Welcome to the November 2001 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves. Where scripture is quoted, I used the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.
A WORD FOR TODAY, November 2001
November 1, 2001
All Saints Day The Feast of Holy Martyrs was introduced in Rome on May 13, 610. It was a day to remember the martyrs who were not known by name, who did not have their own festival days. The date was changed to November 1 in 835. It is likely that the change came because so many pilgrims visited Rome for the feast that they needed to do it at harvest time when more food was available. The purpose of the feast was expanded to include all the saints.
Who are the saints? We often talk about men and women who have been recognized over the millennia for outstanding service to the Lord. These men and women were not perfect. As a matter of fact, many of the saints had histories and characteristics that were at times less than Christian. Though many of the stories of these people are questionable, they did leave exemplary lives of faith and they are models of the godly life. However, the special title of saint as some spiritual nobility is not the biblical understanding of sainthood.
Saints are those who are separated from the world and consecrated to God. The saints are the people of God, from the past, present and future, who have been called to His service. They are often persecuted by the world, since Satan desires none to be in such a close relationship with God. This has led to martyrdom throughout the history of the Church. This is probably the reason the church at Rome began giving such titles, to show them to be particularly holy or self-sacrificing and to show them as worthy of respect. The festivals and All Saints Day are celebrated so we will remember.
All Saints Day has in recent years become a day when we remember all those who have died in the faith. Many churches have special services to remember the family and friends who have died in the past year, as well as all who have gone before. This day is also to remember that we are saints, separated by God for His purpose.
Read Psalm 30
All Saints Day is a time to celebrate the lives of all the saints, the living and the dead. We remember the men and women who gave their lives to the Lord in extraordinary ways as well as those who lived ordinary lives in Christ. We remember our loved ones, our friends and all those who have passed into life eternal and we thank God for His mercy. He has kept them from going into the pit, so that they can spend eternity singing His praise. As for us, let us spend this day praising Him for choosing us to be His saints, separated from the world and consecrated for Him. Thanks be to God.
Christians Ruth Graham once encountered a young Indian student near her home in North Carolina. She asked Pashi why he was not a Christian and recorded his response in her book "Legacy of a Pat Rack." He said, "I would like to believe in Christ. We of India would like to believe in Christ. But we have never seen a Christian who is like Christ."
She goes on to write, "Come to think of it, neither have I." She, like all of us, struggled with the fact that our witness is never perfect, that we fail to do what we should do or say what we should say. Certainly anyone who spends time talking to non-believers about faith has heard similar statements. People are seeking answers to their problems, trying to understand faith, hope and truth.
Ruth continues, "I think basically what is meant by the term Christ-like has got to do with His attitude toward His Father's Will." Jesus spent time constantly in prayer and did everything for the glory of His Father. Even to the very end of His life, though Jesus wanted the cup of death to be removed, He said, "Yet, not as I will, but as you will."
I can list many times when I personally failed to be a witness to someone in need of the truth - confused by my own fear, uncertain about my own understanding, and angry because of the pain and hurt inflicted by those who persecute me for my faith. Ruth felt that whatever it meant to be Christ-like, that we have let Him down. She decided to ask a friend, Dr. Akbar Haqq, how he would have answered the statement of Pashi. Dr. Haqq was once the President of the Henry Martyn School of Islamic Studies in New Delhi. His answer was simple. "I would tell him, 'I am not offering you Christians. I am offering you Christ.'"
"It is better to take refuge in Jehovah Than to put confidence in man." This statement from Psalm 118:8 is at the center of the bible and is the very heart of the Gospel. People will fail, men will do foolish things and the things of this world will pass away like the grass that withers under the frost of the coming winter cold. Yet, the Lord will always be faithful. We are called to be witnesses to Christ, but who is He and who are we in Christ?
Read Isaiah 42:1-9
That servant, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the One who brought justice. He did not do so with a sword, but with His own blood. He did not scream war, but willingly lay down to be nailed to a cross. He did not destroy those who were in pain, but healed them with mercy and love. He did nothing to put out the light in those who were afraid or uncertain. Rather, He fanned the flame with the Holy Spirit so that they would see hope and peace. He sought repentance so that His children would shine to the glory of God.
This Jesus, our LORD, has called us to be witnesses. We shouldn't be trying to make people believe us and our ideas. We spend most of our time trying to justify our own ideology and actions that are imperfect, rather than living in Christ. We must teach that there is only One in whom we should place our trust. Our attitude should be like that of Jesus Christ - one of complete submission to the Will of God. As we live Christ-like in that light, His light will shine and people will find freedom in faith. Thanks be to God.
Shrek We had a party for Vicki’s birthday last night, with plenty of food, friends and fun. We bought the new video release “Shrek” and enjoyed popcorn as we watched the craziness of that modern day fairy tale unfold. Shrek is an ogre, an extremely ugly and rude character who describes himself as an onion, with many different layers. The other fairy tale characters are evicted from their homes and end up in his swamp. Shrek goes to the evil Lord Farquaad to demand he restore the creatures to their homes so he can have his privacy. Shrek wins the opportunity to rescue a princess to marry Farquaad. If he succeeds, Farquaad will get the creatures out of his swamp. Shrek and his buddy the Donkey travel to the foreign land to save Fiona.
Fiona is a beautiful princess, trapped in the tower of a castle protected by a large dragon. After some perilous adventures, the three begin their journey home. Fiona has some definite ideas about how her fairy tale is supposed to come out, and an ogre is not part of it. She reluctantly goes with Shrek and Donkey, but during the journey a relationship blooms. Fiona is not completely honest; she hides herself at night because she has a deep dark secret. She becomes an ugly ogre at night, but she is sure that when she marries Lord Farquaad and kisses him with love’s first kiss the spell will be broken and she’ll live forever as a beautiful princess. Unfortunately, the three friends have a misunderstanding and though she has come to love Shrek, she goes with the evil Farquaad to be married.
In the end, Shrek’s true heart is revealed and the two kiss – love’s first kiss. Fiona’s wish comes true, though not as she expects. They realized that true love is not necessarily as we expect, but something much deeper and more real.
The same is true of the love of God. The Jews had an expectation of what the Messiah would look like, and how he would fulfill the promise. For many years they followed false messiahs looking for an earthly answer to their problems. When Jesus arrived, they missed Him completely, because He did not fit into their expectation. Yet, He was the answer to all their prayers, giving a deeper love than anything they could even imagine.
Read 1 Peter 1:17-25
Even today we tend to miss the truth and love of our Lord because we are looking for the fairy tale ending. Fiona thought she had to give up the ugly ogre for find true love, but she really was giving up the real love for something evil. In our Christian walk, we often seek love in the wrong places – in the law or in the perishable things of this world. However, true love is found in the truth of Jesus Christ, the twist at the end of the fairy tale. Jesus died so that we might have life. In His death we are resurrected to be something very beautiful, a beauty that will live forever. With His life in us, we love as He does, sincerely and deeply, from our hearts. Thanks be to God.
Harvest Before mass transportation, a society’s food supply was dependent on the local agricultural calendar. They had fruit when it was in season and most vegetables only during its season of harvest. With today’s modern technology, there are many crops that can be grown in other regions and shipped great distances to our grocery stores. It is possible to have fresh cauliflower, asparagus and Brussels sprouts year round. Lettuce, which is very perishable, can be picked in the southern hemisphere and delivered to our markets still fresh for salad.
Though we are able to get so many good things to eat from all over the world, it is still necessary for a local farmer to plant according to the agricultural calendar of an area. It does little good to try to plant a strawberry field in Minnesota in December. Tomato plants should not be put in the ground in October, because they will die before they can bring forth fruit. If crops are left on the plant too long, they become rotten or are eaten by insect and animal. A farmer must carefully consider the best crops for his fields, the climate, altitude, and length of growing season. He must consider how many seeds he should plant. Can the local people eat or preserve his harvest before it perishes, or can he transport it somewhere else to use? The farmer takes all this into consideration before he plants a crop. Then, when the time is right, and the fruit is ripe, he comes for the harvest.
The seeds of the Kingdom of God are much like those seeds planted by a farmer. We have to plant the right seeds for them to grow into real fruit. We must share the Gospel message as given to us by God’s Word – in Jesus and in scriptures – so that it will blossom into the fruit of the Spirit. Too often, we sow seeds of hatred, discord, jealousy and other such acts of a sinful nature. These seeds produce nothing to sustain our lives or glorify God.
Read Galations 6:7-10
Though the scriptures often use agricultural examples to give spiritual messages, there are many differences between the farmer’s fields and the field known as the Kingdom of God. The seeds planted are not literal seeds, but rather the Word of God. The fields are not made of dirt, but human hearts and minds. The fruit is not something that will perish tomorrow if not eaten today. It is the Holy Spirit of God, which is eternal and living in us. Planting and harvest are not dependent on time, weather or region. We must sow the seeds of the Kingdom year round, and harvest whenever the fruit is ripe. As Christians, we must always continue to do His work – planting, watering, fertilizing and picking – living His Word by doing good to all people, so that the Kingdom will grow and He will be glorified. Thank be to God.
Share Fest Over the weekend dozens of churches in Little Rock joined together for a regular event called “Share Fest.” This was an opportunity for the people of Christ to join together to demonstrate the Love of Christ in action. Each church has a partnership with a school in town. On Saturday, the members of the churches joined with the parents of the children to make a difference in the look of the schools. They painted, pulled weeds, raked leaves and built picnic tables. Zack’s school had a basketball camp for the older children. Other churches provided other services to help make our schools better for our kids.
Upcoming events will include a blood drive and clothing collection. Share Fest will end with a gathering where we will share in singing, prayers and give a love offering to finance the community projects. It is a wonderful opportunity for Christians to work together with their community, to make a difference and to share the Word of God. Many of these families have little or no contact with any church, and stay away because they feel unwelcome. Too often, the church seems so beyond their reach, a world they don’t understand and are unwilling to try because it is so different from their own.
We don’t help matters by hiding our faith behind the doors of our churches. We give financially to the treasuries of our congregations, to pay our bills and expand our ministry. Yet we rarely reach out beyond the walls of our own building to shine the light of Christ to those in the darkness that need to see.
Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19
This isn’t only about giving money to the poor, because most Christians do not have exceeding wealth. However, we have something that goes far beyond the treasures of this world. We have the hope of life eternal, a hope that is available to all God’s creation. We share that hope in our actions, demonstrating the love of Christ by raking leaves, painting walls and building picnic tables that will enhance the lives of many children and their families. In the process, they may realize that the church is not a country club, but a home where they can find peace. Thanks be to God.
Falling Leaves It is autumn and the leaves are falling from the trees to the ground. The trees are beginning to look as though they are dying as the branches become bare and the piles gather on the ground. The physical task of raking and bagging the leaves is exhausting and exhilarating in the crisp fall air. The sound of crunching makes the children laugh and play, jumping into the piles to send the leaves flying in the air. I've noticed houses and other buildings that are normally hidden in the forests by the curtain of leaves, but are now in view as that curtain drops. Autumn is a beautiful time of year, but sad in a way as we watch the fresh life of spring and summer pass into the bleakness of winter.
When I was outside this morning, for my quiet time waiting for Zack's bus, I noticed one very unusual leaf on the tree across the street. It seemed to be hanging by an invisible thread, blowing in the breeze. It was probably a spider web that caught it as it dropped from the branch. It made me think about how there are times in our life when we seem to be hanging on nothing more than a thread that is keeping us from falling. Others may not even be able to see, or understand, why we are still hanging there and they are certain that the invisible force will give out at any moment.
Spider webs are extremely strong, but the Lord God Almighty is even stronger. Five hours after I first saw that leaf, it still dangles in the air. How often do we feel like we are dangling, close to falling out of reach of our Father? Our faith in Him is like an invisible thread, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are kept from falling when we are tempted by doubt, fear and desire.
Read Hebrews 3:12-14
Doubt, fear and desire are regular parts of our lives today. The world provides many ways for us to turn away and fall from the grasp of our Lord. That invisible thread of faith in God is all we have keeping us from falling to the ground to die and be taken away. Unbelievers do not understand, because they can't see what holds us to God. But we know that He is stronger than anything in this world, and that even in the worst of times, we can hold firmly to the confidence we have in God, because He is faithful. So, Today let us encourage one another to keep hanging in there. The bleak winter will pass and we will see new life once again. Thanks be to God.
Reds, yellows and oranges I enjoy watching the changing of the leaves in the fall, when the trees become brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange. It seems to be an almost instantaneous change – one day everything is green, the next the forest is filled with colour. It is actually a fairly slow process, but since I've always watched from a distance, I have never seen the process in action.
This year, several maple tree seeds fell into our garden and took root. Since we have no trees in our yard, we decided to let them grow so that we can transplant them into our yard. These trees, which now reach a height of three to four feet, have been the perfect opportunity to watch science happen before our eyes. I noticed about a week ago that the veins in the leaves were bright red. Vicki and I did a science project a few weeks ago with white flowers and green dye. When the flowers drank the water with dye, the flower began to change. The dye worked its way through the petals. It seemed to me as though the cause of the change in the leaves of the tree must be similar to that. Vicki suggested perhaps some sort of mineral is brought up through the trunk and stems which then spreads into the leaves.
During the cooler months, the lack of sun and changes in temperature causes the tree to stop producing food and the chlorophyll that makes the leaves green breaks down. The yellow and orange pigments are always in the plant, but are invisible because of the dominant green. When the chlorophyll breaks down, the green disappears and the other colors appear. There are chemical changes in some trees that bring out reds and purples. In trees where brown is the predominant color, chlorophyll residue mixes with the other pigments to make brown, just like if you were mixing paints.
Read Acts 13:47-49
Certain conditions are necessary for the leaves to change colors. The tree must shut down for winter, and stop producing the chlorophyll. Then the other colors can spread throughout the trees and shine the beautiful shades of red, yellow and orange. Certain conditions were necessary for the word of God to spread throughout the world. In those days, the Law of Moses defined righteousness, and only those who lived by that Law knew God. However, Jesus' death changed all that. His work on the cross made it possible for even the Gentiles to hear. God touched all who He chose and gave them a spark of the Spirit by His Word. And they believed. And the word spread. The Law was broken down by love so that the other colors could shine. Thanks be to God.
Evidence Evidence means, "testimony in proof of something." For evidence to be admissible, it must be clear and must provide a fair representation of the facts to the judge and jury. The testimony can be oral, by a person who witnessed the event or who can give character information of those involved. Other types of evidence may be physical, such as pictures, video, objects found at the scene or other such things. The evidence may directly support the case, or may be circumstantial. Circumstantial evidence means that the facts can be reasonably deduced from the testimony.
Any sort of lawsuit or criminal trial is dependent on the evidence provided. The testimony is based on the words of witnesses and the items that are presented in the case. Of course, evidence is important outside the courts. I have found myself quickly reacting to situations with my children because I was not fully aware of the evidence. I jumped to conclusions without getting the facts. How often do we make decisions and judgments without looking studying all the issues?
Sometimes we have to trust people and circumstances with little evidence. There have been times that I have just had to accept the word of my children because there was nothing to prove what they say. We often purchase products based on their advertisements. We must just believe the word of God. Many people are not willing to just believe based on the oral testimony of Christians or the written testimony found in the scriptures. They seek physical proof of the existence of God. We can see the truth of God in everything around us – in His creation. Psalm 104 speaks of God's mighty hand as He made everything and set the waters in motion. The psalmist gives praise to God for the animals, the earth and the heavens.
Read Psalm 104:24-30
Though this evidence will do nothing to change the mind of one who has judged that God does not exist, creation does provide constant reminders to those with faith that God is very close and active with His people. I find it impossible to walk out my door without seeing the hand of God in the landscape, people and circumstances that come my way. I pray today, as you go about your work, you will look for God in everything – in the running water, in the laughter of children, in the food upon your plate. God's works are many, His love is complete, and His provision is very real. You can know this by the evidence of His creation, but you must have faith. Thankfully, He gives that too. Thanks be to God.
Restroom Most children go through a phase of life when they must see the inside of every restroom. The early stages of this phase began with Zachary shortly after he was potty trained. It was a frustrating time for all of us. We did not want to risk the accident that could happen if we did not take him to the rest room, yet we knew that there was no way he needed to go so often. We finally realized he was asking whenever he saw a sign and he just wanted to go see.
There are times, however, when it is necessary to find a restroom. Many stores do not have public toilets, so it can become an adventure of desperation. Though they have a place for employees, they do not allow customers to use their facilities. We have found kind staff in stores who have taken us into their private room, but most of the time they just point us to the closest public restrooms. When a child really needs to go, it is risky to have to run even a block. Though I understand that safety and security concerns of letting customers into the back rooms of a store, there are times when mercy should come before the rules.
Read Matthew 15:21-28
This Canaanite woman should not have even been talking to Jesus, yet she approached him with great courage and asked for His help. At first, He did not answer her, then He told her that He was sent only to the Jews. Finally, He said that His gifts were not meant for people like her. She persisted, and used His own words to convince Him to heal her daughter. She was persistent, not only because she believed He could do it, but also because she knew He was merciful and that He would do it. Her daughter was healed from the very moment that Jesus acknowledged her faith and answered her prayer.
Are we persistent with our requests? Perhaps if we were a little more persistent when we are in a dire circumstance with our children, mercy would come despite the rules. As for our Lord Jesus Christ, we know that there are no borders that He cannot cross – He loves despite the rules. We must be persistent with our prayers, not only believing that He can do it, but knowing He is merciful and will bring healing. Thanks be to God.
Inner strength The story of the woman in yesterday's devotional is one that I have long had difficulty understanding. As I look at this scripture it appears as though the woman is approaching Jesus on her own terms, by her own power. Her persistence seems to be by her own strength. She even seems to have power over Jesus, causing Him to submit to her will. After all, He said "no" to her three times, yet she stood firm and He gave in to her request.
There is a depth to this story that is often missed. Where did the woman get such faith? She was a Canaanite woman, would have had very little knowledge of the things of the Jews. Sometime earlier Jesus had met with another woman, the Samaritan at the well. By the time Jesus was finished speaking with her, this non-Jew had confessed Jesus as Lord and ran to tell her people. The word that she shared was the Word of God as found in Christ Jesus. There were others who shared their stories of healing. The disciples had been sent out to preach and heal. Jesus had fed five thousand people near Bethsaida. The word spread about Jesus like wildfire. The woman had heard the stories of Jesus' healing, so knew He could do the same for her daughter.
Yet, there is a question we have to ask. Why would a Canaanite woman have been familiar with the lineage of a man from Galilee? She came to Him and called, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me." How did this Gentile woman know that Jesus was from the house of David? She must have heard more than just the stories of His miracles. She heard the Word of God. It became part of her, so much so that it was God's Word that gave her the boldness to stand before her Lord.
Read Proverbs 16:1
In the verses that come before this story, Jesus has just left a meeting with some Pharisees and teachers of the law who had approached Jesus because His disciples were not washing their hands before they ate. Jesus told them it was not what goes into a man's mouth that makes him unclean, but what comes out. "But the things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, railings." (Matthew 15:18-19 NIV)
As we look at the story of this woman, the words from her mouth were words of worship, honor and humility. "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David." In her heart she knew who He was, by her words she proclaimed it. When she was rejected by His silence and the disciples' harsh words, she answered, "Lord, help me!" After Jesus told her that His power was not for her, she answered Him with His own words, "Yea, Lord: for even the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."
She had already received crumbs that fell. She'd already eaten the bread from heaven. She believed, because she had heard the Word of God and she knew it was found in Jesus. Her actions appear to be her own, but her words show differently. Though she appears to have all the power and strength in this story, in reality she is humble before Him. Then it is Jesus' own words coming from her mouth that bring the healing. She knew she was a dog, but she knew He was her Master and she believed in Him. That is faith. Thanks be to God.
Sanctification In the story of the Gentile woman with the demon-possessed daughter, Jesus seems almost cruel. His words speak of rejection, "I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" and disgust, "It is not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs." It seems so uncharacteristic of our Lord Jesus to treat someone with such scorn. Yet, all along He knew what He was doing. He was bringing about sanctification in the woman's life.
Sanctification is more than a change in a person's moral character. It is a complete transformation of a person's whole nature to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit given when the person was born again in faith. It is the work of perfection brought by God into the whole lives of His children. When the woman approached Jesus, she was already reconciled to God by the power of His Word. It was in her heart and her mind, so much so she had the conviction to approach Him in faith. However, she had not confessed with her mouth that Jesus was Lord, nor had she admitted her own sinful nature. So, by words of Law, Jesus drew the confession out of her mouth that would bring her closer to Him, to bring her toward perfection.
Read Colossians 1:21-23
The Gentile woman was reconciled to God through the Word of God found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We were cut off from the holiness of God because we were born with a sinful nature. Jesus is the only way we could be brought back into a relationship with Him. He went to the cross to take the sin of the world upon His shoulders. He died taking with Him the power of sin and death, and then He overcame death so that we would have new life in God's eternal Kingdom.
Though God's Word had already given the woman new life, it was not enough for Jesus. If He had given her the healing she desired without sanctifying her, she may never have lived in the life He was calling her to live. She needed to confess Jesus is Lord and admit her own nature was separated from holiness so that He could truly commend her life to God. She had to continue in the faith that was within her, standing firm in what she knew to be true and unmoved from the hope she had in Jesus Christ. When she made her confession, He said "O woman, great is thy faith." The Word of God that is planted within us is what saves, but God continues to work in our lives to bring sanctification, so that we will continually confess He is Lord and live the life of perfection He has called us to live. Thanks be to God.
Sacrifice Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the few people who recognized the evil that was found in Adolf Hitler. He warned others about the dangers found in the Nazi movement. The people, including most Christians, were supportive of the things Hitler was doing in Germany, so they disliked Bonhoeffer. He spoke out against the waves of persecution that was coming to the Jews. He was threatened and fled to America. Eventually he realized he belonged in Germany, so he returned home to be arrested and hung.
He was willing to die for his beliefs because of His faith. He once said, "When God calls a man, he bids him come and die." He believed that there were five deaths a Christian should die, without which they cannot fully live in Christ. The first, and perhaps most difficult for those of us in American society, is the death to natural relationships. The enemy is not merciful and will do whatever he can to cause us to fall. He will attack our hearts by harming those we love. This will get us to either submit to his demands or cause us to action that goes against our faith – both reactions cause us to deny our Lord. Our love for Christ should be so all-consuming that even our affection for people comes after our obedience to God's Word.
The next three are death to success, death to the flesh and death to our love of money. These three things define the way we live our lives. We work hard to do well in this world, to be physically well and to have everything we need. However, it is necessary for us to put Christ before all those things. Bonhoeffer said, "Success is the veneer that covers only the emptiness of the soul." Too often, our jobs come before our principles, and we do what we need to do to get ahead. We must stand firm in our faith, uncompromising to the ways of this world.
Bonhoeffer left Germany when he realized that he was in danger. He returned when he realized that he denied our Lord Jesus by not standing firm in faith in the midst of such persecution. We must accept that suffering is a part of the Christian faith and that we should have no fear of such. By living in Christ, we are already dead to self and own the hope of eternal life, so any danger to our body is no concern for us.
Death to our love of money is the one death we all easily claim, but it is the most deceptive. We need money to live – for our relationships, our vocations and our bodies. We even need money to continue our ministries. We think that it is enough to deny ourselves the extras, but we continue to need money to live. We work and worry and spend because our physical, earthly needs become more important than our need for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Read Luke 9:23-26
The last of the five deaths every Christian must consider, is the possibility that they may be called by God to die for their faith. Martyrhood is a possibility for every Christian. Are you willing to not only die to the things of this world, putting Christ before all, but also face martyrdom for Him? It is difficult to set aside our relationships, our vocations, our flesh and our things, because we know they are all gifts from God. However, they must not be more important than our Lord Jesus Christ. Our focus should never be on anything in this life, but only on Him. Our only real need is for God our Father and the life found in Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, we do not realize how often we deny Him to meet our physical needs. May God bless us with the strength, courage and wisdom we need to hold Him above all else in this world. Thanks be to God.
River The Arkansas River runs from west to east between the towns of Little Rock and North Little Rock. It has long been used as a source of transportation for people and for goods. In the pioneer days, people used this river to take them west from the Mississippi toward their goal of a new life in the west. Along the river are several landmarks that became regular stopping points for the travelers. Little Rock sits at the point of the river that lies between the flatlands of the east and the Ozark Mountains of the west. Near the center of town there is one particular outcropping. It is a natural landing place and was often used so that travelers could rest and restock their supplies before moving into the more difficult waters to the west.
We took a walk along the river the other day and found this outcropping that is called "the Little Rock." The town was named after this spot and the rock is identified with a marker so that visitors will know the importance of this city and river in the history of our country. Just as with other rivers around the country and the world, the Arkansas is still heavily used. It provides easy transport for goods as well as opportunities for recreation. You can often see houseboats or motorboats moving along the water and fishermen use the smooth waters of the Arkansas for their sport.
As I drove over the river one day, I noticed some of the barges that are used to transport stone from the Ozarks to a place to be processed near town. The stone is probably used for construction and landscaping. I found it amazing that such a heavy load of rock could float so easily on the river. If someone had tried to put those rocks on the surface of the water without the barge, they would have sunk quickly to the bottom of the river. The barge is flat and strong, designed to hold heavy burdens without sinking.
Our life on this earth is much like one of a pioneer traveling along a river. There are flatlands where the water is smooth and easy. There are mountainous regions with rougher rapids to navigate. There are outcroppings where we can stop for rest and to restock our supply. There are cities and people along the way to provide us with the things we need. There are landmarks to help us know the direction we should go. If we try to go on the water alone, without something like a barge to carry us, we will sink to the bottom.
Read Matthew 14:25-33
Jesus was like the barge holding Peter on top of the water. But when Peter looked to something else – the things of this world – he became frightened and began to sink. Our Christian adventure on the river of life is different than those who do not have Jesus as their Lord. We know that God provides the smooth water to help us along the way and the rapids to build our faith and endurance. We know that God provides the landing places, the rest, the supplies, the cities and people who help us along the way. We know that God provides the landmarks to guide us to our ultimate destination. Most of all, we know it is God Himself who carries us on the water of life, to keep us from sinking to the bottom.
Keep your eyes on Jesus and let Him be your barge, for He will provide all you need. Thanks be to God.
Supervisor Customer service representatives have the most difficult job in a retail store. They deal with many people a day who are upset or disturbed for some reason with their purchase. In the process, they must deal with the established rules, which often leave them in a difficult position. They want the customer to be satisfied with their purchase, and yet they have no authority to meet their demands. When I was in retail management, I was often called to settle difficult situations. People who do not immediately get their way often begin to yell and call for a supervisor. Yet that is not always the case.
There are people who would rather not deal with the management. Sometimes they simply recognize the authority that has been given to the customer service representative. Other times they are seeking to fool the employee or manipulate the system, and they know that the manager is better trained to recognize such activity. I recall one particular situation where the customer left when the manager was called, but then returned a few hours later in the hopes that the new girl at the counter would give in to their demands. I was on duty all day, knew the situation and could step in immediately before there was a problem.
When it comes to our spiritual lives, it seems so often we would prefer deal with the lesser authority. We go to church to hear God's word and listen to a message from our pastor, but we don't open our bibles during the week to study His Word for ourselves. We will attend a prayer meeting or ask others to pray for our needs, but we don't bother to spend time alone with God in prayer. We look for miracles in the world around us, but we miss out on the real touches from God that are a regular part of our lives.
Read Luke 11:29-32
There are many times when we would prefer deal with the lesser authority. We know that the supervisor will give a final answer, so we'd rather argue with the girl to see if we can her to submit to our demands rather than face the manager. The same can be said about our spiritual lives. It seems we spend a great deal of time trying to justify our actions or change other people's opinions but we do not go to the Lord in prayer as we should.
The Jews looked to their past for their understanding of God. They knew the authority by which men like Jonah and Solomon spoke, but they refused to see that Jesus had even greater authority. They wanted Jesus to give in to their demands. When He would not play parlour games with His Father's power, they refused to believe His Words. He pointed to the stories of old, to the people who submitted to the word of God spoken through Jonah and Solomon, and warned the Jews that their own past would come back to condemn their unbelief. He is the ultimate authority, and it is by His Word we are saved. Have you given in to the greater authority, living in Christ every moment of every day? Or do you still look for miraculous signs and to the words of men for your answers?
Language Both of our children attend International Studies and Foreign Language Magnet schools here in Little Rock. Zack is in Elementary school and has Spanish as his specialty. Vicki is in her first year of Middle school, so she is required to take a sampling of four different languages this year. She will then choose one to continue throughout her school career. The first semester was fairly easy on us because both children were talking in Spanish. Now Vicki is taking German. They practice common phrases in every day conversation, saying things such as 'please' and 'thank you' in the language they are learning. This type of use helps the children speak with ease and fluidity. Although it can be confusing to my husband and myself, we are also learning.
It ca difficult to be in a situation where people are speaking a language you do not understand. I was at a mall in France a few years ago and stopped into a Disney Store to buy some gifts for my children. I had a few years of French classes when I was in school, so I spoke to the clerk in the few words I could remember. He answered me with a long monologue in his native language. I stood there with glazed eyes as his words just passed by me without understanding. I said, "Wait, I don't speak that much French." He said, "I know, I'm just joking with you." He spoke perfect English, but wanted to have some fun.
There was no communication between us while he spoke French because I did not understand. His words seemed like gibberish to me, though I knew he was saying something of value. It was only after he spoke English that we could actually conduct business.
There was a problem in Corinth. The worship services were not being conducted in an orderly manner. The women priestesses who converted to Christianity from Mithraism were bringing their pagan rituals into the temple. The rich were eating without sharing with the poor. The Gnostics were claiming special knowledge and acting immorally because they claimed to be on some higher spiritual plane where they were free to act as they pleased. Paul was concerned because the Gospel was being lost in this chaos. New converts were being led astray by false teachings. Elders were living in sin. The worship did not glorify God before the world. One of the problems Paul needed to deal with was the misuse of tongues.
Read 1 Corinthians 14:6-12
In this passage, Paul is not suggesting that we should rid ourselves of the use of tongues. It can be a powerful form of prayer – talking directly to the Father. However, he is calling for us to speak God's Word in a manner that will be understood by others, so that the church will be edified. The world seems to be getting smaller because more people are learning second languages. Yet, we continue to have difficulty sharing the Word of God with others. It even happens when we are all speaking the same language. Theological terminology and differences in understanding can cause confusion and chaos.
When sharing the Word of God, we must carefully do so in a manner that will be understood by those who hear. We should speak the language of the listener and do so using the best grammar, spelling and pronunciation possible. We should avoid using words that can be misinterpreted or clearly define their meaning. When we speak, we should always seek to glorify God with our words and build up His church.
Sorcery On an episode of Friends, the girls were having difficulty with their loves lives. They were all facing the pain of recent break-ups and unable to move on with their lives. Phoebe suggested that they have a ceremony to finally end the relationships by burning pictures of the men and items that would cause them to remember. In the process, the fire went out of control and the fire department was called. This led to the girls meeting new guys and the audience got a laugh out of it all.
This story seems funny when on a TV sitcom, however this has happened in real life. A woman was having a great many problems in her life. She was at the end of her rope, unable to deal with any of the things that were burdening her. A couple of her friends, who were practicing pagans, recommended that they hold a ceremony to burn her problems. Unfortunately, during the process a spark set her home on fire and she lost everything.
These ceremonies seem so harmless, however there is great danger involved. Sorcery is defined as the use of supernatural power over people or events through the assistance of evil spirits. In a bookstore recently, I noticed a series of very colorful, attractive books about casting spells. One was for love, one was for success. There was even a book called, "Spells for School." These books are geared toward the young, making sorcery seem like just a fun game.
The news announcer who told the story about the woman whose house burned said, "Maybe next time she should go to her clergyman for help." This is valuable advice. The bible specifically warns against the use of any type of sorcery because we have no control over the spirits. Though we seem to have the power, with witchcraft we are relying upon something that is unreliable. Isaiah the prophet tells what will happen to those who look to the spiritual realm for their help without looking toward the Lord God Almighty.
Read Isaiah 47:8-15
Sorcery is not harmless fun, it is dangerous use of spirits that are beyond human understanding and control. Such action can turn against you and create even more problems as it did for the woman in the story. Manipulating people, seeking answers through divination, magic spells spoken to change circumstances are dangerous acts that no Christian should pursue.
Instead, we should always look toward the saving power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. God, our Father Almighty, is in control of it all, the natural as well as the spiritual realms. However, if we turn to the use of sorcery, He will not stop us from suffering the consequences of our actions. The day will come when those who seek the help of evil spirits for their desires will not be able to stop the catastrophe that will occur. Today set aside the things that seem like harmless fun and seek only to live in the light and life of your Lord Jesus. The Lord God Almighty is the only help you need. Thanks be to God.
Relatives With the holidays fast approaching, many people will be spending more time than usual with their relatives. Next week there will be a mass movement of people in cars, buses and airplanes as they go home for Thanksgiving. In the weeks following, there will be reunions and parties, intimate gatherings where brothers and sisters, parents and children, aunts, uncles and third cousins will eat, drink and talk about their lives. In many cases, the people gathered can’t stand one another, but feel some sense of duty to join in the festivities.
Unfortunately, many families face intense conflicts. There are battles about past hurts, arguments over money and clashes of personalities. I’ve seen families destroyed over inheritances and family dinners turned into barroom brawls. The holidays can be very difficult because emotions are already running very high. Any underlying problems are magnified. The holidays bring out anger and depression for many people.
During Jesus’ ministry, He taught the people about living in relationships. The most important is our relationship with His Father, our Lord God Almighty. He warned and encouraged the people to live in a life where they loved and cared for one another and did not worry about the things of this world. He showed them what life was like for those who put God first, above all else. It means that we will live in loving relationships with our families, friends and even our enemies. Some of Jesus’ listeners just didn’t get it.
Read Luke 12:13-21
It was common practice for rabbis of the day to settle disputes such as this one, so the brother came to him for judgment. According to the laws of Moses, the oldest son got twice as much as any of his brothers. But this man did not think it was fair and wanted more inheritance. He had not been listening to the things Jesus was teaching about love, trust and faith. We don’t need more things; we need a stronger relationship with God. We could pass at any moment, either from disease or a car accident. We could fall prey to a criminal or simply die in our sleep. At that point, nothing matters at all, not our money, our homes or our stuff. However, at that moment, our relationship with God in Christ Jesus is of utmost importance.
In the weeks to come, how will your family gatherings play out? Will there be battles over who got the most toys under the Christmas tree or who did more for Mom and Dad this year? Do you dread going home for Thanksgiving dinner knowing that the inevitable fight will just bring more anger and hostility? Go with peace in your own heart, with a deep and committed relationship with God. Do not seek to gain something from the relationship but rather share your faith with those around. The only thing that matters is God. When you live in His light, everything else will fall into place. Bring the light to your family parties this holiday season, share His peace and love with your world. You may not change the situation, but you will have a more joyful celebration of the birth of your Lord. Thanks be to God.
Reunions They say you can never go home again. For those who left home under less than ideal circumstances, returning can be very difficult. We have heard horror stories of young people who have run away from home and end up on the street. They get addicted to drugs and will do anything they can to get the money necessary, often turning to theft or prostitution to pay for their habit. These kids often end up in jail, and under the care of officers of the courts. When it is suggested that they go home, they reject the idea. They left for a reason, and they refuse to return to those circumstances.
These kids aren’t the only ones who run away from home, however. I remember many conversations during the later years of high school with friends who were desperate to have a new life. They chose universities on the other side of the country because they wanted to be as far from home as possible. Some joined the military because either they did not have the grades or financial means for college. For some of my friends, such a move was necessary to accomplish their goals in life, but for many it was a way to get out of town. Many of these kids grew up to be successful in their careers and their home lives, yet they find it difficult to go home again.
One of the reasons for this is that people change. We grow up; we learn life’s lessons and are molded by our circumstances. For some, the changes are positive and the child becomes a mature adult. Yet, when we return to the bosom of our families, we revert to our old roles in those relationships. The youngest child is always remembered as the baby. The favorite kid is treated with favor, and the troublemaker with disdain. No matter where life has taken the members of a family, when they gather in a room for a holiday the relationships return to the way they were years before. For those who have lived far from home, the change is more pronounced and harder to accept.
Reunions can be particularly difficult for a person who has been born again in Christ. They have truly become a new person, nothing like the one who left home years before. Yet, their family remembers their failures, their insecurities, and their pain. So they find it difficult to understand this new person in their midst. If the child was a troublemaker, their walk with Christ seems impossible to believe. For non-Christian relatives, this new person seems holier-than-thou or is called a Jesus freak. When the Christian brother or sister refuses to return into his or her role in the family, tensions rise and arguments are bound to occur. Jesus faced a similar situation with His own family.
Read Mark 3:31-35
Jesus’ mother and brothers were concerned about Jesus because His actions were unusual. He had been transformed by His wilderness experience and was doing as He was called by His Father to do. He had a ministry to do, people who needed to hear His words and feel His touch. Mary and His brothers came to take Him home, but He refused because it was against God’s Will.
During the next few months, our families may call for us to go home, to return into the roles we played in our youth. We must be careful not to fall into such a trap. Our lives as Christians should stand firm even against the expectations of those we love most – our families and childhood friends. We must continue to walk in His light, no matter what expectations our mothers and brothers have of us. Stand firm in Christ and Christ will shine into your family relationships, making them new also. Thanks be to God.
Meteors The universe is filled many different types of bodies. There are planets, stars and moons, many of which have been studied and identified by astronomers for millennia. One body that has long fascinated mankind is the comet. These hazy bodies are made of ices, gases and small quantities of meteoritic material. The comets orbit the sun in elliptical paths, and can often be seen by the human eye when they approach the sun. As the comet travels, it breaks apart leaving a trail of debris. As planets and moons pass through these fields of floating rock and iron, the meteoroids often hit and cause damage to the surface. The moon is covered with craters that were created when these rocks crashed to the surface.
The earth has an atmosphere that causes meteoroids to burn up as they enter. These flaming balls of rock and iron are called meteors and they disintegrate before they are able to touch the earth. Those that are large enough to reach the ground are called meteorites. We see them in the night sky as quick flashes of light that briefly streak into our vision. There are always bits and pieces of space rock that come into the earth’s atmosphere, but on a normal night you not see any. They are known as shooting stars and legend holds that if you see one and make a wish, your wish will be granted.
This weekend the earth passed through a large field of meteoroids, causing the night sky to be filled with many shooting stars. If the conditions were right, it was possible to see hundreds at the peak of the meteor shower. Unfortunately at our house, there was a great deal of cloud cover. Bruce got up shortly after four a.m. to watch the show, and I went out shortly before five. At first, I didn’t see any. I thought perhaps I’d waited too long, or there were too many porch lights shining, or that the show was happening behind the clouds where I could not see. It was a lovely morning, not too cool and the air smelled sweet. I enjoyed being there at that moment. I began to pray, to thank God for His marvelous creation. I asked Him to open my eyes to the wonders of His love and suddenly I saw one, then another and another. I was able to see when I stopped trying so hard. It did no good to search for something that could not be seen until it was there. When my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I relaxed my thoughts, the shooting stars were plentiful. In a few minutes I saw about fifteen in that tiny area of unclouded sky.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
How often do we try too hard to find the things of this world and miss out on the greater blessings found in patient watchfulness and prayer? The joy of that morning of watching for shooting stars was not seeing them, for their moment of glory was fleeting. When the meteors entered the earth’s atmosphere they burned up until they were nothing, never to exist again. However, in those brief moments of prayer my relationship with God was renewed and deepened. I loved watching the shooting stars, but their glory is just a glimmer of what we will know when we will stand in the eternal glory of God our Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.
Unexpected company Bruce called yesterday afternoon to ask if he could bring someone home for dinner. A friend of ours from England was in town on a temporary duty. When he found out he’d be coming here, he knew he had to contact us to get together for an evening. It was a hectic afternoon as I tried to make the house presentable for our guest. I had to clean and prepare dinner. It was unexpected work, but was a pleasure to do. I normally prefer to have more than a few hours notice, so that I have the time necessary to dust, sweep, make a dessert or do whatever else needs to be accomplished. Though the evening was not planned, we were greatly blessed by the visit of our friend.
When it comes to my life, I’d like to plan ahead and know what will happen tomorrow. Where will we be, what will we be doing? My husband recently found out that he is going to be promoted. This is good news, and means we can stay in the Air Force for another few years. Though it is likely we’ll stay here, we simply do not know what tomorrow holds. In the meantime we will continue to do what we are doing and pray God’s will for the rest.
In today’s world, many people are convinced that we have reached the end times – the time in the history of this world when Jesus will return. Throughout the history of the Church, there have always been those to think that the world is about to be destroyed, so they stop living their lives to wait for it to come. Or they quit their jobs to go preach. Or they build bomb shelters to hide. Or they stick their noses in the prophecies of the Bible convinced they can find the answers to their questions about the end. They want to understand.
Read Daniel 12:8-10
We have been given a great gift, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, we know what tomorrow will hold – eternal life. We know that one day Jesus will return, but we do not know when. God’s time is not like our time. For us, who live in the time established by the course of creation, we are closer now than we’ve ever been to the Day of the Lord. However, God is timeless. He is as close now as He’s ever been. We do not know when that day will come. Jesus warned us not to listen to those who predicted the day, for they will be liars who do not understand.
When Daniel was given the prophecy of the end, he did not understand. But God told him to go about his business and live his life. We are to do the same. He doesn’t want to come and find us staring at the sky, hiding in bomb shelters or with our nose in the Bible. He wants to find us using our gifts as we work at the vocation He has ordained for our lives – whether it is preacher or janitor, president or housewife. When He comes, we won’t have time to clean the bathrooms, to ask forgiveness from those we’ve hurt, to share the Gospel with our best friends. So, He expects us to be walking in His light, doing as He’s called us to do, whether He will arrive in a day, month, year or millennium. The kingdom of God is always near, in our hearts.
We don’t need to know what will happen tomorrow. Some of the greatest blessings come in those surprises that happen when we get unexpected company. Are you ready to meet the Lord? As a Christian, you have already met Him. When He does come again, He expects you to be doing what He has called you to do. This is all you need to understand. Be wise and live in His light, using your gifts and vocation to His glory. Thanks be to God.
Castaway Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish sailor who got into an argument with the captain of the boat on which he was traveling. In September 1704, he chose to be put ashore on an uninhabited island. He was not rescued until 1709. His life inspired Daniel DeFoe to write “Robinson Crusoe.”
In the story, Robinson Crusoe discovered a bible in one of the trunks he salvaged from the remains of his wrecked ship. Reading the words of the book changed his heart. “I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition, and less upon the dark side, and to consider what I enjoyed, rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts, that I cannot express them; and which I take notice here, to put those discontented people in mind of it, who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them, because they see and covet something that He has not given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from want of thankfulness for what we have.”
In many ways, tomorrow will be a most unusual Thanksgiving for Americans. We are extremely thankful for the blessings we have, yet we are living with a cloud of fear and anger over our heads. We are anxious to return to normality. We want to be able to open our mail without wondering if it has been tampered with and to fly on vacation without worrying that the plan will crash. The military and police are on high alert. Due to the circumstances and security issues this year, there will be many spending a lonely weekend far from those they love.
Though we may not be having the kind of Thanksgiving we want, we must find contentment in our circumstances. The same is true of all our life situations. There are many things we want in this world. We want new computers or cars, a better job, more friends. We want to go on longer vacations to more exotic places. We want to expand our influence and even our ministries. We want to feel safe, in control. We want to be able to live in love and forgiveness, and yet there just seem to be so many things that burden our hearts and minds. We don’t always get what we want. Yet, we need to find contentment even in the most upsetting times.
Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
We do not know what Paul’s thorn was, and I think the reason for that is so that we can see ourselves in Paul’s situation. There are suggestions that Paul had a physical ailment of some sort. Those who are sick can identify with Paul’s words. Others think that Paul’s ministry was being attacked in some way. Many can relate to that experience. Yet others think this thorn is spiritual, perhaps a demon or some sort of temptation that tormented him. We all face temptation, so we look to the Word of God for comfort in those times. “My grace is sufficient for you.”
May God bless us this day with a reminder that even in the direst circumstances, His grace is sufficient for our joy to be complete. I pray that whatever thorn you face this holiday and each day, you will face it with contentment and live in thanksgiving for the things God has given you, rather than in want for something different. In thankfulness, we will see that God is ever present in our hardship; He is stronger in our weakness. This day, praise God from whom all blessings flow and rejoice in your circumstances whatever they may be. Amen.
Thanksgiving On this day in America, families will stuff their faces with turkey, spend all day in front of the TV watching parades and football, and enjoy the company of those they love. I pray that in the midst of the fun and fellowship we will enjoy, that each of us will take time to give thanks to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ for the great and many blessings of this life.
Read Psalm 136
Though this Thanksgiving is an American holiday, this message is timely for all Christians every day. We wish you all, no matter where you are this day, a Happy Day of Thanksgiving. Keep your Lord at the center of this joyous day and your entire life. We have a hope that does not disappoint, a hope of something greater than the many blessings of this life, a hope in a God who is faithful and true. Let us live in thanks and praise to Him who is, was and will be forever. Amen.
Purpose Holidays tend to be a time when we reflect upon our lives. At reunions such as those that occurred yesterday all over the country, siblings discussed their direction their lives had taken and parents listened with pride as their children shared their successes. Family members asked a million questions such as, “Are you happy?” “Are you successful?” “Do you plan on continuing this path?” “What is your purpose?”
This final question is one we often ask ourselves. Why are we here and what does God intend for our lives? Senior high school students are asking those questions as they decide what they what they will do after they graduate in a few months. The events of this fall have caused many to look inwardly, to their faith, and realize that they are not living as God has called them to live. Next week, we begin the season of the church year called Advent. In the secular world it is a time when we shop ‘til we drop and spend a fortune on presents, decorations and parties. The month before Christmas is hectic as we prepare our homes for the holiday, bake cookies and other sweets, and share our joy with others.
For the church, Advent is a much different time of preparation. It is a to look forward to both the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and to His return in Glory. It is a time of personal reflection and hopeful expectation. It is a time to ask, “What is my purpose?”
When you look up the word purpose in a concordance, you will find that there are a large number of Greek and Hebrew words that are translated as ‘purpose’ in England. Each word must be read in context to understand its meaning. It may be something toward which one works to accomplish or it may be the intended result. Take for example our jobs. When we work, are we striving for the rewards offered, or are we working so that we will accomplish some task?
When Christians wonder about our purpose, we add to the equation the Lord God Almighty. “Why have I been created, what is His purpose for me?” God’s purposes are eternal and trustworthy, pointing always toward reconciliation with Him – salvation. So, what is our purpose? We were created to glorify God.
Read Psalm 138
In the coming months you will reflect upon your life in response to the questions of family or the decisions that must be made for the future. Consider first the Lord God Almighty and your place in His kingdom. Are you fulfilling the purpose for which you were created? Are you glorifying God with your life? Everything else will fall into place perfectly and completely when you realize that it is in humbleness and submission to your Saviour Jesus Christ that you will truly fulfill the purpose for which you were designed and ordained in this world. Praise God and work for the result rather than the reward. When God is glorified, you too will find yourself living in His glory. Thanks be to God.
Charity When the attack came to New York, many people were affected. The most obvious are those who lost their lives. In the aftermath we have seen many examples of people who were affected in other ways – emotionally and financially. Thousands of people have lost their jobs. Families have lost their breadwinner. People are even losing their homes.
The victims of this disaster go far beyond the city of New York. In the early days after the tragedy, Americans opened their hearts and their wallets to give generously to the funds established to help those in need. Many people went to New York, to offer their strength to work at rescue and relief. There are those who offered emotional support, the children who sent letters and the professionals who listened to those suffering from fear and pain. We saw the heart of America in its compassion for those who suffered.
Unfortunately, we put all our generosity into one place, and many local charities were forgotten. A few days before Thanksgiving, the local news programs put out calls for help. Local ministries had very little food or money to feed the homeless and hungry this week. Thankfully, the call for help was answered and God blessed the ministries with an overflow of blessings. One particular ministry had only enough for a few dozen people as of early this week, but on thanksgiving they fed hundreds.
Compassion is sympathetic concern for the suffering of another. This suffering is not necessarily just hunger or homelessness. We need to share our love with those who suffer in heart and mind. The world is filled with many who do not know the Lord, who are still living according to the ways of the flesh. There are still many who battle with depression, fear, loneliness and hatred. There is only one solution to our life’s problems, and the answer is Jesus. Jesus is found in the hearts of believers.
It is more than just our concern, however. Compassion includes action.
Read Psalm 145:8-13
The Lord God Almighty, through Jesus Christ our Lord, has shown the most incredible compassion to all. His goodness is for all He has made. His love is for everyone. There are still many who are blind to this love, who need to see it. They will only see it through the compassion given by those who know His Grace. Christians who have heard the Word and have seen the light are God’s instruments of His grace and compassion. Through us, all men will know of God’s mighty acts, the splendor of His kingdom.
How will you show compassion today? Will you help feed the hungry or open your home to the lonely? Will you share a moment of joy with someone who does not know the Lord? Will you sing praises to God in all your circumstances and share God’s forgiveness with those who have done you harm? Today, when you look at the people in your world, instead of finding fault in all they do, perhaps you should be compassionate and gracious, granting forgiveness and love. When you see someone in need, remember, they were created in God’s image and their pain is much deeper than you can ever know. Ask the Lord to enable you to help rather than further hinder their knowledge of the Lord. Remember God’s graciousness and compassion to you, and pass it on. Thanks be to God.
Adventure The book of Acts reads like an adventure novel, where the heroes face the most incredible circumstances as they journey to their destination. The second half of the book is filled with the experiences of Paul, the great missionary preacher of the early church. Throughout the story, Paul and his companions meet many different people. Some come to know the Lord and are saved; others persecuted the Christians for their message and reject the Gospel. There are other characters that we meet in passing, never knowing whether they began to follow the Way.
Paul faced difficult circumstances. The Jewish leadership did not understand what happened to him and the Christians did not trust him. The Romans thought he was a troublemaker. He suffered every sort of humiliation and persecution. He was beaten, imprisoned. He had to prove his commitment. He worked endless hours and traveled many miles to share the Gospel of Grace with the world. He did so constantly, always giving his testimony wherever he went. He faced natural disaster and supernatural intervention. At times these experiences were extraordinary, others seem to be the natural course of events.
Paul’s final recorded journey is to Rome, an adventure that was to take him to trial before Caesar. A centurion named Julius was assigned as his guard. The travel was difficult, the wind was not right to sail at that time. Paul suggested that their lives were at stake and that they should wait until the better weather. The sailors and centurion did not listen. The gentle breeze that gave the sailors confidence to set off became a raging storm. They did not eat and they threw supplies overboard to lighten the ship. The 276 people on board gave up all hope of being saved. Eventually, Paul spoke to encourage everyone.
Read Acts 27:21-26
Even in the most difficult times Paul knew that God was in control. He spoke boldly, since he was just a prisoner, yet the centurion listened and helped keep Paul alive. The sailors tried to escape the ship by using the lifeboat and the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to keep them from escaping. But the centurion protected Paul’s life. The passengers spent several months on the island of Malta, enjoying the hospitality of the people there. In that time, Paul and his companions healed the sick and shared the Gospel. During that time, the centurion must have heard the Gospel message; he certainly saw Paul’s faith in action. Yet we have no evidence that he became a Christian.
Our own life of faith may not be as exciting as that of Paul, yet we are also on a journey. Each day we experience things that change our lives and test our faith. At times we too become discouraged, but God gives us the strength to go on. The people we meet are just like those in Paul’s life. Some hear the Gospel and come to faith. Some hear the Gospel and their hard hearts reject God’s love. Some seem to pass through our lives without being impacted, yet they play a valuable role in our journey.
I believe that in God’s time and in God’s way, the centurion named Julius met the Lord Jesus on his own 'road to Damascus'. Perhaps his own conversion was not as dramatic as Paul's, but life changing in another way. The same is true of those who cross my path seemingly untouched by the Gospel. I have hope that God will speak to them in a way that will draw them into the kingdom. Meanwhile, I will praise God that they were part of my journey, thankful that God uses all His creation to bring about His plan.
Tornadoes A terrible storm swept through the south, leaving behind it a wake of fallen trees. Several people died due to weather related incidents and many have been left homeless. The storms happened late at night when most people were home sleeping. Several areas are being investigated today to find the extent of the damage and discover the cause. The evidence has verified at least a few tornado touch downs. One of those areas is relatively close to our home. We were aware of a storm, we saw a few flashes of lightning and heard thunder, but we went back to sleep unconcerned.
If those same storms had come through the area during the day, I would have kept the TV turned to weather reports, or followed the radar on the Internet weather sites. I would probably have been nervous as I watched the weathermen predict the paths of tornadoes, wondering if one might form near our home. I would have went over our storm plan and readied supplies. It would probably have been a frightening time for us, since we have had very little experience with these types of severe storms. The same storm would have gotten a far different reaction from me. Friday I was resting peacefully unaware of the situation. Had the storm come at another time, I would have been nervous and anxious.
Many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. They knew what it was like to be on the water during a storm. It is likely they knew men who died in such storms and they certainly knew the danger involved. Such a storm would have caused water to come over the side and fill the boat until it either sunk or capsized. If the weather got nasty when the fishermen were on the water, they would have done everything possible to protect their lives and their boat.
Read Luke 8:22-25
The disciples found themselves in the middle of a storm that could have brought death and destruction. Yet, Jesus slept. They were busy scooping water from inside the boat, yet Jesus lay resting. They knew the danger involved, so woke Him and said, “Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up, rebuked the wind and storm died. Then He rebuked the disciples. “Where is your faith?”
Jesus wasn’t upset that they were working to keep the boat afloat, He wondered about their faith. They were afraid, even though they were with Jesus. If I had been aware of the storm the other night, I should have made sure everything was prepared just in case we needed to retreat to our safe place. However, those actions should have been taken with the faith that God is with me and in His presence I can have peace even in the fiercest storms. We should not fear the dangers of this world when Jesus is in the boat with us. How will you approach the next storm? Will you scream out to the Lord, “Help me I am going to drown”? Or will you stand firm in faith knowing that God is with you and that He will help you through?
Predictions In the year 1899, Charles H. Duell, commissioner of the US Office of Patents said, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Yet the 20th century was a time of great technological and industrial growth. As a matter of fact, more has been invented since Mr. Duell made his statement than in the entire history of humanity.
Other interesting predictions come from men whose own careers proved their statements wrong. In 1980, Bill Gates said, “640K ought to be enough for anybody.” In 1977, Ken Olson, the president of Digital Equipment Corporation said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” In 1968, an engineer at IBM responding to the microchip said, “But what… is it good for?” In 1943, Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
As I was shopping for Christmas gifts this weekend, I was amazed at the wide variety and low cost of so many electronic gadgets. DVD players, a relatively new invention, are already affordable for the average consumer. New computers are far more advanced than the original ones and they are so inexpensive that most Americans are able have one in their homes. The sale aisles are filled with new gadgets for the kitchen that dice, chop, bake, grill or freeze anything you want to cook. The toy stores have hundreds of new and improved items that will satisfy the desires of any child.
All this technology has impacted our lives in many ways, and it has not always been positive. Yet, I would not want to live in any other time of history. I like my microwave, my radio, and my computer. I am able to drive my car into town to run errands in the morning and return home for lunch. The telephone and Internet has made it much simpler to contact family and friends who are far away. Laundry can be completed in the course of a day while I’m doing other tasks, and dinner doesn’t take a whole afternoon to prepare. I have more time to do other things, such as volunteer at the kids’ schools or work at the church. The new is better than the old.
The Hebrews were given a covenant from God through the prophet Moses. This covenant was a promise that God would always be with the Hebrews wherever they would go. The people would see the awesome power of God as they moved into the Promised Land, defeating their enemies and settling into the life of blessing promised to their forefathers. The LORD asked only that the people obey His commands; to keep themselves separate from those who worship other gods. This command was for their own protection, since union with the pagans would lead to their own worship of those gods.
God’s work showed the people and the nations that He is truly God, awesome and powerful. Even the Hebrews were so frightened to be in His presence that they asked Moses to attend to Him and then pass on His words to them. The Jews often failed to be obedient to God’s commands, but His promise remained true. One day, the day of Christ, He made something new.
Read Hebrews 12:18-24
Everything old was made new again with the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was born into this world to bring forgiveness for our failure to be obedient, and to give us the power to live in His life. We do not have to be frightened to stand in the presence of God our Father, because Jesus stands before us as mediator. The Old Testament is filled with predictions about how God will deal with His people. They were all fulfilled in Jesus Christ. There was great blessing in living in a covenant with God, being obedient to His commands. But I would not want to live in any other time than now, in the New Covenant found in my Lord Jesus Christ. The new is better than the old. Thanks be to God.
One-way street Felix, our cat, gets fed when we get out of bed in the morning. Unfortunately, he gets hungry before we wake up. So, between four and five a.m. he begins to do everything he can to get us out of bed. He purrs in our ears, puts his head under our hand to cause us to pet him and nuzzles us with his nose. He also nibbles on our elbows and rattles the mini-blinds. It is during this hour that we get the most love and attention from him. The rest of the day he is typically standoffish, ignoring us as cats tend to do. But when he’s hungry, he shows us how much he loves us.
People are the same way. We can all identify people in our lives that only seem to come to us when they are in need. The telephone rings and the voice on the other end says, “Hi!” and you sink into your chair thinking, “What does she want now?” Perhaps at times we are like that ourselves, only calling certain people when there is something they can do for us. We need someone to fill a slot on a committee so we call the one person who we know will say yes to our request. Yet we never think to call them to just say hello. It is difficult to have such a relationship, one that is like a one-way street. We begin to realize that they don’t really care for us; they only see us as someone who can fulfill their needs. Meanwhile, we do so out of love and friendship, never having it returned.
How often does our relationship with God look the same way? We go to Him constantly when we are in need but we rarely call on Him when we are living blessed lives. When we get sick, tired, hungry or cold we get on our knees and cry out to Him for help. When we are hurt and angry we cry for vengeance. When we are sad and afraid we ask Him to give us comfort and peace. Yet, when we are healthy and full, happy and safe, we rarely even think about Him. We don’t often think about witnessing about the blessings of God when we are living that blessed life.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:13-15
Felix will continue to be fed whether he grants us his attention at other times of the day. It is our task to care for this animal that has trusted us all these years, whether he returns the love or not. The same is true with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and God our Father. Jesus died for our sin, knowing that we will continue to fail Him. He grants us many blessings, knowing that we’ll forget to be thankful and to live in the life He has called us to live. He continues to forgive even though we continue to disobey.
Yet, He desires so much more from us. He hopes that our love and thankfulness will be so great that we cannot stay silent. He hopes that we will live in His light and walk according to His ways. God hopes? Yes, because hope is not wishes and dreams, hope is expectation. God our Father hopes, expects, that we will live as we are called to live, because Christ is in us and we are in Christ. It is because we believe that we can and will speak. As we grow in faith, that faith will overflow so others will come to know the truth and believe. Thanks be to God.
Flooding It has been raining for the better part of three days. The weather reports are indicating that the rains should let up by later today. This is the first appreciable rain we’ve had in months. Our yearly rain totals are well below normal, the drought is causing numerous problems. At this time, with everything so dry, homeowners are unable to burn the millions of leaves that have fallen to the ground. The rivers and lakes are well below normal. The ground was so dry that the water that fell during the brief showers that came over the past couple of months just ran into gullies, doing little to help the vegetation. The heavy rain has caused flash flooding in many parts of Arkansas.
One of the unnoticeable problems with the lack of rain is that the roads get covered with automobile fluids. Oil, gas, anti-freeze, power steering and brake fluid leak from the engines of the thousands of cars every day, leaving a film that has no real impact on driving – until it rains. The water and the fluids make the roads a slippery mess until the rain can wash it away. When I was driving Monday morning, I noticed a number of cars in the ditches and fender benders were abundant.
The rain has made if very cold and damp here. Many people are adversely affected by such inclement weather in their bodies, as old wounds begin to hurt and arthritis acts up. Others are getting sinus troubles or are suffering from colds or flu.
Yet, despite all the negative affects of this rain, it is being deemed a great blessing. We need water to grow crops, to supply our physical needs. It seems strange that something that seems so bad on the surface can be so wonderful – a saving grace. Yet, God seems to work that way; He takes the most incredible situations and makes them work for His glory. The greatest moment of grace came when Christ died on the cross. Yet it is that very event that makes most people question Christianity. Why would Christ have to die? Why did God require blood sacrifice? What possible benefit could the world get from the cross?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-19
It was said that you could find a wise man on every corner in Corinth who had the solution to the world’s problems. Paul quoted this passage from Isaiah because they were not pointing at the true solution, the cross of Christ. Even today the world is filled with wise men, though they are found on the Internet and television rather than on the street corners. They point away from Jesus Christ. It seems so silly for the wise man to find blessings in such a disastrous event.
As the skies clear and people begin to survey the damage caused by the storms this week, many will question whether the rain was indeed a blessing. The evidence will have soaked into the ground and there will not be any real changes to the lives of the people. Yet, this rain will mean that they will continue to get as much water as they need and the crops that supply their dinner table will grow to be harvested. So, too, many will continue to refuse the see the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ as the solution to our problems. They do not believe it could be of any use because the benefit is spiritual rather than physical. It is like the water that runs into the ground, not visible to our eyes but we know it will make a difference. As Christians, we know that God’s way is far better than anything we can think for ourselves. Thank God for the rain that will meet our physical needs. But let us be even more thankful for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, because it is there we will find the greatest blessing.
Timing Joseph was the first-born son of Jacob’s favourite wife. He was deeply loved by his father who gave him a richly ornamented robe. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and hated him because he was the favoured son. One day Joseph had a dream, which the brothers understood to mean they would bow down to him. Then he had another, which showed that not only his brothers, but also his parents would bow down to him. This made his brothers hate him even more and they conspired to kill him. At the last moment, his life was spared and he was sold as a slave.
Even in slavery, Joseph was blessed. The LORD was with him and his Egyptian master, Potipher, gave him a high position in his household. The wife of his master found Joseph attractive and tried to seduce him, but he refused to betray the trust given him, knowing it was a sin against God. Potipher’s wife falsely accused him of trying to sleep with her, and he was put into prison. Even in prison, Joseph was blessed. The LORD was with him and the prison warden made him responsible for all that was done there.
One day two of Egypt’s highest officials, the cupbearer and chief baker, offended Pharaoh. The king of Egypt put these two men into the custody of the prison warden. They were assigned to Joseph who cared for them. One night, the two men both had dreams that troubled them. The next morning, when Joseph saw they were upset, he asked why they were so sad. They told him about the dreams and lamented the lack of an interpreter to help them understand. Joseph’s life was always centered on God, so he told them that God would provide them with what they desire. The cupbearer’s dream was favourable. He would return to his position in Pharaoh’s house on the third day. Joseph asked, “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” When the chief baker told Joseph his dream the interpretation foretold death on the third day.
Read Genesis 40:20-23
Two years later, Pharaoh had a dream that could not be interpreted by any of the magicians or wise men of Egypt. The cupbearer remembered Joseph. He was called to provide the interpretation. Once again, Joseph said that it would be God who would provide the answer. The dreams foretold of great prosperity for Egypt for a time, but then a time of drought and famine. Pharaoh was being warned to set aside some of the abundance in the good years to provide for the years of famine.
Pharaoh put Joseph in charge. Only Pharaoh was above Joseph in power, and Joseph ruled well. Grain was set aside during the years of prosperity. When the years of famine came, Egypt was well prepared. People from foreign lands came to purchase grain from the storehouses prepared by Joseph, including his own family. The day came when his youthful dreams came true as his brothers and father bowed down before his authority.
Many years passed from the time when God spoke to Joseph in his dream to the day it was fulfilled. During that time, Joseph suffered many humiliations – slavery, harassment and imprisonment. Those who made promises to help him forgot him. Yet, he continued to trust God and in His time, everything came to pass.
We have all experienced times when people have made promises, such as that made by the cupbearer to Joseph, but they forget. Joseph could have tried to contact the cupbearer to remind him of the promise, but instead he waited patiently for God’s time. We too should trust in God’s perfect timing for all things in this life, knowing that His plan is perfect. Do you feel that something should happen today, but it seems like the promise has been forgotten? Be patient and wait on God. His promises never fail. Thanks be to God.