Welcome to the April 2002 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
    You are welcome to use these writings or pass them on. All we ask is that in all things you remember the Author and give Him the glory, and remember this vessel which He has used to bring them to you. Peggy Hoppes































When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I've not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.

A WORD FOR TODAY, April 2002

April 1, 2002

April Fool’s Day  Zack was eating breakfast this morning, still trying to wake up. The children were out of school for Spring break over the last week and we were all having trouble getting back to our normal hours. I walked in and said, “It snowed last night, and school is canceled.” I followed it with the traditional phrase for this day, “April Fool’s!” Bruce pulled the same joke on Victoria. We caught the children off-guard and touched their greatest desire – both wanted to go back to bed, they weren’t ready to go back to school.

After Jesus’ Resurrection, He appeared to many people. At the garden, the reaction of the women was mixed. They were afraid but filled with joy and they shared everything they saw with the disciples. The disciples thought they spoke nonsense, but Peter ran to see for himself. When he saw the empty tomb, he left bewildered. Two men leaving Jerusalem on their way to Emmaus met a man on the road who spoke with great knowledge about the things of God. He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

Jesus appeared to the disciples three times. The first time was after the two men returned to Jerusalem and shared their testimony. The disciples were discussing these testimonies behind locked doors when Jesus appeared before them. They were startled and afraid, but Jesus calmed their troubled hearts with His words and actions. He showed them the nail holes and to prove that He was a real body, not just some spirit, He ate some fish. He reminded them that this was how it needed to be – His death and resurrection was as planned and prophesied throughout the generations. He breathed on them, gave them the Holy Spirit and opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:10-16

For the disciples, the testimonies that were coming in from the women and the two men were like April fool’s jokes. They were caught off-guard and the stories were touching their greatest desires – to see the Lord once again. It was almost as if they were waiting for someone to say, “You fools!” But, Jesus gave them the Spirit of God, and then showed them it wasn’t foolishness to believe through the scriptures and His physical presence.

We are given the same Spirit, as God breaths on us through our baptism. He opens our minds so that we will understand the scriptures. There are many today who look at Easter as an ancient April fool’s joke. They do not believe that Jesus was really raised from the dead. Even some who call themselves Christian say that the Resurrection was only spiritual and that to believe it was physical is foolishness. Yet, the scriptures tell us that our Lord Jesus appeared to many, ate with them, offered His hands to be touched, spoke to them and breathed on them. He was not a ghost or spirit. He was flesh and blood raised from the dead. Now God’s Spirit dwells within our flesh and blood, giving us the wisdom that comes only from Him to live in faith and share the Gospel with others. Thanks be to God.


April 2, 2002

Master’s touch  Felix is a friendly cat, particularly at five o’clock in the morning. That’s when we should be getting out of bed to start our day. It is when he expects to be fed. As soon as our alarms go off in the morning, he is by our side, purring and rubbing against us. He loves to be petted at this time of day, one of the rare occasions we get to touch him (he is a cat, after all.) If we don’t reach out to pet him, he nuzzles his nose under our hand as if to say, “Pet me.” When we put our hands on his head, he walks away, causing our hand to move along his fur. He always walks so far that we can no longer reach him. So, we put our hands back down and rest another moment. He comes back and nuzzles our hand for more. Again, he walks to far away. If only he would sit or lie down, it would be much easier for us to pet him.

Read Luke 7:11-17

I’ve often seen people reach out to touch a coffin at a funeral procession. It is one last chance to say good-bye, a final moment of intimacy. Many people find closure in this act – there is a sense of finality in the feel of the wood and knowing the body is inside. It would not have been unusual for someone to touch the coffin of the young man that day. The procession would normally continue to move on, destined for the final place of rest.

On this day, however, the bearers stopped for a moment when Jesus touched the coffin. He’d seen the pain of the widow, knew that life without her son would be difficult for her. She would have no one to care for her in her final days. He comforted her then reached out to her son. When the procession halted for that moment, Jesus told the young man to get up – His word brought life to both the young man and to the widow. They may have missed the blessing if the procession had just moved on.

How often to we seek a touch of our Master’s hand, just like Felix, but we don’t stop long enough to benefit from His work? We pray for healing, but we don’t rest in His love so that our body can fully heal. We pray for peace, but we jump from one stressful situation to another. We pray for love, but we run around seeking love in all the wrong places. Stop today and feel the Master’s touch. Don’t just pray for your needs, but take time to listen to Him speak. His words bring transformation and life. Thanks be to God.


April 3, 2002

Consequences  Yesterday was a beautiful day outside, with warm temperatures and blue skies. Spring had sprung, if only for a day. We have had a lot of rain in the past few weeks and our yard is very wet, squishy under the feet. There are still a few places that have standing water, although it is not so deep as it was a few days ago.

We let Felix outside for a little while yesterday so that he could enjoy the lovely weather. He ate a bit of grass, pounced on a bug or two and sniffed everything with typical curiosity. Though Felix would love to spend lots of time outside, we decided he would be an indoor cat, so yesterday’s adventure was a real treat. As time wore on, he became a little too brave and tried sneaking out of our reach. When he got just far enough that he knew he could escape, he took off bouncing into the yard. Unfortunately for him, the route he selected was one of those areas with deep standing water, and he jumped right into the middle of it. He realized this was a bad idea and ran back onto the patio and sat next to the door. I encouraged him inside and closed the screen. He sad down and cleaned his paws, happy to be safe inside again.

Felix suffered the consequences of his actions. He knew he wasn’t allowed to run that way, obvious by the manner in which he sneaked away. When he did take off, he found out that there was good reason for the rule – the yard was wet and muddy. We make rules for our kids for the same reason, to keep them safe from the dangers of this world. We teach them to never touch the stove because it is hot or to play on the stairs because they could fall. If they disobey they might burn their hand or break a bone. As parents, we don’t burn their hand or break their bone as punishment; those things are the consequence of their disobedience.

Israel had a King, the Lord God Almighty. But things weren’t going very well. They were under attack and could see that the rest of the nations were better at war because they had a king to lead them into victory. The people went to Samuel and asked him for a king. The Lord had delivered them from Egypt, brought them into the Promised Land, but they forgot all He did. Every time Israel forgot the Lord, He allowed them to suffer the consequences – they were delivered into the hands of their enemies. Yet, God never forgot His promises and when they repented, God brought them home.

Read 1 Samuel 12:20-25

I didn’t stop loving Felix when he took off yesterday. After it was over, I calmed his nerves and helped him safely home. When our children get hurt because of their disobedience, we take care of their wounds. We explain the reason they’ve gotten hurt, re-teach the rules and encourage them to be more obedient. Through it all, we continue to show love to our children.

Israel would suffer under the reign of King Saul. There would be good kings, kings that stayed with the Lord, but there would also be kings that turn from Him. God established from the beginning that this was their choice and they would suffer the consequences that would come if they did not fear Him and serve Him faithfully. Through it all, God promised to remain faithful to His promises. Israel was His chosen people. He would never forsake them.

Even today as Christians we suffer the consequences of our disobedience. Our idols are different than theirs, but we still have idols. We worship money and our jobs, our families, our ideas and doctrines. These things will not save us; they are useless if we turn from the Lord. God has called us into a life of thanksgiving, when we do so we will be blessed. Thanks be to God.


April 4, 2002

Pictures  My dad came to visit for a few days. We’ve enjoyed catching up on the news from back home, hearing about the antics of family and friends we miss. When he leaves here, he’ll head to Texas to visit my sister and her family, to spend time catching up with her family. When my mom died several years ago, old photos and memorabilia were collected together in a couple of boxes as we sifted through their life together. Daddy brought those family pictures along on this trip so that my sister and I could look through them. We’ll put some on the computer so that we have a record of our family history that won’t fade away.

Some of the pictures are very old, from long before any of us kids were even twinkles in our mother’s eye. There are pictures from our parents’ wedding. There are even pictures of my mom before she knew my dad – swimming at the lake with her friends. It is amazing to look at those old photos, to see what they looked like when they were young. There are many pictures of people we don’t recognize – old boyfriends, distant cousins, and pictures of children that could be anyone’s kid.

My mom was very sick for the last few years. I remember when she was healthy and happy. She was good at telling jokes and liked to laugh. My children only remember their grandma from those later years, when she was mostly tired and in pain. As I looked through the pictures, I found a funny series she took of herself and some friends. She put her face very close to that of her friend and held the camera as far from them as she could. The pictures are extreme close-ups, funny to see. I laughed when I found the one she took with me, remembering the silliness of it all.

There was one picture. It was a portrait of her when she was about twenty. At first I wasn’t sure who it was, but then I realized it was my mom. She was a beautiful woman; she was so filled with life. It brought tears to my eyes, seeing her so happy. How I long to see her again, hear her jokes and laugh with her. I’ve missed her, and many times my memories are of the dying woman I saw shortly before her death. These pictures have helped me to recall the happier days, and to share the woman who was filled with such love, hope and joy with my children.

Read 2 Peter 1:12-15

The boxes of pictures were a mess. There were negatives everywhere; some of the pictures were sticking together from dampness. Others were ripped and faded from age and improper care. There are pictures of strangers, from events long forgotten. But Mom saved those pictures so that we would remember. Even now that she’s gone, we can remember the love and joy we had together.

The Bible is not the easiest book to understand. There are verses that do not seem to make sense, passages that have been argued over since the days of the Apostles. Yet, it was all written for us so that we would be reminded of the truth that God has established. Just as I will enjoy looking at that picture of my mom in the years to come, we should read and reread the scriptures so that we will remember the love, hope and joy that comes from God in Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God.


April 5, 2002

Ikeya-Zhang  We went outside just after dusk with telescope and binoculars in hand. We were in search of the latest comet to grace the night sky. Last night was expected to be the best time to view this comet in our region, and with a cloudless night, it certainly was a perfect time to try. The comet was discovered in February by some amateur astronomers in Japan and could be found in the sky near the Andromeda Galaxy.

We checked the web for information on what was visible in last night’s sky. We printed a map of the area where the comet would be so that we would know where to look. When the sun began to set, we went out in the yard and began finding the planets and major stars as they became visible with the loss of sunlight. There was some light pollution – porch and house lights, the lights on the flight line and cars driving down our street, but we were able to locate Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus, as well as several major stars and constellations.

Finally, the sun set enough for us to find Cassiopeia, the constellation closest to the comet. There was a porch light blinding our view, so we asked our neighbor if she would turn it off for a few minutes. She was happy to oblige. After a few minutes of searching with the binoculars I found the comet. It was quite fuzzy, much different than the stars we could see. It was in an area of the sky that was affected by extraneous light, so nothing was visible with the naked eye. It took patience to focus on the object and know with certainty I was looking at the comet. Then I had to explain to Bruce and the kids how to find it themselves.

We found an easy point of reference on the ground – a neighbor’s window – then slowly moved the binoculars up until a star came into view. The comet was just to the right of that star. Bruce and the kids easily found it and we all enjoyed the time viewing God’s incredible handiwork in the heavens.

Read Romans 12:1-2

We had a wonderful time star gazing last night. Not only did we see the comet, but also it was unusual to see so many planets at one time. There were five in a line – Mercury was not visible to us because it was just below the horizon. We had some difficulty in the beginning, because we were confusing some of the planets with stars and stars with planets. We weren’t always looking at the same thing when we were sharing our thoughts. When I pointed to one spot, the kids were often looking at another.

We couldn’t rush through this activity – it was necessary to wait for the sun to set and to turn off every light possible. We needed to follow directions carefully; first from the instructions we had from the astronomers, and then when we shared with each other. When we were looking at the comet, we had to ignore the things of earth and concentrate on what we could see in the binoculars, slowly searching and focusing only on the sky.

We are too often distracted in our Christian walk from seeing the sweet surprises God has in store for us. There are too many lights shining that we can’t focus on Him. There are too many people trying to give us instructions or we are looking in the wrong place. Stargazing takes a change in attitude – we have to slow down, think differently and look deep beyond what our eyes can see. The same is true in our journey of faith.


April 6, 2002

One verse  People often ask the question, “What is your favorite Bible verse?” Personally, I find this a difficult question to answer, because there are so many that have had some impact on my life. I reach for certain verses when I’m sad, lonely, confused or in pain. Each one brings comfort or joy in a moment of need, as if written by God so many years ago just for me.

When people share their testimonies, we often hear references to one verse or another that touched their heart and mind and drew them to Christ. Some evangelistic people take signs to ball games with the words “John 3:16” in the hopes of sharing God’s love with someone who never heard the message of the Gospel. One story tells of a man who found one page of the Bible that changed his life. Another story tells of a person who learned of Jesus from a Christmas card. One verse can make a difference.

Oswald Chambers once wrote, “I was getting desperate. I knew no one had what I wanted; in fact I did not know what I did want. But I knew that if what I had was all the Christianity there was, the thing was a fraud. Then Luke 11:13 got hold of me.
    At a little meeting in Dunoon, a well known lady was asked to take the after meeting. She did not speak, but set us to prayer, and then sang, “Touch me again, Lord.” I felt nothing, but I knew emphatically my time had come. I rose to me feet. Then and there I claimed the gift of the Holy Spirit in my dogged committal on Luke 11:13.
   I had no vision of heaven or of angels; I had nothing. I was dry and empty as ever, no power or realization of God, no witness of the Holy Spirit. Then I was asked to speak at a meeting and forty souls came out to the front! I came to realize that God intended me, having asked, to simply take it by faith, and that power would be there. I might see it only by the backward look, but I was to reckon on the fact that God would be with me.”

Oswald Chambers found peace in one verse. The peace we have in Christ is not one that will give us warm fuzzy feelings, great power or keep us from harm. But we have peace in knowing that God dwells in our hearts and works to bring life to the world through us. Chambers discovered that he simply needed to be a willing vessel for God to work wonders by His Word.

Read Colossians 3:15-17

What is your favorite verse? Perhaps God will bless you with a special touch, one simple verse that will change your life. Whatever you do, live in thankfulness that God’s Word dwells in you, bringing life to the world through your words and deeds done in His name. Thanks be to God.


April 7, 2002

Peace  What is peace? We certainly can’t find it in the papers or on the nightly news programs. When we open the papers or turn on the TV we are bombarded with information from home and abroad of violence, destruction and loss of life. A cycle of attack and retaliation in the occupied territories of the West Bank has brought death and injury to innocent bystanders. Children from one elementary school in Chicago left school one day armed with sticks and 2x4s to start a brawl at another elementary school down the street. Even the outcome of a basketball game brings violence to the streets. There seems to be no peace in our world today.

What is peace? Jesus knew peace. He didn’t live without threats of violence. One day the crowd tried to stone Him. The temple leaders accused Him of blaspheme and insurrection. He was crucified on the cross – a most horrific death. Yet, He faced large crowds of hungry people with only a few fish and some bread without worry. He touched the sick, spoke to the outcasts and ate with the sinners with love. He faced His trial without fear, spoke only the words necessary despite threats from His accusers. He had peace, the peace that comes from knowing God is close.

Read Psalm 16

Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The world thinks of peace as a lack of violence. The battle cry of the day is “Pray for peace in Jerusalem!” This is certainly a most worthy prayer. But what peace are we praying for? Peace is not just the lack of violence – violence is brought on by a lack of peace. The unending cycle of attack and retaliation will only be stopped when the hearts of the warriors find true peace. We have that peace, Christ’s peace – the assurance that God is with us. We live in that peace singing praise and thanksgiving to God and we have been called to share that peace. As we share God’s Word, He works in the hearts of those lost in this troubled world, seeking their own kind of peace with weapons and threats.

As you pray for peace in Jerusalem today, do not pray only for an end to the death and destruction that is ruining many lives. Pray that those who live in violence will come to know the peace that passes all human understanding – Christ’s peace. When they have such peace, they will put down their weapons and give up the fight. Thanks be to God.


April 8, 2002

Zoo  I took the kids to the zoo the other day. It was a nice day and they had been very patient with me while I ran some errands. So, we went to get an ice cream and visit a few of the animals. We all have our favorites, but with limited time we couldn’t see them all.

We began with the great apes. There is one particular orangutan that is so much fun to watch, so we stopped at his habitat for a moment. There was another one there I didn’t remember, perhaps he was always hiding when we visited. As we watched, this orangutan picked up an empty water bottle and held it in his mouth as he moved toward the pond. He stopped once to pick up a piece of apple he found in a crack in the sidewalk. Then he went to the edge of the water and filled the bottle. Then he found a cool, shady spot to enjoy his drink. We laughed with him and I joked with a lady standing beside me. “That ape has more sense than some people I know.”

We went to visit the large cats. The lion habitat has two residents, two lionesses. The day we visited was one of the first really nice days this year and the children were on spring break, so the zoo was filled with visitors. You could tell the lionesses were stressed by the activity going on around them. The lion habitat has two viewing areas; one high above the animals and the other is room with Plexiglas windows. We stood on the platform above and watched. In the room was a large group of children. One of the lionesses had made herself comfortable in the shade near the window. The children stood there, pounding on the window the get her attention. All of a sudden, she jumped up at the window as if attacking the children. They jumped back, but then started laughing and pounding once again.

It is interesting to see how differently the animals behave. Our friend the orangutan was having fun with his audience. It was almost as if he was playing to the crowd. On the other hand the lioness just wanted to be left alone. The pounding on the window was upsetting to her.

There are often times when Christianity is put on display, particularly through the different types of media. Certainly in recent days there has been a great number of stories about the troubles in the Roman Catholic Church. In the past, the media has reported on situations in other churches; evangelists who have acted improperly, pastors who have done things that are illegal. Unfortunately, when the media reports one incident, Christians become the source of ridicule and accusation. When one priest is accused, all priests are found guilty. When one evangelist abuses his position, all evangelists are questioned as to their motives. When one Christian acts like a hypocrite, the world assumes that all Christians are the same.

Read Psalm 109:26-31

There isn’t much we can do when our faith is put on display and we are accused of things for which we are not guilty. Oh, we could attack like the lioness, but it won’t do much good. As a matter of fact, her attack made the children even more determined to get her to act out. The orangutan acted much differently. Though there were many watching and laughing at his moves, he had fun with the crowd and did more to seek their attention.

If we are accused, belittled or questioned about our faith, will we attack like the lioness, or walk more boldly in the love of Christ? In today’s scripture, an enemy had accused the psalmist, and he went to God for justice. He cried out the Lord, in praise and thanksgiving, certain that God would protect him. When we face similar situations, will we be like the psalmist and trust in God to deal with our enemies? Will we live in the promise that God is always near?


April 9, 2002

Just Curious  Those who receive this writing through e-mail know that I’ve just gone through the difficult task of changing list-servers. It has been a frustrating process, leaving behind one server and learning how to use another. We are still transferring names into the new server, patiently waiting for everyone to respond to the invitation.

Yesterday I was testing the system, trying to figure out how things work. I sent myself a reply to an email, just curious about what would happen. I did not think about the fact that if I posted something in my account, it would be sent to everyone. The email simply said, “Just curious.” It was an email no one else was supposed to see, but it was sent to the whole list. I received several emails yesterday asking me what I was curious about. My curiosity spread to the readers as they pondered what I could possibly have meant by the post. I learned a valuable lesson – that everything I post will be sent to everyone, so I better be careful what I post. This incident reminded me of the power of our sin. We don’t always realize the effect our words and actions have on other people and the world.

This extra email has become a subject of jokes, and yet it could create problems. Some readers have email servers that limit the amount of mail they can receive. Others simply don’t have time to open extraneous mail. The same is true of much of our sin. Our little white lies and moments of anger may seem insignificant, but they can cause problems. A perfect example of this is when a cashier makes a mistake at the checkout. If we are aware that he or she gives has given us too much change or has not charged for an item and we keep it, we are stealing. This action seems so insignificant. After all, it is only a dollar. And yet, keeping that dollar could mean a family might go hungry. If we do call the cashier’s attention to such mistakes they are doomed to repeat them, eventually getting fired and leaving a family without the support of that income.

We are going to sin. It’s a fact of life that our flesh is weak and susceptible to temptation. Every day we will make mistakes that will affect the lives of others. Most of the time they are small, insignificant actions that won’t make much of a difference. But sin is sin, and the effect of sin reaches far beyond our own lives. Sin is everything that separates us from God, from others and from God’s wonderful creation. This is why Jesus Christ died on the cross – not just for the big sins, but also for our every day mistakes that go against the will of God. It is by His blood that we are reconciled to God, our neighbors and the world.

Read Psalm 51:3-12

We do make mistakes. I will probably make some other mistake with the mailing list as I continue to learn the new system. When we do, we know we can turn to our Lord Jesus and ask His forgiveness. In His great mercy and love, He has already provided for our reconciliation with God, our neighbors and the creation. May we always remember that God is our salvation and that He is faithful to keep His promise to cleanse us from our sin. Thanks be to God.


April 10, 2002

St. Michael’s Mount  Just off the coast of Cornwall, near the city of Penzance, is an island called St. Michael’s Mount. It is an imposing presence in the bay, a place of history and legend. The building that stands atop the Mount was built over many centuries. It began as a castle, became a monastery, and eventually was used as a stately home for a war hero. The Mount was strategically placed for both commerce and war, and it is the place of many legends. The story of Jack and the Beanstalk is said to originate from there.

The climb to the top of the Mount is a steep hill. As you climb, it seems almost as if you are climbing to heaven itself. It is said that some fishermen saw the Archangel Michael standing atop this rock. Since Michael is known for fighting the devil, there are ancient legends of the battle taking place there. Pilgrims traveled great distances to climb to the top and sit upon the lantern used to guide ships in the dangerous, rocky water of the bay. There are even accounts of miraculous healings.

The Mount can be seen from all over the West Penwith, the peninsula that is the furthermost southwest corner of England. As we visited this lovely, ancient place, we were awed by its looming presence everywhere we went. The climb to the top of the Mount itself was difficult, but worth the time and energy. We had to take a boat to the island, because at high tide even the causeway is covered with water and the island is completely cut off from the mainland. We were able to walk back to shore as the tide moved back out to sea. It was interesting to watch the people as the water receded. From high atop the mount, it was difficult to see the causeway and to know that it was only inches below the surface of the water. People began to walk back to shore, appearing as if they were walking on water.

The scriptures are filled with examples of people making it through water. Noah and his family survived the great flood. The Israelites crossed the Red Sea. Jesus calmed the storm for His disciples. They survived because they trusted God to see them through.

Read Psalm 66:1-7

We were amazed as we watched the people walk over the water to the shore, but as the tide continued to recede, we could see the causeway. As we walk our journey of faith, we often find ourselves in situations that seem as though we are going to drown under the waters of life. Yet, in faith we continue to walk, knowing the God will see us through. He is truly and awesome God, there by our side, making a pathway for our walk, even when we don’t see Him. His most wonderful work was our Lord Jesus Christ, who defeated the greatest enemy we face – death. Now, no floodwaters or storms can take His gift of life, for the life we live is eternal in Christ. Let us shout with joy to God! Amen.


April 11, 2002

No word posted.


April 12, 2002

No word posted.


April 13, 2002

Geese  There are a number of local geese who live at the lake near our home. These geese are typical of the type you would find on a farm or in some fairy tales like Henny Penny. They aren’t wild like the Canadian geese that fly through twice a year, and they have almost human like characteristics. They are fun to watch as they waddle around the lake or sun themselves on the grass.

They don’t stay right near the lake all the time. They often cross the street for one reason or another. On more than one occasion I’ve been stopped by several of these geese crossing, each time they have used the designated crosswalk, with one of the geese acting as a guide. The shepherd goose quacks orders and the others obey as quickly as waddling geese able. I can’t help but laugh when I see this happen, or the other times I see one of the geese herding his or her companions toward some goal. They all seem a bit nervous by these adventures, but still step forth in confidence that they will make it to the field or back home under the guiding quacks of their friend. The people on base have grown so fond of these animals that we are careful to slow down when we see them at the side of the road. I’m sure there are some who would not care if the geese were harmed, but they geese have so far remained safe.

It is amazing when you think of how much traffic passes that they stay safe. It is almost as if they have a protector who keeps them from harm. I have seen them step into the road at inconvenient times, yet the driver was able to avoid them. In some ways, this is like our own Christian journey. Just this week I traveled to St. Louis with a group of people from our church. Our travels were relatively uneventful, but there were a few things that came up that were certainly handled by God. Our credo was “It’s a God thing” and we came to trust that He would guide and guard us each step of the way.

Read Micah 5:4-5a

As the world looks at us Christians doing the work of the Lord, I’m sure we look like a bunch of quacking ducks – somewhat nervous about our adventures but stepping out in faith. It is not unusual for nonbelievers to laugh at our antics, but despite their lack of faith they do sometimes give us the room we need to move. There is no doubt that there are some who would like to see us fail at our mission, those who would do anything to stop our work. Yet, we have a shepherd who cares for us, who will protect us. We have peace because our Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled this promise from Micah and has assured us that He will be with us until the end of the age.

In this peace, we can step forth in faith and share His greatness – the Gospel of love and mercy – with the world so that others will live in His flock. The reason for our travel to St. Louis was to learn about a program to share Christ with those who do not know Him. We knew He was with us. He opened doors of opportunity to share our gifts with brothers and sisters in Christ from many denominations and many places. He arranged friendships long before we arrived. He took care of our every need. It truly was a ‘God thing.’ Now we have more assurance of His strength and the majesty of His name so that we can step forth in faith to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Thanks be to God.


April 14, 2002

Pastoral Candidates  The magazine that is distributed through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been discussing the issues involved with calling a pastor. They interviewed churches and pastors to gain an insight into the problems and successes of placing the right person in a position. The greatest problem, it seems, are the expectations of both the pastor and the congregation.

There is an email floating around, author unknown, that shows how ridiculous our expectations can be. It is a humorous confidential report on the committee’s impressions of several pastoral candidates being considered for the position. Among the names on the list were the greatest witnesses to God’s love in the Old and New Testament; nearly all were turned down for one reason or another. Noah couldn’t convert anyone and had unrealistic goals in building. David was a strong leader but had an affair. Jonah told some strange story about getting swallowed by a fish that later spit him out. Paul was short on tact, harsh and longwinded. “He has a questionable attitude toward women, if you know what I mean.”

This email is very humorous as it looks at the people that God chose and used throughout His-story, recorded in the bible. Each one has questionable aspects about their personality and past that would make us question their ability to lead and preach. Yet, God found value in their weaknesses to work for His good and perfect purpose. This email even lists Jesus as a possibility. “Has had popular times, but once his church grew to 5000 he managed to offend them all, and then this church dwindled down to twelve people. Seldom stays in one place very long. And, of course, he's single.” Amazing how we humans can see even negative aspects of the life of our Lord.

The funniest part of the email is that Judas gets a good report. “Judas: His references are solid. A steady plodder. Conservative. Good connections. Knows how to handle money. We're inviting him to preach this Sunday. Possibilities here.”

Our human understanding of what is important is often far off center from God’s. God is calling people to share the Gospel, to live in a way that glorifies our Lord Jesus Christ in this world. Noah was obedient, even when the task seemed ridiculous and impossible. David sought God’s will. Though Jonah at first ran from the Lord, he was gifted by God to turn a whole nation to repentance. Paul laid a solid foundation of doctrine for the Church today, his testimony about the power of God through Jesus Christ and his letters to the church keep us focused on our Saviour and His purpose for our lives.

Read Hebrews 13:7-8

God hasn’t changed the way He does business. He still chooses people who are imperfect according to our expectations. We can easily look at each of our ministers, pastors or priests and find great fault in the way they live and work. However, God has blessed each of them with gifts with which they share the Gospel of Christ. We should remember them in prayer and give thanks to God for sending them our way.

We live in a more transient world today. Even our pastors move from place to place, rarely staying in one parish for more than a few years. As we consider those who have been chosen to guide and encourage our Christian walk, let us always remember that Christ died for their failures, just like ours, and let us always look to see God’s gifts rather than our expectations. Thanks be to God.


April 15, 2002

Red dye  Nearly every sitcom on television has managed to take advantage of the inability for some people to properly launder their clothes. On a very early episode of the show “Friends,” Rachel was in the Laundromat for the first time doing her wash. She made several mistakes, the worst of which was not separating her clothing. A red item in the load of whites makes for great comedy when the whole load becomes pink. We can all laugh at this problem because I’m sure most have us have managed to make such a mistake. Vicki and I each have a pair of socks that no longer match because one of the pair ended up in the red load.

It is amazing how just a little bleeding from a new red t-shirt can change the color of another item so easily. Certain things don’t really matter, but it can be rather disturbing to Zack when his underwear becomes pink. Other problems include shrinkage and rips. The clothing can be damaged if it is washed at the wrong temperature of if delicate items are added to loads with heavy zippers or pointy buttons. We end up with junk when we are not careful.

I really don’t worry about the laundry too much. We wear mostly blue jeans, sweat pants and t-shirts. Most of our clothing has been washed many times so even color isn’t a grave concern. We are more careful when we have new clothes in the laundry. Unfortunately, we get careless and sometimes end up with a misplaced sock that changes color.

We don’t always realize the affect our lifestyle will have on those around us. To someone with heart disease, extra salt in the food we prepare can be deadly. If we travel on the interstate at slightly above the speed limit, we can cause people less able to drive such speeds to go faster than they should. Our children copy our use of language. To someone who is weak or uncertain about their faith, reading the horoscopes can distract their attention from the truth of God’s word.

Read Romans 14:19-23

We shouldn’t put a new red t-shirt into our laundry or everything will end up pink. We also shouldn’t do things with our lifestyle that might cause harm to another. If we have invited someone with heart disease into our homes, we should be careful about the food we serve. Though we know we can handle our car, we should drive within the speed limit for the sake of all the other drivers. It is good to keep our tongues from using inappropriate language so that we do not give our children something bad to imitate.

As for our Christian walk, our faith in Christ’s forgiveness gives us freedom to live as our conscience allows. In Paul’s day, Christians were eating the meat that had been sacrificed to idols – not because they worshipped the idol but because it was good food. In Christ’s grace, we have such freedom. However, if we do so to the detriment of our brethren in Christ, we are not showing them the love that comes from faith. If our actions will prove harmful to another’s faith, then we also have the freedom to willingly give up those things for their sake. It is by God’s grace that we can live in a manner that will lead to peace and edify our brethren. Thanks be to God.


April 16, 2002

Blooming  The weather has become quite warm across most of the United States. In Washington, the tulips planted by Lady Bird Johnson are in full glory. In Texas the wildflowers are popping up all over the hillsides. Gardeners have filled their flowerbeds with fresh new annuals like pansies, marigolds and fuchsias. Here in Arkansas, the dogwood trees are in full bloom and other trees have begun to sprout fresh new green leaves. The bleakness of winter has passed and the world is colorful again.

There is something else blooming on the sides of the roads. It began a few weeks ago with just one or two popping out, but now the roadsides are filled with them. They are election campaign signs. Arkansas is approaching primary time. The politicians made their final decisions to run just a couple weeks ago, and now is the time to convince as many people as possible that they should be chosen to lead the state and local governments. The primary election will decide the top candidates who will run for election in the fall. We have several major positions under consideration including Governor and Secretary of State.

In an unusual move, the wife of our current governor has decided to run for secretary of state. He is also running for another term. When they were interviewed recently, both commented that they would support each other during the election and when they serve. The life of a politician is difficult, particularly during an election year. The media spotlight and stressful schedule of campaign commitments will be doubled for the Huckabees. Reporters and their opponents will do everything they can to find some flaw in their lives, to cause doubt and uncertainty, to break their commitment to the election. They have to give up any semblance of a normal life so that they can give everything they have to the task of getting elected.

Just as a politician’s life changes dramatically, so too does our life change when we commit ourselves to living for our Lord Jesus. We give up our old way of life for something new and wonderful. God grants us gifts for sharing His Gospel with the world. We face persecution for our faith. The world shines a spotlight on our lives, looking for something with which to condemn us. They seek to destroy our integrity and faith. We are questioned about our hope, blamed for the failures of religion and attacked for our beliefs. A call from God is not an easy life to live.

Read 1 Kings 19:19-21

God told Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet. Elijah did not force Elisha to follow him; he simply showed Elisha that he was chosen with the cloak. Elisha did not follow immediately, but he went to close out his old life. He kissed his family good-bye, sacrificed his oxen and burned his plow. He would not return to the old way, he was committed to his new life as God’s servant.

A politician must often quit their old jobs and move to a new home to fulfill their dream of elected office. God calls us to a similar sacrifice when we walk in Christ. We leave our old lives behind to live in the new life Christ gives us. We set aside our desires to follow the desires of God’s heart. This may even mean giving up old jobs or moving to a new place. Elisha was able to do so with confidence, for the Lord God Almighty had called him into service and would be faithful to His servant.

The same is true for us in our Christian walk. The blossoms cannot bloom without the spring rains and sunshine and we would be unable to accomplish anything in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord if it weren’t for the grace and mercy of God. When He calls, He provides all we need, so we can walk in confidence and leave our old life behind to follow Him. Thanks be to God.


April 17, 2002

One-liners  I took a few moments to visit a chat room this morning. It was an interesting time filled with a few bits of wisdom and a lot of small talk. I usually visit Christian chat rooms where a wide variety of people gather for diverse reasons. Most people simply enjoy the fellowship with other believers, and while the discussion does often revolve around faith and our Lord Jesus, mostly they want a safe place to chat where bad language and porn mail won’t overwhelm them.

There are some people who come to preach or teach. Unfortunately, an online chat room is more like a party than a lecture and there are too many conversations happening to make it conducive to that type of teaching. There are a few regulars to the chat rooms who have made it an art to ignore the discussions that happen around them as they post long messages about some subject. Yet others come with an agenda, determined to convince everyone in the room that their idea is right. If the conversation doesn’t revolve around their teaching, they react negatively, even violently.

Chat rooms are better suited for one-liners, for short bits of information and wisdom. Though I have seen good studies occur in some rooms, most of the time they are better used for discussion and fellowship. There are more appropriate times and places for lecture studies. It is difficult to read long passages of scripture or history when there are 20 other people talking. The room simply moves too fast for that type of writing.

Not everyone learns well with that type of learning anyway. Even God recognizes the need for different types of teaching, providing us with many different forms of literature in the Holy Bible. There are long lists of genealogies, detailed histories of the people and other stories designed to teach a lesson. There are hymns and poems, as well as lists of laws. Our Father even recognized the need for a book filled with one-liners.

When people ask what they should read when first approaching the Bible, I generally recommend beginning with the Gospels, but also suggest Proverbs. There is great wisdom in that book, and it is provided in a way that it is easy to take just one verse or a few verses at a time, to ponder it and apply it to our lives. Our Lord has left nothing out of the book, it would do us well to listen to the words of our teacher daily.

Read Proverbs 16:6

This one-liner sums up the life of a Christian. Our Lord Jesus loved us so much and was faithful to the promises set by God long before the creation of the world, that He died to atone for our sin. We rest in the salvation that comes from this atonement, and walk in the light that comes from life in Christ. In that light, we know our true selves, and know what we are in Him, walking in reverent fear of God and living as He has designed and called us to live. When we are obedient to His Word, living in His love, we avoid falling into the traps that are set by the world. Though evil things may still try to touch our lives, to put a halt on our work in Christ’s name, we will avoid falling into the evil if we remain faithful to God’s promises.

Isn’t it funny how that last paragraph rambled on, and it didn’t say anything more than the one line provided by God. “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.” Thanks be to God.


April 18, 2002

Seedlings  Last year, some seeds of the maple trees in our neighborhood blew into our garden and took root. By fall, these seeds had grown into trees. This spring, we took some of the seedlings and moved them into the yard so that they have room to grow and mature into stately shade trees. Right now they just look like sticks in the ground, but in a few years they will be strong and beautiful.

These trees will need special care for the next few years. The trunks are thin and will break easily. It would take little effort for a child to snap it in half if he or she would accidentally run into it. The trees bend easily when the wind blows, and one terrible storm with hail or ice could easily cause irreparable damage. The larger of the two has a slight curve in the trunk because of its location in the garden – as it sought the sun, it developed a strange shape. With special nurturing and care, we can help these trees to survive until they are strong enough to stand on their own.

After the resurrection, our Lord Jesus appeared to many before He ascended to heaven. Jesus then gave the disciples the power and authority to continue His work by the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. From that moment on, the disciples planted seeds that grew into communities of faith. These new fellowships needed nurturing. The New Testament is filled with letters written by the Apostles to these churches to encourage their faith and help them to grow into strong ministries. It all began with God’s love and gifts.

Read Ephesians 4:11-16

The work of the Holy Spirit continues today as new seeds are planted in the hearts of believers and some are called to go out and begin new fellowships in the world. These new churches need the care and nurturing that God provides through brothers and sisters in Christ. Christians grow in faith as individuals and corporately, one day at a time, supported through prayer and the studies of God’s Holy Word found in the Scriptures. Each person and community is gifted by God for a purpose, part of a body created to bring glory and honor to the Creator of all things and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We grow strong and mature in love as we live in this world as we have been born to live. Thanks be to God.


April 19, 2002

Turtles  There is a family of turtles living in our lake. I can see them sunning themselves along the shore some days when I pass by. They look as though they climbed out of the water in a line, and it is funny to see them all lying there together, about fifteen of them. I don’t think they ever wander too far from the edge, so that if there is a predator near they can all quickly return to the safety of the lake. There may be some leader of this group of turtles, but it is impossible to see from the way they lay together on the side of the lake.

When I was a youth, I had a group of friends who played a silly game. We were generally well behaved, used decent language and rarely did anything that adults would find offensive. The silly game was our way of rebelling against the expectations of our teachers and leaders. The game is called “Are you a turtle?” The object was to get your friends into the sticky predicament of having to answer the question within earshot of the adults without them hearing. The required answer was “You bet your sweet {derriere} I am.” Of course, we used a much courser word when we played. This may seem like a silly game, but we greatly admired and respected our leaders, but we were teenagers in need of some rebellion. It was a way for us girls to line up together, to have some fellowship apart from the normal actions of the entire group. We still had a common purpose, young and old working together for the sake of our community.

Read Galatians 2:6-10

I have lived in several places where the local churches have worked together for the sake of the community. Though each church has unique practices and doctrine, we all have a common foundation of our faith and a similar vision for sharing the Lord with the world. These associations of Christian churches are like the turtles that line up on the side of the lake. Since each congregation gives as they are able, none are more important than the other. Some Christian associations even work with non-Christian agencies to expand the base of people for whom they can bring aid and comfort.

My group of friends had something that separated us; we had our little game. It didn't fit into the expectations of those around us, but we enjoyed the silliness of it all. Christians have something separating us. Even though we are unique, we are joined together by the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit, for the glory of God the Father. Instead of the old question, “Are you a turtle?” we ask one another, “Are you a Christian?” The answer is, “You bet your sweet life I am.” Thanks be to God.


April 20, 2002

Beach  Several years ago I went on a spiritual retreat at a beach on the eastern coast of England. The beach was rocky and the water was cold, but the day was lovely. The purpose of the retreat was to learn more about the power of God’s Holy Spirit and to worship Him. We spent most of the day in a villa several blocks from the beach, praying and studying the scriptures together. Around mid-day, we took a break from our work to witness the power of the sea and the majesty of God’s creation.

English places are ripe with legends about the antics and faithfulness of the people from every age. This particular beach was not without its own stories. We played in the waves near to the spot where the Danish King Canute is said to have shown his people true humility and worship of God. King Canute ruled early in the 11th century. During those years, his people worshipped him as if he were ruler of the entire universe. They praised him about everything, claimed his greatness over all of creation. No matter what he did, his people feared speaking anything but admiration.

One day, King Canute tired of this never-ending praise, so he walked to the beach at low tide and placed his throne at the water’s edge. He asked the people if he could hold back the tide and they agreed that he could. He shouted at the waves to stay back, but the tide continued to come in. The water rose until he could no longer sit on his throne and they all ran from the splashing waves. King Canute said, “You see how little I am obeyed. There is only one Lord over the land and the water, the Lord of the universe. It is to Him and to Him alone you should offer your praise.”

Read Psalm 89:5-8

In our society we don’t have a King Canute to which we offer our undying praise and worship, or do we? How much of our time is spent chasing after the good things of life – better jobs, bigger homes, and fancier cars? We praise don’t have kings, but we do have sports stars and politicians whose every word and action receives our admiration. Our priorities are often confused, putting the needs of our families and friends ahead of our worship to the Lord.

King Canute in his greatness could not hold back the rising tide, and no human being can control the elements of creation. Even the power of the sea and the majesty of God’s creation does not compare to the Lord. The angels fear Him and know that He is more awesome than heavens and earth and all that is in it. Most of all, they know He is faithful. The things of this world cannot compare to the promises of God or to the power of His Holy Spirit in our lives.

On that day, after King Canute showed his people that he was not Lord of the universe, he walked to the church and hung his royal crown in humble submission to the true Lord. He did not give up his throne; he ruled for three more years. But the Lord God Almighty was the one who received the praise in his kingdom, not himself. What priorities do we need to change? What do we place above the Lord in our lives? How can we worship God more fully? The ultimate act of God’s faithfulness is found in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us sing His praises today and every day and give Him the right place in our lives.


April 21, 2002

Sundial  Vicki is studying time in her science class right now. Over the next few weeks the students are expected to create several different time-keeping instruments from household materials. A couple weeks ago the teacher gave the class an assignment to measure eight hours with a sundial, but did not give the students any instructions. Vicki waited for a few days, and then did a search on the Internet, but she wanted to make sure that she was doing it the way her teacher intended. The only day it would be possible for Vicki to accomplish this project was yesterday, and the weathermen were calling for cloudy skies.

Vicki is a very good student, but rather than ask for instructions, she puts off projects in the hopes that her teacher will give more information. This has happened before with other projects. When I ask, “What do you need to do?” she answers, “I don’t know.” She waits for the teacher until it is almost too late to accomplish the work. When we woke yesterday morning, our only window of opportunity to record eight hours of daylight, with the threat of rain. Fortunately, the sun was shining early, so we began the project with the hopes that it would turn out well. Though clouds did cover the sky at times, the rain never came and Vicki managed to get a good record.

It is in Vicki’s nature to work this way – to put off the project until she is absolutely certain that she has everything right. Unfortunately, she is not always willing to seek the answers to her questions in a timely manner from those who can help her gather the right information. Yesterday she got lucky, but sometimes it is not possible to do good work when she waits too long, or we end up working late into the night to finish.

Our own nature is filled with imperfections. God created us in His image, but we rebelled against His love. Our flesh will pass; our bodies will wither like the grass in the heat of summer. Death is the reward for our disobedience. Our days are numbered because of our sin. Yet, there is hope.

Read Psalm 90:13-17

Vicki needs to learn to seek the answers to her questions well before the project is due so that we can arrange the time and gather the proper materials. If she doesn’t, one day she won’t be so lucky as she was yesterday, and her project will be incomplete. Each person needs to realize his own unworthiness and seek the One from whom there are real answers.

This Psalm is a song of repentance. The first verses speak of God’s greatness and honor Him for being the everlasting Creator. Then the psalmist confesses his frailty and humbles himself before the Lord. He recognizes how unworthy we are to stand before the Lord, and how God’s light reveals everything about ourselves. Then the psalmist seeks forgiveness and asks the Lord’s presence in this life.

Christians have a great advantage over this psalmist. We have seen the fulfillment of this prayer. The Lord had compassion on us; He sent His Son to take His wrath upon Himself. He has proven His unfailing love through the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord. He has favors us with His Holy Spirit through whom He establishes the work of our hands for His glory. Let us praise God for His greatness, His mercy and His love. Thanks be to God.


April 22, 2002

Sunrise  I always loved the sunrise. When I was younger my family used to visit the beach every year for a convention. I tried to get up very early at least once during the trip so that I could spend some time on the beach and watch the sunrise. The early morning is my favorite time of day. It begins very quiet, but then as the sun peeks over the horizon the birds begin their symphony of song. The world is just waking up, and God is bringing light into the darkness once again. It is a whole new day.

By eventide, we are tired from the long day of work and play. The stresses of this world have worn us down and we need to rest. Too often our daily grind leads us to sinful behavior. We argue with our spouses or snap at our kids. We are impatient with each other and would prefer not deal with one more problem. The kids can get tired and uncooperative. The house is messy or the dishes need to be washed, it seems like the hectic pace of life’s responsibilities never end. We get into bed with tomorrow on our mind, unable to sleep as we worry about the projects that are due or the meetings that are scheduled. The guilt of our negative thoughts, words and deeds weigh upon our hearts.

I don’t know how I would get through those nights without the love of my Father. In His presence I confess my failure and give Him all my worries. He brings me peace through His Spirit. The love and forgiveness of Christ gives me the strength to go on and I can rest in the knowledge that He will handle tomorrow. Then I can sleep and awake to a whole new day.

Read Lamentations 3:22-24

Our day begins very early here with Bruce and the kids off to work and school before 7:00 am. It is more difficult to get that early morning quiet time. Our house is loud with activity long before the sun comes up. No matter how busy it is, I try to find a few moments of quiet. A short prayer, a quick remembrance of God’s Word and I can begin my day. When it is time for Zack to get the bus, I wait outside in the cool of the dawn; listen to the crickets and birds as they begin their symphony. I watch the sky turn pink as the sun begins its climb into the sky above.

This morning Zack and I saw our first hummingbird of the season. The neighborhood cats were making their way home. Then the airplanes started and cars drove by. The world was awake, but in those few early moments I knew that the troubles of yesterday were past and today is a whole new day. God is with me and He is faithful. How would we get through our days without the love of our Father? I truly do not know. Thanks be to God.


April 23, 2002

Helicopters  The maple trees are dropping their seeds, an event that brings excitement to the children each year. The seeds are found in the end of small leaves that look like wings. The children love to play with these leaves; they throw them in the air and they spin like helicopter propellers as they fall to the ground. Zack was playing with some of these yesterday as we waited for his bus. As he played, he realized that the speed and quality of the propeller was dependent on the size and shape of the seed. He experimented with different ones. The small seed fell quickly; the big one took more time. The seed with a hole wobbled as it fell. We were able to talk about gravity, friction and aerodynamics in a brief period of playtime. He enjoyed it so much that he played some more when he came home from school.

Today is the Feast of St. George. George was a soldier who lived in the later days of the Roman Empire. The stories that surround his life are extraordinary, including an adventure in which he slew a dragon. The story takes place in a place called Sylene, a city found in Libya. A very hungry dragon lived in the swamp near the city. After he had eaten all the sheep, he began to eat the humans. One day as George was passing through the town, the people were about to sacrifice the princess to this dragon’s appetite. George spoke of faith in Jesus Christ and told the people that if they would all agree to be baptized in Jesus’ name that he would slay the dragon. They agreed, he slew the dragon, and the entire town came to faith in Christ.

The lives of the saints are often filled with unbelievable stories of courage, wisdom and faith. The whole idea of one man slaying a dragon that armies could not kill is almost ridiculous. Even the story of George’s martyrdom is embellished. However, it is worthwhile to hear his story for our edification.

George lived while Christianity was still persecuted by the Romans. One day on the battlefield, the priests were divining through the use of animal entrails to tell the future to the emperor. The Christian soldiers recalled their baptism by making the sign of the cross on their foreheads, which angered the emperor. He ordered that all Christian soldiers be punished and dismissed from service and that all Christian priests make sacrifice to the pagan gods. When George saw the edict hanging on the emperor’s door, he ripped it down. He was put into prison, tortured and died a martyr’s death for his faith.

It is said that George gave up his high position as a soldier for the empire so that he could be a soldier for Christ. The stories tell of his great sacrifice, sharing all his worldly possessions with the poor so that he would be free to serve the Lord wherever he was needed. Though these stories seem outlandish to us today, they are examples of the life we are called to live – one of selfless sacrifice for the sake of our Lord.

Read Ephesians 1:17-19a

Zack’s silly game became a learning experience that continued beyond that moment. Children everywhere love the stories of St. George. In the midst of the seemingly silly adventures of this great man of God lie some valuable lessons to Christians. The greatest lesson of all is that our life should be lived for the sake of the One who gave His life for us – our Lord Jesus Christ. Whether or not St. George slew the dragon or gave up his entire fortune for the poor, he did give his life for the sake of the Gospel. May we all find strength and courage in the promise of Christ so that we might do the same. Thanks be to God.


April 24, 2002

Chat room  I was in a Christian chat room briefly yesterday afternoon. A person came in who had an obviously pagan screen name and asked if she was welcome. It was a rather typical opening, and this person went on to tell how in every other chat room the Christians are judgmental. Meanwhile, another visitor was praising God, thanking Him for Jesus Christ and the salvation we have been given in Him. This person was not addressing any particular person in the chat room; he or she was simply praising God. The pagan began to ask, “Who are you talking to?” in a hostile manner and went on to talk about how Christians think spirituality is one hour a week on Sunday and that they don’t really live what they say.

I commented on this judgment to the young lady and she told me that she didn’t mean all Christians, and to not take things so personally. After watching her attack the person who was sharing the gospel through praise and worship of God, I realized how God’s Word cuts to the heart of a person who hears it. Unfortunately, rather than hearing the grace and mercy of God, she simply heard someone saying that the way she had chosen to live her life was wrong. She saw it as judgment against her choices. Rather than receiving the gift of God’s Son, she rejected the One who could give her true peace and life and attacked the messenger of that glorious message.

This is a story that has played out repeatedly throughout history. Even Jesus faced those who heard His message first hand who rejected it outright. Their ideas were so firmly ingrained that they had difficulty believing that Jesus could be who He said He was. Others gave Jesus a chance, but when His ideas were too radical for their lives, they walked away. When the Pharisees heard that some of the crowds believed in Jesus, they sent guards to arrest him. When the guards heard Jesus speak, they too were amazed at His preaching.

Read John 7:43-52

The Pharisees rejected everything about Jesus. They were stuck in their own understanding about who the Messiah was expected to be, and Jesus didn’t fit the bill. Anyone who did not agree with their thinking, all those who stopped to think about Jesus’ words, were insulted and attacked. Galileans were seen as lower class, uneducated people. The Pharisees even attacked Nicodemus, one of their own, by asking him if he was from Galilee. They saw him as foolish for asking to give Jesus a chance.

The pagan followed a typical pattern of behavior, similar to many I have chatted with over the years. She came in with an agenda, to establish that Christians are close-minded and judgmental. She quoted scripture and claimed to “believe what Jesus said,” and yet she rejected the Word of God that was found in the praise and worship in the room.

The Jewish leaders did the same thing. It was the praise and worship – the acceptance of Jesus Christ – that brought on the decision to have Him arrested. God’s Word cuts to the heart of all who hear, but some reject the truth. This rejection will manifest in accusation and insult, something we will all face when we speak the Gospel to one who refuses to believe. May God give us the strength to continue to sing praise and glorify Him with our lives, despite the opinions of the world. Amen.


April 25, 2002

Art  Every Thursday morning the meteorologist at our local news show does the weather from a special location in Arkansas. This is a way for the station to promote local attractions and events so that the community will support the cultural and historic opportunities available in the state. Today he spent time at the Arkansas Arts Center. This wonderful facility has a wide range of fine and performing arts available throughout the year. One of the current exhibits is a yearly event called “Young Arkansas Artists.” The students of Arkansas are invited to share their work, it is judged and the best of the works are displayed in the Center. A portion of those works are then selected to be taken throughout Arkansas and displayed for local communities.

The works of art are diverse. The younger children have drawings and clay sculptures. The older children submit more complicated pieces such as pen and ink drawings or life size metal sculptures. We haven’t visited this year’s exhibit yet, but we did go last year and were amazed at the variety and quality of the work. Vicki was part of a class project that was selected last year for the show. Her teacher had each fifth grader create a clay self-portrait. The best artists were then assigned a character – someone from Arkansas history and culture. The piece was a merry-go-round with each of the characters riding the horses and the children’s self-portraits waiting in line. It was an incredible piece and well deserving of the honor of being displayed. The teacher has done a similar project this year with the fifth graders, using a street scene in Mexico. I can’t wait to see it.

What makes the project so incredible is how the differences in style from artist to artist fit together beautifully. Though the teacher tried to get the students to keep their self-portraits relatively similar in size, some students made theirs short and fat and others tall and skinny. Some are colorfully painted, others simplistic in design. The children’s individuality and creativity shine through while the piece is pulled together by the common elements.

If only we could work together with our Christian brothers and sisters as easily as the art teacher gets her students to work together. So often we see our differences as something to discard or destroy in one another rather than take advantage of our individuality and creativity. We are brought together by the power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ so that God our Father will be glorified in our lives.

Read Psalm 133

God is not calling us to give up our heritage or worship style; He is calling us to find the common denominator and share in the Spirit of God. That common bond is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The divisions that exist today are not merely disagreements of doctrine, but are causing a dividing of the Holy Spirit. We have built fences between our brothers and sisters that block the Spirit of the Living God from displaying His power to the world. He doesn't need us, yet He wants us to be part of the blessing that comes from unity of spirit. Christ’s Church is like that Merry-go-round, made up of unique and interesting individuals who together form a beautiful picture of life in Christ. May we always remember the things that bring us together – faith, hope and God’s Spirit – and work together to serve God in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.


April 26, 2002

Alarm  Felix typically starts moving around about 4:30 a.m. It is at this time that his belly starts grumbling for food, so he begins his morning routine of waking us up. On most mornings, we are able to tell him it isn’t time yet, to go back to sleep. While he may not actually fall asleep, he does settle down to watch and wait until our alarms go off and we begin our daily ritual of rolling out of bed.

This morning Felix was overly persistent. I told him to go lay down, but he refused. He climbed on my chest, sniffed my face and put his head under my hand so that I would pet him. I tried several times to get him to lie down but he simply would not listen. I looked at my clock and realized I had forgotten to set my alarm. He knew I should be up and would not let me fall back to sleep. I could not oversleep because this morning was the beginning of a particularly busy day. Thanks to Felix, I got out of bed on time and managed to get my family off to school and work without delay.

Paul was a very persistent apostle. He wrote many letters to the new churches, to encourage them and stop them from following false doctrine. He also visited the churches personally, to preach and teach them to follow Jesus Christ in truth and grace. The second half of the book of Acts is filled with stories of Paul’s adventures. No matter what circumstances he faced, he continued on the journey to which he had been called by God. He faced angry crowds, dangerous storms and fellow Jews who did not trust or support his ministry.

Read Acts 20:22-31

I repeatedly rejected Felix this morning, even pushed him off the bed to give me peace. Somehow he knew that I needed to get up – my living alarm clock – so he was persistent until I got out of bed. I was thankful that Felix was persistent, because without him we might have started the day out late.

Paul’s heart was for all those who had faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No matter what he faced, he was determined to complete the work that God had called him to do. In this passage he was speaking to the leaders of the church in Ephesus. They faced difficult times because many sought to destroy the church. Paul knew that he might not return, so he sounded a final alarm to the elders to wake up and be prepared for the dangers they faced. He had been persistently warning them to beware of the enemy’s tactics. Thankfully God provided a man like Paul who refused to give up in those early days of the church. God used him to build a strong foundation that has lasted until this very day – the foundation that is knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, His love and grace. Thanks be to God.


April 27, 2002

Worry  I’m a good worrier. When the kid’s school buses are a few minutes late or Bruce doesn’t call when he should, I begin to pace. When the bills seem a little high, I wonder where we will get the money to pay our debts. When there are decisions to be made, I consider every possible outcome over and over again until I’m sure that we won’t make the right one. Then I worry about what will happen.

Everyone worries about something at some point in their lives. Even highly successful people find themselves in situations that cause them worry. James Cash Penney worried so much about a situation during the Great Depression that he even ended up in the hospital. He had invested poorly and his financial situation began to fail. He was unable sleep at night and he made himself so sick with worry that he developed shingles. He was so upset that even medication was unable to relieve him of his problems, and his condition worsened in the hospital. He later recalled the incident. “I was broken nervously and physically, filled with despair, unable to see even a ray of hope. I had nothing to live for. I felt I hadn’t a friend left in the world, that even my family had turned against me.” He was certain he would die.

One morning he heard singing coming from the small chapel in the hospital. The song was “God will take care of you.” James went to the chapel and listened to the song, the scripture and the prayer. He suddenly realized the depth of love that the Lord Jesus has for him and he was lifted out of his depression. He considered those twenty minutes the most dramatic and glorious of his life, because the Lord performed a miracle in his life – he was no longer overwhelmed by worry.

Read Psalm 27:1-6

When I find myself in a state of worry, the only thing that keeps me from becoming like James Cash Penney is my faith that the Lord will not leave me. I know that even when my family is late or the bills seem overwhelming or our decisions are not right, Jesus will help us through. He is our refuge, our strength, our hope and our peace. If I am beginning to worry, I turn to Jesus and He calms my fears.

I long for the day when I will not worry about anything, but I’m sure that day will not come while I live in this world. The psalmist prayed that he might dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In Christ, we live in the assurance that God is faithful to His promises and we will live forever in His presence. He will never leave or forsake us. J.C. Penney thought the world had forgotten him, but he learned that even if they did, Jesus was always there. In the midst of our worry, may we always know that the Lord is our light and our refuge. He will lift our burdens from our shoulders and help us through our troubles. Thanks be to God.


April 28, 2002

Yoke  Have you ever tried working with someone who has a completely different style of leadership than yourself? This can be especially difficult if one person is detail oriented and the other sees ‘the big picture’. Each have different priorities, different directions they want to proceed with the project. It can be the cause of bitter conflict. One of the people must become ‘the lead bull’ so that they can work together and accomplish the task.

Oxen were used for farming for many generations. Even today, around the world, there are still farmers who use domestic animals to plow their fields. It was common for the farmer to have two oxen, one a lead bull and the other a follower. These two bulls had to be equal in size, strength and purpose. The farmer could not yoke a bull with a calf; they would be unable to pull the plow in straight rows. Though equality was necessary, it was just as important that one of the oxen be the leader. If one bull were trained to plow one way and the other another way, they would get nowhere battling each other for control. It takes a good farmer to know his bulls, yoke them equally with right leadership. He can then guide them in the right path to do the work.

When we are working with others, it is especially important that our vision be the same. What are we trying to accomplish as we are doing this work? Suppose two gardeners are planning a garden. One is detail oriented; the other sees the big picture. The detail person is likely to handle a small plot of ground at a time, making sure each individual flower is perfectly placed. The person who sees the big picture is more likely to plan the whole design first to establish pattern, color and design that flows through the whole garden. Both gardens will be very different.

Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

The Corinthians had a problem. There were people in leadership positions who had different visions for the ministry of the church. Some of them were even false teachers, who did not teach the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was warning them to avoid such teachings and not allow the unbelievers to set the direction of the ministry. He encouraged them with the reminder that God is their guide and that they should always keep their eyes on Him.

It will always be difficult to work with someone who has a different leadership style than us. But if we have a common vision for the work we do, and keep our eyes on that vision, we can make it happen. For Christians, our vision and the purpose of all our work is to glorify God our Father for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. May we always keep our eyes on Him. Amen.


April 29, 2002

Barbie  Ruth Handler and her husband joined together with Harold Mattson to found the toy manufacturer called Mattel in 1942. In 1959, Ruth invented a doll that was designed to be much different than the age-old baby dolls little girls had played with for millennia. Through play with a Barbie doll, young girls could be anything they wanted to be. Though the purpose and design of the Barbie doll has long been debated, they are certainly still one of the most popular toys ever created. Whole aisles of our favorite stores are dedicated to everything Barbie needs to exist – clothes, cars, houses, friends and pets. Vicki still wanders into the bright pink world of Barbie, dreaming of what she can be.

Zack, on the other hand, avoids the Barbie aisle with a passion. After all, he wouldn’t want to get ‘cooties’. He’s nine. He was with me this morning when we heard the news that Ruth Handler died at the age of 85. Zack’s first comment was “No more Barbie dolls!” I explained to him that even though the creator was no longer alive, the company was perfectly capable of continuing to produce the dolls and continue to pass on Ruth’s vision to many more generations of little girls. His reaction of disappointment was humorous to see.

When Jesus was crucified the people thought His ministry was over. They were sure that everything he tried to do was buried away in a tomb. Even Jesus’ disciples were left without hope. But on Resurrection Day, Jesus showed them that His vision could not be squelched that easily. At Pentecost the disciples were given the Holy Spirit and a new lease on life. Not only did they believe in Jesus, but also they were given His power to speak God’s Word and share God’s gifts with the world. The leaders tried to put down the growing movement by killing the messengers and instilling fear in the hearts of the believers. It didn’t work. As the first generation of disciples began to die, others took up the cross and carried it forth into the world. They wrote their stories on paper and spoke the lessons of love and mercy to all who would hear. And God blessed their work by bringing many into faith.

Read 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Mattel will continue to produce Barbie dolls and design new and exciting things for every little girl to play with and dream about all the things she can do with her life. Though there will continue to be aspects of the Barbie phenomenon that will disturb certain members of society, like my son Zack, Barbie will live on.

Christ died and rose again. He then ascended to heaven to be with His Father. Though He is not present with us in body, His Spirit now dwells in us so that we can continue the work He began so many years ago. Nothing can stop the vision from being fulfilled because Christ lives on in the hearts of every believer, flowing out to the entire world sharing the Gospel with the lost and bringing them the hope of eternal life. Thanks be to God.


April 30, 2002

Barking  At 4:30 p.m., the American Flag is lowered outside the Wing headquarters on our base to the sound of the Star Spangled Banner playing on the loud speaker. The song can be heard all over the base and the entire population takes a moment to show respect. Cars stop on the roadways, people stand at attention and we all take a moment to reflect on our purpose for living and working in the military community. We have several dogs in our neighborhood that also join in the moment. One dog begins with a high, loud howl that lasts through the entire song. The other dogs join in the chorus, creating the most horrible sound, a sound so loud it almost drowns out the loudspeaker.

God has blessed me with many gifts for to use in this world to glorify Him and share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. A lovely singing voice is not one of those gifts. In worship, I sing along in praise and thanksgiving, but it is truly a joyful ‘noise’. I would not choose to join our choir as a ministry possibility for myself, because my presence would likely destroy the wonderful sounds that emanate from musicians who have been gifted to serve God in this manner.

The Christian community has been compared to a symphony created by God – each member adding their notes to the song. In a choir there are different types of voices and in an orchestra there are many different types of instruments. Each instrument creates a unique sound – some high, some low, some soft and some very loud. A full orchestra and choir will produce the most incredible full, rich sound because all the members are doing their part. But if an oboist tries to play the notes of the piccolo or a soprano tries to sing as a base, then the outcome can be disturbing. And if someone with no talent or ability tries to join in, then we could end up with a horrible sound like the dogs singing the National Anthem.

Read Ephesians 5:15-20

Our Christian witness as a community is not always like a symphony. As a matter of fact, many people throughout the world see Christians as nothing more than hypocritical and arrogant. The Gospel itself will bring negative reaction from those who chose to reject the love and mercy of Christ, but is our witness really sharing the Gospel? Do we condemn those who need forgiveness while acting out in our own sin? Are we trying to take on roles in God’s Kingdom without the gifts to do so? Do we try to teach without knowing the Truth ourselves? Do we seem to even hate one another as we debate our differences in doctrine?

The Lord has perfectly designed His Church to play out in a beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving that glorifies Him. When we are careful how we live, stepping forth in faith and using our gifts according to the generous empowering of God’s Holy Spirit, and when we sing together in love, then God will be glorified. May we always make a joyful noise together in Jesus’ name! Thanks be to God.