Welcome to the August Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves. Where scripture is quoted, I used the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.
A WORD FOR TODAY, August 1999
August 1, 1999
Movie It is incredible to think about the amount of money and waste that goes into the making of a movie. Just yesterday, I was watching a documentary about set making. In one instance, the team needed to reproduce a town in miniature, so that they could make it appear as though a volcano was destroying it. It took months of hard labour and tons of bucks… If there were even the tiniest mistake, a misplaced wire or a mispushed button... the whole shot would be ruined, and they would have to begin construction again. All this for about 30 seconds of film.
The crew puts so much of themselves into creating something that is set for destruction.
Read Romans 9:22
When a team begins to make a film, they have an image of what they want it to be. They start with an idea which becomes reality after years of intense labour. As with all human endeavour, the reality does not always look like the original thought. Cost, practicality and law often stand in the way of the original intent.
Read Romans 9:23
The glory that shines in the film is not the carefully and lovingly prepared set. It is the 30 seconds of film produced by its destruction.
Our flesh nature is like that film set. It is the object of God's wrath and is prepared for destruction... It seems like such a waste. The destruction must happen for the glory to be revealed.
We were created in the image of God, but the cost, practicality and law stands in the way of the original intent of God. When it seems like your life is filled with senseless destruction, remember that God has prepared you in advance for this moment, so His Glory may be revealed.
Walls Remember the kid in school who used to play at being a wall. You needed to sharpen a pencil, they would stand in front of the pencil sharpener, blocking your way. If you moved to the left, they moved to the left. If you moved to the right, they moved to the right. It was quite annoying. Eventually, the teacher would recognize there was a problem and tell the child to go back to their seat.
Throughout our lives we face other kinds of walls. A wall is something that stands in our way. Brick walls block our path. Emotional walls block our relationships. Societal walls, like racism and sexism, block our ability to be the best we can be. We also face spiritual walls.
In the book of Joshua, we read the story of how God Himself brings down the walls. Imagine what went through Joshua's mind. After all, he was a great military leader. He wanted to go fight. But God said, "Go have a parade." Joshua trusted the LORD and did as commanded. The Israelites must have appeared rather foolish to those soldiers on the wall. By the sixth day, they must have been laughing so hard they could have easily been defeated! Joshua continued to trust God. In Joshua 6:20, we hear of the seventh day. "So the people shouted, and the priests blew the trumpets; and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, that the people shouted with a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city." (ASV) That wall would have been impossible to break, and the city was tightly sealed from attack. But with the sound of trumpets and the shouts of His children, God brought the wall tumbling down.
So often, in our walk of faith, we try to fight the battles ourselves. We think we can bring down the walls in our path. We have to learn to be like Joshua, trusting in the LORD. Sometimes He gives us the strength to fight. Sometimes He tells us to have a parade. Sometimes He tells us to be still. Each time, the walls come tumbling down by His power for His Glory.
In yesterday's devotional, I mentioned three walls, which stand in the way of our path to conform to His image. These were cost, practicality and law. There are others, but in the next few days we'll discuss these three.
Cost We were so close to retirement, we could taste the freedom. We were beginning to consider all our options, where to live, what to do, how we were going to make ends meet in the civilian world.
Then three years ago, Bruce came home with the EQUAL list, and list of open overseas duty assignments. Bruce was eligible for several positions in Europe on this list. He said, "I've had the opportunity to travel Europe, but you and the children have not. We can retire and go start our new life, or we can take this final opportunity and try for an assignment overseas. Its up to you."
This was quite a decision to make. I took a great deal of time in thought and prayer, considering the good and the bad. After all, Europe is far from home and is much different than America. It would mean re-enlisting, and the opportunities of settling into a permanent home put off indefinitely. I had to count the cost of my decision.
Read Luke 14:28-30
Many times, we make decisions without considering the cost. This includes the decision to be obedient to our Lord. What does it cost to be a disciple? Verse 33 tells us, "So therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Everything. If you are not obedient to this call, your life will appear as that half built tower, and you the builder will be ridiculed for not finishing what you start.
We must give up that which is us, our earthly nature and its lust, pride, greed, hate, fear, and control. We must be emptied of these things so that we can be filled with all that is Christ Jesus; His compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Are you ready to give up all that is YOU to be filled with Him and be His disciple?
Air Conditioners After a week of soaring temperatures, we appreciate the value an air conditioner for our mental and physical health.
I remember years ago, that while growing up in Pennsylvania, we didn't have one. When the temperature and humidity would get out of control, Mom would say, "Let's go to the mall and get out of this heat." For a few brief hours we would be comfortable and happy.
The first summer we lived in England was unusual. It was very warm and sunny summer. One day in August, I took the children to a mall near London, called the Galleria. It was a particularly hot day, even record breaking temperatures in the 90's. The Galleria is built like a greenhouse, with lots of windows. And no air-conditioning. It was extremely uncomfortable in there. Two stores had their own systems, Tandy and a shoe store, and those stores were packed with people getting out of the heat.
I complained a great deal, thinking why would anyone build a glass building and not install air? But then, I remembered that England isn't known for its hot summers. As a matter of fact, anything over 85 is highly unusual. It does not pay them to install air conditioning in the buildings. It would be impractical to waste the money on something that may get used a few days every other year or so. Practicality often depends on your perspective. In a warm climate, air is valuable. In a cool climate, it is foolishness.
In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul writes, "For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God." (ASV) The world expects much different responses than God. We want to be independent, while God wants us to rely upon Him. We want to be a leader, while God wants us to be a servant. The ways of the world are so practical in our mind, and yet according to God they are impractical. Which perspective do you see? The world's or God's?
Read 1 Corinthians 1:27
Automobiles Automobiles were not always a vital part of our lives. As a matter of fact, in the early years, most people considered them an intrusion. Since most travel was via horse and buggy, laws were created to benefit that mode of transport. Horses did not like the autos, they were too loud and caused the horses to be afraid. In a case of a horse meeting a car, the horse always had the right of way. One law even said that if the car spooked the horse, it needed to be dismantled and hidden in the bushes until the horse was out of sight!
Some laws are valuable. They protect life and property. They give guidance and direction. Many times the lawmakers consider the effects of the law on the people for whom they are written. At other times, the lawmakers write laws with their own interests in mind, and do not take into consideration the needs of the people who the law is supposed to protect. These laws become a burden.
Read Luke 11:46
God gave us a perfect law. We are to love Him with everything we have, and love our neighbor as ourselves. In our churches today, we are taught rules which often stand in the way of our relationship with the Father. We spend so much time worrying about how to do this or when to do that, we miss the presence of God Himself in the worship.
Read James 1:25
Let us, today, seek the Lord in the perfect LAW, which He put on our hearts and worship Him in the Spirit, not according to the rules established by men over the ages. God's law is not a burden, it is a blessing.
Cliff Claven Surely you remember Cliff from the TV show Cheers? He was the character who always had some meaningless, often incorrect bit of trivial knowledge. One of my favorite shows was the one where he was a contestant on JEOPARDY! Due to sheer luck, Cliff was an expert on all the categories, and by final jeopardy he had all the money possible. The other contestants had nothing. Cliff had already won the game. But greed and pride got the best of him, and he bet the whole bundle on final jeopardy. He lost it all, on one wrong answer.
Bible classes are necessary to our spiritual growth and development. God has gifted teachers with wisdom and abilities to share His message with His children. As we learn and grow in Him, the Kingdom is lifted and God is glorified. And we win the prize.
Read Colossians 2:18
We must heed the warning in Colossians. There are "Cliff Clavens" among religious circles, teachers of the Word, who have much knowledge in trivial matters, but do not have the final answer. They teach of things in the natural world, but do not know the Spirit.
Read Colossians 2:19
The Head is CHRIST. In all that we do, we must stay in connection with Him. It is through Him that we receive spiritual growth. When spiritual growth is stagnant, consider if that which is being learned is of the world or of Christ, natural or spiritual. Don't lose the connection. Don't lose the prize.
Peace I love to sit on the bank of a cool, clear stream in a forest. I love to listen to the sound of the water as it rushes past, over rocks around trees. I love to put my toes in the water and feel the power of its constantly moving presence. Sometimes, I am lucky enough to spot a fish or a frog or some other creature living there. There I find peace.
I love to sit on the beach, near the sea. I love to listen to the sound of the pounding waves, beating against the shore. I love to walk along the shore, with my feet in the water, feeling the power of its constantly moving presence. Sometimes, I am lucky enough to spot a shell or a seagull or some other creature living there. There I find peace.
I love to read the bible. I love to listen to the sound of my Lord's voice as He speaks of His love and mercy. I love to immerse myself completely in the Word and feel the power of His constantly moving presence. He moves in me, changing me, building me, healing me. There I find peace.
Read Isaiah 48:18
Hear His voice. Obey His commands. Find His peace.
Does it ever feel as though peace is fleeting and righteousness is beyond your grasp? Perhaps you've missed His voice and failed to obey His command. Fortunately, our Father loves us enough to show us where we've gone wrong, and disciplines our lives through His Word.
Read Hebrews 12:11
SCUBA Diving This is a sport of which I know very little, but would definitely enjoy taking up. I would love the chance to go down into the depths of the ocean; to search for buried treasure. Or to swim with the dolphins. Or to witness the beauty of God's creation up close and personal.
Beginning divers do little more than skim the surface of the water. Fitted with only a snorkel and facemask, they swim above the ocean depths, looking down into the deep waters, but seeing only what is within their vision. Sometimes they swim below the surface, but must rise again for air. In shallow water, this is enough to experience the treasures that are there. But as we move into deeper water, it is impossible to see the bottom.
SCUBA gear (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) helps a diver go farther below the surface, and to stay there for longer periods of time. They have the chance to explore the depths and find treasures that would have been missed, if they had stayed on the surface. Some divers never move beyond the snorkel and facemask.
God's Word is like the ocean depths. And we are like divers. In the beginning, we skim the surface, reading the Bible and seeing His truths, but never moving beyond the shallow water. Sometimes we study, going below the surface for a moment, and catching a glimpse of some deeper truth. Then we rise back to the top, satisfied with that glimpse we've had, but continuing to swim on top of the water.
Some desire more, and are fitted with the equipment to swim deeper. They read the scripture with the power of the Holy Spirit, gaining a better understanding of what is not visible on the surface.
Read 1Corinthians 2:10
Do not stay on the surface. Dive deeply into the Word, fitted with the right equipment. The Spirit will reveal to you the deep things of God.
SCUBA diving, again A person cannot just put on the SCUBA gear and plunge to the depths of the ocean. A qualified instructor must teach them. They need to learn about the technical aspects of diving, about decompression, how to deal with predators. They even need to learn proper breathing techniques. After several lessons, the student is ready to go into the water. Geared up with the proper equipment, the instructor accompanies the student for a few lessons in the water. The instructor stays with the student until they are ready. After training, the buddy system is still important. Even a master diver should never go alone.
Read Psalm 32:8
It is important that we have proper training to live the Christian life. Many people try to put on the equipment and jump right into the depths, without first learning the basics. Too often we hear someone say the Sinner's Prayer and then we let them go out in the world trying to witness with no training in how to use the equipment or how to avoid predators.
Why would someone go to so much trouble to learn how to dive? Is the reward at the bottom of the ocean so rich? For some it is. I've heard stories of people who have found a wealth of treasure from sunken ships. Others simply love the peacefulness of being in a world unencumbered by the sounds and confusion of our world. Before you commit yourself, you must decide why you want to do this and if the treasure at the end is worth your time and training.
The same for living the Christ-like life. Why are you a Christian?
Read 1 Corinthians 9:25
Let God instruct you. Let Him teach you. Let Him counsel you. Let Him watch over you. Receive the crown that will last forever.
Beyond SCUBA diving The Mariana Trench is the deepest discovered submarine trench. It is 1500 miles long, averages over 40 miles in width, and has a maximum known depth of 36, 201 feet. Obviously, we have very little information about this wonder. Man is not able to swim at those depths. Diving would also be impossible, even with the best equipment. Recent technology has made it possible for robotics to explore the bottom, but the vastness of area makes it impossible to study every inch. There are mysteries of the deep, which will go unanswered.
Read Romans 11:33-36
The Bible clearly teaches that we are to seek God. The word 'seek' is used over 200 times and 2/3 of the instances of that word are in reference to seeking the things of God. Bible studies and prayer are necessary for us to know God as He is. There are certain things that are easy to explain and understand. Yet, there remain mysteries too far beyond our comprehension. God is bigger than we can grasp.
We all too often try to put God into a box. When people ask us the tough questions of life, like "Why?" we become frustrated because we are unable to give a simple answer. When people ask for proof of God, all we can offer is clichés and our faith. For some, this is not enough.
The next time you face the tough questions of life, remember the Mariana Trench; so deep, so long and so wide, that it will always hold mysteries beyond our ability to understand. Remember that God does not fit in a box. To God be the glory. Amen.
A final word on SCUBA You've made the decision to go below the surface. You've been trained in the use of equipment and safety procedures. You understand your limitations. What next?
It is time for an adventure. You are standing on a beach and across the water you see an island. Wouldn't it be fun to swim to that island and explore? All geared up and ready to go, you step into the water and start to go down, when you realize that under the water you cannot see the island anymore. Which direction should you go? Even the slightest turn and you'll miss the island completely.
The method for swimming to such a destination is this: On the shore, set your compass for the proper direction. In the water, with the compass always pointing in the right direction, find a landmark a few feet ahead, perfectly aligned with the compass. Once you reach the first landmark, then you find another and another until you reach the island. Always keep the compass aligned, even the slightest miscalculation and you will miss your destination.
The same is true with our walk with God. We have made the decision, we have been trained, and we understand our limitations. Now it is time for the adventure. Sometimes on our journey we are unable to see our destination. We must have our compass perfectly aligned or we will miss the mark.
Read Proverbs 20:24
In diving, our compass is aligned with the destination, but we must travel one landmark at a time. So it is in our walk with God, we must travel one moment at a time. It seems to be such a slow process, rather frustrating at times. You know the destination is ahead but you cannot seem to reach it.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:16
Keep the compass aligned. Take each adventure one moment at a time. Have faith in His guiding Hand to take you to the destination that lies just ahead.
***Note. I would like to thank Ken for his help with his help on these SCUBA devotions.
Eclipse Yesterday, we had the pleasure of watching a solar eclipse. Typical British weather meant that cloud cover stood in the way of seeing it clearly. The shadow of the eclipse passed through Cornwall, which is many hours away. Fortunately, the BBC had cameras set up all along the path of the shadow, so we were able to watch on TV. They also had cameras on a Hercules flying above the cloud cover, which sent awesome pictures.
A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, blocking the sun from view. As the moon moves across the face of the sun, the sun appears as a crescent. At the point of totality, the sun is blocked, but you are able to view the corona, which is the outer atmosphere of the sun. The corona is always there, but the brightness of the sun makes it impossible to see. The most spectacular moment of an eclipse is the moment just after totality, when the sun is coming back into view. It is called the diamond ring effect. There is a light ring around the moon, with one burst of brightness. This is a moment of incredible beauty.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:6
The light of the sun is necessary for life, as we know it. We cannot look directly at the sun, or it would harm our eyes, but we know it is there. For a moment after totality, we can catch a glimpse of that glory. Christ is necessary for life, and for a moment we can have a glimpse of the glory of God. It is a quick peek into the Light, which shines in our darkness. It's a moment of beauty, a jewel to remember.
Perseverance The Thames, the river that runs through London, is a tidal river. The level of water in the river rises and falls with the tide. There are some sites in London that must be seen from the water, so there are plenty of tour companies, which offer cruises on the Thames. Some of these boats are large, carrying hundreds of people.
We stayed in London one night, at a hotel on the Thames. The evening was lovely, so we took a stroll along the Thames. Across the river was Westminster, with Parliament and Big Ben in the tower. We walked across the Westminster Bridge, looking east toward the Tower Bridge. It was lovely.
As we stood there, we could see a tour boat coming toward the bridge. It was a rather large boat, and the river was high. The bridge was low. The boat did not fit. The captain maneuvered a bit, and tried again. And again. At one point, he went down stream a bit, repositioned, and tried again. When we saw him go downstream, we were sure he had given up. He came back for more. After attempting this feat for 20 minutes, the captain was finally able to maneuver the boat under the bridge. This is perseverance, to continue toward the goal in the face of adversity.
Read James 1:2-4
When we face similar trials as that boat captain, we often get frustrated and want to give up. Yet there are some people who seem to have such peace through adversity. How do they do it? They persevere. Just like that boat captain. He was not frustrated by the trial. He knew the river. He knew that although it was high, the tide was retreating, and a few minutes of patient work, he would be able to complete the task.
We, too, will face bridges in our way, but through perseverance we will know the course of the river and find joy in completing the task.
Pierogies I’ve been feeling a bit homesick lately. As much as we love our time in England, there are just a few things that I’ve come to miss. Like pierogies. These are doughy pockets filled with mashed potatoes, which you eat. I like them deep-fried and smothered in butter, although the pierogies can be very low fat if prepared properly.
The other day, I discovered our commissary carries pierogies. Apparently they have had them for awhile, but I never noticed, as they are located in a section I rarely peruse. I hate to admit this, but I got rather excited about finding these pierogies. I could taste them. There was one box left in the freezer and to me that one box was like gold. A taste of home. The children were rather embarrassed by my reaction. I completely changed my plan for dinner, buying items that would go well with those pierogies. I found such joy in that little blessing.
There have been times when I’ve prayed to go home. I have focused on those things I miss, rather than focusing on the task at hand. God has a purpose, and my own selfish desires have made me loose sight of the path.
But God is faithful in all things. Just when I needed it most, He gave me a moment, which brightened my day. He gave me a bit of home so that I would be satisfied with the path until it is time to move on. Those pierogies are gone. I ate them. Well, I did share a few. The wealth of having that bit of home was fleeting, but the memory of God’s blessing will last.
Read 1 Timothy 6:17
The next time I am feeling homesick, I will remember the promise of my Father, who gives me everything I need to find joy in His plan.
More Pierogies We jump for joy at the silliest things, don’t we? When I found those pierogies in the commissary, it was as if I’d found gold. Children get excited about climbing in empty moving boxes, or jumping in a pile of leaves. These little things often bring laughter and dancing!
We commemorate big occasions with laughter and dancing. Weddings are the perfect example. We celebrate the union of two people with a feast, music and JOY! We celebrate birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries. We celebrate when we get a good grade on a test or when we win at some sport.
Mary was a normal girl who lived in a normal town. There was nothing special about Mary. One day she heard a bit of news that could have ruined her life. She was pregnant. Her betrothed could have gotten rid of her. Her family could have dismissed her. Her community could have destroyed her. Yet, she sang for joy at this news. She told the world.
Read Luke 1:46-55
Mary rejoiced in God and His works in her life. She sang of His mercy with great joy. How often do we do this? We are like Mary. We are normal folk, living in normal towns. Yet God has done an amazing thing for us. How often do we celebrate this? Do we sing for joy at the works of His hand? Do we shout it for all to hear? Today, and ever day, be as Mary and sing for joy to all the earth!
Back to School Summer is nearly over, and it is time to send the kids back to school and get caught up in a normal routine of committees, newsletters and meetings. In other words, the normal hustle and bustle of living in our world. I’ve noticed my calendar has filled up rather quickly with things that I need to do, places I need to be, and people I need to see. I enjoy the work I do at school, church and in our neighborhood, but I have to admit there are times when those commitments are burdens.
There are many reasons we take on these positions of responsibility. We need to be needed. We need to be in control. We think we are the only person in the world who can do the job properly. Or we think that we are the only one who will do it at all. We love to be martyrs, sacrificing ourselves for those around us. We take on too much, and we become burdened by it all. We get burnt out, and everyone suffers for it. Our families become secondary to the tasks we take on to benefit them.
Unfortunately, God takes a back seat too. Oh, we claim we are serving Him by doing all these things. We believe that these forms of service are glorifying Him to the world. But are they? When we have no time for prayer or worship, or if our families are neglected because we have meetings every night of the week?
Read 1 Corinthians 7:23-24
We must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we discern the tasks God has laid before us. Perhaps we are to serve on the PTA, or as a council member, or as choir director. But if we begin to grumble about meetings or get frazzled about the responsibilities we take upon ourselves, then we are not serving God or man. God assigns us tasks that bear good fruit. Anything less and we are slaves to men.
Ivy Have you every looked at an ivy covered cottage? It is so beautiful, especially when the ivy is healthy. These places are sought after by artists wishing to capture the beauty of nature merging with existence of man. Ivy covered cottages bring us images of romance.
Many artists created paintings of Rostermal Castle in England in the 19th century. It was considered the most romantic ruin in the country. Ivy covered the walls, and wildflowers bloomed in the cracks. A few years ago, English Heritage did some restoration work on the castle. They removed all the ivy and made it safe to explore. I was a bit saddened by the removal of the ivy. We’ve seen plenty of ancient castle keeps, I would have enjoyed seeing one that was following a natural adaptation to the wilderness surrounding it.
The restoration was necessary if they were to preserve the building. Ivy is very destructive. The tendrils channel into the mortar between the bricks or rocks and cause it to decay. Eventually, the rocks are no longer supported well enough, so they tumble to the ground. What we see as beautiful is not necessarily good for us.
Read 1 Corinthians 4:5
Do you have ivy growing on your cottage? Many of our beliefs today are based on ideas put forth by man, which appear beautiful, but are destructive. These ideas creep up into our lives and hide the destruction they cause, until the walls come tumbling down. What are your motives for good works? Do you beliefs match that of the Word of God? Seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit in all things, and allow Him to remove the ivy from your life. Do according to His Will and you will be blessed.
Ivy, again Hedgerows are an important part of the English landscape. Miles of hedges line roads in the countryside, and are often used instead of fences to divide property. When we first arrived in England, we rented a home in a neighborhood with terraced houses (row homes). One of our neighbors had a hedge around their front garden. Each time I walked past, I admired the beautiful lushness of this hedge.
One day I was less hurried and I walked past this hedge much more slowly than normal. I realized that there were dying branches in the midst of the lush growth. After careful observation, I realized that the lushness came not from the hedge, but from ivy that had grown in the midst of the hedge. This ivy suffocated the real and replaced it with a false image of beauty and life.
Read Galations 5:7-9
This particular chapter of Galations is talking about freedom in Christ. Paul was concerned because some were teaching a law of slavery. Legalism had infested the church, suffocating it, and making the cross of Christ useless. Legalism is still present in our churches today, and it is like the ivy that chokes the hedge and leaves it for dead.
Read Galations 5:13
Love is faith manifesting itself in our lives, which is Christ in us, doing mercy through us. Any man who expects more is teaching a false gospel. Live by the Spirit and be free in Him. He will produce good fruit in you, the real image of life.
Read Psalm 117
Sometimes we just need to praise Him.
Motorcade Have you ever watched when an important official travels from place to place? The Presidential cavalcade, when he goes from the White House to the Capital, is a sight to behold. Not only do you see his car, but also he is preceded and followed by numerous vehicles. There are armed escorts. There are cars filled with officials, advisors, family and friends.
What happens when a strange person tries to approach the president's vehicle? Secret service agents appear out of nowhere to remove the person from the vicinity. They are detained and questioned, possibly even arrested. The safety of the president is at stake; those hired to protect him will do whatever is necessary to do their job. A person who decided to approach the president in this way would risk everything, even their life.
The road from Jerusalem to Gaza was a trade route, and not likely the safest place to travel. An Ethiopian official was traveling on this road one day, on his way home from worshipping in Jerusalem. He was in charge of all the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians. In such an important position, he would have had a large entourage accompanying him on this journey.
Read Acts 8:30
Philip the Evangelist was a great man of God. He held an important position in the Church in Jerusalem. These were difficult times for the Christians. They were being stoned and scattered. Philip traveled and proclaimed the Christ. God told him to go to that road and to approach the chariot of the Ethiopian. Philip obeyed. He didn't approach with shyness or subtlety. He ran up to the chariot. He risked everything, because those hired to protect the official could have killed him for this act of boldness.
Through this act of boldness, this act of obedience, Philip shared the story of Jesus Christ, and the Ethiopian was baptized that very day. Will you respond when God calls you to travel the desert road, risk everything, and share the Good News?
To read the story of Philip and the Ethiopian, turn to Acts 8:26-40.
Construction Several months ago we went to visit the Imperial War Museum at Duxford England. This was a base used during the World Wars, and is filled with aircraft from many eras of aviation history. A newly opened museum on the grounds is the American Air Museum in Britain. This building is a half dome, with the straight edge being a wall of windows.
One of the aircraft on display is a B-52, which is an extremely large aircraft. Since it isn't something you can just bring in the back door, they set the foundation, then parked the plane and built the building around it. The building is constructed of concrete. Inside are approximately 40 airplanes, some on the ground, some hanging from the ceiling. Not an inch of space is wasted. Getting those airplanes inside and displayed was a masterpiece of logistical engineering.
Read Psalm 139:13-14
God is the master engineer. He created us. He carefully planned each part, each moment, so that they would work together to glorify Him. I stand in awe when I look at the world, and see the magnificence of His creation. But even more so, I praise Him for the life He has planned for me.
Read Psalm 139:16
Thank you, Lord, for creating me, for calling me, and for giving me the gifts necessary to live the life you've planned for me. All glory be to God.
Peter Peter was a disciple of Jesus Christ. He was not a learned man, just a poor fisherman. He and his brother Andrew were called to follow Jesus while working one day. Peter was part of the inner circle, and as such was one of the blessed to be present at the transfiguration.
Peter was less than perfect. I think he was rather self-conscious and did much of what he did to prove himself to his buddies. Like when they were on the boat and Jesus approached walking on the water. Peter wanted to be the first to show great faith. The thing is, Peter's boldness was a façade. Peter doubted when it mattered most. At the Last Supper, we see Peter once again show the extremes of his nature. Peter refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. When Jesus said He must, Peter said, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" Peter was at first unworthy to be served, and then bold to give orders. All the while, he did not understand what Jesus was doing.
At the Last Supper, Peter once again acted boldly, swearing to Jesus that he would not desert Him. Yet only hours later, Peter denied Jesus three times. The story of Peter is a story of contradiction.
In Matthew 16, we read of Peter's confession of Jesus identity as the Christ. Jesus asks, "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus calls him blessed, because the confession came from God Himself. It was a revealing of God's truth, which could not come from a man without the power of God.
Only moments later, Peter once again proved himself to be an imperfect vessel. When Jesus told the disciples that He had to die, Peter tried to rebuke Him.
Read Matthew 16:23
We are just like Peter. We know the Lord intimately, and yet we continue to stand in His way. We suffer pride and fear, because we think like men, rather than with the mind of Christ. Jesus says to us today, "Get behind me, Satan!" which means, "Get out of my way so I can do my work!" Are you ready to step out of His way?
Distractions You know how it is. You are busy. You are on the phone. You are busy with your email. You are reading a book, or cross-stitching a gift. You hear a voice. "Mom?" You face the distraction, deal with it, but want to turn back to the task at hand. Sometimes you turn away from the job completely and do not return to it.
In the wilderness, Jesus faced the devil, which tried to distract Him. The tempter attacked Jesus' body, soul and spirit. He offered food for His body, but Jesus spoke of the Word of God. He offered deliverance for His soul, but Jesus warned not to test God. He offered the world for Jesus spirit.
Read Matthew 4:10
The devil never faced Jesus again. Oh, he worked through the back door. But Jesus had the authority to tell him to "Get out of my face".
In Matthew chapter 16, Peter set his face on God and heard Him speak the words of truth, which he then repeated. "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Then he was distracted. He no longer heard God when Jesus spoke of death. Satan, the distraction, stood before Peter, blocking his view. Jesus knew this, and with authority said, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art a stumbling-block unto me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men." Jesus wanted Peter to be able to focus on His face, so told Satan to get out of the way.
Read 2 Corinthians 4:6
Jesus wants to be in your face, so that you see the light. What's blocking your view? It is time to stop focusing on the distraction. You have authority in Him to say, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Whatever it is which keeps you from seeing Him completely -- tell it to get out of your face.
Words It is often said that the United States and England are two countries divided by a common language. Our understanding of certain words differs from those of the other country. This can often cause misunderstandings. Race, culture, gender, and age are often barriers to communication because we do not understand each other's language.
I recall when my mom and dad came to visit us. We took a few days to travel around England, to see the sights. One day, we stopped in a restaurant for lunch. My mom was having a great deal of difficulty understanding the waitress. In frustration, my mom finally said, "I cannot understand a word you are saying." The waitress said, "It is our language, you know." My mom left that restaurant completely unsatisfied, simply due to a lack of communication.
Language in religion also separates us. People outside a faith system misunderstand some words, which define doctrine. Even within Christianity, there are multitudes of ideas, which have been debated over the millennia. Those ideas have led to war, division and hostility. Sometimes those disagreements are no more than differences in defining the terminology.
Read 2 Timothy 2:14
Those of us who are addicted to online chat have run into the problem of language many times. Communication is only 10% words. For proper communication, you must also have tone and body language. Yet online we only have words to communicate. I have seen more arguments that began from a simple misunderstanding explode to war. Friendships have been broken and people have been hurt.
These arguments come from anger and frustration, which can often be avoided. Next time you find yourself in a situation that is leading to disagreement, take a moment to define the language and to understand the situation. You will find, more often than not, that the anger and frustration can be avoided when common language is found and used.
Deception The coast of Cornwall is very jagged, steep rock cliffs and treacherous waters. This is a very dangerous place to navigate with a ship, and yet Cornwall is rich in natural resources that have been traded for millennia. There are lighthouses to guide the ships, but shipwrecks are unavoidable, especially in a place where the weather is so unpredictable.
It is said that the villagers along the coast would watch for the ships, because if one crashed, they could scavenge whatever they could. There is a legend that there lived on the cliffs of Cornwall a witch, who would shine a light as if she were directing the ships to a safe harbor, but she was directing them to their deaths. In all reality, it was someone from the town, who would try to cause a shipwreck. They would hang a lantern on an ass, which would move along the coastline. The ship's captain would be deceived into thinking he was following a light to safety. Instead, he would steer his ship into rocks. These are the truths behind the legends, desperate people take desperate measures.
Read 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11
We must be very careful to keep focused on the true light, for there are many who are out to deceive. The false light looked good. A captain is trained to recognize the real lighthouse from a false light. The weather, his physical state, or some other distraction could affect a captain. Even the best-trained man could make a deadly mistake.
Today there are many false lights, which are enticing believers away from the true light. We must keep our focus on God. Test the spirits according to the Word of God, so that you know you are following the true light. Do not be deceived.
Variety We like variety. It is boring to stick with the same thing all the time. Repetitious jobs are considered tedious and unfulfilling. We need 240 channels on the TV so we can have a choice of what to watch. We need 20 brands of Chicken Noodle soup in the grocery store. We make month long meal plans so that we do not eat the same food twice in a month. We have closets full of clothes because we just couldn't be caught at two parties in the same dress. We move every 3 years because we get bored with our jobs or our homes or our neighbors.
We do not commit to anything.
As Christians, we've been called to commit to something. We can say we have committed ourselves to Christ Jesus, but have we? Do we keep our focus on Him at all times? Are we aware of His presence at every moment of our day? Do we seek His guidance for the little things, as well as the big things?
Prayer is communication with God. When we communicate with Him, we are in prayer. This is true worship. Since He is ever with us, He is part of all our thoughts, words and deeds. He hears it all. Does that make you uncomfortable? It makes me very uncomfortable. After all, my thoughts, words and deeds are often extremely unacceptable. I certainly think, say and do many things that are unworthy to set before my Father.
As we grow in grace, and we become more closely connected to the Father, we see His omnipresence. When we see that He is ever present, we realize that we must change even the smallest of our habits to be a worthy offering to Him. One example of this is language. We stop cursing because we realize that the words dishonour God. Each area of our life should become worship to Him. We need to commit ourselves fully to the life we've been called to live. Every though, word and deed should be a prayer of worship to Him.
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17
Habit When driving to a new place, have you ever noticed it takes much longer to get there than to get home? On the way to a new place, you are busy looking for landmarks, following directions. You have an idea about your destination, but there is uncertainty. The way home is easy, because the destination is sure. The next time you visit the new place, the way is easier. Each subsequent visit means the path becomes well known.
We went to visit a friend yesterday. The roads we followed are familiar to us, so the driving was very easy. On the way home, it occurred to me that I did not even need the road signs. We had driven this route so many times that the car was almost on autopilot. I know the landscape, the traffic patterns and the bumps in the road. Every movement of the car showed that the path had become natural to me.
Practicing our faith is like driving. We have to learn the rules of the road. We have to become familiar with the path. We need to be sure of our destination. The more we practice, the more natural the journey becomes.
Read Philipians 2:12-13
Perfection in Christ is not a sudden and complete transformation. It is about a journey. We learn and grow in our relationship with God. Each day we become more familiar with the path and the destination. We cannot sit back and expect this knowledge to come naturally. It becomes a natural part of our life as we work it out, through prayer and bible study. As we search for God, He grows within us. We should be working toward autopilot, letting God work in us to do His Will for His purpose and to His glory.
Moles We woke up to find a molehill in our yard this morning. These mounds appear on a regular basis. The presence of the mole does not bother me, but the mounds are unsightly. When it rains, they become muddy. After the mole has worked the yard, there are not many places to walk without tracking mud in the house. We have given up on trying to make the perfect lawn.
Moles keep very busy. They sleep or eat. To eat, they dig through the dirt in search of worms. Moles eat more than their weight in food daily. They dig close to the surface of the earth, which is why they leave piles of dirt in their path. Most moles are blind, and they all live below the ground, in darkness.
It seems like many humans live like moles. They live in darkness, only doing the things necessary to sustain their flesh. Even those who are not blind, live under the ground never seeing light or life.
The book of Haggai shows the consequences of disobedience. The exciled Jews, after returning to Jerusalem, began to rebuild the temple, but opposition halted the building. The king of Persia, Darius the Great allowed the building in 520 B.C, but the Jews became lazy. The Jews were working hard, in darkness, to sustain the flesh, and yet they never seemed to get anywhere.
Read Haggai 1:5-6
Haggai was sent to tell the people to give priority to God's house, because obedience would bring blessings.
Read Haggai 1:9-10
Are you living in darkness, working for the satisfaction of the flesh, ignoring the house of the LORD?
Free Gift Free? What's the catch? We get mail in our post box almost every day advertising a "FREE GIFT". We see the same advertisements in the newspaper. Our first impulse is to read the small print. After all, there is no such thing as a free lunch. What do we have to do to get the free gift? What 900 number must be called? Do we need to buy $1000 worth of garbage? Will we have to commit to a two-year lease at a condo in South Florida?
A dear friend came to our house one day with something she purchased. She saw it in the store, thought of me and wanted me to have it.
Read Ephesians 2:4-5
God has come to our house, bringing us a great gift. He has done this because He loves us.
Read Ephesians 2:7
When will the promise be fulfilled? In the future? No, when we were dead, God lifted us up to be with Christ in the heavenlies. This statement is in the past tense. It is finished. The gift has been given. By God's grace, and His grace alone, we will stand as a testament to His Glory. We are witnesses to the love of God, His gifts being manifested in us, through Christ Jesus.
Independence I love the sense of independence in my daughter. For as long as I can remember, she has tried to do things on her own. Very often, though, the task she is trying to complete is beyond her ability. She refuses to ask for help. The longer she tries, the more frustrated she gets. This frustration leads to ruined projects, broken toys, and a sad little girl.
This is a very important lesson for her to learn. It is not a failure to ask for help. I would love to rush in and fix the problem. Instead, I wait patiently for her to give up and seek my help. I had to learn this lesson, too.
Last fall, when my mother was sick, I needed to go home. As a 'SuperMom', I found it very difficult to ask for help. I did not want to have to rely on others to take care of my children. I had no choice. I had to go home for two weeks to care for my mom, so someone had to help me. It was very humbling to admit I could not do everything on my own.
We have great difficulty asking others for help. It is even more difficult to approach God with our troubles. After all, God is so big and busy, why would He want to deal with our silly little problems? So we try to deal with everything on our own, seeking God's help for only "the biggies".
Read Hebrews 4:16
The word yesterday was free gift. Grace is that free gift. Today we are reminded that we must approach the throne of grace to receive that free gift. God will wait patiently for you to approach His throne seeking His help.
Change The grocery store recently did a huge remodeling job. They put in new shelves, and rearranged everything. When I went shopping, I was unable to find what I needed. The cashier told me one gentleman said, "Your remodeling saved me $100. I couldn't find anything I wanted!" We will get used to the change.
Military families learn very quickly how to adapt to change. "Permanent change of station" is a misrepresentation, because nothing in our life is permanent. . Even our friendships are short-lived. People come and go from our lives almost daily. We do what we can to keep some consistency. The children carry their favorite toys. We move our furniture, our clothes, and our pictures. We have come to adapt to these changes. It is part of our life. We try to make our government appointed houses a little bit like home by decorating with the things we have picked up on our journeys. Unfortunately, problems often occur during shipping, so some of the things we count on to give us a sense of stability get broken or lost.
Everyone faces change throughout life. We grow up, get married, and have families. We go to school, then to work, and then retire. Each stage of life holds new experiences and we must adapt to these changes.
Through all the changes, there is only one thing that remains constant.
Read James 1:17
Those things we keep in our lives to provide our security are temporal. They can easily be lost or broken. Even our friendships can be destroyed by a word or misunderstanding. We cannot count on the things of this world to provide stability. God has provided us with all we need to take us from day to day, our breath, our hope, and our faith. No matter how much turmoil we face with each new change, we can count on God to remain steady.