Welcome to the March 2006 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 2006

March 1, 2006

Fasting  This is Ash Wednesday. What have you decided to 'give up' for Lent? I've heard people who have chosen to give up chocolate, sugar, soda or other sweets. Others have decided to give up leisure activities on the computer. Yet others have decided to give up television or that cup of coffee they buy at the local coffee shop on their way to work. This fasting will be difficult because we come to depend on these things emotionally and physically. Some people will replace their fasting with a spiritual discipline of some sort. They will take the time spent watching television or playing on the computer with Bible reading or prayer. They will use the money they've saved on that sugar or coffee and give it to a charity.

These are valuable disciplines that might just become habits during the next forty days. It is amazing how quickly we see a difference when we spend time in prayer on a daily basis. We might think the couple dollars a day we spend on junk food or coffee won't make a difference, but it doesn't take very long before a couple dollars can make a difference in someone's life. We put a great deal of our time, resources and even love into things that have little value or substance. During Lent we sacrifice those things for a moment in the hopes that it will help us better know our Lord and grow closer to Him as we journey toward the cross.

Though it might be difficult to give up the things we love, it is even harder to give up our attitudes and the habits that are not tangible. We can willfully avoid eating chocolate or watching television, but what other things should we consider giving up during Lent? Do you gossip? Could you willfully choose not to pass on a rumor during the next seven weeks? Are you quick to judge someone? Could you think twice before speaking negatively about a co-worker or neighbor? Are there evil thoughts in your mind or lusts in your heart that you could control? Lent is a time of discipline and most people choose the temptations that come from outside ourselves – the food, drink and activities that we can do without. Yet, it is our hearts that God desires, for when He has our whole hearts, our actions follow naturally.

"Yet even now, saith Jehovah, turn ye unto me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto Jehovah your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth whether he will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, even a meal-offering and a drink-offering unto Jehovah your God?" Joel 2:12-14 (ASV)

It is good to fast through Lent. It will not take very long before you realize the benefits of letting go of the things of little value that we love. Those things can separate us from the One to whom our hearts belong. We can't love both God and the things of this world; all too often the things of this world become more important to us than God. During this Lent, use your fast to enhance your relationship with God either by spending more time with Him or sharing your resources with others.

Even more so, consider the temptations in your heart and mind that are not so easy to grasp. As you rend your heart and turn toward God, is there something in the way you live that can be different? What new habits can you establish as you control the thoughts of your minds and the lusts of your hearts? At the end of Lent you might return to eating that chocolate or drinking those expensive coffees, but when your heart is changed by the love of God your life will reflect that change. Thanks be to God.


March 2, 2006

Money  In the movie "Coming to America," Eddie Murphy stars as an African prince who travels to America to find a wife. In his country, the king-to-be's wife is chosen at birth and raised to be absolutely obedient to the king. Eddie's character Akeem wants something more. He wants a woman to love him, to be a equal partner, to be a person with her own interests, opinions and hopes.

Though he has great wealth, Akeem decides to take up residence in a poor part of New York. He finds the perfect woman, the daughter of the owner of a fast food place. He gets a job scrubbing floors to get close to her. He never reveals that he is a prince, hoping that she will fall in love with him just as he is. When she discovers that he is a prince, she gets mad about the lies and rejects him. She tells him that they come from different worlds and that it just wouldn't work. In the end they marry and live happily ever after. When Akeem's father comes looking for Akeem in New York, he gives the girl's father some cash from their country, a bill that just happened to have Akeem's picture. Later when the daughter realizes something is happening, her father pulls out the bill and says, "He has money, and when I say his money I mean it." Then he shows her the picture.

We are used to having pictures of dead people on our money. As a matter of fact, in the early days of our country, when George Washington was first made president, the congress tried to put his picture on the money. He said no. He did not want anyone thinking that he was personally responsible for the money, as if he was an emperor or king. He would probably still object if he knew that his picture is now on the one dollar bill and the quarter.

Of course, Queen Elizabeth and other monarchs are found pictured on their nation's money. As a matter of fact, Queen Elizabeth's face can be found on the currency of at least sixteen countries. In some places coins and bills are minted that has no real value. In Micronesia, a former U.S. holding, the official currency is the U.S. dollar, but they minted coins with a picture of that country's president strictly for fun. Other fun currencies include fake three dollar bills with pictures of modern presidents or money printed for theme parks like Disney.

There are very rare occasions that the money includes a picture of a living person who is not a head of state. Take, for instance, the new five pound note printed in Scotland recently. Jack Nicholas graces the face of the bill which was printed to commemorate his final appearance at the British open. It is official currency, can be used anywhere in Great Britain to buy groceries or a pint of beer. Unfortunately, it is unlikely you'll ever see one in circulation; most of those printed were grabbed by collectors and are safely tucked away gaining value as a collector's item.

"Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee. So that with good courage we say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear: What shall man do unto me?" Hebrews 13:5-6 (ASV)

I found it interesting reading about money in the article about Jack Nicholas' picture. Who would have known that there are countries producing coinage that has no real value? And who would have guessed that we would ever see Jack Nicholas on the front of an official form of currency? Who knew that Queen Elizabeth's face has graced more denominations of currency than any one ever has?

Yet, money has only as much value as we give it. A British pound has no value in an American store. If I tried to give a clerk at the local grocery store a Jack Nicholas five pound note, she would not take it. A Mickey Dollar is useless outside Disney World. There may be some collector willing to buy such things, otherwise they are nearly useless. I have coins and bills from all over the world, but they have little value in my every day life. Though I may have considerable wealth in that collection, it won't buy me anything I want or need. Money, while necessary to live in our world, is not of greater value than our relationship with God. The scriptures don't tell us that we should live without it, but that it should have its rightful place in our life. It is not worthy of our love. It can fail us. However, God is more worthy of our love than we are able to give. No matter what we face, we can know that God will be faithful. Thanks be to God.


March 3, 2006

Chores  We have established a number of tasks which our children are expected to complete. They are simple chores that are meant to give them a sense of responsibility as well as to help around the house. The most important thing for them to do – and we have been working on this since they were small children – is to clean up after themselves. They are not to leave their books, clothes or toys lying all around the house. I have been hoping for years that these chores would become a part of their daily routine, but I still have to tell them to do the work. It is especially frustrating when we get to the third or fourth day and I realize that their space has gotten out of control.

On a regular basis we have lengthy discussions about how they are a part of the family and how they should be a part of keeping our home looking nice. They apologize for letting it go and promise me that they will do better. They usually do better for a day, maybe two, and then I notice things piling up again. I'd rather not have to remind them to do the work, so I often let it go until my patience is worn thin, and then we have that discussion again, but I'm usually to the point of screaming.

I am full of praise when the children do their chores without my asking. Zack has gotten pretty good at remembering to bring in the garbage can on garbage day. I suppose it is easy for him to remember because he has to pass the empty cans on his way home from school. When he puts away his bike, he takes a minute to do the work. However, he's not very good about picking up his clothes. Some weeks it is so bad that I discover after the laundry is done that he never gave me any of the socks he's left scattered all over his room. Vicki is a little bit better about her room, but can't remember to put away the clean dishes. I suppose that it is harder to know that she has work to do because the dishwasher is closed. As they say, "Out of sight, out of mind."

"But what think ye? A man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in the vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented himself, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Which of the two did the will of his father? They say, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Matthew 21:28-31 (ASV)

I might complain about my kids, I might even have good reason to do so, but I'm not any better. I'm sure when I was a child I made promises to my own parents to clean my room, but it never really did get clean. And just like my own kids, my promises generally came when I was appreciative for something my parents did for me. Yet, it would have been better to not make a promise, to even complain about the work and yet do it, then to say "Yes" and then never get around to it.

The relationship between God and His people is much like a relationship between a father and a child. We are His children. He calls us to live out our thanksgiving daily. Living our thanksgiving means going out into the world to do things, some things which we would prefer not to do. Living as a Christian is not easy, but through even the difficulties we will find the most incredible blessings by living in God's will. Thanks be to God.


March 6, 2006

Names  According to a website on strange and bizarre holidays, today is "Fun Facts on Names Day." I can't find any history on this particular holiday, but I did find some interesting information on names. First of all, there is actually an article in the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political rights that states that every child has a right to a name. This might seem ridiculous, for who would give birth to a child and not give him or her a name. What they have discovered, however, is that in the midst of war and extreme poverty, when people are in desperate situations and on the move through refugee camps, they often do not pay attention to the formalities of life. Their children are born but never officially registered and therefore become victims of abuse. A name at least gives the child an identity and the rights that accompany recognition of their life.

The second thing I learned is that America is truly a melting pot and that is proven by virtue of the sir names found here. There are 88,000 different sir names used among American families, while in China there are less than 400. Since so many people have come from so many different places, our telephone books are an eclectic mix of names for every corner of the world. Another thing I learned is that there are more girl names than boy names in America, according to the census bureau. Perhaps the main reason for this difference is that boys are more often named after a member of the family – particularly the father. My dad and my brother have exactly the same name, the only way to tell the difference is by the "Sr." or "Jr." that has been attached to their name.

Names mean something even though Shakespeare wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." While it is true that a rose would smell as sweet if it was called by some other name, it would be very confusing to go into a nursery to ask for a bubolo expecting to find roses. The nursery clerk would have no idea what you want. The same would be true if the nursery tried to change the names of the flowers. If they advertised the plants by other names, their customers would be surprised to find the old flowers. It is manipulative to try to draw people in with a new name for something that they've known as something else and it is confusing.

Names do matter. One of the reasons sited for the larger number of female names is that parents tend to be more creative with their daughters. This is partly due to the nature of expectations. A parent expecting his or her son to become president will give him or her a serious name, so that they will be taken seriously. Yet, even in this day when girls are given so many more opportunities, parents are far more willing to give their daughters frivolous or bizarre names. Unfortunately for the girl, it may mean changing her name later in life to be able to make it in the corporate world.

Names matter. In the scriptures especially, the names given to the people we meet often give us a sense of their character. Names were so important that God even told some of the people what they should call their children. Would Jesus have been the Son of God with any other name? Could we be worshipping Butch Christ as well as we worship our Lord Jesus? Of course, God could have named Him anything. He named Him Jesus for a reason, and we hold on to that name because it was God-given.

"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders, if we this day are examined concerning a good deed done to an impotent man, by what means this man is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even in him doth this man stand here before you whole. He is the stone which was set at nought of you the builders, which was made the head of the corner. And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved." Acts 4:8-12 (ASV)

There are those that would like to say that it does not matter what name we give to God, that He is the same no matter what He is called. While it is true that we are called to love our neighbors even when they differ in their faith, it is not true that any faith will bring salvation. In today's passage it is clear that the only way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. His name can't be changed; salvation can't be reidentified with someone or something else. It might be hard, since it means that we have to face our neighbors of differing faith and speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ into their life. Which is the greater sign of love? Loving our neighbor just as they are or sharing with them the one thing that will give them true peace, Jesus? We can do this without dishonoring our neighbors, but true love will boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are lost and dying in this world.


March 7, 2006

Movies  I taught the confirmation class at our church on Sunday night. We are trying to help our teenagers become familiar with their faith stories so that they will be more comfortable sharing the Gospel and their faith with others. This is a difficult task even for adults, but the more we give the kids opportunities to talk about what they believe, the more comfortable they will become with the story and the more likely they will be willing to share it with others.

Teenagers are a hard group to teach. They'd rather be playing video games or shooting hoops. The girls are interested in clothes and boys. It is necessary to find some way of keeping their attention for an hour or two. I cheated. I decided to use video clips along with our Bible study, drawing from their experience (every movie was familiar to the entire group) while relating those experiences to their faith and the Gospel. We looked at clips that showed personal relationships, pleasant as well as unpleasant. We talked about the 'who, what, where, when, why and how' of witnessing, comparing the scenes to real experiences of their lives.

Now, I'm not very keen on using too much video in teaching. Most kids get more than enough time in front of the television as it is. Besides, it is just so easy to fall back on it, like a crutch. If we don't know what to teach, let's just let modern media teach for us. While it is good to help the kids think critically about what they see and hear, it is far too easy for us to let it take over our job. They love it, and are excited about these kinds of classes, that it is so easy for us to give them what they want without giving them the guidance and insight they need for continued spiritual and emotional growth.

It is a modern trend to use video in worship and teaching. There are other trends that become very popular in the mainstream of society. We get caught up in whichever way the wind is blowing today. We are all familiar with the different book related programs that have caught on all over the U. S. and elsewhere. These programs become so hot for a season and then fall away as soon as the next big idea comes along.

This is true not only of the education aspects of our faith, but also in the business aspects. Yes, running a church is much like running a business. There are certain things that must be accomplished. We need finances to pay for our buildings, our overhead and our resources. We need people to accomplish both the ministry tasks and the every day jobs that keep an organization working. There are trends in organization that are here one day and gone another. Nobody likes to be on a committee, so someone comes up with a different name for the group. We can't get anybody to volunteer, so we think of a new way of identifying the people who do the work. We change the names of things to make it appear as if we are doing something new, but the reality is that we are just following the latest breeze that is blowing. The most unfortunate thing is that in following every trend, we often lose sight of our true purpose and calling.

"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)

I hope that the class on Sunday was not only fun but also a learning experience. I hope that the students left with more courage and knowledge than when they first arrived. I hope they learned to look at the world through the eyes of faith, recognizing that God's hand can be found in the most unusual places. I also hope that they won't expect to be entertained by video at every class. There are a million different ways of teaching, and we should take advantage of all of them as we are able. Most of all, I hope they realized that they've been given an incredible gift, faith, and that God has called them to share that faith with the world. Using video might be a trend for today, but the Gospel remains the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I might have used the video because I thought it would catch their attention, but it was not meant to make them approve of me as a teacher. It was meant to make them see the grace of God even in the most ordinary of human experiences. Thanks be to God.


March 8, 2006

Cheerleader  We have probably all seen the pictures and video of Kristi Yamaoka, the Southern Illinois University cheerleader that fell during a game earlier this week. The squad was building a human pyramid when she fell head first on to the floor. The gymnasium was loud with cheers and chatter until she fell and everyone heard her head hit. The game was halted while emergency personnel braced her head and her back then took her to the hospital. The most amazing part of this story is that as she was being wheeled out of the gym on the stretcher, she continued to cheer, doing the hand motions to their fight song.

She's been interviewed since her accident and has revealed a deeper, beautiful attitude. She said that when she heard the fight song of her school, even while she lay in the pain and uncertainty of her physical condition, she had to cheer. "I am a cheerleader," she said, and she had to do what she was called and gifted to do. She also said, "My biggest concern was that I didn't want my squad to be distracted – so that they could continue cheering on the team – and I didn't want my team to be distracted from winning the game. Southern Illinois University did go on to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Her coach discouraged her from continuing her cheers out of fear of further injury, but when the emergency people had no problem, she relented. Kristi did not even want to leave the game until it was over – only a matter of minutes – but they took her immediately for her safety. He coach said, "That's Kristi – 100 percent school spirit." Unfortunately, doctors have told Kristi that she should not perform for six weeks, ending her season early even while her team is headed to the NCAA tournament.

Have you ever known a Christian who is so filled with Christ that he or she can continue praising God even in the midst of tragedy and pain? Though the focus of her excitement is different, Kristi reminds me of that type of person. It reminded me of the Christian that can praise God from a wheelchair and speak about hope at a funeral.

"Ye that fear Jehovah, praise him; All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; And stand in awe of him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Neither hath he hid his face from him; But when he cried unto him, he heard. Of thee cometh my praise in the great assembly: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied; They shall praise Jehovah that seek after him: Let your heart live for ever. All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto Jehovah; And all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is Jehovah's; And he is the ruler over the nations. All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship: All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him, Even he that cannot keep his soul alive. A seed shall serve him; It shall be told of the Lord unto the next generation. They shall come and shall declare his righteousness Unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done it." Psalm 22:23-31 (ASV)

Kristi said, "I am a cheerleader," and she had to cheer. It was who she is and what she does. How many people can say, "I am a Christian" and live their life so fully immersed in who they are in Christ that they can't help but do what they do? Do we walk around constantly in praise to God, constantly in worship and prayer? There are a few, but very few, people about whom it might be said, "He (or she) is 100 percent spirit," because we get caught up in the troubles and pains of this world and we lose sight of our gift and our calling. Our gift is life, true life that comes from the forgiveness that our Lord Jesus Christ bought for us on His cross. Our calling is to live fully in our gift so that the world might see the grace of God and believe that they too can be forgiven. Thanks be to God.


March 9, 2006

Billionaires  This evening Forbes Magazine will announce their annual list of the world's richest people. I suppose we are fascinated by these lists because we wish we had more. As a matter of fact, the last time there was an extraordinary prize for a lottery, I saw a report that says that everyone, no matter how much they have, feels they need 10% more. I know I have thought about that myself – if I only had a few more dollars I could pay off this bill or buy myself that thing I have wanted.

As a preview of this list of billionaires, I saw a list of people who fell off the list. They no longer have enough money to be listed among the billionaires. Two of the people – Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky, a Russian oil man and Martha Stewart, the famed multi-media entrepreneur – faced legal difficulties which reduced their net worth. Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks and Leon Levine of Family Dollar both lost money due to lower stock value. The net worth of these people are still far greater than I will ever know, but I imagine they are bemoaning their losses. Donald and Doris Fisher, who made their wealth in real estate development, chose to give half their wealth to their children and their stock is down. They have grown old and may have realized that their time is growing short, even with their gift and losses, they are still worth millions.

Four people on the list I read have been removed from the list because they no longer live. Sydney Frank made his wealth in importing. He died of heart failure this year. Preston Robert Tisch, investments and the owner of the New York Yankees, died of cancer. Kerry Packer, an Australian multi-media mogul with various investments, died this year. John T. Walton, one of the many sons of Sam Walton and a part owner in the Wal-Mart empire, died in a plane crash this summer. Their wealth did not save their lives. They may have lived richer lives with grand houses and fine food, but in the end they are no different than the rest of us. We come to this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. We are dust and to dust we will return.

"And one out of the multitude said unto him, Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me. But he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? And he said unto them, Take heed, and keep yourselves from all covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he reasoned within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have not where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said unto him, Thou foolish one, this night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." Luke 12:13-21 (ASV)

I've heard it said that most lottery winners blow their entire prize in less than eighteen months. They take their windfall and spend it on all those things they think they want. Meanwhile, they've quit their jobs and are left with no future. In some cases, just as with the billionaires, they lose their money due to illegal activity. Others will honestly say that they have no idea where it all went. Yet others die without being able to enjoy what they've won.

We are called to be good stewards of the gifts we have been given – including our wealth. This means using it using it well and using it to the glory of God. Most of all, we should remember that today might just be the last day of our life, we never know when our day will come. All that we have will be lost to us forever. And if we live our life in greed and lust, we might never know the greater treasure that is found in Christ. We can learn from these billionaires that wealth, even great wealth, gives us no advantage in the world to come. So in this life, let us live content with what God has given us, use it to His glory and praise Him for the greater treasure that awaits us in the coming Kingdom. Thanks be to God.


March 10, 2006

Tuxedo  Spring has sprung, the grass is getting greener; some of the bluebonnets are even beginning to pop their pretty blue heads out of the soil in the fields. Another sign of spring is the influx of formal wear in the stores. The stores that sell clothes to young women have prom dresses gracing the windows. Bridal magazines are prominently displayed on the racks and stores that sell or rent formal wear are advertising more heavily. Even the discount stores have accessories for weddings or evening events featured on their shelves.

I've heard a few stories about the more unusual choices people make for proms or weddings. There are shows on TV that not only show the goofs and blunders of people involved in these events and I think everyone has some story of a party they attended where someone did something out of the ordinary. Of course, the makers of Duct Tape (now available in beautiful pastels and other colors) are probably holding their annual contest for the most creative use of duct tape in prom clothing. With the Oscars earlier this week, companies are rushing to create copycat versions of the fancy dresses worn by the stars. Choosing the right dress is among the most important decisions many girls and women will be making this spring.

It usually isn't so important for the men. A tuxedo is generally just a tuxedo. Of course, there are some who find an unusual way of dressing, but in general they wear black or white, whatever tuxedo is in style this week. All that matters is that they get the right size.

Yet, I had an experience from my youth when the wrong choice affected the whole event for me. I was involved in an organization and even held a state office. We wore matching gowns for our state wide meetings because the dress was an important part of the beauty of the ritual. At the end of our assembly, the officers were treated to a party. We were to invite a young man to escort us for the evening, all of whom were asked to wear white tuxedos so that they too would match. My young man had a white tux, but decided to wear a bright blue shirt. Unfortunately, we were unable to find a replacement shirt, so he stands out in all the photos from that evening.

All these years later it seems inconsequential, but it mattered that night. Since the ritual was such an important part of the experience, the costume also mattered. It was like a member from the cast of "Cats" wore a dog costume on stage. It was inappropriate for the young man I invited to wear anything other than the clothing that was required.

"And Jesus answered and spake again in parables unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king, who made a marriage feast for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the marriage feast: and they would not come. Again he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them that are bidden, Behold, I have made ready my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage feast. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his merchandise; and the rest laid hold on his servants, and treated them shamefully, and killed them. But the king was wroth; and he sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they that were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore unto the partings of the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage feast. And those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was filled with guests. But when the king came in to behold the guests, he saw there a man who had not on a wedding-garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding-garment? And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him out into the outer darkness; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few chosen." Matthew 22:1-14 (ASV)

In the greater scheme of things, my date's blue shirt did not really matter. He was welcomed and we a lovely evening. When it comes to prom clothing, we look back on our own prom choices and wonder "what was I thinking?" We laugh at the styles and the colors and we watch our kids with a knowing eye. In twenty years they too will be wondering what they were thinking when they decided to wear a duct tape dress or a bright orange tuxedo.

But there is a garment that matters. In today's story from Matthew, we hear Jesus telling another parable – this one about a wedding banquet. The banquet is really the great feast to which all those who believe in Christ have been invited. At that banquet, we are all given a garment washed in the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, in the story the one guest decided he didn't need to wear that which the king had given. He decided that he could go to the banquet on his own terms. All too many Christians today think the same thing. They believe that they are saved according to their own terms. Their goodness, their good works, or their position in society is their ticket to the feast. We are invited to the banquet, to the feast, not by anything of our own, but by the grace of God. We are called to wear the garment He has given us, the robe washed in Christ's blood. Thanks be to God.


March 13, 2006

Time  Bruce is counting down the days to his retirement. At any given moment, I expect that he could tell you how many days are left before his ceremony. Last week the kids were counting down the days because this week we have spring break. I can imagine that the kids are even sure of the number of weeks, perhaps even days, that are left until school is out for the summer. Of course, part of that is because they are expecting some great vacation activities – a trip to New York for Vicki, several camps for Zack. They are anxious for those fun times that are just around the corner. They can count down the days because they know when the events will happen.

We live anxious for other things throughout our life that can't be pinpointed by time or day. When Bruce was traveling overseas for military duty, I waited excitedly for the next letter or phone call. High school seniors are waiting for the letter that will tell them whether or not they will be able to go to the college of their choice. Women and men wait for the person of their dreams. We wait anxiously for the phone call that will reveal test results from the doctor.

We wait, but we can't count down the days because we do not know when these things will happen. We don't know how long it will take for the school to decide our fate or the doctor to complete the tests. Those waits are likely to be short – a matter of days or weeks. For those waiting for something to happen, like the perfect mate or a good job, you can't really even expect it to happen soon. Some people search their lifetime for the answer to their prayers.

Imagine what it must have been like for the Jews in Jesus' day. Not only had the promise of the Messiah come long before Jesus arrived, but God had been mostly silent for four hundred years. They could not pinpoint the time when God would fulfill His promises to His people. They'd been waiting since Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. They had been waiting through the exile, through good times and bad. They had been waiting through the ministry of more than a dozen prophets who kept promising God's mercy. In the Psalms we hear their anxious cries, "How long, O Lord?" But nothing they did or asked would make God come before His time. It was a not a time defined by the clock, but rather by God's will. When it was time, Christ came.

"Now after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe in the gospel. And passing along by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they left the nets, and followed him. And going on a little further, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending the nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him." Mark 1:14-20 (ASV)

Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled." This does not mean that the people to whom Jesus was sent could have counted down the days. As a matter of fact, they were so blind to what was happening that they even missed that Jesus was the Messiah for whom they had waited so long. Not everyone missed Him though, in today's story four men left everything to follow Him. Was it that Jesus was promising them a better life? Was He promising them a powerful position? Was He promising them wealth and fame? No, Jesus said the kingdom of God is at hand, follow me. No matter what they expected from Jesus, they left everything to follow.

We now wait for another coming. We long for that day when Jesus returns and the whole world will be made whole and new. We wait for the day we'll see the Lord face to face. That day might come today, but we can't count the minutes. We can't even count the hours or the days because we do not know. We do not even know if we will still be alive when Jesus comes again. We may die before Jesus returns in glory, and then we will come to see and know it in a different way. But we can't even guess when we will die. The time will be fulfilled, either for us as individuals or for the world as a whole, in God's time and in God's way. We simply go forth in faith knowing that He will be faithful to His promises. Thanks be to God.


March 14, 2006

Beer  I heard a story on the news today about a woman who turned on her faucet for a glass of cold water only to discover that it was running with beer. Now, of course there are many people who would celebrate to have such an unfortunate thing happen. Free running beer is many a college guy's dream! The woman lived in an apartment above a bar. There had been some plumbing work done and in the process some of the pipes were confused. Even while beer was running from her taps, the bar beer taps were running with water. I don't know how a mistake like this would happen, but apparently it did.

Now, while it might be fun for someone who likes beer to have it available at all times, beer is not enough. We can't clean our dishes or clothes in beer. We can't cook all our food in beer. We certainly can't bathe in beer. While it might be fun for a day or two, eventually we would get sick of the taste and smell of beer in everything.

I'm sure the woman was quick to inform the bar owners of the trouble. Even quicker, however, would have been the bartenders. They certainly could not sell water as if it were beer. The patrons would have been pretty upset also. Who wants to pay the price of a beer for a glass of water? One tiny twist of the pipes caused numerous problems for numerous people. Most of all, they did not get what they wanted or needed after the pipes were switched. How often does a twist of God's Word leave people with great needs and a hungering that can't be fulfilled?

"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is in the world already. Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they as of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God." 1 John 4:1-6 (ASV)

There are many teachings in the world that sound good. They teach in language that appears to be right and true, even use the very words that have been given to us in the scriptures. But there is always a slight twist, almost indistinguishable, that brings us something we aren't expecting – beer when we need water. These twists make grace out to be a burden, hope to be earned, faith to be an action when these are all gifts from God. These twists make the Gospel out to be a command to be obeyed rather than a proclamation of God's message to His people.

I've often heard it said that Satan asked, "Did God really say…?" When we hear the word preached, it is our responsibility to compare what is said – to test the spirits – to the Word that has been given to us through the scriptures and through the Church since the beginning of time. Just as the twisted pipes sent the wrong fluid to the taps, so too does the twisting of God's word send the wrong refreshment to those who hear. It might sound good. It might even feel good for awhile. But eventually too much of the wrong thing leads to trouble for everyone. God's grace is not a burden, His hope is not earned, His faith is not something we are called to do. All these things are gifts from God to be received from our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.


March 15, 2006

Coffee  Jay Leno does a comedy bit on his late night television show called, "Warning Labels." These warning labels are not real ones, but rather are humorous looks at potentially real problems that can occur with the items. These humorous, but often sad, realities are unfortunately a part of life in our world today. With Spring Break well under way, Jay's jokes often included references to the out of control partying that goes on at the shore.

One of his jokes had to do with that very popular coffee shop that is found on just about every corner in America. I did a location search for stores within a twenty mile radius of San Antonio and discovered there are currently thirty eight places where you can buy that particular brand of coffees. That doesn't include the many other brands of coffee shop available in every strip mall and bookstore. So, Jay used one of the cups from one of these coffee shops and put a disclaimer in small print. "Warning: Your kids will be angry when you can't pay for college because you've had one of these $5.00 coffees every day for the last twenty years."

Ask your neighbors and I can guarantee a large percentage of them stop for a cup on a regular basis. They become an addiction and are so easy to pick up on the way to work or as you are running errands around town. They all have drive through windows and are situated in very convenient locations. You can even buy coffee at the cafι in the grocery store. Yet this morning one of the stores delivered fresh and free coffee to my early morning local television news show. They kept announcing that it was "National Coffee Break Day," which is nothing more than a chance for free advertisement for the coffee shop. That particular shop, or perhaps all the locations in our area, were offering free coffee for just one day – today. This is a brilliant marketing ploy because free coffee, taken in celebration of a National holiday, will lead to more loyal customers and an expanded market for the company.

Now, I've made comments about ridiculous and bizarre "national holidays" but this is the first time I've heard about one that seems to be only known locally. I guess our local store has decided to create a new holiday, since the reporters said that this was the first ever National Coffee Break Day. I could not even find any reference to the special day or the free coffees online. But then, I'm sure this is exactly the way these things start out. Someone calls it "national whatever day" and it catches on in a year or two. The bottom line, though, is that it is just another way to sell a product.

"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." Isaiah 55:1-2 (ASV)

There's nothing wrong with an occasional trip to the coffee shop, especially if you take time to savor the cup during a visit with a friend. The problems occur when having that cup of coffee becomes a necessity every day. The extreme is having every thought and action revolve around having that cup of copy. How many people "just gotta have their fix for the day" and they go out of their way for that $5.00 cup? This is when it becomes a god to us, even more important than the stewardship of our resources.

Brilliant marketing ploys like this "National Coffee Break Day" will give you a chance to realize how much you like the product at a particular store and it won't be very hard to justify having just one cup a day. Yet, is having that cup of coffee really the best thing for you, or for God's kingdom in this world? Is there not something better than can be done with the time it takes to go through the drive thru or with the $5.00 you spent on it? What God has to offer us does not cost any money. His grace is free and it is life changing. With His grace comes incredible blessings, blessings that are meant to be shared with the world. The world wants you to purchase the things that will satisfy your every desire, but only God has what will satisfy your deepest longings. Thanks be God.


March 16, 2006

Lawsuit  In Lodi, California, a garbage man backed his truck into a driveway and accidentally hit the car parked there. The owner of the car decided to sue the city for several thousand dollars to pay for the damages. When the suit was thrown out of court, the man decided to file a new claim using his wife's name. Once again the suit was rejected. Why? The owner of the car was the driver of the garbage truck. In essence, he decided to sue himself for negligence to get the city to pay for his car repairs. Neither suit was accepted by the courts because you can't sue yourself and you can't sue your spouse for damages.

Now, you might think someone trying to sue themselves is unusual, but when I searched the Internet to check to facts in this story, I found other stories about people who have sued themselves. In one story a man with multiple personality disorder tried suing one of his personalities because his behavior was causing the other personalities difficulties. In another story, a man tried to sue himself for the pain and suffering he caused by eating meat he'd taken a religious vow not to eat. The suit claims that his ego broke the vow and that his soul deserved damages. I was unable to discover the conclusions to these two suits, but just the fact that there are lawyers willing to take on such cases show us how ridiculous it has become. The man suing over the eaten meat hired both a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney. Can you imagine things meetings?

I would not go so far as to argue that there is no reason for people to file lawsuits. Some people have suffered greatly from the negligence of others. However, some lawsuits go too far in demanding reimbursement for damages that are unnecessary and excessive. Too often, the lawsuit is frivolous and the greed of the so-called victim is obvious. It is not helpful and is in reality quite hurtful to everyone involved.

"Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art with him in the way; lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the last farthing." Matthew 5:25-26 (ASV)

I've often heard it said that suing someone – particularly a large company – can't hurt anyone, after all they and their insurance companies have more than enough to share. I'm sure the man whose car was damaged feels that the city has plenty of cash to pay for the repairs to his car. Even though he admitted that he was at fault, he looked to the bigger entity to take care of his problems. In the case of the multiple personality lawsuit, the one being sued had a rather large insurance policy that would pay the damages. In the end, their lawsuit will cause problems for not just their adversaries. The lawsuits will cause problems for themselves and their families, also.

In one particularly famous case of a lawsuit turning bad, a woman sued a fast food place after finding a finger in a bowl of chili. In the end, it was discovered that the woman put the finger in there herself. She was arrested and is going in front of a judge for fraud. She may have thought it was the easy way to get rich, but greed does not win in the end. There are times when justice demands that a situation go before a judge, but we are called as followers of Christ to find a better way to deal with our problems. Our very lives could be demanded of us for the pain and suffering we have given to Him, but He took the penalty of our sin upon Himself. Thanks be to God.


March 17, 2006

Fortune Cookies  Perhaps you are thinking that I'm confused, celebrating the wrong holiday. After all, fortune cookies are typically used on an Asian holiday, such as the Chinese New Year. However, I found green fortune cookies in a catalogue last week and ordered a bunch to hand out today. It is Saint Patrick's Day, the day for everything green. Just about everyone will have on some piece of green clothing. The Irish pubs will add food coloring to the beer. Even the Riverwalk in San Antonio has taken on a lovely shade of green as they have added dye to the water for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade.

So, I ordered these fortune cookies last week, within an hour of receiving the advertisement in my email. Since we have a preschool and a mother's day out program, I thought it would be fun to buy some of these for all our kids – nearly a hundred between the two programs. Of course, if I was going to buy some for them, I had to make sure I had enough for my family. I needed the cookies before Wednesday if I was going to give them to all the preschoolers and the children at mother's day out, so I counted the days and purchased the most expensive shipping to ensure arrival in two to three business days. I never expected that it would take the company four days to process my order.

When I tracked my package and realized that the box was still in Kentucky late Tuesday afternoon, I knew the cookies would not be here in time. I called the company, quite upset about the situation and spent a long time on the phone. The woman on the other end of the line tried to explain the ways of that small company and even shared her own frustrations with the way things worked. She was kind, and quiet, and apologetic. She even asked me to write my concerns in an email so that she could share them with her manager. She said, "These are the very concerns we keep trying to bring up to management and they won't listen. It was when she reminded me that they are a Christian company that I turned around my attitude. It is not that I thought I should treat them more kindly because they are Christian, but because her words reminded me that I too am a Christian, and I should be forgiving and patient and gracious. In the end, the cookies got here in time for most of the kids to get one and the company has given me a refund on some of the cost.

One of the things we learn from St. Patrick is how to deal with our enemies. After all, he had been captured as a child and held as a slave for many years. He eventually escaped and was educated in Christian ministry. Then he returned to the home of his enemies and shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. He loved them so much that he risked his own life so that they might know the true love of God.

"But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. To him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold not thy coat also. Give to every one that asketh thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. And if ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? for even sinners love those that love them. And if ye do good to them that do good to you, what thank have ye? for even sinners do the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? even sinners lend to sinners, to receive again as much. But love your enemies, and do them good, and lend, never despairing; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be sons of the Most High: for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful." Luke 6:27-36 (ASV)

The woman's reminder that I was dealing with a Christian company almost sounded as if it was an excuse for their poor business behavior. Yet, it is because we are Christian that we have to stand above the crowd. This is true especially when it comes to dealing with our neighbors in everything, including business. It may not seem fair, but the world expects more from us, and it is in the walking that extra mile and in the giving of our cloak as well as our tunic that they will really see the sacrificial nature of our love. They wonder, "What is it that makes these Christians so willing to love their neighbors?" It is then that they will be willing to listen as we tell them about Jesus. If we live as they do, and do business as they do, then there will be nothing that sets us apart. For the love of God does change our hearts, and our minds, so that the life we live is different than the world. That's what happened to Patrick and the Celtic world came to faith by hearing God's word from his mouth. Thanks be to God.


March 20, 2006

Theater  We went to see a play Friday night. It is really nice having children that are active with the drama departments at their schools because they want to go see the shows as much as the adults. It was even Shakespeare! Now, I have to be honest and tell you that it was not the usual fare from the Bard. It is a play called "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: (Abridged)." Bruce and I saw this work a few years ago in London, performed by "The Reduced Shakespeare Company." If you went to see this play and expected to see a dignified rendering of Shakespeare's work, you would be sadly disappointed. The affect of this work on the audience is laughter.

The troupe performing the play is a group of local college students who'd met in High School. When they graduated they decided to continue performing together. Now they get together during school breaks and they use the local theater in between shows.

The show itself is extremely funny, perhaps because it contains so much ad-libbing. The company of actors included three – two men and a woman. The men often played women and the woman played men. They had a script from which they worked, but they brought the audience into the action. A cell phone rang during a scene and they ensured total embarrassment by calling attention to the culprit. Toward the end of the first act, the girl's blue jeans ripped at the leg. She spent several scenes trying to ensure that the audience couldn't see the rip by walking cross-legged across the stage. She came back at the beginning of the second act with her pants leg taped up with black electrical tape.

How could they possibly do justice to every brilliant thing William Shakespeare wrote? No one ever said they'd do each work justice. As a matter of fact, with some of the works we were lucky if we heard more than the title spoken. But that in itself was part of the joke. Shakespeare's 154 sonnets were written on an index card and passed around the audience while the girl was late returning from fixing her pants. They did all the comedies at once, using bits and pieces of each one throughout the scene. See, Shakespeare was a formula writer, using basically the same formula for each of his works, particularly the comedies. They gave more time to Romeo and Juliet, though the lines they used are the ones that are known by most people even if they aren't fans of Shakespeare. They presented the plays about the kings as a football game, one king after another falling to the next.

Of all the plays, they gave Hamlet the most time. As a matter of fact, they did the play several times. The first time they brought a guest from the audience onto the stage to be Ophelia. She only had to scream, but the first time she tried was pathetic, so they brought in the audience to help her get into character. We cheered her on and then they did the scene a second time and she was much better. The next time they did Hamlet, they went a little faster. Then they went faster. Then they went faster until they did barely anything but make a word. They, one of the cast caught up in the moment said, "BACKWARDS!" The other actors feigned shock and they did it again – backwards. It was hysterically funny to hear then and see them, but it was also amazing.

The works of William Shakespeare are at times dark and tragic. They are often difficult to understand, particularly if they are presented in pure Shakespearean English. Yet, "The Compleat Wks of Willm Shkspr" shows us that we don’t always have to take ourselves so seriously. We can take a moment in our day to laugh at ourselves and to enjoy the gifts which people have shared.

"Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed." 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ASV)

There are times I think we take ourselves much too seriously. We hold on to our faith as if it is a great work that needs to be treated like an expensive set of dishes. We share the Gospel as if it is something that should be presented with great solemnity and we do everything Christian with a sour face so that no one will think that God's Word is a joke.

Yet, as we look at the stories of Jesus, how He share the message of the Kingdom of God, it is obvious that Jesus laughed. He had fun with His friends. He was humorous, much to the dismay of the Temple leaders who were often the butt of his jokes. Jesus loved life and He loved God and His ministry was filled with joy. God has given us so many good things, so much for which we should be thankful. The thankful life is not one in which we walk around with sour faces and solemn demeanors. It is filled with joy. Thanks be to God.


March 21, 2006

Tony  On an episode of "Seinfeld," Kramer was working as a chair-filler at the Tony Awards. The chair-filler is a person who sits in the audience while one of the invited guests goes for a drink or a trip to the rest room. He was sitting very near a winning group and got caught up in all the excitement. He ended up on the stage with them and even accepted one of the trophies. He used the trophy as his ticket to a better life, using it to get into the better restaurants and draw people to himself.

Eventually the directors of the show confronted Kramer about his Tony. "You didn't earn it" they said. But then they made him an offer. They were having difficulty with their star, Rachel Welch and wanted to fire her from the show. No one had the guts, so they told Kramer he could keep the Tony if he fired her. He would get a great gift, but he had to undergo a terrible experience to be able to keep it.

Now, our Christian faith is not a gift that requires some sort of suffering so that we can keep it. However, our Christian faith is also not something that will come free of pain. As a matter of fact, for the earliest Christians, martyrdom was a very real possibility. Some were killed. Others were cast out of their communities and families. This wasn't true just of the first Christians. Even today some face horrible consequences of their faith. A man is being tried – with a penalty of death – in Afghanistan for being a Christian. If he refuses to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ, he will die.

Faith in Christ does not keep us from other suffering either. We still get sick and we are hurt by others. Our suffering often comes from our own sin – the consequences of wrong living. Sometimes the things we face are even given by God as a way of bringing us to our knees before we suffer even greater hurts.

"And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, and there is no water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And Jehovah sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, because we have spoken against Jehovah, and against thee; pray unto Jehovah, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a standard: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it upon the standard: and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived." Numbers 21:4-9 (ASV)

What if God's people had decided that life in Egypt was better than suffering in the desert? They might have turned around and gone back to Pharaoh? Pharaoh would not tree them kindly. As a matter of fact, they would have suffered even greater oppression and horrible death.

They complained about everything. In this passage they complained they had no food and that the food they had was terrible. Manna doesn't sound like the most appetizing of substances, but would they have steak and steamed vegetables in Egypt? In all likelihood they would have faced starvation. The water they had was not sweet and cool, but in Egypt they would have suffered from thirst. Their complaints against God and Moses may have deserved some sort of discipline, but it is hard for us to imagine that poisonous snakes are a fair punishment for a few rumblings. Some people have even told me that they can't believe in a God that would do such a thing. Yet, God has mercy. When Moses prayed, God offered a way out, the snake on the pole which would bring healing and light.

Notice that even then, when they repented, God did not take away the snakes. Faith does not take away the things that sting and bite us in this life. We face difficult times. We may even face the possibility of death at the hands of someone who rejects our Savior. Yet, even when we are bitten by the snakes that we face, we need only look to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ to know healing and peace. Thanks be to God.


March 22, 2006

Technology  This morning I drove Victoria to school. As I was leaving the parking lot, I noticed two young men walking together on their way to school. This isn't unusual – we always found someone to walk with on our way to the bus stop when I was growing up. It was fun to have conversation, to talk about our day, to have some contact with friends before we dealt with the stress of a day at school. The unusual part of this situation – though not unusual in today's world – is that the boys were barely conscious of each other. They both had earphones in their ears, listening to music.

Modern technology has in many ways made our lives easier. We can cook dinner in minutes with our microwaves, keep in constant touch with one another via email and cell phones, stay updated with the world on the Internet and news programs on television. Our cars go fast, airplanes can take us to the four corners of the earth. We can send pictures anywhere and fax important documents in minutes. We have programs that will automatically categorize our finances, our friends and our calendars.

Though there are many benefits to modern technology, those two boys reminded me that there are also disadvantages. We are losing touch with people. If you are in a rush at the grocery store, you need only go through the "Self Check-out" lane, where you can scan your own groceries and pay without every speaking with another human being. We can shop on the Internet, without ever going to the store. We telecommute, do everything by email and even order pizza order online. We can get through the day with barely a word to another human being.

This is not only true in our relationships at home, work and school, but it is also often true of our relationships related to our faith. After all, it is possible to watch wonderful worship services with powerful messages without ever leaving our couches. We can quickly find any Bible passage by typing a few words in a search engine, never even holding the book in our hands. We've lost something, something very important, but living this technological existence.

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by the way which he dedicated for us, a new and living way, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having a great priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our body washed with pure water, let us hold fast the confession of our hope that it waver not; for he is faithful that promised: and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh." Hebrews 10:19-25 (ASV)

I really have nothing against modern technology. After all, where would this particular ministry be if you and I didn't have access to a computer and the Internet? I own many of the latest gadgets and use the fast check-outs occasionally when I go to the grocery store. I've even been known to put those earphones in my own ears to block out the noise of the world while I'm walking or working.

However, we need human contact. It is a fact of human existence, even if we think we can be an island. We need the touch of another person, to hear their voice, to sit in their presence. We need to worship God together, to raise our voices in one accord. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to show us our errors, to encourage us and to share with us the gifts God has given to them. God did not create any one of us to exist alone. In the Garden of Eden, He said, "It is not good for man to be alone," and He created another being to live with Adam. We are drawn together by the power of the Holy Spirit and the mercy manifest on the cross. We can't be Christian by hiding in our homes, behind a computer or in front of the television. We need to gather together, to build up one another in faith.


March 23, 2006

Outcome  I have been writing this devotional now for more than six years. Over the years things have changed even while many things have stayed the same. Sometimes it is really hard to put the words on the paper and sometimes they flow so fast my fingers can barely keep up with my thoughts. What still amazes me is how I am often surprised by the outcome of the writing. I can't tell you how many times I have sat at the computer keyboard with exactly the words I want to share only to find that God led the writing down a completely different direction.

This usually happens when I sit down with an agenda – I've been hurt and I want someone to learn a lesson from the way I was treated or if I have an opinion that I want others to have. When I begin writing with such a purpose, I find in the end that God has convicted my thoughts of called me to repentance and forgiveness. He has brought me to tears and I finish the writing amazed at the ways He can take our own sin and pain and turn it into a chance for redemption and grace.

At Christmas time we hear the stories of Jesus' birth in terms of His coming as a King. We celebrate His birth with hopeful expectation, knowing that He comes to bring peace. We begin the Lenten season with the same expectation, beginning with the Transfiguration. We see Jesus in His glory and look forward to the day that He will rule the entire world. And then, through Lent we see the stories of Jesus' ministry to the people. He heals the sick, feeds the hungry and offers forgiveness to the sinners. We still can see Him in the role of King over Israel.

And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah. And his delight shall be in the fear of Jehovah; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea." Isaiah 11:1-9

When the five thousand were given bread and fish to eat, they wanted to make Him the King. As He traveled all over the region, the people followed Jesus and brought to Him their sick to be healed. The disciples even looked forward to the time when they would rule with Jesus. Peter rebuked Jesus for telling them that He was going to suffer and die.

Last year throughout Lent we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life and discussed the ways in which Jesus foretold His true purpose in coming – to die. He did it in the parables, through many of the conversations He had with the people and His disciples. In the beginning of each Gospel lesson, the references to death are hidden, only discernable to us because we know the rest of the story. But as we follow Jesus through three years of ministry we see that He makes it clearer that He is not here to be an earthly king. He came to die and it is in His death that He truly becomes King.

We might start out our relationship with Jesus seeing Him as we see Him in Advent and Christmas time – as that babe in the manger who was born a king. We want to hold on to that image, and the image of His transfiguration, because the truth is too shocking and horrifying. We love the image of peace that comes from the ox grazing with the lion, but there is an even greater peace won on the cross. It is that peace for which we long, that could come only with Jesus' obedience into death and the grave.


March 24, 2006

Cubicle  I work for my church. The job requires just a few hours a week, but in that time responsible for communication in the congregation. I manage the website and I publish the newsletter along with any other projects or tasks that come up. I do a great deal of my work at home where it is more quiet and peaceful. I also like the flexibility of being able to work at odd hours. Articles and information often comes to me late at night and it is easier to catch people by phone at home during the evening. It is impractical for me to have a regular schedule where I go in to the office and sit behind a desk.

When I do work in the office, the desk I use is in the front office where I am the first person visitors meet. This means constant interruptions while trying to write articles and organize the information. I would almost prefer to be hidden behind the walls of a cubicle. That's funny since the cubicle has been the brunt of a million jokes, particularly in comedic media. Television shows and movies that use office space with cubicles always manage to make it look dismal and depressing. The people have pasty complexions and sour faces. There is no beauty to these half-wall boxes that are crowded into large florescent lighted rooms.

Even Robert Probst, the designer who invented the cubicle, lamented his creation. He called it "monolithic insanity." In an article from Fortune Magazine, Julie Schlosser described some of the ways that people have tried to overcome the box-like image of the cubicle – an image that was never the intent of the creator. As a matter of fact, the "Action Office" was originally designed with more flexibility in mind. The shelve systems were meant to be raised or lowered to provide more and different work surfaces for the employees. Shelves could be set higher so that an employee could do some work while standing, thus promoting better health and circulation.

Unfortunately, the cubicle took on a life of its own. Economic circumstances made cubicles a quick and inexpensive solution to high real estate costs for businesses. The employers could fit more employees into smaller spaces while still giving them enough privacy for higher productivity. They did not concern themselves with the different configurations that could be used. The walls were built into boxes with one desk height shelf. The system was created thirty years ago and it has since been reviled by workers, criticized by many and the focus of many jokes. And yet, no matter how many times people try to make it better, it always returns to the same old thing.

"These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm; for whom the blackness of darkness hath been reserved. For, uttering great swelling words of vanity, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by lasciviousness, those who are just escaping from them that live in error; promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he also brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse with them than the first. For it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered unto them. It has happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog turning to his own vomit again, and the sow that had washed to wallowing in the mire." 2 Peter 2:17-22 (ASV)

God created human beings for a purpose – to worship Him. Since the beginning we've turned away from that purpose, making life much less than it can and should be. Like the cubicle, we've taken something that was designed to be beautiful, healthy and productive and made it to fit other needs or desires. The cubicle fit an economic need, but lost the intent of the creator.

All too often we take faith and try to fit it into a box. This is not to say that there is room for 'anything goes' when it comes to doctrine or they way we live out our Christian life. However, there are those who fall into the trap of believing that they have the only right practice. They believe that prayer should be done a certain way or that good works are a specific action to be taken. They think that they can speak the same words to everyone with the same result – that the Gospel can be spoken in one way that will be heard by everyone.

As you read the scriptures, you will see that Jesus met the needs of the people in different ways. The witnesses show us that Jesus never provided the same type of healing twice, even if the dis-ease He was treating was the same. For one illness He spoke the words that brought healing. For another He touched the person. For yet another He used mud and another He sent them to wash. The basis for all the healing, though, was forgiveness – God's mercy was presented in the manner that would bring wholeness and peace.

The Gospel was given to bring healing to the world, but the Creator's intent has been lost to many. It has become a box, even something to be obeyed. It no longer has the flexibility that was designed into it by Jesus and modeled in His life. We are given the gift of God's grace to take it into the world. Unfortunately, some would use it to beat the world into submission, creating a dismal and depressing image. It has even made the Gospel a joke to many. But the gift of God's grace is needed in the world, so let us go forth in faith, sharing the love and mercy of God so that the world will be healed and God will be worshipped and glorified. Thanks be to God.


March 27, 2006

Horror flicks  I used to love to go to horror movies, but I haven't been to see one in years. I'm not sure what the draw was for me. I suppose part of it is the adrenaline rush that comes from the fear we experience watching the fate of those in the path of some killer. I haven't gone for a long time because I just don't get a kick out of watching people being slashed to death on the big screen.

The funniest part about horror flicks, however, is how predictable they are. When you go to the theater, you know that someone is going to do something to make you scared and sick to your stomach. It doesn't take very long for the victims and the villain to be introduced to the audience. Soon you can almost guess when and where the slasher is going to strike next. You yell at the poor innocent idiots not to lay on that couch or go out the door, but they never hear you. And then, that squeaky, freaky music starts playing and you cringe in your seats knowing it is going to happen. Then, finally, when the deed does happen, you still jump up in astonishment because even though you knew it was going to happen, you just can't believe that it did.

"Now about that time Herod the king put forth his hands to afflict certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. And those were the days of unleavened bread. And when he had taken him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to guard him; intending after the Passover to bring him forth to the people. Peter therefore was kept in the prison: but prayer was made earnestly of the church unto God for him. And when Herod was about to bring him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and guards before the door kept the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shined in the cell: and he smote Peter on the side, and awoke him, saying, Rise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And he did so. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. And he went out, and followed; and he knew not that it was true which was done by the angel, but thought he saw a vision. And when they were past the first and the second guard, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth into the city; which opened to them of its own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and straightway the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a truth, that the Lord hath sent forth his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gate, a maid came to answer, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for joy, but ran in, and told that Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she confidently affirmed that it was even so. And they said, It is his angel. But Peter continued knocking: and when they had opened, they saw him, and were amazed. But he, beckoning unto them with the hand to hold their peace, declared unto them how the Lord had brought him forth out of the prison. And he said, Tell these things unto James, and to the brethren. And he departed, and went to another place. Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers, what was become of Peter." Acts 12:1-18 (ASV)

While watching horror movies we know what is going to happen. That's why we yell at the characters just in case they will hear us and do something different. We don't want them to get slain by the slasher. They don't hear and when it happens we jump out of our skin in surprise. In today's Bible story, we see the same type of astonishment, although the surprise is a good one. The people were praying for Peter, with the expectation that God would do something for him. In response to their prayers, God sent an angel to free Peter from his chains and imprisonment. When Peter arrived at the house of those praying, they did not believe it could be him. When they saw him, they were astonished.

We don't pray with the expectation that God will let us down, but we are often surprised when God does answer our prayers. I suppose to some this might show a lack of faith. After all, God has promised to hear and answer our prayers. Yet, even those early Christians who were experiencing God's incredible power first hand still were astonished that their prayers were answered. So, too, it is with us. God amazes us daily with the works of His hands. This is a good thing, for God's amazing grace and surprising actions help us to keep in mind how awesome He truly is. Thanks be to God.


March 28, 2006

March Madness  Those who follow sports are quite aware that we are in the middle of March Madness. For several weeks in March, the best basketball teams from colleges and university battle for the title of National Champion. They start with sixty four teams, teams that have won regional titles. After the first few days, the number of teams is down to sixteen, then eight and finally four. The Final Four tournament is an exciting time.

This is as much fun for those who are watching as it is for the athletes competing. The sports television network ESPN is holding a contest. The game was to pick the teams that would win each level of the contest, all the way to number one. Of the three million people who filled out brackets, only four picked the final four. It might have been a much different contest, but the final four teams were unexpected. None of them were the best in their regions. It wasn't even likely that these four teams would make it to the final four.

One of the four people who picked the final four is a man from Nebraska. Russell Pleasant's guesses could win him a nice cash prize, and he didn't even mean to pick one of the teams. George Mason is the surprise team – the team that no one thought could ever make it to the top. Game after game during the semi-finals, George Mason shocked their opponents. However, Russell did not intend to pick George Mason. He was thinking of George Washington – a team he'd watched earlier in the season and liked. When he realized his mistake, he filled out a second bracket choosing George Washington instead of George Mason. That bracket fell apart early in the tournament. In the end, his mistake could bring him good news.

"I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service; though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare; holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith: of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered unto Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme." 1 Timothy 1:12-20 (ASV)

Russell made a mistake, but in the end he might win the contest because of it. Certainly choosing the final four college basketball teams is nothing like the redemption that comes from Christ. We all have made mistakes. We are sinners in need of a Savior. The Lord has taken our error, our fault, our imperfection and used it to bring grace to the world. As He took our sin to the cross, He manifested God's amazing love, mercy and forgiveness to the world. How much better the world might have been if we did not fall in the Garden at the beginning. And yet, if we had been perfect, we would not have needed Jesus. The world has been given so much greater a gift in the redemption of those who have fallen than it would have had. Paul knew that he was so much better off having been cast down from his pharisaical pedestal and lifted up with Christ. For God's grace is greater than any so called human perfection and Christ is the source of true life and light and peace. Thanks be to God.


March 29, 2006

Hymn  There is a hymn in our hymnbook called "My Heart Is Longing" which was written in 1881 by Princess Eugenie of Sweden. It was translated by Peter Sveeggen. The words are set to a Norwegian folk tune and offer a message of Christian hope for the world.

"My heart is longing to praise my Savior, And glorify his name in song and prayer; For he has shown me his wondrous favor And offered me all heav'n with him to share.
"O blessed Jesus, what you have given, Through dying on the cross in bitter pain, Has filled my heart with the peace of heaven; My winter's gone, and spring is mine again.
"O Christian friends, let our song ascending Give honor, praise to him who set us free! Our tribulations may seem unending; But soon with him we shall forever be.
"Soon we are home and shall stand before him; What matter then that we have suffered here? Then he shall crown us, while we adore him; So death and all our pains will disappear.
"To you, O Savior, our adoration Shall rise forever for your precious blood Which blotted out all the accusation Of sin and guilt which once against us stood.
"What blessed joy overflows my spirit, Because your wondrous grace to me was giv'n! Complete your work, that I may inherit Eternal life at last with you in heav'n!" (From the Lutheran Book of Worship, hymn #326)

Princess Eugenie lived some time after a Norwegian layperson whose life shined the hope of this hymn. Perhaps she used his life and ministry as a model for the words in the song. Hans Nielson Hauge lived from 1771-1824. He apparently had a mystical experience that opened to him the depth of the joy we have in Christ because of the salvation we receive by His grace. It caused Hans to have an intense longing to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world, so that others might know the hope and joy and peace. Unfortunately, Hans lived at a time when it was illegal for religious gatherings and preaching without the presence of a pastor, so he was arrested several times. His personal suffering was great with loss as he lost a wife and several infant children.

"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)

Hans Nielsen Hauge had such joy in the hope that comes from salvation in Christ that he could not help but preach and teach that salvation to others. He did this despite of the danger to his own life and despite the suffering he faced. He longed for the fulfillment of the promise, but did not sit around waiting for it while wallowing in self pity or fear.

We have been given the most incredible gift and we can respond to that gift is several ways. We can take it and keep it to ourselves, longing for the fulfillment while hiding it for others out of fear or self pity. We can receive the gift and mourn over the lack of fulfillment, lamenting God's slowness and begging Him to complete the work so that we do not have to suffer anymore. Or we can receive the gift with such joy that our voices can't be held silent. Our longing is so great that we must sing and praise our Savior. As our voices are raised in thanksgiving, the world hears and sees His favor. We surely long for the completion of God's work so that we will finally inherit that which He has promised. Yet, we can't know the moment or the day which it will be complete, so while we wait we sing God's praise and share the Gospel. How wonderful it is to see such joy take root in others lives, so that we will raise our voices together in praise. Thanks be to God.


March 30, 2006

Crocodile Tears  Have you ever wondered about the origin of this particular phrase? If you ask an expert in crocodiles, they will tell you that crocodiles do not even have tear ducts, so they can't cry. However, the glands that moisten the crocodile's eyes are so close to the animal's throat that they tend to secret moisture when the animal is swallowing.

The phrase seems to have come into existence more than six hundred years ago when European explorers were adventuring in less civilized parts of the world. In 1400, a travel book called "The Voyage and Travail of Sir John Mandeville" was published with this statement, "In many places of Inde are many crocodiles—that is, a manner of long serpent. These serpents slay men and they eat them weeping." To some, it seems as though the beast weeps over the head of its victim, not out of any sense of shame but rather because the head is inedible.

Reverend William Secker, in "Nonsuch Professor in His Meridian Splendor" wrote, "Some have tears enough for their outward losses, but none for their inward lusts; they can mourn for the evil that sin brings, but not for the sin which brings the evil. Pharoah more lamented the hard strokes which were open to him, than the hard heart that was within him. Esau mourned not because he sold his birth-right, which was his sin, but because he lost the blessing, which was his punishment. This is like weeping with an onion, the eye sheds tears because it smarts." These are crocodile tears.

How often have you heard apologies accompanied by some sense of passing the fault on to another? Last summer I attended a Christian function in which the speaker gave a message that was so offensive as to have been a sin against God and our Lord Jesus Christ. The organizers of the event offered a word of apology for the offensive speech without ever really taking responsibility for their mistake. They offered a word that stated, "We are sorry if you were offended…" Of course we were offended. God was offended. There was no confession, no attempt to correct the errors, no sense of repentance at all. The apology was little more than crocodile tears.

"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: According to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions; And my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thy sight; That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; And in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, And blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; And sinners shall be converted unto thee." Psalm 51:1-13 (ASV)

This prayer was a cry for mercy by King David. He spoke it in response to Nathan's judgment concerning his dealing with Uriah the Hittite and Bathsheba, Uriah's wife. After an adulterous affair, he killed Uriah and took Bathsheba as his own wife. David realized that his sin was not only a sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, but that it was even more so a sin against God. All our sins, from the smallest mistakes to the greatest willful disobedience, are sins against God.

Lent is a time for realizing our own unworthiness and our sinfulness in the flesh. We are no different than Pharoah with his hard heart or Esau selling our birthright. We too cry those crocodile tears that pass the blame of our sinfulness on to others. As we draw nearer and nearer to the cross with our Lord Jesus Christ, I pray we will look at our own sin and cry real tears – the tears that reach deep into our soul as we mourn our sins against God in thought, word and deed, crying out for God's mercy. God will blot out our iniquities. Thanks be to God.


March 31, 2006

Sink  Several weeks ago I told you about the latest habit of our cats Felix and Tigger. They have decided the water in their waterdish is not good enough for them, so they seek out other sources of water. Tigger now follows us into the bathroom every time someone goes in, hoping to get a drink out of the faucet. Sometimes he takes little more than a lick or two, but he comes looking for the drink anyway as if this might be the last time he'll ever get something to drink.

When this first started it was Felix who jumped on the sink and Tigger just watched. He could not really see from his perspective what was going on up there though he knew Felix left satisfied. He was afraid to jump up because he couldn't see where he was going. I suppose it could have been a dangerously deep well for all he knew. One day he could not stand it anymore, so he took the risk and was rewarded with a drink.

If you've ever seen a cat jump, you know that they crouch down, putting all their weight on the back legs, then they wiggle their little bottoms a bit until they pounce upwards toward their destination. It is funny to watch Tigger because he's still not very sure about the sink, even after jumping up there so many times. He gets ready, crouches down, wiggles his bottom and then sits up. He looks at me, at the sink, back at me. Then he crouches down again. He does this several times until he's absolutely certain that the risk he's taking will be worthwhile. Finally he jumps, sometimes barely making it to the sink because he's so afraid of what he's doing.

How often do we approach our life of faith as Tigger approaches that sink. We know that God is faithful and we are willing to jump into His service, yet we are afraid. We wonder if the unchanging God will still be there to catch us, to guide us, to protect us from all harm. We know in our hearts that He is true, but in our heads we are not so confident. We look for assurance – from our brothers and sisters in Christ and from the scriptures – and we finally jump.

"I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: Thy years are throughout all generations. Of old didst thou lay the foundation of the earth; And the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; As a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, And thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, And their seed shall be established before thee." Psalm 102:24-28 (ASV)

No matter how many times Tigger has jumped up on the sink, he still does not feel confident about it. The same is often true of us as we journey with Christ in this life. The writer of Hebrews quotes today's psalm and identifies Jesus as the one who is unchanging. We believe, but it is still very hard for us jump because our heads tell us that what we are doing is crazy or foolish. Faith in Christ doesn't make sense in our world. Following Jesus doesn't fit into the way of life that is expected in our world today. The world tells us we should sue our neighbor or keep our eyes on number one (ourselves), but Jesus calls us to follow Him. This means living a life of forgiveness and putting God first. It isn't enough to have only the bread we need for today, and loving our enemies is much too risky.

The sink is always the same, and I will turn on the faucet, but that doesn't stop Tigger from hesitating. We know that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, but we also hesitate. We just have to crouch down, wiggle our bottoms and take the leap, trusting that God is there to catch us, lead us and protect us even when it doesn't make much sense in the perspective of the world. God will be faithful even when we are not. Thanks be to God.