Welcome to the February 2007 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























Scripture on this page taken from the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible which belongs to the public domain.

A WORD FOR TODAY, February 2007

February 1, 2007

Scriptures for February 11, 2006: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

Jeremiah 17:5-10 Thus saith Jehovah: Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from Jehovah. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in Jehovah, and whose trust Jehovah is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that spreadeth out its roots by the river, and shall not fear when heat cometh, but its leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Jehovah, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.

We often use one of those online mapping sites to find the directions to places we want to go. Unfortunately, those sites are not always accurate. As a matter of fact, until very recently, the directions given for getting to our house actually made the follower turn the wrong way down our road. The map was new and changing daily, since our development only about three years old. As a matter of fact, about half the streets in our development have not even made it on to the newest published maps. When we first moved to Texas I refused to buy one of those books until they actually had my street drawn on the map.

Until recently, I would not even suggest for guests to use one of those online sites for our address because I knew it would be confusing. Instead I gave them detailed instructions for getting to our house. Just last week, however, I checked the site and realized they were finally sending visitors in the right direction. The star on the map was still not place exactly where it belonged – pointing to a house three doors down – but at least I knew they would turn the right way. With my house number and my phone number I knew they would not have any trouble finding their way.

One of the things we learned in England is that you find the most fascinating things when you are lost. We almost always found a fascinating historical site or a beautiful view when we made a wrong turn. We also learned that it was better to follow signs than to try to follow a specific route. It is hard to tell on British maps which road is which – many of them are unnumbered or the drawn lines are deceiving. In Cornwall we found that many of the ‘roads’ were little more than dirt tracks through cornfields. So, we learned to follow the signs, always heading toward the next city in our path. If we took a wrong turn at one roundabout, we would find an exit off the next roundabout headed in the right direction.

Those times were some of the most exciting because we found ourselves on an adventure. We never knew what exciting thing we might see around the next corner. Vicki never liked it; she becomes very nervous when we are lost. She is afraid that something terrible will happen and that we will not know where to get help. It is possible – I have heard horror stories of people who have become lost making a wrong turn and who have found themselves in dangerous situations. Wintertime news often offers a report about someone who has gotten stuck in snow drift after turning on to the wrong road. If a driver happens into the wrong neighborhood they might find themselves victims of robbery or violence. Being lost might mean being late for an important appointment. So, it is important to know which way to go. Relying on our own wits or mistaken maps can lead to horrible circumstances.

Unfortunately, when it comes to living our lives, we often try to follow our own wits or rely on mistaken ‘maps.’ Go into any book store and you’ll find shelves filled with self-help books, most of which are based on one or two ‘successes’ but which is not really reliable for most people. The books are purchased with the expectation that the program will work, only finding that self-help has disadvantages that we do not consider. ‘Self-help’ means not relying on the help of others. Most of all, ‘self-help’ means relying on anything but the One from whom all help flows.

When we try to do things on our own, we turn our back on God. When we trust in mapping sites we get lost; when we turn our hearts and our eyes off God we get lost. Jeremiah writes that a person whose eyes are not on the Lord will be like a shrub in the desert that misses the stream when it comes. This is an interesting image, since a shrub can not move toward the water even if it can see when it is coming. Desert storms cause flash floods as the rain water fills the dry creek beds. Though the shrub can’t move from its spot, desert plants have learned to take advantage of the brief moments of water when they come, because as soon as the storm clears the water will be gone. So, Jeremiah reminds us to keep our eyes on God so that we will always see His mercy and grace. Otherwise we will try to handle things on our own and get lost along the way.


February 2, 2007

Scriptures for February 11, 2006: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

Psalm 1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers: but his delight is in the law of Jehovah; And on his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water, That bringeth forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also doth not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The wicked are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For Jehovah knoweth the way of the righteous; But the way of the wicked shall perish.

When you live in a big city there are often many different ways to get to the same place. I suppose the same is often true even in the country. Here in the suburbs we have several ways we like to drive to get in and out of our subdivision. Our choice is often dependent on the time of day or the place toward which we are going. We give directions to friends down one set of streets because there are fewer twists and turns. We avoid one set of streets at a certain time because there are several schools in the path. One way seems so much longer than the others because of all the twists and turns, but two cars leaving at the same time often meet up at the end.

Yesterday I talked about those online mapping sites and how they are not always reliable. I have often looked up directions to a place thinking that the choices it made were not the best direction. Too many twists and turns, roads under construction, roads that go miles out of the way are some of the difficulties I would face. When I look at the map that is given, I always see if there are any other possibilities and I take what I think is the best route.

I’m not always right. Sometimes it turns out that my choice leads me on the road that has significantly more traffic or lots of extra stop lights. Sometimes there is a school or an extremely busy intersection that makes it difficult to pass. Sometimes I come across a one way road or other barrier that was not well marked on the map, leading me to have to take a detour that I did not expect. All these dangers make my trip longer, especially if they cause me to get lost along the way. There may be different roads on which to drive and those roads might lead to the same place in the same amount of time. However, there is usually a best way, a path that is safe and quick and easy.

Faith in Jesus Christ sets us on a journey. That journey is not necessarily safe, quick or easy. God does not build a superhighway to heaven and place our feet on the road. We often come to crossroads in our life, times when we have to make a decision about which path to travel. The roads will lead to the final destination, because by God’s grace the faith we have been given in Christ Jesus will always take us to the Promised Land. However, the road on which we travel might be more difficult, with more road blocks or twists and turns. If we choose the wrong spouse or the wrong job, we might have to deal with heartache or distress that was unnecessary. If we make the wrong choices we might just miss out on the special blessings which God had waiting for us along the way.

There are many things in this world that try to guide our path during this life. We are tempted by people and their expectations for us. We are led by our desires and our lusts. The psalmist warns the reader to not walk, stand or sit in the ways of the wicked. He says, “Do not follow the advice of those who would set you on the wrong path. Do not conform to the ways of the world. Do not join in the wickedness of those who are traveling their own way.”

So, how do we know? How do we make the right choices about the direction of our life and the path by which we should journey? As we delight in the Word of God, meditate on His law day and night, our hearts and our footsteps will be guided in the ways of righteousness and truth. As we spend time in the scriptures daily, we have God’s Word emblazoned on our hearts and in our minds, so that when it comes time to make a decision we will be guided by Him rather than by the temptations that surround us.


February 5, 2007

Today's Word is a repeat from January 2004.

Scriptures for February 11, 2006: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep.

Thomas Edison is one of the most prolific of all the inventors, having patented more than a thousand inventions throughout his life. He focused on communications, developing telegraphic equipment, transmitters and receivers. With the money earned from successful inventions, he set up the first large scale industrial research laboratory. He is also known for his work with incandescent lighting and generators. He only made one significant scientific discovery, but he did not find a practical use for the finding so he did not pursue it. It is thought that his success was due more to perseverance than any special insight. He is quoted as saying, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

In December 1914, his laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey caught fire, destroying millions of dollars worth of equipment and research. The record of his life’s work was wiped out. Edison’s son found his father watching the burning building. “My heart ached for him,” Charles said. “He was no longer young and everything was being destroyed. He spotted me. ‘Where is your mother?’ he shouted. ‘Find her. Bring her here. She’ll never see anything like this again as long as she lives.’” The next day as he walked through the charred remains of his work, Edison said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Edison was not a young man at the time, but he knew that we can always bounce back better than ever.

We all face disaster in our lives and somehow we find the strength and courage to bounce back. Illness is overcome; loss is regained. Most people are able to take adversity and make their lives better for it. It usually takes the help of others – a word of encouragement or an offer of support. Disaster is not permanent, though it may seem like it is. There is only one thing that cannot be overcome with perseverance or resilience, death. Only in Christ do we bounce back from the death of our flesh, though there are those who do not think this is important or even possible.

Charles Edison thought the fire was the end of his father’s career, but Thomas knew that there would be a tomorrow. Those who look forward with hope to what can happen after disaster find themselves stronger and better for the adversity. There are those who are truly devastated by illness or fire, who just can’t seem to overcome. When it comes to death, the difficulty is even greater because death is permanent. Those with no hope face the loss of a loved one with emotions that are impossible to overcome – mourning, fear, regret, anger, hatred and confusion. While we are face those emotions because death is difficult for those left behind, those who believe in Christ have His strength to help them triumph. If there is nothing, no way to bounce back after death, then our faith is in vain. But we know that Christ has been raised and in Him we too are raised to a new life. All our mistakes are burned away and we start anew in the eternal kingdom of God, to live and love forever. Thanks be to God.


February 6, 2007

Scriptures for February 11, 2006: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

Luke 6:17-26 …and he came down with them, and stood on a level place, and a great multitude of his disciples, and a great number of the people from all Judaea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were troubled with unclean spirits were healed. And all the multitude sought to touch him; for power came forth from him, and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same manner did their fathers unto the prophets. But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you, ye that are full now! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you, ye that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.

I received a story in my email today. The author is unknown, but I wanted to share it with you.

“A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee. When all the guests had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eying each other's cups.

“Now consider this: “Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us." God brews the coffee, not the cups..........

“Enjoy your coffee! The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.”

Our scriptures for today do not present a very pleasant life. This passage, often referred to as “The Sermon on the Plain” is a brief summary of what we find in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which is found in Matthew. Jesus tells us what it means to be blessed – at times translated “happy.” Can we really say “happy are the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated, and the persecuted”? Can we really say we would be happy in any of those situations?

This week during Bible story time at our preschool I have been reading the book “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. In this story a tree loves a boy to the point of willingly giving him everything she has. Each step along life’s journey, the boy thinks that if he has just one more thing – money, a home and family, a boat – that he will be happy. In the end he is old, tired and still sad. All she has left to give him is a stump on which he can rest. There the found happiness together.

Happiness – or blessedness – is not about having the fancy cup, a lot of money or the best home or material possessions. We are truly happen when we are content to live and serve God with our whole hearts no matter what ‘cup’ holds our life. It is hard to rejoice in suffering, and we should never seek suffering just so that we can appear to be one of those who are blessed. We are blessed when we are content and rejoice in the life which God has given to us, serving Him with our hearts, our hands and our voices. We know that there is more to our hope than happiness according to the ways of the world. Blessedness is found when we rest in God, when we trust in Him.


February 7, 2007

Scriptures for February 11, 2006: Jeremiah 17:5-10; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Luke 6:17-26

Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven…

I have always been fascinated by highway super-junctions or what I call “octopuses.” These are the places where many major highways come together in a confusing collection of suspended roads. There are a dozen or more bridges at this type of junction – the highways and exit ramps tangle together like an octopus with too many arms and no particular direction. I have often wondered if anyone even knows where all the roads go; I mean, can any one person stand in the midst of this super-junction and point out which road is which?

These super-junctions happen in big cities where major highways meet. The roads are suspended so high and piled on one another because they do not have the land to build the roads necessary to hold all the traffic. There is a brand-new octopus that has recently opened in our town; the bridges and roads are all brand new. It appears to have eased some of the traffic woes, giving more people room to drive from place to place. I suppose it will not take long before all those roads will be filled with too many cars and we will have to find a new way to ease the traffic congestion on our roads.

There is a highway that runs right through the center of town. I suppose when the road was first built, there was plenty of space for all the traffic. It was built right through the center of the city, with skyscrapers on either side. There was no room for growth. Yet, the traffic necessitated a change. More roads were needed. The only way to build was up. Now we have a road that splits into two roads right through the center of town. As you approach this road it is necessary to make a decision – up or down. I do not travel there very much, so I am always confused. Do I need to be on top or on the bottom? Which way will be the better way for me to go? Will I meet up with too much traffic or miss my exit?

This decision is certainly not a question of life or death, although it could be. If I take the wrong level when traveling to a certain exit, I have to cross several lanes of traffic in a very short period of time. During a busy time of day, this could mean missing my exit or causing an accident with unsafe driving.

We make decisions every day. Most decisions are inconsequential like what we are having for dinner and what clothes we will wear. Yet, even those decisions mean something when it comes to our life here on earth. The Corinthian Christians existed between two points of view – the pagan lifestyle and the life of a Jew. Though they were not Jews, many of the expectations of their way of life came from they way Jesus and His first followers lived. Pagan practice was inappropriate for their newfound hope and faith. Though their salvation was not dependent on their actions, the grace of God was given to transform their life and the world in which they lived. Salvation was a blessing that was given so that the person saved would be a blessing.

It is interesting that this scripture comes to us so close to Valentine’s Day. We often think of the love at this time of year in terms of romance, and yet the love in which we live as children of God is much different. It is not a love that follows the heart, for the heart can be deceptive. It is a love that trusts in that which will lead us in the right paths. Unfortunately, the right path is not always the easiest path. Those who trust in God will not have a life that is peaches and cream. As a matter of fact, Jesus warns His apostles that they will face persecution, suffering and pain. Our scriptures for this week offer two ways to go – the path of blessing and the path of woe. Blessed are those whose trust is in the Lord, no matter the circumstances. It is there we will find rest, peace and joy.


February 8, 2007

Scriptures for February 18, 2006: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36 [37-43]

Exodus 34:29-35 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of the testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses knew not that the skin of his face shone by reason of his speaking with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him. And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses spake to them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that Jehovah had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And when Moses had done speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. But when Moses went in before Jehovah to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the veil upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

I attended a workshop about storytelling. One of the exercises was a sheet of paper with about two dozen line drawings of faces with different emotions. The point of the exercise was to help us realize the importance of being able to recognize different emotions and to be able to portray them properly when story telling. Some of the emotions were obvious, but in many cases the differences were so minor that it was difficult to tell which should be which. It only takes a slight angle in the eyes or an extra line around the mouth to make a positive emotion negative or to intensify an emotion.

We did another exercise regarding emotions. In this activity we were paired with another student. One student was given a card with a brief story ending in a specific emotion. The student with the card was told to act it out while the other student guessed about what was being conveyed. It is important for a storyteller to know about facial expressions so as to communicate the right message. If the face says anger when the storyteller means happiness, the entire story will fail.

In his book, “Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life” Paul Eckman puts forth the theory that there are as many as ten thousand different facial experiences and that these facial expressions mean different things in different cultures. In other words, someone from the East might mistake something, misinterpreting the emotions of someone from another place. It is even possible that someone might mistake one emotion for another, leading to discord and even war.

I don’t think that the two groups have to necessarily even be from completely different parts of the world. As a matter of fact, I have known people in small communities that could never get along because they did not understand one another’s emotions and facial expressions. They saw what they wanted to see, or what they perceived to be the truth. It often took an outsider to question their perspective for them to realize they might be misinterpreting the situation.

In today’s story, Moses returns to his people after having an incredible experience in the presence of the Lord. This encounter leaves Moses transformed. His face glows with the glory of God. He has not been made into a god, though perhaps some of the people who saw him return might have thought that to be the case. Instead, Moses was like a mirror, reflecting the light of God which he had experienced on the mountain. This other worldly light was frightening to the people, but it also gave Moses a certain credibility. There was something very special about Moses; something that made it imperative that the people listen to his voice. God was with him.

The light did not last – it was a fleeting vision, so Moses covered his face with a veil. We might think that he did so because he did not want to frighten the people. However, Paul tells us that Moses covered up his face because the glory fades. The mountain top experiences of our lives are fleeting and we have to return to the real world. This does not mean that God has abandoned us or that His power is no longer with us. We must not misinterpret the difference in the face. The glory did not make Moses better than the others and the fading glory did not make him worse. The glory was simply a reflection of God, reminding His people to listen and understand what He had to say.


February 9, 2007

Psalm 99 Jehovah reigneth; let the peoples tremble: He sitteth above the cherubim; let the earth be moved. Jehovah is great in Zion; And he is high above all the peoples. Let them praise thy great and terrible name: Holy is he. The king's strength also loveth justice; Thou dost establish equity; Thou executest justice and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt ye Jehovah our God, And worship at his footstool: Holy is he. Moses and Aaron among his priests, And Samuel among them that call upon his name; They called upon Jehovah, and he answered them. He spake unto them in the pillar of cloud: They kept his testimonies, And the statute that he gave them. Thou answeredst them, O Jehovah our God: Thou wast a God that forgavest them, Though thou tookest vengeance of their doings. Exalt ye Jehovah our God, And worship at his holy hill; For Jehovah our God is holy.

Have you ever really considered the amount of knowledge that can be found in one library? My own bookshelves are covered with hundreds of books, from children's stories to novels to reference materials. I have books about Christmas, faith, health, history and language. I can't count the number of books about prayer or the books I haven't even read yet. I have a pile that is at least twenty volumes deep of books I intend to read soon. Somehow the pile just gets bigger.

The other day I took Vicki to Texas State for her first college visitation. When we had a few moments, we slipped into the library to see what is available to the students. The library at Texas State is the biggest building – seven stories, each story the size of a football field. While the library has many rooms available for private study and even a large auditorium, there are more than a million books, not to mention the electronic resources and documents available. I have a general idea of what is available in my library. If someone asked to borrow a book about grace, I know which ones would be good for them to read. If I'm looking for a poem or a certain person's perspective, I can certainly find it. However, I can't imagine ever knowing everything that is available in those books. Magnify it and you have the university library. We walked through the stacks on one floor and everything seemed to be science related. Can anyone ever really know everything in those books?

It is even worse when you consider knowledge of God. A.W. Tozer, in his book "The Knowledge of the Holy" wrote, "Neither the writer nor the reader of these words is qualified to appreciate the holiness of God. Quite literally a new channel must be cut through the desert of our minds to allow the sweet waters of truth that will heal our great sickness to flow in. We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God's holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God's power and admire his wisdom, but his holiness he cannot even imagine."

No one can know everything in every book ever written. It would be impossible for anyone to even read every book, let alone remember all the details. A librarian would have more knowledge than most people. At least she would know where to find a book on the subject. She might even be able to suggest the right book. It is that way with the holiness of God. We can study God, know the history of His people, learn and follow His law. We can try to live according to His wisdom and His love. However, there is no way we can possibly even imagine the holiness of God. His ways, His thoughts, His purposes are higher than human flesh can attain.


February 12, 2007

Scriptures for February 18, 2006: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36 [37-43]

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2 Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness of speech, and are not as Moses, who put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel should not look stedfastly on the end of that which was passing away: but their minds were hardened: for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remaineth, it not being revealed to them that it is done away in Christ. But unto this day, whensoever Moses is read, a veil lieth upon their heart. But whensoever it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit. Therefore seeing we have this ministry, even as we obtained mercy, we faint not: but we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

I watched a show on the Food Network last night called “Challenge.” “Challenge” brings together the finest people in an area of food preparation and sets them to compete against one another. The challenge is always different and is accompanied by a set of rules designed for that particular competition. On one show the bakers had to create a cake for a boy’s birthday. They had to make the theme appropriate to the boy, and the boy was the ultimate judge. On another show, candy makers were to build skyscrapers out of sugar. The judges look for originality, creativity, technique and adherence to the rules.

Last night’s episode was very interesting. The contestants had to create an evening dress out of chocolate. Though they were able to use fabric and thread, seventy-five percent of the visible parts of the dress had to be chocolate. They had sixteen hours over the course of two days to design and produce their gown. Some of the contestants had difficulty with their material, spending way too much time sewing and far too little time creating the chocolate necessary to build the dress.

After the dresses were complete, they had to be worn by a live model that walked a catwalk just as if it was a regular fashion show. One dress made it very difficult for the model to walk – it was stiff and inflexible. Another dress did not have enough chocolate. A third dress was created by a chef who is fascinated by everything New York and so it had a large headdress which was difficult to balance. The fourth dress – the winner – had a skirt that was made out of medallion like pieces strung together in long streamers from the waste. The model was fantastic in the way she moved to enhance the movement of the outfit. My favorite, however, was a dress that looked much like the clothes worn in the Twenties with a fringed top and skirt.

I think what was most fascinating about this show is that the models actually wore the dresses. During the preparation for the fashion show one of the judges commented that heat was their worst enemy at that point. Imagine what it must have been like for those models, trying not to get overheated while wearing gowns made of chocolate, while walking on a catwalk under blazing hot theater lights. They had to walk carefully and even swing their arms at an odd angle to protect the gown. A wrong move might mean a cracked piece, a ruined gown and a lost competition.

Can you imagine working on something for more than sixteen hours to have it worn once and then discarded? I don’t think I would want to eat the chocolate and the gown would be difficult to take off and put on again. For a brief moment the gowns, and their creators, shined. That is especially true of the winner, who received a check for $10,000. However, the glory was short lived. The next day the gowns were gone and they had nothing left to show for their work except pictures and an hour long television show.

We do a lot of things for the glory. We compete in competitions – everything from sports, to the arts, to academics. We work hard at our jobs for that raise or promotion. We plan weddings that cost a fortune and last a few hours. We spend hours gardening – planting, weeding, fertilizing – to have a pretty home for a season. We purchase the current trends in fashion, technology or other material possessions to be the envy of our neighbors. But that glory fades. Like the chocolate dresses, the things that bring us glory today are gone tomorrow.

Moses reflected the glory of God each time he met with the Lord in the Tent of Meeting. When he came out of the tent, the people could barely even look at him because the glory was so bright. Yet, that glory – a glory based on the Old Covenant – soon faded. Just as the sacrifices only worked for a time, and the priests has to return year after year to offer more, the righteousness that came from obedience to the law did not last. Today we might do everything right, but tomorrow we can fall to the temptations of the world. The glory of our earned righteousness fades, it melts under the heat of reality.

However, Paul tells us that we have a different kind of hope. Our hope is not based on our ability to win or accomplish something for God. Our hope rests on the Lord Himself, who is our righteousness. We do not have to wear veils over our faces because the glory that reflects in our lives is not one that will ever fade. It will never fade because it is Jesus’ glory, not our own. We are being transformed daily to become that which Christ is calling us to be. Instead of fading, the glory is ever-increasing because we are growing deeper and deeper in Spirit with each day and each new epiphany.


February 13, 2007

Scriptures for February 18, 2006: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36 [37-43]

Luke 9:28-36 [37-43] And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, that he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up into the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling. And behold, there talked with him two men, who were Moses and Elijah; who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: but when they were fully awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. [And it came to pass, as they were parting from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah: not knowing what he said. And while he said these things, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him. And when the voice came, Jesus was found alone. And they held their peace, and told no man in those days any of the things which they had seen. And it came to pass, on the next day, when they were come down from the mountain, a great multitude met him. And behold, a man from the multitude cried, saying, Teacher, I beseech thee to look upon my son; for he is mine only child: and behold, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth, and it hardly departeth from him, bruising him sorely. And I besought thy disciples to cast it out; and they could not. And Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and bear with you? bring hither thy son. And as he was yet a coming, the demon dashed him down, and tare him grievously. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And they were all astonished at the majesty of God.]

We have a choice this week to read the passage about the transfiguration of Jesus alone or to read also the story of what happened when they came down the mountain. The two stories seem unconnected and perhaps the second half is unimportant when considering the greatness of the glory on the mountain. Yet, Jesus was never about the glory. He was all about doing the work He had come to do.

We all know the story of Cinderella. Cinderella is a girl who finds herself in horrible circumstances, unloved and abused by the people who should care for her the most. With the help of some friends, Cinderella overcomes all the hurdles and finds her prince charming. At the end of the story we see Cinderella living happily ever after. She is on top of the mountain, reveling in the glory of her new and transformed life.

Disney made a sequel to their version of this age old story called, “Dreams Come True.” In this story, Cinderella finds out what it is like to live in the every day moments of running a castle. She has to be a hostess to all the visitors, acting royal as was expected by the people in her new world. Unfortunately, she could be not be her usual warm and welcoming self and be hostess in the traditional ways. So, she had difficulty living up to everyone’s expectations. She could not be herself – she had to act like something different. By the end of the movie, Cinderella discovers that she must be herself to succeed.

In the Gospel lesson Jesus takes some of the disciples to the top of the mountain where He is transfigured before their eyes. Shortly before this event, about eight days according to Luke’s account, Jesus told the disciples for the first time that He would have to suffer and die at the hands of all who would reject Him. Such words must have been disturbing and disheartening for the disciples. Yet on this day the three went up the mountain with Jesus and witnessed His glorification. Surely if God would do something so miraculous, then Jesus must be more than even He thought He would be! God would not allow His Chosen One to die, right?

It is no wonder that Peter would want to build a permanent structure in which Jesus – as well as Moses and Elijah – could dwell. There on the mountaintop, in the presence of the Holy, no one could harm Jesus. However, this was not the way it was to be. Jesus had His moment of glory, but the real glory would come in a much different way. They needed to return to the real world, to the world which needed God’s mercy and grace. They needed to go back to the crowds, to the dis-ease, to the oppression and Jesus had to go back to the hatred and rejection that would send Him to the cross.

In the second half of this passage – the half that doesn’t seem to belong – we see something far more real than the moment of glory on the mountain. God’s power is not found in transfigured images or miraculous moments. It is found in the every day opportunities we have to share God’s love and mercy with others. I am sure that the demon possessed boy must have been dirty and ugly with wounds. It must have been horrific to witness a body out of control, hurting itself and throwing itself on the ground. Yet there was the real glory, when God’s grace touched the needy and brought healing and peace to a life of suffering. Just as Cinderella found real success in being herself, Jesus was most glorious when He was sharing the kingdom of God with those in need.


February 14, 2007

Scriptures for February 18, 2006: Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36 [37-43]

But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.

February 18th is Martin Luther’s saint day. Of course, Martin Luther was never officially made a saint, but he died on February 18th so it is his ‘heavenly birthday’, the day he entered into eternal rest with Christ. We rarely talk about Martin Luther on his saint day because we focus on him around October 31st – Reformation Day. And yet I find this conjunction of dates very interesting, particularly with Luke’s version of the transfiguration as our scriptures. There are few theologians throughout history who have understood as well as Martin Luther the glory found in the cross. There are few Christians who better knew what it was like to get down and dirty in service to God in the name of Jesus Christ.

It is rather funny to call February 18th Martin Luther’s ‘saint day’ because I am not so sure Martin would ever want to be made a saint according to the Catholic church. He respected those who were given that special honor, but Martin realized over his lifetime the joy and value of the ordinary life of faith. He taught that people glorified God in their everyday work, worshipping Him by doing what it was they were called to do in this world. It is not so easy to see our daily tasks in life as being holy and worshipful. As we think about the most disgusting work we can do, such as changing diapers or collecting the garbage, we do not even imagine God to be near us at those moments. We are certainly not singing His praise for the opportunity to do these tasks. Yet, as Luther understood vocation, it is even at these times we are called to thank God and worship Him with our work. These are holy callings when done in faith, because in these tasks we are serving God by serving others.

Jesus was on top of the mountain. Three of His disciples had joined him there. To them, the most wonderful thing that could happen was for Christ to be transfigured and called the Chosen One of God. Peter even wanted to keep Jesus there. At the very least, Peter wanted to build a monument to the moment of glory. Yet Jesus refused to stay on the mountain and in the glory because He knew the greater glory was to come. Instead of savoring the glory, Jesus herded His disciples back down the mountain into the path of the real work of the kingdom.

There at the foot of the mountain Jesus faced doubt, uncertainty and fear. He was no longer dazzling white, but was probably covered with the dirt of the road, with dusty feet and sweaty body. While He was on the mountain a desperate man came to His disciples in search of a healing touch, yet they were unable to do anything without Him. They could not cast out the demon. It is a strange thing to happen since earlier in the chapter they had been sent out two by two to do the very same work. Luke writes, “So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” They were capable.

The scriptures this week are not so much about transfiguration and glory as they are about doing the work of the kingdom. The passage is bookended by the truth of Jesus’ mission among us. He came to die. On the mountain God spoke to the three disciples and said, “This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye him.” Jesus did not say what they wanted Him to say. He did not tell them that He was going to be King over Israel. He did not lead them into battle against their oppressors. He did not speak of Israel as a great nation. Instead, Jesus told them that He would have to die. The glory would not be found on a mountain or in a palace, but on a cross. For the work of God to be complete He, and they, would have to get down and dirty. They would have to face the horror of dis-ease and brokenness.

When we are finished doing whatever it is we have been called to do in this world, we will be gathered with Him in eternal life. On February 18th Martin Luther received His reward, entering into the glory which God had promised. Until that day, he lived in what Paul called “the ever increasing glory” as God transformed him daily by His Word and by His sacraments. We are called to live the same type of life – not on the mountaintop reveling in the glory, but at the foot of the mountain getting down and dirty with the work of God’s kingdom.


February 15, 2007

Scriptures for February 25, 2006: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein, that thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which thou shalt bring in from thy land that Jehovah thy God giveth thee; and thou shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which Jehovah thy God shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there. And thou shalt come unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto Jehovah thy God, that I am come unto the land which Jehovah sware unto our fathers to give us. And the priest shall take the basket out of thy hand, and set it down before the altar of Jehovah thy God. And thou shalt answer and say before Jehovah thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father; and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians dealt ill with us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage: and we cried unto Jehovah, the God of our fathers, and Jehovah heard our voice, and saw our affliction, and our toil, and our oppression; and Jehovah brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders; and he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground, which thou, O Jehovah, hast given me. And thou shalt set it down before Jehovah thy God, and worship before Jehovah thy God: and thou shalt rejoice in all the good which Jehovah thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thy house, thou, and the Levite, and the sojourner that is in the midst of thee.

We have some land in Pennsylvania. At this point the land is undeveloped. It is not untouched. Our family who lives nearby takes care of it for us, cleaning out the brush and cutting down some trees. A local farmer rents some of the land to plant feed for his cows. Family and friends use it during hunting season if the deer travel that way. Though the land is well used, we have not come to possess it. It is ours, but we have not made it our own.

In today’s Old Testament lesson, God provides for the Israelites with the way for them to come into the Promised Land. This is not a set of instruction on how to get there, but rather how to make it their own. Possessing the land meant more than just having it. It even meant more than inhabiting it. The land had been given by God, and in response to God’s grace the people were called to offer the first fruits of the land back to Him.

The ritual behind presenting the first fruits as is found in this passage. The people are not to simply thank God for what they are able to give, but also to remember God for all that He had done for them. The past – the exodus – was more than something that had happened to them. It was the way God molded them into the nation they were to become. The escape out of Egypt, the forty years of wandering and the victories over those who dwelt in the land were all gifts from God. Everything they had today was theirs by the hand of the same God who did all that for them.

When they presented the first fruits, not only in that first generation, but in every generation to follow, they were to remember their roots. How they got to that moment was as important as what they had to give. It was in the recitation of God’s gifts that they praised God. It did not matter that a future generation would not have been the ones who escaped and wandered – the gifts of God were given to every generation that followed.

We tend to forget the past. We tend to think that what I have today has nothing to do with what my parents and grandparents might have had. Yet, I can’t help but think about that land in Pennsylvania. It came from Bruce’s family – not only his parents, but from his ancestors who have lived on that land for a hundred and fifty years. Their history is our history. Their successes have become ours; their failures are a part of how we have grown to be.

I wonder if any of us really think about our ancestors and what God has done for them as we offer our gifts to God. Do we consider how God’s hand was in their life and do we praise Him for all that He did for them? Perhaps we should. We may not be able to claim the story of the Exodus for ourselves, but we have a story, too. We have a story in which God has saved His people – our own ancestors – and blessed them in this world. As we present our offerings, whether they are the tithe of our weekly paycheck or the first fruits of some harvest, let’s remember where we came from and thank God for the history that has brought us to that moment.


February 16, 2007

Scriptures for February 25, 2006: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Psalm 91:1-16 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of Jehovah, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in whom I trust. For he will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover thee with his pinions, And under his wings shalt thou take refuge: His truth is a shield and a buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, Nor for the arrow that flieth by day; For the pestilence that walketh in darkness, Nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, And ten thousand at thy right hand; But it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold, And see the reward of the wicked. For thou, O Jehovah, art my refuge! Thou hast made the Most High thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, Neither shall any plague come nigh thy tent. For he will give his angels charge over thee, To keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: The young lion and the serpent shalt thou trample under foot. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, And show him my salvation.

We live in a neighborhood that is only a few years old. As a matter of fact, the oldest houses have been here less than five years. There are still a few plots to be developed, but the development should be complete and all the houses sold by the end of this year. The thing I find most fascinating is that even though there are still plenty of brand new houses available, people are selling their homes and moving elsewhere. There are a half dozen homes for sale on our street.

The reasons for the sale vary. Some families are military and they have to move with the job. One family has decided that they want to live in a different house in another area of our development. Unfortunately for some families the reason for moving is more financial. They bought their home with the expectation that they will be secure, but for one reason or another, the payments became unbearable. A few have changed jobs – if it weren’t for the grace of God, we might be in the same situation. Some people purchased a home outside their ability to pay, thinking that they could make it work. After a year or so they realized that they could not continue to live beyond their means. Fortunately, the houses here are selling well, so they are able to get out of trouble into a better situation.

We put so much energy into taking care of ourselves and satisfying our deepest desires. We look for the perfect house, thinking that we will find happiness and security and contentment if only we have exactly what we imagine those things to be. I’ve known way too many people who have purchased above their means and then struggled for years. They never really knew the security they thought would be found nestled in the perfect dwelling.

I think I have a hard time dealing with the message found in today’s Psalm because I know that it is possible to experience suffering even with the greatest faith. I have never believed that God will necessarily protect me from my enemies, instead I have always believed that God would make all circumstances – whether good or bad – work out to the best for those who love Him. Yet, in this Psalm it seems to say that no matter what we do, in faith we will not suffer or be harmed.

I suppose the lesson we can take from this is not that we should be running around stomping on snakes or lions, but rather to live in the assurance of God’s presence in and through our lives. Dwelling in Him might not save us from disease or financial troubles, but it will give us hope for the future and the strength to see ourselves through. When we know that God is with us, we live with an assurance that He will guard us, lift us, hear us and deliver us from evil. We are called to trust in God, but not to do something stupid to test God’s faithfulness.


February 19, 2007

Scriptures for February 25, 2006: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Romans 10:8b-13 The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

There is a movie starring Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon and Ed Harris called “Stepmom.” The movie is about a woman (Julia Roberts) who falls in love with a divorced man (Ed Harris). Susan Sarandon plays the ex-wife. Two children complete this very modern family. Early in the movie Susan Sarandon’s character does everything she can to make it difficult on the loving couple. She even goes so far as to turn their hearts away from the new woman in their father’s life. The young boy even says to his mother, “Mom, if you want me to hate her, I will.”

Julia Roberts does not know how to be a mom. She is young and inexperienced but willing to learn. The boy got lost one day because he wandered off, leaving Julia’s character scared and his mother angry with her for not caring. She even threatens to restrict visitation. The girl – a teenager who willfully fights her own mother – is rude and mean, trying to get the “stepmom” in more trouble so she will be forced out of the picture altogether. They both think that if Julia Roberts is gone, then their family will be right again.

However, Susan Sarandon got very sick with an incurable cancer. Though the doctors tried to make her well, her condition progressively worsened throughout the movie. She did not tell the family until it was too late. One day, when she was feeling very ill, she realized that Julia Roberts offered some hope for her family. She would not be around too long, so she began treating the “stepmom” with more respect. The children saw her change and also began treating her differently.

The mother told her daughter, “Try to see something good in her.” One day, Julia Roberts and the daughter were in their home and the daughter was frustrated by an art project she was working on. Julia asked her what was wrong. The daughter wanted to push her away – even did at first – and then she confessed the problem. Patiently and graciously Julia, who was an artist herself, showed her a technique that would work. That moment of grace – on both parts – was a turning point in their relationship. In the end, the entire family accepted Julia Roberts, even Susan Sarandon, and they all dealt with the future together.

It wasn’t easy. The young Julia Roberts wanted to do things one way, the older Susan Sarandon wanted to do things her way. However, they found a way to co-exist in a right relationship that helped the children to adjust to the inevitable. It took not only an intellectual understanding of one another, but also a love that was beyond their understanding.

It takes heads and hearts for us to live in right relationships – righteousness. The righteousness of which Paul speaks is between God and His people. In the Old Testament, righteousness – that right relationship – comes from obedience to the Law. However, Paul explains in the book of Romans that it does not work. Human flesh is unable to be good enough, to do right enough to be in that right relationship with God. So God made it possible in a new way, with a new covenant. That covenant is found in Jesus Christ. God’s Word, which is Jesus, dwells in us and it is He that makes it possible for us to have a right relationship.

Susan Sarandon grasped the importance with her head of making Julia Roberts welcome into her world. However, it was not until they knew each other in a deeper way – with their hearts – confessing their fears and their hopes for the children together, that they really came into a right relationship. We love God. We know God. It is not enough to just love God or to just know God. For a right relationship, our hearts and our heads must be involved – confessing with our mouths and believing in our hearts that Jesus is Lord. That is where salvation is found – in Him.


February 20, 2007

Scriptures for February 25, 2006: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

Luke 4:1-13 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led in the Spirit in the wilderness during forty days, being tempted of the devil. And he did eat nothing in those days: and when they were completed, he hungered. And the devil said unto him, if thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it become bread. And Jesus answered unto him, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone. And he led him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, To thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: for it hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship before me, it shall all be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to guard thee: and, On their hands they shall bear thee up, Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not make trial of the Lord thy God. And when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from him for a season.

After Jesus was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, He was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He was there for forty days, eating nothing. Though He was alone, He was not far from God, always dwelling in the presence of His Father. At the end of the forty days He was hungry. Satan came and taunted Jesus. "If thou art the Son of God, command this stone that it become bread." Jesus answered with the Word of God.

Again, Satan taunted Jesus. After showing Him all the kingdoms in the world, he said, "To thee will I give all this authority, and the glory of them: for it hath been delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it." Again, Jesus answered with the Word of God.

A third time Satan taunted Jesus. "If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence." In this temptation, Satan quoted the scriptures. "He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to guard thee: and, On their hands they shall bear thee up, Lest haply thou dash thy foot against a stone." He twisted this scripture to tempt Jesus into tempting fate. Our faith is given, not to test God but to love and worship Him.

Again, Jesus answered with the Word of God. Each time He faced Satan's taunts, Jesus had an answer that came from God. He dwelled in the shadow of the Most High and the Almighty dwelt within Him. In that He was secure. He certainly did have the power to change stones to bread, to command over the nations of the world and to call the angels to His aid. Yet that moment was neither the time nor the place. Satan took God's Word and twisted it, claiming for himself the authority that he did not have.

Unfortunately, this twisting even happens within many churches today. They take God's Word and fit it to meet their needs and desires. They seek God's power for all the wrong reasons, to bring wealth and fame and power, rather than to glorify God. Jesus knew the temptations we would face today, He faced them Himself in that wilderness experience. Satan did not just offer Jesus a loaf of bread, a kingdom or angelic protection. He was offering Him an incredible ministry of miracles, authority and power. Satan was trying to prove Jesus was nothing more than any other man, easily tempted away from God's will to a self-centered ministry.

Jesus proved He was the Son of God, dwelling within the presence of God and secure in His calling to save the world. Jesus did not come to feed the hungry, to rule over the nations or to be a famous preacher. He came to die, to bring forgiveness and healing to a world that was sick and dying from sin. He was Immanuel, God with us, and from then until now God no longer lives in a temple. Instead, He lives within the hearts of those who believe.


February 21, 2007

Scriptures for February 25, 2006: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I do not like flashback shows very much. These are the shows, particularly situation comedies, which take some current event to look back over the life of the characters (and the show). The show usually begins with the characters gathered together dealing with something – good or bad – and remembering how they got to that moment. They do this when someone is getting married or when someone is sick.

The trouble for me, as the viewer, is that although there is some plot line to the episode – telling the story from the point of view of where they were – it is difficult to follow it with all the flashbacks. If you tune in too late, you might not even realize the type of show you are watching. When I see the clip from another show I often respond “I love this episode!” only to be disappointed when I discover that I won’t get to see the whole thing.

To me, those flashback shows are little more than a way for the writers to take a day off. I know they have to write something, but most of the time is take up with film that has already been produced – their job is much easier. It is, to me, a lazy way out or a cheap way of dealing with writer’s block.

Yet, we are who we are because of what has come in the past. When the “Friends” gathered around to recall how Monica and Chandler got together. It is very funny when you put the ups and downs of their relationship into brief thirty or sixty minutes. They went through it all – hate, separation, fear, lust, hope and love. Their relationship and their relationships with those around them are founded on those experiences.

The same thing can be said about our relationship with God and the world. Our experiences in the past build upon the things we have heard and learned. We don’t have a relationship with God based solely on the Bible, but also on how it applies to our life. We also do not have a relationship with God based solely on our experience of Him, but on what has come before us – as it written in the scriptures.

Some people would rather not use creeds to define the relationship of God with His people. They are seen as too limiting, too rote for a true relationship. Yet in our scriptures this week we see the speakers all looking back to the Word as was given by God and experienced by His people. When offering the first fruits, the people were to give it in the knowledge and praise of God for what He has done for His people. They were not to give the offering based on their goodness or accomplishments, but on God’s goodness.

In the Epistle lesson, Paul reminds us that our faith in Christ is not just a heart thing or a head thing – it is both. Jesus Christ is Lord and as Lord He is the foundation on which a new covenant – and a new relationship – is built. Paul looks to the past – to the scriptures – to explain this new covenant of God. The people of the past personified wisdom as the manifestation of God, Paul identified Jesus as that manifestation. The past established what would be, and Jesus fulfilled the promises.

Everything that we are – our strength, our hope, our peace – is found in Jesus Christ. He is Lord. We dwell in Him. Our salvation is dependent on our love for God and our love for Jesus, but it is also built on our knowledge of God as He is manifest in the flesh of Jesus. We dwell in Him but dwelling in Him does not mean that we should test His faithfulness. God will protect us, save us, empower us. However, we see in Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness that we can be tempted by things that appear good. We need to rest in that which has been given to us – our past, God’s Word and His promise – and with His strength we will be able to discern what is right and do what is truly good.


February 22, 2007

Scriptures for March 4, 2007: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 After these things the word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, O Lord Jehovah, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and he that shall be possessor of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, This man shall not be thine heir; But he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and number the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in Jehovah; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness. And he said unto him, I am Jehovah that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, O Lord Jehovah, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said unto him, Take me a heifer three years old, and a she-goat three years old, and a ram three years old, and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon. And he took him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each half over against the other: but the birds divided he not. And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away. And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, a horror of great darkness fell upon him… And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold, a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch that passed between these pieces. In that day Jehovah made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.

I have never been a fan of the show “American Idol.” I don’t understand why every detail about the show is big news. Turn on the news or television and you will likely hear some reference to the show or to one of the “Idols.” A local girl made the top twenty-four and there are daily updates about her. Apparently things did not go well for her this week and the reporters are already predicting that she will be kicked off the show next. This is big news. The “Idol” thing is the focus of conversation in many homes, schools and workplaces each week. Everyone is choosing their favorites and predicting outcomes. For some the world has to stop for those few hours a week. They have to see the show.

“American Idol” has given wonderful opportunities to many of the contestants. Some have had incredible success, even those who did not win. Others have been lost to oblivion; we can’t even remember their names. For those of us at home, the show offers little. We are entertained and if we choose the winner we can pat ourselves on the back for being right. It is a fun show, but does it have anything to offer to make it worthy of such devotion by its fans?

Abram came from a place and a time where people worshipped many gods. They had local gods to whom they prayed for certain things. There were gods for the sun and the moon, the rain and the wind, fertility and anything else that might meet their daily needs. They had shrines in their homes honoring their special gods, with idols created out of wood and stone. They talked to the idols, praying for their needs, but they never heard a word in response. They looked for signs in the heavens or on the earth and interpreted the signs to mean whatever they wanted it to mean, grasping on to anything to have the assurance that they have been heard. They signs were good and bad – a good sign meant they would be blessed, a bad sign meant they would be cursed. Yet the worship of these idols was based on nothing more than superstition. The idols were not worthy of their devotion. They had nothing to give except false hope.

Abram heard a voice one day, the voice of the LORD. There was something about this voice that was different than what he experienced with the idols – so different that he packed up his whole life – his family, livestock and material possessions – and traveled to a far place on His Word. That took faith.

And yet, we see some doubt in Abram in today’s lesson. He knows this voice, this God that is different from all other gods, has promised that he would bear a son, but he has not yet seen any signs that the promise will be fulfilled. He and his wife were already old enough to be beyond child bearing. Abram was considering taking legal action to pronounce a servant as his son to ensure that there would be an heir to take over when he died. God responded to Abrams doubt and concern with a sign – but it was more than a sign, it was a covenant promise. Despite Abram’s doubt, God provided him with the assurance he needed to go on. “I am your shield,” said the LORD to Abram, establishing Himself as King and Sovereign over Abrams world. As King, the LORD would provide everything that Abram needed. And Abram trusted the LORD.


February 23, 2007

Scriptures for March 4, 2007: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Psalm 27:1-14 Jehovah is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? Jehovah is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? When evil-doers came upon me to eat up my flesh, Even mine adversaries and my foes, they stumbled and fell. Though a host should encamp against me, My heart shall not fear: Though war should rise against me, Even then will I be confident. One thing have I asked of Jehovah, that will I seek after; That I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of Jehovah, And to inquire in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me secretly in his pavilion: In the covert of his tabernacle will he hide me; He will lift me up upon a rock. And now shall my head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me. And I will offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto Jehovah. Hear, O Jehovah, when I cry with my voice: Have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; My heart said unto thee, Thy face, Jehovah, will I seek. Hide not thy face from me; Put not thy servant away in anger: Thou hast been my help; Cast me not off, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, Then Jehovah will take me up. Teach me thy way, O Jehovah; And lead me in a plain path, Because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine adversaries: For false witnesses are risen up against me, And such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah In the land of the living. Wait for Jehovah: Be strong, and let thy heart take courage; Yea, wait thou for Jehovah.

In yesterday’s scripture, Abram received God’s promise of an inheritance beyond anything he could ever imagine. He was prepared to grant the inheritance of his estate to a servant, accepting the fate of his life void of children. God told him to wait and promised that his heir would be from his own flesh. God promised him even more – his offspring will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. That’s a pretty big promise, especially to a guy and his wife who are both well beyond child bearing age.

Abram believed, but he lacked patience. Sarai was also impatient for the promise, so she presented Abram with her maid servant, an acceptable way of overcoming barrenness. The servant of a woman could act as the surrogate and the child would be counted as the mistress’s own. This is a natural and culturally acceptable solution to their problem. They did not trust God to fulfill His promises, not so much because they did not believe but because they were afraid to wait too long. Perhaps they were even afraid that they had missed the promise somehow – maybe this was the way God wanted it to be accomplished?

We do not like to wait. As a matter of fact, we live in a world where we really do not have to wait for anything. Microwaves cook our food in seconds. Cars get us around the city in minutes. Computers make communication instantaneous. We can know what is happening anywhere around the world at any moment just by turning on the television. We do not even have to wait for our favorite televisions shows – with video on demand we can watch what we want when we want to watch it.

We have lost the ability to wait – not that it has even been a common human trait. Abram and Sarai could not wait for God’s promises. They took matters into their own hands. We do the same every day by rushing into things, making decisions without careful discernment or prayer. We are afraid we are going to miss something, so we jump in head first. We forget that God’s time is not our time and that God’s way is not our way. We even justify our impatience and call it boldness, boldly taking the leap of faith.

However, our impatience is actually distrust. We take matters in our own hands, actually creating more chaos and disorder in our world. The child of Sarai’s maidservant, Ishmael, has been the center of conflict in that family and in that region ever since his birth. The same thing happens to us when we do not trust in God. When we take matters into our own hands, rushing the will and purpose of God, we find ourselves suffering the consequences of impatience.

In this Psalm we are called to be patient, to wait on the Lord. When we keep our eyes and our hearts on the Lord we have nothing to fear – not even time. God is faithful; He will fulfill His promises. We are afraid that we have missed Him, afraid that we can’t hear His voice, but God is faithful. We should not rush into anything, grasping control from God, because we do not know all that we need to know. There is a reason to wait, a reason that tomorrow is a better time. We can only know that God has our life in His hands and that by faith we can have the courage to wait.


February 26, 2007

Scriptures for March 4, 2007: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Philippians 3:17-4:1 Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them that so walk even as ye have us for an ensample. For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself. Wherefore, my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved.

Zachary recently started taking guitar lessons from a friend who lives down the street. On the first day he took class, Zack realized the student who is scheduled for a session right before him is a friend from church. Though younger, the boy knew Zack from different events and was excited to see him. His mother was also excited. She approached me at church the following Sunday and told me how glad she was to see Zack taking lessons from the same teacher. Her son looks up to Zack and she was glad that he would have a good role model to help him work harder at playing guitar. She is hoping that Zack’s example will make him become more committed to the lessons and practice more in between.

This boy’s mother is not the first to tell me they enjoy having Zack around their children. They see him as a good role model in other aspects of life and appreciate his kindness to them. He has an affect on them; they tend to act with more maturity and manners when he is around. They also emulate the things he does – or they are anxious to do the things he does as soon as they are able. Several of the boys at church want to be acolytes well before their time because of Zack.

Unfortunately, the role models our kids look up to are not always sweet or well-behaved. Even kids like Zack can find themselves caught up in an attitude or situation that is not usual for them, when the dominant personality leads the group into negative activity. It does not take very much to turn a crowd into a raging mob. While a positive attitude can make things pleasant, a negative attitude can have as much power over a group. The group does not have to be something small like a congregation – it can be something as large as a culture.

As we look around us, we can see the impact of ideas and people on the world around them. In the right circumstances, one person can change the course of an entire nation. One designer can establish the clothing that millions of people will wear. One reporter can introduce an idea that will become a standard of policy and practice for many. One politician can set the agenda for the entire government. Good or bad, right or wrong, we can easily be led down a path of achievement or destruction by someone whom we look to as a role model.

It is not that we are all followers, blind or ignorant. It is simply that the human flesh looks for someone to emulate, to people who will be an example for us to help us to grow and mature. Intelligent, powerful people will grasp on to a policy or practice that seems right, to help it to spread and change the world. Sometimes, unfortunately, we grasp on to the ideas that are not right. With all good intention, we sometimes follow examples that are not centered in Christ.

Paul encourages us to look to emulate those who hold firm to the Gospel of grace. In the community of Philippi were those who were enemies to the cross. Though they were not necessarily people who meant to destroy Christians or Christianity, they sought after the things of this world. They chose to live a life of fulfillment and self-indulgence. This was not only in terms of satisfying lusts – some well meaning people were satisfying the Law, keeping their eyes on earthly things.

These two extremes were not the life God calls us to live. They are also not the life which Christ lived as an example for us. Paul reminds us that not only should we not get stuck in the pattern of self-righteousness, but also the path of self-indulgence. They example we have is of people who are being transformed daily into the image of Christ, overcoming the world which temps us to follow without question. The example we follow is the life willing to step forth in faith, to do that which has called us to do without concern for the opinions of others. As we live faithfully in God’s grace, we can stand as an example to the next generation.


February 27, 2007

Scriptures for March 4, 2007: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Luke 13:31-35 In that very hour there came certain Pharisees, saying to him, Get thee out, and go hence: for Herod would fain kill thee. And he said unto them, Go and say to that fox, Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I am perfected. Nevertheless I must go on my way to-day and to-morrow and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her own brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

When I first read this passage, I was reminded of the story that has circulated the Internet for years about the mother bird in Yellowstone. The email claims that an article in National Geographic tells of an incident following a major forest fire in which a forest ranger discovers a scorched bird in the fire zone. He knocked over the bird with a stick and discovered three tiny chicks beneath their dead mother’s wings.

This story has long been an inspiration to many, offering a parabolic image of Jesus the mother hen protecting His chicks. We are awed by the overwhelming love of a mother bird who gives her life for her babies. Unfortunately, the story is not true. National Geographic hates to debunk such an inspirational story, but they have never published it. The rangers of Yellowstone have no record of such an event; some of the rangers were present at the time of the fire and none of them were present or had heard of this incident. Ornithologists say that it is impossible, that the bird’s body could never offer the chicks the protection they would need to live through such intense heat.

I came across another story. Indian evangelist Sundar Singh shared an experience during a fire in the Himalayas. Sundar was traveling through the area when they were trying to put out the fire. Along with a group of men he noticed a bird circling above a nest in a tree. She was frantic, knowing it was impossible to save her babies from the fire and yet unwilling to leave them alone. When the nest began to burn, the mother swooped in on top of the chicks and covered them with her wings. Everything was gone in seconds.

We certainly like the first story better because it has a happy ending. The babies are alive and we have a hero – the mother bird willingly giving of herself for her chicks. In the second story there is no winner. The chicks are dead, the mother is dead, and the nest is gone. We are amazed at her sacrifice, but find it foolish because we know that if she had stayed away she would have lived another day. She could have built another next and hatched more chicks. To us the story has an ending with no new beginning.

Yet, the second story is so much more an example of the work of Christ in our lives. Yes, Jesus covers us with His wings and He dies in our stead. Yet, in Christian faith we are called to die also, to share in His death and we will also share in His glory. Our death is not like His – we do not go to the cross of the Romans to suffer a horrific end. We aren’t burned to ashes like the birds. However, in Baptism we enter into His death through the water and the Word.

In this passage, Jesus mourns the unbelief of Jerusalem. Jesus wants for them the best of God’s Kingdom – the hope, the peace, the joy. He wants to gather them under His wings, to give them fully and freely the gift He has to give. Perhaps He even wants all this without having to face the cross – how much more wonderful would it be to have Jerusalem repent like Ninevah! Yet, Jesus knows this is not the way it is to be. He knows that He is destined for the cross, for death. Salvation will happen according to God’s time, in God’s way. Jesus will not be moved from the path on which He was set, for it is the path of true life for all those who believe.


February 28, 2007

Scriptures for March 4, 2007: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 13:31-35

Wait for Jehovah: Be strong, and let thy heart take courage; Yea, wait thou for Jehovah.

Lent may seem to be a depressing time to some folk because it is a time of self examination, self control and self sacrifice. It is a time for looking at our sin, for understanding our sinfulness and for being transformed into something different. This is a strange perspective in our world.

There was an article in the newspaper yesterday about how we have raised our children to be narcissists because in the 1980’s we focused on creating strong self-esteem. We taught our children to see themselves as special, as good, as gifted and yet we did not give them the tools necessary to see their faults and their failures and to work at overcoming. Blame was placed on others and everything they did was encouraged for the sake of their self-image.

Unfortunately, what we have created is a world in which everyone not only wants their fifteen minutes of fame, but that they think they deserve it. As we look at the show American Idol, we see that we have created a generation of people who think that they are the best and are worthy of being an “Idol.” Other reality television shows give average people the chance to be extraordinary. While this is a wonderful opportunity for some folk, unfortunately that is not the way the shows usually work. Instead of using ordinary people, they purposefully select people with extreme personalities who are given free reign. Though they video tape every moment of these people’s lives, they pick the forty-five minutes that are most exciting – the events that will make you buy their product, both that of their advertisers and the show itself.

In our world today we think of ourselves as saints, forgetting that all along we are also sinners. Our scriptures for this week – particularly the story of Abram – remind us that even those who have faith can also fail. Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. However, it did not take very long for Abram to become impatient with God’s promises and step out on his own. Instead of waiting for God to fulfill the promise, Abram and Sarai decided to make the promise happen with Hagar. That decision has affected the world for four thousand years.

Jesus stands as an example to us of one who stays on the right path. He does not take His own life into consideration or try to control that which He knows is not His to control. When the Pharisees warn Him that Herod wants to kill Him, Jesus tells them that He has to do what He has to do according to God’s will and purpose for His life. This is not a self-centered grasp for control, but a humble and willing obedience to what God intends for His life.

So, even though we are truly special, each of us uniquely created and ordained for some special purpose in this world, God also calls us to humility. That’s what Lent is all about, remembering that even though we are saints, we are also sinners. Even though we are wonderfully and powerfully gifted, all we have is thanks to God’s incredible grace. There is a pattern by which God calls us to live, a pattern that has been laid out before us in the lives of the saints in the past. It is a life of humble and willing obedience to what God intends for our life.

Paul writes, “For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself.” The cross and its benefits are ours today, but they will not be fully realized until the Day of the Lord. Though we have been transformed, we continue to be transformed daily. Though we share in His glory, there will come a day when that promise will be fully realized. For now we have to wait and remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Though this might be a depressing point of view to the people of this world, for those of us who have our citizenship in heaven, it is the very foundation of our hope and our faith.