Welcome to the October 2005 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.
A WORD FOR TODAY, October 2005
Precious moments I have several different collections of figurines, most of which were given to me as gifts from people I love. I have several different types of angels, Giuseppe Armani porcelain ladies, David Winter cottages and Frasier collection buildings. I also have several Precious Moments figurines. My mom began the collection with a wedding piece and supplemented it with several other figurines to commemorate other important days in my life, such as the birth of my first child. Bruce and the kids have bought others for special days. I am particularly fond of these figurines not only because they were given to me by the people I love, but also because they remind me of some very precious moments in my life.
Though they often commemorate a special moment in time, they often choose a special, intimate moment rather than the more formal aspects of the event. The wedding figurine I have is one where the groom is carrying the bride over the threshold. I have another showing a mother tucking in her child at night. As I think back through the years, I fondly remember those moments when I sat at my children's bedside to pray with them or care for them in times of distress.
For the past five weeks I have been regularly traveling to Houston to sit at the bedside of my sick father. It was not an easy time as the days wore on it became obvious that he would never leave the hospital. He passed from life into life eternal on Friday, September 30. Though we are sad for his passing, we rejoice in the hope of God's promises for my dad. To help with our grief, we have been remembering his life by looking through pictures and sharing stories.
One evening I was talking to Daddy and I recalled a favorite moment from his life. When I was a very small child, my dad was a tow truck driver. I rode with him occasionally when his work would not be dangerous or disturbing for me. On one trip, Daddy was called to help lift a sewage grating. A mother duck and her ducklings had been crossing the grating when the babies slipped through the holes. It was too heavy for a man to lift, so they called Dad to save the ducks.
I told him that evening that I always saw him as a hero because of what he did that day. The reality is that he probably saved dozens of lives with his tow truck, helping injured people who were trapped in their vehicles escape. During our chat he laughed when I said that I see him as a hero for saving those ducks. I told him that I knew he was a hero for far more important reasons, yet to me that day in the park and our evening of sharing were two of our most precious moments. There were other precious moments over the past five weeks that I'm sure I will share in upcoming posts. They were quiet moments, prayerful times. There were moments of doubt, fear, uncertainty that were tempered by assurances of grace and hope.
"I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you, always in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all making my supplication with joy, for your fellowship in furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is right for me to be thus minded on behalf of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as, both in my bonds and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how I long after you all in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:3-11 (ASV)
As we prepare and gather for Daddy's funeral we will share many more memories of his life. Some of our memories will include the highlights of his life, his greatest achievements and special moments. Yet, I imagine that many of the remembrances will include private, intimate moments of his life. Today's scripture is one of my favorites from Paul. In these words we see the deep love he had for the Christians in his care. He was unconcerned with the incredible things that were happening to him and to the Church in that incredible time. Instead, he thought of the simple grace that was taking them through the every day experiences of life, drawing them ever closer to the Day of the Lord. I see the same thing in those precious moments I remember so fondly, as God's presence has been there in the midst of my life. Thanks be to God.
Prayer Daddy spent the last two weeks in the intensive care unit. Though the rules stated that visitation time was limited, many of our nurses were compassionate and allowed us to stay quietly in the room with Daddy. We stayed out of their way, asked little of them unless Daddy had some need and we took care of the things that we could do such as helping him with his blankets or feeding him his dinner. There were, however, times when we needed to be out of his room. We were asked to leave when the nurses changed shift and did their evaluation and at other times when we might be in the way.
I usually spent those times in the family waiting room. Though the others in that room were strangers, we were connected by a similar experience we were all waiting. For some the news would be good, for others not so good. Some of the patients were under more intense care and could not have visitors for long periods of time. Some patients brought large families that would have created too much havoc in the ICU, too much noise and congestion for the patients and nurses. Those moments in the waiting room were precious moments.
We shared our worry, we shared out doubt, we shared our frustration. We also shared our hope, our faith and our joy. We cried with one another but we laughed also. They were people who passed through our lives quickly; few were seen more than once or twice. Yet, I won't forget the family planning their evacuation from Rita even as they worried about the outcome of surgery on their loved one. Another family talked about favorite pastors and church experiences. A woman talked with me about the crafts she likes to do as she complimented me on the needlework I was doing. I will never forget one woman, and our meeting was truly one of those most precious moments. She came into the waiting room fairly early, having stayed in a courtesy room in the hospital the night before. He husband of fifty three years was to go into surgery for his heart that morning and she was frightened. As tears filled her eyes, I went to hold her hand. We prayed together for just a moment, but when it was over I was certain God had given her the strength to get her through that day. Later that evening I saw her again and she was rejoicing that her husband was holding his own. We prayed together in thanksgiving and praise to God for His goodness and mercy. When she learned that our news was not so positive, she gave me a hug. It was enough, a most precious moment, because I knew God was present in our meeting.
"And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ. And the multitudes gave heed with one accord unto the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard, and saw the signs which he did. For from many of those that had unclean spirits, they came out, crying with a loud voice: and many that were palsied, and that were lame, were healed. And there was much joy in that city." Acts 8:5-8 (ASV)
The precious moments found in those brief encounters were precious not because of the things I did or even because of the things others did for me. They were precious because it was in those moments I could see God working. He was working in the hearts of those worrying, those sharing their faith and even in the seemingly mundane discussions that happened between complete strangers. He was present in our prayers and in those brief touches. He was there changing lives even in the midst of tragedy that might bring a different sort of change to the people waiting in that room.
The people Philip encountered saw the things he was doing and they listened to him because they saw the miracles. They didn't listen to Philip because he was a miracle worker, but because they saw God working through him. I don't know if God's hand was as obvious to the others in our encounters, but I was thankful that he used those strangers to bring me a moment of respite from my own difficulties. I do know that God was with that beautiful lady and I when we prayed and that He gave us each a sense of peace that could only come from Him. In that peace we found joy where there seemed to be none. Thanks be to God.
Desk My desk is a mess. I've been piling papers and all sorts of other things on it for weeks with little or no time to organize. The den is not much better, with piles of magazines and old mail waiting for me to read and sort through. I have some things from my dad sitting around that need to be dealt with as well as piles of information meant for my job.
I would like to blame the past five weeks for the mess in my den and on my desk, but the reality is that I always let things go too long and then I spend way too much time getting it in order again. Every so often I will take a day to organize, to get rid of the junk and put everything in its proper place. As I gather more things the day takes a little longer because I have to find a place for the new things. I can usually cleanse the space and reduce the amount of things, particularly papers, in my way. However, it does not take very long before I'm overwhelmed with a new stack of papers and piles of magazines. It seems as though as soon as I have a clean surface, it gets filled with something new.
"But some of them said, By Beelzebub the prince of the demons casteth he out demons. And others, trying him, sought of him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. When the strong man fully armed guardeth his own court, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him his whole armor wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. The unclean spirit when he is gone out of the man, passeth through waterless places, seeking rest, and finding none, he saith, I will turn back unto my house whence I came out. And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more evil than himself; and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man becometh worse than the first." Luke 11:15-26 (ASV)
As we read the stories about Jesus and the Jewish people, we find it hard to believe that they did not know or understand that He was the Messiah. We look at the stories of Jesus and think to ourselves that it must have been obvious the power and authority with which He spoke should have been all the sign they needed to believe. Yet, even though we look at the life of Jesus with 20/20 vision we still have questions. We don't fully understand how He can be God and man. We don't fully understand why this was the way God chose to save humankind. We have doctrines and practices that give us some peace, but we simply can't fully understand the mind of God.
So, it makes sense that those who lived before the resurrection could not see Jesus' true mission as the Messiah. The things Jesus did and said went against everything they believed. How could Jesus say things against God's chosen people and leaders and still do those amazing things? They could not believe it came from God.
I've often thought that I should get that "Clean Sweep" guy into my den. He would not only organize my life, but he would take away all the things that stand in the way of my staying organized. In Jesus' day there were many people that were trying to convince others that they were from God, that they were the Messiah. They had ulterior motives they sought fame or power or wealth. Yet, their work did not last. They may have cast out demons for a moment, but the demons returned because God did not dwell in the heart that was cleansed. When Jesus healed, however, He also gave faith and hope and peace, leaving no room for demons to return. He does the same in our heart and in our lives when we believe. Thanks be to God.
Adventure I like to have control of my circumstances. I try to be prepared for every circumstance, research possibilities and opportunities before jumping into the fray. I like having my own vehicle so that I can go where I want when I want. I am grateful for the resources that allow me the freedom to choose my activities and control my time according to my own desires and needs. I do whatever is necessary to hold on to some semblance of power over my circumstances and it helps me get through difficult times.
John Steinbeck wrote, "The best laid plans of mice and me often go astray." We went home to Pennsylvania for my father's funeral and planned an extra day so that I could take care of the business of my father's estate. Despite careful planning and research, nothing seemed to go right. I learned that I don't have the power to control the world. We can't control others and we can't control events. Most particularly I learned we can't control bureaucracy. While Bruce and the kids returned home on Sunday, I stayed in Pennsylvania for a few extra days. Then I discovered, too late, that I received incomplete information and I could have done everything on Friday. It seemed as though no one had the answers I needed to do everything I needed to do. The circumstances were out of my control, leaving me feeling helpless.
While this was inconvenient, nothing compared to my trip to the airport. First I got a ride to the bus station which took me to a train station which finally took me to the airport. All along the way I was unsure of what I should do, so I had to rely on others to give me direction. I found myself waiting for much of the day and everything was running late. A bus came and went while I waited and my bus did not come. I feared that I should have taken that bus until my bus showed up fifteen minutes late. The train was a few minutes late, but I knew there was always another I could take later. The worst wait came at the airport. Due to inclement weather the entire airport was running behind. My own plane was two hours late. This meant I would have to rush to my next plane which was also running behind. I finally arrived home late last night. It was quite an adventure, but again the circumstances were out of my control.
The past few days were not only a lesson in patience, they were a chance for me to learn to let go of the control I so desperately think I need. This control is not only over the worldly things we face, but often also over the spiritual. How often do we demand things of God, pray for our way and hope that everything will be according to our desires? We expect God to bless those whom we would have blessed and to curse those whom we would have cursed. Yet, God's heart sees the world in a much different way and He has the power to do so much more than we could ever do if we really had the control. We just don't see it His way and we are impatient for Him to do what we would have Him do.
"And working together with him we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain (for he saith, At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee, And in a day of salvation did I succor thee: behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation): giving no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our ministration be not blamed; but in everything commending ourselves, as ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings; in pureness, in knowledge, in long suffering, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in love unfeigned, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 (ASV)
I am certain I complained too much about my circumstances this week. I was kindly reminded that we can learn from our circumstances and that I was given a wonderful lesson in patience. While that is true, its a lesson I've had to learn all too many times, I see that it is also a lesson in control. Who has the control of my life? Paul's experience was certainly much more difficult than mine. At least I was able to make decisions for myself, change some aspects of the experience and enjoy myself as I went through this adventure. Paul was beaten, imprisoned and had absolutely no control over his world. He did have patience because He knew God was in control and that God knows best. It was in those circumstances that Paul saw God's grace most clearly because those were the times when he had to let go and rely on the One who had the power. We can do the same, letting go of the control and living patiently in trust and faith. Thanks be to God.
Memorial I went to a memorial service today for a friend that died this week. It was a celebration of his life at which many people shared wonderful memories. They all spoke of his integrity, of his love for fishing and for his sense of humor. They shared stories and described the impact he had on their life. It was very obvious that he was loved by many and that he left behind him a beautiful legacy.
We often hear about men of power and of fame seeking to leave behind a legacy. Reporters try to foretell the type of legacy a politician or business leader will leave. By legacy they mean the way by which he will be remembered. Will we see his legacy as some world changing action or policy? Will we remember the leader by the amount of money he made or by the products he left behind? How many people are really remembered for their words? Though the papers list many obituaries every day, they are usually filled with remembrances of the good things people have accomplished in their lives. We rarely hear about the things they've said that have impacted the world. We can find quotes from men and women of power and fame, and yet even then there are few instances of truly wise things remembered. If an average man says something profound, they are usually remembered as "anonymous."
"I have also seen wisdom under the sun on this wise, and it seemed great unto me: There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the cry of him that ruleth among fools." Ecclesiastes 9:13-17 (ASV)
My father was a man of few words. At his funeral many people commented that if he said something it was something worth being heard. Even though he was a wise man, it is unlikely that future generations will remember anything he said. I'm sure the same will be true of the friend whom we honored today. Words, even wise words, get easily lost in the ravages of time. Yet, wise words when they are given are important because they can make a difference in this world. The poor man in the city saved the lives of those on whom the rich man had built the siege. His words have not been recorded; his name is lost to history. Yet, the wisdom he was granted for even a moment saved many lives.
It was wonderful to hear the stories shared by those who knew and loved our friend and it was vital to their own healing to be able to share those stories today. I found the same to be true for my own grief these past few weeks. Neither my dad or friend may not leave behind a great legacy or be remembered for all time by the world for their words, but they certainly made a difference in the lives of those that surrounded them throughout their lives. Thanks be to God.
Beauty and the Beast Victoria has decided to be Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" for Halloween. Vicki didn't want to be the "Belle of the Ball," certainly the easier costume to find, since it is available at costume stores for children and adults. No, Vicki wants to be like Belle earlier in the film, in her country dress with a basket of books. We went to the thrift store in hopes of finding the perfect dress and we managed to get something that would be suitable. Today, however, I decided to go online to do some more research. The dress we found needed work, so as long as I was going to make changes I thought I should do so as closely as possible to the real dress in the movie or stage show.
While doing this research I discovered that there are many different versions of the "Beauty and the Beast" story. Of course, we are most familiar with the version used (created) by Disney. The writers most likely took elements of the many different stories and put them together to get what we know today. However, there are dozens of other versions of the story which include many different perspectives. In most the beautiful daughter has two sisters often ugly, greedy, mean and jealous. Belle is always sweet and humble. The beast is at times a bear, a dog or some terrifying monster. The father always promises gifts to his daughters, the youngest seeking something simple while the others desire gold and fine things. The father often forgets the gift but eventually finds it in the garden of the beast that then requires payment in return. Sometimes he asks for the daughter, sometimes he asks for the first thing the father sees which is always the daughter. No matter the details, the lesson in the story is always the same a kind heart brings out the hidden man with love. We use tales to teach a lesson while touching on aspects of life we know and understand. This is why there are so many different versions everyone can find one with which they can identify.
Jesus told many stories, parables designed to describe the kingdom of God. The fairy tales of our childhood often began "Once upon a time " Jesus began His stories slightly differently. He said, "The kingdom of God is like " and always ended with, "He that has ears, let him hear." The purpose of the story was not just to entertain, it was meant to teach a lesson and bring transformation to the hearer. The stories were different sometimes set in a house, sometimes in a vineyard, sometimes on a road. Sometimes the main character was a king, sometimes a woman, sometimes a beggar. Each one tells about the character of God, providing a revelation of God's mercy and grace to the listeners.
"Give ear, O my people, to my law: Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of Jehovah, and his strength, and his wondrous works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, even the children that should be born; who should arise and tell them to their children, that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments, and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God." Psalm 78:1-7 (ASV)
I did not like reading some of the versions of the story "Beauty and the Beast." They were strange, offered nothing about life with which I could identify and though the story ended with Belle marrying the handsome prince, it was not always a happily ever after solution to the whole situation. Though perhaps the greedy sisters deserved a horrible end, those stories left me with a feeling of incompleteness and sadness.
I can imagine that many of Jesus' parables made little sense to most of His audience. Even the disciples had to ask what He meant by the story because they could not identify with the lesson He was teaching. The kingdom of heaven in Jesus' parables was often much different than the expectation of the Jews in His day. Yet, we are called to hear those stories and believe, even when the ending is not always the way we expect or desire. We will understand some of the stories better, however we are to trust that all of God's Word is given for our benefit, that we will be transformed and made whole by the revelation of God. Thanks be to God.
Giggles I went to a convention with a large group of friends when I was a young girl. It was far enough away from home that we had to stay at a hotel. My mom was one of the chaperones and one of my best friends came along. The three of us were roommates. We had a really good time together but there was one moment in particular that I will never forget. One evening as we were settling down for rest we began to giggle. I can't even remember what we found so funny, but our giggles grew until the three of us were laughing so hard we almost couldnt breathe. We could not stop laughing no matter how hard we tried. As a matter of fact, trying to stop often set us off to laughing even harder.
I doubt that the reason for laughing was really all that funny. If I could even remember and tried to tell the joke today, it would probably be met with blank stares as people questioned my bizarre sense of humor. Yet for us, something was funny enough to keep us going for nearly an hour. This is not surprising because emotions are often beyond our control. When we hear someone laughing, or someone crying, it is hard not to join along. Whether we are laughing or crying for the same reasons is questionable, we get caught up in the emotion of the moment and ride along.
This is a fact that people have used since the beginning of time to manipulate people and make them respond in a certain way. The producers of situation comedies know that an added laugh track will help the audience recognize the funny parts of their show. Music is used to move emotion, to bring the viewer to a certain state of mind. Advertisers make you feel as though you need their product and that your life will be empty without it.
Unfortunately there are those within the realms of spirituality that also use manipulation to create a feeling of faith. They have designed retreat experiences that produce a false spiritual high or mountain top experience which is then proclaimed a life-changing moment. Yet all too often those people come down from the high and discover the faith they thought they had was not real. It was a manufactured faith that is easily destroyed by hardship or doubt.
"By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. I said, I will rise now, and go about the city; en the streets and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me; to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little that I passed from them, when I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, or by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please." Song of Solomon 3:1-5 (ASV)
The beloved in this passage warns the daughters of Jerusalem not to manufacture a false love or to be overstimulated by senses or emotions. This is not to say that we should not seek the Lord, for the scriptures are clear that we are to look for Him in our lives and in our world. However, we should beware of our power to create that which is not true a love manufactured by our desires rather than by the mercy and grace of God. Our gigglefest was fun and is a fond memory for me from the days of my youth, but I don't think there was anything truly funny about the evening. All too many people rush into Christian faith, trying to stir up for themselves an experience of God that is not true. While we are seeking the Lord, let us wait patiently for Him to come, watching for Him in our life and in our world as He reveals Himself to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Thanks be to God.
Box I worked in retail sales for several years, first as a cashier and later as a manager. I think one of my favorite parts of the job was when I had the opportunity to stock shelves. I know that sounds like a strange thing, but stocking shelves was like putting together a puzzle. When you pick up a box filled with merchandise, you must first find where it belongs and then make it fit. It was usually quite easy. Everything in a retail store has a place and the shelves are generally well mapped for the stocking crew.
There were times, however, when things did not quite fit as well as expected. Sometimes manufacturers changed the packaging, making it bigger so that it no longer fit in its spot. Sometimes the merchandise was packaged in larger quantities than would fit. Sometimes the shelves were not quite built as expected even a quarter inch could mean the difference between a neatly stocked shelf and a mess. Another problem was when the company sent new merchandise that was not yet planned into the shelf scheme. Making room for something new often led to far more work than expected.
I remember once finding a small box on the floor near the shelf. Though it was not my job at the time, I decided to help the worker in that area by throwing it up on the shelf. This way the box would not be a safety hazard and the worker could use the time doing something else. As it turned out, the worker had decided to abandon the box for the next person because it was not going to be a quick task. Since it was a new product, the shelf would need to be arranged. Rearranging the shelf meant cleaning and dusting. What should have taken a few minutes was going to take an hour. After it was over, I appreciated the work of the floor staff because it helped me see that their job entailed more than just emptying boxes.
We tend to reduce the work of people to the things that are most obvious. A mom takes care of children, but there is so much involved with the task. An accountant adds numbers, but his job often includes hours worth of research and organizing. It seems to most parishioners that the job of the pastor or priest takes only an hour or so a week. Yet, to preach God's word in its fullness means more than twenty minutes of talking. It takes hours to prepare worship, to prepare sermons and to meet the needs of the congregation. When we think of God, what is the work that He does? It might seem simple and obvious, but His hand stretches far beyond what we see and expect.
"Praise ye Jehovah. I will give thanks unto Jehovah with my whole heart, in the council of the upright, and in the congregation. The works of Jehovah are great, Sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honor and majesty; and his righteousness endureth for ever. He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: Jehovah is gracious and merciful. He hath given food unto them that fear him: He will ever be mindful of his covenant. He hath showed his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of his hands are truth and justice; all his precepts are sure. They are established for ever and ever; they are done in truth and uprightness. He hath sent redemption unto his people; He hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name. The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: His praise endureth for ever." Psalm 111 (ASV)
When considering the work of God we might want to reduce it to a few important tasks like giving daily bread and providing deliverance for those who seek His mighty hand. Yet, David saw that God's work goes even farther than just what we can see happening in the world. He made His wonderful works to be remembered passing the message of mercy and grace from generation to generation through faith. He remembers His promises, and if you are a parent you know how difficult a task that can be. He not only remembers but He is faithful. He provides justice and displays His power for the sake of those He loves. For many God is some being that simply started the world in motion and now He does nothing but dwell on His high throne watching it turn around and around. However, God deserves our thanks and praise not just for creating us, but for recreating the world every minute of every day through forgiveness and grace. Thanks be to God.
Confusion I am the executor of my father's estate. I am waiting for a number of items so that I can begin the work, but I've started looking through the papers to organize everything. It should be a rather easy task to take care of the final business of his life, because he does not have much. When he moved to Texas in August, he consolidated most of his possessions and closed out many of his accounts. I have made dozens of phone calls to ensure that everyone has been informed. There are a few bills to pay and some forms to be signed, and then everything will be finished.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure it will be as easy as I expect. I've read through some of the paperwork that I'm required to complete and there are parts that simply don't make sense. Perhaps it was because I tried to read them when I was still exhausted from my trip or upset about his death. I usually find that I make these things too complicated, so hopefully I will be able to get through this without much difficulty.
I think, all too often, we make God too complicated. He is certainly greater, wider, farther and higher than anything we can even imagine. Yet, knowing this makes it far more simple to grasp what it means to be a child of God. Our tendency to try to understand goes back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve tried to be like God, thus knowing everything God knows. Even as we read the scriptures, which have been given to us to understand God, some things just don't make sense.
"The king spake and said, Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken: The kingdom is departed from thee: and thou shalt be driven from men; and they dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; thou shalt be made to eat grass as oxen; and seven times shall pass over thee; until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hair was grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time mine understanding returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent greatness was added unto me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven; for all his works are truth, and his ways justice; and those that walk in pride he is able to abase." Daniel 4:29-37 (ASV)
This is a fascinating story about a foreign king accepting the Lord God Almighty as King of heaven. Nebuchadnezzar was not a good guy. He besieged Jerusalem and took the court officials into captivity only the most perfect men. He stole items out of the temple. He tried to burn some of Daniel's friends in a fiery furnace. Yet, for some reason God took an interest in his reign. After all, it was Nebuchadnezzar whom God used to humble Israel. The exile was designed to make God's people repent and turn back to Him. God used the king of Babylon as the means to that end. Later we hear today's story and that is the end of his story in Daniel.
Though we hear that Nebuchadnezzar praised God, what did it accomplish? The next king mentioned, Belshazzar, did not recognize God as the LORD. The Babylonian people did not become believers. We have the witness of his story and the assurance that God is in control, even of the life and kingdom of our enemies. Other than that, this story makes little sense.
I expect that this paperwork will come together for me very soon. Perhaps one day I will more fully understand why God would use Nebuchadnezzar in this way bringing him down on his knees in worship and praise even if that great act has not further impact on the world. Yet, even though I will never fully understand everything that God does, I can always rest in the promise that God knows best. He is the King of heaven and all of His works are truth, His ways justice. Thanks be to God.
Confession I have a confession to make. I love to watch the show "Desperate Housewives." Perhaps this is shocking, perhaps not. It seems as though the show is a great many people's guilty pleasure. We should not enjoy watching the women and men of Wisteria Lane in their nasty activities most of which are far from virtuous. Yet, despite the many faults of those women, every mistake is somehow balanced by an act of goodness or mercy.
Each woman has some major character flaw, and yet those very character flaws are the one redeeming quality that defines the goodness found in her life. Bree, for instance, is an obsessive woman everything must be absolutely perfect. Her house is spotless, her dinner parties magnificent and her schedule is timed down the minute. While this may seem to be a positive attribute, her obsessiveness affected her relationships with her family. Yet, that perfection is the very trait that made it possible for her to be so gracious to her neighbors. She is always able to bring order out of the chaos in their lives.
Susan is the typical girl next door. She is, perhaps, too sweet for her own good. She falls in love easily, not necessarily with the bad guy but always with the guy who is probably not right for her. Her current relationship is with a man who has a past. He spent time in prison and tried to kill a neighbor until he realized he was seeking revenge on the wrong person. The man's son, in response to the threat, tried to kill Susan. When it was over, Susan discovered that her boyfriend was the real father of the boy who tried to kill her. She rejected him, saying there was no way she could have a relationship with him if the boy was to be in his life. Her love was too great, however, so she is trying to find peace in the relationship. The boy disappeared and as they were looking for him, she had a scary encounter with him. She was going to ignore the find, but her heart would not allow her to keep hurting her boyfriend. Her sweet character brings her to love perhaps the wrong man, yet that very sweetness is the characteristic that makes her merciful to the son.
This is all very typical of the dramatic programming which has been popular on daytime television for so long. Though it appears as though the show will be purely drama, it is the comedic aspects that make it so entertaining. Each character's traits create a tension in their lives that make us want to watch. It is often the same when we read the stories about God's people throughout His-story.
"And it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had abode two days in Ziklag; it came to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul, with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and so it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance. And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped. And David said unto him, How went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. And he answered, The people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also. And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son are dead? And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul was leaning upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and the horsemen followed hard after him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here am I. And he said unto me, Who art thou? And I answered him, I am an Amalekite. And he said unto me, Stand, I pray thee, beside me, and slay me; for anguish hath taken hold of me, because my life is yet whole in me. So I stood beside him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that was upon his head, and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord. Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: and they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of Jehovah, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword. And David said unto the young man that told him, Whence art thou? And he answered, I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite. And David said unto him, How wast thou not afraid to put forth thy hand to destroy Jehovah's anointed? And David called one of the young men, and said, Go near, and fall upon him. And he smote him, so that he died. And David said unto him, Thy blood be upon thy head; for thy mouth hath testified against thee, saying, I have slain Jehovah's anointed." 2 Samuel 1:1-17 (ASV)
Saul was cruel to David. He spent most of his life chasing him and threatening his life. Yet whenever David had the opportunity, he refused to kill the king. He honored God's chosen even at the risk of his own life. The young man who killed Saul thought he was doing David a favor, perhaps he was even seeking some reward for ending the chase. David, however, saw things differently. David had mercy on the very man who sought his life, mourning for him and seeking vengeance for his murder. Yet, he had no mercy on the man who obeyed Saul's command. The very characteristic that makes David seem weak, also makes him appear strong. The same is also true of our own lives. Our greatest flaws are often also our greatest virtues. With God's help we can learn to understand and live rightly with those characteristics, glorifying God with our lives. Thanks be to God.
Ceremony Vicki's birthday is coming soon. She will be turning sixteen years old. I remember my own sixteenth birthday party. It was a huge bash. My parents rented the fire hall and I invited many of my friends. Unfortunately, since this fall has been so busy with taking care of my dad, I've not had time to plan a special party. For many, sixteen is an important year. It is a time of transition from youth to young adulthood. In many states this is the year a person can apply for a driver's license and get part time jobs. The party is a celebration of the birthday, but it is also a ceremony that defines the passing of a person from one phase of life to another.
We use ceremonies to move us through the crossroads of our lives. Baptism, marriage, graduation all these events come with special rituals and ceremonies. They are important times and signify new beginnings. Some ceremonies are dramatic, like a funeral. Others are less ritualistic. We are looking at new furniture for our living room. In a sense, completing the room will be a sign of a change, a new beginning. We don't normally mark remodeling with parties or celebrations, but we do normally take a moment to consider the change and remember the moment. This is especially true when we redecorated the children's rooms as they grew out of one stage into another.
The Hebrews left Egypt to follow God into a promised land. Though they went forth into the desert with hope for God's promises, they did not stand firmly in that hope. They disobeyed God, turned to other gods when they thought God was taking too long. They complained and wanted to turn back to Egypt, thinking that slavery would be better than starvation. Despite their complaints, God had mercy. He stayed with them, provided for them and took them to the edge of the Promised Land. Then it was time for a change. Moses died and Joshua became the leader and then crossed the Jordan with the help of God's hand. This new start demanded some sort of ritual.
"And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, that were beyond the Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, that were by the sea, heard how that Jehovah had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel. At that time Jehovah said unto Joshua, Make thee knives of flint, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. And Joshua made him knives of lint, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: all the people that came forth out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came forth out of Egypt. For all the people that came out were circumcised; but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, they had not circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the nation, even the men of war that came forth out of Egypt, were consumed, because they hearkened not unto the voice of Jehovah: unto whom Jehovah sware that he would not let them see the land which Jehovah sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them did Joshua circumcise: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the nation, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. And Jehovah said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of that place was called Gilgal, unto this day. And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal; and they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. And they did eat of the produce of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes and parched grain, in the selfsame day. And the manna ceased on the morrow, after they had eaten of the produce of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year." Joshua 5:1-12 (ASV)
Vicki will be having a party, a group of friends hanging out eating Mexican food for an evening. She's told me this would be more fun than the big party I was hoping to plan. It might not seem like a big moment in her life, since this part is not much different than the ones she's had in previous years. Yet, the party itself is marking a change, a change from youth to young adulthood.
Circumcision of an entire nation might not seem like a special ceremony. I doubt that they had a party for every person. As a matter of fact, adult circumcision is so painful that the men would have been uninterested in partying. Yet, even without the ceremony, this was a very important moment in the life of Israel. They were entering into the Promised Land, seeing the fulfillment of God's promises. The ritual marked a change, a new beginning for God's people. Thanks be to God.
Walls Yesterday we talked about transitions and new beginnings. We talked about the rituals that we do to move from one phase of life to another. We looked at the story of the Israelites just as they had entered into the Promised Land.
It had been a very rough trip forty years in the desert wandering without the proper supplies to feed perhaps a million people. Through it all they learned to rely on God who fed them with manna and quail, yet they did not always do so with praise and thanksgiving. As a matter of fact, they often complained to Moses, about Moses and even got Moses to complain a bit himself. They were a difficult bunch on a difficult journey. I'm sure by the time they reached the Promised Land they were tired and ready to settle. I'm sure that was even truer after they were circumcised. It was time for a new beginning a beginning that would be filled with rest and peace.
New beginnings rarely lead to rest and peace, however. As we think about our modern transition moments, we realize that new beginnings often lead to even more difficult times. Newlyweds face a great deal of stress as they learn to live with one another. Though the honeymoon is wonderful, the couple faces a period of learning about one another the good things and the bad. As the couple begin their new life the bride and groom realize that there are things about the other person that drive them crazy. The wife learns of the husband's love of sports, the husband discovers the wife is a soap opera addict. One likes the toilet paper hanging over, the other under. They discover that they have different tastes in food and decorating. It is really a blessing that the couple is still wildly and romantically in love or else they might decide to separate in those first months living together is too hard.
The Israelites did not know what they would face in the Promised Land, but they knew that God promised them rest and peace. The ritual leading to their new beginning was hard, it would be natural for them to think that now was their time. It wasn't.
"And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as prince of the host of Jehovah am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the prince of Jehovah's host said unto Joshua, Put off thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so. Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. And Jehovah said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thy hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor. And ye shall compass the city, all the men of war, going about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And it shall be, that, when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him." Joshua 5:13-6:5 (ASV)
New beginnings are not always easy. Most of the time a new phase of life will mean even harder work toward another end and another new beginning. The Israelites faced war after their many years of wandering. A married couple often faces another kind of war as they learn to live with one another. Yet, through it all, the good times and the bad times, God walks with those who listen and follow His Word. Our life in Christ is filled with new beginnings. Those new beginnings might lead to difficult times. Jesus never said the journey of a faithful Christian would be easy. We might even face a few walls that need to tumble out of our way before we can move on. He did tell us that He'd walk with us. As we enter into our new beginnings, let us rest in the promise of God's peace even as we stumble or face the most extraordinary experiences along the way. Thanks be to God.
Real Estate Have you ever done anything completely on faith? It would seem this would make things much easier, after all the work is much easier when you do it on faith because you are resting on some sort of promise that someone else will ensure that everything works out right. However, we like to have control of things. There are so many of us, myself included, who feel that the world can't run without us. We think that we have to do things our own way and with our own hands or it won't get done right. We might say we trust in God, but we hold on to our difficulties even when we know that God is in control.
When we were living in California we were stationed at a base slated for closure. We were very concerned because there were so many uncertainties. We did not know where we might go or how fast we would have to leave. There were dozens of rumors circulating. We did not know how we would manage to sell our house no matter what happened the changes at the base would be bad news for home sellers. There would be a large exodus of people with no new families moving into the area. I was sick with worry and we tried to take the situation into our own hands. We tried to control that which was completely out of our control.
One day I realized that there was nothing I could do to make the situation better. As a matter of fact, my own worry and work just make things worse. I gave up trying and let God take control. I walked in faith and everything fell in place. We were sent to a great place, sold the house just in time and the move went relatively smoothly. It was hard to let go, but I can see now that God had a plan that we couldn't see. When we tried to be in control, God's plan was halted. But when we let go, God moved.
Joshua and the Israelites had to walk in faith. Imagine what it must have been like to receive a message like that in yesterday's reading. God told Joshua to have a six day parade. After wandering for forty years and after just healing from circumcision, the entire nation was commanded to walk around the city for six days. It seems like a most ridiculous way to handle one's enemies. I would have wanted to be in a war tent planning a siege or on the battlefield rushing the gates. Joshua, however, listened and obeyed.
"And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of Jehovah. And they said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let the armed men pass on before the ark of Jehovah. And it was so, that, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before Jehovah passed on, and blew the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of Jehovah followed them. And the armed men went before the priests that blew the trumpets, and the rearward went after the ark, the priests blowing the trumpets as they went. And Joshua commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor let your voice be heard, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout. So he caused the ark of Jehovah to compass the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp. And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of Jehovah. And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of Jehovah went on continually, and blew the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; and the rearward came after the ark of Jehovah, the priests blowing the trumpets as they went. And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days." Joshua 6:6-14 (ASV)
It must have seemed ridiculous to Joshua and the Israelites to have a parade around Jericho as God commanded. Instead of taking control, laying siege on the city and fighting for what God had promised, they walked in faith according to God's word. They did not worry about whether or not they would look foolish or wonder how the parade would bring the people of Jericho to their knees. They simply went forth as God instructed them and had patience so that God could do His work.
We are called to do the same thing to let go and let God take care of our difficulties. Though there will be things to do I had to prepare my house and my children for a move, had to meet with real estate agents and sign the papers I did not need to worry about what was happening or try to make things happen by my own power. God had a plan. It took patience and trust. We had to wait to see what God would do. As long as we tried to hold on to the power we could not see God's hand at work. When we let go and let God, everything fell in place. Are there any difficulties in your life today for which God is calling you to walk in faith? Have faith, God is with you and is taking care of it. Thanks be to God.
Seer My kids are amazed when we watch television together because I have an amazing ability of foretelling what will happen on a television show. I don't know whether they think I have some special gift of 'seeing'. I certainly don't believe that I do. As a matter of fact, I laugh at their amazement. I know what's going to happen because I recognize the pattern the show follows. There are only so many types of story plots and if you recognize the plot you can generally figure out where the writers are going with it. This is especially true of situation comedies.
The same is not true of life. People often surprise me and circumstances often seem out of my control. I suppose that is why I enjoy watching situation comedies I know what's going on and what will happen, this gives me a certain sense of control. Yet, in life we don't always know how people are going to react to situations or what might go wrong. We have the additional surprise of what God is going to do in the world. He does not usually fit into our worldly expectations. Take, for example, the story of Jericho.
"And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early at the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on the day they compassed the city seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for Jehovah hath given you the city. And the city shall be devoted, even it and all that is therein, to Jehovah: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. But as for you, only keep yourselves from the devoted thing, lest when ye have devoted it, ye take of the devoted thing; so would ye make the camp of Israel accursed, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are holy unto Jehovah: they shall come into the treasury of Jehovah. So the people shouted, and the priests blew the trumpets; and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, that the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, both young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword." Joshua 6:15-21 (ASV)
Do you think Joshua and the Israelites knew what was going to happen when they blew those trumpets and yelled as they were commanded? Do you think they knew the walls would tumble down? In the story it tells us that they rushed toward the walls, but I imagine that there was a moment of shock. I suppose my own doubt makes me wonder if they also had a moment of doubt when that seventh day started. After six days of walking around the city, it seems like they would have been tired of not seeing anything happen. What did they think God would do?
There are times when we all see ahead and know what is happening, both on television and in real life. However, life often surprises us. Even moreso, God often surprises us so that we can't be sure that we know what will happen tomorrow. Those surprises might be upsetting or cause us to pause for a moment. However, no matter what happens we can rest in the promise that God is with us and He will see us through. We most likely will never have to rush into a city whose walls have tumbled, but sometimes God will send us rushing into some other battle knowing that He has already prepared the way. Thanks be to God.
Directions I think one of the most difficult things about being a teacher is watching as children begin to explore new possibilities and ways to do things. We work hard to set up a lesson plan and carefully explain what the child should do to complete the activity. While there are times when the child should follow the instructions exactly, there are also times when a child should be given the freedom to do things their own way. Take, for example, a coloring sheet. The reality of this world is that the sky is blue and the grass is green, but does it have to be so on a picture painted by a child? No. Yet, as we watch a child painting a green sky and pink lawn we are tempted to stop them and lead them another way.
We've seen the story of Jericho from the perspective of the Israelites. They believed in the God who was leading them into the fulfillment of His promises and even to them the whole idea of a march around a city must have seemed foolish. It was probably even more so for the enemy safe behind the walls of the city. There was one other perspective we might consider as we look at this story. How might Rahab and her family have seen this type warfare?
Rahab was not a believer in the God of Israel and yet she knew that He would be faithful to His promise to His people. She was not one of them, but she was willing to share her home and provide for the spies of Joshua. She risked her own life and future by hiding them and lying about their presence. In doing so, she secured the safety of her own family when Israel attacked. Yet, from inside their home, Rahab and her family watched this massive army do nothing but march. I wonder if she questioned their technique, if she wanted to tell them a better way.
"And Joshua said unto the two men that had spied out the land, Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her. And the young men the spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; all her kindred also they brought out; and they set them without the camp of Israel. And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein; only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of Jehovah. But Rahab the harlot, and her father's household, and all that she had, did Joshua save alive; and she dwelt in the midst of Israel unto this day, because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. And Joshua charged them with an oath at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before Jehovah, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: with the loss of his first-born shall he lay the foundation thereof, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it. So Jehovah was with Joshua; and his fame was in all the land." Joshua 6:22-27 (ASV)
We might think we know the right way of doing something or a better way of getting things done. But we don't always know the best way of doing things, especially when it comes to the work of God in this world. In the story of Jericho we see a faithful response to God's calling by God's people and by a foreigner. Even though God's way seemed ridiculous according to human standards, the Israelites did exactly what God commanded and Rahab waited patiently to be delivered. They might have watched with doubt and misunderstanding, but they did not try to do things their own way. The followed God and believed in His promises.
God is present in this world and He still is faithful to all His promises. We may not be wandering toward the Promised Land, an earthly dwelling. However, we are journeying toward eternity and life with God forever. We might not always understand God's ways. We might see things differently and think we know a better way. Yet, we are called to be obedient and to trust God along the way. It might seem ridiculous but in the end we will discover God's grace for those who believe in Him. Thanks be to God.
Reformation Today is Reformation Day. Nearly five hundred years ago, on October 31, 1517 in Wittenberg Germany, a man name Martin Luther tacked a list of debate topics on the church door. We don't know exactly why he might have chosen October 31st, except perhaps he felt it was a time when the greatest amount of people might see the list. The church was located in a university town, so many of the congregants were students and professors. Since November 1st was All Saint's Day, every person would have to go to church. Attendance was required on all church holy days and attendance brought some reward such as reduced sentences in purgatory.
Luther tacked the list of topics the Ninety-Five Thesis on the church door because he saw within the church many problems. Like the many other reformers and protestors that lived in his day, Luther sought reform and restoration reform to the practices that were not scriptural and restoration to the way God intended His people to live. Luther never intended for the church to divide over these issues. He merely wanted to begin conversations that might bring about change not to something new, but to restore that which had been given to God's people. Even today though we disagree about many things, we long to be one Church as God intended.
This is no different than Jesus did in His day. Though we know that Jesus brought a new covenant, a covenant that was different than the old, He did not do so to make things brand new. He did it to restore the relationship between God and His people. The new covenant was not to change that which God had given His people, but rather to bring things back to the way they were in the Garden when man lived harmoniously with God, creation and himself. Jesus brought a new covenant, but one that is eternal it existed before time and will go forever.
"For if the ministration of condemnation hath glory, much rather doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For verily that which hath been made glorious hath not been made glorious in this respect, by reason of the glory that surpasseth. For if that which passeth away was with glory, much more that which remaineth is in glory. Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness of speech, and are not as Moses, who put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel should not look stedfastly on the end of that which was passing away: but their minds were hardened: for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remaineth, it not being revealed to them that it is done away in Christ. But unto this day, whensoever Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart. But whensoever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 (ASV)
Nearly five hundred years ago Martin Luther nailed a list of debate topics on a church door in the hopes that all those who came to celebrate a holy day would see them and begin to talk. His intent was never to destroy. Rather, he sought to remind the Church that had been blinded by a law that could not save of the grace of God that does bring salvation to the world. Luther wanted to bring reform, but not reform that leads to something new. He wanted to return God's people to the way God created us to be.
The Church still desperately needs reform and God is constantly gifting men and women within the fellowship of believers to preach God's Word and bring the transformation that comes from hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All too many people think reform means change to something new. True reform will not make something new out of the gifts God has given, but rather it will bring people to the knowledge of God's grace so that the relationship with God will be restored and His people can live in faith as God created us to live. Thanks be to God.