Welcome to the October 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, October 2000
October 1, 2000
No Word Posted
Wedding We had the most delightful weekend in Burnley, an industrial town in the north of England. We stayed in a hotel with a group of other people who had gathered to celebrate the marriage of two dear friends of our, Will and Norma. Theirs was a most unusual courtship, a witness to the powerful hand of God, our heavenly Father.
I met Norma in a Christian chat room on the Internet. She is a lovely lady and a gifted writer of poetry that magnifies God’s love for His children. She also has a wonderful singing voice. The poetry she writes is set to music in her head. One day she was sharing with someone in the Christian chat room that she has no formal music training and is unable to put those songs on paper. Will just happened to be in the room at the time. He is a very talented musician. He said, “How can I help?” After a long conversation online, they talked on the phone for even longer. They knew very early in their relationship that God had brought them together to be partners in music ministry, and they began Sanctuary Praise Ministry.
Very early in the ministry, they realized that God had brought them together for more than just ministry. Will asked Norma to marry him and this weekend was the culmination of this whirlwind romance.
Read Mark 10:6-9
The romance was not only between Will and Norma, but also between God and His children. The events leading up to this weekend’s wedding were not some strange coincidence, but the hand of God. The planning of the wedding brought together a diverse group of people who helped with the details. There were people from many denominations involved in the ceremony, including Baptist, Pentecostal, Church of England and Lutheran. There were people from the Internet present, and though we know each other so well, it was the first time we’d met face to face. Every detail was watched over by God, and was designed to glorify Him every moment.
God made His presence known on the night of the rehearsal by creating a rainbow in the gloomy sky. The rehearsal was chaotic, but even in the midst of the problems we were praising God in the music and fellowship. It was my honour to lead the opening prayer and a great pleasure for my family to be part of this special occasion. The wedding itself was a service of Worship and Praise to God, where two people just happened to get hitched. God was the focus of the day, and we joined in one voice to glorify Him.
The scripture from Mark speaks of separation. It is disturbing to think of the possibility of division so early in a marriage, and yet we must begin the journey aware of the dangers. Satan is not pleased by this union because Will and Norma will glorify God in their life together as well as their ministry. He will do everything to undermine their relationship and separate them. Since we are aware of this possibility, we should continually pray for them - for strength and wisdom, courage and love - so that they can do the work they are called to do together. God has brought Will and Norma together for a purpose. Will you please stand in agreement and pray with me for God’s blessings on these incredible servants of God?
Aliens We were the only Americans at the wedding on Saturday. This provided a never-ending source of amusement for Will who referred to us as ‘the people who talk funny’, and Zoe the flowergirl who told us how much she loves our accent. It is strange being a foreigner, but we were made to feel quite welcome and dearly loved. Several people even gave us their personal information with an invitation to visit them.
We were foreigners in many ways, particularly nationality and denomination, but also in the way we came to know Will and Norma. In this age of technology, the Internet provides a unique way of getting to know people. Yet, there are some who are less than forthright online. We have heard many horror stories of people who have fallen prey to predators on the net. Yet, Will and Norma’s story is a wonderful example of how God can use modern technology to accomplish His will.
Despite our differences, I spent many hours this weekend visiting with the members of the churches, sharing our common love and faith, but most importantly our hope for Christ’s Church in the days to come. There were offers of prayer and support for the ministry, and a sincere interest in hearing about God’s work in our lives. We knew that Christ was present in that place and that the people we met knew about His love.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
The people at the wedding knew I was a sister in Christ, and they treated me accordingly. The love they showed my family shined as a light to those who were present whose faith was wavering or non-existent. One woman shared her story with me, a story of pain and lost faith. She had been afraid to come, but by the end of the evening, she was so thankful to have been part of this movement of God.
Who are the foreigners in your life? What can you be doing today to win their respect and shine the light of our Lord Jesus Christ? Follow Paul’s advise and love one another. You never know what seeds might be planted! Thanks be to God.
Vivian and Katie Vivian is a friend I met on the Internet. We have spent hours together in the chat rooms and in Instant Message, sharing our hopes and fears, praying for each other. We have even talked on the phone and know each other very well, but only by our words. We’ve never gone out to lunch or a movie. We’ve never looked each other in the eye or given each other a hug. Until yesterday.
Vivian is able to get inexpensive flights around the world because of her job as a flight attendant. She decided to bring her daughter Katie to London for a few days. We just had to meet and spend some time together. I drove to the airport to pick them up for our very short visit, uncertain whom I was meeting. I’ve seen a picture, but people change and photos can be deceiving. I made a little sign so that they would know who I am, but I didn’t use it because I was certain I would recognize her. After all, we know each other so well.
I arrived at the airport a few minutes early, but found their plane had landed even earlier. I stood expectantly at the gate, looking at each woman, hoping something would click. Most people I could easily dismiss because they had small children or male companions. I saw several pairs of women pass, but none clicked. I went to the monitor to check on the status of the flight, and it showed the flight was not yet coming through customs. So, I went back to watch.
Two lovely women kept walking by, standing close, looking at me. I had seen these two women as they came out of customs, but for some reason it didn’t click. I realized they were there standing near me. They were whispering back and forth, because neither wanted to ask me if I was Peg. Finally, I looked straight at Vivian and she said, “Are you Peg?” I said, “Vivian?” And we laughed at how close we were without knowing for sure who we were.
I was blind and in my effort to recognize her, I refused the opportunity to make it easier on both of us by using my sign. How often do we do that in our Christian walk? We know how much God loves and knows us, and we know there is nothing we can do to make Him love and know us any better.
Read 2 Peter 1:3-11
God has indeed given us everything we need, but we can’t sit with that knowledge and expect anything to happen. We need to grasp those things so that they will grow in us or we are like the blind man who does not really see what is right in front of him. I thought I knew Vivian so well that I didn’t have to do anything special to recognize her. Do we think we know God so well that we don’t have to do anything to recognize His hand in our lives? It won’t make Him love us more if we make the effort to know Him better. But it will help us to know Him better and live more productively in His grace. Thanks be to God.
Tipping Patricia Cornwell, the prolific American author recently spent some time in a hotel in a small village not far from where I live. The Swan Hotel is in Lavenham, England. This village was built during the prosperous days of the wool trade in East Anglia and is filled with quaint timber-framed houses. It is called “The crookedest town in England”, not because it is filled with criminals, but rather because the five hundred year old houses lean every which way but straight. The hotel is one of these true English Tudor buildings, with hand-hewn timbers and whitewashed walls.
Patricia had tea in the Swan, and while she was there, she discovered that the servers were donating all their tips for the day to a charity that helps hotel workers in need. The service that day must have been exceptional, because Patricia decided to leave a £5000 tip to the staff of the hotel. Actually, it was Patricia’s very giving nature that caused her to give such a large tip.
I learned about this event when I took my guests to Lavenham for a brief visit. As we were photographing the Swan Hotel, a gentleman from the BBC approached us. He heard our American accents and wanted to know if he could interview us for the local news. He told us the story of the tremendous tip and asked us a few questions about tipping in America.
The focus of the BBC story was about how much we should tip. To me, there is a greater story here. Patricia was not asked to make a donation. She chose to give. Originally she had intended to give £1000, but later changed it to £5000. Her generosity has brought her some notoriety, however her intention when she shares of her blessings is to give back a measure of what she has first been given.
Read Deuteronomy 15:7-11
From a Christian perspective, I find such generosity a joy to see. Patricia could certainly afford to do such a kind act, but that is not the point. She had nothing to gain from the donation, and her other charitable activities are often done anonymously. She was openhanded toward her fellow man, and for this she will be greatly blessed. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Autumn We drove through the Peak District the other day, a region of England that is quite hilly and beautiful. As we passed along the high set roads on the hills looking into the valleys, we could see quaint villages nestled in groves of trees. The trees were just on the verge of turning colours, marking the transition from mild summer days to the bitterness of winter. The days here in England during winter are very short. The temps are cool, the fog is thick, and the roads are covered with black ice on the brisk mornings.
As we drove through this lovely region, I could imagine the trees in just a few short weeks, vibrant with red, orange and yellow. I remembered what it was like to live in Pennsylvania and how places like the Conyngham Valley seemed to glow with colour in fall. A friend just sent me a link to a site called Fall in PA where I can watch the changing seasons on web cams, cameras set up to catch every moment of this magnificent event. There is a choice of six different cameras, set up throughout Pennsylvania.
Fall is the one season of the year when we really consider the passing of time. The crops that were sown are ready for harvest. The spring and summer flowers are wilting, their beauty passing into just a fond memory. We get out the heavy winter clothing – coats, sweaters and Wellies (boots). More people suffer from flu and depression, the limitations of our physical bodies are apparent.
Yet, through it all, we see the beauty of God’s creation and the power of His hand. In the colours of the trees and in the abundant harvest we can grasp on to the hope of the coming spring.
Read Psalm 104:31-35
Praise the Lord, my friends, for God is here even with the passage of time. The first thirty verses of Psalm 104 talks about God and His creation. Though the things of this earth do pass, God endures forever. Thanks be to God.
Sin We don’t like to talk about sin because we think of ourselves as good people. After all, we go to church regularly, we give generously to charities, and we don’t murder or steal. We don’t like to talk about sin, until we see someone we think is sinful. How do we treat the people in our congregations who do not fit into the mold of perfection we have established? How do we treat those who are divorced or are ex-convicts? How do we treat those who go to the pub every night?
We don’t like to talk about our own sin, but we are always willing to talk about someone else’s. We openly condemn those who we consider sinful. I have seen examples of people exiled from Christian fellowship. This does not always happen directly. Through gossip and innuendo, some people are made to feel so unwelcome in church that they give up trying and stop going to services. I spoke at length to a woman recently who had been blamed for an incident that was not her fault. Her church has refused to allow her to participate in certain aspects of worship. She became so embarrassed by this, that she stopped attending altogether, and her faith is wavering. She sees herself as unworthy and vial.
Read Romans 15:1-7
My friend was not totally blameless, however the church should not have condemned her. They should have been seeking reconciliation for all parties, to bring about a unity of spirit that will glorify God. Instead, they have chased her away, onto a path of lost faith and hope, away from God and His mercy.
We are all sinners in the eyes of God, but thanks to the cross, He sees us as His children. When someone comes to us bearing the burden of divorce, conviction, and guilt, we must show them the mercy that Christ showed us, bearing the cross with them. We know the truth; God’s law shows us that we are not worthy for eternal life. Only our Lord Jesus makes us worthy. Let us follow Christ together and let Him wash away our sins.
Stage William Shakespeare once wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely actors.” In some ways, this is very true. We put on our power clothes to go to work so that we appear successful. When we are dating, we act in a way that will make the best impression. Even at church, we put on a façade that hides our true self.
When actors perform, they must get into character. When they are on the stage, they can’t let their own personality slip through if they are playing a character that is much different. Suppose the director tried to put an aggressive actor into the role of Hamlet. Hamlet is very complex, and at times quite wishy-washy. It would destroy the intent of the play if the actor’s aggressive nature came out during the “To be or not to be” scene. In that scene Hamlet considers suicide rather than vengeance on his father’s killer.
Read Matthew 23:1-7
In our day to day existence, we should not be actors, we should be true to who God has created us to be. Bruce and I went to a play last night. It was the Complete Works of William Shakespeare in 97 minutes. There are three players who work together to share the bard’s works in a way that had the audience laughing hysterically. What made this work even funnier was the fact that they couldn’t help but laugh at their own jokes. They did not lose themselves while they were on the stage acting the roles created by Shakespeare.
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely actors. We do play roles – as parent, spouse, corporate executive, teacher, pastor, neighbour, friend, servant, leader, or child. However, we should not put on makeup or costume to create an image that does not really exist. The only façade we should wear is the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are sinners in need of God’s love and forgiveness. By His blood, we receive exactly that. Thanks be to God.
Christopher Columbus In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He was searching for spice, wealth, and proof that the world was not flat. What he found was a new world and gold. Today is Columbus Day, the day we remember this great man, and yet our understanding of him is flawed. He is credited with discovering America, but he never stepped foot on the Continental United States. We think of him as successful, yet he died a broken and bitter man.
Columbus made several more trips to the New World. He set up trading posts, established a colony and was governor of that land. Unfortunately, conditions were very harsh and he was incapable of leading the people. The people became discontent and eventually shipped Christopher home to Spain in chains. Though he found great wealth and success along the way, Christopher Columbus died penniless and forgotten.
He is remembered today because he was among the first to discover that the earth is not flat. As he sailed west, the horizon never grew closer but rather always appeared farther away. The one piece of knowledge changed the modern understanding of the earth. Other explorers went on to continue westward, seeking the passage that would take them to the orient and its wealth in spice and silk.
We do not really know when the world established the great misunderstanding of the earth’s form. In the book of Isaiah, we hear that God sits enthroned about the great circle of the earth. The Hebrew word used in this scripture is horizon, which is defined as the line between a celestial sphere and the sky. The ancient people knew the world was round, yet somehow that knowledge was lost over time. What other knowledge has been lost over the ages?
Read Isaiah 40:21-24
Christopher Columbus’ accomplishments were forgotten for a time, and even today we remember a myth rather than the truth. One thing never changes, God is supreme and He reigns over all. Human thought, position and possession will pass away, but God endures forever. Perhaps the next great explorer will rediscover something that has been lost in time. Until then, let us live in faith and remember that everything comes from God and it is to Him we should give all we have and all we do. Thanks be to God.
Storms There are days when I would just prefer to stay home out of the rain. It is tough to leave a warm house when a fierce autumn storm comes through, with cold rain and strong winds. Last night was one of those nights, but I wanted to go to a prayer meeting at our church, so I bundled up and headed out into the storm. The wind and rain were so cold that even in the few minutes I was outside, it chilled me to the bones.
As we prayed, we listened to the wind whistling through the rafters and the rain leaking through the roof. The storm was awful, but we kept dry and relatively comfortable in the church, protected by the shelter of the building. We thought about those who were not so blessed – the homeless, night emergency service staff and whoever else were out in the storm.
Read Matthew 8:23-27
At prayers last night, there was a light shining in the midst of the storm, our Lord Jesus. Though we were cold and the storm outside was frightening, we knew God was in our midst. We face storms every day, not always natural storms, with wind and rain, but sometimes we face emotional storms. We get sick, hurt, or frightened by the things of this world.
Jesus’ disciples were frightened, sure they would drown. They cried out to Jesus and He calmed the storm. For those who are forced to go out into the night, drenched by the wind and rain, there seems to be no way out. When you face a storm, remember God is with you. Cry out to Him in prayer in the midst of your troubles and even as the wind and rain rages around you, the Son will shine.
Love It is nearly impossible to define love. Webster’s defines it as; “an intense affection for another person based on personal or familial ties.” But what does that mean? Love shows itself in many different ways. There is the romantic sort of love between husband and wife. This love changes over time, beginning with a passionate, physical love and growing into much more. It is a joy to see elderly couples out for a day who after fifty years of marriage still hold hands and share their lunch. They truly become one in body, mind and spirit. This is so true that in later years, when one spouse dies, the other often follows quickly.
There is the love a mother has for her children. Hugs and giggles do not always accompany this sort of love. There is a time in raising children that a parent needs to use tough love. Discipline is important in tempering children to be the best they can be. A child that is left to run wild, to act out against the rules that are established, will travel down a path of destruction.
We love our pets, which provide us with so much – love, companionship and protection. We take care of these animals, whether they be cat or dog or some exotic pet. Our love shows in the actions we take for their well being, such as buying food and toys, and keeping their living areas clean.
It gets even more complicated when we start talking about our friends. We have some friends that we love deeply, our best friends, with whom we share our joys and tears, that we know will be around no matter what we do right or wrong. With other friends, our affection is not as intense, though we still enjoy spending time with them and doing things for them.
The greatest difficulty comes when we discuss loving strangers or our enemies. How do we do love those who do not love us back? How do we show love to someone who acts with evil intent, jealousy, hatred, or lies? God loved us so much that He gave up His own Son so that we might be reconciled to Himself. Now, He calls us to do the same.
Read 1 John 4:7-12
There is only one sort of love to God, for He is love. It is a love in which we give everything we are for each other. Perhaps that love will manifest differently, but in all cases our love must be unselfish. We love because God first loved us. Let us share that love today. Thanks be to God.
Dictionary Zack needed to know how to spell the word maraca yesterday for his homework so I told him to look it up in the dictionary. Unfortunately, the dictionary we used did not have that word listed. We were unable to find the proper spelling because it was not there. We did find another, more complete dictionary and now we know the proper spelling.
When I was younger, I was involved in an organization. When I ran a meeting, I liked to quote scripture at certain moments. I would use my concordance to find specific usage of certain words, such as love, service, faith, or hope. Generally, I sought specific passages that I remembered from my Sunday School days or from elsewhere, like teachers, friends or TV. What often happened was that when I did find the specific word in the scripture, either the verse was completely different than I remembered or it was completely inappropriate when read in context. Has that ever happened to you?
Take for example the proverb “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” This is not a direct quote from scripture, though many think it is. We are told in scripture that we can judge a tree by its fruit, a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. The scriptures also tell us we should not judge. So what do we do? God certainly can judge us according to what He sees, because He is righteous. Yet, He does not. Rather, He judges us according to His Son, whose righteousness we wear when we receive Him in faith.
When it comes to understanding and using God’s Word, we must carefully seek the scriptures for the truth. The scriptures are given to us so that we might know and understand the wisdom God has given for us. When we hear lessons from teachers, we should go into the Word ourselves, to be certain that there has not been a misquote, or a quote from a resource other than the Bible. We must always do so with a reverence for God.
Read Proverbs 1:1-7
Zack and I had difficulty finding the word maraca in his dictionary, because it was one that was not included in his edition. I’ve had lessons from teachers that have included proverbs that I’ve been unable to locate in my Bible. Time spent in the scriptures for ourselves, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will help us to distinguish between the Word, and the words that people mistake for God’s word. It is with reverence for Him, and an understanding of His Word that we can live the life He has called us to live. Thanks be to God.
Individuality There is a Christian band from Birmingham England called ‘Audacity’ who has a unique style of music with which they share the gospel. They reach a younger audience with their pop/rock style and the modern issues. One song touches on the use or abuse of power, another is about prostitution in Amsterdam. Through it all, they share the message of our Lord, His love and His power to save.
I woke up this morning singing “Jesus plays guitar if you want him to” a song about how we are searching for something in all the wrong places. A line in the song says, “we’re believing everything and nothing.” In our society, in this age, it seems there is so much tolerance for every idea that the Truth has been lost in the scramble. We worship pet rocks or false christs, and we forget who God really is.
Yet, the line, “Jesus plays guitar if you want him to” speaks about a personal God, one who reaches us as individuals. He is the One, True and Living God, who knows every hair on our head and who knows our every need. He has called us by name to serve Him.
Read Psalm 18:30-36
We cannot compare our faith journey with that of another, because God has created each of us as unique individuals. The one thing we do have in common is the fact that God created us, Jesus saves us, and the Holy Spirit fills us with the power to walk in His life.
Pet rocks won’t bring you peace, and false christs will not bring you salvation. The Lord God Almighty, the Living God, through the blood and resurrection of our Lord Jesus will bring you all those things and more. You need only recognize that without Jesus, you believe everything, and nothing. With Jesus, you gain wisdom and everything else you need. Thanks be to God.
Divine Plan God is incredible, and yet why are we ever amazed? He is constantly reminding us through nature, friends and His Word that He is the sovereign Lord God Almighty. Just the other day when we were walking home from school, we saw a rainbow. We did not see it at first. The cold, stinging rain had us miserable. Then we saw the first glimpses of the bow. The rain continued to pound us as the sun peaked through, and the rainbow’s colours grew brighter and the bow became complete. We were reminded of the ever-expanding richness of God’s love. That remembrance did not pass as the rainbow faded.
This past week has been filled with some rather unusual experiences. I realized last night that they are all woven together in way that must come from God. Last week, a friend came to visit. On our way back to London, we changed our plans and went to Lavenham to see the village. While there, we discovered the story about Patricia Cornwell visiting the hotel. When I came home and wrote about her, I found her website. Her first book was a biography about Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham. Ruth was Patricia’s mentor and helped convince her to be a writer. I am currently working on a study about the Proverbs 31 woman. A friend recommended this week that I use modern women in my examples of the virtues portrayed in the scripture. I was more familiar with Ruth Graham because of the events of the past week. She will fit perfectly into the study.
When I shared the Lavenham experience with a friend, he said, “You have all the neatest things happen to you.” I said, “I just happen to be at the right place at the right time.” I realize now that it is not simply coincidence that we were there.
Read Romans 8:28
With God, there are no coincidences. Everything works to His glory. We may not see it right away, or understand the events as they unfold, but in the end, God will be glorified. Today, spend some time looking at the past, seeing the pattern that developed in your own life as God’s powerful hand touched you. Think about the Old Testament scripture that spoke about our Lord Jesus and all He would do, and see that God is like a composer, carefully placing each note into the music until it is a beautiful symphony. Then thank Him, for everything. Amen.
Prayer We are living in a time of great turmoil around the world. The Middle East is exploding with violence. People are dying over land and religion. Africa is laid waste by drought and famine, much caused by the greed of men in leadership positions. Thousands of Christians are being persecuted in Asian countries, put to death for their faith. Flooding, hurricane, earthquake and other natural disasters are happening frequently. We have a lot to pray about.
In America, and other western countries, we suffer from other turmoil. Our families are falling apart because of the ease of divorce. Children are being killed before they are even born in abortion clinics. The Internet is opening whole new avenues for sin – cybersex and intimate relationships that bring division to marriages. We are greedy, self-focused, hateful, bitter and angry. Pain and sickness abounds, every day when we learn of someone with cancer or some other disease. The flu season is upon us, and it seems like everyone is suffering in one way or another. We have a lot to pray about.
In our personal lives, our faith is wavering because we see so much of this turmoil and we wonder when it will stop. We pray, but things seem to get worse. We cry out to God, but the world just laughs in our face. We are bombarded with accusations that our God is not capable of dealing with these troubles. We are ridiculed for our prayers, because they say God does not hear.
In 2 Kings 18-19, we hear the story of King Hezekiah of Judah. When he was king, the Assyrians were a great and powerful nation, overpowering every nation that stood in their way. Hezekiah did what was right before the LORD, removing every pagan altar and monument. He prayed to God and sought His protection and guidance. Israel, at this time a separate nation, had not obeyed God’s law, so fell under the hands of the Assyrians. When they came to Judah, Hezekiah rebelled. He was willing to fight, even though the odds seemed great.
The king of Assyria asked on whom they were depending, since every nation had been defeated. Hezekiah said, “The LORD.” The Assyrians then spoke to the people directly telling them that God would not save them. The king’s representative told them to give up the fight and join them. But Hezekiah refused to listen. Instead he went to the Temple and prayed to God for deliverance from the hands of the Assyrians.
Read 2 Kings 19:14-19
At times the troubles in our world seem overwhelming. But when we pray, great things happen. God did deliver Hezekiah and the Jews from the hands of the Assyrians. He will deliver us, in His time and way. We can never give up.
When the world seems overwhelming and everything is out of control, pray. When your burdens seem too heavy to carry and you want to give up, pray. When you are at the end of your rope – sick, tired, worried, afraid or impatient for good things to happen – pray. Don’t let the world make you believe God does not hear your prayers. He does. So, pray and believe. God is in control.
Witchcraft Halloween is just around the corner, and it seems that there are pictures of witches everywhere. It is the stereotypical image of an ugly woman on a broom. You can almost hear the sound of her voice cackling from the multitude of movies that portray her that way. Yet, modern witches don’t tend to stand out in a crowd.
I’m reminded of the TV show “Bewitched”. The old black and whites have been playing on one of our TV stations lately. The show brought a different image before the nation. It broke the stereotype and showed witches like Samantha and Tabitha – beautiful people who just happened to have some abnormal power. The magic they used was always meant to get a laugh, yet there was always something manipulative about it.
In yesterday’s episode, Darren was given a gift from one of Samantha’s uncles. This gift had the power to make people speak honestly. When Darren was under the spell of the statue, he told his secretary how hot she was in the very tight fitting dress she was wearing. This honesty was not really ‘truth’, but rather a releasing of Darren’s inherently evil nature. Of course, Darren and Samantha were having a dinner party that night for Mr. Tate and a client. The statue created a scene where everyone but Samantha was arguing because of ‘the truth’. Samantha had no idea what was going on, however Endora did. She found the whole situation quite funny.
Read Acts 8:9-23
Witchcraft is not about ugly ladies turning princes into frogs. It is a manipulation of circumstances for the benefit of the witch. In the episode of bewitched, the manipulation caused hurt and pain to the people who were affected by the power, because they said things they would not normally say. Endora benefited with a good laugh at their expense. In the story from Acts, Simon wanted to manipulate the power of God for his own benefit.
Today’s witches may not use their craft for evil purposes, but manipulation of circumstances is against God’s Word and we must be aware of its use. You may even find witches in your workplace, neighbourhoods or church. Be aware that witches still exist and that they do have power that can touch your life. However, their power is not of God. Do not be afraid, but keep your sight set on God, our Creator, and do all things in the name of Jesus Christ and by the power of His Holy Spirit for His glory. It is there you will find all the blessings you need, most of all His peace.
Batik When I was in school, our art teacher taught us how to batik. Batik is a technique of dying cloth. The colours are put on in layers, from lightest to darkest, creating an image. To protect the lighter colours throughout the process, the artist paints removable wax over the areas that should not be dyed. After all the colours are added, the wax is removed, and the artist has a beautiful picture on fabric.
The difficulty with this technique is that you must do everything backwards. In a painting, the background tends to be dark, and the foreground light. Light brings an object forward, giving the painting more dimensions. When painting with oil or acrylics, the painter tends to begin with the darker colours of the background and shadows. Then the artist works the top layers of lighter, brighter highlights and details. With batik, it is necessary to do the colouring from light to dark. If you first dye the cloth black, you will never be able to use yellow.
With each layer, more and more of the cloth is covered with wax. By the time the artist reaches that last layer of black, only small areas are exposed to the dye – details or outlines. Not much is needed, because the rest of the cloth is covered in brightness and colour.
In these days, when there seems to be so much darkness and evil abounds, we tend to focus on the negative and become sad thinking about the suffering. Some find an escape in alcohol or drugs. Others try to change the world by preaching hellfire and brimstone. Still others find earthbound solutions by waging war with bombs and guns. In these days, there seems to be little joy or peace.
Read Ephesians 5:15-21
Life with God is an upside down world. We should begin with singing and praise, with the light. We should not turn to alcohol or violence to solve the problems in the world. Instead we should turn our thoughts toward praise and thanksgiving. Rather than drugs we should be filled with God’s Holy Spirit by spending time in prayer. Rather than war, we should humble ourselves and serve our neighbours. We don’t find peace and joy living as the world expects us to live. We find peace and joy by living in God’s upside down world, where light comes first. Thanks be to God.
History I never really liked history in school. It was so boring to listen to a teacher tell me all about the lives of people that were long dead, particularly since their lives had so little to do with our society today. We can’t relate to stories about a king like Henry VIII, because as Americans we don’t have a king. It was just stories to me, and they weren’t even interesting stories. I loved to read, but it was because I enjoyed the fantasy of books. It seemed like the history teachers only knew about dates anyway. They didn’t talk very much about the real lives of the people. It was a few facts and nothing more.
Two things changed my opinion of history. When we moved here to England, I enjoyed seeing the ancient places, such as the castles and cathedrals. Suddenly, the history we learned became very real to me. Real people built those places. Real people lived, loved and died in those stone buildings. Real people worshipped in those churches. I began to imagine what life was like for them and to identify with their problems. Though their lives were much different, they still faced the same questions of life and love. Why are we here? How do we get along with each other and live to our fullest potential?
I also realized by studying the scriptures that it was necessary to understand the historic perspective of the people by whom and to whom the scriptures were written. This is true, not because those words mean any less to us in today’s modern world. God’s Word is still God’s Word. Yet, we must have some understanding of their lives. Take for example the fact that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. We do not understand how any man could live with that many women. Yet, when we realize that it is likely that he merely slept with them only once and that there was no documented decree of marriage, we realize that even in today’s world there are men like Solomon.
People write off the stories of the Old Testament, like those of Solomon. They think that they are not useful to our faith today because we don’t understand the lifestyle. Yet, we must recognize the importance of Solomon to God’s story. For the same reason, many people do not pay much attention to the parables of Jesus. They do not make sense because we do not understand the underlying meaning historically or spiritually. Yet, these stories are important to our walk in faith.
Read Matthew 13:13-17
Is there scripture you do not understand? Take time to understand the history, people and culture you are reading about. Then take those thoughts and ideas to God in prayer. Jesus used parables because He wanted the people to ask Him how it relates to their lives. He wants us to seek Him in our modern lives through His Word, which He will make fresh and new for you today. God is the one true and living God. He has not stopped communicating with us, even though our world is much different than the world of Solomon. We just have to take the time in prayer and study to see and hear Him today.
Struggle We struggle with many things day by day.
I am writing a study for a conference next month, and I have been struggling with the latest section. I have rewritten it several times, never quite finding the right perspective. Last night, when I’d finally gotten myself on the right path, the file got lost in my computer, unretrievably lost. I had to begin the revisions again. It was an intense moment of struggle, because I simply wanted to give up. I was trying too hard.
I finally did give up; I gave up myself in prayer and asked God to remove the burden of this struggle. He did, and I was able to attempt the writing again. There is still work to be done, but with God as my light, it will happen.
Read Colossians 1:29
When you face trials, do not struggle with your own energy, but with the power of He that lives in you. It is there that you’ll find the answers to your questions. It is in His power that you will be able to get out of bed, pay your bills, love your neighbour, give generously, speak boldly, and face the pain that comes with living in this world. Trust in Him. Thanks be to God.
Walls We face all sorts of walls in our day to day walk. We are blocked by these walls from doing everything we would like to do. There are financial barriers, health situations, and transportation troubles. Our emotion blocks our understanding of some things and our intellectual capacity limits many things we can do. Other people stop us from getting a job complete. At times it is simply our own stubbornness that stands in our way.
The writer’s block I was suffering this week had everything to do with my own stubbornness. I was determined to do it my way, and I found myself facing a brick wall every time I tried to write. I finally was able to spend time with a friend who helped me see that the direction of the writing was not quite right. She helped me see that the focus was not God’s will. I was instead trying to do it my own way. I spent some time in prayer and finally was able to overcome the writer’s block.
Joshua was a military leader who faced a massive wall, the wall around a city. These walls are built with defense in mind. It is never easy to break down such a wall. An opposing army is more likely to climb over the walls and destroy from the inside, or hold a long siege that brings the people on the inside to their knees. When the people are hungry enough, they open the gates for the army and surrender.
Jericho was a strong city, well prepared. Joshua was bringing the Israelites into the Promised Land. After forty years in the desert, God commanded the Israelites to restore the practice of circumcision. They celebrated the Passover, and then they were prepared to go to war to take what God had promised. God told He had delivered Jericho into his hands. Imagine how Joshua must have felt, looking at the massive walls before him.
But God had a plan. It was a ridiculous plan, according to the ways of our world, but Joshua stepped forward in faith and did exactly what God told him to do. The Israelites were told to have a parade around the city. They took the Ark of the Covenant and circled the city, blowing trumpets. They did this for several days. The Israelites must have appeared rather foolish to those soldiers on the wall. By the sixth day, they must have been laughing so hard they could have easily been defeated! Joshua continued to trust God.
Read Joshua 6:15-21
God’s plan worked, just as His plan always works. When I could not longer write as I needed to, I turned to God and asked His direction. His way seemed too simple. Yet, now that the wall is gone, I see that His way is best. The next time you face some sort of obstacle – financial, physical or spiritual – seek God’s help and He’ll bring the walls tumbling down. We may think the plan is foolishness, but trust in Him and you will succeed! Thanks be to God.
China England is known for its fine porcelain dishes and collectibles. China by names like Spode, Royal Worcester and Wedgewood are produced here. These objects are beautiful, often hand painted and individually handled throughout the process. The consumer pays a great deal of money for these fine English products, but to the collector they are worth every penny.
Most of the china factories are located in Stoke-on-Trent, and they all offer factory outlets. At these shoppes a person is able to purchase second quality merchandise at much reduced prices. This is a good opportunity for those of us who like to have these things but cannot afford to pay first quality prices. Of course, the objects are less than perfect, but if you shop carefully you will find many objects with nearly invisible imperfections. Your family and friends should not even notice the faults when they are sitting at your dinner table.
Unfortunately, some people do notice the imperfections. There are guests who see every chip and nick in the china, and miss the love that has gone into the preparation of the dinner. The same can be said about the chips and nicks in people. Everyone has faults that make us imperfect but when we share the love of Christ, those imperfections are set aside in the joy of fellowship. With Jesus, only one thing matters.
Read John 12:44-50
Jesus doesn’t see that our dishes were bought at the factory outlet, He sees that we have invited Him into our lives and fellowship. He doesn’t see our imperfections, He sees that we love Him. Hear His voice, see His light, and follow in His footsteps each day, and you will have eternal life. Thanks be to God.
Election America is in the midst of a presidential election. Talk of the election is everywhere – on TV, around the water cooler, on the Internet, over the backyard fence and in our Christian fellowship. This election is extremely close with many people wavering between the candidates. There are those who are passionate about the issues, who speak out and share their opinions.
That’s what presidential elections are all about, discussing the issues, listening to the candidates and making an informed choice based on the evidence. The politicians spend months and millions of dollars to convince the public that they are the best, most qualified person for the job. It is months of horn-blowing, touting their record and hiding their skeletons.
In Mark 10, we hear the story of James and John, who were two of Jesus closest disciples. They wanted Jesus to promise them high positions in His kingdom. They thought Jesus would be king of Israel, and they wanted to be in His cabinet. Jesus’ intent was not to be an earthbound king, but to serve the world in the most incredible act of sacrifice we will ever know.
Read Isaiah 53:4-12
We need strong political leaders in our world today, to accomplish the things that are necessary. Let us never forget, however, where true strength lies, in the power of God Almighty. Remember your Lord and Saviour, and humble yourself before Him. Do not be like James and John, seeking high position in the Kingdom, but rather become a servant. Be in prayer and submission to God and listen for His voice. Christ died so that you will have eternal life. As you follow the election in the next few weeks, begin with God and choose the man who best represents what Jesus intended in positions of authority.
Understudy Acting is tough work. The actor must remember his or her lines, marks and cues. They must be in the right place at the right time or the entire show could be a flop. For those who perform on the stage, this usually happens eight times a week. Many of us would love to have a job where we only work a few hours a day, and yet I don’t think I would have the stamina to be a stage performer.
There are always one or two key roles in a show. The people who play these parts are ‘the star’. These parts are vital to the story, and without the star the show could not go on. Production companies prepare an understudy, someone who can step into the part at the very last minute if something happens to the star. The understudy must be fully prepared to perform though most of the time they never make it to the stage. Some stars throughout the history of theatre received their big break when they stepped into a part. It is such a concern to those who play the leading roles that many perform despite ill health or other problems.
The story of Esther is about a Hebrew virgin who married a king. One of the leading men in the king’s council had a fight with Mordecai, Esther’s uncle. The official decided the best way to deal with this battle would be to destroy an entire nation of Israel. He convinced the king that the Hebrews were a threat to the kingdom and the order was drawn. The king did not know Esther was Hebrew. When Mordecai heard of the order, he sent word to Esther and asked her for help. She was frightened by the possibilities.
Read Esther 4:11-14
Actors and actresses tend to perform when they are facing difficulty because they know someone is waiting in the wings to take over their role. We are called as Christians to do many things for God’s kingdom in the midst of difficulty. Esther was made queen so she could save her people. Where are you today, and what is God calling you to do? Could it be that you are in that very place for such a time as this?
Discipline We live in government housing on our military base. There are many children afoot since the residents of our neighbourhood tend to be at the same phase of life. When the weather is lovely, there a dozen kids gather in the backyards to play football or some other game. At times, things can get out of hand. I don’t watch every minute of the action, so it can be difficult to judge who is at fault. I usually take my own children and discipline them for anything I saw and remove them from the situation for their own protection. The other mothers can deal with their kids.
The difficulty with this is that the perpetrators rarely get disciplined. My kids think it is unfair that they receive punishment for their ‘little crime’ when the bigger boys get away with their hurtful actions. I have tried to help them understand why I stop them from doing things that are harmful to themselves and to others. We talk about our faith and why we are expected to act with kindness and love despite the ways of the world. We talk about the consequences of our actions. We talk about Jesus Christ and our hope in eternal life because of His love for us.
Read 1 Peter 4:12-19
The children do not understand why they have to miss out on the fun when other children misbehave. But we remove them from the troubles to protect them from further harm. Suffering is one of those subjects that is difficult for us to understand. We ask ourselves “why” when things just aren’t going our way. Why are we sick? Why can’t we pay our bills? Why are those people being cruel to me just because I call myself a Christian? There is no simple answer to those questions, but we can have peace and joy in the midst of our sufferings if we commit to God and continue to obey Him.
Alumni After I graduated from High School, I used to love to make visits back to visit my favourite teachers. It would be fun to tell them about my successes, get their advice about my failures and see how they are doing. Not much usually changed in their lives, but things were constantly changing in mine. I get mailings from Kutztown University, where I received my Bachelor’s degree. They send out papers with alumni news briefs. I enjoy reading about friends and the path their lives have taken since graduation.
I’m sure it is interesting for the teachers to see their students after graduation. Teachers play a key role in shaping their students, and it can be a source of encouragement to know some young man or woman has achieved success. At times it may be difficult for a teacher to see that success. A ballet teacher who was unable to perform, or an art teacher that could not sell his work, may look upon the student’s success with envy.
John the Baptist preached repentance to his disciples. He baptized those who came to him so that they would be prepared for the coming of God’s Kingdom. John baptized Jesus, the Lamb of God, and thereafter Jesus’ ministry took off. As the numbers of Jesus’ followers grew, John’s disciples became concerned and jealous of Jesus’ success. They went to John and told him what was happening.
Read John 3:27-30
John knew his position in God’s kingdom, as one who prepared the way for the Saviour. He was not envious of the success of Jesus because he knew that it had to be that way. John had step back so that Jesus could do His work. The same is true today in our lives. So often, we look at our own accomplishments with pride. We tend to be like the teacher who wants to be the one with the success. However, for the word of God to do His work in this world, we have to step back and let Him do His work in and through us.
Forgiveness Very often, the world sees suffering as punishment. If a person is poor or sick, then they must have done something wrong to deserve such a horrible experience. In one of the Gospel stories, the disciples ask Jesus, “Who sinned that this man is blind?” Even today, many people say, “What have you done to anger God?” I’ve even heard people remark; “I do not understand why I’m sick or poor. I’ve been a good person…” Yet, we know that God does not work that way. As a matter of fact, there are many people in the world who live evil and godless lives who are prosperous and healthy.
God doesn’t look at our lives as the world does. He certainly does provide for us, giving us the things we need to sustain us. However, His real concern is not for our physical bodies, but rather our spirits. Throughout the scriptures when Jesus healed, He did not simply fix the physical ailments. Rather, He focused on forgiveness.
Read Matthew 9:1-8
In this story, the physical healing of the man was an afterthought. Jesus simply wanted him to know that he was forgiven. Are you in the midst of earthbound suffering? Have people questioned your faith because of your dis-ease? Have you had your own doubts?
We are by nature sinners in need of a Saviour. Our Lord Jesus Christ wants you to know that He loves you, and your sins are forgiven. Be healed in your spirit, and rejoice in the Lord always. The Lord will be glorified in your worship and praise, and in His time He will tell you to take up your mat and go home. Then the world will know Him, too.
Pushy I expect a lot from my kids. When they have a homework assignment, I want them to do their best. I encourage them to go beyond expectation and reach toward their potential. I know what my kids are capable of accomplishing, and I don’t want them to settle for less. If they choose to be involved in some after school activity, I encourage them to do their best, to stick it through despite any obstacles they face. I want them to think, learn and grow. I want them to be able to find solutions to their problems and to be able to share their findings with others.
I do the same in these writings, always pushing for more.
Read 2 Timothy 2:14-19
Perhaps I’m too pushy, but we have been given the most extraordinary gift – forgiveness and eternal life. I know what you are able to accomplish, through Christ our Lord, and I don't want you to settle for less. As we step forth each day, in the knowledge of what God has done for us, we should do so in a manner that glorifies Him. The world is looking toward us, hoping to see God. Do they see Him in your life? Are you living up to your potential, finding solutions to your problems and sharing your findings with others?
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all today and always. May you know who you are, whose you are and boldly walk in that knowledge in faith. Thanks be to God.
Reflection Some of the most beautiful landscape pictures are those taken by the side of a crystal clear mountain lake. The water acts as a mirror and reflects the beauty of the mountains in the background. The sun adds a glimmer of light on the surface of the water, and the blue sky gives the water a lovely colour. A good photographer knows exactly the right time to capture such a perfect shot. He waits and watches for the perfect moment, when there is no wind and the sun is in just the right position.
Anyone who has spent time at the side of that lake knows that it is not always that idyllic. When a storm comes through, the wind and rain disturb the surface of the water and the reflection becomes broken even impossible to see. The water has a gray appearance and the whole scene is disquieting. Even a light breeze on a sunny day will disturb the reflection and make it imperfect.
Read Matthew 5:43-48
Martin Luther wrote, “When you believe in Christ, your heart becomes clean… So your entire life will reflect what’s in your heart.” When we are filled with the goodness, mercy and love of our Lord God Almighty, our life will reflect that same goodness, mercy and love. Just like the reflection on the lake shines the beauty of the mountains and sky, so too will we shine the beauty of God in our lives.
This will manifest in love, not only for those closest to us, but to those who seek to harm us in some way. This is not just a surface love of words, but a deep down love of action. We were an enemy to our Lord Jesus Christ, because we were not obedient to the Word of God. Yet, He willingly died so that we would have eternal life. When we believe in Christ, we reflect that same love. Jesus told us to be perfect, as God is perfect. Believe in Him and His perfection will be reflected in you. Thanks be to God.
Reformation On October 31, 1517, a German monk named Martin Luther nailed a list of debate topics on the door of a university church. At that time the church, which was centred in Rome, was very powerful. Martin Luther felt there were issues that needed to be discussed between the theologians of the day, and the way to do that was to put his thoughts into writing and post them to open the discussion. Those 95 Theses became a trigger for the Protestant Reformation.
One of the biggest issues for Luther was the sale of indulgences. The church was in the midst of a large building programme, putting up magnificent cathedrals for the glory of God. These cathedrals cost a great deal of money in stone, labour and other resources. To fund this building programme, the church began to sell forgiveness for sins. They would go into the towns and offer pieces of paper that guaranteed the purchaser would not suffer the torment of hell.
As Luther studied the scriptures, he discovered something beautiful that was seemingly lost in the church of the day, God’s grace. In their desire to have bigger and better buildings in which to worship God, the leaders of the church taught a gospel of works righteousness. They sold forgiveness, meaning that people could buy God’s mercy. Those who were rich could buy a higher level of righteousness. The poor were unable to purchase any at all.
Read Romans 3:21-24
Luther found the doctrine of justification by faith alone in the book of Romans. He realized that the sale of indulgences went completely against the Word of God as found in the scriptures, and he shared this doctrine with others. Unfortunately, without the sale of indulgences the church would lack the funding to build their magnificent cathedrals. Luther was marked as a heretic and excommunicated. There were threats to his life. He debated other theologians on subjects such as free will, monastic living and the authority of the pope. He was the first to translate the scriptures into common German, so that the people could read the Word for themselves. He wrestled with the idea of a personal salvation until he discovered God’s grace in the scriptures for himself, and he wanted others to be able to find it for themselves.
Today, many churches are celebrating Reformation Sunday, a day when we remember the work of Martin Luther as well as the other reformers over the centuries who followed the call of God to remind Christ’s Church of her roots. It is men like Martin Luther who reminds us of how deep God’s love and mercy really is. We are sinners in need of a Saviour, and by God’s grace we have been given Jesus Christ. It is through faith in Him that we are justified before God. Let us rejoice in this knowledge and thank God for His grace!
Breast Cancer Breast Cancer is the second leading cause of death to all women and the leading cause of death to those between 40-55. One in nine American women will be diagnosed with this dreaded disease. Millions of dollars are spent each year for research to find the cause and a cure. Researchers have not been able to find any way to prevent the onset of breast cancer in women, but strides have been made in the areas of diagnosis and treatment. Women are living longer because of these discoveries, yet there is a long way to go.
Financial resources are stretched to the limit as scientists also seek information about heart disease, aids and other cancers. There are ways to help. We are in the closing days of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The United States Post Office has released a special stamp for sale, that not only can be used to send a letter, but a portion of the cost of the stamp goes directly into research. The stamp costs forty cents, seven cents more than a normal first class stamp. However, the $16,000,000 that will be raised will help save the lives of women all over the nation and the world.
We can also pray. There are women, and men, who are suffering today who need our prayers for healing and comfort. They need our support in love and fellowship. We can provide assistance in very tangible ways. We can drive them to doctor appointments, cook meals for their family, or just share a cup of tea and a smile.
Read Psalm 41
Let us be aware of the dis-ease in our world today, pray for its victims and do all we can to make their lives a little more comfortable. Above all things, let us share the love of Christ. With His love, mercy and grace, we can overcome. Thanks be to God.
Halloween There was a time when Halloween was one of my favourite holidays. I had such fun dressing up in costume, overdecorating the house, and giving candy to the multitudes of children that visited our home. I still enjoy the fun of sharing and seeing the creativity of the children. I recall a visit to a haunted house that was such fun during the days of my youth, because the actors inside were friends and were determined to ‘get me’. I enjoyed the silly game called Tic-tacking – where we steal a few ears of corn from a farmer’s field and throw it at homes or cars to annoy the occupants. I was never involved in satanic activities; I didn’t even know they were still practiced in our society today. I saw nothing wrong with being a Christian and having one day to let down my hair and have fun.
I have nothing against good clean fun, but there are things about Halloween that is not acceptable in our Christian life. My reasons for no longer celebrating Halloween with Trick or Treating and haunted houses is different than the typical Christian attitude that focuses on the pagan roots and underworld aspects of the holiday. I see some very real problems with the games that are played and the actions of the children in the midst of these celebrations.
Read Galations 5:19-21
Besides the obvious vice of witchcraft that is listed in these verses, there are several that are particularly appropriate to discuss on Halloween. Our children have nothing to do with sexual immorality and drunkenness, but they do show signs of other vices.
The word in Paul’s letter to the Galations that is translated ‘debauchery’ is ‘aselgeia’, which means “lack of self restraint.” How many times have we watched children push each other out of the way to get to be the first one at the next door? The children even lose control at the Harvest Parties that are held in churches around the nation as a Halloween alternative. They desire bigger prizes and tons of candy, and do what is necessary to win.
‘Hatred’ is from the Greek word ‘echthra’ and means “hostility, in opposition, or hateful.” We spend Halloween dressing up as evil characters, doing nasty things to one another, bringing people to a state of fear. Even in good humour, this is a hateful thing to do.
Finally, let’s look at ‘and the like.’ The list of sinful acts that could be drawn from this term is extensive. Paul doesn’t leave a loophole for those who want to do things against the nature we are given in Christ. During Halloween celebrations we see gluttony. The children stuff their faces with candy. Greed is rampant. “Just one more house, Mom, please?” We cannot forget pride. “My costume is better than yours.”
I do like to celebrate and have fun, and my kids will participate in the activities of this day. We won’t be around for Trick or Treating, but we will enjoy fellowship with other Christians at a party where the kids will play games and get sick on the sweets. I hope that as we consider the meaning of this day, we remember that it is All Hallow’s Eve, which is a time when we should remember the saints who have passed through this life into life eternal. Unfortunately, the world has added the icons of evil and death and has made this a holiday that brings out the worst in people. Let us celebrate life and love, teaching our children that fear and excessiveness is never an appropriate way to have fun.