Welcome to the November 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, November 2002
November 1, 2002
Saints I have a book called “A Calendar of Saints” which I bought while we lived in England. Throughout the history of the Church there have been some people who have lived extraordinary lives for the Lord, often dying for the sake of the Gospel. Many of the stories are about people who were great sinners but whose lives were changed by the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. Other stories are about men and women who lived godly lives serving the sick and poor. There are often legends connected with these people of miraculous healings and exceptional generosity. These people have been recognized by the Church over the years and are remembered for their faith.
Each saint has their own festival day during which they are remembered. But today is All Saint’s Day, a day to recall with joy the witness of Christians throughout the ages. Though my calendar book lists the principal saints that are remembered every year, those men and women are just a minuscule fraction of the many people we call saints. Saints are not just those who lived extraordinary lives for the Lord. Anyone who believes in Jesus is a saint – past, present and future. Saints are those who follow the Lord Jesus, the sheep who follow His voice. We are saints in Christ, part of the flock that is called the Church. We are joined together in every time and place by our confession of faith in the One who is our Savior. We have gone through the gate into the sheepfold and we are His.
In the book of John, Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” (John 10:9) We enter into the Kingdom of God through Jesus; there is no other way to be saved. All those who believe in Jesus have become part of the flock, saints by the grace of God. Within the sheepfold, we are blessed beyond measure, given all we need to live.
Read Matthew 7:13-14
Our Father, the Lord God Almighty, is the Creator of all that is seen and unseen – everything in heaven and on earth. God loves every bit of His creation, from the tiniest amoebae to the great elephants of Africa. He loves every man, woman and child whom He has blessed with life in this world. However, not everyone will be saved, because not all will go through the gate into eternal life. Jesus is that gate, through Him and Him alone do we find salvation. My book is filled with several hundred of the most fascinating Christians ever to live, but their lives are no more extraordinary than yours or mine. Each of us in Christ are saints – called, gifted and sent to be His witnesses to bring the lost home to the sheepfold. They too can enter into the Kingdom through the gate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Thanks be to God.
Shepherd The scriptures are filled with passages that are difficult for us to understand because we have not experienced the world in the same way as those who lived in the days of the writing. How many of us have been shepherds or made our living as fishermen? When was the last time any of us walked even just a few miles to visit the market or our relatives? How often do we make our own bread and live on meager meals because there is no food to eat? Though I know some people have lived through these experiences, most of us have no idea what it is like.
Phillip Keller learned what it was like to be a shepherd. He grew up in East Africa where his neighbors were simple herders who lived much like those in Jesus’ day. As a young man he earned a living as a shepherd. These experiences gave him a much deeper understanding of the imagery used in the Bible that describe God as a shepherd. He took his experiences and put them on paper in the classic book called “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.” In his book, he explains the different aspects of caring for the sheep through the cold of winter and the heat of summer. He tells about how to care for the fields so that the sheep do harm themselves or get lost because they have gone looking for greener pastures. He shares the struggles of moving the sheep to the hills for the summer months, the lack of water, the bugs that bother the sheep until they rub themselves to death. He describes the use of the rod and staff, showing how they keep the sheep safe and comfortable.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd.” He knows each of his sheep and we know His voice. He cares for us through the cold of winter and the heat of summer. He ensures we are safe and have plenty of food and water to sustain us. He was willing to lay down His life for His sheep.
Read Psalm 23
David was a shepherd boy, so he understood the hard work that goes into caring for the sheep. When he wrote this psalm, he saw the Lord as his shepherd doing everything necessary to keep him safe and satisfied. Phillip Keller was able to look at these words of David and embrace them because he too had lived the life of a shepherd. Though we have not experienced that type of life, we can know that Jesus will be true to His Word and that He will keep us through the cold of winter and the heat of summer. He will care for the fields so that we will not harm ourselves or get lost because we have gone looking for greener pastures. He will be with us as He guides our paths into places where we will find everything we need to sustain our lives. He will protect us from the things that seek to bring us harm. He will keep us safe with His rod and staff. In Him we will find comfort, peace, joy and life. Jesus is our shepherd, we shall not want for anything. Thanks be to God.
*** I highly recommend the book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller. Once you read it, you will never look at Psalm 23 the same way again.
Cover-up Now that the temperatures are getting colder, it is time to dig the winter coats out of the closet. The other day I went to an event in a building that was rather cool, and though I had spent time dressing nicely for the event, no one ever saw what I was wearing. The coat covered my clothes. A winter coat is designed to keep a person warm, but in the process it also covers whatever is beneath so no one can see it. Other items of clothing are specifically designed to hide what is underneath. We all have worn bathrobes or swimsuit cover-ups at some point, for the sake of modesty or out of embarrassment. There are other types of cover-ups such as furniture slipcovers or book covers. They are used to hide what is beneath or to protect the couch or book from harm. But the best cover-up I wear is the righteousness of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. With it, the Lord sees me through Jesus-colored glasses.
Cover-ups have many uses – to keep us warm, to hide what is beneath or to protect the item it covers. A cover-up doesn’t change what is underneath. The clothes I was wearing were just as nice even though no one saw them. My body doesn’t look any better in a swimsuit under a cover-up or without one. A book still contains the same words even if a paper cover is used on the outside. The righteousness of Christ covers our sin, but everything underneath is the same. Yet, Jesus is more than just a cover-up. He is the resurrection and the life.
Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-57
Lazarus was a friend of Jesus and the brother of Martha and Mary. He became quite ill and died before Jesus could come to bring healing. When He arrived to comfort the sisters, they wondered why he had delayed in coming. Some of the mourners saw Jesus’ pain and asked, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Even Mary said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But Jesus stayed away so that God would be glorified.
When Jesus talked to Martha and told her that Lazarus would rise again, she answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus told her that He is the resurrection and the life. The promise of eternal life is more than a future hope. All those who believe in Jesus, though they will die in flesh, will live forever in Christ. Jesus doesn’t just resurrect us from the dead or give us life. He is the resurrection and the life. When Christ covers us, He does more than just keep us warm, hide our failures or protect us from harm. Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the victory over death and transforms us into His very image. The perishable becomes imperishable. We have the victory because Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life. Thanks be to God.
Assumptions We look at people and we often assume things about them that simply aren’t true. When I went to the financial planner to get the results of that personal profile I took several weeks ago, I think the man was genuinely surprised at the results. As I arrived in the office I was very bold and friendly with the people I knew there, so he assumed I would be a good candidate for a certain position. Yet, he discovered as he looked at the results that I am actually quite shy. For those of you who know me personally, who are laughing hysterically at that comment, the bold Peggy is in some ways a façade, but also a gift from God so that I have the courage to do what He has called me to do. I realized that I had to overcome my desire to hide in my room if I was going to share the Gospel of Christ. I can do it for the Lord, but I could not do it to sell financial programs to people.
This is not the first time people have assumed things about me and tried to put me in the wrong position. It happens all the time, not just to me but to everyone. It happened to Jesus all the time. The people He met during His ministry made many assumptions. Some thought He was an earthy Messiah, one who would save them from the Romans. Others thought He was from the devil. Some saw Him as a wonderful teacher, but when He began defining Himself as more, they could not handle His claims and left Him. The same is still true today. Many people look at Jesus as no more than an incredible teacher who showed us the right way to live, shared the truth about God and helped people live a good life. However, Jesus was far more than that. In John, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus is not just one who shows the way, He is the way. He does not just speak the truth, He is the truth. Jesus is not just a role model who demonstrated the godly life, He is the One who gives life.
Read John 14:9-14
People have made assumptions about me from the time I was a child. The same is true about everyone. We often base our impressions of a person on just one or two experiences, without knowing everything about the person. Some are surprised when I claim I am shy, they don’t understand how much I have overcome, only by the grace of God.
Yet, even those closest to Jesus did not recognize the truth of His identity. They were looking on the surface, basing their assumptions on their own ideas, wants and needs. But Jesus repeated over and over again that He was far more than just a man who came to be a king or role model. He is the Living God, the One from whom all gifts come – life, hope, peace, joy and grace. There are many like Philip in today’s world, those who do not see Jesus as He really is – the Way, the Truth and the Life. We cannot know the Father without Jesus, for Jesus is the full revelation of God to man so that we can know the Truth and have Life. He is truly the only way for us to have a relationship with the Almighty. By God’s grace we believe. Thanks be to God.
Flowers One of my favorite parts of living in England was the availability and affordability of cut flowers for my house. I went to the village market and regularly bought huge bouquets to decorate my home. Since they were so inexpensive I was able to keep vases filled all the time. Here in the states, flowers are more expensive and I am only able to purchase flowers for special occasions. Unfortunately, cut flowers do not last forever. Some last a few days, others as long as a week or so. But eventually they die and are cast into the garbage.
A flower cannot survive apart from the plant. The roots provide important nutrients that the flower needs. It is possible to keep it alive for a few days because it will drink water through its stem. A little plant food added to the water will help it last longer, but inevitably it will die. The same is true of human beings. We don’t last very long if we are cut off from others. We can think of it in terms of community. We depend on each other for many things. Fishermen depend on farmers to grow grain for bread and farmers depend on fishermen for fish to eat. The people depend on firemen and policemen to keep them safe and the firemen and policemen depend on others to produce food and the other things they need. No man is an island, we all need others to help us through each day. Children need mothers, parents need employers, Christians need pastors, and we could go on.
In the Old Testament, Israel was often referred to as a vine. Planted by God to bear fruit, the vine was not always productive for the Lord. The Israelites did not stay connected, to each other or to God. By the time Jesus arrived in Israel, the temple leaders had things very confused for the people. They were burdened with laws they could not keep, while the leaders pretended to keep them. The people were being oppressed by the Romans and by their own leaders and they were far from God. They were always lacking in some way – a dying vine trying to gain life in their own way.
But Jesus said, “I am the true vine.” God is the gardener. He planted Israel where she could bear fruit, but she did not produce. They were unable because they needed a vine and roots that would sustain them. Their own human flesh was too weak. Jesus is that vine that will sustain life, He will not fail to provide the nourishment needed for the branches to grow and produce wonderful fruit that glorifies God.
Read John 15:9-17
A cut flower dies because it is cut off from its life source. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve became cut flowers – perishable – because they were cut off from their life source. Throughout the history of God’s people, they were always like a cut flower or a broken branch – God sustained them through the times with water and food, but they were perishable. Jesus came to change all that, He died so that our relationship with God, our life-giver, would be restored. Now, we live in Christ and with one another, bearing good fruit for His glory. We can’t do it alone. With the love we have for one another, living in community, we are able to care for each other as Christ commanded. In the love that Christ gives, and the love we have for one another, we will stay connected to the true vine and live. Thanks be to God.
Exit Polls Since we are a military family that moves regularly, we have kept Pennsylvania as our home base, with bank accounts, driver’s licenses and voting privileges located in Pennsylvania. We have voted absentee ballot for many years. When we moved to Arkansas, I had to get an Arkansas driver’s license and decided to register to vote locally. Though I have been voting since I was a young adult, this was the first time in a long time that I had to go to the polls vote. Absentee ballots have some advantages. You can vote in the quiet of your home, mail it when you are ready. The disadvantages is that it is harder to get information about the candidates and issues.
I was somewhat shocked when I went to the polling place yesterday. The ground was covered with signs and people were all over the lawn campaigning for their candidate. One man was so forward that I thought he was going to rap on my window as I drove into the parking lot. When I went inside I was unsure what to do, but the poll workers were very helpful. I voted and then left the building. A lady was waiting outside to ask if I would answer the exit polls. As an absentee voter, my opinion has never been asked before, so I took the time to fill out the questionnaire. I carefully answered the exit poll so that my voice could be heard. The questions were interesting and I will look forward to seeing how the media and the politicians will use the information in the days and weeks to come.
The survey had multiple choice questions. Some of them were hard to answer because I did not agree with any of the choices or I agreed with several. That type of survey is easiest to compile, but in some ways the results are skewed, people can only answer what is given or not answer at all. It would not be any easier to give a survey with fill in the blank or written answers. When people are in a rush, they don’t think carefully about their answers.
Jesus asked questions. He asked questions to make people think. He asked questions to find out what people thought. He asked questions to open up dialogue. Some of His questions were easy such as “What is written in the Law?” Others are more difficult such as “How do you read it?” We are asked the same sort of questions every day when we walk in faith. Every decision we make should be based on what we know the bible says. The difficulty comes when we realize we all read it differently. There is one question that Jesus asks that is incredibly important for each of us to know the answer.
Read Luke 9:18-20
I was asked a number of questions after voting about my thoughts on the candidates, the country and our future. Though my answers may help, those surveys are not completely reliable. It was good to answer the questions, but there are some things that are just more important. In the past few days, we have looked at the words of Jesus from the book of John, words that He used to describe Himself. In today’s scripture Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Many people today think of Jesus as a wonderful teacher and prophet of God who taught us how to live well. Jesus is far more than that. Jesus is the bread that nourishes our soul. He is the light that lights our path. He is the gate by which we enter into the kingdom of God. He is the shepherd who cares for us. He is the resurrection and the life, through Him we have eternal life. He is the way, the truth and the life – through Him and Him alone are we reconciled to God our Father. He is the vine, our life source. Who is Jesus to you? Is He all those things and Lord of your life? Was He a wonderful teacher and prophet or is He the Christ of God? The answers to these questions are more important than any exiting poll on Election Day.
Commercials Are you breathing a sigh of relief now that the political commercials are not running on television and radio? It seems like the past few weeks we have been overwhelmed with information about the candidates and issues, with commercials that were not complimentary or even helpful. There were so many political commercials, there was barely enough time for the lawyers or drug companies to sell their products. Not that those are any better. Sometimes the whole advertising industry can seem like foolishness. Some commercials are just so annoying that I turn off the television. I actually voted against someone because his jingle was incredibly annoying (and he wasn’t the best man for the job).
Of course, commercials can be fun, well produced and informing. However, it seems like it has gotten worse over the years. There are commercials that are artistically wonderful but by the end you still have no idea what they are selling. Others are just so stupid, or even offending, that I don’t know how they manage to sell the product. I miss the Coca-Cola or the Bell telephone commercials that moved me to tears. But even with those wonderfully made ads, I am not sure that they really made me want the product. I know advertising works, but for me it is a pointless effort.
Perhaps part of the reason for this is because I don’t let others make decisions for me or convince me easily that I am wrong about my opinions about products. Advertising is designed to convince the consumer that they need that particular product because their life will be better if they use it, but every other product is no good. But, I still like Chicken and Stars soup even if another soup company tells me that it is childish to eat it. I buy whichever soda is on sale, even if one is shown to be better in taste tests of hundreds of Americans. I’m going to buy whichever car best suits my family’s needs. I will avoid the lawyer who smiles at me every time I turn on the television. The best consumers are those who check out the products, those who do not allow thirty-second sound bytes to control their lives. But this is the way of our world today, and many people fall easily into the trap of believing everything they hear.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:18-23
Commercials can be fun, but I for one am certainly glad this last political season is over. The advertising this year was particularly nasty and useless. Yet, some experts are claiming those types of commercials actually work to bring people out to the polls each year. Even though the airwaves are free of that junk, there are still many commercials that are useless – a waste of time. Yet, they work because many people think thirty-second sound bytes are enough to make a decision about the food that they eat, the car they drive or the lawyer they choose.
Do people do the same with faith? How many are easily swayed by the trend of the day, purchasing the latest self-help ‘Christian’ book from the top-ten list and falling for whatever new doctrine is being preached? Unfortunately, too many are falling for the commercialization of Christian faith, believing the words of men as if they are the Gospel, but are leading people down a path that could lead to destruction. Others think that an hour a week in a worship service is enough to keep the flame burning, but they ignore the vital, life-sustaining activities of daily prayer and bible study. The wisdom of the world is certainly foolishness.
We don’t need people to make our decisions about what product is best to purchase. We are intelligent human beings that can decide what is best for our families. The same is true about our faith. Even if a preacher is a man of God, preaching the Gospel of Christ in its purest form, we should never follow him, but rather follow only Christ. Just like commercials can be helpful, so too those men of God are blessed to be teachers and preachers so that they can help us along our way, but they should never be the reason we make a decision. Everything we do, say and think should be founded in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and in Him alone. For we are of Christ and because of that we do not need others to make our decisions for us. Thanks be to God.
Today’s Word is a repeat from one year ago today
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.
Earthquake On Sunday, November 3, Susan and Jerry were visiting the Alaska Experience Theater in Anchorage, Alaska. They were in a room where they could experience the 1964 earthquake, a 20-minute film that is so realistic that you can almost feel the buildings falling and the ground shaking around you. As they left the theater, they commented on how real it all felt. What they did not know is that while they watched the film, a real earthquake rocked the state. What they thought was pretend was very real.
There are an awful lot of people in this world who have heard the truth of the Gospel of Christ and the lies of the devil, but they cannot tell the difference. Life is like a movie being played around them, and they can’t see the real amidst the amazing special effects. Satan has created for himself an image that is so ridiculous that most people do not even believe he is real. He masquerades as ‘an angel of light’, quoting scripture with a twist that makes most people think it is true. Many teachers are claiming to be anointed by God, but in reality they teach a false Gospel that leads to destruction. This has been a problem throughout the history of God’s people – there was always some false prophet or enemy of God trying to lead the people astray. They did not know God as Father, they chose instead to serve the one who works against everything good, right and true. They have been deceived and do not realize it.
Read John 8:42-47
Jesus was talking to the Jews who claimed to believe in Jesus, yet they did not understand what He was saying. They still sought to be accepted by God through their position as Abraham’s children, through the Law of Moses and their own righteousness. They did not know the truth because they did not really believe what Jesus was saying about Himself and the kingdom of God.
God speaks in and through His creation, even through the foolish things of this world, but it is hard to hear when you are caught up in the deceptions of Satan. Satan has convinced many people of two great lies – that he doesn’t exist and that all roads lead to God. There are so many confusing things being taught in the world and in some churches today. All this confusion makes it easier for people to reject the truth, to miss the Word of God. They reject God as He has been revealed in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preferring to believe in a gospel of self or some ideology that is hidden in the special effects and lies of Satan and this world.
The couple believed that what they felt was a pretend earthquake, they missed the reality of the situation. Do we ever believe the real is pretend and the pretend is real? Who do we believe? Who is our Father? As Christians we belong to God through our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray each of us knows the difference between the voice of God and all the special effects of Satan and this world so that we will always know what is real and what is pretend.
Criticism John Hyde was a missionary to India who was known for being a prayer warrior. He had heard reports about a pastor who was having trouble. Part of the problem was the trouble he was causing for others. When Hyde prayed for the man, he was tempted to say how cold he was, to judge him for the trouble he caused, but God stopped him mid-prayer with a voice that seemed to whisper “He that touches him touches the apple of my eye.” John was upset because he realized that he was guilty of accusing his brother in Christ. As he continued in prayer, he was reminded of the wonderful things the pastor had done for the Lord. Instead of condemning him, John began praising God for his faithfulness. Some time later, John met with that pastor and discovered that he had just gone through a spiritual revival and was like new.
The prayer that began as a condemnation and turned to praise was a prayer that led to great blessing for both the pastor and John Hyde. It would have been very easy for John Hyde to continue his negative thoughts. Yet, God convicted his spirit and he turned around, repented of his negative words. John was a very wise man, to listen to the correction of the Lord.
We don’t always hear such correction directly from God, but God does use men and women in our life to help guide us and in our thoughts, words and deeds. They offer rebuke, encouragement and careful instruction so that we will make the right choices and live well. How do we react? Do we mumble that those teachers have no idea what they are talking about, or do we listen and make changes to our lives that will bring blessings to ourselves and others?
Read Proverbs 9:7-9
John was a wise man because he listened to God and turned his negative thoughts into positive praise. How often do we spend too much time criticizing others? Do we grumble about our co-workers, family and friends? Do we put addendums in our prayers like John, saying, “We know our brother is…” when we should be praising God for the blessings? This gentle correction from the Lord touched John’s life, and thankfully it has touched mine also. Unfortunately, not all will be so wise, for there are mockers who will quickly mumble, insult or abuse those who try to help. May we all be like the wise man and hear the instruction given, either from God directly or however He speaks, that we will learn and be blessed.
Invisible We have all heard the story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” In this story, a couple of con-men manage to convince the emperor that his invisible new suit is so beautiful that only those who are wise can see it. The people did not want to seem foolish, so when the naked emperor traipsed around the streets of the city in his marvelous new suit, they ranted and raved about its beauty. Only a small boy had the courage to tell the emperor he was naked. A modern day ‘emperor’ was not as able to convince the people his new ‘suit’ was real. He paid a sorcerer in Iran $600 to make him invisible. The sorcerer did whatever sorcerers do and the man left thinking he was unseen. He went to a bank and tried to rob it, but he was arrested immediately.
As we consider these two stories, we see that the emperor and the man were quite foolish. How could they believe such a ridiculous thing? How could they let the con men convince them of these things? They wanted to believe it was true, so the tailor and the sorcerer did little to make it true. Unfortunately for both the emperor and the man, they were the ones to appear foolish in the end. There are many in the world who think of Christians in the same way – that we are foolish for believing in God and Jesus. I can see why they would think so. We believe that God loved us so much that He gave Jesus to save the world from sin and death. We believe that Jesus covers us with His righteousness so that God sees Him, not our sin. We believe that in Christ we have eternal life and will live forever in His presence.
So, they think that we have convinced ourselves into believing something that is not true. They can’t see the righteousness of Christ that covers are sins in the eyes of God, they see that we still make mistakes. We still die in flesh; they can’t see the eternal life that has been promised to everyone who believes. They can’t even see God, so it must be a figment of our imagination. They think of our beliefs as ridiculous because why would an all-powerful God do such a thing for such miserable sinners? So, they consider our faith as absurd, just foolishness.
Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
There are many who consider themselves wise in this world who have rejected the one thing that is true – God. He is sovereign and He is faithful. We know this to be true because He has laid faith on our hearts so that we can believe in the cross of Christ, that ridiculous measure of His love for His people. Through such horror, God showed His love and mercy to the world, saving us from sin and death. We know that we are invisible, that we wear a new set of clothes that no one can see but our Lord God Almighty. Yes, this all seems foolish to those who have no faith, to those who are perishing. But to those of us who are being saved it is the foundation of all we believe. Thanks be to God.
Reading Day Our local school district has a day called VIPS (Volunteers in Public Schools) Reading Day. People from around the city are invited to read to the children throughout the school district. Parents, mentors and even older students are scheduling a time to visit, choosing stories and preparing for this wonderful event. It is designed to spark an excitement for reading in the children and to show them that people of every race, creed and socio-economic position – moms, businessmen, farmers, construction workers, college professors, clergymen, etc. – enjoy reading.
I have been busily rearranging my schedule so that I can spend time at two different schools. I am trying to locate my favorite books, and find good stories to read to fourth graders (Cat in the Hat just doesn’t cut it anymore.) A club to which Vicki belongs at the middle school is planning to walk down the street to an elementary school so that they can read to the children in kindergarten and first grade. We have been searching for books for her to share with her students. She thought the trip was yesterday, but the reading day is next week. We just thought they decided to take the youth on a different day. Vicki was somewhat disappointed after all that preparation because she has been so excited about this but now she must continue to wait.
We do a lot of waiting. We wait in traffic, in checkout lines, for special days and for our family to come home. Sometimes the wait is unbearable, particularly when things do not come when we expect. If someone is late, we worry that they’ve been hurt or lost. We wonder if they are ever going to make it home. If they are extremely late, the dinner we prepared gets cold or we fall asleep. Sometimes as we wait, we let things slide and by the time the wait is over we are no longer prepared.
Read Matthew 25:1-13
Jesus is coming, we know this without a doubt, yet there are times when the wait seems unbearable. Vicki thought she knew the time for the Reading Day and she was prepared, but it would be very easy for her to let things slide and forget the real day next week. All too often people try to guess when Jesus will return. They read the prophecy and interpret it, expecting to be the only one right after two thousand years. When the expected day comes and passes without Christ, we become disappointed and discouraged. Then we let things slide or fall asleep. Jesus said that we would not know the hour. So, we would do well to be prepared at every moment – through prayer, bible study, corporate worship and ministering to others – so that when Christ comes we will be ready. Jesus is coming to take us to a great and glorious feast. We know this without a doubt because He has promised. Thanks be to God.
Video Games It is barely the middle of November, the leaves had not yet completely changed around the country, but Christmas is definitely in the air. Stores are stocked with ornaments, wrapping paper and other Christmas supplies. I have even heard Christmas music played in some stores. Catalogues are filling our mailboxes. Television commercials for toys and gift ideas are flooding the airwaves and the talk shows are inviting experts to give recommendations for Christmas gifts. Just the other day I saw a lady from a major electronics store talking about the latest video games.
One of the questions asked by the reporter was either misunderstood or ignored by the expert. Since technology advances so quickly, and there is a new offering from the toy companies every year, the big question parents have is “will the company still make games for the older machines.” The expert answered that all the games will fit the new machine and the children will have hours of fun. Yet, that’s not what the reporter asked. He wanted to know if parents would be able to purchase new games for the old machines, machines they paid several hundred dollars for just a few years ago.
As a parent with a child who enjoys video games, this is a good question. Zack’s “Color Game Boy” is not yet two years old and we are already having trouble finding new games, it is nearly impossible to find them for his “Pocket Game Boy.” Though the machines still work well, they quickly become out of date and must be replaced with the new and improved items.
Isn’t that the way it is with the things of this world? Grass dies, toys get broken, and people get sick. Everything in this world is perishable even the things that were made by the Creator’s own hand. Ever since that day in the Garden, when sin entered into our lives, death and destruction have been a part of it. It seems almost magnified in our fast paced world where everybody wants things new, fresh and clean. Those who can afford it buy new cars every year because they like that new car smell or they simply want the newest gadgets. The old will pass on to other owners, but eventually it will stop working and be cast into a junkyard. The things of this world simply do not last.
Read 1 John 2:15-17
I am sure that many children will receive the newest and greatest game machines under the Christmas tree this year. Even though it will seem to bring them joy for a time, eventually it will be cast aside like the rusted old car, and they will desire the newer, greater game machine being offered. The real joy comes not from the things of this world, but rather from the love of God our Father. Even the religious trends of the day will not bring happiness and will pass away like the toys of children. The only way to have eternal life is through Jesus Christ our Lord, for in Him we have been raised to new life and we will live forever. Thanks be to God.
Party Vicki’s thirteenth birthday was several weeks ago, but because our weekend schedule was so full, we had to put off her party until this week. Her friends remembered the good time they had last year and have been looking forward to it for months, even before it was planned. Unfortunately, several things have come up that will affect both our time and our finances. The best thing would have been to cancel the party. Yet, there was a promise of a party and the kids are looking forward to it. How could I disappoint them? How could I disappoint Vicki?
Of course, promises are often broken. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, so there are times when we have to choose priorities. We have been promising a trip to Disney World for years, but we have not been able to make it happen. We promise that we will play a game with our kids, but then there are dishes to do or laundry to fold and it never happens. Though we do our best to keep our promises, there are times when we simply do not have control over the circumstances and we have to make decisions that might disappoint those we love. However, there is One who is faithful, no matter what the circumstances.
Read Psalm 145:13b-19
Vicki’s party will go on, despite the fact that we will be very busy on Saturday and we do not have much money to cover the costs. We will make it happen. We never know what tomorrow holds, so we should be careful about what we promise, so that we will not be the source of disappointment to those we love. Though it is true that we should try not to break our promises, we should remember that we do not control every circumstance in this life. There are times when it is unavoidable. Yet, we can rest in the knowledge that even though human beings are not always to keep our promises, God is always faithful. He has promised us salvation in His Son’s name and to provide all we need. He has promised to care for us, to be our refuge and our shepherd. He has promised that we will have eternal life and that He will hear our prayers. We may not always understand the timing or the way that God will fulfill those promises, we can know God’s love and trust in Him. Thanks be to God.
Touchdown! Jake Porter brings the best out of people. You have probably heard the story of this young man in McDermott, Ohio, whose touchdown changed an entire town. Jake is a seventeen year old student at Northwest High School who suffers from mental retardation due to a disorder called chromosomal fragile X syndrome. Suffer is not the right word, for though Jake can not read and can barely write his name. But Jake is always ready to lend a helping hand and everyone loves him. He rarely misses a practice or game for the football, basketball and track teams and suits up every time though he has never had the chance to compete. It would be too dangerous for his physical well being to allow him on the field.
After three years of such commitment, Coach Dave Frantz decided to give Jake the chance to play. The coach taught him to genuflect, go down on one knee, when he got the ball. For Jake, this would have been the most incredible opportunity. The team was playing their archrivals, and doing very poorly. With five seconds left to the game, losing 42-0, Coach Frantz spoke to the coach for the Waverly High School team. All he wanted was for the players to leave Jake alone – protect him from harm.
Coach Dewitt said, “Let him make the touchdown.” After some disagreement, the referee stepped in and it was decided. Jake would go for the goal. The play began, Jake got the ball and he started to do as he was taught, but his teammates stopped him. The boys from both teams gave him room and helped get him going in the right direction. Forty-nine yards later, Jake Porter was a hero. The entire stadium was cheering, tears in their eyes. He thought he had scored the game-winning touchdown. Jake is the same after his heroic effort, still trying to run errands for the teachers and talking all the time. But, the world around him has changed. The people in these two towns are being nicer to one another. Jake Porter brought the best out of people.
Who would have thought such a child could do such a great thing? Yet, there was One who made an even greater impact – our Lord Jesus Christ. In many ways Jesus was like Jake. He was always willing to lend a helping hand; he went against the norm of society. Jesus was right in the thick of things, but the powers of this world did not allow Him to ‘play’. Though ridicule seems to be absent from Jake’s story, I’m sure the bullies and some others picked on him or became frustrated by everything he did. Jesus was ridiculed, condemned and even killed. Both Jesus and Jake were oblivious to the ridicule and went on loving and serving the best that they could, and in doing so, they brought the best out of others. They drew people together, and together they did great and wonderful things.
Read Romans 15:1-7
Jake’s story has brought tears to the eyes of even the most hard-hearted people and many are walking a little differently today after seeing his touchdown. Oh, there are still those who think it was silly and foolish, inappropriate for a football game, but that hasn’t stopped Jake from bringing the best out of others. Jesus’ work, both ministering in this world and His death on the cross, has a way of bringing the best out of people. As we live in faith that Jesus Christ is Savior, we are filled with His love and light. That love and light shines on others, softening their hearts to the Gospel. They receive the faith that He gives and they are filled with that same love and light. It shines on others, and more come to live in Christ. He truly does bring the best out of people. Thanks be to God.
Sleep There are times we can’t help but fall asleep. We are too tired for the situation, we have taken some sort of medication or conditions – like warm air or boring discussion – make it impossible to stay awake. There are times when this is dangerous – when we are driving a car or operating heavy equipment. When I ride in the car for long distances, I often fall asleep very quickly. I get carsick easily and the best way to avoid feeling rotten is just to sleep through the ride. It is an ongoing joke with us. Bruce says I have an off button that gets pushed as soon as I sit in that seat. I don’t mean to be rude, sometimes I can’t help but fall asleep. I am sure the same is true of those who fall asleep at other times when they should stay awake.
Some of the funniest home videos are those of people who have fallen asleep in this most unusual circumstances – the child who falls asleep in her mashed potatoes, the groom who falls asleep at the altar, the person at the head of the table who falls asleep during the keynote speech. Yet, those situations are not always funny to the ones involved. Imagine how the bride must have felt! The snoring of the listener must have made the keynote speaker wonder about his speech. A speaker who sees someone falling asleep in the audience, like a preacher from a pulpit, can’t help but wonder if there is something about the speech that is causing the person to fall asleep.
Read Acts 20:7-12
I wish I’d had the opportunity to hear Paul preach, even though it sounds like he could preach until the sun went down or even until the sun came up. How difficult it must have been for that young man, Eutychus. I’m sure he wanted to hear everything Paul had to say, yet the hour was quite late and he could not help but fall asleep. How do we react when someone falls asleep at an inappropriate time? We might laugh at them like we do the funny videos or we might get angry. We take it personally, wondering what we could do to make things better for the person. Paul’s response to this situation is amazing. He brings the young man back to life and then goes on with his preaching. He did not allow the circumstances to affect the work he was doing and God impacted the lives of many through this experience.
Our hectic lives leave little time for us to properly rest and care for our bodies, so there are times when we just can’t help ourselves. Yet, our sleep is not always like that of poor Eutychus. There are millions of people who are sleeping walking through life. They go about their day to day activities; they do not pay attention to the One that is speaking healing and forgiveness into their lives, our Lord Jesus Christ. They do not realize how close they are to falling out a window to their own deaths because they are missing out on the mercy and grace of God. Apathy, unconcern or indifference are the kind of sleep that brings death. Let us pray that we won’t be caught falling asleep while the Lord speaks to us. But if we do, may we always remember that He is merciful and will bring healing and forgiveness into our lives. Thanks be to God.
Gossip Gossip is defined in Webster’s as “rumor or talk of a personal, intimate and often sensational nature; one who engages in gossip; trivial, chatty writing or talk.” We think of gossip as being harmful conversation, something that can destroy reputations and harm someone’s life. According to these definitions, it can also mean trivial talk – information that is useless to the listener. That type of talk is not necessarily harmful, it just doesn’t accomplish much.
It is interesting to know that the use of the word gossip in this way is not known until the eighteenth century. The ancient use of the word was related to the relationships of godparents. It was both used as the word for the relationships between the child and the parents of the child, both intergenerational and between peers. It had a very positive connotation in ages past. Though I don’t know how the word was transformed into something so negative, I suppose it may have had something to do with those very relationships. Godparents are known for chatting excessively about their godchildren, telling every detail of their lives and successes.
Language changes over the years, and it is often affected by the culture of the day. Much of our modern understanding of words comes from the bard, William Shakespeare. He created words and meanings to fit into his flowery tales of love and tragedy. Perhaps the relationships between godparents and others were less than friendly in those days when the meaning of the word changed.
So, gossip can be harmful, but it can also be just useless. How often do we get into conversations that have no real purpose – small talk, long winded stories describing every detail of people’s lives – these often no redeeming value to the listener. Even the reports of the weatherman in a place like southern California, where the weather does not change much from day to day (there is very little difference between ‘sunny and 95’ and ‘sunny and 100’) is little more than gossip. Much of what is taught in churches today is little more than gossip – sensational rumors about the state of the world today and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. How many books are available in the stores today that give interpretations of the signs given in the scriptures, they predict the time of Christ’s return, they warn the people with stories of hellfire and damnation that do nothing to promote the Gospel of Christ. These writings are nothing more than gossip, and can be as harmful as the gossip at the water-cooler.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Throughout the Bible we are told that we will not know the hour or the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are warned to be ready at all times. Paul writes in this letter to the Thessalonians that we do not need anyone to write to us about the times and dates, because God’s plan is beyond our knowing. We have no excuse to sit on our bottoms and wait for that day, for Christ expects us to be doing what we have been called and gifted to do – share the Gospel of Christ. Too many today are gossiping about the trivial, meaningless interpretations and predictions that have no redeeming value. Only one thing brings redemption, faith in Christ. In faith, a gift from God, we are living in the light of day every moment, ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus. In that light and by His power, we will do just what Jesus expects, sharing the Gospel and living according to His good and perfect Word. Then the words that come out of our mouth will be His and will bring redemption to those who hear. Thanks be to God.
Books We have a favorite author from Britain named Kevin Crossley-Holland. We had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Crossley-Holland when we lived there and we even have signed copies of some of his books. He has written a trilogy about King Arthur that has recently made it to the shelves of American bookstores. The first book is called “The Seeing Stone.” We were able to get a signed copy of that book before we left England two years ago. The other two books in the series have already been released in England, but it will be some time before we will be able to purchase them here. I have asked some friends to get us copies and they have agreed to do so, but it is taking time. Trying to guess when we will get those books is a fruitless endeavor. We will just have to patiently wait and be pleasantly surprised when they arrive.
We spend a lot of time trying to figure out when other people are going to do things. When will family come to visit or children clean their rooms? Even if we give deadlines, many people will be late. This is why it is best to be prepared so that when the time comes you are ready.
The writings of the prophets from the Old Testament are fascinating to read. They speak of a judgment day in which God’s people would face His wrath if they are not prepared. The Israelites were expecting that day to be one of redemption for them, one of destruction for their enemies. But prophets like Amos and Zephaniah warned the people not to be too anxious, for they were not prepared to meet the Lord. When Jesus came, few of the Jews accepted Him for who He really is – Immanuel, God in flesh. Early in His ministry many followed and believed what He said, yet the deeper Jesus got into the purpose of His visit and ministry, the more people fell away. The truth was too hard for them to take. It was the day that the prophets longed to see, the Day of Judgment, and most of the Jews missed it.
Read 1 Peter 1:10-12
In today’s world, many people are looking for Christ’s return. Just like the prophets of old, they long to see the Lord, so they spend much time in search of the evidence that will give them the time and circumstances of that great moment. Yet, just like our waiting for those books we want to read, we never know when the time will arrive and trying to guess would be a fruitless experience. Instead, let us always keep our eyes on the One for whom we await, Jesus Christ our Lord. Our Salvation is no longer a future event, we know where we find the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. And though we are not yet perfected, that there is still joy and peace awaiting us at a future time, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we know the Gospel of Christ is true. Thanks be to God.
Meteor Shower The earth passed through the trail of a comet last night, which produced the Leonid Meteor Shower. The experts were predicting an awesome show – 3000-5000 meteors at its peak. The local reporters suggested rising early, dressing warmly and taking a thermos of hot cocoa outside to see the storm at around 4:30 a.m. Unfortunately, when I went to bed last night, the sky was filled with clouds. The light pollution of the city and the brightly shining full moon also meant that the viewing might be disappointing, so I did not bother to set my alarm. When I got up early this morning, I learned that the clouds had disappeared overnight, so I went out just to see if I could see anything. The light pollution and moon were still troublesome, but I was able to catch sight of quite a few meteors in a short period of time.
Many people were planning on taking a trip out to the country – on a mountaintop or in a field – where the show was expected to be extraordinary. That was not a viable option for my family, so we had to settle for the few we could see from our backyard. Even at 530 in the morning, the lights from the neighbor’s houses made it difficult to see anything but the brightest stars and meteors. We know there were many more to be seen, but they were hidden by the light pollution.
There are lots of people who consider themselves Christian, yet it is often difficult to see them. They don’t shine very brightly, so get lost among the ‘light pollution’ of this world – the affects of sin and death abound, the pressures of this world hide the light. There are very few people about whom someone can say, “Now, he’s a Christian.” Yet, there are those who do shine brightly in this world, whose faith is apparent, even in the direst circumstances. They are the ones for whom prayer is a daily, moment to moment act. They are the ones who put their hearts into their reading and study of the Bible. They are the ones who serve the Lord in every aspect of their life – their home, work, school and community. They witness to the love and mercy of Christ when scrubbing toilets or doing church work. They shine brighter than the rest because they actively live the life they have been given by God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Read Philippians 2:12-18
We were lucky this morning that the clouds had disappeared and a few large meteors came our way, so we could enjoy the show. It would have been nice to go some place away from the city, but unfortunately that was impossible. That’s how it is with Christians in this world. It would be lovely if we could be in a place where the love of Christ shines brightly from the heart of every Christian, but sometimes the cares of this world are too strong and the light gets lost. Even in the city, where stars are few and far between, we know there are still many in the sky. So, too, it is with Christians. We can’t see into the hearts of another human being, so we don’t always know they are there.
Paul writes this encouragement to the believers in Philippi and the believers of today. You have been given the most incredible gift – forgiveness of all your sins and eternal life in Christ. There is nothing you can do to change that, even if the cares of this world seem to make your faith invisible to the world. Yet, we are encouraged to take our salvation and actively live the life we have been given so that we will shine like those brightly shining stars that can be seen despite the light pollution. In this way, God uses us to help others see His mercy and grace, and they come to have faith in Christ. Thanks be to God.
Point of View Yesterday was VIPS (Volunteers in Public Schools) Reading Day. I have a few favorite books I like to use at these things, but I used a few new books this time. Dr. Alvin Granowsky has taken the old stories and given them a new twist. The books are called “Another Point of View” stories. He gives his own rendition of stories such as “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” and Jack in the Beanstalk. These versions are seen from the point of view of the Bears and Jack. They make Goldilocks and the Giant out to be nasty and bad. But every story has two sides. So, Dr. Granowsky has written the stories from Goldilocks’ and the Giant’s point of view. We have heard the stories one way for so long that it is somewhat disturbing to hear the other perspective. One little girl commented, “I wonder which one is true?” Since these stories are just stories, not historical reporting of a real time event, it really does not matter. Yet, there are often times when the truth gets lost in the opinions and points of view of individuals.
That’s what happened by the time Jesus lived in the flesh. God had given His people promises and laws to live by, but over the years they put their own point of view to the story. They interpreted the promises and laws to fit their own lives. They guessed at what God meant when He spoke through the prophets. By the time Jesus appeared, they were so messed up with their understanding of God, that they needed to see another point of view. Jesus turned their world upside down.
Read John 5:36-47
The children did not expect a book that told the story from another point of view. Goldilocks and the Giant have always been the bad guys in the stories they’ve heard. To hear that Little Bear and Jack were liars and thieves was shocking, because it goes against everything they’d ever heard. When the story is just a story, it really doesn’t matter, but when it comes to faith the truth is vital.
Unfortunately, the Jews were relying on their own interpretation of God’s Word and they were looking for the wrong sort of Messiah. They wanted a King, one who would defeat their enemy and rule them by the Law as they had come to know it. When Jesus came preaching the Gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God, they were shocked and offended. Jesus didn’t even follow the Law! But Jesus came to turn their world upside down, to bring them to repentance and back into a relationship with God the Father. Everything the Jews believed pointed at Jesus Christ – as Savior, Redeemer, and Messiah. Yet they did not believe. They knew God’s Word, every word of it as written in the scriptures. They knew it in their head, but they did not know it in their heart. When Jesus came, they did not recognize Him, because He did not fit their expectation.
Has Jesus turned our life upside down? Do we see another point of view when we hear the stories in the scriptures; do we hear the Good News of Jesus? Or do we still try to make God’s Laws fit our own lives, just like the Jews? Do we believe Jesus? Dr. Alvin Granowsky held a radical view of the events in those stories, and so did Jesus. Our Savior came in flesh so that we could see what God is really like, then He died so that we could live with Him for eternity. All the Jews wanted was a king. When the King showed up on their doorstep, they did not recognize Him. But thanks to God and His wonderful grace, we do recognize our Lord, even if the story is upside down. Thanks be to God.
Moth I was busy doing some work in our family room when Felix went nuts. He was acting as if there was something outside threatening his home and family. He was growling, crouching and pacing. I got up to look out the door to see what had him so upset, and I realized it was nothing more than a moth that had settled on the screen door about five feet high. Suddenly Felix rushed the door, leapt at the moth and chased it away. After that he settled down to rest in peace. He had saved his family from the nasty moth and everything was fine.
I think he overreacted. After all, it was just a moth and it was outside the house. I can understand his interest. He enjoys chasing after the bugs that come into the house – they make great playmates until he eats them. But his reaction to this moth was too much. I thought one of the neighborhood cats was lying on the patio or a bird was too close to the door. Perhaps there was something else wrong with Felix that he overreacted to the situation. I was not following my normal pattern, the weather has been unusual, even the full moon may have effected his actions.
How often do we overreact to the situations that surround us, particularly those that are unpleasant? When we are not feeling well, when the stress is too much to handle, when we are tired, afraid or in doubt – thsse are the times when we are likely to overreact. I know that when I am cranky I am more likely to yell at my children or be a nag to my husband. I find it much harder to see the good in people, to recognize my own sinfulness and to share the love of Christ. Felix is just a cat, and he doesn’t have the reasoning abilities of human beings, but if he were only able to think about the circumstances he would have realized that the moth could not do any harm to himself or the family. We would do well to consider our own reaction to the situations in which we overreact.
Read 1 Peter 3:8-12
Felix was upset by the moth on the screen. His response to the situation caused him to growl, pace and attack the moth. Though Felix is a cat, a five-foot high leap into a glass door can be dangerous. He did not benefit from his experience at all; there were no blessings from his reaction. Though Felix is just a cat, there are times when we aren’t much different. The littlest things agitate us, we growl in our own ways and pace. We even attack the things we deem as harmful. Yet most of the time these circumstances seem worse than they really are. Peter writes that a blessed life comes from being Christ-like, even when the circumstances in our life seem overwhelming. When evil strikes, we should not slam ourselves against the patio door, that will do more danger to our own health and welfare than the thing we are trying to chase away. When we do so, we lose sight of the One from whom we receive the greatest blessings. Living the Christ-like life will help us to take time to think about our response to the things that happen around us, to keep us from overreacting and causing harm to ourselves and others. In Christ we will be blessed. Thanks be to God.
Blame One of the things we are really good at in our society is playing the ‘blame game.’ If things don’t go quite the way we expect or if things go very wrong, we are able to quickly pinpoint someone other than ourselves to blame. If we get in an automobile wreck, it was the other driver’s fault. If our children are doing poorly in school, it is because the teachers are failing. If we get deep into credit card debt, it is because our employers won’t pay us enough. Our bad habits come from our parents and our mixed up childhood. I could go on. From simple mistakes to major crime, someone else is always to blame. We all manage to pass the buck nearly every day.
One of the most incredible stories in the news this week has been about the families that are suing the fast food restaurants for the weight problems of their children. The claim is that the parents had no idea that a consistent diet of fast food would cause health problems. While I can sympathize with the families whose children are suffering from heart disease, obesity and other troubles, I can’t help but wonder why these kids were eating fast food so regularly.
In the hectic pace of our lives today, fast food seems to be a quick and easy option. I know we probably eat at those places more than we should. However, a consistent diet of fast food is unhealthy for children in many ways – not just physically. A child’s development is dependent on the interaction they have with family. For most families, mealtime is the one opportunity they have to talk with one another, to hear news and encourage each other. It is easier for parents to recognize impending problems and build the relationships of trust with their children needed to help them grow into mature, responsible people. You can’t get that eating a quick bite of burgers and fries every day.
So, the families of these overweight and unhealthy children have decided to sue the fast food place for their troubles. They are playing the blame game, finding someone else to take responsibility for their own failures. I realize these families were living in difficult circumstances – one boy ate every meal at the fast food store while he lived in a homeless shelter. Yet, a fast food diet is not inexpensive. Might there have been a better way?
Read Matthew 7:1-5
The parents are taking advantage of a situation with their children in which they might benefit, yet they are overlooking their own responsibility in their problems. Where were they when these kids needed a family and a decent meal? They are blaming the fast food restaurants for not telling them the food is unhealthy, yet we have known for decades that such meals are not healthy on such a consistent basis. It is very easy to play the blame game in our society today. Just pick someone – your parents, neighbors, a major corporation, the government or even the church – and someone will help you be compensated. We do live in a sinful world, where people do things that affect others negatively, and we must do what is necessary for justice. Yet, it would do us well to consider our own role in our difficulties – to see the plank in our eye. With God’s help, we can overcome our difficulties, provide justice and bring peace into this messed up world.
Fired When I was an assistant manager for Woolworth’s many years ago, the assistant manager of another store was fired. He had been guilty of theft and improper conduct. The company leadership discovered that he was not getting to the store early so that he could get more work done, but rather he was unloading valuable merchandise out the back door before anyone could see him. If I recall, he even got several of the employees involved in his scheme. As soon as he was discovered, the manager and district manager fired him and charged him with theft.
We have heard similar stories on the news recently, though the stakes have been much higher. CEO’s of major corporations have been engaging in illegal activities to the detriment of their employees and investors. In many cases they have resigned their positions because who can fire them from those top-level jobs? Yet, there was no way they could continue working after doing so much harm to so many people. Whether fired or forcefully resigned, those men and women no longer have the control they once had, and now someone else is caring for the people involved.
Ancient Israel ran into a similar situation, something God warned them would happen. In the beginning, they had God as their King and He provided prophets and judges to lead them. There were also priests, whose job was to minister to the Lord and administer the sacrifices. Eventually they wanted to be like everyone else – they wanted to be a kingdom with an earthly ruler who would guide their lives. God warned that an earthly king would demand much from the people, many would be cruel and lay heavy burdens on their lives. But He granted their request. Over the years, some of the kings were cruel and the people were led from the path of righteousness. Israel lost their independence, the line of kings ended and they were left desolate. By the time that Jesus came in flesh puppet kings, who were controlled by the Romans, ruled the people. Even the priests and temple leaders were more interested in their own welfare and position than that of the people they were called to lead.
Read Ezekiel 34:11-16
The LORD knew what was going to happen to His people, so He promised that He would come for them and be their Shepherd King just as He was in the beginning. He promised that though the priests would abandon them for their own selfish reasons, He would never let them go. He promised that He would bring them home, give them all they need and tend them as a shepherd tends his sheep. He will not allow any to be lost and all those who suffer will be healed.
He did this by sending Jesus – our Shepherd, our Savior. Jesus came to fulfill the promises, to fire the bad leaders and install the One, true King into the hearts of men once again. It was not an easy task, for only through the cross of humiliation could God’s people be reconciled to Him once again. But Jesus did it, He died for you and for me. Today, we still face human leaders that will do us harm and place heavy burdens on our backs. There are even such leaders within the church, those who care only for their own welfare and position and who care nothing for the sheep they are called to lead. But God will not abandon His sheep. His promises through Ezekiel are as true today as they were when they were first uttered. God will take us home, protect us, tend to our needs and give us rest. For the Lord God Almighty is the Good Shepherd and He is faithful. Thanks be to God.
Sheep Yesterday’s scripture was a prophecy against the priests, shepherds, of the people who were not living in obedience to God’s calling and direction. They were more interested in their own welfare and position than they were caring for the weak, sick and poor. They were warned that God would remove them from their high places and replace them – with Himself. He encouraged the people with the promise that He would be their shepherd – that He would take them home, protect them, tend to their needs and give them rest. Yet, Ezekiel was not finished. He then spoke to the sheep themselves, and warned them that it is not just the responsibility of the shepherd to care for the sheep, but also that the sheep should care for one another.
Read Ezekiel 34:17-24
Our Father has given us the most incredible gifts – life, love and salvation. He has provided for our every need, given us food for our tables and roofs over our heads. He has given us friends, family, hope and peace. He has promised to be with us through the rough times when money is scarce and our health is failing. No matter what happens in this world, we know that through faith in Christ we will spend eternity in the presence of God. Unfortunately, we don’t always live in thankfulness for the lives God has given. We step on our brothers and sisters, we take what we have been given and use it selfishly, forgetting to share with those who are in need. We talk about doing wonderful things, but we don’t always do what we say we will do.
An unknown poet wrote the following words, which speak of what happens when we do not take responsibility for one another. “I was hungry – and you formed a humanitarian club and discussed my hunger – Thank you. I was imprisoned – and you crept off quietly in your chapel in the cellar and prayed for my release. I was naked – and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance. I was sick – and you knelt and thanked God for your health. I was homeless – and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God. I was lonely – and you left me alone to pray for me. You seem so holy, so close to God. But I’m still very hungry and lonely and cold.”
The LORD is our Shepherd; Jesus Christ is our Redeemer who will save us. But He will also judge the way we lived in that salvation. Will He see lives of thanksgiving, sharing all He has given with those in need? Or will He see that we shove and plunder our brothers and sisters, taking the best for ourselves and leaving nothing for those who are lonely, hungry and cold. We have been blessed to be a blessing. May God bless each sheep with all they need to care for each other each day, so that all will live in peace. Thanks be to God.
Sick Day Zack has not been feeling well for several days. We got up this morning and went through our normal routine, but when the time came for him to get on the bus he was still not well enough to go to school. He had a slight fever and a bellyache. He is getting better, however. He woke up with a smile on his face, an appetite and a twinkle in his eyes. For the past few days he has done little more than sleep or stare at the television. I decided today would be different. Even though he is still not 100%, we are finding things to keep us busy. He is doing crafts, reading and writing, almost like school. But here at home he will not spread his germs to other children and he will be able to rest if he should get tired.
It would have been much easier to just send him to school and hope for the best. But the extra day of rest and separation from the unhealthy habits of his classmates and the nasty weather will help him build up strength and guarantee a full recovery. It is likely a trip to school this morning would have set him back for days. It would be just as easy to let him lay around all day, but I knew that wouldn’t help him much. He needs to be active, to move his muscles and accomplish something. Finding projects and assignments for him to do makes my job more difficult. I must disrupt my own work to check on him, give him his medicine, and clean up his messes. I need to cancel my other commitments to take care of him. It is good that we can spend the day together to take care of one another so that tomorrow we will be ready to take on the world. He is anxious to go back to school tomorrow, and I am sure he will be much better with this day of recuperation.
Our Father is much like a mother in the way He deals with His children. Through all our successes and our trials, He is right there to help us, to guide us and to give us the strength we need. It is amazing to think that One so great as the Lord God Almighty cares enough for every son and daughter that He will set aside everything to care for us.
Read Psalm 91:1-4
Zachary must be feeling better because he has been very cooperative today. He is helping around the house, doing some crafts and working in an old Math book that we had lying around. He needed to be home today, close to the bathroom and away from the school environment where germs are passed from child to child quite easily. I think he is glad to spend one more day under his mother’s care, in the refuge of home away from the dangers of the world.
We have that kind of love and caring from our Father in heaven. He gives us rest and protection in our times of need. He helps us get through out own sick days, when we just don’t have the strength to follow our normal routine. Even when we do go out in the world, to do the things we are called to do, the Lord our God is with us and He will be our refuge and our strength. Thanks be to God.
Anxious The weather outside is frightful, but inside it’s so delightful. Does that sound familiar? It is probably one of the Christmas songs you are already hearing being played over the speakers in the stores. The employees have been busily decorating and stocking the shelves with the Christmas merchandise so that everything will be ready for the Christmas shopping season which is just around the corner. Though I understand the need to be prepared, it seems like everything gets earlier each year. When I was growing up, we waited until after Thanksgiving to do anything for Christmas. There are some homeowners who have already decorated their yards with lights and ornaments. I’ve even heard one person say they have their tree up in the house already.
The retailers are anxious to get an early start on the most important time of the year for their profit margin. This year has been very stressful for many people; I think they might want to create the feeling of joy and peace with the beautiful things of Christmas. Perhaps some think that if they get started early, Christmas will come faster. Unfortunately, such early preparation often has the opposite effect – people get tired of waiting and become discouraged when it seems to take so long.
That’s what happened to the earliest Christians. Jesus promised to return, so they lived in expectation for that moment when they would see Him again. As time passed, many of the first believers began to die. They were frightened, doubtful and worried that what Jesus said was not true, after all they believed Him when He said they would not die. Paul and the other apostles wrote to the churches to encourage them, to remind them that Jesus promised eternal life in Christ and that this world was just a temporary home for them, until they went to be with the Lord. Paul even wrote how he longed to die so he could be with Jesus again. Yet, the apostles also told the people to wait patiently. God is in control and He will come at the right time.
As with Christmas every year, Christians around the world are anxiously awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. Though there are many different ideas about how this is to happen, every believer waits for the fulfillment of all God’s promises. Some have interpreted the texts incorrectly, pinpointed times and dates which filled their followers with anticipation. When the day passed and everything was exactly the same as before, those followers became disappointed, disillusioned or deceived. For the ones who made the claims often justified their predictions and claimed they did come true! Too many Christians have been led astray and even destroyed by these false ideas. They were finished getting ready too early, and they failed to stand firm in faith for what they knew to be true.
Read Hebrews 10:37-39
I am anxious to get started on Christmas decorating, also. I have done a bit of shopping and planning, and I hope to get the house in order in the next week or so. Yet, I also like to leave a few things to be done later – leave something to keep me busy while I wait the day. I don’t bake all my Christmas cookies in one day – that way some are fresh, even on Christmas Eve. Being prepared does not necessarily mean that everything is finished. It means we are ready for the event to happen at any time. If Jesus came today, are you ready? What if He waits until tomorrow? Will everything still be ready, or will something have become old, worn or rotten? Perseverance means that we will keep being prepared, an ongoing action of faith. We know Christmas will come and Jesus will return. Are we going to sit around and wait, getting disappointed as every moment passes without fulfillment of the promises? Or will we be actively making everything perfect until the day we long to see? We believe by faith, and in that faith live in anxious expectation. Thanks be to God.
Wind As I was driving down the road, I saw several boys crossing a block away. Suddenly a spinning wind began to blow, it picked up a pile of leaves and carried them across the street. It looked like a small tornado carrying the leaves away. They boys became very excited by this sudden shift in the wind and they began to dance along with the leaves. It looked like so much fun that I wanted to join them. It did not last very long, just a minute. Then the leaves fell to the ground and the boys continued on their way.
I couldn’t stop to play, too many things to do. It is better that I didn’t. We can’t go rushing into every blowing wind. I don’t know many adults who would do such a thing. As a matter of fact, if they had been walking with the boys, I’m sure most would have stepped out of the wind to avoid the blowing leaves. Yet, many of those same adults are quick to jump into other types of blowing wind – trendy ideas and self-help schemes. They will try every new diet or moneymaking practice. Many people are even quick to believe every new religious doctrine. Just look at the bookshelves of your favorite bookstore and there is bound to be some volume written by a Christian writer giving the latest doctrine or interpretation of some biblical ideal. These trendy books are best sellers, but they are set aside just as quickly as they were purchased when the new idea is presented. They don’t stick with just books, either. They put forth their ideas on mugs, key chains, devotional journals, posters, stuffed animals, children’s puzzles and movies. Unfortunately, some will abandon the truth to follow these lies.
Read Ephesians 4:14-16
It would have been fun to jump in that pile of leaves with the boys who were playing, but I could not leave the path I was taking. Unfortunately, it could have been a dangerous dance for the boys. They weren’t paying much attention to the road while they danced in the midst of the blowing leaves. The same often happens with these religious trends. When I visit the bookstores, I see the beautiful new books that so many are enjoying, yet I realize that I don’t need to follow every trend. False doctrine is easily slipped into pleasant sounding stories. It sounds good, looks lovely and seems harmless. Yet many of these ideas lead people away from the truth of the Gospel. These self-help books present a gospel of self, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Too many Christians fall for these deceptive thoughts and jump into every trend, abandoning the true faith that comes from Christ. All too often they will leave their churches for something they think is better. Then, when the next trend comes our way, they are jumping into the leaves again.
But we know that God has given us His Word and He has given His people the gifts necessary to preach and teach the Gospel of Christ. Don’t follow the blowing winds, keep your feet on the ground. The message doesn’t change. Beware of those who claim to provide something new and who encourage you to walk a new path. Jesus Christ is the only Way, He is the only Truth, and He is the only Life. Thanks be to God.
Thanksgiving Today millions of Americans will gather around their dinner tables with family and friends. After dinner, we’ll stretch out in front of the television and watch hours of football. At some point we will thank God for our many blessings, perhaps during the prayers of grace before we sink our teeth into the delicious turkeys, stuffing and pumpkin pies that have been lovingly prepared. We might even discuss the good things we have as we grumble in the kitchen or moan over stuffed bellies. It is good to remember with thanksgiving our blessings each year, to remember the good things God has done for us.
Read Psalm 65
This song is a list of the things for which David was thankful. What is on our list of blessings? Are we thankful for our homes, jobs and relationships? Are we thankful for our life, breath, health, and happiness? Are we thankful for Jesus, forgiveness, salvation and eternal life? Are we thankful for God’s Word, for the opportunities we are given to share the Gospel and for those who are saved by the grace of God? Are we thankful for the trials that build us up and for the strength that God gives us to persevere in our times of suffering? Are we thankful for the hope we have, the faith we’ve been given and the joy that comes from life in Christ?
We have a great deal to be thankful for – we have warm homes and plenty of food. We have more than we can even list in just a day, an abundance of things, which God has given out of His great wealth. Most of all, though, we have the love of our Lord God Almighty, His mercy and the peace that come from life in Christ. May we never forget that everything we have comes from God, and may we constantly praise Him for His goodness. Thanks be to God!
Vicki and I were up very early today to join the mass of people who were seeking ‘black Friday’ bargains, so today’s WORD is a repeat of one year ago today. I pray that it will be a blessing to you again.
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.
Jesse Tree Where has the time gone? Today is the last day of November. The year is nearly over. In the secular world, people are gearing up for the holidays – buying and wrapping Christmas presents, baking cookies, sending Christmas cards. Houses are being covered in twinkling lights. We went shopping yesterday, and though I have not heard any reports on how well the retailers did, the stores were packed and people were dragging many bags to their cars.
Today is the last day of the liturgical calendar of the church year for many denominations. Tomorrow begins Advent, the season when we count the days to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a time of hope and expectation, of looking back at the promises and looking forward to their fulfillment. We study not only the prophecies of the Old Testament that point to the coming of the Messiah, but we also look at the eschatological prophecies – the promises of Jesus’ return in the last days – and remember with joyful expectation that one day, perhaps soon, we will be face to face with our Lord for eternity.
There are many different traditions which families use to count down the days until Christmas. For many years we have had a calendar filled with chocolates or treats. Each day the children get to open the pocket and find out what is inside. We also have an advent wreath which we light daily as we read scripture in a devotional time as a family. The bookstores have many different books to help with individual quiet time. Our church even published our own Advent devotional. We have a flip chart with numbers and the television reporters are sure to remind us how many shopping days there are until Christmas.
The church also has many traditions. In Europe, the great cathedrals set up huge nativities that grow as the season passes. They begin with just a few pieces – the town, a few people. Each week, more characters are added – shepherds, Mary and Joseph, the kings. On Christmas Eve, Jesus is added so that the display is complete with the entire story of Christ. Another tradition is called a “Jesse Tree.” This is often a banner of some sort on which pieces are added daily as the devotions follow the story of God’s love from the beginning until the birth of Jesus. It is based on the prophecy from Isaiah that tells of the promised Messiah.
Read Isaiah 11:1-9
For the next twenty-five days, we will be looking at the story of God, the people and events that brought us to the moment when our salvation came in flesh to live and breath with the creation He so loves. Each day we will meditate on God’s amazing grace, how he used ordinary people and events to do extraordinary things for His children. Though we still have food to prepare and presents to buy, I pray this Advent will be one in which we focus on the One for whom the hubbub is all about – the Son of God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. After all, as they say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Thanks be to God.