Welcome to the January Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.
A WORD FOR TODAY, January 2000
January 1, 2000
Remembrance I think 1999 will go down in history as the year of reminiscence. On TV, radio and in print every major person and event of the last one thousand years has been remembered. Polls have been taken to decide whose lives have had the greatest impact on the world. The statisticians have compiled excessive lists of numbers on every aspect of human life and death. The experts have reviewed the state of the world, comparing it to the past and asking, “What if?”
This past year was also spent looking ahead to the future. There were many that feared the turning of the New Year for a variety of reasons. Technological and economic collapse had everyone scrambling to update equipment. Some people even hoarded resources. The continued existence of our world was called into question since computers control everything, including weapons of destruction and defense. The state of emergency services, transportation, food, water, electricity and computer networks were carefully reviewed.
The past few years have shown a resurgence of spiritual awakening. Many believed the New Year would be the end to life, as we know it. They sought answers to the deeper questions of existence. Some came to have a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, but many found solace in other religion. A whole industry has evolved around the search for something greater than this world. Books and videos have been produced with ideas from every possible angle to suit every person’s need. Within these books are sometimes glimmers of light and truth. More often, however, they are filled with the lies of the enemy.
Read Romans 15:14-16
I will not personally spend much time reviewing the past, for all we have it Today. I do hope that through the writings of the WORD FOR TODAY, you have seen a glimmer of the light, which is Christ Jesus. My prayer is that you might know Jesus Christ as your Saviour and that you might have the peace that passes all human understanding.
Trust . Human beings are not islands. We are connected to the people, places and things around us, and we come to rely upon them in our day to day existence. We come to rely upon TV and computers for news and information. Books provide recipes and instruction. These things also provide entertainment for us. At home we have a place of comfort and protection. Shops are open to give us the opportunity to purchase the things we need to sustain our bodies each day. We have family members who give us emotional support. There are teachers who help us to grow intellectually. Fellowship with other Christians enhances our spiritual walk.
We live in this world and we need these people and things. We run into trouble, though, when we place too much importance upon them.
The weatherman comes on the TV in the morning, and gives a forecast for the day. He says it will be warm with no chance of rain. So, you dress accordingly, wearing your favorite suede jacket. While you are out that day, it rains. You did not take a raincoat or umbrella because you relied upon his forecast. When it failed you got wet, ruining a favorite possession.
We come to trust the people around us, sometimes placing them upon a pedestal. They become more important than anything, and we forget that they are still human. Eventually, we discover an imperfection, and we are crushed. It is a devastating loss when they fail us. In the midst of that hurt, we begin to doubt ourselves. Sometimes, we even doubt God.
Read Psalm 4:1-5
Since we are not islands in this world, we must continue to trust those around us. We must remember, however, that even when they fail us, God is still trustworthy and will hear our cries.
Normality For the last few weeks, we’ve had an unusual schedule. The holidays have brought parties and extra worship, days off from school and work. The Christ child was welcomed into the world with choirs of angels, and the New Millennium came in with the bang of fireworks. It has been a hectic and noisy few weeks.
Today, we go back to normal. The children return to school and those in the working world will head into their offices to reestablish a routine. For many, the next few weeks will mean the writing of End of the Year reports. For others, the new year will bring new opportunities such as new jobs and greater responsibilities.
For now, though, the noisemakers are silent, the decorations are coming down, and the choir gowns are being put away for another year. The world has finished its party and is ready to settle down to the ordinary tasks of day to day living.
Read 1 Kings 19:11-12
As we go out and return to the typical routine of daily life, we need to remember that God does not necessarily come to us in loud, dramatic moments. He comes to us quietly in a whisper. Do not stop listening for Him now that the parties are over. Now is the time you will know His presence. When you hear the whisper, go and stand before His presence.
Blonde joke A blonde was working at the M & M factory in a position as a quality control inspector. Her supervisor came by and noticed her reject pile was extremely large. He asked her why she had rejected so many. She said, “These all have W’s instead of M’s.”
The people of Ninevah were living evil lives, and God planned their destruction. Jonah was called by God to preach repentance to the Ninevites with a warning of impending disaster. Jonah did not care for the people of Ninevah, so he did not want to give them a chance to change. He tried to flee Tarshish to avoid doing the work of the LORD.
Jonah learned it is impossible to hide from God when He’s called you to do His work. While on the ship to Tarshish, God sent a great storm, which frightened the crew. Jonah admitted to his shipmates that he was fleeing from his God, and told them to throw him overboard. God did not allow Jonah to be drowned, rather a large fish swallowed Jonah, and for three days and three nights, he lived in the depths of the grave.
While inside the great fish, Jonah prayed to God, a prayer of thanksgiving that God saved him from death. He vows to sacrifice his own judgment and go to Ninevah, recognizing that salvation is from the LORD. God commanded the great fish and Jonah was set free onto dry land. He did as he was called to do, the Ninevites heard the warning and repented. God had compassion on the Ninevites and did not destroy their land.
As children, we’ve heard this story many times. Do you know the rest of the story? Jonah did not want to go to preach repentance because the Ninevites were an enemy to his people. He looked forward to their destruction. When God spared them from disaster, Jonah became angry with God.
Read Jonah 4:9-11
The next time you want to judge someone as defective and throw him or her away remember, God loves them too. Salvation comes from the LORD. He is concerned for all His creation.
Jewelry I read in the paper about a Christmas gift from “Posh Spice”, a singer, given to her husband David Beckham, a Manchester United football star. The gift was a white gold cross, covered in diamonds, worth £40,000. David gave Victoria a similar cross several years ago. He has a reputation for wearing crosses, particularly during the games.
Victoria was quoted in the paper as saying, “Now that is a real cross.”
Read Revelation 3:1-3
The real cross was not made of gold and diamonds. It was made of wood and nails and the blood of Jesus as He hung there to die for our sins. It is made of the heart of Christ, the Son of the Living God, as He was sacrificed so that we might be reconciled to our Father in heaven.
We do not know the hearts of those that wear crosses and we should not assume all those who wear one are Christian. Being a Christian is not about wearing the right things, or even doing the right things. Being a Christian is about wearing Christ.
How do you wear your Christian life? Is it like a dazzling gold cross around your neck, so that the world will be in awe? Wake up! Christianity is not about looking good to the world, but about living according to the commandments of God. When people look at you, do they see your obedience? Do they see you loving God with all you are and your neighbor as yourself? Does the world see you wearing a shiny piece of jewelry, or the image of Christ?
Moving Day There are moving trucks everywhere this week. Three homes in our neighborhood are getting new tenants. Friends in the states are packing to move into new homes. The contractors have recently finished remodeling a wing of our school, and the teachers are busy unpacking everything into fresh new classrooms.
We went to help our teacher yesterday. The new furniture had not yet arrived. Crates of books, equipment and materials lay scattered all over the floor. There was no order, just chaos. We could not decide where to begin, there seemed like nothing we could do without the furniture.
We began to rearrange the boxes, putting all the books where the bookshelves will be, the computer equipment where the computers will be, and the teacher's personal materials where her desk will be. As the day progressed, we were able to empty crates and clear floor space for the furniture that is due to arrive today.
In the beginning, we looked at the mess in the room thinking it was an impossible task to accomplish. In a short period of time, however, by doing a few simple things, we found order amongst the chaos.
Read Colossians 4:2-6
There are times we look at our lives and think it is nothing but chaos. "How can I accomplish anything as a Christian with this mess on the floor?" Paul gives us some simple instruction for how to be prepared to share the Christian message. Follow these words, and you will be ready to receive the opportunities given by God to spread the Gospel of our Lord.
Epiphany Yesterday was Epiphany, the day in the church year when we celebrate the divine manifestation of Jesus to the nations of the world. The Biblical story of the visit of the magi, or wise men, has become the story of three kings from the east. The story of Balthasar, Caspar and Melchior has some scriptural basis. The magi became known as kings due to the prophecy found in Psalm 72:10, “The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts.” The number three was deduced from the number of gifts presented.
These honoured visitors, whatever their position or number, were the first non-Jews to visit the Christ child. They were called to worship the new King, guided by the star set in the sky by God. Christians have long speculated on the significance of the gifts. The gold is said to symbolize that Jesus is King, not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles. The frankincense, which is costly incense, symbolized the devotion of the world to Jesus. The myrrh, which was used to embalm dead bodies, represented a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death on the cross.
Read Romans 15:8-13
The story of the three kings shows us the Jesus came not only for the Jews, but also for the whole world. The word epiphany means ‘a revelatory manifestation of a divine being.’ Christ has been revealed to the nations. Rejoice, sing praises and worship Him.
Celtic Chapel We were wandering the one-track roads of Cornwall, in search of rocks. The southwest corner of England, a region called Cornwall, is known for Iron Age settlements and ancient rock structures. The weather was gloomy, but we were having such fun climbing hills and looking at these most unusual features of this area of the world.
We saw a sign that said, “Celtic Chapel and Holy Well”. I had to see it. As we pulled into the parking area, it began to rain. We could not see the chapel from the parking area, but we headed into the wooded area, hoping it was just a few feet from the car. We walked for some time, not really knowing what this place would look like. As we turned each bend in the path, we found some landmark that may have been what we sought. Each time, we pressed on, hoping for something greater around the next bend.
When we finally arrived at the site, I was amazed as I looked at the tiny shell of a building, with ivy and moss covered walls. This 1700-year-old building was one of the earliest Christian churches. The journey to that spot was less than enjoyable, with rain trickling down our faces, and children wondering how far we had to go. When we reached the destination, we all took a moment to pray and thank God for such a wonderful adventure.
Read Deuteronomy 4:29
Our Christian walk is not always one of sunshine and roses. Christians still face sickness, pain, anger, hatred, loss and uncertainty. On our adventure in Cornwall, we could have settled for the lesser landmarks, but we pressed on. As you face moments of suffering on your journey, if you trust God to get you through and seek Him with your whole being, you will find the greater glory around the next bend.
Questions Everyone with children has dealt with tough questions. Throughout life, people learn by asking questions. Some phases are more difficult on parents than others. The “Why…?” phase tends to be one of the most stressful, as children repeatedly seek answers that we do not have. So, we spend time researching to find out why things occur. By the time we find the answer, the child has moved on to new, more difficult questions.
Mature Christians are also faced with difficult questions, from new believers and non-believers. Why is there suffering in the world? How could God sit back and watch His Son die? What does heaven look like? Why are there so many different Christian ideas, when there is just one Truth? These are all tough questions. We try to answer them the best we can, but the answers often bring up more questions. We would rather avoid these questions, than face some puzzling answers.
King Solomon asked God for wisdom. God was pleased with Solomon’s request and granted him far more than just wisdom, also wealth and fame. Stories of Solomon traveled the world. The queen of Sheba heard these stories and traveled many miles to see the truth with her own eyes.
Read 1 Kings 10:1-3
The story in goes on to say that the king and queen gave much of their wealth to each other. Her search for wisdom and his willingness to answer the questions benefited both in many ways. We should not avoid the tough questions of life, but should seek the answer to them. Most of all, we should be as Solomon, and ask God for wisdom, so that we will be prepared with the answers, when they are asked.
Kings. The great empires of history, such as Rome and Britain, have given us our modern understanding of the role of a king. In these kingdoms, which extended far beyond any geographical borders, there was only one ruler.
In earlier times, the kingdoms were set up much differently. In those days, there were many kings, each ruling over their neighborhood. There was one great king, and the rest of the kings were called subject kings. These servant kings owed allegiance to the authority of the great king. In the Ancient Near East, this relationship was not only described as a lord/servant relationship, but also as father and son.
As David took the throne of Israel, God promised him that his kingdom on earth would be established through Solomon. In 1 Chronicles, God says to David, “I will be his father, and he will be my son.” Thus God established the royal relationship in the line of David.
John the Baptist came preaching repentance to the people of Israel. In the waters of the Jordan, John baptized people so they would be cleansed and ready for the coming of the Kingdom of God. One day, Jesus came to be baptized by John. John wanted to refuse, considering himself unworthy of the task, but Jesus insisted saying, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” John consented. This was the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry.
Read Matthew 3:16-17
At this moment the fullness of God was present. The Holy Spirit descended as a dove upon Jesus in the flesh, and God spoke from heaven establishing His royal Kingdom on earth. Jesus became the Servant King, fulfilling the promise to David.
Turf wars In those ancient days, when many kings ruled the land, there was constantly war, as neighbouring kings tried to gain power and property. They built larger, stronger castles for protection, seeking refuge behind stone walls that were twenty feet thick. These structures offered safety for a time, but there was always someone smarter, stronger, or quicker who could bring the king to defeat. Sometimes the enemy came from within the walls of the castle, such as a child, brother or trusted friend.
There were some kings who were showed goodness and mercy, and their reign lasted for long periods of time. The only enemy these kings could not defeat was death itself. Their kingdoms were passed on to their children, but they too no longer exist. Today, all that remains of these kingdoms are the empty shells of once magnificent castles. Even the memory of many of those rulers has been lost to history.
Read Isaiah 26:12-15
Jesus Christ, the Servant King, did not wage war for power or property. He lived without a roof for His head, relying upon God’s protection and provision. He battled with those who would bring down His kingdom, the people who did not see the truth of His purpose. His refuge was not a strongly built castle, but the LORD God Almighty.
While other kingdoms have been brought to ruin, our Lord Jesus still reigns. This Servant King, one of true goodness and mercy, accomplished the defeat of death itself, by the power and authority of His Father, our God. Glory, honour and praise be to God the King and our Lord Jesus, the Servant King. May you know God’s peace today as you live in His Kingdom.
Poinsettias One of my favourite Christmas traditions is having a poinsettia in the house. These beautiful flowers bring colour and life to our home. The other day, a friend noticed his poinsettia was dying, and asked if he should try to bring it back to life. I said, “Why bother, it is just a weed.”
These flowers are highly misunderstood. They were named after Joel Poinsett, a US statesman who brought them to America after visiting Mexico. In the wild, these weeds grow up to ten feet high and are even found growing on the sides of the road. Over the past few centuries, these plants have been cultivated into the beautiful flowers we purchase as gifts or for ourselves over the holidays.
The flower however, is not what you would expect it to be. We look at the beautiful red, salmon or white ‘petals’ and think this is the flower. They are not. They are bracts or modified leaves. The flower is actually the tiny yellow centre of the plant.
It is possible to keep these flowers alive from year to year, but that takes more care than most people are willing to give. So, these weeds last a season and are tossed in the garbage heap.
Read Ephesians 3:16-19
As we begin new relationships, it is like we’ve gotten a beautiful new poinsettia. We see how beautiful the leaves look, and do not look at the true flower. After a time, we begin to see imperfections. How easily we cast away our fellow man when their leaves begin to fall!
God does not cast us away. He sees our heart, our true self that is often ignored by the world. As we begin to fade, He nurtures us so that we might grow more beautiful for His glory. We are rooted in His love. I pray that this day you might fully grasp this love of our Father.
Visitation. Our military community often has visits from top level people from our government, to check conditions of the base and to listen to the voice of the people. They take our suggestions, complaints and compliments back to Washington, with the intention of making the good things better and ridding us of all our problems.
We had one such visit today. I attended a meeting that was open for parents of children who attend the Department of Defense Dependents Schools. This meeting was for us to voice our concerns and our suggestions for improving the school system for our children. As we raised and discussed issue after issue, this gentleman listened carefully, took notes and assured us that he would take these issues back to Washington.
I have attended these meetings in the past. We often leave feeling like we’ve been heard, but we can never know for sure until there is some action to alleviate the problems. When we see new programs and positive response, we know we’ve been heard.
Read James 1:22
We spend a great deal of our time listening to God’s Word. Each week we attend services to hear the scriptures read and the messages preached. We go to lectures to hear men or women who speak on how to live good Christian lives. We go to Bible Study and listen to our brothers and sisters as they share their answers to tough questions. God is speaking to us through these people. We listen, but do we hear?
We can go to church every day in the week, but our lives must change as we hear the Word. We cannot simply listen, and file those thoughts away until the next time we are in the company of our Christian brothers and sisters. We must do according to that which we hear. We must love God and our neighbors, obey God’s commands, and give up our selves for Him. Do this, and God will know you have heard Him.
John Steinbeck When I was in school, I recall having to read the book, “Of Mice and Men”, by John Steinbeck. That was many years ago, and I barely remember the story. There is one quote that I have remembered. That quote is “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”
That is so true. As a stay at home mom, I try to work out my schedule early in the week, but often things come up that change my plans. Just this week, Wednesday was scheduled to be a day to stay home and accomplish some writing and housework. A midday meeting changed that plan, and I did not get to half of my work.
Just as we make daily and weekly schedules, we also make plans for our future. We decide where we want to be in ten years. We think about our relationships, our jobs, and our children’s lives. Are you where you thought you would be 10 or 20 years ago? The best-laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Sometimes it is because we change our vision. Sometimes it is because we do not have the gifts to accomplish our original goals.
Sometimes it is because it is not the will of God.
Read Psalm 13
God has given us the great gift of His salvation through Jesus Christ. When our best-laid plans have gone astray, we need to remember that God has better plans for us. Rejoice, for your enemy has no power over you. The LORD is good. All the time.
Colour When I was in college, I took Art as my minor. In one class, we were required to use only five colours of paint – red, yellow, blue, white and black – to create an entire colour wheel and tone graphs. To make the colour wheel, we mixed red and yellow to make orange, yellow and blue to make green and so on. For the tone graphs, we simply began with white and made varying degrees of a colour, such as black, until we had pure black. White is the absence of all other colour, and black is a dense mixture of all colour.
The aspect of optical colour is much different. Here we are dealing with light. Light has much different properties than paint. In light, white is a mixture of all colours; you can divide the light using a prism to see all the colours. A rainbow is the refraction of light through raindrops. The colours of light are divided and create the bow we see in the sky.
In optical colour, black is the absence of all colours, the absence of light. The difference between these two aspects of colour, physical and optical, is like night and day. The same is true with the world. That which we see in the physical realm is much different than God’s realm. We must be careful not to be deceived.
Read 2 Corinthians 11:1-4
Be careful that you do not follow the thoughts of false teachers. Satan is a great deceiver. His illusions appear so true to real that many people are deceived. Jesus is the light of the world, yet there are many who are preaching a Jesus that is like mixed paint. Ignore the paint on the wall and see the light, which is Christ.
Resolutions At the beginning of every year, millions of people set for themselves some goals to change the way they are living their lives. They resolve to break year old habits that are destroying their health or their relationships. By mid-January, most of those resolutions have been forgotten. On January 1, there is a fresh desire to make a new start, but as time passes, commitment wavers and we settle back into the old routine.
The year 2000 is not only the beginning of a new year, but also of a new century and a new millennium. It seems even more important to make a fresh start. We’ve spent the last year looking back at our past, and wondering how to apply the lessons learned to our future.
The churches in our area have begun a sermon and home study series designed to discover what the church should look like based on what the church did look like in the beginning. The series is called “A Past with a Future.”
Read Acts 2:42-47
This week, we will look at different aspects of the early church and how to apply them to our own Christian fellowship in this modern age.
Resolutions rarely word because people make a hasty decision about what they want to change and they set a date, such as January 1 to begin a whole new life. If real change is to occur, we must study our past and apply it to the future Today, for Today is all we really have.
Discipleship The scripture from Acts yesterday says the early Christians, “devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching.” The word ‘devoted’ is a strong word, meaning that the early Christians were earnest towards the teaching of the apostles.
What does it mean to be a disciple? The first disciples knew Jesus personally. They followed Him and listened to His words. They were eyewitnesses to the God’s Word in the flesh. Following the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the number of disciples grew. The original disciples went out to preach and teach the Gospel, and many came to believe and follow Him through their eyewitness accounts. They gathered in each other’s homes and shared their personal testimony. The early believers listened to the Word and believed.
After a time, the apostles realized that the time might come when they would no longer be able to preach and teach, so they wrote their eyewitness testimony for future generations to read. We are the generation for Today, and we should be devoted to the apostle’s teaching just as the earliest Christians. We cannot sit at the feet of Jesus, as did Mary, or go to the synagogue to hear Paul preach. Yet, we can still experience Jesus Christ from eyewitness testimony. This happens through scripture, but it also happens through those who have believed before us.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:2-3
As a Christian community, we are to be devoted to the study of the teachings of Jesus Christ, through the writings of His disciples, the New Testament, and through our experiences with those who have had real encounters with the Living God. We are to become His disciple, a personal witness to His life. This will happen with diligent study and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then we can pass the Gospel on to the next generation.
Fellowship One of the joys of being part of a Christian community is having the fellowship of other believers. We gather together with other people to worship God and share His love with people who believe as we do. These fellowship times are very diverse, from a husband and wife sharing a moment of prayer to a massive revival in the Super Dome.
Christian fellowship is like being a family. In every family, there are moments when love seems the furthest thing from our mind. Throughout the Epistles, the writers remind us that we must bear with one another and forgive one another. We are told to not pass judgement and not slander one another. We are repeatedly told to honour and love one another. The list goes on. If we have to be reminded to do these things, perhaps there are moments when we are unbearable? Unlovable? Capable of judgment and slander? Within the Christian community, we know that Christ died to forgive our sins. By His example, we know we are to forgive the failings of our brothers and sisters. We also know that when we fail, we will be forgiven.
Christian fellowship plays a positive role in our lives. The scriptures tell us that we are to teach and admonish one another, encourage one another, serve one another, and offer hospitality to one another. Together, we learn and grow in our faith. We keep each other accountable and lift each other up in prayer. Fellowship with other believers is vital for a person’s relationship with God. Within the Christian community we have brothers and sisters which God uses to help us through the tough times, and who will praise God with us!
Read 1 John 1:1-3
The most important fellowship is with God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. By the power of His Holy Spirit, we are in communion with God, and we share His Word through our lives. When we pass the Word on to others, we bring them into fellowship with us, and with God. Then our joy is made complete.
Hospitality Growing up in the Lutheran church meant there was a potluck dinner for every occasion. We even joked that the scriptures should say, “Where two or more are gathered in His name, there will be food!” Eating a meal with someone meant more than a simple association. Sharing a meal meant acceptance and recognition. Jesus was questioned about His eating with the sinners, because by sharing a meal with them He was showing His acceptance of them.
In Acts 2:42-47, there are two references to the breaking of bread. In verse 46, we hear that they gathered in their homes to eat together. These meal fellowships showed their love and commitment to each other, just as our potlucks do in today’s church. The other verse is a reference to the breaking of bread, which calls into memory the Last Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Acts 2:42 tells us the early Christians were devoted to the breaking of bread and prayer. This communion meal, which began with the disciples at the Passover supper, continued on a regular basis with those who followed the Way.
It was through a meal, an intimate act between friends, which our Lord Jesus instituted the new covenant with His people. By His Word, Jesus has invited us to a very real, personal experience with the presence of the Living God. Through the bread, wine and word, we receive Him and remember all that He did for us, each time we approach His table.
Prayer This week we have been looking at the early church, as portrayed in Acts 2:42-47. We have looked at discipleship, which is following Jesus Christ through His Word. We have looked at fellowship, which is sharing God’s Word with one another. We have looked at the breaking of bread or communion, which is the physical presence of God’s Word at our gatherings.
Today, we look at prayer. Prayer is a topic that is often discussed in these devotions. It is where we begin our relationship with God, and how we keep it strong and healthy. Prayer is two way communication with Him, through it we not only speak to Him, but we also hear His voice. I love to spend time alone with my Lord. Some of the most powerful moments of my life have been when I have been alone on my knees in fellowship with God, in that very intimate way.
We cannot forget the importance of corporate prayer, though. No matter how good our private prayer life looks, it is important that we spend time with other Christians in intercession and thanksgiving. God hears us when we approach the throne of grace and raise our voices in unity before Him. This is like sweet incense to God. When we say “Amen” we are showing God that we are in agreement, and He hears us.
Read Matthew 18:19-20
In Acts 2:42, we see that the early church was devoted to discipleship, fellowship, communion and prayer. Of these four, prayer is the most important, yet least emphasized in today’s church. We teach the Bible, how to get along with one another and the technical aspects of worship. However, prayer is not taught because we assume everyone knows how to pray, and will ‘go with the flow’ when we are gathered together. If today’s church is going to be strong and vital, we must make prayer an emphasis. Join your voices, not only in song, but more importantly in prayer. When you are in agreement, God is there.
Sharing There is an email in circulation, one I’m sure each of you have seen. It has a list of perceptions, how things look in church verses how they look when we are out in the world living our day to day lives. The writer notes that $100 looks like a great deal of money in the offering plate at church, but at the mall it is pocket change. The mail talks about how an hour in church is like a lifetime. That same hour, spent in the world doing something we enjoy, seems to pass much too quickly.
The church today is someplace we go once a week to spend an hour barely listening and singing. We grudgingly give some of our hard-earned cash so our pastor can pay his rent. Perhaps we go a second night, for Bible Study or fellowship, but in most cases, the only time we see our brothers and sisters is during that hour. Then we leave the church building and to continue living according to the world.
Acts 2:44-45 shows us that the early church was more than that. The early church was a community of believers. The scripture says they were together, sharing everything they had so no one had any needs. They gave, not only of their wealth, but also their time, talents and love. When someone was in need, they fulfilled that need, sacrificing of themselves without thought. They knew all they had came from God, so while praising Him for His blessing they freely gave everything back to Him through their brothers and sisters.
Read Hebrews 13:15-16
If the church, meaning the body of believers, is to survive in this modern age, we must become more than just a group of people who gather occasionally for worship. We must become a community of believers that does more than just say we will help when it is convenient. When you see a brother or sister in need, do not ask how to help or consider your own circumstances, just do it.
Worship It is Sunday morning. The alarm goes off. You roll over and hit the snooze button and grumble to your spouse, “I do not feel like getting up for church today.” Your spouse grumbles back, “Neither do I, but you are serving communion and I have to teach. Get out of bed.” You manage to get through the morning and get to church. While you are there you put on your best face. After it is over, you get in your car and breath a sigh of relief that another hectic Sunday morning is over. Something is missing.
In Acts 2:46-47, we hear that the early Christians met together in the temple courts and in their homes on a daily basis. They ate, sang and praised God together. They worshipped with glad and sincere hearts. This worship and the fruit that was produced by the Holy Spirit provided a powerful witness to Jesus Christ, and daily the Lord added to their numbers.
Read John 4:21-24
I’ve heard it said about church, “The Holy Spirit just isn’t there.” Why not?
Jesus told us the time would come when we would no longer worship in a building. The temple is not God’s dwelling place. The Church, the body of believers, is where God dwells, with Christ as our head. True worship is not in some place, but within us, spirit to Spirit. The next time worship is drudgery and you feel as though the Spirit is missing, ask yourself why. Rather than trying to fill pews, search your heart and see if your worship is the kind that God desires.
True worship, in spirit and truth, results in joy! That joy, plus the other Fruit of the Spirit, will provide a powerful witness to Jesus Christ. Then God will fill pews with hearts, not bodies.
Heartstrings This past week, we have examined the early church through the scriptures, using it as a model which we should follow today. The members of the early church were disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who joined together daily in fellowship, communion, prayer and worship, sharing everything and caring for one another as a community of believers.
Three elements hold this community together. St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that we now live in faith, hope and love. Faith is the belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. Hope is the assurance that His love will abide in us always. Love the greatest element.
Read Phillipians 2:1-11
There are different kinds of love, but the love that holds together the Church is the love of Christ Jesus in every believer. When we love one another, we love spirit to spirit -- Holy Spirit within us to Holy Spirit within our brother or sister. The Holy Spirit is the heartstring that binds us together in unity as one body with Jesus Christ as our head.
The series of Bible lessons at my church has been called “A Past with a Future.” If the church is to survive in this modern age, we must look ‘ahead to our roots’ and live TODAY in the Love of Christ as one body.
Clout Who do you know? It is sometimes said that it is not what you do but whom you know that gets things done. As I have volunteered around our base, I have seen how dropping the right name at the right time often gets things done a little faster.
Names were very important in the ancient days. Your name told everyone what family you belonged to, or what you did. Names were chosen for their meaning. Throughout the scriptures, God often changed a person’s name when their relationship changed. Take, for example, Jacob. After Jacob wrestled with God, his name was changed to Israel (Genesis 32:28).
In our society, we are used to seeing everyone with several names -- a first name, a surname and often a middle name. Our society is much less formal today than in days past. People tend to address others on a first name basis. There are times, however, when it is inappropriate to use such informality. For instance, I would not approach Queen Elizabeth and say, “Hey, Liz, what’s up?”
As Christians we know that there is only one name that really matters, and that is the name of Jesus Christ. No matter how well we live according to the promises of God, it is through Jesus’ name that we are able to approach God’s throne. Jesus’ name gives us clout.
Read Colossians 3:15-17
God our Father loves us so much that He even gave His Son to die for us that we might have true life in Him. It is through Jesus Christ and His powerful name that we are able to approach God for all that we need. Call on the name of Jesus; believe in the name of Jesus. Do all that you do in the name of Jesus, and through Him God will grant you all you need. Thanks be to God.
Alone Have you ever felt abandoned? At the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death, I breathed a sigh of relief that I had gotten through the first year without too much sorrow. However, since she died around the holidays, I faced memories of her and a longing for home as Christmas approached. I began to feel as though she had forsaken me, left me behind. It was with the help of my family and friends, and my faith in that which Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross that helped me to overcome those feelings.
We feel abandoned when someone we love dies or has to move away. This separation rips out a piece of our heart; we are left isolated and alone. Imagine how Jesus Christ felt on the cross. For our salvation to be complete, Jesus had to become death itself. God, who is life, had to step away or Jesus could not have died. Jesus cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” For that brief moment in time, Jesus was left alone. He offered Himself into death so that we would never have to be alone again.
Read Romans 8:35-39
When you feel lonely and isolated, abandoned by those you love, remember the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He faced separation from His Father and death, so that we would no longer have to die. His resurrection is the victory; through Him we have eternal life. Eternal life is a present reality, not just a future hope. That life is the love of God in us. Through, with and in Christ our Lord, we will never be forsaken of His love. With His love, we are never alone.
Rollercoasters I recall a time when Bruce and I went to Great Adventure in New Jersey for a day of fun and adventure. There were several new rides, including a rollercoaster or two. We stood in line for one of these rides, knowing only that it was a type of rollercoaster. To get to the starting point, we needed to climb a very high tower. When we reached the top, we got into the car and were buckled into our seat.
We held on as the car started on its way. We went down a hill, around a loop and up to the top of a hill. Then we stopped. “That’s it? We stood in line for a single loop?” But then, all of a sudden, the car began to move again and we were headed down the hill backwards! We laughed and screamed at the shock of it all, as we whipped through the loop and back up the hill to the beginning of the ride.
I tend to get motion sickness. Rollercoasters are rarely a problem because they are short lasting and move quickly through each twist and turn. By the end of this ride, I was excited but a little queasy. We climbed down the tower and found a place to sit and relax a minute. We laughed at the fun and silliness of it all. Most of all, we rejoiced in the chance to share the experience together.
Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Isn’t life just like a rollercoaster? We wait for the ride to begin. We carefully prepare for the journey. We never know where it is going to take us, or what lies on the other side of the hill. There are disappointments when the ride is less than expected. There are surprises when we begin to head in a whole new direction. Sometimes we end up a bit queasy. But through it all, our friends are those who are still there after the experience, to rejoice with us in the victory.
Our journey through life does have its ups and downs, its twists and turns. Thank you God for friends to help us along our way.
Songs Music is definitely not one of my gifts. When I sing, it is truly a joyful noise. I really enjoy listening to those who have been gifted with voices like those of the angels as they sing praises to God. Bruce does have the gift and is a member of a local choir. As they sing the ancient hymns, I just close my eyes and my spirit sings along.
Even though my tongue grates on the ears of men, the song of joy in my heart is like sweet incense to God. We’ve all been given a song in our heart and we should not be afraid to sing out to Him in thanksgiving and praise. He has done, is doing and will continue to do great things for His creation.
Read Psalm 98
I have found that during my prayer times, I cannot keep from singing. As I draw into God’s presence, there seems to be nothing to say, so I join in the hymns of the angels and the saints as they worship God. Do you ever find it difficult to talk to God? You begin a prayer time and have nothing to say? Then sing. Do not be concerned about pitch or tone, just sing. Do not be concerned if you can’t remember the words to your favorite songs, just sing. God has placed a song on your heart, one that will glorify Him. Do not hide it away, JUST SING!
Cookies The three year old says, “Mommie, can I have a cookie?”
As parents, we cannot give our children everything they desire. We know that some things they ask for are not good for them or are not appropriate at the moment they ask. Yet, when a child is persistent about asking for something, we will take the time to look at the circumstances. Sometimes we change our mind and give to the child as he or she has asked.
Read Luke 11:5-8
God is our Father, and through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we are able to boldly approach God’s throne of grace to ask for all we need. When the prayers aren’t answered the first time, we often sit back and think that perhaps it is not God’s Will, so we better not push it.
The scriptures clearly tell us, from Genesis to Revelation, that we should seek God. Those who seek God with a humble heart will find Him and will be blessed beyond measure with all they need. In this passage from Luke, Jesus tells us to be bold and persistent in our requests to God. Do not give up the first time you do not hear an answer, go deeper into prayer, listen to the Spirit and seek His guidance, then ask again. The answer may not always be “Yes,” but as we continue to seek God, we will more clearly hear what He has to say.
Seniors In 1998, seventy-seven year old John Glenn made a trip into space. During that space flight he was tested and studied to see the affects of space travel on an older body. The results of those tests are just now coming to light. The researchers have discovered there was not that much difference between Glenn’s older body and those of the younger astronauts who have been tested.
So often, particularly in Western society, older people are put on a shelf. The world seems to prefer youth to experience. As people reach retirement age, they are expected to slow down, to change their routine of hard work to a life of shuffleboard and BINGO. We have the image of Senior citizens sitting around in front of the TV watching reruns of Lawrence Welk, and missing out on the exciting changes that are occurring in our world.
The fact is, the fastest growing market for computer technology is the over 65 crowd. They have the financial resources and the time to devote to it. Many older people have taken very good care of their bodies and are healthy enough to travel and do hard physical activity without harmful affect. Our seniors have the experience and wisdom of age to provide a wonderful supply of knowledge for the younger generations. We just need to reach out and tap this resource.
Read Psalm 92:14-15
Old age is not meant to be a barrier, it should be considered an advantage. Do not allow your chronological age to dictate the activities in which you choose to be involved. Seniors, get involved with the youth of your church. See the world through their eyes and show them what it is like through yours. Share your love of God and help Him to build them into the strong Christian community we need in this modern age. Youth welcome the seniors into your life. Visit their meetings, sit quietly and listen. Receive all they can share and use it to make your life fuller in your service to God.
Fear It was bedtime. The children were tucked in their bed and I sat tapping at the computer trying to get something accomplished before I could no longer stay awake. I heard the pitter-patter of little footsteps and looked up to see Zachary’s head peeping around the corner.
We spent some time talking about what he was afraid of and I said, “Zack, Mommy is right here. There is nothing to be afraid of as long as I am close by. Go back to bed and rest well.” Zack did go to bed, and fell asleep immediately. He no longer feared the unknown, but trusted in the one he knew would protect him. That trust carries over into other areas of our relationship. He is obedient to the rules, knowing that I would not expect something that would be harmful to him.
Our relationship with God is just like a parent/child relationship. We go to Him with our fears and He says, “Beloved child, I am here with you. Do not be afraid.” When we continue in that fear, we show Him that we do not trust His mighty hand in our lives.
Read Psalm 111:10
Fear of the LORD is defined in Easton’s Bible Dictionary as, “used in the Old Testament as a designation of true piety. It is a fear conjoined with love and hope, and is therefore not a slavish dread, but rather filial reverence.” This respect, which is the knowledge that God has the power to protect His children, will manifest itself in obedience.
When children trust the parent, they recognize that the rules are for their protection. As children of the Living God, our Father in Heaven, we should also hear and obey His Law. Do not be afraid of the things of this world, for God will protect you. Rather, stand in awe of His power and might, obey His commands, and give Him praise and glory each day.
Suddenly I was never going to get married. I was fast tracking up the corporate ladder in retail management. I was a woman in a man’s world, but I was making it on my own merits. I was popular, never alone unless I wanted to be, not committed to anything but my goals and aspirations. Children were for other women. I wanted the money and power.
Then I met Bruce. Everything I ever dreamed about suddenly disappeared. In a heartbeat, I gave up my career, most of my possessions and moved 3000 miles to become his wife. I was not looking for a relationship, let alone a lifelong commitment. Yet, when he appeared in my life, I knew it was the path I was to take. In the eleven years since we were married we have had countless changes, yet each has been a step toward the final destination, which is completeness in God through Christ Jesus.
Read Mark 13:32-36
Together, Bruce and I have committed to serving God our Father. Neither of us expected to find love the day we met, yet we found so much more. At moments throughout our lives, God has come to us suddenly, at unexpected moments, bringing us to a deeper and fuller relationship with Him.
God will manifest Himself at a time when we least expect Him. Are you like the servant who is doing his assigned task? Or are you sleeping? Be ready and watchful, for the Kingdom of God is near.