Welcome to the March 2005 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, March 2005

March 1, 2005

Bite  Felix had a veterinarian appointment a couple weeks ago. Now, Felix does not like the vet, much like most other animals. The vet’s office is filled with unusual smells, strange people and the staff always pokes and prods Felix in ways that he just does not like. He was unusually aggressive at our last visit, however. He growled and hissed at anyone who got within a few feet, including me. It does not help that Felix is rather large and strong, a very healthy cat that is difficult to control. When it was time to give him his shots, I thought perhaps I could help calm him down a bit, hold him and sooth him with my voice. Unfortunately, he was so upset by that point that he bit me rather hard.

After an experience like that, it is hard to believe the same cat was with me yesterday afternoon. Now, Felix is rarely a physically loving cat. Most of the time when he is content to be touched by us he is looking for something in exchange – either his food dish is empty or he wants to go outside. He never sits on our lap, only briefly tolerates being held. It is usually sufficient for him to near us, sleeping in the same room just out of reach. When he gets closer, it is usually because he has an ulterior motive.

Yesterday seemed different, however. I was home all day trying to get my work accomplished. I still had hour’s worth of lesson planning to do, plus the laundry and my daily writing. I did not have time to fool around, but Felix decided that I needed some love. Just as I was beginning to write WORD, he jumped on my desk, sat in front of my computer right on top of my bible. I loved him for a minute or so, petting and cuddling with him as he purred and returned the love. Eventually he moved to another part of the desk, but quickly returned to rub his head on my hand or show affection in some other way. When I tried to ignore him, he tapped me with his paw and even climbed on my lap. It was wonderful, but I kept wishing that he would do this at a more convenient time.

Of course, when I described this incident – which lasted several hours – my family assumed Felix wanted something. Yet, he was never trying to coerce me to the door or his food dish. He did not seem to want anything but my love. When it comes to a story like this, I’m sure our first impression is that it is not unusual since Felix is a cat, but humans are no different. We love when it is convenient, we love with ulterior motives. Christ calls us to love another way.

“Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ASV)

I don’t think I have ever purposely bitten anyone like Felix did to me the other day, but humans ‘bite’ in a much different way. I certainly have yelled at my children, sometimes for no good reason. I have reacted in anger and hatred. I have loved when it is convenient and had ulterior motives for my affection. I try to love as Christ loved, but it is difficult to do so all the time.

Yet in Christ we are called to love always, to love even when it is not easy. We are called to love our neighbor, to love our enemy, to love the strangers. Love is not just a word, however. Love is accompanied by real action. Love is just, love is merciful, and love is uncomplaining. Love does not bite one minute then cuddle the next. Love is forgiveness for the big things and the little ones. The way we love is often like Felix – sometimes we love because we want something from the one whom we are loving. This makes those around us question the times when we are really sharing love as they wonder what we want. Love loves always, even when it is difficult. That’s why we live in the love of Christ, since we can not love without Him. Thanks be to God.


March 2, 2005

Water  It is raining again at our house. This morning it was raining so hard that we got soaked just walking to the car which was just a few feet from our front door. The heavy rain meant more flash flooding on the roads between our house and the kids’ schools. Since I was familiar with the problems that can occur during these storms, I decided to go out of the way to take the safest roads. Even then we ran into some difficult maneuvering around running water. Fortunately the rain was not bad enough to cause the same problems that occurred a few months ago. The news won’t be filled with stories of abandoned cars or near death experiences. We probably will not hear about any drivers who were washed away. Yet, it is still important to know how to get around in these storms and to be prepared for the worst.

Some of the disciples were fishermen – enough that they would have no problem getting around from one place to another by boat. They understood how a boat floats and how to make it go where they would like it to go. They knew the water and they could read the signs in the air and sky to make good decisions about when to travel. Even though they were good fishermen, there are some aspects of boating that makes is an imperfect science. Storms can appear seemingly out of nowhere. The wind can turn direction. Something can go wrong with the boat that would require repair. No matter how good they were at being fishermen and sailors, they could get in trouble on the water.

Even with the possibility of things going wrong, I would imagine that none of the disciples could guess about the power Jesus had over the water. Water, by its very nature, does not allow for a human being to walk on the surface. Storms do not obey the commands of men. Certainly if they would go away with a word – especially a word of faith, we would never have rain on weekends or other inconvenient days. We would never have to worry that our special event will be ruined by poor weather. We would never have enough rain to cause flooding problems. There are some things that we can do to understand water so that we can accomplish our tasks whether it is fishing, traveling or just getting our children to school but no matter how much we know, we can’t control water.

“And when evening came, his disciples went down unto the sea; and they entered into a boat, and were going over the sea unto Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. And the sea was rising by reason of a great wind that blew. When therefore they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they behold Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the boat: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. They were willing therefore to receive him into the boat: and straightway the boat was at the land whither they were going.” John 6:16-21 (ASV)

One of the things that amazes me when we have this kind of weather is that some people seem to have no concern about the conditions of the road when they drive. They drive as fast as they would if the roads were dry. They go into flood waters that seem too high for any car to get through. While these are really foolish things to do, what is amazing is how often they get away with it. Perhaps they understand the water and their vehicle better than the witnesses, perhaps they are just lucky, but somehow they survive. Even though they do well, we are best not following their example.

No matter how many miraculous things Jesus did in front of the disciples, they still had difficulty with the idea that Jesus could control the elements around Him. When they saw Him walking on water, they did not believe it was Him because He was doing something that was impossible and foolish. They were having trouble on the water inside their boat, the weather conditions were making it impossible for them to sail to their destination. Imagine the kind of conditions that must have existed for them to be stuck in one place. Yet, Jesus not only met the weather head on, He did it walking on water. No wonder the disciples thought He was a ghost; this was beyond their ability to comprehend.

Though we might not be seeing Jesus walk on water today, Jesus still does things in our lives that are beyond our comprehension. He touches us in ways we can’t always understand. He heals us in ways that we do not expect. He forgives things that we think must surely be unforgivable. Jesus is above the elements, He is greater than our foolishness. Thanks be to God.


March 3, 2005

Green eggs  Yesterday would have been Dr. Seuss’s 101st birthday so today in school we celebrated “Dr. Seuss Day.” I read several Dr. Seuss books including “Green Eggs and Ham.” It is one of my favorite books to read because the rhyming is fun and it has a good message. Over and over the guy tells Sam-I-Am that he does not like something and will not eat it anywhere with anything. He refuses to eat it for no good reason, except maybe because it does not look like something he would like. The kids get a kick out of the end of the book, when the guy finally tries the green eggs and ham to get Sam-I-Am off his back and he discovers that he likes it. At four and five years old, many of our kids need to learn that they should try things they have never had before because they just might like it. The children all agreed that they should try new things.

I read the story just before snack time. Then I announced, “In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, our snack today will be green eggs and ham!” I had gotten up early this morning to scramble some eggs with green food coloring. The ham was not colored and I added a mini bagel to the menu just in case they did not like the food. One girl, who is usually rather picky, did try them when I explained that they were normal scrambled eggs. She exclaimed, “Hey, I like it!” just like the guy in the story. However, even after the story and the discussion about trying new things, some of the children refused to eat the green eggs.

Adults are not much different than children when they have their mind set on something. I know there are foods I refuse to try or things I refuse to do. Sometimes these decisions are based on previous experience; sometimes there is good reason for my refusal. However, I can also admit that there are a great many things I will not do because I have previously established an opinion and I won’t change it no matter how hard someone tries to convince me otherwise.

This happens with many adults in the arena of ideas. They have their opinions and they won’t even listen to another person’s ideas to see if there might be another possibility. This is particularly true when it comes to issues from politics or religion. Now, ideas are not like food – we should not change our opinions with every wind that blows. We can’t try on ideas. However, we can listen to others with an open mind and then seek more information so that all our decisions and opinions are based on facts and information.

Unfortunately, many of the Jews refused to listen to Jesus or believe what He said. They were set in their ways. They had their opinions about the Messiah and what He would do. When Jesus came, he did not fit into the image they had created and they could not see God in the works He did. They even said that Jesus was of the devil. This caused division among the people – those who believed and those who did not believe. No matter how much Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God, some people could just not get past their attitude about Jesus.

Many therefore of the Jews, who came to Mary and beheld that which he did, believed on him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done. The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many signs. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” John 11:45-48 (ASV)

As we read through the Gospel narratives of the life of Jesus, it seems impossible to us that there was anyone who did not believe in Jesus. His words hold so much authority and His actions came from one with power. The Pharisees saw the miracles and heard His preaching and yet they would not believe. They could not get over their own interpretation of the signs and prophecies. They knew Jesus threatened to turn their world upside down and they did not want anything to change. They refused to believe despite the proof and came up with many excuses to reject Jesus.

We are not much different than the Pharisees and those children who refused to eat the green eggs. We get our hearts and minds set on things and we won’t change. Unfortunately, when we close our minds to new things, we miss the chance to discover that “We like it!”


March 4, 2005

Mission  One of the things I plan on visiting while we live here in San Antonio is the Mission Trail. There are a number of lovely old missions that were established by the Spanish missionaries during the early days of Texas history. The missions were religious sites built to convert the natives to Christianity, but they also served as central places for governmental control of the region. I have already seen the most famous of these missions, the Alamo, which has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in San Antonio. The story of the Alamo is remembered for the legendary battle that cost the lives of many men who were fighting for Texas.

The battle at the Alamo was just one of the many fights that occurred in the middle of the nineteenth century over the land north of the Rio Grande. Many Americans from the north were moving into the area. There were also French claims on the land. The Spanish insisted it belonged to them. Eventually Texas became part of the United States and the boundary to Mexico was established at the Rio Grande. Now we can visit the sites of those early settlers to learn more about their hopes and dreams for this wild but beautiful place.

There are other mission trails in Texas, including a number of churches in the El Paso area. What is most fascinating about these buildings is that they once sat south of the Rio Grande and therefore belonged to Mexico. However, over the years the river has changed course, thus leaving the buildings north of the Rio Grande and situated on Texas land. When you consider the history of Texas, so much of it involving the establishment of boundaries, it is amazing that nature can change those borders so easily.

Jesus moved borders and broke walls when he was ministering two thousand years ago. Some of the walls He destroyed involved gender, race, health and wealth. It did not matter to Jesus if the people to whom He was speaking were men or women, Jew or Gentile, healthy or disabled, rich or poor. He met them and showed them God from their perspective. He went beyond the borders of his nation, into the homes of outcasts and sinners. He gave those who would hear forgiveness, hope and peace as well as healing of mind, body and spirit. He also promised that faith would not be limited by geography.

“The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father. Ye worship that which ye know not: we worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:19-24 (ASV)

The history of Texas is based on the human effort to enlarge our territory and establish our borders. Even the missions were part of that quest for the early Spanish settlers, as the governments used the Church to lay foundations for the people. Yet, even those churches sometimes were used for other purposes, like the conversion of the Alamo into a fortress. In the end, many of the churches did not even end up within the original borders as the river changed course.

All too often, however, our effort to establish borders keeps us locked inside walls that we have built to divide us from others. Unfortunately, this even happens in matters of faith. For the Jews and Samaritans, the differences were too different and they founded their own places of worship based on the need to be separate. Jesus changed all that. He broke those walls and brought people together to glorify God in spirit and truth. Though we might belong to different churches, different denominations, we are bound together by the Word of God and by His Spirit to share the Gospel and shine the light of Christ to those who are still stuck behind their walls of geography, gender, race, health or wealth. Thanks be to God.


March 7, 2005

Debt  I was watching a news program the other day and the expert being interviewed was sharing tips about how young adults can be good stewards of their finances. She talked about how difficult it can be for a young person starting out in a new career with heavy college debts and an entry level position. They do not have the financial resources to do everything they need to do. They have to set up a new home and create an entirely new wardrobe for the workplace. While I am not young, I found some of the same difficulties when I began working last fall after fifteen years as a stay-at-home mom. I had to spend most of my first paychecks buying the things I needed to teach. It is much harder for these young adults who have so many costs to cover in those first few years of independence.

The surprising thing about this woman who was interviewed the other day is that she talked about credit cards in a positive manner. Many financial experts recommend that young people never use credit cards because they are so easy to abuse. The woman talked about good credit card use verses bad credit card use. It is good to use the credit card to purchase a wardrobe, because this is investing in the future. It is bad to use it to take all your friends out for a night on the town.

The trouble with credit cards is that the debt can become overwhelming very quickly. It is easy to just look at the amount due when the bill arrives in our mailbox and pay only that amount each month. However, the minimum payment required establishes a payment schedule that can take years. If the debt is carried over month after month after month while adding more costs, eventually the user will find it impossible to pay even the minimum. At that point the interest is costing far more than the original items. If that money was spent on an extravagant dinner, the user does not even have anything to show for the money spent. To reduce debt, one must pay more than the minimum required and it is best to pay it all off as quickly as possible.

While this is smart in terms of our financial responsibilities, we move this ideology into other aspects of our lives. We handle our relationships with the idea that we are paying debts of some sort. At work we do just enough to earn our pay. At home we keep track of trespasses and forgiveness so that we gift as we receive. We even do this with love. We love our neighbors just enough so that we do not feel indebted to them in any way. Yet, Jesus told us that love works differently than the things of this world.

“Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfilment of the law.” Romans 13:8-10 (ASV)

It is smart to keep a tight hold of our financial resources so that we will be good stewards of our material possessions. If we are spending hundreds of dollars a month on interest for credit card debt that has no real value, then we are wasting gifts that God has given us to serve others in this world. Unfortunately, as the woman said, credit is a necessary evil in our world today – few people can survive at times without using this to get through times of transition. However, we have to remember that money only goes so far and possessions are perishable. However, we should not be so stingy with the gifts that are given to us by God such as love. He has more than enough to give and we need never worry about running out of it when we give it to others. Love is imperishable, it is lasting, it is eternal. So, we should love our neighbors, doing more than just the minimum payment but giving fully of ourselves for their sake. It is what Christ did for us and it is what He calls us to do for others. He gives us all the love we need to accomplish this difficult but blessed task. Thanks be to God.


March 8, 2005

Lazy eye  I love to paint even though I do not have as much time to do so as I would like. My paintings tend to be more Impressionist in style like Monet or Van Gogh. What makes Impressionism different is that while the objects are recognizable, the painting simply gives an impression of the subject rather than a realistic vision of it. To get this effect, the painter often uses more color, brighter hues and leaves behind broad brushstrokes. Though these paintings are beautiful and moving, they are often childlike and visually flat.

It is possible that I love the Impressionistic style so much because I have never been able to accomplish realistic pictures with the paintbrush. I once started a painting of a butterfly, trying to copy a photographic image onto canvas. By the time I was finished, the butterfly was in a different setting, it was a different color and it had been transformed from one type of butterfly to another. The painting is lovely, but it is obviously not a snapshot of real life.

Some people are able to create works of art that speak to the reality of the world. Rembrandt was one of those artists who could create paintings that seemed to be alive. He has a wide range of biblical images that are almost photographic in quality. He also did many portraits, all of which give such incredible detail of the model that you almost feel as though you can touch the actual person. Amazingly, many people try to give their photographs the character of Rembrandts paintings, to soften the edges and make them seem painted.

Rembrandt was called a genius for the way he was able to transfer a moment in time onto canvas. It takes something special to make this happen. Recently a team of researchers discovered a physical attribute of the man that may have provided a different view of the world which made it possible for him to paint as he did. He had extropia, otherwise known as a lazy eye. This is an imperfection of the eye in which one eye looks outwardly while the other looks straight. While this is a mild disability that causes some visual problems, for Rembrandt it was a blessing.

Extropia causes the person to see the world as if it were flat, like a canvas. Rembrandt did not have to translate the three dimensional world into a flat image because it was that way for him already. Depth, perspective and shadowing were not a concern because in his mind’s eye these already appeared two dimensional. Most artists have to close one eye to get this affect, they have to work to see the world in a way that can be recreated in paint.

“For we know that if the earthly house of our tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens. For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life. Now he that wrought us for this very thing is God, who gave unto us the earnest of the Spirit. Being therefore always of good courage, and knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight); we are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord. Wherefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing unto him. For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (ASV)

God sees the world much differently than the human eye. He sees it through love, through mercy and through grace. In this vision, God can see goodness in the midst of darkness, He can see potential where there seems to be none. He sees differently because He sees beyond the surface and into the heart of man. He sees beyond the moment part from time. He sees His creation without the cloak of sin and death. In Christ we are given a vision of what God sees – in us and in others. We are called to see the world through eyes of faith, to see it with love, mercy and grace and to act accordingly. In Christ we are to live as if we are the tabernacle of God, a dwelling place for Christ in this world so that His love, mercy and grace might be seen by others.

Rembrandt had a disability, but for him it was not a handicap. As a matter of fact, his disability became a blessing because it made it possible for him to see the world in a way that could be transferred onto canvas like no others could do. As Christians, the world sees us as having a disability – faith to the non-believer is nothing more than a crutch, a foolishness that keeps us from our human potential. However, seeing the world through faith is a gift, an incredible blessing because we can see a bit of eternity through the eyes of God in the midst of this world that is covered in sin and darkness. Thanks be to God.


March 9, 2005

Chaos.  Getting children to sit still for a story or another activity can be very difficult once the room has become chaotic. The noise level is so loud they can’t hear. Yelling only makes things louder. They are so intent on whatever it is they are doing the teacher can’t even get their attention. The frustration can lead to anger and a sudden outburst. The more they disobey, the louder the teacher gets. Some teachers might try to bribe the kids into submission or make deals like promising a special activity if they will comply. While these discipline methods might shock or coerce the children into a moment of peace, it doesn’t last. They eventually turn back to their other activities and negative behavior.

In many ways the world is much like a preschool classroom. The people might be smaller, but children react in many of the same ways as adults. They are trying to establish their independence, to find their place in the world. They want to discover their gifts and the purpose for their life. They also want to be satisfied and happy. They want all their needs met and their desires fulfilled. It has been this way for all humans from the beginning until today.

Things were quite chaotic in Jesus’ day. The Jews thought they understood what God expected and how they should live. They had interpreted and reinterpreted the Law to the point that it was so burdensome that most people could not live according to it, but they used that unrighteousness as an excuse for the oppression of the Jews. Surely if the Jews had been living up to God’s Law, then they would not be living under the rule of a foreign power. If the people repented, God would send a Messiah to defeat the Romans and restore Israel. They were looking for a powerful, military solution to their problem. Many came forward as false Messiahs, promising peace through war. There was certainly some Old Testament prophecy that indicated that God would send someone to set them free.

However, they missed the prophecy that described the Messiah as a suffering servant, as a humble and peacekeeping king. They expected battles, so when Christ came in peace bringing grace, forgiveness and healing, they did not recognize Him. They wanted a king to ride in on chariots with an army.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off; and he shall speak peace unto the nations: and his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Zechariah 9:9-10 (ASV)

There are more peaceful ways of gaining control of a classroom than yelling until the voice is hoarse. A teacher might turn off the lights and sit at the head of the class. A few children will get the idea and sit also, at which time the teacher can begin a new activity. The other children will follow suit because they want to be in on the fun. Then the teacher can stop and wait until the chaos is over and all the children are ready for the new activity.

Jesus did not come into the world ranting and raving about sin. He did not come with swords and chariots to drive the unrighteous out of Jerusalem to make room for a new king. He did not even come to make changes to the earthbound control of His people. He came to show them the kingdom of God. He did this by quietly calling people into His presence, by speaking stories about faith and by touching the lives of those who crossed His path. He did not force people to follow, but rather drew them into His heart and called them to follow.

Is the world peaceful? No, there is war in many countries. There is even war and chaos to be found in our homes, neighborhoods and cities. We are human and we react in human ways against the difficulties caused by the human condition. However, there is a peace in this world that is not seen on the new headlines. It is seen in the hearts of men who believe in Jesus Christ. It is a peace that comes from the hope we have in Christ through His blood. The prophecy in Zechariah was fulfilled on Palm Sunday of Holy Week. After this fulfillment, Jesus suffered the greatest violence man can do against man. He was crucified despite His innocence. But in His death and resurrection, we find true peace. It is a lasting peace because it takes us into eternal life. We may never see even a day without some war in our world, but we can rest assured that the peace of Christ which passes all human understanding will last forever. Thanks be to God.


March 10, 2005

Romans  For the first few hundred years after Christ, the Romans did not approve of the Christian faith. Some of the emperors used Christians for games, putting them into the arena with hungry lions. Some Christians were persecuted to death in other situations, often being forced to recant their faith or die. We have records of many martyrs from those early years, people who willingly died for the sake of the Gospel. Much of the persecution was caused by a misunderstanding of Christian faith. Since some of the rituals of the early church were practiced in secret, heinous rumors were spread about them – rumors of child sacrifice and orgies.

Difficulties eased for a time when Constantine saw the advantages of Christians living in the empire. Christian disciples were compassionate and peace loving. Though Constantine may have come to believe in Christian doctrine, he never gave up his other religious affiliations. He made the empire a place of tolerance and acceptance of different people and even used Christian faith as a way of expanding his territory. We can never be sure if Constantine was ever really saved, but at least for a time there was peace in the Christian community.

Future leaders of the Roman Empire were not so compassionate. Emperor Licinius revoked the policy of toleration in approximately the year 320 A.D. He ordered that every Christian should renounce their faith and turn back to the religion of Rome or die. Governor Agricolaus of Lesser Armenia passed this order on to his military troops, forty of whom were Christian. Those forty men refused to obey the order. The governor took his troops to a frozen lake and ordered them to recant or to lie naked on the ice. Agricolaus had prepared a bath filled with warm water for the men who could not stand the cold and gave up. One man did. He ran to the bath and jumped in. Unfortunately, the warm water shocked his body and he died anyway. The other thirty nine men refused to renounce their faith and they lay on the ice until they perished. One man, impressed by the faith of the thirty-nine, confessed faith in Christ, took off his clothes and lay with the soldiers, taking the place of the man who died. These forty men are remembered for their faith in the midst of persecution.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, and on my behalf, that utterance may be given unto me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:10-20 (ASV)

Did you know that the churches of third world countries are now sending missionaries to the western world? They are going to America and to Europe in an effort to take the Gospel message of hope and faith to the Christians who have become too comfortable and have turned away from God. No matter how bad things get in our lives in the western world, we do not know what it is like to suffer the kind of persecution faced by those forty soldiers. No one is going to make us lay naked on a frozen lake or make us die for our faith. We are not going to be asked to renounce our faith. Yet, for many Christians this has made us too comfortable. We do not need to stand firm in our faith so we don’t worry about being strong. We don’t put on the armor of God every day. Would you be prepared to stand firm or lie on a frozen lake if suddenly someone forced you to renounce your faith? He gives us the equipment we need to be strong, let us continually be prepared for the day when we will need to use it.


March 11, 2005

Unappreciated  Managing a list such as this one can be difficult at times. I recently heard of a woman who was having difficulty with her account because so many of her readers were deleting the messages. She was tagged as a spammer and was at risk of losing her account. She will have to find new ways of dealing with her ministry to protect herself. There are many reasons why people might delete the mail. Some folk get on these mailing lists and don’t know how to get off. Others don’t want to hurt the feelings of the sender so they stay on. Yet others get into difficult times when reading email is the least of their worries. A mailbox full of spam can trigger a delete finger that can accidentally hit the wrong mail. There is nothing malicious about the delete, just a necessary evil at times.

This is the risk we face ministering over the internet. Once we write and send out an email, we do not know what happens to it in the hearts and minds of those to whom it is sent. We do not know if it is read, if it is received or rejected. We do not know if the reader will ever respond to the message of the day. We can only pray that it will touch someone’s life, trust that God will use it to His glory and thank Him for the opportunity. It is truly a joy to receive a message from a reader with an encouraging word, but those times are rare. I’ve had several people recently mention how they enjoy reading the mail, but they never think to write back. I have to admit that there are times I feel unappreciated, but then I remember that I don’t do this for the thanks, I do it to glorify God.

When we read the story about Esther, we focus on the events of her life – her journey from orphan to queen and then savior of her people. It is an amazing story of a young girl who is raised by her uncle and then taken into the palace of a king. She could have been nothing more than a concubine, at the beckon call of the king. Instead she found herself in a position to be obedient to God’s will even while risking her own life. We don’t usually spend much time thinking about the other major character in this story, Esther’s uncle Mordecai. Mordecai was a prominent Jew who sat at the gate of the city, indicating that he held a position of power and authority. The people conducted business at the gate and the courts were held there. Those who sat at the gate were the leaders.

“In those days, while Mordecai was sitting in the king's gate, two of the king's chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those that kept the threshold, were wroth, and sought to lay hands on the king Ahasuerus. And the thing became known to Mordecai, who showed it unto Esther the queen; and Esther told the king thereof in Mordecai's name. And when inquisition was made of the matter, and it was found to be so, they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.” Esther 2:21-23 (ASV)

While at the gate, Mordecai learned of the plot against the king. He saved the life of the king, but was never rewarded for the effort. The story of Esther takes a turn for the worst when Haman decides to have the Jews exterminated because Mordecai refused to worship him. He convinces the king to issue an edict against the people, much to the dismay of Mordecai and Esther. Though Esther was afraid, her Uncle Mordecai convinced her to do what was right and try to save the people. She never would have gone forth without his encouragement. Eventually the king heard the story of Mordecai again and realized he had never thanked the man for his kindness. Mordecai was given great honor much to the dismay of Haman. When Esther made his plan known to the king, Haman faced the fate he destined for the Jews. While Esther was the one who took the risks, we have to remember Mordecai’s role in this also.

There are many times when we are doing good things for people in this world that seem to be forgotten. I doubt that Mordecai was looking for praise or thanksgiving for doing what was right. Yet, we can’t help but wonder sometimes why the things we do are ignored or forgotten. We can only trust that God has a purpose for all things and pray that He will use it for His glory in His time and His way. We might be remembered and appreciated one day long after the event and when it does happen we will see how God’s mighty hand can make amazing things happen out of our patience and humility. Thanks be to God.


March 14, 2005

Hostage  One of the top news stories for this weekend was the escape of a suspected rapist in Atlanta. Somehow he allegedly got a hold of a deputy’s weapon, killed and wounded several people, beat a reporter and stole a car. For hours the authority hunted this man, to keep him from harming more people and to bring him to justice. The ordeal ended Sunday after a woman called 911 with information that the man was in her apartment. This story might not seem so unusual, after all the news is filled with stories like this of shootings and escaped criminals.

However, while the authorities were searching and the city feared the danger, a woman was suffering more personal horror. She arrived home at about 2:00 A.M. and parked her car at her apartment complex. When she left her car, the man stuck a gun in her side and ordered her to go into her apartment. He tied her up and told her to be quiet. He warned her that he would kill her if the police found him there. Though she must have been frightened, she calmly spoke to the man and made him feel comfortable. Eventually he untied her. They talked through the night, watched television together and she made him pancakes. They talked about God and he admitted that he did not want to hurt any one else. The man wanted to stay at the apartment for a few more days, but he let the woman go to see her daughter. Whether or not he expected her to return is not known. When she left, she called the police and they came prepared to take the man by force. It was not necessary, he was ready to surrender and he went with them peacefully.

The woman could have easily screamed and fought for her life, though it is likely that the man would have continued his violence. Instead of hatred, the woman treated him with compassion and love. He was overwhelmed by her kindness. Though we do not know exactly what she said to him about the bible, something obviously touched his heart. Though he was terrifying in the beginning, willingly killing those who stood in his way, something about the woman’s trust in God transformed him.

“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.” Psalm 91:9-16 (ASV)

The woman told the man that she thought God brought him to her door, and she took the opportunity to talk to him about the love and mercy of God. Her compassion helped to calm him and it brought an end to the violent episode, thus saving her own and perhaps more lives. We can’t assume that her faith made her any more worthy of life than those who perished in the gunfire earlier in the day. No matter how much we trust in God, we might find ourselves in a similar situation and we might not be so blessed to survive. However, the woman’s trust in God is something we can look to for inspiration and encouragement. When we are in the midst of terrifying situations, we should hold fast to God and speak boldly with compassion and love no matter what the consequences. If we die, we die knowing we stood firm in God to the end. Yet, we might also see the power of God’s word transform the situation and bring hope out of terror. Thanks be to God.


March 15, 2005

Builder  When we were looking for a new house here in Texas, we were given a lot of advice. Some folk made suggestions about the best places to live. They recommended realtors and developments. They gave us tips on houses that were for sale. Some of the issues that drove the advice were taxes, insurance rates and location. Now that we have been here a year and are settled into a wonderful development, we find ourselves giving similar advice to our friends who are moving into the area.

Some people were much more passionate about their information. Locally there is a builder that has run into some difficulty over the years. They have been involved with legal issues related to poor workmanship. Those who had to deal with some of those issues are very passionate about turning buyers to other builders. When they are asked about their experiences, they will give a detailed list of problems no matter how small to ensure the listening will know how awful the builder really is.

While I understand the bitterness they might feel after having to deal with something so big, I have to admit that their passion was never something that spurred my decision. Instead, I was impressed with those people who could give a detailed list of reasons why I should buy a house from another builder. They had a passion for something good rather than against something bad. What good does it do to tell me how horrible one builder is if you have nothing better to suggest? I want to know why I should buy something, not why I shouldn’t.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the Christian church is that there are many divisions. God’s word is firm and right and true, but human understanding is lacking. When we read God’s word, we transpose our own understanding, experience and interpretation on what it says. One verse might mean one thing to one person and mean something completely different to another. A seeker can visit a number of churches with the same question and get a different answer from each one. We might even see something different in passages during different times in our own lives. However, sometimes people make God’s word fit their own desires. They take passages and twist them to mean what they want them to mean. They create a different gospel. Then, rather than sharing the goodness of Christ, they try to convince the world that all the other ideas are wrong.

“I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-10 (ASV)

The trouble with these other gospels is that they are not good news. They have nothing good to offer to the person seeking the salvation of Jesus Christ. The proponents might be passionate about what they are teaching, but instead of focusing on drawing people into Christ with the truth, they are more concerned about pulling people away from others. I have had many people try to convince me that I should not be the kind of Christian that I am. I’ve been told that our worship and practice is wrong and that it is bad or sinful. I have been attacked by those twisting the word of God who would have me convert to their way of thinking.

Fortunately, I was firmly imbedded in the word of God and did not follow those false Gospels or false Christs. However, if we are not sure of our salvation in Jesus Christ, if we doubt the word of God or if we seek to hear words that tickle our ears, we will find ourselves among those that teach a perversion of the truth. Paul did not care to preach that which would tickle the ears of his listeners. He did not seek to make everyone happy with a message of false hope. He preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.


March 16, 2005

Denominations  Yesterday’s scripture warned Christians against falling for a false gospel, or for a false Christ. Unfortunately, there are a great many people in the world who are trying to make Christian doctrine fit their own point of view, to meet their own flesh desires. Many don’t even deny this fact. To them, faith – any faith – is about meeting personal needs. To them, Jesus can be whoever we want Him to be. This is why there are so many denominations. When someone wants to start a church, all they need to do is start one. When they do not agree with what other people believe, they can just start meeting in their living room with whoever is willing to join them.

It is easy for us to believe what we believe is right. We can become passionate about an idea, especially when we think it has come from God. Who can reject our perspective when it is preceded by “God told me…” or “God spoke to me…”? Yet, sometimes what we hear is not from God. We need to be part of the larger church, to know and understand that nothing is new under the sun. The Christian today who is claiming a special revelation of something needs to hear that the same special revelation was heard a hundred or a thousand years ago and proven wrong by the body of Christ. Heresies have come and gone, but they never last because they do not have a firm foundation in God’s Word.

We don’t like to hear we are wrong, however. If someone tries to show us our error, we simply call them an unbeliever. After all, we believe that we have it right, that our perspective is according to God’s Word, even if that word does not line up with the word given to us in the scriptures. When we are caught up in these ideas, we believe that God is doing a new thing for a new generation. We justify our perspective. We twist the scripture. We make it fit our desires.

Things were no different in the days of the early church, although in many cases they had to overcome an even older perspective. The Jews did not want to hear that they had turned away from God with their burdensome law. They did not want to hear that they missed the Messiah.

“Now when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed upon him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:54-60 (ASV)

Stephen told them the story of God – their story – and they did not like his ending. He called them stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and blamed them for the death of Jesus. They did this despite the fact that their story throughout the ages was all directed by God to lead them to that moment. They did not like what they heard and then stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

I’m sure we would like to act exactly the same way when someone tries to explain our own errors in doctrine and faith. Our faith is too personal. If we are wrong about something which we are so passionate about, how can we know we are right about everything else? However, God has given us one another, to reason about God’s word and to come to an understanding about what it means for us today. This does not mean we can make it fit into our perspective, but rather together we can discover God’s timeless message of hope and grace for today. We keep each other on the right path, so that no one will wander away toward false gospels or Christs. Stephen did not intend to convict the Jews, he wanted them to see their error and turn to Christ Jesus. We need to be willing to listen when others are trying to share the Good News that is good news. They might just have something valuable to say to us. Thanks be to God.


March 17, 2005

Clover  Today was St. Patrick’s Day, so we celebrated at school with lots of green. We had a green buffet, filled with green food. Many of the children wore green clothes. We did our work with green crayons and we did crafts with green paper. We also talked about St. Patrick and his contribution to Christianity.

Of course, St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born late in the fourth century as a Roman citizen in Britain. Irish raiders carried him away when he was a teenager to live in Ireland as a slave. He eventually escaped and went to Gaul which is now France and studied under St. Germanus for fifteen years. He had a vision of becoming a missionary to Ireland, to take Christ to those who had been his captors. St. Germanus consecrated him and sent him on his mission. He had a remarkable affect on the druidic people and many came to know Jesus Christ because of Patrick’s witness. He established a bishopric in Armaugh and began a strong foundation for the Christian church in Ireland.

One of the stories surrounding this saint is the story of the shamrock. It is said that the most difficult thing the druids had difficulty understanding was the doctrine of the trinity. For those who worshipped idols, the idea of three gods was not a problem. However, they could not understand the concept of three in one. How can God be three and be one? So, St. Patrick bent over and picked up a clover leaf from the ground and asked his listeners what they saw. Some said three leaves. Some said one leaf. As you look closely at clover, you will see that it too is three in one. There are three leaves, but only one stem, making it a leaf with three leaves.

We went outside today to pick some clover leaves. As we looked at the leaves we noticed something wonderful. Not only is there three leaves on the stem, but the leaves have an unusual shape – they look like hearts. When we look at the clover, we can remember that God is a Trinity, with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are also reminded of God’s love. Finally, as we were looking at the clover leave as a whole today in class, one of the boys said, “It looks like a cross.” So there, in one tiny leaf that is abundantly found all over the world, we can see the Trinity, the love of God and the cross of Christ.

“For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (ASV)

It is said that on St. Patrick’s Day the whole world is Irish. It is certainly a holiday that a great many people commemorate. Many cities have parades and shamrocks are hung everywhere. The river that runs through downtown San Antonio is died green for the day, as are other rivers around the world. Many of the celebrants may not even know the full story of St. Patrick. For many it is a time to get drunk on green beer and chase after leprechauns in hopes of finding their pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. The only reminders of St. Patrick’s story are all the shamrocks that decorate the festivities.

I doubt that St. Patrick would ever want that type of attention. He was a humble man who overcame a difficult life to minister for Christ in this world. He willingly went to the territory of his enemy to take the love of Christ to those who showed him no love. He did all this because of his love for Jesus.

One of the things for which he is most remembered is a hymn called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.” In this hymn we see exactly where Patrick’s focus lay – just like the humble little clover - on Christ. Thanks be to God.


March 18, 2005

Bad day  Yesterday was one of those days. It was a day filled with too many responsibilities and was made worse by some difficult circumstances. Just when I thought I might be able to relax a little, there was always something looming in the next moment that needed my attention. Even my writing was interrupted several times, leaving me uninspired and frustrated. I could not find the words, or even the subject matter about which to write because the world’s problems were on my back. Eventually we solved everyone’s troubles and I just sat down at the computer. I had to stop thinking and worrying. I had to pray. It was the only way I could get myself out of my mood, overcome my headache and find the words to write.

It is amazing how quickly we can allow the cares of the world to take over our entire being. My emotions were out of control because I was focusing on the negatives rather than keeping my eyes on Jesus through it all. I got angry, I yelled a bit. Eventually the whole situation gave me a headache and I desperately wanted to run away to hide and have a good cry. As I look back on it today, I know that I made it a bad day for myself. I overreacted. If I had remained calm, taken the time to think and consider each situation – put God in the midst of it – I would not have had such a bad day.

“Thou didst thrust sore at me that I might fall; But Jehovah helped me. Jehovah is my strength and song; And he is become my salvation. The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous: The right hand of Jehovah doeth valiantly. The right hand of Jehovah is exalted: The right hand of Jehovah doeth valiantly. I shall not die, but live, And declare the works of Jehovah. Jehovah hath chastened me sore; But he hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will enter into them, I will give thanks unto Jehovah. This is the gate of Jehovah; The righteous shall enter into it. I will give thanks unto thee; for thou hast answered me, And art become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected Is become the head of the corner. This is Jehovah's doing; It is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which Jehovah hath made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, we beseech thee, O Jehovah: O Jehovah, we beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of Jehovah: We have blessed you out of the house of Jehovah. Jehovah is God, and he hath given us light: Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. Thou art my God, and I will give thanks unto thee: Thou art my God, I will exalt thee. Oh give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good; For his lovingkindness endureth for ever.” Psalm 118:13-29 (ASV)

I read somewhere in the midst of my troubles yesterday that it does not take much to turn an attitude from positive to negative. All you have to do is multiply -1 to any number, and it will be a negative number. The same is true of sin. It takes only one small sin to make us turn from being Christ-like to acting in sin. When I let my emotions take over yesterday, when I put God aside, I fell. But God helped me. He helped me find peace in the midst of trouble. He helped me find hope where there seemed to be none. He helped me turn around and look to Him.

We all make mistakes. We all have bad days. We all turn around and overreact to the world that surrounds us. It is part of our nature. But in Christ Jesus, we have the salvation of God who will help us through our difficult times and transform us into people who love as He loved. Thanks be to God.


March 21, 2005

Scary  When I was a teenager, I went on a trip to the Jersey Shore with a bunch of my friends. While we were there, we spent some time enjoying the amusements at one of the piers, including one of those professional haunted houses. Now, I enjoyed a good scare and liked to visit this type of attraction. I had been to many local houses, even helped plan a few around Halloween. I once walked into one of those houses, sponsored by an organization at my high school, and managed to scare a few of the performers who were hiding inside.

So, when we went into this house, I went in with a pretty arrogant attitude. I was not going to be scared, they had nothing that would make me jump. It was all pretend. One of the reasons I was doing this was for the sake of my friends, some of whom were very unsure about entering into this house. I wanted them to know I would take care of them. I was also pretty sure of myself. Unfortunately, some of the actors heard my boasting and decided to make me their special victim for that day. In the first room, a very empty vestibule, two freaky looking characters appeared out of nowhere and backed me into the corner. I never expected the performers to be so bold and that moment scared us all so much that we ran through the rest of the house, probably leaving the actors behind in hysterics.

I think if I’d known what it was like inside, I might have done things a little differently. At least one of my friends would never have even gone inside, but I would have still gone to enjoy myself but I would have done it with less arrogance and more awareness. Things would have come out differently in the end.

We have reached the end of Lent, made it to Holy Week. In the next few days the story of Jesus’ life and ministry will come to its conclusion, first on the cross and then in the resurrection. We’ve heard the story many times and it still amazes us how quickly things turned from triumph to tragedy. How did the crowd go from singing hosannas to crying for crucifixion? It makes us want to ask, “If Jesus knew it would be this way, would He still have gone?” From our human point of view, it is hard to believe that Jesus would walk to the cross knowing how painful it would be. Yet, the scriptures tell us that He knew.

“Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, there came unto him a woman having an alabaster cruse of exceeding precious ointment, and she poured it upon his head, as he sat at meat. But when the disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. But Jesus perceiving it said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. For in that she poured this ointment upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” Matthew 26:6-13 (ASV)

For the past few weeks, we have been studying the passion of Jesus in our adult Sunday school class. We have read each of the Gospels and looked for references of the passion from Jesus before He went into Jerusalem. We found that in each there are at least a dozen references, sometimes in the parables and sometimes direct references. The disciples did not understand. They could not believe Jesus would walk into suffering any more than we can. Yet, it was always His purpose to die and He went into the den of wolves willingly for our sake. By His wounds we are healed. Thanks be to God.


March 22, 2005

Success  If you do a web search for the word success, you will find nearly two million websites from which to choose. The top finds include advice on how to dress, how to interview or how to do mathematics. One site advertised, “Money, Sex & Power Is Yours With New Long-lost Success-Zone Secrets!” Another site offered a one hour audio CD that would help you achieve and set greater goals in life. While the meaning of success is simply “favored or desired outcome,” our modern understanding of success is more geared toward the idea of gaining wealth, authority and prominence.

Perhaps that’s why so many people have difficulty with the idea that Jesus died on the cross. Oh, most Christians welcome the idea of the resurrection, because His rising from the dead was a victory. He overcame the one thing we fear the most – the end of our life and the end of our chances to accomplish our goals. Jesus had a second chance and in His resurrection we are also given second chances. The idea of the cross – the death of Christ – is beyond our comprehension. How was this a good thing? Why did God have to do it this way? It has even gotten to the point that many people are just as happy going from Palm Sunday straight to Easter, avoiding the cross altogether. Many Christians have come to believe that suffering is not part of Christian faith, that God will take away all our pain if only we believe hard enough. They refuse to see glory in affliction and even consider those who suffer as less than faithful.

It is easy for us to see the glory in the resurrection. After all, being raised from the dead is an incredible act of God. Jesus was obviously different, because the disciples did not recognize Him. Something was new; perhaps there was even a glow about Him. The glory in the resurrection is in the victory over sin and death. The glory of the cross is not so easy to understanding. How can we see victory in a suffering Christ, in a Christ bleeding, thirst and abandoned? There was no success on the cross. There was no future, no hope, no peace. Yet, it is on the cross where Jesus finds the glory.

“Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast: these therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: Andrew cometh, and Philip, and they tell Jesus. And Jesus answereth them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit. He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will the Father honor. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour.” John 12:20-28 (ASV)

Jesus was not looking toward the resurrection at this time, or else his heart would not have been troubled. He knew the time had come for Him to suffer and die. He knew it was necessary, a part of what God intended from the beginning. He had to suffer the cross for there to be an Easter Sunday, and it is on the cross the work of redemption took place. It is at the foot of the cross where we find forgiveness. It is by the blood of Jesus we are saved.

We might try to find success in this world, success in our schools and jobs, success in our neighborhoods and relationships. Sometimes the success we seek is little more than that favored or desired outcome. Sometimes we see the financial rewards or positions of importance as signs of our success. We would never consider an end to our ministry like that of Jesus on the cross as a measure of our success, yet that is exactly where Jesus found the glory. When He died, He made it possible for all men to be saved from sin and death and to know the Father personally. His death brought life, and brought it abundantly. There is glory to be found in the resurrection, but let us not forget the glory found on the cross. Thanks be to God.


March 23, 2005

Prayer  In past years of writing A WORD FOR TODAY, I have written of the daily activities of Jesus and His disciples during this precious Holy week. We’ve seen how Jesus began as the triumphant king, entering into Jerusalem on the donkey. We have seen how he has gone into the temple to teach and preach. We have seen His intimate moments with His friends. We have seen the reaction of the leaders and their building desire to stop Jesus’ ministry. Walking in the footsteps of Jesus through Holy week makes it much easier to understand how He can go from triumph to suffering in just a few days.

There are passages referring to each of the days of Holy week, giving us a clear picture of Jesus’ actions that week. A huge portion of the biblical witness is given to retelling the story of those final days, with lengthy monologues from Jesus – parables, prayers and instruction to His disciples. Interestingly, there is nothing recorded specifically about Jesus for the Wednesday of that week. We have to wonder what Jesus might have been doing that day, particularly since our natural human tendency is to get busier as we get closer to some special event. Why didn’t Jesus feel the need to make one last ditch effort to change as many minds as possible? Why wasn’t He desperate to make a difference in more lives?

While Jesus was God incarnate, Jesus was not superhuman. The events of the following days were going to be difficult – stressful, tiring, painful. The emotions He would have to deal with on Maundy Thursday when He shared the Last Supper with His disciples, the physical trauma of the flogging and crucifixion would take a toll on His body. He had to be prepared – physically, emotionally and spiritually – for what was to come. So, He took a day to rest.

Knowing that Christ faced everything strengthened by prayer, it is likely that He spent many hours that day praying to God. Isn’t it amazing that despite the fact that Jesus was as close to God as is possible for any man, He still took time to walk away from the crowds and His friends to go talk to His Father. Prayer was vital to everything He did – even facing the cross. Prayer was an important part of His teaching to His disciples as He told them how to pray and how not to pray. He acted as an example for those who were watching and we might think that was the only reason why He did so. Yet, as we see in the account of Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane, we can see that Jesus was not just acting for others to see. He was desperate to commune with God, to seek His strength and encouragement.

“And they come unto a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith unto his disciples, Sit ye here, while I pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly amazed, and sore troubled. And he saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death: abide ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass away from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; remove this cup from me: howbeit not what I will, but what thou wilt. And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest thou not watch one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away, and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came, and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they knew not what to answer him. And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough; the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going: behold, he that betrayeth me is at hand.” Mark 14:32-42 (ASV)

We often think of Jesus as some superhuman person, able to do everything and to overcome anything. He was an incredible person, to suffer and die for the sake of imperfect and self-centered people like you and I. Yet, He needed to pray, to gain strength and courage for every step of His journey from the one source that could provide Him all He needed – God, His Father. We try too hard to get through our troubles and our successes with our own strength. We don’t go to God nearly as often as we should. We don’t take the time to spend alone with Him, to open our hearts and reveal our deepest hopes and fears. I suppose that since we know God can see into our hearts that we don’t need to take those things to Him. Yet, when we look at Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, we can see that the prayer is not for God to hear but for Jesus to speak. The Father and the Son were so intimately connected that Jesus did not need to reveal anything to the Father, for the Father knew everything.

How can we, who still see through the glass darkly, think that we don’t need the same time alone with God to reveal our own deepest thoughts? How can we think that we can go forth into the world without taking the time to seek God’s heart through prayer? May we all not only follow the example of Jesus, but also realize how vital that time alone with God was for Him and for us even today.


March 24, 2005

Farewell  We have moved a great deal as a military family. Every few years it is time to go to a new place, time to establish a new home. It is difficult leaving, particularly saying good-bye to those we’ve come to love. We have attended all too many going away luncheons. These lovely affairs are generally planned by the people or groups to which we have belonged. When we arrive, we do not have to do anything except enjoy the companionship. Others make the plans and make sure everything is ready. They even pay for our meals. They shower us with gifts, especially remembrances of our time in that place.

Since I’m the type of person who tends to get very involved with everything I do, it is nice to have an event that doesn’t require me to do anything. I like having others wait on me once in awhile. I would never show up at the party and start waiting on tables or scrubbing the kitchen. I don’t think I’m much different than anyone else. No matter what the occasion, when it is our night to shine, we don’t want to lift a finger to do the dirty work. Jesus had such a different attitude.

It was time for His final meal with His friends. It was Passover week, and according to the prophecies, the Jews expected that the Messiah would come around the Passover. When Jesus entered into the city on Palm Sunday, the people were excited about Jesus because they thought He was the king for whom they were waiting. Yet, in the days that followed, Jesus did not fulfill their expectations. Rather than fighting the Romans, Jesus fought the religious establishment. Rather than take a throne, Jesus knocked over the tables in the Temple. Rather than build an army, Jesus made many people mad with the words He spoke and the message He preached. While He took a day to rest and pray, the leaders were scheming about how to end His ministry. During that week, the disciples would have shared other special meals, but on Thursday they gathered to celebrate the Passover Seder. This was an important meal because of the ritual and religious significance, but it was made even more special because it was His farewell dinner. Yet, when He gathered with His friends, the first thing He did was to serve them.

“Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto his Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all the things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and goeth unto God, riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments; and he took a towel, and girded himself. Then he poureth water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. So he cometh to Simon Peter. He saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt understand hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is bathed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew him that should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So when he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and sat down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me, Teacher, and, Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye also should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, a servant is not greater than his lord; neither one that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.” John 13:1-17 (ASV)

From the beginning of His ministry to the very end, Jesus always put others before Himself. Washing the feet of His disciples was a sacrificial action – it was a job meant only for the lowest of all the servants. Yet, Jesus had not problem getting on His knees to do the task. Though Peter wanted to refuse to let Jesus serve him, Jesus said that it was necessary. We have to accept that it is through Jesus’ sacrifice that we are cleansed. If we reject or ignore the cross, we are not part of Him. If we skip the suffering, we miss the very act that gives us the freedom to live.

Jesus finished the foot washing with a call for all those who love Him to do the same for others. We are to do what Jesus does, to serve rather than be served. We are to sacrifice for the sake of life and share everything which Jesus did for us with others. We are blessed if we too live, and die, as Jesus did. For it is in the serving we truly know and understand the attitude of Christ and live the blessed life He has called us to live. Thanks be to God.


March 25, 2005

Mother  In the final moments of His life, as He hung on a cross, Jesus spoke words that have been indelibly stamped on our hearts and minds. First, as always, Jesus spoke the words of forgiveness – “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” This word of forgiveness was for the whole of humankind, meant for all of us because we so often do not know that our actions are the very reason that Jesus died on the cross. Next, at the confession of faith by the criminal who was hanging next to Him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This is a more personal word of forgiveness for those who have repented and looked to Jesus for hope.

The pain must have been excruciating as Jesus hung only by nails in His wrists and feet. He’d been beaten and humiliated. He cried out “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Though we would like to diminish the meaning of this word, we should not reject the idea that Jesus felt very alone at that moment. Yet, even as He was crying out in pain, He was also turning to the word of God, perhaps quoting the psalms for strength. This word comes from Psalm 22, a song of anguished prayer. He said, “I thirst,” and though God was always in control of every moment, Jesus still had very real human needs to be met. At the end, Jesus cried “It is finished.” We can ponder what He meant when He said “it is finished.” Did He mean His life? Did He mean His ministry? Did He mean the work of redemption for which Jesus was sent to the world? Whatever He meant, He then commended His spirit into the hands God, His Father.

There was one other word, the only one specifically given to people He loved. Jesus’ mother and His beloved friend John stood at the foot of the cross watching His suffering. Seeing their grief, Jesus said to His mother, “Dear woman, here is your son.” To the disciple He said, “Behold your mother.” The scriptures tell us that from that day, John took Mary into His home and cared for her. Even as He was dying, Jesus cared about the needs of others.

Mary was the one person who was there from the beginning to the end. Today, March 25, is the day that we traditionally celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord – the announcement to Mary that she would bear the Son of God in her womb. It is also the day that has traditionally been held to have been the actual day that Jesus was crucified, making it a day of both the beginning of His life and the end. Mary knew early that her Son would face that day, for it was prophesied to her at her son’s circumcision. Throughout her life, Mary willingly accepted God’s grace and purpose for her life and for the life of her son. Though she may not have fully understood everything that would happen, she received each moment with praise to God and she treasured them in her heart.

“And Mary said, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath looked upon the low estate of his handmaid: For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is unto generations and generations on them that fear him. He hath showed strength with his arm; He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart. He hath put down princes from their thrones, and hath exalted them of low degree. The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath given help to Israel his servant, that he might remember mercy (as he spake unto our fathers) Toward Abraham and his seed for ever.” Luke 1:46-55 (ASV)

I wonder if Mary treasured the cross in her heart. There at the foot of her son’s suffering and pain, a sword pierced her own heart as Simeon foretold in the Temple when Jesus was just a baby. Yet, it was at the moment at the foot of the cross, when Jesus spoke His last words and showed that even in the midst of suffering He loved the world, Mary saw her Savior and the redemption of Israel. It is worthy to ponder the cross and what it means, even for us today. For on that horrible day so long ago, Jesus died for our sake, so that we might be forgiven of all our sin. Thanks be to God.


March 27, 2005

Dear Friends, though I no longer send the daily on Sunday, I wanted to take a moment to wish you a wonderful Resurrection Day.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

I pray this was a truly blessed day for you all as you celebrated the discovery of Mary and the rest of the disciples at the empty tomb. It is my hope that we will all continue to seek God's face and discover this wonderful miracle daily. As Christ Jesus reveals Himself through His Word, we will grow in faith and confidence so that we too might go out and share the Good News -- "I have seen the Lord!" Thanks be to God.


March 28, 2005

Radio show  We watched a movie yesterday starring Dolly Parton called “Straight Talk.” In this movie, Dolly played a woman in between jobs, who was desperately searching for a way to make her life better. She did not have any better luck with relationships and was down to her last dollars. She needed something to change. So, she went looking for a job, though the employers saw no value in her skills or experience. Finally, she convinced a radio station receptionist that she could do the job. She identified with the woman that hired her because she too was having relationship trouble. She did a terrible job at first, but seemed to be catching on to the task.

She went for a cup of coffee and found herself in a booth where the staff was preparing for a new radio personality – a doctor giving advice. The doctor was late, so when she walked in the door they thought she was the woman for whom they were waiting. They hustled her behind the mike and got her started. She did a terrific job, but the man who hired the original doctor fired her and chased her out of the studio. When the station received hundreds of calls, they went to find her and hired her. Unfortunately, the listeners thought she was a doctor, so they convinced her to keep up the façade. She did not want to, but they explained how much better it would be for her, for the show and for the people to with whom she was speaking. A newspaper reporter spent most of the movie trying to prove that she was not a doctor. By the time he had his story, he had fallen in love with her and quit his job for her sake.

Just as she was about to begin her first national broadcast, a woman approached Dolly’s character with a complaint. “Why did you tell my husband to leave me?” The woman lambasted the talk show host for knowing only half the story and begging for her to help restore her life. Dolly realized that it was foolish for her to be giving advice when her own life was a mess and when she did not have the credentials necessary. She went on the air, told the truth and walked out of her job. In the end, the listeners loved her so much that she got her job back and she did the program as herself. This was just a movie, but it goes to show you how easy it is for us to fall into circumstances that are less than ideal.

As we look at the characters involved in the Resurrection story, there’s one group that does not often get very much attention. When the women went to the tomb early in the morning on the first day of the week, there was an earthquake and an angel rolled the stone away. The soldiers that had been posted at the tomb to guard it were so frightened by the experience Matthew tells us they were “like dead men.” After the women went back to the disciples, the soldiers went to give their own witness of the event.

“Now while they were going, behold, some of the guard came into the city, and told unto the chief priests all the things that were come to pass. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave much money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and rid you of care. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying was spread abroad among the Jews, and continueth until this day.” Matthew 28:11-15 (ASV)

Those soldiers had a job to do, but they failed. The body disappeared under their watch. Now, what they experienced at the tomb could have had an incredible affect on their life and their witness certainly would have helped with the spread of the Gospel of Jesus. Rather than following what might have been planted in their hearts, they followed what they thought was best for their life. If they told the story as they experienced it, they would have been found guilty of not doing their job. The authorities promised to protect the soldiers if there was a question about what happened that day. So, the soldiers took the payment and the promise and went to tell a lie. With two stories circulating about the resurrection, the people remained as divided about the truth of Jesus Christ as they had been when Jesus was ministering. But then, the world is still divided. Some are believers, some aren’t. It all depends on whose story you believe.


March 29, 2005

Birds  It seems that as the temperatures go up around here, the number of birds in our neighborhood also goes up. The cats are certainly excited because with the warmer days I have had the windows open in the house. They sit on the window sills for hours at a time watching the birds fly around the neighborhood. Of course, it drives them nuts that they can’t be outside chasing the birds, but I wouldn’t want them to hurt my singing friends. I love to watch the birds that live around our house, no matter where we live. It is amazing to see the variety – small birds, large birds, colorful birds or ones with dark feathers. Some flit around quickly while others hobble across the ground. They pick at the grass looking for bugs and worms to eat. They fly into the tree tops or sit on our roof. Some birds flock in large groups, others are all alone.

I especially enjoy watching the birds when things seem to be very stressful. It is amazing how quickly we manage to fill up our hours with responsibilities, never knowing if we can accomplish everything. I’ve heard people say that all they need is another hour in a day, but if we had another hour we would find more things to do. This week was looking like it would be one of those weeks – too much to accomplish and no way it could all get done. I have to admit I was a little worried about it all, thus the stress. Yet, somehow God has managed to make things right. I did not need to worry because my Father in heaven knows what I need and He provides. In this case, He provided relief.

When we are in the midst of a worrisome time, it is very hard to remember that God does provide. We get stressed because we don’t know how we will get through. Whether we are dealing with financial difficulties, health troubles or other kinds of hardships, we need to look to God through our worry and remember that He loves us. Though we may not understand the way He will get us through, in the end we will always find that things are better when we let go and let God.

“Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matthew 6:25-34 (ASV)

It is very easy to say “don’t worry” when you aren’t in the midst of a troublesome time. It is not so easy to be without worry when things aren’t going so well. We are human, and worry is a natural response to the stressful events that surround our lives. We worry because we want to control everything. We want to hold on to the power, even when we know we have none. God does not solve our problems by doing everything – we still need to be involved with the solution. If we are having financial problems, we should take care of the business of doing things right. If we are having health issues, we need to see a doctor.

The scripture today, however, reminds us that we can’t make it better by worrying. We won’t find power in anxiety. Rather than worry, God calls us to trust in Him. He does take care of us, even as we do what we need to do in this world. All we need to do is to live in faith daily, remembering His promises so that we can get through to tomorrow. Then we remember again the promises of God as we begin a new journey of faith each day. We do not always understand the path by which God is carrying us, but when we are most in need, that’s what He does. It may seem hard, it may seem like you are going in the wrong direction. But when you trust in God, He will get you through. Just like the birds of the air. Thanks be to God.


March 30, 2005

Candy house  The story of Hansel and Gretel is a sad tale about two small children who are left alone in a forest. The family was without any money or food, so the mother insisted the children should be abandoned in the forest so that the mother and father could try to survive on the last of the food. The father did not want to do this horrid act, but she insisted so he gave in. They took their children into the forest and left them there, but the children knew their plan and had left a trail of stones to follow home. The father and mother tried this scheme a second time, but this time did not give the children a chance to get stones. Further into the forest, with only breadcrumbs to leave, the children were unable to find the path and return home. Eventually they found a house covered in goodies – cookies and sweet breads, candy and pastries. They began to eat the food until an old woman came out to see who was eating her home. She, acting very sweet, invited them inside to eat and rest. However, she was a witch who used the yummy decorations on her home to lure children so she could eat them.

Hansel and Gretel is a story of trust. The children trusted their mother and father, only to find themselves abandoned in the forest. They trusted the old woman until they realized she meant to eat them for dinner. It is a story of the things many children deal with in this world – discovering disappointment in the people whom they trust. However, children trust because they are innocent and unknowing of the evil that can persist in this world. Our disappointment makes it nearly impossible for people to trust in anything – as we grow older we lose our innocence and we have experienced evil. This experience makes it very difficult for us to trust anything or anyone, but we must trust in some things, most particularly God our Father.

“And they were bringing unto him also their babes, that he should touch them: but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, saying, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for to such belongeth the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein.” Luke 18:15-17 (ASV)

One of the ironies of modern life is the fact that despite the added dangers that our children face, we have in many cases left them without any spiritual foundation on which to stand. Since many couples are multi-faith or intellectual, they would rather not force a religion upon their children. They want the children to grow up and decide for themselves what they will see and believe. They don’t even offer to show them, for fear it will seem like they are brainwashing the children.

It is a wonder that any people come to learn how to trust as adults. It is good to be discerning, to be cautious about some things. In our world today it is even more important. There are so many opportunities for children to be harmed by strangers, or even to suffer at the hands of people they have to count on. Yet, the one thing that we can trust, the only person we can truly trust, is God the Almighty as we know Him through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We must see Him through the eyes like those of a child, with an innocence that does not show the effects of disappointment and the experience of evil. The story of Hansel and Gretel ends happily ever after, despite the horror they faced. They kill the witch and return home to find their father ready to receive them with love and joy. Who can believe in the kingdom of God in a world where so much evil seems to exist, particularly if we do not tell them the story? Let us never give up sharing the gospel so that all God’s children might hear and believe. Thanks be to God.


March 31, 2005

Greatest  The Discovery Channel is compiling a list of the greatest Americans of all time, chosen by the American people. They had a place where you could nominate anyone in the history of our country no matter what they have accomplished. Discovery is tallying the submissions and will air a program revealing the top favorites. Then we get to vote. So far there are names from every generation, people from politics, entertainment, science, religion and every other realm available.

These lists can be very strange. Certainly some people chosen are far from my own preference of the greatest Americans. I do not consider their accomplishments the type of thing that would make them great. But then, my choices would seem odd to someone else. We have different perspectives and that will show in the people that we uphold as great. Many factors can affect our choices – our age, gender, race, geographic background and educational status can make a difference. The teenager that has never heard of Jackie Robinson is more likely to choose Tiger Woods as a favorite sports hero. An elderly lady would be more familiar with Audrey Hepburn than Jennifer Aniston. The historian might look back into the early days of the country to find the greatest American while a political analyst might prefer to name a figure that is fresh on the minds of the nation. One generation will look to the past while another looks to this day.

“And there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom Jehovah knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which Jehovah sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all the mighty hand, and in all the great terror, which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.” Deuteronomy 43:10-12 (ASV)

Things were no different in Jesus’ day. All too often, the Jews compared Jesus to the work of Moses, putting Moses on a pedestal above Jesus. They held up scripture like this as proof that none could ever be greater than Moses. There were none who could do the mighty acts that were done through Moses. They saw Moses as their deliverer, even though he took them out of Egypt a thousand or so years before. He was also the gift giver – bearer of the Law. Jesus could not compare in their minds, despite the fact that He did many of the same things. But He was not, to them, a deliverer. And to them He was a law-breaker. His works of healing and forgiveness seemed to overshadow all they held as important and they could never see Him as the greatest.

We might not always understand how one person can lift up someone when we consider others more worthy of our praise. Yet, when we look at the world in which they live, the circumstances that color their opinion, it can be more understandable. As we look back over the life of Jesus and the things He did, it is hard for us to imagine holding on the Moses as the greatest. However, when we consider that Jesus turned their world upside down, we can see how important it is for them to hold on to the things they know and love. It does not matter who becomes the Greatest American on the Discovery Channel. What does matter that we see people, their gifts and their accomplishments through the eyes of Christ and live in thanksgiving for the gift of their lives in this world. Thanks be to God.