Welcome to the April 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.
Scripture on this site taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
A WORD FOR TODAY, April 2001
April 1, 2001
Foolishness Today is April Fool’s day, a day filled with foolishness and jokes. Kids all over the world will play some sort of silly game with their parents and friends. As they tremble in pretend fear, they will say, “What is that sneaking up behind you?” as if there is a spider or rhinoceros were just inches away from your back.
The jokes are not limited to childish play. Adults also try to fool people. One year, not so long ago, I told everyone I was pregnant. I found it quite hysterical, because such news would have taken a miraculous act of God for Bruce and I. However, several friends were quite disappointed when I pulled the line “April fool’s!” Most jokes are just harmless fun, but not all jokes have such a happy ending. Some people go to great lengths to plan and execute practical jokes, but at times they end in pain and heartache. It may be funny on April Fool’s day to cause someone to be a fool, but in the kingdom of God it is better to be wise than to be a fool.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Are we at a time when foolishness is creeping into the hearts and minds of men? There are many religions, even some that call themselves Christian, that have turned from the one True and Living God. They do not teach the truth of the scriptures or the message of Jesus Christ. They have traded the Gospel for something they desire – doctrine that tickles their fancy and touches their flesh. Many preachers today are teaching wealth and perfection, Gnostic ideas about special knowledge from God. They are teaching the people to walk away from Christ’s body the Church, to forsake the scriptures and commands of Christ and to live a spiritual existence that seems right but is actually separate from Christ. Satanists and other non-Christian religions are giving the appearance of truth, drawing people into their lies.
The truth of God, the incredible grace, mercy and nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Power of the Holy Spirit are clearly seen – not only in scriptures but also in the creation. Are you wise, or a fool? Do you truly know God, or are you following the images created by men?
Wattle and daub We visited the Museum of Discovery here in Little Rock yesterday. This is a hands on science museum that gives children and adults the opportunity to touch and learn about different aspects of life in this world. We spent some time in an exhibit that described life for the Native Americans who lived in Arkansas. I watched a diorama programme about life in a village, which described their homes and their activities.
The wattle and daub homes were very similar to some Saxon homes we visited in England. The Anglo-Saxon village was a recreation of a settlement that had existed circa 400-900 AD. Archeologists found the remnants of this village and through trial and error tried to discover what their homes would have looked like. Wattle and daub homes are made from twigs and sticks that are twisted together to form walls, then covered in mud plaster like substance to provide some protection from the elements. These materials quickly disappear with the ravages of time and weather. All that remained for the archeologists were the foundations of the homes. They tested different theories, using the tools that the Saxons would have used, and after several attempts put together one home that used the most successful options from the previous attempts.
Our life as a Christian is a building in progress. We are God’s temple, the place in which He dwells. Christ is the foundation, and our lives of faith are the walls that are built upon that foundation.
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NIV)
In the Saxon wattle and daub homes, all we have is the foundation to show us about the life of those people. The stick and mud of their homes are long gone. Yet, we can see something of their lives in the tools and jewelry left behind. Those things were made of iron, bronze, silver and gold.
Your life of faith is built upon our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. You will have eternal life in Him, and even the most horrible existence in His presence is better than anything we could possibly imagine. Yet, we are given gifts and opportunities to build our life of faith to glorify God now and in eternity. We are building a temple with our lives by sharing the Gospel in word and deed. The best building is that which is built with gold and silver tempered by the Holy Spirit. Many temples are being built with twisted twigs and sticks covered by mud that will be unrecognizable in time.
Is your temple being built solidly with the Word of God as found in the Scriptures as you live a life of living faith? Or are you throwing up walls made of the destructible thoughts of this world? Your salvation is not dependent on the temple you build, but your life is the only thing you have to offer the Lord. What will He see after the fire of the Holy Spirit burns away the perishable things?
Busy Bees One of the exhibits at the Museum of Discovery was about honeybees. They had a Plexiglas box with a beehive inside. It was built right into the wall, with access to the outside world for the bees to do their daily work. As I watched, I could see bees coming and going, constantly moving around the hive doing their work. In a beehive, it is necessary for every bee to do its job. The queen produces larvae, the drones mate with the queen, the worker bees get the pollen that feeds the hive. Every bee does its share and the hive works together to accomplish the daily work.
“In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’
The Christian community in Paul’s time shared everything. Each member did something to benefit the community. This meant hands-on work, earning money at a regular job so that there would be food on the table. Clothes needed to be made, animals tended and children cared for. Even Paul, who was called by God to guide the Christians in their spiritual walk, worked as a tentmaker to provide for his own needs. He continued in his earthly tasks to be a solid example to the people.
Many of today’s ministries expect to be paid for giving the Gospel to the people. I have noticed that many online ministries fill their correspondence with offers to purchase their tapes, books or attend their conferences. More space is given to the selling of their materials than sharing God’s Word. They seek financial support by asking for donations. One ministry even offered special revelatory study materials for those who were willing to give a certain amount of money to become a partner in ministry.
We need to carefully consider from whom we buy the Gospel. God gives it freely to those who listen to His voice and study His Word. Serving the Lord is not work; it is joy and our spiritual offering to Him. Follow Paul’s example by doing your work in this world so that you can eat, while you serve the Lord by sharing the Gospel in thought, word and deed. Thanks be to God.
More bees The bee exhibit at the Museum of Discovery was fascinating to watch. The bees were in constant movement, going in and out of the hive. With the Plexiglas walls, you could see the action inside, as the worker bees took pollen into the honeycomb. With so much action, one would think that each bee would produce large quantities of honey. Actually, bees only produce 1/12 teaspoon of honey in their entire life. The direct impact on food production that an individual bee makes is minuscule.
Yet, bees are vital to our lives. The work of bees affects 1/3 of the food we consume. As they search for pollen to sustain their hive, they pollinate the plants that we eat. Without bees, we would starve. Though we do not have much tangible evidence of their hard work over their lifetime, just a drop of honey, they do impact the world in a mighty way.
How do we impact the world with our lives of faith? How many people have been saved because you spoke the gospel to them? How many people’s lives are different because you have been an example of Christ-like living? Do you actively seek to convert people so that you can give an accounting of the people you saved? Do you number the lives that have been changed because of you? If so, it is time to stop. This is not the work God has called us to do.
Many think the success of a church or ministry has to do with numbers. We think that if we have a congregation of a thousand, we are more blessed by God than one that has only a hundred. Ministries think it is necessary to be built up visibly by doing miraculous things to prove that God is working through them. They want to show the world tangible evidence of God’s blessings. But God works through the faith of His people. A thousand people who are working to accomplish worldly things will not have the impact that just one person of faith will have.
“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’
The bees do not go out with the intention of supplying 1/3 of the world’s food. They go out to get the pollen to sustain their lives. As they do this, God uses them to accomplish a great work. So, too it is with us. When we believe in Christ, we live our life making some minuscule impact on the world. But God, in His power and wisdom, uses our lives to have an impact we may never even realize. Thanks be to God.
Spiritual retreat, no WORD posted.
Palm Sunday Jesus’ ministry was at its peak; He had a large following. The crowds gathered to listen to Him speak about the kingdom of God. The people constantly sought Him to heal their illnesses and cast out their demons. There was talk among the disciples about making Jesus king of an earthly kingdom. They saw Him as the Messiah, the king of the Jews. But their image of the Messiah was one who would take the world by force. It would be easy for Him to do. Though His followers were not a mighty army, they were willing to do anything for Him. By the time He rode into Jerusalem, the people were in such a frenzy that it would have taken just one word from Jesus for them to rise to fight.
But Jesus had other intentions. He was going to ride into Jerusalem as a king, but not in a chariot with fine horses. Rather, He was going to ride into Jerusalem as the Servant King. He sent His disciples to a village with the instructions to get a colt that is tied there. The owners asked, “Why are you untying the colt?” The disciples answered, “The Lord needs it.” Throughout the passion narrative, Jesus is always in control. Every physical need is already answered, every desire fulfilled before spoken. There is much more to this week than the incredible provision of God. Jesus did all this to complete His mission, which reached far beyond this world.
“The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
It is a day of rejoicing. The Messiah has come! In the midst of this joviality, a plot was being hatched to rid the world of this menace. They were threatened by His work, by His miracles, by His words. However, for this day, Christ is honoured as king. Thanks be to God!
Hosanna Jesus entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” The people were excited, pulling palms from the trees to wave and throwing cloaks in the path of the donkey on which He rode. Some of the Pharisees rebuked Jesus, telling Him to quiet the crowd. Jesus answered, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
Jesus’ answers had a way of cutting right to the heart of a situation. The fire of hope that burned in the hearts of those who were following Him was spreading like wildfire. The same is often true in a church or fellowship of believers. The church, unfortunately, is filled with pew potatoes – people who go every Sunday to hear a message and give their contribution for the week. But their worship is not deep, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. They leave the sanctuary of their church and continue living in the world unchanged. When someone gets truly excited about a touch from God, they share it with others and they desire the same joy and peace in their lives.
Unfortunately, the Pharisees were like the pew potatoes. They did not understand the kingdom of God, so they were not seeing Jesus for who He was. Jesus was upset by the state of the Temple. It was a holy week, Passover. The temple courts were filled with merchants selling animals to the pilgrims so they could offer their sacrifices. Certainly some of the merchants were less than honourable about their products, their weights and conversions. Sin after sin was causing disgrace in God’s house. The worst was that the Temple was no longer a place to come to know God, but rather to attend to the works of men.
“Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, ‘”My house will be a house of prayer”; but you have made it “a den of robbers.”’
These harsh words made the Jewish leaders more upset about the work Jesus Christ was doing in their town. The plot thickens as they seek ways to remove Jesus from the hearts and minds of the people.
Storyteller Jesus was a great storyteller. The people sat mesmerized when He spoke the word of God in ways that touched their life and experience. He used examples of their every day life – vineyards, yeast, animals, clothes, building, treasures, farming, friends and money. He used the things in this world that they knew to share the Kingdom of God. The crowds were drawn to Him and the children delighted in His presence. These parables of Jesus always had a spiritual message, but were presented in a tangible way so that the people who heard them with a heart of faith understood the promise of God for their life.
Not everyone received those words with a heart of faith. The leadership often heard the stories of Jesus as condemnation against their position. They were threatened by Jesus’ focus on submission, poverty and forgiveness. They were offended by His insinuation that their obedience was not righteousness, but rather was the act of self-righteous hypocrites. With every word, they became angrier at what they heard and their hearts hardened even more. I have heard it said that the same sun that melts ice hardens clay. Those who had the heart to believe understood that the Kingdom of God was about power in our weakness, hope in our affliction and repentance from our old ways of life. Many did not hear the grace of Jesus’ message and they sought a way to end the ministry of this man, Jesus.
The bible shares more words about the Tuesday of Holy Week than any other day in the history of the world. Jesus spent the day in the temple and around Jerusalem telling parables and causing controversy. The leaders confronted Him and questioned His authority. The disciples desperately tried to understand the changes they saw in Him. In many ways, the crowds were becoming confused because the sweet stories of hope were becoming warnings of woe to those who would not listen.
“While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.’
The leaders were already hardened against the message. On this day, we can see how the people began to turn away from Jesus, because He was no longer fulfilling their desires. He was preparing them to accept the ultimate sacrifice. Were they ready to receive it?
Quiet The scriptures are silent about the activities of Jesus and His disciples on the Wednesday of Holy Week. It is likely that Jesus spent the day in prayer and in the company of His beloved friends. He knew the time was drawing close for His death and that there was nothing left for Him to do.
Jesus was so different than other men. He shared the Kingdom of God with the chosen people of Israel, but they rejected all that He was telling them. People tend to get desperate when we think we have not been heard, or when people do not react to our words as we think they should. When we are rejected, we do everything we can to convince people of our message. We even go as far as to sin – cause anger, hatred, violence, bitterness, fear and pain – to make our expectations come to pass. We do not intend those emotions, but in our desperation we lose control. Jesus was not desperate, He did not seek to convince anyone. During every moment of this walk, He was in control. He spoke the truth of God then let it go. Either they heard and believed or they did not.
While Jesus was spending this day of rest in prayer and fellowship, the leaders continued to plot the destruction of this man they have come to fear and despise. We do not know when Judas made his pact with the chief priests and teachers of the law to betray Jesus. We do not know why Judas would do such a thing. Judas’ heart did not understand the ministry and purpose of Jesus Christ. He was greedy and lusted after power. Perhaps Judas was trying to put Jesus in a position that would leave Him no choice but to rise to power. Perhaps Judas was disillusioned with the harsh message that Jesus had been preaching. Perhaps Judas was just desperate to have things turn out his way.
He went to the leaders and for thirty silver coins, Judas agreed to watch for the right moment to hand Him over to His enemies.
“Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’
The world around Jesus was in tumult as the people played out their roles in this incredible drama. Through it all, Jesus remained calm and in control. He was preparing His heart for that moment when He would take all our sins, including those committed against Him in these final moments, on Himself.
Submission Today is Maundy Thursday. In many different Christian denominations, congregations will gather to share in the final night of our Lord Jesus Christ. He gathered with His disciples to share the Passover Seder feast. During that gathering, He spoke to them in love and shared the truth of His message. As His followers we are to submit ourselves to God and each other in sacrificial love.
Jesus didn’t just talk about that love, He showed them. At the supper, He removed His cloak and wrapped a towel around His waste and got on His knees to wash their feet. This menial task was one that only a servant would do. Peter was so incensed by the action he rejected Jesus with the words, “No, you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus persisted because it was by His example that He showed them what they were expected to do. “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” The disciples were specially chosen to serve the Lord. They had to know that they were no greater than those in the world to whom they would take the Gospel.
Jesus instituted a new covenant of faith at this meal. The Passover Seder was a remembrance of the deliverance of the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt. The meal was highly symbolic, recalling the bitterness and affliction, as well as the rebirth and joy of their new life of freedom. The people celebrated the Passover each year in expectation that the Messiah would soon return. There was great hope at this celebration, because the people believed they had found the one who would free them from the oppression of the Romans.
Jesus made no such promises. Rather, He spoke through the elements of the Passover and made a new covenant with them. He took the bread, gave thanks to God and gave it for all to eat. He had told His followers that He is the bread of life. In this new covenant He told them to eat regularly of the bread to remember that He is the true bread. After the supper He took the cup, symbolic in the Seder as being the cup of Redemption. He gave thanks and gave it to all to drink. He told them that this cup is His blood, and that only His blood would redeem them from their sins. By His death we would be forgiven. Today we recall those words and His promise according to His command to share the bread and wine in remembrance of Him. By His death we are forgiven.
During the celebration, Jesus spoke about betrayal and denial. Peter said he would stand with Christ to the end, but Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times. Jesus spoke to Judas and told him to go do what he was chosen to do. Several of the disciples got into an argument about who would be the greatest among them in the kingdom. Even at this late hour, after all Jesus had spoken to them about sacrificial love, they still sought the power of this world. Even in these acts of the flesh – betrayal, denial and pride – Jesus still had full control.
Jesus took the disciples to Gethsemane so that He could spend time in prayer. It is at this moment that Jesus Christ makes the final and most incredible act of submission – that to His Father’s will.
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
The ministry of Jesus Christ was about to close in a most painful and horrible manner, yet He stood and walked right into the hands of His betrayer. It was the will of God.
Crucifixion It had been approximately thirty-three years since the birth of our Saviour. For the last three years, he shared the Kingdom of God. During that time he did many incredible things. He healed the sick, cast out demons and fed thousands. He even raised the dead. He preached a new truth to the people, that God is merciful, full of forgiveness and love. He also taught that following Him would not be easy, that He demands much from our lives.
After He spent time in prayer, Judas came with a crowd of people. So that His accusers would not which man to arrest, Judas betrayed his friend with a kiss. Peter tried to stop the event from continuing by swinging his sword. A guard was injured by Jesus healed the wound. The will of God would not be hindered by the desires of men. Jesus appeared before Caiaphas, the chief priest, so that the Sanhedrin could find some crime worthy of death. By Roman law, the Jews could not put a man to death. They found him guilty of blasphemy.
The disciples scattered. They hid in the crowds, trying to see each moment, but afraid of being discovered. Peter warmed himself over a fire, trying to fit in to the crowd. Three people approached him and claimed they had seen him with Jesus. Three times, Peter denied knowing him, just as Jesus said. After the final denial, a rooster crowed and Jesus looked directly at Peter. Peter wept bitterly because he knew that he had betrayed his Lord.
Jesus was taken before Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate could find nothing against Rome that would be punishable by the death penalty. When Pilate discovered Jesus was from Galilee, he sent him to be tried by Herod. Pilate was anxious to be rid of this problem. His wife has seen in a dream that Pilate would be blamed for the death of this innocent man. Leaders from the temple were scattered in the crowd that watched the proceedings. He was taken to Herod who was quite excited about seeing Jesus face to face. He’d heard so much about the man; he wanted to see some mighty miracle performed before him. When Jesus would not prove himself, Herod humiliated Him and sent Him back to Pilate.
Pilate did not see reason for death, so he took the question to the crowd. Someone yelled, “Crucify him!” The crowd that was yelling, “Hosanna” just days before were so agitated by Jesus’ actions in the past few days, they easily fell into the atmosphere of anger, fear and violence. They yelled, “Crucify him!” Pilate had no choice. The final betrayal came when the people said, “We have no king but Caesar.” They showed Jesus that they did not even look to the Lord God Almighty as their King.
Through all this, Jesus was humiliated, beaten and stripped of everything. They took His clothes and His dignity. They force a cross onto His already sore and bleeding back and pushed Him on to Golgatha. As He walked His final footsteps on this earth, He faced the women who were weeping over His fate. He told them to weep for themselves, because the time would come when they would face great suffering. He saw His mother and the one disciple who stayed near. He gave Mary to John to care for the rest of her life, seeing to her welfare, even in the midst of His pain.
He had great difficulty carrying the cross, falling under the heavy burden. A man, Simon, was ordered to carry it for Him. Other prisoners were taken with Him to the hill, each sentenced to die for their crime. One thief begged Jesus to save them, but the other humbled Himself in repentance and accepted responsibility for the wrongs he had done. Jesus welcomed him to His kingdom. The soldiers mocked Jesus and tried to serve Him a poison that would bring death more quickly, but Jesus refused. He would control every moment. As Max Lucado so eloquently states, “He chose the nails.”
“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’--which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
It is finished. Jesus Christ is dead.
Mourning It is finished; Jesus Christ is dead. There is such finality to that statement. Jesus died at the ninth hour, 3:00 PM. The earth rocked with the anger of God. The ground shook and the rocks split. A centurion pierced Jesus in the side, and His blood spilled into the earth. The curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom. This curtain was not some flimsy piece of material like lace, easily ripped. It was thick, a wall like protective covering over the Most Holy Place, the dwelling of God Himself. Within the room which was covered by this curtain was the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat, the Throne of God. When Jesus died, God ripped the curtain from top to bottom, opening the way into His presence for all people, not just the High Priest. God would no longer live in a box.
Jesus died just hours before the Passover Sabbath was to begin. It was necessary for Him to be buried quickly for no one could do such work after sunset of that day. A temple leader named Joseph of Arimathea, who was a righteous man that did not agree with the verdict of the council, approached Pilate for the body of Jesus. He took the body, wrapped it in a new cloth and laid it in his own tomb, one that had never been used. The women watched as Jesus was laid in the tomb, so they would know where to go to properly prepare His body for permanent burial.
Judas was shocked by the events of the day, of the violence against Jesus and His ultimate death. He went to the chief priests and tried to repent of his sins, but they refused to offer forgiveness. Judas threw the money back at them and ran off to commit suicide. The priests knew they could not keep such blood money, so they bought a field with it. The destruction of Judas was foretold in scripture, and he did such because he saw no hope.
This day is a day of mourning, as the disciples reflect upon the final days of Jesus life. During the trial, many of the disciples went into hiding. They feared for their own lives. Jesus had no one who would defend Him. The women stayed close at great risk, but they were helpless. Peter denied his Lord after vehemently claiming to that he would stand by Him until death. They did not understand what Jesus had to do, and as they mourned His death they questioned their own role. We, too, consider these questions as we journey with Jesus, particularly at times of sorrow and distress. Why me, why now, why this? Is this really the end?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Is it finished? Is Jesus Christ really dead? Is there any hope?
Resurrection Where is the hope? The hope is in the third day.
“After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
In the days to follow, Jesus appeared before many people. He appeared to Mary in the garden and when He spoke her name she knew it was her Lord. He walked with two of His disciples on the road Emmaus. These men were discussing the events of the week when Jesus joined them. They told Him the story and invited Him to dinner. They did not know who He was, because their eyes were closed. At the table, Jesus broke the bread, their eyes were opened and they understood the scriptures Jesus had spoken to them. He appeared to the disciples who were eating together, and He rebuked them for not believing the witness of those who testified to His resurrection. He appeared to Thomas, who required tangible evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus came and told him to put his finger in the holes. Thomas confessed His faith, “My Lord and my God.” But Jesus answered, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Do you believe? Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ walked this path, from His victorious ride into Jerusalem to the cross and tomb, and finally raised from the dead? Do you believe that He took upon Himself the sin of the world, your sins, so that you will be forgiven? Do you believe that He died and rose again? Rejoice and be glad! Jesus was dead and now He’s alive. The hope is in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God. Hallelujah!
So that Do you believe? Throughout Holy Week, we followed the footsteps of Jesus. We shared in His suffering and in the pain, grief and doubt of His disciples. We watched as the crowd turned from jubilant to defiant. We watched as the disciples hid because of their regret and fear. We watched and identified with the mourning. Were we crying over Jesus or over our own participation in Jesus death?
This would be a horrible story if it were not for the ending. We also watched as Jesus was brought back to life. Jesus told Mary just weeks before, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) When we share in the death of our Lord through baptism, we also share in His resurrection and His glory.
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:7-11 (NIV)
It is in this sharing, the life of Christ in and through us, that God is glorified. The world sees Him through us. They see His grace, peace and love in our lives as we serve Him by serving each other. We have been blessed with this incredible gift, so that we will be a blessing. Yet, the feelings of the disciples two thousand years ago are as real to us today as they were for them. Some of you do not quite know what you believe. Perhaps you go to church, but you just do not know why? Or perhaps you do not fellowship with Christians because you have many doubts about God. You are in despair because the resurrection is not real to you. Others of you understand the resurrection, but you do not know how to live your faith in the world today. You are in a state of gloom, trying to learn how to live your resurrected life to God’s glory. There are yet others who are just discouraged.
It is time to leave the despair, gloom and discouragement behind, for the Lord God Almighty has given to you the gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus. He has done this so that you will walk in faith, living the resurrection in this world. As you do, others will be called away from the despair, gloom and discouragement so that they will live the resurrection in this world. In this way, God will be glorified. Thanks be to God.
A poem written April 7, 2001
Rise up, oh saints, rise up
the Lord God Almighty
has called you away
the Light and Life of
you can be the vessel
the Light and Life of
God's children will
Memorial I recently visited the Oklahoma City Memorial. This park and museum were established in memory of the 168 people who were killed when Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building in that city. It also honoured those who worked so hard in the hours following the explosion to save lives and bring peace and love to those who were grieving. It was a powerful experience.
A book that was released recently claimed McVeigh had some conscience when he was planning the bombing. He intended to blow up the TCBY building in centre city Little Rock, Arkansas. However, as he staked out the building, he saw a flower shop on the ground level of the building. He wanted to keep civilian casualties to a minimum, since his target was the United States Government. Though destruction of that building would have served his purpose well, he chose to change to the Oklahoma building. He did not do as well when he surveyed the building in Oklahoma City. The building housed a day care centre. Nineteen of his victims were children, most of whom were in that day care at 9:02 am on April 19, 1995.
Timothy McVeigh thought the best way to deal with his problems was from outside of society with violence. In the process, he brought death and destruction to the lives of many. He was paying back evil for evil.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21 (NIV)
In the shocking moments that followed the bombing, America and the world drew together in prayer. People came from every direction to lend a hand, even from within the remains of the building. Many risked their lives to save others from death.
Timothy McVeigh felt the only way to solve his problem was to fight evil with evil. The people of Oklahoma City, however, fought the evil with love. Dennis Compton a rescuer from Arizona was quoted as saying, “We went to Oklahoma City to assist with a horrible situation that centered around death and destruction. But we went home with a life lesson about how a community should react to adversity.”
May we learn the same lesson as we deal with our own problems in our lives of faith. Thanks be to God.
Separation Children have a very simple way of dealing with their anger. I’m sure we have all heard our kids, when they are having a problem with a friend, say “I never want to see you again.” Often, this leads them to finding another friend, and the new friendship plays itself out by hurting the old friend. Separation leads to negative actions such as slander, brawling and malice. Fortunately, children usually overcome their anger quickly and the two friends become three as everyone forgives and forgets the incident.
In today’s world, however, some children are finding that the way to solve their problems is to react in a violent way. Children are using weapons of destruction, such as guns and knives, to bring peace to their lives. Timothy McVeigh went a step further. He used thousands of pounds of explosives to destroy a building when only a few hundred would level it. He took the lives of 168 people and destroyed the lives of thousands because he separated himself from the system and became bitter and angry.
How often do we solve our problems by separating ourselves? When our friends hurt us, we break off the relationships. When we can’t handle our spouse, we get a divorce. When we see the human imperfections of our brethren at church, we decide that we do not need such Christian fellowship to have a relationship with God. We separate ourselves from our relationships, but that separation causes bitterness and anger.
The one thing I learned at the Oklahoma City Memorial is that we cannot fix our problems from the outside. We have to stay inside – our families, our friendships, our church – to fix the weakness with true love of Christ. We must start even deeper though, within ourselves.
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
When we sinned in the garden, God put us out of the garden. He could have allowed that separation to be complete. Instead, He stayed with us through our rebellion always providing a way out of our evil ways. When we did not turn to Him, He came in flesh to live among us, tempted by the same things but continuing without sin. He knows what it is like to live like a human. He loved us so much that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we would no longer be separated from Him. He changes us from within so that we will share His message and change our families, friendships and churches from within. Outside we know only anger, bitterness and strife. Inside, we can give love, peace and joy. Thanks be to God.
Marks The bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City left a mark on the city and the people that would take more than just a Band-Aid to heal. The Memorial was built so that the people could have a lasting remembrance – not of the destruction and death but of the hope and unity that came in the aftermath. They tell the story, show the pain and suffering, but you leave with sense of mission to make your own mark on this world.
During aftermath of the bombing, children from all over the world send greetings to the people of Oklahoma City, to provide comfort and love. The children felt so helpless because they wanted to help in some way. Those letters and pictures did help. As the planners designed the memorial, they recognized the need to put a focus on the children, to give them a way to share their feelings. Our children are our future, and it is in their hearts where the greatest change can come. Outside the museum is an area for the children, or anyone, to write messages in coloured chalk. These messages do not last forever, each day it is cleaned so that more children can leave their mark. However, the memory of writing a promise or message of hope remains with the child forever.
There are several other places in the Memorial where you can leave a message. In the museum there is a fountain. The brass wall has handprint stains from the visitors. Each person is welcome to touch the water then the wall. A chemical reaction leaves an imprint of your hand. The water drips down the wall, leaving streaks that appear to be tears. Handprint covers handprint as people silently promise to remember the lessons.
In another area of the museum, each person is invited to take a square of magnet and write a message to be placed on a wall. There is a guestbook to sign with your own promises to take the lessons of hope and change to the world.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:12-16 (NIV)
We are still not perfect. We still separate ourselves from God and mercy. We still get angry, bitter, frightened, violent and hateful. Yet today, as we mark the sixth anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma City, let us remember the things we have learned – from the scriptures and from the lives of those who have survived that suffering. Leave your mark on the world, and let it be one that shows the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The Spirit of God has marked you for a purpose, to make a difference in His creation. Thanks be to God.
Time The garden at the Oklahoma City Memorial is beautiful and filled with symbolism. There is an old tree, called “the Survivor Tree” because it has survived being destroyed several times, including the bombing. There is a field of chairs, one for each person who died that day. The chairs are on a grassy field, right where the building once stood. The chairs have the names engraved and are lined up according to where the people were when they died. Most of the chairs for the children were on the second floor, and those tiny chairs are a constant reminder of the innocence that was lost that day.
In the centre of the garden is a reflecting pool where the street once ran in front of the building. At either end of the pool are gateways. One says 9:01; the other says 9:03. The significance of this part of the garden is to recognize how much can happen in just one minute of time. The bombing occurred at 9:02, and in that minute, which must have felt like an eternity, lives were lost and changed forever.
I have noticed in this day that many things seem to be happening so quickly. News is instantaneous. Children are growing up too fast too soon. We can microwave a cup of coffee in a minute and cook a turkey in less than an hour. We are living on the fast lane of life, moving quickly from one thing to another. Ideas change like the wind because new information can be passed from person to person in seconds.
There have been many changes within the body of Christ. New ideas, new doctrines, new ways to live our faith are coming into the open faster than we can study them. Cults and cult-like teachings are flooding the airwaves, and people are turning to these ideas en masse. It seems to be happening so fast, beyond our control.
“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
In just one minute of time, lives were changed and lost. In our world today, everything is happening faster, but we have to remember that God is always faithful. No matter what changes occur in our lives, we know that God will fulfill His promise to us, His children. Walk in faith today, knowing that one minute of your life living according to God’s promise, can make changes for good and bring life, rather than death to this world. Thanks be to God.
Calendar The older we get, the faster time seems to pass. I remember as a child how summer days used to last forever. We would play, swim, rest and read from sun-up to sundown. Even in the dark of night, we found games to play like “Catch the lightning bug” and “Flashlight tag”. Three months of summer vacation were an eternity, and toward the end we began to get bored and anxious for school to begin again.
As an adult, summer vacation does not seem long enough. We don’t find the time to do all the things we want to do, like barbecue with our neighbours or take a trip to the mountains. We continue to mark time by celebrating holidays and birthdays. Day after day we live our lives in this world, often caught in the rut of regularity. We get up, go to work, do our job and then come home to deal with the normal course of life in our families and homes. We change our calendars from year to year, but we could almost use the same one repeatedly, since things don’t seem to change.
The church follows a calendar that was established many years ago. Many liturgical churches follow a lectionary, an established pattern of scripture that is designed so that the people hear the complete message of the bible in a few years. This follows the example of the Jews, who read the scrolls in the temple according to a specific calendar. The readings followed the seasons of the year. There were feasts and festivals that were held at different times. These celebrations were times of praise, prayer and repentance and were associated with the agricultural calendar. Passover was the feast of first fruits and was scheduled at the time that barley and flax were harvested. Pentecost aligned with the harvest of wheat. The feast of booths was in the fall when the fields were prepared to receive the seed of barley and wheat. Hanukkah brought in the winter rain.
The Christian calendar follows closely to the Jewish calendar. Experts claim the calendar is not accurate, that Jesus was not born in December and that the placement of Easter is based more on pagan holidays than on the agricultural seasons. Does the actual day matter? I do not think so. The point of the liturgical calendar is so that we will remember throughout the year every aspect of our Lord Jesus’ life and ministry, as well as recall the wonders of God from the beginning to today.
We spent six weeks in the wilderness of Lent, recalling our own sin and confessing to God our failure. During Holy Week, we watched Jesus go from victory to death to the final Victory over death. Now, we celebrate the Risen Lord with praise for what He has done and what He continues to do in our lives.
“Praise the LORD.
The joy of Resurrection will pass at the calendar marches on. We will continue to live our day to day lives, dealing with work family and home. Our churches will continue to read through the scriptures according to the pattern established and we will eventually see Pentecost, Christmas and then back to Lent once again. Through it all, let us all rejoice in the Lord and sing His praise. Everything that has breath praise God for His blessings this day and always. Praise the Lord. Amen.
Dish Soap. We have all laughed at the comedic antics of some man doing the work his wife usually does, such as vacuuming, dusting, dishes or the laundry. My particular favourite is the man who adds too much detergent to the washing machine and it overflows with suds all over the basement. It is hard to believe that any human being would make such a mistake.
Until you do something similar. I had a dishwasher full of dishes when I discovered that I did not have any soap. I decided to use a tiny bit of regular dish soap so that I could run the dishes through without going to the store. Unfortunately, I added a bit too much, and the dishwasher began to overflow. I knew as I was doing it that I was using too much, but I didn’t think it would be that bad.
I have a friend whose son has gotten into some trouble recently. He has decided it would be better to be popular than to do what is right. His grades have slipped and he is getting detentions at school because he has not been completing his assignments. At home, he has not been sleeping and he has been feeling rather poorly. His body was reacting to the stress of not doing what he was supposed to do.
We know right from wrong. Our parents and the other adults in our lives have taught these things to us, however there is an inborn understanding of what is good and what is evil. As Christians, we have the scriptures to show us what God sees as right and wrong, but other religions seem to follow a similar formula.
“There are six things the LORD hates,
This passage from Proverbs provides the basic foundation for the laws that many religions follow. The Ten Commandments teach us to respect authority and to not murder, steal or lie. As Christians, we know we need to follow the Word of God. But people in general know the difference between right and wrong. God gives us a conscience, the knowledge between what is good and evil. When we tend toward error, He often gives us a twinge of a reminder, such as the son who was not sleeping well because of the stress of doing what was wrong. I knew it was wrong to add to much soap to the dishwasher.
We suffer the consequences of our error, cleaning up the mess caused by our failure to follow the rules. When we do fail, we also have an intercessor in Jesus Christ. He has died on the cross so that we will be forgiven for what we have done against God’s Word. However, as forgiven people, we should strive to avoid the things that God despises – pride, lies, murder, scheming, evil, false witness and dissension. We should walk in faith and serve God in humility, truth and love. Thanks be to God.
Weakest Link The hottest new show on the television is a British import game show called “The Weakest Link”. This show is a cross between Jeopardy! and Survivor. The contestants must answer difficult questions to earn cash, working together to build as large a prize as they can. But, only one member of the team goes home with the cash. After each round, the contestants vote for the person they consider the weakest link who is then kicked off the show. The people are interviewed throughout the show, and the answers are often mean-spirited and offer blame and accusation against the other members of the team. It can be cutthroat, but many people find it exciting to watch.
Ann Robinson, the host of the show, has been praised and criticized for her technique on the show. Between rounds, Ann addresses the contestants and asks questions about their performance. She is particularly hard on the contestants who fail to answer questions that reflect aspects of their lives. If an actress is unable to answer a question about the Oscars, she will be targeted. If a Math teacher is unable to answer a question about multiplication, he will be questioned. Ann has a way of coming up with a variety of synonyms for the failures of the team such as pathetic, pitiful, wretched or miserable. She asks questions like, “Is there a village missing an idiot?” Her job seems to be to run down the contestants and make them feel worthless. She has been called many names and is seen as a very cruel person.
Yet, off the show, she is actually a very nice person. She loses that hard-edged look and speaks with a soft voice. She was once a consumer advocate, a job that meant she had to be strong to fight, but soft to gain the confidence of her clients. When she is interviewed, she is often relaxed, pleasant and kind. The image she has on the show is simply an image, created to make the show exciting to watch.
We often put on different faces for our own situations. If we have a job that requires us to be hard-edged, we put that on during our working hours, but when we go home at night we relax and treat those around us much differently. Unfortunately, we often put on faces that cover up our true feelings and actions. Some Christians put on a mask that they wear but their actions are far from being Christ-like. They go to church on Sunday mornings, but they lie cheat and steal when they go out into the world on Monday morning. The talk of love and peace, but they hate in their hearts and the cause dissension among people. This problem is not new; Paul dealt with it his letters to the early churches.
“For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Even one of their own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Titus 1:10-16 (NIV)
These are harsh words from Paul. It was written to people within the church of Crete who were not living according to the life of Christ in them. Do you know anyone today who claim to know God, but whose actions deny Him? Do you ever act in such a manner? As Christians, we know that though we are imperfect and we do make mistakes, we have been and will be forgiven. However, we also know that there is a standard by which we are called to live. It is by that standard the world sees us, and sees Christ in us. If you are like the Cretans, you are rebellious and must turn from your wicked ways.
Seek God, in prayer and study. Be transformed by His loving touch and incredible power. Be the child that God has created you to be – loving, obedient and fit for every good work of God.
Mercy Jesus was teaching one day when an expert in the law asked Him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded with a question, “What is written in the law and how do you read it?” Jesus did not simply answer the question, but asked the expert to provide the answer from the scriptures. He asked the expert to provide his answer in his own words, according to his own interpretation. The expert provided the answer from two different passages of scripture. First he quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Then he used Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Everything written in the scripture – the Law and Prophets – are summarized by those two passages. The kingdom of God rests on those two commandments.
Jesus said the expert had spoken well and that he should go live according to those very words. It is difficult for us to live those commandments in our life. The first – to love God with our heart, soul, strength and mind – calls us to submit to God 100%, to give Him everything we are and do. We would prefer to give Him an hour a week and 10% of our stuff. But God desires and demands that we give Him everything – including our thoughts, words and deeds. During His ministry, Jesus taught us how to live the second commandment. He taught us how to love our neighbour as ourselves.
In thought, we must not think more highly of ourselves, but rather consider ourselves servants to all we meet. Jesus said that though the law says we should not commit murder and adultery, we should not even think angry or lustful thoughts about our neighbour. Our actions begin with our thoughts, so we must keep our thoughts toward heavenly things so that our actions will glorify God. In word, we are taught in the scriptures to speak with compassion and love. Words of bitterness, malice or hatred should never pass from our lips. We should not speak lies or false witness against our neighbour. Our words are very powerful, and can bring pain and distress to our neighbour if we are not careful. When our words bring comfort and hope, joy and peace, then we will glorify God. In deed, Jesus showed us by His example how to love our neighbour. He healed the sick, He provided food for the hungry, and He shared the kingdom of God with all that would listen. We are to do the same in our life of faith, walking in trust that God will provide all we need to do our work.
The expert recognized that he was not living the words he spoke as fully as he should, and he did not want to change his ways. So, he tried to justify himself by asking Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”
“In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”
As Christians, we are called out of darkness into the light and life of Christ Jesus to live according the great commandments. We are to love God and each other. When we have mercy on our neighbour, whether they are family, friend or foe, we show the world our love of God, and He is glorified. It is in that love and mercy to others that we show God that we love Him with our whole selves. Today, have mercy on your neighbour. Meet their needs of comfort, protection, food and shelter. Meet those needs in whatever manner you are able, but do so in every thought, word and deed. Meet those needs by the power of God in the name of Jesus for the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Letters There are studies that show that e-mail is destroying the art of letter writing today. In days past, people spent much time corresponding with family and friends with pen and paper, particularly when families were separated by great distance geographically. In this age, e-mail is instantaneous and distance seems much less a hurdle to cross. People pop off a couple sentence note that tells only the most important information, leaving out the small talk and greetings that are typical of old-fashioned letters. Most people do not even bother with spelling, grammar or punctuation when they write these notes.
Letter writing in the ancient days was far more difficult. Few people could write or read, so any such correspondence necessitated a skilled person to accomplish the task. They could not go to the Staples down the street and buy a ream of paper, letters were written on clay tablets or parchment, but these were difficult and expensive. Papyrus was the most typical material in biblical times. Letters were used for official business – royal edicts, military orders or for managing internal affairs.
The New Testament includes twenty-one letters sent from apostles to churches or members of churches. The purpose for these letters varies, but all were written to guide the early church into the right path following the Lord Jesus. They share the Gospel. A few letters address heresies that were beginning to creep into the teaching of certain leaders. Other letters rebuke and correct the members when they are not acting in thought, word and deed according to God’s Word. Some letters were written to settle disputes among members of the church, to give advice about how to overcome the human frailty that often gets in the way of our living our life of faith as God intends. All the letters offer encouragement to the believers through the promise of God in Christ Jesus.
These letters were written for us as much as they were written for the early church. We still argue and fight over simple things. We still act sinfully, in anger and bitterness. We still get proud of our flesh and need to be reminded that it is only by God’s power that we can do anything to glorify Him. We still fail, fear and doubt. So, we need to be reminded daily of God’s promise and of the incredible saving work of our Lord Jesus on the cross. And though the letters of Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude often sound harsh, they are filled with words of hope and faith – to encourage the readers into a higher way of living.
“I write to you, dear children,
So, too, I write to you because you are heirs to the Kingdom of God, saved by the blood of Jesus and transformed into His image to love and serve Him with your whole being. Be encouraged and know that though things are not perfect – in our lives, churches, homes, neighbourhoods or nations – by faith in Jesus you have overcome the evil one because you know God and He lives in you. He has forgiven you and granted you another day to live as He has called you to live – in faithful obedience and trusting His Word. Thanks be to God.
Monet I have always enjoyed looking at the work of the French Impressionist Claude Monet. His subtle use of colour and brushstroke has a calming affect on the viewer. When you view one of his paintings in a book, print or on the computer, the paint seems to be applied in a stipple technique. Stippling is drawing or painting in small dots or strokes.
I have so admired the work of the Impressionists that I have tried to paint in a similar fashion. Whenever I do so, I just cannot seem to get the same affect. The paint gets overworked and I get a muddy mess on the canvas. The peaceful painting I imagine in my head is bunch of confusing blobs of paint. Eventually, I gave up painting.
I visited the Art Museum in Little Rock Tuesday morning with Vicki’s fifth grade class. We went to view an exhibition of work by Young Arkansas artists. The fifth graders at Vicki’s school were honoured to have their group project selected for this special show. We also viewed an exhibition by Will Barnet, an artist whose style uses aspects of Native American art as well as cubism. He also has several pieces that use techniques learned during his classical training. The exhibition includes many drawings that show his development of the pieces. He draws up to a hundred sketches before ever touching a canvas. It is interesting to see what how he works through design ideas and then compare those sketches to the final piece.
To me, the most fascinating thing about this exhibit was being able to look closely at the paintings, to understand the brushstrokes and how he mixed colour and texture. When I paint, I am obsessed by the need to cover the canvas with paint. By the time I am finished, there are several layers of paint so that the painting is smooth to the touch and all trace of the canvas has disappeared. When looking at Mr. Barnet’s work, I realized that the texture of the paint and canvas are part of the total affect of the picture.
This was a good thing for me to learn, but Will Barnet is not Claude Monet, and I still wanted to paint like the impressionists rather than the cubists. We continued our tour of the Art Centre, looking at pieces by artists the children had studied in school. In the final gallery, I found myself standing nose to canvas with a painting by Claude Monet. I examined the brushstrokes and use of colour. Much to my surprise, Monet also used texture to create depth, lights and shadows, in the design. There were places where the paint was just a wash and other places where it was thick. I found that his style was not simply stippling, but that he used long smooth strokes and dry brush techniques that gave the impression of small dots.
Throughout my artistic training, several teachers told me that I did not need to cover every bit of the canvas with thick layers of paint. They told me that it would overwork the paint and I would get a muddy mess. Yet, I continued to paint the way I perceived my favourite artists painted. It was not until I could look at a piece on my own, to really analyze the style and techniques, that I could learn that lesson.
“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” John 16:25-28 (NIV)
Before Jesus, the people had to go to priests in the temple to communicate with God. Jesus Christ came in flesh and blood so that He would know what it is like to be human. While He was among the disciples, they came to Him for instruction about the Kingdom of God. Then He died on the cross so that we would be forgiven and able to approach God on our own.
A teacher could not give me what I needed when it came to my art; I needed to see an example to believe what they said. I may just try again, and perhaps now I will get it right. The work of Jesus Christ made it possible for us to go directly to God for ourselves, to see and know His love. By knowing the forgiveness for ourselves, we might just start living our life of faith as God intends. Thanks be to God.
Provision There is a commercial for a financial institution that shows an exaggerated version of what can happen in our lives. The dog ate an expensive pair of shoes that needs to be replaced; a young girl drew a picture all over the wall that now needs a new coat of paint; another child outgrew his clothes and needs a new wardrobe; a teenager got a driver’s license; a young adult was accepted to college; the car stopped working. These good and bad experiences will cost money, which is often not available. Our paychecks only go so far, and we still have to have a roof over our heads and food on our tables. The financial institution has programmes designed to help people prepare for such times.
The most difficult financial emergency comes when a close family member passes away, particularly if it is the one who is the wage earner in the family. In the military, we see this happen too often, when military men or women die while serving their country. The families not only have to overcome the grief of loosing their loved one, but they also have to deal with the financial responsibilities that come. They need to pay for the funeral and pay off debts. They need to decide where to live, particularly if they were in military housing. The decisions are difficult and expensive. It can leave some families in poverty.
“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’
In the story of this widow, the creditors were going to take her children to be slaves. This was an acceptable practice, established in the Law of Moses. However, many creditors abused the practice and mistreated their slaves. Without her children, the widow would be left with nothing – no support or hope for the future. God provided her with just enough. She did not become wealthy by this awesome gift from God, but she did have enough to survive.
We should not mishandle the material gifts God has given to us, by wasting money on foolish things. There are times, however, when we all find ourselves in a position of needing some extra cash to cover an emergency. Jesus tells us in the Gospels that we should not worry about these things and to simply ask God for our daily bread. He has promised to provide for our every need. We may find ourselves in situations that seem hopeless, but God is faithful. Our miracle may not be so spectacular as the ever-flowing oil, but I’ve heard many stories of unexpected checks in the mail or promotions that come out of the blue. In all things, we must praise God for his provision. Thanks be to God.
Baldcypress The Arkansas landscape near our home is quite flat. The network of rivers that wind their way into the Arkansas River often flood the forests that line the banks. This flooding is a necessary part of the ecological system. It provides nutrients and cleansing to the soil, creates waterland habitats for animals and then leaves behind piles of sticks and leaves that offer homes for animals when the floodwaters recede. Many areas of land near the Arkansas River appear to be lakes, with trees growing right in the middle of these waters. I could not understand how these trees could survive, with their roots submerged in water. Most plants eventually drown if their roots could not breathe. Yet, some of these trees appear to be quite ancient.
Yesterday, Zack’s second grade class went on a field trip to Pinnacle Mountain State Park and I had the pleasure of tagging along. Pinnacle Mountain is a lovely peak near Little Rock, with 40 miles of trails that lead through the different types of environments that are found in Arkansas. We visited the Lowland Forest. This forest trail follows a small river, shows the affects of flooding and has a wonderful array of wildlife to discover. We saw bugs, birds, fish, snakes, turtles, lizards and many types of plants.
Along the river we came to the Baldcypress trees. These are the same trees that I’ve seen in the middle of the swampy areas along the river. These trees are very old; some of them have lived for five centuries. We noticed that these trees had a very unusual root system. They were extensive, reaching far beyond the base of the tree. The roots give stability to the great trees, holding them in place when the ground beneath them is less stable. Even more interesting was the strange growth on the roots. They have what is called ‘knees’, protrusions that reach up out of the water. These are like snorkels that stay above the surface of the water when the tree is submerged, so that the roots can still breathe. Though these trees live in an environment that would kill them, they have adapted to that environment and become an important part of it. The trees provide homes for animals and help stop erosion. Without them, the forest would be a different place.
Christians are like those ancient Baldcypress trees. We live in a world that wants to suffocate us with its ways. Society floods us with expectations that we cannot fulfill without being disobedient to our Lord. Our family, friends and neighbours do not always understand the way we have chosen to live – in faith and trust of God our Father in Jesus’ name. They often look at our actions as judgmental and holier-than-thou because we refuse to partake in the ways of this world. It is easy for us to get caught up in those ways. It is easy for us to remain silent about our Lord Jesus Christ when we should be speaking His Word into this world. But sometimes we are afraid.
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:4-7 (NIV)
God has provided a way for the Baldcypress trees to breathe when the floodwaters cover their roots. Those ancient trees have stood for centuries as a testament to the intricacy of God’s creation. God has provided us with the breath of life that is His Holy Spirit. We should not be afraid to live in this world, to be surrounded by the things that could kill us, because God knows where we are and what we are facing. Stand strong in the knowledge of who you are in Christ, and speak His Word with confidence so that you might testify to His amazing grace. Thanks be to God.
Investigation As we wandered through the trail at Pinnacle Mountain State Park, we tried to find different types of plant life. We were particularly interested in finding the poison ivy so as to help the children avoid it. The picture in our materials was a simple line drawing; accompanied by the statement that poison ivy can grow as a vine, an erect tall shrub or as a small ground cover. All three types are found in the Arkansas forest. The first type we found was the tall shrub and though the leaves looked like the ones on the paper, it was different than the poison ivy any of the moms had ever seen before. We continued to search the ground for the vine or ground cover. When we did, we found the leaves to be the same as the tall shrub we had viewed. Though we did not immediately accept the shrub as being poisonous, we also did not reject the possibility of its danger. Further investigation showed that we needed to avoid that plant.
How often do we reject something too quickly without taking the time to investigate? In Luke’s version of the resurrection, the women went to the disciples and told them that Jesus was alive. They did not believe the women because the words sounded so foolish. Peter decided to go check for himself. In the days following that glorious morning, Jesus appeared to many people.
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:1-4 (NIV)
Luke was probably a companion to Paul on his missionary trips. He was a physician who remained with Paul even after many had deserted him. In this passage, we see that Luke did not simply accept the stories with a blind faith, but rather he carefully investigated everything he wrote. We do not hear about Luke’s conversion, but we know he was a learned man. Did Luke believe immediately when he heard of the resurrection? Or was his reaction the same as the disciples, laughing at the foolishness? The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts show us that he did not reject what he heard. He took what he heard, studied and knew to be truth and put that information in writing so that Theophilus and every generation of Christian since that time could know it is true.
When someone tells you something about the scriptures, do you accept or reject it immediately? Or do you take time to investigate what you’ve heard? Many people simply accept what teachers tell them, without opening the book for themselves. Some teachers are wrong. Other people reject the lessons based on past experience, personal biases or other reasons. The things of faith are foolishness in our world of science and technology. Do you accept with blind faith, reject without a thought, or take the time to carefully investigate God’s Word for yourself through prayer and study?
Lint A friend and I often share stories of our difficulties with our children. Last night he told me how his youngest son always forgets to clean the lint trap on the clothes dryer. So that he would learn the importance of that little task, my friend had his son clean the outside vent. My friend thought that when he son saw the amount of lint that gets stuck in the tube, he would better understand the effect his negligence has on the household.
Lint is clingy bits of fluff and fiber from our clothing as it gets worn from wear and tear. The cleaning process damages the fabric and small bits of fluff pull away. This fluff collects in a screen inside the dryer, which needs to be cleaned regularly. The fluff is soft and highly flammable. If there is too much lint caught in the trap or the vent tube, the hot air from the dryer can cause it to burn. There are often stories of homes that have been damaged due to this problem. This is why it is vital to keep the lint trap clean. When the screen is kept clean, there is less lint and the danger is minimal.
Our spiritual lives are like that lint trap. As God cleanses us, bits of our lives are pulled apart and removed. God shows us our sin through His Word and that sin needs to be removed from our lives. God has forgiven us, but He expects us to go and sin no more. When we are aware of the sin in our lives we need to take the steps necessary to remove those things from our life. We can do this with God’s help, by the power of His Holy Spirit. We do it for Jesus, because He loves us and we want to serve Him.
“In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” 2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV)
When we allow the lint to remain in the trap, enough lint collects to become a danger to our homes and our lives. The same is true of our sin. When we continue to do the things we know are against God’s Word in our lives, we risk becoming useless. The sin builds up and becomes a danger to our spiritual welfare. Satan gets a foothold in our lives and we no longer are able to do God’s Work because we are burdened with the cares of the world.
Clean the lint trap, cleanse your life. When God reveals something about your life that needs to change, take the steps to change. Pray and ask God for His help, and walk in faith that He will provide all you need. Thanks be to God.