Welcome to the September 2001 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves. Where scripture is quoted, I used the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.
A WORD FOR TODAY, September 2001
September 1, 2001
College football Anyone who lives in a college town can identify with the insanity that ensues when the season starts. The University of Arkansas had their first game on Thursday, and the streets were filled with cars displaying flags with that bright red mascot – the Razorback. I even saw a pickup truck that had a full size mannequin dressed in Razorback clothing standing in the back. The U of A flag flies proudly in front of many homes in Little Rock.
Thursday morning, the news programs devoted time to helping people cope with the inevitable traffic congestion. Those who work near the stadium were reminded of changes to the traffic pattern so that they could get home without too much difficulty. When the time came, everything ran more smoothly than expected, and the fans made it to the game. Unfortunately, the Razorbacks did not play very well. It was disappointing for the fans to watch their team lose from the very beginning. Tables turned in the final seconds of the game when the opposing team made a mistake. The punter fumbled the ball and was tackled. The Razorbacks found themselves in the offensive position with less than a minute to go. They drove for the game-winning touchdown. The fans roared with excitement and praise for the incredible ending to their game!
So often during our Christian walk we feel like we are losing the game. We face difficulty in body, mind and spirit. We do not see fruit to our labor and are persecuted for our faith. As we look around the world, and we see the hate, violence and other evils that have perpetrated our society we are discouraged and doubt our faith. Yet, even then God proves Himself to be faithful to His children.
Read Isaiah 12
Whatever you face today, whether it is financial problems, poor health or difficult relationships, remember that our Lord Jesus has already provided for our salvation from these worldly problems. Though we have not finished the game of life, we know that Jesus has already scored the winning touchdown and we will leave the stadium victorious. Sing praise to God today, in the midst of your pain because He is your strength and your song. He is your salvation. Thanks be to God.
Keyboarding Vicki has a class in keyboarding this year. By the end of the semester, she should be able to type 40 words a minute. When we met her teacher at the orientation, he gave the children very firm instructions for succeeding in his class. He said, “listen very carefully to me for the first few weeks and follow my directions exactly. It is very easy to get into bad typing habits.” Touch key typing is very fast and efficient when done properly. However, if someone has a bad habit, such as hunt and pecking for certain keys, they are more likely to make mistakes and will not type as quickly as they should.
I know that I have gotten into some bad habits over the years. Certain words are always misspelled. Take, for instance, the word ‘the’. All too often, it comes out as ‘teh’. My fingers get confused and hit the keys in the wrong order. Working on the computer makes mistakes like this easier to correct. As a matter of fact, the word processing program does it automatically. It forgives my mistake every time I make it.
Vicki’s teacher and the computer programs the school uses to teach typing will establish in each of the children good habits of typing. Hopefully they will not make the same constant mistakes that I make. However, there are other reasons for making mistakes. If someone interrupts me while I’m working, I am distracted from the task at hand and it causes me to err. There are certain words that are constantly misspelled in print, and I get caught up in continuing the blunder. There are times when I’m on a deadline and I try to type too fast.
In our Christian walk, there are many things that can cause us to slip. The expectations of this world are far different from what Jesus has taught. The desires we have for worldly wealth and success distract us from the tasks to which we have been assigned as servants in the Kingdom of God. Old habits die hard, and we tend to repeat those things that are sin. At times we try to rush through our work because we have something better to do, yet in the process we do not do the job in a way that will glorify God.
Read Luke 17:1-4
The computer continues to forgive my misspelling of the word ‘the,’ and I am paying more attention to the times I make the mistake. I try to do my work at a time when there is no one to distract me, and I pay extra attention to those words that are frequently misspelled. I try to do the work in a timely manner so that I am not forced to type too quickly. Even with all these precautions, I still make mistakes.
That’s the way it is with sin in our lives. We know our salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord, yet there are times when our actions do not always prove our faith. We make mistakes for many reasons – the world, our desires and misunderstanding all cause people to sin. Yet, Jesus warns us to be careful. Do your words or actions cause people to sin? Do you make them angry or bitter? Does your action cause hate, jealousy or discord? Do you cause them to lie? Do you push them away from Christ to the worship of idols or the practice of witchcraft (manipulation)? How do you treat those who have sinned against you? Do you reject or forgive? How many times is enough? Seven? Jesus tells Peter in Matthew 18:22, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.” Our forgiveness should be limitless. Our compassion should be continual. Remember, when someone sins against you, they are sinning against God. Yet Jesus died for them, too. Thanks be to God.
Beetle Bailey Beetle Bailey is a newspaper cartoon character who has spent many years as a private in the army. His supervisor, Sarge, often finds Beetle sleeping or avoiding his work in some creative manner. When Beetle is found in such a compromising position, Sarge wallops him, leaving him in shattered pieces on the floor. In today’s episode, Sarge is forcefully pushing Beetle toward some scrubbing job and Beetle says, “Why do you always make me do things YOUR way?” Sarge replies, “I don’t. I just forcefully encourage you to follow the course of action that will cause you the least bodily harm.”
Beetle Bailey often makes me laugh, including this long-winded speech of Sarge’s. How often do we use complicated language and big words to make ourselves sound more knowledgeable? When we are sharing the Gospel message with the world, we often describe doctrine that makes little sense to those who do not know our Lord Jesus Christ. With wisdom that comes from study of theological materials, we try to give answers to the questions of faith like the meaning of the Trinity and the end of the world. Eschatological students will throw words like amillennial, premillennial and postmillennial, leaving babes in Christ dazed and confused. All too often these long-winded speeches turn people from the Gospel of Christ, leaving them even more lost then before.
Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel everyday. When necessary use words.” The Gospel is best preached by our actions of love, encouragement, hope, peace and joy that we share with those who are lost in the muck and mire of this world. When we try to use lengthy speeches and fifty-cent words, we distract from the truth of Jesus Christ. That is, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life." Jesus Christ died and rose again from the grave that we might have life in Him. In that life we are led through the Spirit of God to live in His power, to be vessels of that power, and to shine the light of Christ to the world.
When we use lengthy speeches and fifty-cent words, we rely on our own wisdom. However, when we act in faith, we rely on God, and it is only through His power that we can truly preach the message. Thanks be to God.
Helpless We have all witnessed in the news pictures of the suffering that happens daily in third world countries around the world. The cameras focus on the sick and dying children, the hard dry earth, the ramshackle homes and the flies. We hear about the drought and war that has caused devastation. Though there are many organizations that try to get food and hope to the people in these areas, those who are politically powerful often block the supplies. We feel helpless.
The organizations do not give up; they continue to do what they can to help the people in these areas. Some even advertise on the television to gain more funding for their effort. We see more pictures of dying children and our heart breaks as we think of their pain. Then we find out that the organizations spend 80% of their intake on administration and advertising costs, so little of our money even makes it to feed the hungry. We feel helpless.
Even in our own neighborhoods, we see people who are sick and hungry. There are children who do not have properly fitting clean clothes or hot meals each day. There are elderly who are unable to take care of themselves – go to the store, get their medicine, upkeep their homes. When we hear of these situations, we see that there are so many people who need our help. We feel helpless. All we know is that something needs to be done, so we put pictures on TV and ask people to help.
There are many organizations local and overseas that mean well in their work. Yet there are some that take advantage of the suffering of others for their own benefit. We think this is a modern problem, but there were greedy people in Jesus’ day. Though they did not have mass media to show the suffering, healthy people would take the sick and leave them by the gates of the Temple to beg for money or food.
Read Acts 3:1-10
As we look at the suffering around the world, we feel helpless. How can we make a difference, if we can’t even help all the people in our own neighborhoods that need us? Peter touched one man with the love of Christ and touched many with the miracle of God’s power. We never know how one word will impact the masses. It is important for us to share our wealth with those who need our help, but no one has enough to help all. Whether or not we have silver and gold to share, we need to be generous with God’s Word, because one changed life could change the world. Thanks be to God.
Missing We have been following a story this week on the news about a missing man from Hot Springs. A member of a local Wicca group, the man disappeared on Sunday. A witchcraft store connected with the group has received a threatening message, which was signed ‘son of God’. It was a ransom note claiming the man would return if the store closed. Psychics were called into action and they ‘saw’ something in a small town nearby. The police have been searching the woods around the town for several days.
The story continued this morning with the news that the man has been found in Louisiana. He decided that he did not want to belong to the group any longer, so he left to get away from them. The police are still trying to locate the writer of the ransom note.
This story has brought heated response from the Wicca community against Christianity. They have made accusation against followers of Jesus Christ, perhaps rightfully so. Though we do not have the entire story, the investigation is still ongoing, this ransom note gave them something to use against believers in this case. We must beware of our actions, because everything we do is seen by the world and either glorifies God or gives the devil a foothold.
Read Ephesians 4:25-32
Our responsibility as Christians in this world is to share the love and mercy of Christ with those who live in darkness. We must warn people of the dangers of playing with the spiritual world, but we must do so in love. It is inappropriate for Christians to threaten or use any sort of violent method to stop the things that work against God. Do not give the devil a foothold. Preach the Word in love and walk in the light of Christ Jesus every moment. Remember, God is in control, and He knows. Thanks be to God.
Photography Over the years I have taken a few prize-winning photographs, though more out of luck than knowledge of photography. Though I do not understand all the technical aspects of the equipment and materials, I do have an eye for design. I try my best to consider everything, such as composition, color, space, light and perspective. I am not trained in the techniques I could use to control the conditions, to change the settings as necessary. The great pictures happen when everything just happens to be perfect – the lighting just right and the exposure perfectly set.
I have tried my hand at black and white photography and there is a difference. Light and shadow are far more prominent and the subtle changes in hue are unnoticeable in shades of gray. It is important to find subjects with stark contrast, with sharply defined lines and patterns and with good lighting. Light and shadow that we do not notice in color are often distracting in black and white.
Take, for example, a picture of the autumn leaves in New England. A color photograph shows a magnificent array of bright beautiful leaves, but it would be nearly impossible to distinguish such differences in black and white. On the other hand, a photo of a city skyline filled with chrome and glass buildings is often more exciting when done in black and white film because the picture emphasizes the contrast and lines of the buildings against the sky.
In many ways, black and white photography is easier than color. There are fewer conditions to consider and techniques to use. As long as the subject is good and the lighting proper, the pictures can tell wonderful stories. We don’t have to worry about any bright colors that might distract from the subject, because grayscale will hide a red or yellow that might stand out in a sea of green or blue. Yet, shades of gray do not make very good pictures. The photo is best when there is greater contrast.
Black and white in many ways is less forgiving than color, so people avoid using it. They would rather the choices and control over conditions that comes with the use of color film. We live in a colorful world.
Read Deuteronomy 30:15-20
We tend to think of our life in Christ as very colorful, filled with decisions and opportunities. We like to think we have control over the conditions and circumstances. Yet, God’s word shows us differently. The choice is between white and black, between life and death. There are no shades of gray when it comes to God’s promises. We have been chosen to live in His life. If we choose life, we will be blessed. If we don’t, we will suffer the consequences of our decision. The joy is that in His life, we live in the light, which is filled with glory and color and beauty. Choose life and be blessed. Thanks be to God.
How much? In the fourth century, during a time of heavy persecution of Christians, lived a young shepherd boy named Tarasius. He lived in Cilicia. When he was baptized and became a Christian he changed his name to Sozon. One day as he slept in the field with his sheep, he had a dream. Jesus told him to get rid of the weapons he used to protect the flock and keep only a shepherds crook. He was to prepare himself to die for his faith. His understanding of his mission was clear, and he went to Pompeiopolis where there was a pagan temple. He took his crook and destroyed the golden idol, giving pieces of the shattered object to the poor.
He would have gotten away without punishment, however other Christians were blamed for the destruction. He could not allow anyone else to suffer for his actions, so he confessed. He was forced to walk to the amphitheater with nails in his shoes. The magistrate thought he was very brave and was willing to release him, but he wanted to hear the shepherd play on his pipe. Sozon refused saying, “I once played for sheep, now I will play only to God.” He was burned to death.
How much are you willing to give? Sure, it is easy to say, “Yes” to life as a disciple, and in many ways it is easy to live that life. However, are you willing to die for the truth? Sozon could have had a ministry destroying the idols, particularly if he could stay hidden from the persecution. Even after he confessed to protect the other Christians, his life would have been spared had he just played his music. He refused to bow to the whims of the world; he stood firm in his faith and died in Christ.
Read Luke 14:25-27
How much are you willing to give up for Christ? This scripture is hard for us to hear. Jesus, the Prince of Peace who taught us to love God and neighbor, is telling us to hate. To us, the word hate brings an understanding of violence, rejection and elimination. Yet, the word really means, “to love less.” We must love God more than anything else in this world, including our family, our ministries and even our lives. We must love God so much we are willing to die for Him. How many of us would have taken the easy way out of that situation and played the flute? We would even have justified the action by saying that we would be able to continue our work for Christ. How much are you willing to give?
Subtrahend One of the most challenging and fun activities that teachers give to students are word puzzles. These are paragraphs that have missing words that the students are to complete. They are given a list of words that fit into the story. At times the use of the word is completely different than we expect, though the word itself is still used according to its definition. For a student to be able to complete such a puzzle, it is important that they understand each word completely, so that they can choose the right blank for each word. If even one word is out of place it makes the rest difficult to complete.
Vicki had one of these puzzlers from her math teacher recently. The words in the list were all math related, such as quotient, sum, divisor and subtrahend. The story was about a man at work. Vicki had to borrow my dictionary to find the definition of the word subtrahend, and even then she was confused as to its meaning. The placement of certain words in the story made it quite silly, particularly if they were misplaced. The purpose of these activities is to get the children to think about the words and to understand how important it is to know what they mean before trying to apply them.
So, too, is it important for us to understand the language of faith and to use that language in a way that will make sense to those who hear our words. Much of the communication that happened between the apostles and the early church was by letters. We have many such letters that were written by Paul to the churches that were extending far beyond the shadow of Jerusalem. At times there were problems with teachers who were confusing the Gospel with worldly ideas, from the necessity of circumcision to the rejection of the resurrection. Paul and the other apostles wrote to the churches to help them stay firm in the truth of the Gospel. It was necessary to speak in a language that the people would understand.
Read 2 Corinthians 1:12-14
When you share the gospel message, do you do so in a language your listener can understand? Or do you use words in a way that brings confusion? It is important for us to understand the words of our faith and to use those words according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He has defined the language of faith, and it is by His power that we can at first understand and then share the message. Thanks be to God that we do not have to rely upon earthly wisdom and strength for our life in Christ and we do not need to solve word puzzles to get to heaven. We need only the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, given to us according to God’s grace.
Files When I began writing these devotions more than two years ago, it was for a very small group of friends. I had no idea how much this ministry would grow in such a short period of time. As I wrote the messages and established the website, I did not worry about things such as copyright notices. I recently realized, however, that since I quote from the New International Version of the Bible, I should note it according to their request.
Yesterday I began to go through all the archive pages on the site, to update the pages with the copyright notice. In the process I realized that the filing system on my computer is very unorganized, with files scattered in different folders. I spent the day moving files, gathering similar documents together so that they would be easy to find. I found several problems, which have been hidden, such as bad and missing files. The simple task of righting a wrong became an all day adventure of cleaning my system.
When we become a Christian our Lord Jesus forgives us of our sin. Yet, we still find ourselves failing to live up to the expectations of God. The cleansing of our nature is once and continues as we are sanctified for His service. God reveals to us our sin and gives us the gifts necessary to overcome – wisdom, strength and courage. Once we are aware of our sin, it is necessary for us to work with God to change. As our sin is revealed and we are transformed, we discover hidden in our hearts other things that need to be changed. It is a seamlessly endless cycle of revelation and reform.
Read Psalm 19:12-13
I still have a great deal of work to do on my computer. There are still pages to be fixed and files that are out of place. But now that I am aware of the problem I can do what is necessary to cleanse the system and make it easier to use. As for my spiritual life, God has been doing some system work too. He has revealed aspects of my life that must change; He’s moving files around and getting rid of the bad ones. It is never easy, since we just do not want to see our errors and we know that God has forgiven us. Yet, God wants us to be perfect as He is perfect, so He will do all He can to make us blameless – cleansed and reformed of not only our willful sins, but also those that are hidden.
Has God revealed something to you? Has He convicted your heart of some sin you need to overcome? Work with Him, allow Him to transform you and change the bad habits into something that will glorify Him in the world. It is hard but so worthwhile. Thanks be to God.
Commitment Zack attends an International Studies and Foreign Language magnet school here in Little Rock. Each year, the school selects a country to study and use as a focus for their activities. This year the country is Mexico. Several teachers spent the summer in Mexico, studying the culture and finding ideas to share with children. The theme had been chosen long before the end of school last year, so we were aware of this focus when we visited San Antonio last month. I found myself searching for ideas as took in the sites.
Of particular interest was El Mercado, the Mexican market. We enjoyed walking around, seeing the crafts and other products imported from Mexico. The carved onyx, blown glass and straw products were lovely to see. We tried on hats, rubbed worry stones and bought post cards. The cascarones also caught my eye. During Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Mexico, children take these eggshells filled with confetti and smash them on the heads of their friends. What a fun project for the kids at Zack’s school!
So, when we got home, I started saving eggshells. I planned on sharing this idea with the teachers in the hopes that we could use it at some point during the year – preferably at Cinco de Mayo. As it turns out, our school carnival will be held close to the fifth of May, and they were already planning to use cascarones for the event. Other parents have been asked to save their eggshells. This is going to take a major commitment on our part. We expect to need at least 300 dozen cascarones. We have some hurdles to overcome, and we may have to give up on the project.
The story of Ruth shows the love and commitment one person can have for another. There was famine in Bethlehem, so Naomi and her family went to Moab to survive. There the two sons found wives. Ruth was one of those wives. When Naomi’s husband and sons both died, she decided to return to her home. Her daughters-in-law wanted to go with her, but Naomi insisted they stay in their homeland and begin new lives. Ruth refused.
Read Ruth 1:16-17
How hard it must have been for Ruth to leave everything she knew to follow Naomi into a life of suffering. Yet, Ruth did not back down from her commitment to her mother-in-law and the story ended happily. Ruth found a husband and they cared for Naomi in her old age. I imagine there were moments when Ruth wanted to just give up, go home, begin life anew. Yet, her love was great and she stayed.
The parents at the school are willing to do whatever we can to make this project happen so our kids can enjoy the experience, but we certainly won’t take this project to our deathbeds. The world expects only expects so much from us, and we are even patted on the back when we give up on lost causes. Our Lord Jesus Christ expects much more. He requires that we be like Ruth, willingly following Him everywhere He goes. How easy it is for us to commit to Jesus, but then turn our backs when things get difficult. Jesus wants your whole life. Are you willing to follow Him through everything?
Road Construction There is major road construction happening on both roads leading from our house to Little Rock. The contractors are doing their best to prevent traffic delays, but some inconvenience is inevitable. The road to the west is four lanes and travels through very busy business district. There are strip malls and other commercial properties for miles. The traffic is controlled by stoplights and there are many cross traffic turns. During rush hour this road is extremely busy. A mile and a half of the road is being resurfaced, and there is no convenient detour available.
They are doing this work at night to avoid the dangers and traffic problems it would create during the day. My children were surprised when we told them about the night work. “How do they see?” they asked. We explained that they use very bright lights to illuminate the work area, and that it is actually much safer for the workers to be there at night. There are fewer cars on the road, and the bright light brings attention to the work area. In the daytime, it is easy for road workers to disappear in the normal hustle bustle of life.
In today’s world, many Christians are concerned about the evil that is seemingly overtaking our society. Books, movies and music show the things that are bad to be good and vice versa. Children appear to be maturing much too quickly but are making decisions about drugs and sex long before they are old enough to really understand the consequences. Political correctness and tolerance are opening the doors to acceptance all sorts of worship, turning people from the truth that is Christ. Many Christians are afraid to be in this world today, so they reject it and live in a bubble surrounded only by Christian things. Unfortunately, this means that we are not being a blessing to those who truly need to see the light of Christ. We get lost and risk falling prey to false piety and false teachers who teach a false gospel.
In Jesus day there were many false prophets claiming to be the Messiah. There was so much evil in the hearts of men that is was easy to fool those who were desperate for God. They were not Christ, and their falsehood proved itself through the scriptures. Even today we look back into the Old Testament to see what was spoken about Jesus long before He came in flesh, to see how the prophecy was fulfilled in Him.
Read 2 Peter 1:19-21
The road workers are doing their best to complete the work as quickly and efficiently as possible. They will continue to work in the darkness using the light to guide and protect them in these days. When the work is complete, the sun will rise on a new road, which will benefit every traveler. As for our Christian walk, we cannot be afraid to do our work in the darkness of this world. After all, we have the light that is Christ to guide and protect us from the dangers of this world. Soon the day will dawn and the morning star, which is Christ, will reign. Until then we must rely on Him to be the light in this darkness and continue to work for His glory. Thanks be to God.
Speechless This is probably the hardest writing I’ve ever had to do. As I sit here today, still in shock with the rest of America and much of the world, I simply do not know what to say. There are a million things that need to be said, but there is no pretty way to put them on paper. It is senseless to rehash the events that have left us dazed, confused, afraid, angry, grieving and in pain. As much as we long to respond to the horrifying things we saw happen in New York and Washington, D.C. yesterday, it is useless to lay blame at this juncture. In the aftermath, I heard much talk about vengeance, salvation and the coming of our Lord. Many are ready to jump into action – calling for death to the perpetrators, forcing faith on the lost and giving up on this life and the world our God created.
In the days, weeks and months to come, we need to stay constantly in prayer. Vengeance is God’s, but we have been given the authority and responsibility to bring justice in this world. We need to pray for wisdom and God’s guidance for those who will be burdened by this task.
Salvation is the Lord’s, but we have been commanded by our Lord Jesus to make disciples of all nations. We need to pray for His Word to be on our tongues, in love and mercy, so that those who are lost will hear the Gospel and turn to God. We need to continue that work by teaching those disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded.
We are God’s and we will one day stand face to face with our Saviour, basking in His glory and worshipping Him for eternity. But for today, we must continue to do the work we have been called to do. We cannot allow the enemy to paralyze us, nor should we stand idle as we watch for our hope to be revealed. Remember who you are, whose you are and be ready to meet your Master by serving Him in spirit, truth and flesh. Our work for His Kingdom is our daily sacrifice and our true worship.
In all your pain, grief, anger, confusion and shock, remember that our God is the One True and Living God whose hand moves mountains and whose love melts hearts. Praise Him, seek Him, pray in Jesus’ name for your every need and walk in faith that He will provide. Turn to the Lord, your God in this time and He will be with you.
Read Psalm 46
Heavenly Father, we seek your presence in this day of mourning. Be with us, guard us and guide us through the horror and pain we face. Be with the rescue workers, protect them from harm and guide them to the survivors. Be with the victims; bring healing to their bodies, minds and spirits. Be with those who have lost family and friends; give them comfort and peace. Be with our leaders; grant them wisdom to act according to your will as they deal with those who have performed this senseless act. Be with your Church; and help us to serve you by serving those in need this day. Lord, bring peace to this world. Help us to forgive and love our enemies. Grant peace in the hearts of your children and give us the opportunity to share that peace with others. Jesus, we long to see you, but until that day grant us every blessing and gift so that we can continue your work in this world. Lord, use this horrific event to your glory, by turning our hearts back to you today. We bless and praise your holy name. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we ask all this in the name and for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for the glory of God our Father. Amen.
Services All over the country since Tuesday night, churches have opened their doors for special prayer services. Americans are taking time to focus on God, to seek His comfort, protection and guidance. Here in Little Rock, at least one church jumped into action by offering a place for stranded travelers to sleep and eat while they wait the chance to continue their journeys. We are hearing stories from the site of the destruction in New York of people who have risked their own lives to search the wreckage for survivors. One doctor rode his bike from the other end of New York and has been at the scene since Tuesday. All over the country, people are giving blood and money to help with the effort. Americans have drawn together for a common purpose and are proving themselves to be strong and unified.
Yet, we must beware of an underlying current that exists. Conversations are filled with anger, hatred, and threats of violent action. Innocent people are being targeted and rumors are being accepted as fact. Many people have such an intense lust for blood that they are ready to destroy whole nations with war. Others are taking advantage of this situation by using it to satisfy their greed. In my email box yesterday I received dozens of email with subjects that include, “Pray for America,” “How to help” and other such messages of support. Inside, the organizations included brief messages about the tragedy along side advertisements selling their products.
Yes, many are turning to God in these days, seeking His comfort, protection and guidance. However we must search deep into our hearts and be certain we are seeking God, the Father Almighty. Who are we praying to and why? What motives move us? Are we sincere in our desire to serve God or are we falling into temptation, greed and lust? If our actions prove to be acts of the sinful nature (as found in Galations 5:19-21), then we are not following God, but rather our own flesh.
Read Romans 1:28-32
Today, take time to consider your own heart rather than focusing on the evil that has been perpetrated against us. Consider your motives, your words, and your actions to determine if you are serving God or flesh. If there is any wickedness found in your life, stop and repent. Turn to God and seek forgiveness. Ask Him to grant you the courage and strength to forgive. Stand firm in the Gospel of Christ, speaking God’s Word and worshipping Him with your whole self. It is at times like this that Satan works hardest to turn us from the true light, by pretending and tempting us to live according to our flesh. Greed and lust have no place in the heart and actions of a child of God. Love, hope and mercy should shine from our lives that God will be glorified even in the midst of our pain. Keep your focus on God, and Jesus Christ will shine as a light from within you, light that the world needs to see.
Healing In some ways, our nation is getting back to normal. The airports are reopening and planes are beginning to fly again. Many of the television stations that were reporting the news twenty-four hours a day have returned to regular programming. The initial shock and anger is fading and the people are taking time to think before they react. Though some sports have been canceled for the next few days, the local high school football games are going to be held. We want, and need, to continue living our lives.
George Bush said recently, “We are in business, but it is not business as usual.” The country is focused on the search effort and the investigation. The news is filled with miraculous stories as people are found buried in the rubble. We are grateful to those who have sacrificed their time and their lives for the sake of others. Today has been declared as a National Day of Prayer. We are being encouraged to take time at some place of worship to intercede for our nation and its people. Yes, we are at business, but it is not business as usual.
How long will this last? Oh, the memory of the disaster will linger for a long time, but how about the prayer? Churches will be filled on Sunday as people search for some comfort in this time of sorrow. Will they return in the days and weeks to come? It is typical for human beings to turn to God when we need Him, but will we stay? America is not perfect, but God is. Wal-Mart sold out of their entire stock of flags in a day, and flag makers are not able to keep up with the demand. What about Bibles? The solution to our problems will not be found in the flag any more than it was found in the Trade Towers and the Pentagon. The solution to our problems is found in God, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Read 2 Chronicles 7:13-14
I rejoice with the angels that America is seeking God in this time. I pray, however, that when they find Him, they grasp hold for eternity. Things are not business as usual, but as each day passes more and more people will return to their lives. I’ve heard it said things would never be the same again. I pray this is true, because we have rejected God in many ways. Yet, I fear in the days, weeks and months to come, people will return to their old ways, turning to God only in times of need. God will heal us, has been healing us, during this tragedy because we have turned to Him in prayer. Let us never turn away again, staying on our knees through the good times as well as bad, humbled before the One whom is the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Wrath Now that the initial shock of the events in New York and Washington are wearing off, many people are beginning to look beyond the terrorists, blaming those much closer to home. Jerry Falwell apologized for a comment he made on the 700 Club recently. He pointed his finger at those he calls the sinners of our land, claiming they brought this wrath upon us. Prophets who claim to be from God the Father are screaming for a return to the ways of the Old Testament, the Law. They are saying that if Americans were obedient to the rules established by God through Moses, then we would be guarded against further attack.
They are pointing to the Old Testament prophecies, saying that the current state of affairs in America fit perfectly, a people who have turned from God’s Law and are doomed to destruction. However, they fail to remember that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ fulfilled those prophecies that warned of God’s wrath. He took it upon Himself at the cross. Our hope is in Christ, our righteousness is found only in a right relationship with Him. We will not be justified by obeying the things found in the Old Testament, nor will we find hope found there.
Read Romans 5:1-11
We are in desperate need of repentance. Many Christians are lukewarm, not living as they have been called to live in the light and life of our Lord Jesus. We are walking a fine line between our faith and our desire to fulfill the needs of our flesh, often falling from right living. The Law of the Old Testament acts as a mirror to show us the error of our ways and the inability we have to live that life because of our weak and corrupt bodies. However, we have been saved by the blood of Jesus, who at the cross took on the wrath of God, reconciling us to Him. By His Spirit, we live today by faith, in the hope of that which is to come.
We are in need of repentance, but it is one of our own turning back to the Lord and Saviour we claim to love. We have been blessed to be a blessing. We live in His light, to be a light to the world. If we, who are called by His name, Christians, pray and seek His face, the world we be blessed by our faith because God will heal our nation. The cleansing rain falls upon sinner and saint alike. Our hope, and the hope of the world, is found in Christ. Thanks be to God.
Answer When I was a young girl, just learning about relationships, I did some pretty foolish things. I wrote anonymous notes to the boys I like and slipped them in their lockers. I took walks or rode my bike past their homes just to see if they were there. I pretended not to like them, all the while hoping they would show me some sign that they liked me. It was foolish, adolescent behaviour. The worst part was that I never considered what I would do if the boys ever found out it was me. I wanted them to know, but I was afraid of the possibilities. Through it all, I made some friends, suffered some rejection, and learned how foolish it was to hide. I also learned to consider the consequences of my actions.
Read Luke 18:1-5
We don’t have any details about this story. The widow’s plight is unknown to us as is the justice that was given. All we know is that her persistence paid off and the judge heard her case. Jesus used this story to teach the disciples to be persistent with their prayer to God.
Read Luke 18:6-8
All around America and the world this week, we have seen large numbers of people turn to God in prayer. Some churches have had their doors open for services every night, giving people a place to find solace and build their faith. Many people are praying for the first time in years, perhaps even their lives; to a God they do not understand. As they are watching TV, they asking for help in the search effort and for guidance in our reaction. Some are screaming for vengeance. It is well and good that we are persistent in our praying. Our hearts have turned to the Lord because we know there is no other who can help us.
But what will we do when He answers? God our heavenly Father hears our prayers. He is listening and He is faithful to answer. Are we ready to face His judgment? He is not like the judge in the parable, who neither feared God nor cared about men. Our God is merciful and just, filled with compassion and love. We are asking God to intervene in our nation and its troubles. When He does, what will you do? When He comes, will He find faith on earth? Consider the consequences of your prayer, and be ready for His answer.
Heart There is a tree located in our neighbour’s yard across the street. It is a large, old tree that is home to birds and provides shade from the harsh sun. During the day, the shape of this tree is typical, branches pointing in every direction, round and full at the top with fewer branches at the bottom. At night, however, in silhouette against the night sky, the tree takes on another shape. To me, it looks like a heart standing guard over the homes of our neighbourhood.
My son gets on the school bus before the sun rises at our house, and each morning this week as I’ve gone to wait with him, I’ve looked at that tree. I spend that time, in the quietness of early morning, before the world seems to wake, praying and listening to God’s voice. The tree is a reminder of the love of God that stands guard over our lives. The heart is more noticeable in the night, just as God’s love has shown so brightly through this tragedy.
Read Romans 8:28-39
Those of us who live in Christ have an advantage through the hard times. We have a hope that goes beyond the things of this world. We know God’s love is bigger than the hard times and that He will see us through everything we face. Even death does not hold us down. The great joy is found in knowing this and sharing it with the world. Perhaps they will not hear or believe in Christ, however you are blessed to be a blessing. Live your life in Christ knowing that nothing can separate you from Him. As God shines upon you, the light will touch others, and they will be blessed. Be faithful and hopeful, for out of that will come true joy and peace. We have the victory, and though there are still battles being fought, we know the outcome of this war. Jesus Christ defeated death and the grave for us – and the world. In the darkness, God’s love shines brightly. Share your blessings and know that God will use everything to His glory. Thanks be to God.
Foreigners Thursday, in an unprecedented act of solidarity and support for the United States, Queen Elizabeth ordered the playing of the Star Spangled banner during the changing of the guards. All around the world, leaders and citizens are doing whatever they can to show the terrorists that we will not stand for such senseless violence.
Our military life of constant moving means we are often like strangers in a strange land. Our time in England was extraordinary. Despite the fact that we are foreigners, many British citizens welcome us. Our presence does bring some inconvenience, but our relationship with the locals brings good to their lives, financially, emotionally and spiritually. Our good works for the sake of the British people have made us a welcome presence in their homeland, and now they are returning the blessings by supporting our efforts to end terrorism.
Ruth was a foreigner who left everything to guard and protect her mother-in-law. She could have gone home to begin a new life and lived in the comfort of having a husband and plenty to eat. Instead, she moved with Naomi to Bethlehem to face hunger, loneliness and perhaps death. She even rejected her gods by confessing, “Your people will be my people and your God my God.” How hard it must have been to be a foreigner in strange land. Yet, she was blessed for her generosity toward Naomi.
Read Ruth 2:12
Boaz saw her good works toward Naomi and offered a blessing of thanksgiving that she might be rewarded for her efforts. She left her gods behind and took cover under the wings of the LORD God Almighty. She was not an Israelite, one of God’s chosen people. As a matter of fact, she was a Moabite, an enemy to the Israelites. Yet, she would indeed be blessed for her good works. She married Boaz and became an ancestor of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In times like this, there are those who do not have a history with our God, and do not understand His ways, but their actions show them to be generous and loving. They are foreigners to our Christian thoughts but they are willing to sacrifice themselves to help those in need. In times like this, they seek the faith of their Christian friends and ask for prayer. They set themselves under the wings of the God they do not understand, but somehow in their spirits know that He is their refuge.
We should be like Boaz, and speak blessings into the lives of those who help us. Ruth was his enemy, yet she was generous with her life. She was not one of the chosen people Israel, yet God spoke His Word into and through her life. The same can be true of those who do not know Him and yet show themselves to be kind and loving. There are those in our country that are being treated like the enemy, even though they are sacrificing themselves for our sake. Christ died for all, and we should pray that they would be rewarded for their generosity. Through our blessing, God will speak His Word into and through their lives. Thanks be to God.
Dog Edwin Arlington Robinson wrote, “The world is a kind of spiritual kindergarten where bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks.”
" ” Psalm 97
The Lord God Almighty, our Father in Heaven is the Most High God. All of creation obeys He rule from the throne that is founded upon everything that is good, right and true. The gods of this world bow to Him, and His children rejoice in His presence. Though He is greater than all, He is our best friend. The work of our Lord Jesus Christ has made it possible for us to not only bow before Him in worship and praise, but to also sit on His lap and seek His face and love.
Righteousness is living in a right relationship with God. That relationship comes only through our Lord Jesus Christ. He gives true life, life of hope and peace and joy. He is the light; He makes us upright by His love and by the power of His Holy Spirit. Praise God.
*Story found in Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes.
Discouragement When asked if she ever became fainthearted, Mother Theresa answers, “No, I do not become discouraged. You see, God has not called me to a ministry of success. He has called me to a ministry of mercy.”
The story of Milton Hershey is one of failure after failure. Born in 1857, he left school early, was fired from an apprenticeship, opened and closed several candy stores around the United States. In 1886 he returned home but his family refused to support his latest scheme. Though he had no money, he was not defeated. He turned to an old friend who helped him start a caramel company in Lancaster. A risk-taking loan officer gave him the funds needed, and his business became successful. Chocolate was a delicacy, available to only the elite, but Milton Hershey successfully made it available to the masses. The company that bears his name to this day is the U.S. market leader in chocolate confectionery and is exported to 90 countries worldwide.
One of his greatest successes is the way he treated his employees and other members of the community. When he opened the chocolate factory in what is now Hershey Pennsylvania, he provided every possible convenience. He built a town around the factory with homes, schools, shopping, bank and hotel, as well as parks and other facilities for the people who lived there. He even provided shuttle service to those who chose to live in other towns. During the depression, instead of cutting production and staff, he provided more work for his people. He and his wife began a school for orphaned boys. He found his success by working toward the best interests of others, rather than himself.
Our Christian walk is not always perfect, and at times we think we have failed. There are so many reasons why we can be discouraged. Yet, in faith we go on, continuing to do as God has called us to do – to pray when prayers seem unanswered, to share the Gospel when it is unheard.
Read Philippians 2:12-18
Paul speaks here of the Philippians obedience, and encourages them to continue to do as Christ as commanded. We live in a world that defines goodness differently than God our Father has done in the scriptures. We are called to live a life that is blameless – in Christ – so that we will shine His light to the world. Mother Theresa continued to be merciful when things seemed impossible. Milton Hershey had a vision that reached beyond a successful career, so he continued to work despite his failure.
We should not be discouraged even though we seem to be failing. Success in God’s kingdom is defined by His word of life not by this world. If we can find mercy in the midst of anger, love in the midst of hate, hope in the midst of despair, joy in the midst of pain, then we will go on in faith and shine that light for the glory of God our Father. Amen.
Questions In the days following the attack on America, many people turned to God in prayer. They prayed for the victims, the rescue workers, the leaders of our nation and the world. They prayed for peace, comfort and healing. When there were no longer words, they cried and God heard the weeping. All we had to hold us from moment to moment was our faith. Now as the dust settles and the hope fades, the voice of human reason is calling out from the rubble, questioning the faith of those who would turn to an unseen entity who would allow such horrible destruction to happen. “Where was God on September 11?” “Why bother praying?”
Where was God? God was there. He was there in the hearts of His children who were called to prayer hours before the first people entered the airplanes. They were praying for peace – not an earth bound peace, but rather peace of heart. That peace manifested in the actions and reactions of many. Those on the planes faced their death with incredible calm – some phoned home in the last moments to say, “I love you.” Others took action and sacrificed themselves for the sake of others. The peace manifested in the way the victims evacuated without panic, avoiding further injury. Our leaders had a peace of heart that enabled them to set aside all division and evil thoughts to join together, their reaction composed and filled with hope.
Where was God? God was there. He was giving wisdom to the leaders who reacted by stopping air travel so immediately that the further plans of the hijackers were put to a halt saving untold lives. He was giving strength and courage to the rescue workers so that they could guide the people out of the buildings quickly and safely, saving many lives. He was giving the power to heal to the doctors and nurses at the scene of the disasters as well as in hospitals. He was giving hope to the families of those who waited to hear the fate of their loved ones. He was giving faith to His children who turned immediately to prayer. He was comforting those who lost friends and families.
Where was God? God was there. A bible was found in the rubble, opened and unscathed by the destruction. God was there in His word, speaking life into those who faced the death of their flesh but giving them a greater promise. A fireman was on approximately the 86th floor of one of the towers when it collapsed. God held him as he fell and he survived. A young man was not supposed to be at work in the Pentagon that day, but he was there. He was in the hallway just feet from his office, which was close to the crash site when the plane hit. He was able to take an injured man to the hospital on his motorcycle when cars were unable to pass through the traffic. God was keeping people from arriving to work in time, such as the CEO of the company who now lives to provide for the families of his employees who died.
Where was God? God was here, with us, changing the course of human events from the purpose set out by those who caused this incredible horror. God brought us together – in hope, in prayer, in faith, in unity, and in love. He wept with us, sustained us with His gifts, moved in our hearts and brought us to this moment. Now we must act for the sake of justice, ending the terror caused by those who have such little regard for human life that they will do anything for their cause.
Why pray? We pray because God hears. He is with us today, listening and moving in our world in a way that will bring glory to His name. He speaks into our hearts, the Word of hope that is in Christ Jesus. When we sacrifice our own selves, trusting in God by humbling ourselves in prayer, He will answer. Thanks be to God.
Read Psalm 20
Why pray? Because God is here. Trust in Him above all else and praise Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the glory of God the Father. The world may question His presence and call us unreasonable for our prayers, but I will see His hand and call on Him for everything I need. Amen and thanks be to God.
Argument America Online has a large number of message boards. Such message boards are found all over the Internet, and are a place where people can discuss issues and ideas in groups through letters posted on a website for anyone to read. AOL has a message board for any topic you can think of, from parenting to religion to politics to art. One of the boards created in response to the September 11th tragedy is called, “When is ok to be happy?” This board has brought together an incredible diversity of people, some who have been encouraging while others have been hateful and disgusting.
In the early days after the tragedy, Americans stood united in many ways. Even if there is no agreement in politics or religion, we joined together in mourning and looking for answers to our questions about how this could happen. As the grief fades and people begin finding some happiness and normality in their own lives, opinions and divisions are becoming more pronounced. Those who have a forum to voice their opinions and ideology are using it to call attention to their perspective and promote their agenda.
Unfortunately, human nature is by definition imperfect, and our ideas are not always right. We make foolish statements and turn the focus on the wrong things. This has been shown to be true from Christian leaders as well as others prominent spokespeople. On television and in print, through email and radio, many people have had to apologize for sharing as fact or truth something that was proven false. Even people like you and I have fallen for the foolish things that have come out of this event, such as the Nostradamus prediction and the Microsoft code, passing it on through email as prophecy.
In these days, we must be especially discerning of everything we hear and seek God’s perspective. Men and women all over the country are now arguing about so many things. Should we go to war? Why bother to pray? Is this the end of the world? Authors are rushing to publish books that answer these questions. Ministries are selling tapes that speak about these issues. Yet, many are teaching a false doctrine, twisting the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ and creating confusion and arguments among people.
Read 1 Timothy 6:3-5
We must be very careful about everything we read and say in these days, particularly those of us who claim to be in Christ. The world is watching to see how we respond to the events of September 11. Will we stand firm in the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ? Or will we be filled with words that bring more friction in this world? Beware of those who sell the Gospel for prophet and those who quarrel over words. Stick to the sound doctrine that is taught by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, found in the scriptures and in the words of ministers who provide godly teaching. Avoid those who create discord among brethren with their words, for they are speaking from a corrupt mind, not by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Gradual We like to see ourselves as good. After all, we don’t do things like murder, adultery or worship Satan. We go to church, send money to good causes and pray when necessary. If we fail once in awhile, like yelling at our kids, telling a small white lie or cursing – what’s the big deal? Unfortunately, one small sin tends to grow, and all sin separates us from God. Satan knows this and does whatever he can to make us think that it’s ok to make these little mistakes.
“The Screwtape Letters” is a book written by C.S. Lewis, which describes a young minion of the devil learning how to do his job. Uncle Screwtape writes encouraging and instructional letters to his young student, to help him lead toward giving his soul to the devil. Wormwood was making excellent progress on his patient, but Screwtape warned him to not go so fast. He knows big sin often leads to a more dramatic repentance – turning to God.
Screwtape writes, “You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all your tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into Nothing. Murder is no better than cards, if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
God’s desire is for us to walk in His Light. Through His Word, he transforms our life into one of obedience. He attacks our sin with the blood of our Lord Jesus, which was shed for us and for our salvation. By the cross of Christ, we are forgiven. However, this is not enough for God. He wants us to be sanctified – to walk in His light. He wants us to know only be forgiven, but to understand what it means that we are forgiven. He not only wants us to be saved, but He wants us to work out our salvation – being transformed into holy children of God.
If we continue to willfully allow the small sins, saying it’s ok to be angry, lie or speak words in vain, then the worse sins won’t seem so bad. Anger leads to violence. Our lies grow into greater falsehoods. Offensive language from the mouth shows the state of a person’s heart. A moment of doubt about God’s goodness today can lead to the words “There is no God” tomorrow.
Read Psalm 53
The Salvation has come out of Zion, He is Christ the Lord. He is our forgiveness, our power to turn from sin, and our protection from the ones who would have us continue to live in sin. We are not good; our human nature is corrupt and sinful. However, in Christ we cleansed from our sin and given the freedom to live in the Light. We are justified by the cross, then transformed and sanctified by His great love. Seek God and grow in your understanding. Do not allow anyone to draw you away from the life you have been called to live – a life of holiness in Christ. Stop doing the little sins today so that you will not commit the greater sins tomorrow.
Coincidence There is a television show I like to watch called “Mysterious Ways.” Declan, an anthropology professor seeks to understand unusual circumstances that occur in the lives of people he meets. People are drawn together in love and for some greater purpose that goes beyond the ways of this world. In a recent episode, Declan followed a series of coincidences that eventually led to the reunion of identical twins after 30 years. It did not take very long for Declan to realize that these events were not coincidences.
We do not realize how often events that appear to be completely unconnected are actually designed to bring people to a certain moment. We don’t know how many times a kindness we perform leads to a chain of other kindnesses that brings someone into a relationship with Christ. There are those times when we are frustrated by a delay in a store or in traffic, but we find ourselves in a position to help someone in some way. We make plans for something, but circumstances change causing us to fulfill a greater purpose for God.
Take, for example, those who were supposed to be at work in the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, but were stuck on the train. Some feel the guilt of having survived this terrible tragedy while their friends perished. Though we do grieve for those lost, we must trust that God has a greater plan, which has been accomplished by His Word and is being accomplished in our lives.
We are often frustrated by the delays and the changes, but when we are in a relationship with God, He will reveal to us the purpose for our inconvenience. We must then be obedient to what we know God is calling us to do. Suppose you are stuck in a line in a store and there is someone there who needs to hear about the love of Jesus. Will you share? If you sense the Spirit of God leading you to change your plans, will you follow His will rather than your own? We may not always know the reason for the little events in our lives, but we do know that God’s ultimate purpose is for men to know His salvation and live in a relationship with Him.
Read Amos 3:7
In the Old Testament, the prophets foretold the coming Messiah. The story of God and His people, from Adam to the dark days of silence, which occurred before Jesus was born, points toward the fulfillment of all God’s promises. Then Jesus came, taught the world how to live and then died knowing that we would not be obedient to His Word. Today the prophets, those who speak God’s word, point directly at our Lord Jesus Christ as the continuing fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. Though we may not always understand the series of coincidences that seem to occur in our lives, we know that God revealed Himself through the voice of the prophets and then in the life of Jesus. There are no coincidences. God is moving in and through our lives for a purpose – that men will know Him. Declan knew there was more to the story than a random set of coincidences. He followed his thoughts and was able to fulfill the plan – to bring the brothers together. Be obedient, follow His voice and live in that relationship in faith, hope, peace and joy. Who knows what great things God can accomplish through you. Thanks be to God.
Melancholy CNN has reported that seven out of ten Americans are suffering from some sort of depression. Those who are physically predisposed to bouts of depression are suffering more than usual. We are at times overcome by fits of tears, worry, guilt, anger and doubt. This is true among Christians as well as those who are not believers. This melancholy has come over people from every creed, race and class. The advantage we have has Christians is that we know that the only thing that gets us from moment to moment is our faith in God.
Martin Luther said, “All heaviness of mind and melancholy come of the devil; especially these thoughts, that God is not gracious unto him: that God will have no mercy upon him, etc. Whosoever thou art, possessed with such heavy thoughts, know for certain, that they are a work of the devil. God sent his Son into the world, not to affright, but to comfort.
Read Psalm 146
Many people are suffering from depression and are seeking aid through doctors, family and friends. We are also looking toward our government, military and emergency services to help. The heaviness of mind we face is a tool of the devil to keep us from doing what we should do, and that is praise the Lord God Almighty. This Psalm begins with prayer and a warning – to look to Him for our help. He loves the righteous, which are those who are in a right relationship with Him. We have that relationship through Christ our Lord. In that right relationship, God will provide all we need, including the doctors, family and friends who will serve us in love and ease our suffering. He will give wisdom, guidance, strength and courage to the government, military and emergency services that will provide help for our circumstances.
Today we must bow down before the Lord in humbleness and praise. Trust in Him and He will lift you up. He will fulfill His promises of food, freedom, sight, protection, and sustenance. If we don’t, He will frustrate our ways, blocking the paths we design for ourselves. Do not let the devil have a foothold in your heart. Turn to God and sing praise His praise. He reigns now and forevermore. Thanks be to God.
Compliment In a recent episode of “The Family Circus” cartoon, Dolly walks in the house with PJ by her side. She says to her mom, “A lady said PJ is as cute as a bug. Is that a compliment or an insult?” For Dolly, the whole idea of looking like a bug is not something to attain. Bugs are creepy, crawly, ugly things. For her, ‘cute as a bug’ is a phrase meant only for Halloween when the intent is to look creepy.
However, she was willing to give the lady the benefit of the doubt. After all, ladies usually think her little brother PJ is really cute, cuddly teddy bear cute. She went to her mom so she could understand this strange phrase used by the lady. There are some very cute bugs – ladybugs, lightning bugs, and praying mantis. These bugs are also beneficial to the environment. It’s all a matter of perspective.
When a believer says, “I am a Christian,” the world questions if this is a good or bad thing. After all, so much of Christian language and action is far different from the expectations of the world. We believe in things we do not see or completely understand. We march to a different drummer, seeking peace where there is anger and love where there is hate. Our standard for living is much different from that of this world. Jesus turned things upside down for the religious of His day. He made ‘being a bug’ a good and beneficial thing.
Read Mark 7:6-8, 14-23
This story shows that the religious leaders did not truly understand the gift of God given to His people – the Law. They had made it a burden, placing on the people heavy requirements for outward cleanliness. Jesus showed them that the point of the Law was to bring about a life of faith from the heart, clean living from the inside rather than a life of self-righteous action. To the Pharisees and teachers, the disciples were acting improperly according to the law. Jesus showed them how they made a good bug bad – setting aside the commands of God for their own traditions and ideas.
What aspects of your life could Jesus see as hypocrisy? How have you twisted God’s good and perfect Word into a tradition that puts heavy burdens on Christians? Is your heart clean, filled with the Lord that your life shines with His love? Or is your faith only surface, an outward righteousness that leaves room in your heart for actions that prove you to be unclean?
Companion Felix found a bug last night, a rather large and ugly looking creature. He brought it to our bedroom, laid it on our bed and began to play. I didn’t realize what was happening, it seemed as though Felix was just having fun with a small devotional book that was there. Then I realized there was something moving, giving him a playmate for a moment. The thoughts of later getting into bed with such a creature caused me to immediately get up and catch it in a pile of tissues so that I could flush it down the toilet. Felix did not realize what I did and continued to look for his friend on the bed. He spent five minutes sniffing, searching and pawing until he gave up.
Death is a natural part of life. It is never easy to face the possibility of our own deaths, but it is even harder on those who survive. When someone we love passes from life into death, we grieve because we do not know how to face tomorrow without that person in our life. We run through a gamut of emotions from anger to fear to pain to hope. For many, the only hope is to hold on to their loved one’s memory. We search for something that we can hold on to, to remember and keep them in our lives.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus Christ told His disciples that he would have to die. He showed them the scriptures and explained what they meant. In the beginning, the references were vague, but as His day approached He firmly warned them He would not be here in flesh forever. He tried to encourage them with the truth that He had to go so they could be given the Holy Spirit and power to continue His work.
This didn’t change their grief when Jesus died. They were so frightened by the events of Holy Week that they could not face it without their friend and rabbi. They hid from the authorities and mourned for Jesus. When they were able, the women took the materials they needed to anoint his body and lay him to rest forever. Yet, when they approached the tomb, it was empty. They searched but were unable to find Jesus.
Read Luke 24:4-8
The disciples, the twelve as well as the others such as these women, had confessed their love for Jesus and tried to understand what He was teaching. Jesus’ words before His death was meant to bring comfort and hope to those who believed in Him. Yet, they forgot when they needed those words the most. They searched for Him among the dead rather than seeking Him in His Word.
The bug was a playmate for Felix, but there was no love between them. He easily gave up the search when he realized his companion was gone. Letting go our loved ones is not so easy. At times we seek to hold onto them in our grief, so much so that we forget the hope we have in the promise. We search for them among the dead rather than looking toward the risen Christ and the resurrection life found in Him. Jesus died so that we could be forgiven of our sin, but the story did not end there. Jesus was raised so that we could have eternal life. Remember His words and know that He is faithful. Find comfort for your grief in the empty tomb. Thanks be to God.
Anger I spent the day yesterday helping at Zack’s school. It was a joy to be able to help the children, eat lunch with them and watch as they learned and did their third grade work. As one of their special classes, the children spent time with the counselor. This teacher helps the children learn about feelings and relationships, while listening to their words to understand their problems. The subject for yesterday’s class was anger.
She asked the children to name some bad ways to deal with anger. They answered wisely, with examples of nasty words, hitting and other types of violence. When she asked how they should deal with anger, they answered with even more wisdom. “Go to your room,” which can be translated, “Walk away.” They said we should try to work out our anger by releasing it against things that cannot be harmed – such as hitting a pillow or using a stress ball. They said we should think about our words. One boy even said we should forgive.
The point of the lesson was for the children to realize that we will feel anger sometimes, but we need to know how to deal with it. We need to make the right decisions about how to respond to the situation. During the lesson, the children were less than cooperative, at times loud and disruptive. It would have been very easy for her to show her anger, to raise her voice and physically remove the offending child. At one point she got very quiet. Zack’s teacher said, “When adults get very quiet, it means they are counting to ten, letting the anger fade so they can deal with the situation calmly.” It was a good example of the lesson, the children saw good decision making in action.
God has every right to be angry with us, the crown His creation. He has given us life, love and every perfect gift, yet we repay Him with our sin. We reject Him with our thoughts, words and deeds. We harm others physically, emotionally and spiritually by the things we do and don’t do. We turn from God and deserve His wrath.
Read Psalm 78:38-39
God made good decisions about how to deal with His anger. He not only walked away and spoke proper words, but He turned His wrath on Himself and forgave us our sins. He gave Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, to take the full measure of His wrath upon Himself so that we would know His justice and forgiveness. Our flesh is just a passing breeze, but He desires our spirits to be reconciled to Him. He made it possible by turning His anger from us. What kind of love is this that He would die for me? Thank God for His mercy and His Son, for without Him I would be dead. Let us walk in His ways of mercy and make good decisions about our anger.
Church signs Drive along any road in Arkansas and you will likely pass a church with a big sign in front. The signs give information about the church so that those who pass will know when they gather. Many of the church signs also give a brief message about living the Christian life. These messages are uplifting, encouraging and make us think about our lives. For the past few weeks, they have been directed at our national tragedy with words of hope, faith and calls to prayer.
These signs help calm my nerves during heavy traffic and keep me focused on our Lord God Almighty. I often find myself applying the words to my own life, recalling verses of scripture and considering who might benefit from the change brought by the truth found there. Several churches this week changed their messages from calls to prayer. Now they are trying to help people deal with the emotions they feel – fear, confusion, doubt and anger. One sign quoted the beatitude “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The best was the church that said, “Do not be afraid of those who can harm you body, for they cannot touch your soul.”
We really don’t know our enemy in this war. Americans, for the first time in many years, have realized that the enemy is on our own shores. The men who perpetrated this horrible crime lived and worked in our neighborhoods for years, planning and preparing. Now, we look at everyone with suspicion because we are afraid who else might be involved. We have a civilian doctor on our base that is stopped every day on his way to work. They do a full search of his car, though he has been part of the hospital staff for a long time.
As Christians, it is important for us to remember that whatever happens tomorrow, our Lord Jesus is waiting to draw us into His presence for eternity. We do feel some fear for our bodies because we do not want to face the unpleasantness of suffering. Yet, in these days we must remember who we are and whose we are and continue to build our spiritual lives. Keep in prayer and God’s word so that those who are trying to cause you to turn from your hope and salvation will not deceive you. Stay in the knowledge that God will protect your spirit and live in the hope of His promises.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Our time in this world is fleeting. Our hope is not in a tomorrow to live and work and breathe, but in eternal life with our Lord. Though are bodies are necessary for us to continue this life, we should never be afraid of those who can harm them. After all, that’s what the enemy seeks to do, cause us to live in fear. God is more concerned that we keep our hearts and minds free from the worries of this world so that we will live a life in keeping with our salvation – Christ in us overflowing with the glorious riches that bring that life to others. God will not let you go. Though your body may pass, your spirit cannot be destroyed. Do not be afraid. Thanks be to God.
Rest It is very early Sunday morning. The rest of the house is still sound asleep, resting from a busy Saturday and preparing their bodies for another busy day. It seems our lives are filled with things to do. The calendar has activities and responsibilities written for nearly every day – school and work, plus whatever else comes our way. In a few hours, we will go to Sunday school and church, hoping to catch a few hours of spiritual rest and renewal to give us the strength to make it through another week. Yet, even that time at church will be filled with responsibility. There is work to be done, and it seems like there is no end to it all.
God created the world in six days, and then He rested. He did not rest because He was tired, but because His work was done. The gift of the Sabbath, given from God to mankind, is a moment in time when we can stop and rest, knowing our work is done. But it seems like our work is never done. We take time out on the weekends from whatever job pays our bills, but then we must mow the lawn or do the laundry. We have to go grocery shopping or change the oil in the car. We need to do our work at church, preparing the things for worship, singing in the choir or teaching Sunday School. The rest of Sunday is spent doing the work that didn’t get done on Saturday. By Monday morning, we begin again without ever really finishing.
So many of our commitments are good things; we volunteer at church or in our neighborhoods, giving ourselves sacrificially to other people. At times, however, these responsibilities become burdens. We no longer want to do these tasks, but rather we ‘have to’ do them. We grumble and moan when we need to attend yet another meeting. Our work is never done, and we get very tired of it all. Too often, we fear that if we don’t do everything that comes our way, we will disappoint our Father and we will be rejected. We think we are righteous by what we do, so we feel we need to do more and more to be right with God. We never enter His rest.
Read Hebrews 4:1-7
Our salvation is never dependent upon our works. God created the world and on the seventh day He rested because His work was finished and it was good. The Sabbath was given to man so he could look toward the finished work of God and rejoice. Now, the Sabbath is no longer one day a week to hear God’s Word, but rather it is Today, every moment we rest in Jesus Christ. For though God’s work was complete from the beginning, it is in the work of Jesus Christ that we receive the true rest of God. In Christ, our work is no longer a burden, but a joy. You cannot earn your salvation. Our righteousness is founded in His love and His work on the cross, not in a schedule filled with commitments. Today, when you hear His voice, know that the work is complete and rest in Him, then your thoughts, words and actions will truly glorify Him. Don’t try to find your rest in an hour of worship today, but rather find it in Jesus. Thanks be to God.