothers I like to joke with my family about Mother’s Day – I expect plenty of love and attention. After all, I say, “Every day is Father’s Day!” Though this is a joke, it was for this very reason that Mother’s Day in the United States was started. The United Kingdom already had such a day, called Mothering Sunday, which is still celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent. It was a time when apprentices could return home to attend church with their mothers, and they often took gifts or cakes.
In 1872, Julia Ward Howe began a campaign that was joined by Anna Jarvis to start such a day in the United States. The country was trying to recover from the Civil War, and Anna believed it would be mothers who would bring that healing. Anna taught about the importance of mothers in the scriptures and often prayed, “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day. There are many days for men, but none for mothers.”
When Anna died in 1905, her daughter Anna took up the cause. She spent a great deal of time and money sending letters to everyone who might help create a National Mother’s Day. She spoke whenever she could and wrote articles presenting her case. She held a special tribute service in honor of her mother in 1907 and a special service was held on the same day in Philadelphia. They had to turn away many of the people who came to the Wannamaker Auditorium that day because there was no room. Several states began to proclaim one day a year set aside for mothers and in 1914, Woodrow Wilson made the second Sunday in May a National holiday in honor of mothers.
All Anna’s hard work finally paid off, yet she became disillusioned with the whole idea when it became too commercialized. She filed a lawsuit to stop a festival in 1923 and was arrested for disturbing the peace at a women’s convention. At the service held for her mother in 1907, she gave her mother’s favorite flower – a white carnation – to everyone present. The women at the convention were selling white carnations – profiting from the sweet memories Anna had for her mother and the sentiment intended to honor her. Anna is quoted as saying “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”
Read John 19:26-27
It is typical of human nature to take something wonderful and make it unseemly, such as Mother’s Day. It is a day of great profit for many today – card companies, restaurants and florists. It is the busiest day for the phone company, as men and women pick up their phones to talk to the woman who brought them into the world. Anna regretted the work she did, and yet we should continue to honor our mothers despite the tendency of our humanness to ruin beautiful acts of love.
Today is Mother’s Day. I hope that we can each find some way to honor our own mothers and all women, for their love, courage, wisdom and strength. Anna Jarvis wanted to bring healing to the country after a devastating war through the memory of mothers. We live in a world that also needs healing, our society is filled with violence and hate, greed and fear. Let us each make this a day of peace and joy, sharing our love in whatever way we are able. I pray that we will continue the sentiment beyond today, caring for our mothers even as Jesus cared for Mary from the cross.
Nursery The person who was scheduled to watch the children in the nursery was sick yesterday with the flu, so at the last minute my daughter Vicki was asked to take care of them. When Zack found out she was going to be in the nursery, he wanted to help. I agreed, and then realized that my children had abandoned me for Mother’s Day! I love to sit with the children during church, to help them find their way through the service and listen to them sing to the Lord. The service was going to be a wonderful one. Three of our young people recently completed instruction in Christianity and made public confessions of their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. We prayed and laid hands on them to stir into flames the Holy Spirit that dwelt within the hearts of these young people. Pastor gave a powerful message about the promises of God for each disciple – that He would protect them as they walk in faith serving the Lord. It was to be a beautiful service and I did not want them to miss it.
After the service was over, I found out that they did not miss anything. Though they had the option of turning down the speaker in the nursery, they left it on so they could hear the statements of faith given by their friends. They sang with the service as they played with the children and even caught a few words from Pastor’s sermon. I realized that they had not abandoned me to go play for an hour, but rather that they were doing exactly as they should do. They were showing their love of Christ and for the people in our congregation by giving of themselves.
Read 1 Thessalonians 2:6b-9
It was so wonderful to hear our young people give such powerful statements of faith. It was also wonderful for me to see my own children living out their faith, giving their lives for the members of our congregation. It wasn’t easy. The children in the nursery were at times rather loud, and Vicki had to turn up the speaker to hear what was being said. Yet, she took great joy in the work she was doing, sharing Christ with the children.
It turned out to be a lovely Mother’s Day. Vicki and Zack joined me for communion, and then Bruce and the kids took me out to lunch. The gifts they gave were from their hearts. Vicki even wrote a poem instead of giving me a card. I was somewhat disappointed that the children would not be with me in the service, but as I look back now I know that God gave me an even greater gift. He showed me in a very simple way the wonderful work He is doing in the lives of our children, building them into disciples who will not only share the Gospel but also give their lives. Thanks be to God.
Water Our local television station has a daily feature during its early morning news broadcast. The public sends in questions to “Stump the Weatherman”. It is fun to listen to the questions and see how far people will go to find a question he cannot answer. Sometimes the questions have to do with technical information about weather prediction. The viewers often use scientific jargon to catch him off guard. Other questions ask about record-breaking events – the largest hail, the fastest winds, the most destructive tornadoes. Just yesterday, someone asked if there had ever been a hurricane in Arkansas. This is a bit of a trick question. No, we have not had any hurricanes in Arkansas because by the time the storm reaches this far inland, it has been downgraded to a tropical storm or less. In other words, yes, Arkansas has seen the affects from what was once a hurricane, but they weren’t considered that by the time the storm reached the state.
Hurricanes need large, warm bodies of water to make them powerful. The storm draws water into the cloud, which is then released in the form of rain and other precipitation. This movement of water in every form – vapor, liquid and even solid – feeds the other aspects of the storm. A hurricane is determined by its wind velocity, so when the wind speed is less than 75 miles an hour, the storm is no longer a hurricane. Without the warm water of the ocean or gulf, the storm can’t be fed enough new water to keep the wind strong or the rain pouring hard, so the storm eventually dies.
God, our Creator, is amazing in the way He has designed everything to work so perfectly. The water in lakes, rivers and oceans are drawn up into the sky and form into clouds. When the clouds can no longer hold the water, the water rains down upon the earth. Even things like floods, storms and drought serve a purpose. Floods spread minerals and nourishment to the surrounding lands. Lightening begins fires that clear the undergrowth that can kill a forest. Drought controls animal overpopulation as the weak and sick are unable to travel to places where they might find water and food.
Unfortunately, human beings often find ourselves in the middle of the natural design in a way that brings suffering. We build our homes on flood plains, live in the middle of forestland and abuse our natural resources in ways that make the drought worse. We complain about the weather, about the suffering, and often ignore the fact that this is the way our Creator governs His creation.
Read Job 36:27-33
Many places around the world are entering into seasons that bring cataclysmic natural disasters. The news is likely to bring stories of death and destruction brought on by tornados, hurricanes and typhoons. We will hear about drought conditions all over the world that will affect crop production and perhaps even bring more death to those who are unable to escape. Floods will destroy homes and farmland for another season. Through it all, people will draw together to help one another through their troubles. Though it won’t be easy for those who suffer, I pray we are able to see through these situations and see God’s hand as He continues to move through His creation with power and mercy and love. Though we do not always understand, we can rest in the assurance that God knows what He is doing. He makes the rain to fall just as He showers us with His blessings. Thanks be to God.
Clutter My desk was a mess. I’ve been so busy the last few weeks that everything just got stacked on top of yesterday’s clutter. “I will have time tomorrow to deal with this,” was my daily motto. Yet, each day passed without taking the time to clean. This morning I reached the point when I could no longer stand the mess, so I ruffled through the papers and threw most of them away. I put books on the shelf where they belong and filed the things that needed to be saved. In the process, I found the bookshelf needed work. In the process, I found several things that needed my immediate attention and organized a number of projects that will be due in the coming weeks. My intent this morning was to find the surface of my desk so I could work more efficiently. In the process I managed to get a few other things done.
The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus healing people of their many ailments. He cast demons out of people; He made the blind see and the lame walk. He fed the hungry and gave hope to the poor. John writes that if everything Jesus did were put into writing, the whole world could not hold all the books. We look back at the power He displayed and are awed by the miraculous things He did. Yet, healing the body was never Jesus’ main objective. Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God to the people, to bring them forgiveness and reconcile them to their Father in Heaven.
Read Mark 2:1-12
Our Lord Jesus was more concerned about the spiritual healing that would bring reconciliation to the people, so that they could live in harmony with each other and with their God. We know little about this man’s disease, only that he could not walk. But the typical response of society to such an illness was to call the paralysis a punishment for his sin. He probably did not even know what sin would bring such a horrible sentence on his life.
It was only after the teachers of the law began questioning Jesus’ words that Jesus healed the man. They believed that forgiveness came through obedience to the law, sacrifice and offerings in the Temple. Only God could provide forgiveness, and only through the religious rituals prescribed in the Law of Moses. These teachers considered the paralytic a sinner – he must have done something wrong for God to punish him this way. So, to prove to them that He could forgive sin, He made the man walk again. The sign of sin in the man’s life was gone. He was indeed forgiven and he was freed from the guilt he felt.
As I cleaned my desk today, I managed to accomplish a few other things. Jesus’ first concern with His children is spiritual cleaning – providing forgiveness and reconciling them to their Father. In the process, He also brings healing to our bodies and minds. In the forgiveness He gives, we also find forgiveness for others. In the faith we have through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can see, hear and walk as a new creation. The man was made new, first in spirit and then in body. He does the same with us today. Thanks be to God.
Questions Children go through a period of life when they ask many questions. They seek to understand everything there is to know, asking questions about things which most adults do not even know the answers. Why is the sky blue? Why is Coke called Coke? How do the birds know where they should go when they fly south for the winter? These questions can usually be answered with some research. As children grow older, their questions become deeper and more difficult to answer. Their questions are often based on experiences. Why are some people mean and hurtful? Why do good people die? What should I do with my life? They seek wisdom about life and the purpose of our existence.
Most people stop asking the questions and just live life the best they can – working, loving and playing. Through experience, the questions about evil and suffering get set aside and people just accept pain and death as a fact of life. They stop looking for some grand purpose and just walk day by day in some sort of faith. Non-Christians believe in something, whether it is some sort of god or their own ability to get through the day. Christians rest in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are some who continue to ask questions. Philosophers are lovers of wisdom; they seek to know and understand everything and will not rest until they have found the answers to all the questions. Some of the questions seem silly, such as “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Yet, this is a question that looks for the origin of life itself. “Does a falling tree in a forest make a sound if there is no one to hear?” This question might open discussion about the affects of nature on the whole of creation.
Philosophy tends to be anti-Christian. The earliest philosophers and those who live in this modern age sought to dispel all myths and supernatural solutions to the questions of life. Christians and others who have faith in some divine entity are seen as being deluded, brainwashed and unreasonable. Yet, throughout history there have been Christian philosophers – those who try to answer the questions of life by juxtaposing the additional knowledge that has been revealed through science and experience to the knowledge given by God through creation and divine revelation. The questions of life have not changed since the first philosophers over two and a half millennia ago.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:13-18
The “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology” writes, “The Christian philosopher’s overriding purpose is to love God with one’s entire being, including the mind.” Paul writes to the Corinthians that because he believes he speaks. God has given us faith in something that is not seen nor explained through human experience, yet He has called us to share this with others. The world is asking questions that have the answers based in divine revelation, yet rejects the basis of those answers – faith. Though the world may continue calling us deluded, brainwashed and unreasonable, in faith we speak the truth that is Christ.
Though our children often drive us crazy when they go through these questioning phases of life, it is good they ask the questions. Our Christian perspective, one that sees that God came first and is the answer, does not preclude us from asking the questions of life. Let us love God with our whole being, seeking wisdom through God’s creation and divine revelation, and share that wisdom with the world.
Teachers The end of the school year is drawing near. The students are enjoying proms, ceremonies and parties. Some classes are enjoying special trips and schools are preparing for field day. Students are rushing to complete final projects and study for upcoming tests. It is an exciting time for all concerned.
Perhaps too exciting. In Zack’s school, for the past few weeks, the children have become exceedingly more hyper. The teachers need to take more time for outside play so that the children will let go of their pent up energy. As an incentive to keep them on the right track, they have an outdoor picnic on Fridays. The teachers use methods such as this to keep the students focused on their work because even though the end of school is near there is still work to accomplish. The teachers need to finish the required work so that the children will be prepared for next year. It can be a frustrating and difficult time.
Yet, the teachers do their best under the circumstances. It takes a patient instructor to teach a student who does not want to learn. This is also true when the students are adults, perhaps even more so. Adults often think they know enough, teaching without understanding, but the information they present is not always true. The character Cliff Claven from the television show “Cheers” comes to mind. He often taught with great enthusiasm without really knowing what he was taking about. His friends usually reacted with frustration, telling him to be quiet rather than teaching him with patience. So, when someone tried to share the truth, they were met with deaf ears.
Read Acts 18:24-26
Apollos was highly educated and knew the scriptures, but he had not yet come to understand the Gospel of Christ. He knew about Jesus and the wonderful teachings, but he did not know Jesus was the Messiah. He was still preaching as John the Baptist – a message of repentance rather than grace through belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not unusual for Christians to be like Apollos – trying to teach without really knowing the message. We are so excited about our faith in Christ, we boldly preach to others to share the joy and peace that we know. That excitement makes it difficult for us to learn more.
Teachers throughout the nation are facing the same thing in the next few weeks. Older students are suffering from the stress of upcoming tests and younger students from the sheer excitement of the coming summer vacation. During times like this it is necessary for the teachers to be especially patient and controlled. They need to complete the prescribed work while helping each child succeed. Teachers react to these difficult circumstances differently, but it often helps to take the trouble student aside to instruct them in a personal way.
Bible teachers need the same patience so that they can carefully instruct people in the Word of God. Often the students are Christians who do not have a full understanding of the Gospel of Christ, yet they are excited about the Lord Jesus. The teacher does not want to do anything that will put out the fire, but there are certain things about the way of God that need to be taught more deeply before a person can boldly proclaim the Word.
This was the situation in which Priscilla and Aquila found themselves. They knew Apollos had a great love of God and a desire to serve Him, yet he was not properly teaching the way of God. Often when we face people like Apollos, we react quickly and try to set them straight right then and there. But this often leads to heated discussion or even debate. Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos into their care, inviting him into their home and instructing him privately about the truth of Christ. Apollos then went out to preach the Gospel with even more fervor, sharing his faith and his knowledge in a way that led many into belief in Christ. The careful and patient instruction helped keep Apollos excited about the Gospel while directing him in right doctrine. It is my prayer that each of us will be open to such instruction, either as a teacher or a student as needed. May God’s Word always be preached in its fullness, in patience and love. Thanks be to God.
Goad A goad was a long stick with a pointy end used to guide and direct oxen on the field, to make them plow in the right direction. This instrument was quite dangerous, sometimes 10 feet long and very sharp. In the book of Judges (3:31), Shamgar used an oxgoad to kill six hundred Philistines and save Israel. It is from this instrument that we get the verb “to goad,” which means to incite or stimulate someone or something into action. Modern use of the word has a negative connotation, implying force on a person from an outside power compelling one to do something against their will.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word ‘lamad’ is translated ‘to teach’, yet it would be better translated ‘to goad’. It is often used in reference to the Law of Moses, which was given to the Israelites to teach them the ways of God. In those days, the people only knew God through the words given to the prophets, judges and kings. They obeyed as directed by the rules given in the Torah, and followed the leadership of those God appointed and anointed into His service. The people were afraid of the LORD, and preferred to have an intercessor like Moses or Samuel or David. They turned to the priests for forgiveness, keeping themselves separate from the holiness of God. They feared that if they stood in His presence or heard His voice for themselves, they would surely die.
So, God gave them the Law, the prophets, the judges and the kings to goad them into belief and living in obedience. Their love of God came from an outside source. They didn’t really know Him for themselves; they only knew Him through the teaching of those anointed by God. They were still separated from their Father by their sin. They knew God in their minds, but their hearts were far from Him. This could not last forever, so in the Old Testament God spoke through the prophets, judges and kings promising a day when they would be reconciled to God as it was in the beginning, through forgiveness of sin and His gift of new life.
Read Jeremiah 31:33-34
Two thousand years ago, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ died on the cross to reconcile us to our Father through the forgiveness of sins. Three days later, He rose from the dead into new life. On Pentecost, ten days after He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit into the world to dwell within each believer, fulfilling this promise given through the prophet Jeremiah. We are no longer goaded into belief – incited into action by some outside force of law or prodding. By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we know God through faith that comes from within. We believe because God is close to our hearts, we are no longer separated from Him by our sin.
Though we should still turn to teachers for instruction on God’s Word, to properly understand the pure doctrine of Christ, we now can know Him personally. Our faith comes from within, from God Himself for the sake of His Son, our Lord Jesus. We do not have to be goaded by laws or priests; we do not have to fear that we will die if we stand in the presence of God. He has given us new life in Christ – a life of faith, forgiveness and hope. Thanks be to God.
Pentecost Jesus must have seemed like such a contradiction during His final days on earth. Before the crucifixion, He talked to His disciples about leaving. He foretold of His suffering and death. He told them that they could not follow where He was going. He told them that they would weep for a while. Yet underlying these words was always a promise. He promised that He was only leaving for a while. He promised that He would prepare a place for them. He promised that one day they would rejoice and do greater things than He ever did. These are incredible promises, and yet getting there was going to be tough.
When Jesus died, they mourned. Surely everything was over! How could Jesus keep His promises if He was dead? Then He was raised from the dead into new life. Hallelujah! Now Jesus could keep His promises! Yet, in those final days He still talked of leaving. This hung over the disciples like a shadow. As He taught them everything they needed to know to continue His ministry, I am sure they wondered to themselves, “How can He expect us to do this without Him?” He never left them without a promise. “I will send a Helper, a Comforter, My Spirit to be with you.”
When He ascended into heaven, the disciples stood dazed and amazed, staring into heaven. They did not want to leave that spot, thinking this was as good as it would get. They wanted to hold on to Jesus, to the joy they felt in His presence. Where would they get their strength, wisdom, hope or peace if Jesus were gone? Though He was gone from their sight, they obeyed His words and returned to Jerusalem. They stayed together in prayer and waited patiently. Though nothing seemed to be right, they believed Jesus and knew He would be faithful. Then one day when they were together, tongues of fire came upon them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. The people who were in Jerusalem for Pentecost, people of many different nations, could hear them declaring the wonders of God in their own tongues. “What does this mean?” they asked.
Read Acts 2:14-21
The Jews were all in Jerusalem for one of the three major pilgrimage festivals held throughout the Jewish year. Pentecost was a time to celebrate the first fruits of harvest. They had come from all over bringing their offerings of wheat, figs, olives and grapes to praise God for His goodness. Every agricultural festival also had an historic event that was remembered and celebrated. Pentecost was when the people praised God for giving them the Torah – the Law. This was a joyous festival, but was one of contemplation for each Jew. Just as the Israelites received the Ten Commandments at Sinai, every Jew was expected to receive God’s Law for themselves, through study of the scriptures and prayer.
Some of those who heard the disciples at Pentecost made fun of them and claimed they must be drunk. It must have seemed so disgraceful for pilgrims to be acting with such disrespect for God’s Word at such a special time. However, they were not drunk – the disciples had finally received everything that was promised since the beginning of time. The prophecies were fulfilled. Jesus had sent the Holy Spirit. The Word of God now dwelt within each believer. The power of God was part of their life. They were fully prepared to continue the work of Jesus and do even greater things than He did, because now they were gifted to preach God’s word with POWER! Through their witness, many would call on the name of the Lord and be saved.
We are also recipients of the promises Jesus gave to His disciples. He is faithful ‘til this very day. He has not left us. He has prepared a place for us. He has given us the Holy Spirit and everything we need to continue His work in this world. At Pentecost, the Jews celebrated the outward giving of God’s Word to the people of Israel, and we continue to celebrate to this very day. Yet as Christians we celebrate something very different. For us Pentecost is the day God sent His Spirit to dwell within the hearts of believers, each child of God filled with His Word. In faith we live in the same power and authority that the disciples were given so many years ago at Pentecost. Because of Jesus' faithfulness and through our witness, all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Thanks be to God.
Monks The past few days have been incredibly busy. We have had meetings, parties and other commitments, all the while trying to accomplish the tasks that need to be completed in the next few weeks. Laundry gets done on the run and the kitchen floor desperately needs my attention. Our schedule seems fuller than normal as we prepare for the change of seasons. School is winding down; plans need to be made for summer vacation. On top of it all, Bruce just started a new job at the base and I’m busy with a new ministry at church. Each day I hope things will slow down, but I wake to another day of things to do.
When things get a little too hectic, I ponder the life of the monks and nuns, particularly those who lived at the height monastery and abbey use in the middle ages. They lived a very solitary life. It wasn’t that they were alone, they lived in fellowship with many other brothers or sisters. But as a community they were set apart, interacting only minimally with the outside world. Many monasteries were self-sustaining, with their own farms for produce, sheep and even fish. There were potters, carpenters and masons. Each monk was assigned some labor each day so that they would help meet the physical needs of the community.
Their life was unchanging. Though it was possible for a monk to move to another monastery or be given a new job or promoted to abbot, it was not likely. Most monks lived day-by-day doing the same job without complaint or even many words. They sat next to the same monks every day to worship or eat. The schedule was busy but constant with worship, rest and meals at the same time each day.
Their most important task was prayer. They met regularly throughout the day to sing hymns of praise and hear God’s Word, celebrate the mass and pray for the world. Every service included the singing of the Psalms. By the end of the week, they were able to sing through all one hundred and fifty psalms. They knew these words of God in their hearts and in the minds. The Psalms were always on their lips, available to provide comfort or encouragement to a fellow monk or someone who sought the aid of the brothers.
Read Psalm 1:1-3
It would be difficult for most human beings to live the life of a monk. We like variety and excitement. We enjoy meeting new people and seeing as much of the world as we are able. As much as I complain about my busy schedule, I love the things that I do each day. The one aspect of monastery life I would enjoy is the constant worship. It would be wonderful to have an answer ready from the scriptures for every one of life’s problems, to have God’s Word so firmly written on my heart and in my mind that all I speak comes from Him.
The more we study the scriptures and live in God’s Word, the better equipped we are to share Christ with those we meet. Even if our life is not one of solitude, set apart from the physical world in service to God, we are set apart in His name for His glory. Blessed are those who meditate on God’s Word, because in a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ where we can find the answers to all our problems.
The monks were able to live such a life because they did so out of love for God and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Though we do not live the same sort of life they lived, we also rely on God and the power of the Holy Spirit to get us through each day. Our schedules are filled with so many things to do, but through it all I pray we all find the time to meditate on God’s Word through the study of scriptures and the fellowship of a Christian community. It is there our relationship with Christ will grow and we will be blessed. Thanks be to God.
Organized Crime Tom Cruise starred in a movie called “The Firm” about a young lawyer caught in a web of deceit. He was hand picked out of his graduating class a law firm that had an excellent reputation but practiced law in a questionable manner. When Tom’s character discovered the unusual deaths of several associates, he found himself caught between his promises as a lawyer and the need to stop the illegal activity. Though they were guilty of much worse crimes, Tom’s character found a way to destroy the firm without compromising the client lawyer confidentiality that he promised to those for whom he worked. The firm was destroyed because they overcharged their clients, which is a federal offense.
Organized crime in America is known as ‘the mafia’, named after 19th century bands of bandits in Sicily who terrorized peasants and a lifestyle characterized by vengeance and feuds. The mafia in the US has dabbled in everything from bootlegging to drug sales, murder and smuggling. They get away with many of their acts because they use bribes and blackmail to keep police and politicians quiet. Many of their crimes go unsolved and people suffer at their hands – enemies as well as innocent bystanders.
Al Capone is one of the most famous mafia bosses in American history. His gang was believed to be to blame for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 during which seven men from a rival gang were murdered. He was allegedly guilty of promoting liquor sales, gambling and prostitution as well as police corruption and the use of submachine guns. The police were unable to prove any of these things, but a federal jury convicted Capone of income tax evasion in 1931. He spent eight years in prison and eventually died from syphilis.
Read Acts 17:1-9
There are some who would question punishing Al Capone for his businesses – liquor, gambling and prostitution have been acceptable practices in other societies throughout history, though his crimes far exceeded those moneymaking ventures. The things Paul was doing were considered to be against everything the Jews believed. By preaching about Jesus, they saw him as a man who had turned his back on his heritage and people, though Roman society did not consider his supposed blasphemy to be a punishable offense. If they were to stop him, they would have to find some other method. They used Roman law, claiming Paul was teaching about a king other than Caesar. This made his crime treason rather than blasphemy, and Paul could be punished for such in the Roman world.
The Jews were jealous of Paul and were willing to do whatever was necessary to stop him from sharing the Gospel. The world is still jealous of the message of Christ and we should be aware that they will try to stop our ministry in whatever way possible. The message of the cross is foolishness to those perishing, and offensive to those who reject the love of God. Our values and our prayers will always offend the flesh of this world. Be encouraged that no matter what the world throws at you each day, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is with you every step along the way, lifting you high and carrying you through. Thanks be to God.
Hostas We have a small flowerbed in from of the house where I have planted some hostas. The area has very poor drainage so when it rains a small lake appears for a few hours or a day, submerging some of the plants. I don’t really like yard work, so I wanted something that was easy to grow. As I designed the garden last spring, several people suggested the hostas because they are hearty and spread out quickly, covering the entire plot within a few years. This spring I divided the plants and replanted them. The dozen or so plants I began with last year are now over two dozen. I did not even need to plant any other flowers between the plants because they are filling the bed nicely by themselves.
It is amazing how God has designed the natural world to replenish itself, constantly growing and changing from day to day, year to year. My neighbor has hostas in her flowerbed also. Hers have been there for several years. They appear to be like a bush, filling every inch of the garden. I’m looking forward to our hostas doing the same one day. Unfortunately, the hostas are not the only thing growing and spreading through the garden. There are some small weeds, which I think may be ragweed. Since ragweed is one of the worst allergens in Arkansas, I really need to get into the garden and remove those plants.
On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were filled with the Spirit of God and then they went out to begin sharing the message of Christ. Those who had heard the disciples speaking of the wonders of God in their own language were amazed, but some were skeptical. They laughed and asked, “Are these men drunk?” Peter answered their question with sermon, quoting Joel about how God would pour out His Spirit on all people and do amazing things. He shared his testimony about Jesus Christ, opening up the scriptures before those listening so that they knew Jesus was the Messiah they were waiting for. When Peter was finished, three thousand people accepted the message and became disciples.
The Way, the movement of people who were following this teaching about Christ, was growing daily. This made the Jews nervous and jealous. The temple leaders persecuted the disciples, having them arrested, beaten and threatened even death. But God was with the disciples, giving them strength, peace and hope in the midst of their troubles. God even sent angels to help them escape their imprisonment. The leaders met to decide what to do. No matter what the Jews did to the disciples, they kept preaching in Jesus name.
Read Acts 5:33-39
Gamaliel had wise words for the Sanhedrin, though he may not have expected it to turn out the way it did. I will spend some time this week pulling those weeds from my garden, not only for the aesthetics, but also for the sake of our health. However, I know it is likely those weeds will come back. It is the way God has designed His creation - to replenish itself, constantly growing and changing. One day the hostas will fill every inch of the garden, leaving no room for the weeds.
Faith in Christ is something that cannot be stopped. Once the seeds of faith are planted, they grow by the power of the Holy Spirit, spreading from heart to heart through God’s Word. The world still tries to stop the message of Christ, but it has been two thousand years since Gamaliel suggested they let the disciples burn themselves out. Christianity has expanded well beyond the walls of Jerusalem into the hearts of millions, through every generation since. We can’t fight God. His will shall be done. Thanks be to God.
Woodpecker There is a woodpecker that lives somewhere near our home. In the past, we have seen it pecking at the telephone poles that are near our backyard. Whenever we heard the pecking noise in the back, we knew where to look and it was easy to find it on the pole because nothing blocked our view. This morning while Zack and I waited for his bus, we heard the pecking in the front. Across the street is a large, old tree. It is so filled with leaves that it is nearly impossible to see the trunk or branches. I was sure the sound came from that tree, so we began to listen carefully and look for the woodpecker.
It wasn’t easy to find him, but eventually we did. We had to move around, get closer to the tree and listen very carefully. Several times he stopped pecking to call out which helped us determine the right branch of the tree. Then I caught sight of the bright read head. I showed Zack where he was, and we watched him for a long time. It was such a blessing to see him, even though it took some work on our part. He was so beautiful and it was amazing to see how fast he moves.
We are saved by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a free gift from God, not something we get my any act of our own. However, eternal life is more than a chance to go to heaven when we die. It is living in a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord God Almighty today, in this life. In Christ we can live a life of faith and grow increasingly closer to God through prayer, bible study and fellowship with other believers. The greatest blessings are found when we put some effort into a life of active discipleship.
Read Proverbs 3:13-18
Zack and I knew the woodpecker was in the tree because we heard him pecking. It was fun to know we had such a bird living in our neighborhood. But the greater blessing came when we actually saw him in the tree. I think we often live our faith in Christ much like the person who is satisfied knowing the woodpecker is there. We know God is with us and that everything comes from Him, yet we are unwilling to go any further. We will be greatly blessed by the time we spend in prayer, bible study and fellowship, because God will reach out to us through those things to draw us into a deeper and fuller relationship. God calls us each day. He speaks to us in love and mercy. What a blessing it is to know such grace! Today, when you hear His voice calling for you, seek Him and see the greater blessings. Thanks be to God.
Play It is always fun to watch children play near water. Some cities around the world have fountains that make the children run and scream with delight. One such fountain is flat, built right into the pavement. The water is set on timers to shoot out of holes in the ground in random patterns at unexpected times. Some children run away from the water, others run from spout to spout trying to get as wet as possible. Still others stand and wait patiently at one hole, until the water pours out. Some children even try to hold back the water by putting their hands over the hole. This activity often leaves them flat on the ground soaking wet and laughing with great joy. In this type of play, the children learn how much fun unexpected surprises can be, and that they cannot control the water.
There are times when this isn’t so fun for the children. I saw one children looking expectantly into the hole of a fountain. When the water came, it slammed into her face with such force it hurt. Other children slip and fall when running after the streams of water flowing. When the children get hurt they go to their mother or father for care and comfort. It is a joy to see such trust and to see the parents hug those wet, hurt children, giving them the love they need to get through this trouble. When the children calm down, they usually run back into the fountain for more.
By the time Joshua began leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, they had been wandering in the desert for decades. They were tired and ready to settle into a stable life. Moses, their leader for all those years, was gone forever and they were not sure God was with Joshua. When they came to the Jordan, it was extremely high an impassable, but God told Joshua to send the priests with the ark into the waters. He promised that the people would see that God was still with them and that Joshua was His chosen leader.
Read Joshua 3:14-17
The Israelites grumbled for most of the trip out of Egypt, and I don’t imagine things were much different as they approached the Jordan River that day. With a new leader, floodwaters ahead and unknown enemies waiting on the other side, it must have been a frightening moment. Yet, the people saw the mighty hand of God was with them that day, holding back the waters of the Jordan so they could cross in safety. The priests stood on firm ground as they held the ark of the covenant – the presence of God – before them.
Children have the courage to enjoy the unexpected challenges of water parks and fountains because they know their mom and dad will be there to help them if something goes wrong. The Israelites crossed the Jordan with confidence because they knew that God was with them. The priests stood firm even when they were just entering into the water, because the foundation on which they stood was God’s Promise.
The same is true for us today. It is easy for us to become frightened as we look to the difficulties that lie ahead of us on our journey of faith in this world. Yet, even though we know there will unexpected surprises along the way, we can step forth in the faith that God will keep His promise. He will hold back the floodwaters so that we can walk on dry ground. And if we slip, He will be there to provide the comfort and care we need to move on. Thanks be to God.
Diamonds We are going to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas today. This park is a geological wonder, built on the surface of an eroded gem-bearing volcanic pipe. In 1906, a farmer was plowing his field and discovered that the rocks were not just rocks. He found diamonds and other precious gems. In 1972, this 36-acre field became a state park where anyone can hunt for diamonds. Whatever you find, you get to keep. The diamonds are raw, meaning they have not yet been cut. They may even be difficult to recognize as diamonds. A visitor center has exhibits and an audio/visual presentation to help prospectors identify the different rocks and gems they might find in the field. In the past, people have taken home diamonds as large as fifteen or sixteen carats. The largest diamond ever unearthed in the United States was found at this site and was a whopping 40.23-carats.
It is not likely that we will find a diamond like that today, or even any diamonds. Zack and Vicki both like to collect rocks, so no matter what happens today, this is the perfect opportunity for them to add something to their collections. We really do not know what to expect since we have never visited this park before, though I am sure it will be like finding a needle in a haystack. We have a number of tools to take along – sifters, shovels and a bucket. It is going to be dirty work; there is no way to find the stones without putting your hands in the dirt. Whatever we find, the blessings will be found in the search.
There are times during our Christian journey when we feel like we are digging in a field of mud for diamonds. When we don’t find what we are looking for, it seems like we are just getting our hands dirty. We spend time studying the scriptures, but remain confused when we don’t find answers to our questions. We spend time in prayer but get disappointed and frustrated when our prayers don’t seem to be answered. We are even tempted to give up because it seems to be such a waste of time.
We forget the blessings that can be found in the search. We search with specific expectations without considering that God may have something much better for us. Our study of the scriptures is done with the purpose of finding proof for our faith, often to prove others wrong. Our prayers become self-centered, demanding God to do exactly what we want in our own time frame. We lose sight of the true blessings that are found in the time spent with God, seeking His will and communing with His Spirit.
Read Romans 8:26-27
We will spend a few hours today searching for rocks in the dirt. Our journey may bring us some wonderful finds – diamonds, amethyst, garnets, jasper, agate or quartz. If we go with the expectation of getting rich, we’ll leave disappointed. However, if we begin this journey with the attitude of finding the blessings in the search, we’ll have wonderful family fun together. Today, when you pray and study the scriptures, do not approach God with some specific expectation. Instead, rejoice in His presence and listen for His voice. When you seek the blessings there, you will end up with the most beautiful jewel of all, because it will be God’s will rather than your own. Thanks be to God.
Diamonds, again We did not find any diamonds yesterday. We came home with a bucketful of pretty rocks and had the most delightful time. As Bruce said, “We paid five bucks to play in the dirt.” I had a moment of hope a little while into our search when I found a very small cube shaped rock that was cloudy, but transparent. A ranger told me it was gypsum, a much softer rock that is easily shattered under pressure. The ranger pointed to several semi-precious stones I had found, mostly jasper and agate.
We all approached the hunt differently. When Vicki and Zack began to dig, they went right for the big rocks. Bruce and I carefully sifted through the crumbly surface of the dirt. If we were to find any diamonds, it would most likely be very tiny. The search was even worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. At least with a needle, you know what you are looking for – a needle is easy to identify. We quickly discovered that every pebble was covered with dirt, making it look much different than we would expect. Some of the people who visited the park used a sluice, a large sink filled with water. A prospector shakes a sifter filled with dirt under the water in the sluice. The stones are cleaned and the diamonds sink to the bottom. When the sifter is turned over on a table, the prospector can easily see what is in the dirt.
In the visitor’s center we learned a lot about rocks, minerals and prospecting. One display showed a number of different examples of diamonds that were found at the park. They were all quite tiny, and of highly different value. One tray held a fairly good quality diamond that was worth $75. Another tray held 137 very poor quality diamonds worth only $1. Those diamonds would be used for industrial abrasives.
Another display held a one-in-a-billion diamond, the “Strawn-Wagner”, which was determined to be perfect by the American Gem Society. A diamond like this is so rare that most jewelers will never see one like it. The stone is flawless with perfect color and was cut with the most perfect shape. Another diamond that was found in the park was the “Kahn Canary”. This vibrant yellow stone was formed by nature into a perfect triangular shape and was left uncut because of its natural beauty. The exhibit was enlightening and informative.
Read Romans 9:20-21
I always thought of diamonds in terms of jewelry. I’ve been awed by the Hope Diamond, the Crown jewels and other spectacular pieces. Although we were cautious with our optimism during our hunt yesterday, we all held out hope that we might find just one pretty diamond. The reality is that even if we had found one, it would not have been something spectacular. In the hundred years since men started searching these fields for diamonds, only 20 of any real significance has been found. Yet, every diamond has a purpose. Where would we be without the diamonds used for cutting or abrasives?
Our Father has created us with unique characteristics and purpose. Some are naturally gifted, others need to be shaped and formed. Some are set apart for a high calling, others use their gifts in simple lives of faith. If someone had found a diamond yesterday, we would have heard a horn blast on the loud speaker, no matter what type was found. The same sort of trumpet blast is sounded each time a person comes to faith in Christ. God does not put a price tag on His children. Each is unique in gifts and purpose, but all are valued equally before Him. Whenever you wonder about the value of your life, remember that God has formed you according to His purpose. God loves you whether you are created to be used for industrial work or to be a perfect, flawless jewel. Thanks be to God.
Memorial Day The last Monday of May in the United States is set aside as a day to remember those who have died in service to their country. At cemeteries throughout the world men and women are being honored for their courage and sacrifice during war. The entire history of man has been laced with periods when nations have battled against other nations for many reasons. Those of us who have lived through the twentieth century have seen more bloodshed than throughout the entire history of man. Americans have participated in world wars and regional conflicts, though most Americans do not know what it is like to hear the sounds of bombs or fear gunfire in our own backyard.
Until this year. The events of September 11 have changed many things about how we look at war. When the planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we watched every day people become heroes. Firefighters and policemen ran into the fire and destruction to save people, and died in the process. On other Memorial Days, the stories have been from wars in distant lands, memories that are difficult for us to identify with because they were so far away in time and geography. Yet, this year even our youth can identify with the need to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for their country – both in the military in distant lands, and as public servants on our own streets.
Unfortunately, many young people do not understand what it means to be willing to sacrifice. The generations who lived through the World Wars had to give up much about their lives, even here in the U.S. They learned to live without many things such as meat, fabric and metal to support the troops who were serving in Europe and the Pacific. In the past few decades, modern technology and instantaneous information has made warfare seem almost unreal. Young people have difficulty distinguishing between what they see in the movies and video games and what they see on the news. They have not needed to give up anything during those times of conflict.
When so many men and women perished in the destruction of September 11, Americans realized that war could reach our own homes. We offered ourselves in many ways, by giving financially, spending time in prayer. Some people even left their own homes to travel to New York and Washington to help in the rescue effort and provide every kind of support. In the weeks and months following the attack, we saw Americans giving themselves in love. For many, it was their faith in God that gave them the strength to get through each day.
Read John 15:9-17
Jesus Christ had a short-lived, but incredible ministry. In those few short years, He taught the people about love and God, He healed the sick and raised the dead. Lives were changed by His presence. He did more than His share to make the world a better place. Yet it was not enough. He went to the front lines of the battlefield with Satan and He suffered death so that we will have life. Today we celebrate and remember those who have sacrificed even their lives in defense of the country and consider how much we are willing to give for one another.
Through it all, let us never forget the greatest sacrifice of all, that of our Lord Jesus Christ. He gave His life for us, so that we can have the strength, courage and love to give ourselves for others. Today, I am thankful to all those who gave their lives for their country. I am even more thankful to Jesus Christ for the sacrifice He made for me. It is my prayer that I will have the courage to do the same for my friends. Thanks be to God.
Fern Several weeks ago we found a large potted fern for sale at a home improvement store in our area. The plant was inexpensive and incredibly beautiful so we bought it. We hung it outside our home and it looked beautiful. Unfortunately, the plant was very heavy and fell one day, breaking the pot. Yesterday I transplanted it and hung it with a new macramé hanger. The plant was still too heavy, but this time it pulled the metal hook right out of the wall. This plant is obviously too big for this type of display. So, we decided to display the fern on a small iron table in our yard. This will provide a solid foundation for the plant, keep it safe and still look beautiful.
Our walk with Christ is often filled with worries and cares that we would just as soon not carry. When we see hungry children and lonely widows, our hearts break at their pain and suffering. Yet we often feel it is impossible for us to do anything to help so many. As pictures come from third world countries and we see dozens of children dying in the streets, we long to provide everything they need but feel so overwhelmed with the burden of responsibility. The need is so great, we don’t even know where to start and in our frustration we tend to do nothing at all.
An even greater burden we bear is that for the lost in this world, particularly our friends and family members who do not know Jesus Christ or have rejected His mercy and love. We grieve at the thought that we will not see them in heaven. When they die, we find no comfort in the usual words and promises, because they did not have the hope of eternal life in Christ. The burden we carry is guilt, for not doing more to take care of our loved ones and convince them to know the Lord.
Yet, this is a burden our Lord did not want us to carry. The yoke of Christ is light and it is in that very place where we will find rest. The gift of faith is from Christ Himself and we cannot see the heart of any man, to know the work of the Lord in His life. We can live in the hope that God is faithful to all His promises, and trust that our Lord Jesus Christ loved all of creation. Once someone has died, there is nothing we can do to change their fate, it will not do any good to live a life burdened by guilt. It may even hinder our ability to share the Gospel with others.
Read Matthew 11:27-30
I tried to make that heavy plant hang outside our house, but it was too heavy for such a display. The fern needed to sit on a solid foundation. Too often during our Christian journey we take on burdens far too heavy to bear, and in the process we do more damage than good. We are determined to be the ones to give salvation to our loved ones. If we do not see proof when they die, we feel we have failed and carry a burden of guilt.
Jesus Christ has given us the Great Commission to go out and make disciples of all nations, but it is not a burden that we carry alone. He has promised to be with us and it is by His power that the nations will be saved. We rest in the promise of hope that comes from faith in Christ, and trust that He will be faithful. We don’t know who we will find in heaven, so let us stay on the solid foundation that is Christ. He will carry all our worries and cares, so that we can find rest. Thanks be to God.
Repentance A story is told of a young boy named Jimmy who had difficulty pronouncing the letter “R” so his teacher gave him a sentence to practice at home: “Robert gave Richard a rap in the rib for roasting the rabbit so rare.” Some days later the teacher asked him to say the sentence for her. Jimmy rattled it off like this: “Bob gave Dick a poke in the side for not cooking the bunny enough.” He had evaded the letter “R”.*
We will often go to great lengths to avoid the things we do not want to do. We use answering machines to screen our calls and cross to the other side of the street if there is someone we do not wish to speak to. Students have been known to use Cliff’s Notes or watch movies to avoid reading a book. I use paper plates when I don’t feel like doing dishes. If I weren’t married to Bruce, I would live in an apartment so I wouldn’t have a lawn to mow. Some tasks take a great deal more energy to avoid than to complete. Jimmy could have practiced the sentence and learned how to pronounce the letter “R”. Instead he put much effort into making a new sentence that said the same thing, accomplishing nothing. Walking across the street to avoid someone takes far more effort than a quick hello. Carrying groceries to an apartment on an upper floor could be far more difficult than mowing a lawn once a week.
It seems like we do a great deal in this world to avoid something else – repentance. It is so hard to give up our nasty habits to live a better life. We justify our bad behavior or pass blame on another. We claim what we are doing isn’t really that bad, or that there’s good reason for our actions. It is all well and good when we do repent of our bad behavior, but real repentance is far deeper than changing a few bad habits. It is about turning to God and confessing that He is Savior. By turning to God, we reject the things that do not please Him and live in His promises.
Read Isaiah 45:22-25
If Jimmy had listened to his teacher, he may have overcome his speech trouble. However, he rejected her recommendation and even did more work avoiding the help she was trying to give. When we go out of our way to avoid the things we do not want to do, we often create more work for ourselves and we miss the blessings we may receive from those tasks.
Richard Trench, the archbishop of Dublin once said, “Repentance: That mighty change in mind, heart, and life, wrought by the Spirit of God.” When we hear the message of Christ’s forgiveness, we may rejoice in the wonder of His love, but without repentance – turning toward Him, thus giving up our old ways – nothing will be changed. It is not enough to just regret what we have done, or feel remorse. Repentance is an active turning away from the things that separate us from God. We do this by faith, faith given by God through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.
How often do we do everything we can to avoid that great and glorious work of repentance that God wants to do in our lives? God says, “Turn to me and be saved.” God has promised and He is faithful. Thanks be to God.
*Story found in Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes.
Birds Our neighborhood is teeming with birds of every kind. We have sparrows and finches, bluebirds and blue jays, doves and crows, woodpeckers and swallows. We even have a few hummingbirds, robins and cardinals. As I stood outside waiting for Zack’s bus this morning, I felt as if I were standing in the middle of a bird superhighway with all the air traffic over my head. I realized how true the phrase “birds of a feather flock together” really is. Most of the birds flew in pairs and they gathered in the same areas. All the sparrows congregated near the bird feeder, the crows on the roof. The bluebird stayed near the birdhouse that Zack built where her eggs are incubating.
Each type of bird has its own style of flight. Some fly in a straight line high above the street, others fly low to the ground. Some flit from one perch to another, while others glide for long distances. The swallows dive toward the ground then soar to the high branches of the trees. In a short period of time, I watched a community of diversity living in harmony with one another – sharing the same air space and trees, while leaving one another room to be themselves. They are all birds, created by God using the same design, but every bird is unique.
Christians have something in common. We have many things about us that are unique also. We all have different gifts, used for God’s individual calling on our lives. We are given unique opportunities to share the Gospel that fit our personalities, geography and abilities. We have different perspectives on certain aspects of faith. We have different worship practices. We are all at different places on our journeys of faith. Yet, in Christ we are all the same.
Read Galations 3:26-29
Birds of a feather truly do flock together. They fly in the patterns and go to the places that best fit their needs. However, many different types of birds can live in harmony in the same place. They are the same as other birds because God created them to be creatures with wings that fly in the sky and they are unique because God made them that way.
The same is true of Christians. We are loved and God makes us sons through our Lord Jesus Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God gives us individual gifts and purpose, each according to His promise. We tend to flock with others who are like ourselves, choosing a church that best suits our needs. Unfortunately, we do not always live like the birds, in harmony with other Christians. Let us always remember that if we belong to Christ, we are all Abraham’s seed, we are all heirs according to the promise.
It was a joy to watch the birds this morning, living their lives so simply and peacefully. Life is not so easy for humans. We have places to be and jobs to accomplish. Our relationships are far more complicated. Human minds – ideas and egos – get in the way of our seeing others as fellow sons of God. God doesn’t see our differences as barriers to unity; He has given them to us as gifts through which He accomplishes His purpose. I pray we will set aside our own biases and live like the birds, in harmony with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Thanks be to God.
Blue Angels The Blue Angels, the navy air demonstration team, are in town this weekend for our air show. They arrived several days ago and have spent their time thus far preparing and performing for the local media. It is important for the pilots to spend several days flying in the area, to get used to the terrain and establish the proper timing for their program. It has been fun to watch the sky and see these incredible aircraft flying overhead. I never cease to be amazed at the speed and agility they have with the aircraft.
The team is scheduled to perform shortly after 3 pm Saturday and Sunday. We heard the planes take off around that time yesterday afternoon. I was busy working in the kitchen when suddenly the whole house began to shake. It seemed as if a plane were about to land right on our roof! I realized that this was a rehearsal of the actual show, specifically done at that time of day so that the pilots could familiarize themselves with the conditions of this place at the right time. The sun affects everything – their vision, the colors of the terrain and their perspective. It is vital when performing that they understand not only their airplanes, but also every possible condition that could affect their flight. Every pilot must work in cinque with each other, their machines and the natural forces around them. Even the slightest mistake could mean a fateful accident.
I was startled when the house began to shake yesterday. I even wondered if anything would fall off the walls and break. However, it is comforting to know that the pilots are carefully preparing for their performance this weekend. When they practice at the same time again today, I’ll be prepared for the flyover, and perhaps I’ll even go out to watch. We will wait in eager expectation for that moment, rather than be startled by some unknown event.
Read Romans 8:18-21
We don’t fully understand the entirety of God’s plan for this world, though many believe they have figured it all out. They predict future events according to an interpretation of what they read in the scriptures and expect God to fulfill their word. Yet, God is far greater than anything we can imagine. The only thing we can know for certain is that one day we will live in the presence of God. We will face surprising moments while we wait in eager expectation, just like when the plane flew over our house.
Other events may come just as predicted. One of the dangers we face when we know what is coming is that we will watch for the specific event and miss the big picture. Today as I watch the practice performance, I will not focus on that one moment when a plane will fly over my head, because I might miss something even more exciting. As Christians, we are to watch and wait expectantly for the time when Christ will be with us again, yet we should not do so in a manner that will take our eyes off the bigger picture. Our expectation is not for one event, it is for the culmination of every promise of God and the glorious freedom that will come! Thanks be to God.