Welcome to the May 2021 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.
Scripture on this page taken from the World English Bible which belong to the public domain.
A WORD FOR TODAY, May 2021
“When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning Yahweh’s name, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great caravan, with camels that bore spices, very much gold, and precious stones; and when she had come to Solomon, she talked with him about all that was in her heart. Solomon answered all her questions. There wasn’t anything hidden from the king which he didn’t tell her.” 1 Kings 10:1-3, WEB
People learn by asking questions, and every parent knows the truth of this. Some phases are more difficult on parents than others. How many of us had had to endure the series of “Why...” questions that never seems to come to an end. It doesn’t help that many of those questions do not have easy answers, so the children keep seeking so that they will understand. We do what we can to find answers for them, but by the time we do, the children has moved on to new, more difficult questions.
Mature Christians are also faced with difficult questions, from believers and non-believers. I’m often asked questions that do not have an easy answer. Why is there suffering in the world? How could God sit back and watch His Son die? What does heaven look like? Why are there so many different Christian ideas, when there is just one Truth? These are all tough questions. We try to answer them the best we can, but the answers often bring up more questions. We would rather avoid these questions than face more puzzling answers.
King Solomon asked God for wisdom. God was pleased with Solomon’s request and granted him far more than just wisdom, also wealth and fame. Stories of Solomon traveled the world. The queen of Sheba heard these stories and traveled many miles to see and hear the truth with her own eyes. Her search for wisdom and his willingness to answer the questions benefited both in many ways as the king and queen gave much of their wealth to each other.
There is a deutero-canonical writing called “The Wisdom of Solomon.” Despite the name, it was probably not written by Solomon. Experts suggest that it was written by a Greek-speaking Jew to young Jews who were turning away from God and their Jewish heritage toward the culture of the day. The wisdom found within could very well be wisdom that Solomon shared with Sheba during her time with him. The writer describes Wisdom in this way, “I learned both what is secret and what is manifest, for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me. There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.” (Wisdom 7:21-22, NRSV)
We can learn from Solomon and Sheba who willingly asked the tough questions and sought wisdom because they knew that it was the foundation of a good life and was worth pursuing. The characteristics in that quote from wisdom are all values that we should strive to attain. Solomon, unfortunately, eventually fell from the truth. He allowed the worship of false gods to pollute his kingdom and his life. He did not remain steadfast in his faith in God. He became vulnerable to the temptations of the world and failed to hold on to the wisdom God had gifted to him. It is difficult for us to manifest it all in our lives because we, like Solomon, are sinners in need of God’s grace. Our best prayer is to ask God for wisdom like Solomon did in the beginning of his reign. He can, and will, make us wise so that we can seek and share the answers to the tough questions of our faith.
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ; To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and servants: Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God whenever I remember you, always in every request of mine on behalf of you all, making my requests with joy, for your partnership in furtherance of the Good News from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. It is even right for me to think this way on behalf of all of you, because I have you in my heart, because both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how I long after all of you in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:1-8, WEB
I was making breakfast this morning. We had a leftover baked potato and bacon, from dinner last night, so I mixed them with eggs and cheese. I thought of my dad as I was peeling and dicing that potato. That might seem like a very odd trigger, but the potato reminded me of a day I helped my dad work at a charity breakfast. My dad loved to cook breakfast. A few days ago I mentioned to my husband that my dad would have loved living at this time because I am sure he would have bought a food truck to serve breakfast. He always wanted a small café that he could open for a few hours a day to serve eggs and bacon to appreciative desks. I remembered that day as I cooked breakfast this morning; I remembered watching my dad at the grill as I peeled potatoes.
I have been reorganizing my house, cleaning drawers and purging bookshelves. I have filled seven boxes and two bags with items I plan to take to the charity shop. It isn’t an easy process. I have held, and moved, and considered some items several times. I had a small box of knick knacks that I wanted to keep but couldn’t find a place to put them. These items had sentimental value; they reminded me of someone I love. I couldn’t just get rid of them, but I didn’t need to keep them. But I keep asking myself, “Do I need to keep that volunteer plaque from 1998?” As hard as it is, some of those items have ended up in the giveaway box. I don’t need them to remember, especially if a simple task like peeling potatoes can bring such vivid memories for me.
What reminds you of people you love? What brings to mind someone you have lost? What causes you to get lost in memories? I may have put a few items in the giveaway box, but I’ve kept many, too. Places I visit remind me of trips with my family. Certain smells take me back to my mother’s kitchen. Music makes me think of Friday night football games or summers by the swimming pool with my friends. Most of those memories give me a moment of joy, then I move on to doing whatever it was that took me to that place, but memories can also spur us to action.
One of the things I loved most about that memory of my dad is that it was from a time when we worked together for the sake of others. It was not only something my dad loved to do, but it was one way my dad served his neighbor. It made me wonder about the opportunities I have to follow his example. It brought me joy to see my dad in that light. My dad was a quiet servant; he never made a big deal about the work he was doing. I don’t even recall whether he ever got a volunteer plaque for the work he did.
Yet, that moment reminded me of what a caring, active man he was. These moments remind us to be thankful for the people, both past and present, that God has made part of our lives to serve as examples, encouragement, and sources of joy. Despite time and distance, even death, God gives us these reminders to let us know we aren’t in this alone; we share the work of God’s kingdom and His grace with others yesterday, today, and forever.
Scriptures for May 9, 2021, Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 10:34-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-8; John 15:9-17
“This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:12-13, WEB
I loved when my children were small enough to sit in the shopping cart at the grocery store. It was a time of interaction with my child; I took the opportunity to talk to them, to teach them about food and groceries. We laughed together and made choices together. It makes me sad when I see children in shopping carts with their noses glued to a smart phone watching a video. Sure, Mom is able to concentrate on the shopping. Too many of us are so busy that we can’t wander the aisles and enjoy the company of our children. I am sure those moments had a lasting impact on my children’s growth and created a lasting bond between us.
I don’t recall the same kind of interactions with my own mother, but I do remember the many times and ways that she made my life better. It seems hard to believe that she has been gone for more than two decades, but I am still so thankful for her. I went to a craft retreat a couple weekends ago, and my big project was to finally put together a charm bracelet that she began for me. When I was little we often traveled by car to visit her brothers in Kansas and Colorado. Along the way we stopped in Stuckey’s and she bought me enameled state charms. I continued to buy the states I visited, and during my recent cleaning spree I rediscovered the unfinished bracelet. I purchased everything I needed, including a bunch of states I had not yet purchased that I found on e-bay (they are difficult to find anywhere else.)
It was a tough job; those split rings are difficult to work with my old, less than nimble fingers. But it was a joy to do, and now when I show others my bracelet, I always begin with the story of how my mom started the bracelet for me. I think of her whenever I look at those charms and I remember our trips. We had some interesting adventures over the years. I miss her and I am very thankful for everything she did for me.
Sunday is Mother’s Day in the United States. Some have suggested that the American Mother’s Day was first started in the late 1800’s by Julia Ward Howe, the author of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She intended the day to be one to promote peace. Mothers were encouraged to gather at an organized meeting in Boston Massachusetts each year. In 1872 she asked for June 2nd to be identified as “Mother’s Day for Peace,” but her campaign was unsuccessful. By 1893 she considered transforming July 4th into “Mother’s Day.” In 1908, Anne Jarvis held a memorial service for her own mother and then campaigned to make Mother’s Day a nationally recognized holiday. By 1911, it was being celebrated all over the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday in 1914. Anne Jarvis was disappointed that only a few years later the day was already becoming over-commercialized; she intended for the day to be faith-based and include attendance at a special worship.
The focus is a little different in England. While it, too, has become secularized, Mothering Sunday was celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent and was a day when Christians visited their home church or “Mother church.” The parishioners gathered together at a special service at a central church that connected local parishes. Domestic servants were given the day off so that they could go to church with their own families. It was not necessarily a day to honor each person’s mother, but rather to celebrate the body of Christ and our “mother” the church.
Mother’s Day has definitely become a secular event with children sending gifts and cards. The flower industry makes 25% of yearly sales during Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is the most popular day for making telephone calls worldwide. Churches will likely be more full than usual, as children honor their mothers by attending worship with her. The focus will still be more about brunch and presence; worship is not really the purpose of the gathering as it was when Anne Jarvis meant it to be when she campaigned to make it a holiday.
It is good to honor our mothers because her job is never easy. After nine months of carrying another human being in her womb, a woman goes through intense pain so that child will be born into the world. That pain is forgotten as a mother takes her child in her arms and immediately shows her love and care for that little person. The child is completely helpless in the early days. While she often has help, the mother does most of the work changing diapers, carrying, feeding, and bathing the child, loving him or her from sun-up to sun-down. As time goes on they learn to do things on their own, but Mother must continue to care for their needs until they become independent adults. Even then a mother’s job is not complete. I still worry about my children, though both have their own homes. A mother always loves her babies and continues to pray for them.
Mothers not only provide for the physical needs of a child, but also the intellectual and emotional needs. From the day of birth, mothers talk to their children, holding them close and whispering love and encouragement through the tears, fears and hurts. Mothers sing songs, such as the Alphabet Song, that help her children in language development. Mothers provide opportunities throughout their toddler and school age years for continued learning and growth. That’s why those moments in the grocery cart were so important to me.
Mothers also provide for the spiritual welfare of their children. Christian mothers promise to provide every opportunity for their children to hear the stories of Jesus. They take the children to Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and worship; they give them copies of the Bible so that they can read and study it on their own. Mothers teach the children the Lord’s Prayer and other ways to speak to God. Mothers teach them the ways of living faith, so that they will be obedient to God our Father in Jesus’ name.
Mothers suffer many things. They suffer through the pain of childbirth, the rambunctious toddler years, the preteen years when children begin to grasp their own independence and the teenage years that provide their own difficulties. Mothers do their best to raise the children in the ways of Christ, pray for them and hope that they will continue to walk in those ways. Children always rebel in some way and they will even reject their mothers sometimes, but the seeds of faith that were planted in the hearts of our children will grow into lives of grace, thanks to the endless sacrifices of our mothers.
A mother lays down her life for her children. They set aside their own hopes and aspirations, at least for a time, as they love their children into the people God has created them to be. Oh, mothers aren’t perfect, and there are many mothers who do not sacrifice everything for the children’s sake. However, all mothers make sacrifices of some sort or another. Even if they are struggling to pay the bills they make sure their children are fed. They have sleepless nights as they worry about a sick child. They clean up the messes left behind by children of every age. They cry the first time their child says, “I hate you,” and they forgive when the child has done something to disappoint.
Mothers lay down their lives for the sake of their children because of love. They sacrifice and suffer to provide everything a child needs and even a few things they don’t. In this way mothers are like Christ.
The Gospel lesson for today is from the final discourse from Jesus on the night before He was betrayed. Jesus offered the final lessons, the final encouragement, the final words of hope that were meant to help the disciples through the three days between His crucifixion and resurrection. They were about to lose Him; they would be scattered, confused and afraid. Jesus warned and commanded them to abide in His love. They were about to experience sadness beyond anything they ever knew or expected, but Jesus told them to be filled with His joy. The sacrifice was necessary and the suffering real, but it was the moment when God revealed to us His deep love and invited us to truly abide in Him.
The apostles continued to live as Jesus lived, sacrificing themselves for the sake of the Gospel. It was a sacrifice for Peter to go to the house of the Gentile centurion named Cornelius. It was a sacrifice for him to go in to a room filled with Gentiles and to speak a message he thought had been given solely to the Jewish people. It was a sacrifice for the community to welcome these new believers into their midst, knowing that their whole world would be turned upside down. Peter decided to be obedient and take the risk. He decided to follow God’s vision for the Gospel.
The Jews had such firm beliefs about how things must be done and who might be allowed into their fellowship that this event at Cornelius’ house must have rattled their understanding of faith. It was a sacrifice for him to risk becoming unclean to share the Gospel message with that family. The Jews weren’t allowed to eat with Gentiles, but in giving the Holy Spirit, God broke down a wall that Peter could never rebuild. When Peter saw what happened in Cornelius’ house, he asked, “Can anyone forbid these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just like us.” We might want to forbid someone from coming into our fellowship, but if God welcomes them, how can we say “No”?
Peter said, “God has offered forgiveness and mercy and grace to these Gentiles, who are we to suggest they can’t be part of our group?” So, he called the gathering to join in the celebration of baptism, to welcome them into the fellowship of believers.
We may have very good reason to keep people out of our midst. At least they seem like good reasons to us. The community that gathers for the craft retreat is extremely diverse. There are women of every age, from young mothers to great-grandmothers. Some come from the city and others from rural areas. We have a wide range of political opinions and religious understanding. Some are extremely talented at their craft and others claim they don’t have a creative bone in their bodies. If we are honest, we’ll admit that we don’t always like everyone. Yet, we all love Jesus and that is enough for us to love each other. We must sometimes sacrifice certain aspects of our own lives, hopes, ideologies, understandings, so that we can follow Jesus and do His work.
It is frightening to take the risk. But fear is not the way to life. Love is.
There is a museum in Xi’an, a city in central China which displays an army of terra-cotta warriors created to guard the tomb of China’s first Emperor. These 7500 amazing life-size clay statues are being carefully exhumed and restored for modern archeologists to study and people to see.
The ruler was Qin Shi Huangdi. He began his life as a ruler in China when he was just thirteen. He was a warlord who fought against other warlords for twenty-five years, taking control of more and more men until he had an army of over a million. He dominated the people, using violence to gain power over his enemies until he was the most powerful man in the land. He then took on the name Qin Shi Huangdi, which means “First Divine Emperor in China.” He was in some ways a good ruler. He unified China, built the great wall, and developed a capital city with excellent infrastructure. He was so confident about his power and position that he claimed his dynasty would last ten thousand years.
Qin Shi Huangdi was afraid of death. He built hundreds of palaces that were connected by underground tunnels. He slept in a different palace each night to avoid assassination. He even refused to die a normal physical death; he sent his wise men to locate the fountain of youth so he could live forever. They didn’t find it, of course.
The Emperor accomplished great things, but he did it with excessive cruelty. He slaughtered people and destroyed the treasures of their culture. One day, the prime minister conspired with others and the Emperor was assassinated when he was just forty-one years old. The conspirators sent a forged letter to his only son and convinced him to commit suicide. Instead of lasting ten thousand years, his legacy was the shortest dynasty in China’s history.
Qin Shi Huangdi lived in fear, for though he was a very powerful man he did not know grace, mercy or love. He knew only his desire to live forever and treated his people as if they were only the means by which he would get what he wanted. He was the exact opposite of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, which we see revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus came not to gain power, but to bring forgiveness. He came not to build a kingdom through violence, but to unify people by the Word of God. He came to give us the love of God so that we can live in that love and share it with others. He did not fear death, but laid down His life for our sake.
The terra-cotta warriors stand as a testament to the life of the first man to unify China and who brought good things to the people of that great land. It is also a testament to how human desires and accomplishments pass away quickly. The dynasty of Qin Shi Huangdi lasted less than a lifetime because the emperor did not know the power of love; he only knew the power of the sword. He came to an end just as he brought the end to many. But the kingdom of God is eternal; He reigns here and now and in the future, because it is built on love and mercy. Our Lord Jesus grants salvation freely to those who believe in His name. Through Him we are heirs to a kingdom that is built to last, to endure even longer than ten thousand years. It is in that kingdom we are called to live and join in the psalmist’s songs of praise. We are the warriors that stand as a testament to His grace.
Today’s psalm tells us about the good things God has done: how God has won the victory over Israel’s oppressors and how He has saved them from exile. The psalmist sings about God’s faithfulness and His love for His people that is lasting. Telling others about the great things God has done is just one of the many ways we can sing His praise. The psalmist tells us other ways. We can sing a new song. We can sing praises with a harp. We can sound trumpets. The creation even gets involved with the heavens and earth joining in the noise of praise. The sea roars, the floods clap their hands, the hills sing.
We are commanded to love, and there are many times when this is very difficult. We struggle when people don’t fit our expectations or when they disappoint us. We wonder how we will ever obey. It is in faith that we abide in the love of Christ, obeying His command to love one another with a sacrificial love while bearing fruit that will last. Faith and community are connected. Christ loved us, chose us and calls us friends so that we will obey His command to love each other. In love He has made us part of a body, calling us to love that body. We love because He first loved us. As we love one another, we will see the fruit God calls us to bear, the fruit that is the witness to our love for God.
The love we give is to be like Christ’s love: sacrificial. Sacrifice means giving up something, perhaps even something we love. Many mothers give up careers so that they can give as much time as is necessary to raise their babies. Sacrifice means changing our lives. Peter’s sacrifice was to be disobedient to a religious law which defined his faithfulness. He risked losing everything by stepping out of his world into another because he loved God. What he found was joy, because the Word he shared with the Gentiles bore lasting fruit.
Sacrifice means letting go of one’s own self for the sake of another. It means hearing the call of God and following, even when God’s call sounds different than you expect. It means loving God’s kids even when they do not stand up to your expectations. It means facing change for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus even when change will rattle your whole world. Jesus chose you as His friend and He has appointed you to go and bear fruit. Sometimes that means entering into a world that is beyond our understanding and outside our expectations. We are afraid of what we might find, but when we step out in faith and in the love of Christ we will find joy. Abiding in God’s love is a life of joy, even when it means sacrifice.
The passages from John’s Gospel and Epistle use the words “obey” and “command” several times. It is so easy from our human perspective to embrace those words while missing the true message of these lessons. We like to know that we have done something good, that we’ve had an impact on the people of this world by our power and ability. We are quick to list our good deeds before men as proof of our love for God. We even point to these passages and say, “See, this is how God told us to live!” That’s the way it was for the Jews in Jesus’ day. If they lived according to the Law, if they were good enough, gave enough, did enough, then they would be children of God. The trouble is no one is able to carry this heavy burden. Those who thought they could be God’s by their own works were blind to their own sin, hiding behind a facade of self-righteousness and justification by excuse. They pointed their fingers at others while denying their own inability to live rightly before God. They saw themselves as greater than the others and had no mercy on those they deemed as sinners. But God turned things around. He sent Jesus to reveal to the world the truth of His love which is found only in His grace.
Isn’t it interesting how much like God’s love is a mother’s love? She loves her child even before he or she is born. She willingly does the messiest things to make sure that the completely helpless being is safe and clean and happy. She sacrifices aspects of her life for the sake of her little one. A mother doesn’t love because the child does something for her; the child is completely incapable of doing anything. God does not love us because we have done good things or because we have lived according to a set of rules. He loves us and because He does, we can love Him back and be the vessels by which He reveals His love to others.
That’s exactly what happened in the lesson from Acts. Peter was telling a gathering of people at Cornelius’ house about Jesus and His ministry in this world. He told them about Jesus’ death and resurrection, His appearance to a select group of witnesses, His command to preach the Gospel and to testify that He is the Christ. These people were not Jews, they were Gentiles, yet God's love reached them also as the Holy Spirit fell upon them at the hearing of those words about God's grace. The Jews were amazed that they could become children of God. Those who were there were baptized into the Church of Christ and became part of the Kingdom of God.
John tells us in his first epistle how we can know that we are children of God. When we are born of God, we become His child. What happens for those who are born of God? We overcome the world. What does this mean? Last week we heard that the only way to bear fruit is to be connected to Jesus, who is the vine. We are part of Him by faith and as such He bears His fruit through us. That fruit is salvation, forgiveness of sin and reconciliation to God achieved by the blood of Christ Jesus. We overcome that which burdens us such as the desire to earn grace by good works and perfection, and we are given the victory through faith in Jesus Christ. In Him we are made perfect, justified by His grace, and called to remain in His love.
It is only after God has given us that great gift of salvation that we become His children, and as such we show the world His righteousness by our right living. It is only then that we can carry out His commands. What is it that He commands? He commands us to love one another. In faith, we love as God first loved us, a sacrificial love, willing to give everything we are for the sake of another. Peter did this in the home of Cornelius, first of all entering into the home of a Gentile which was against the Law of the Jews. He spoke to them about Jesus, which must have seemed like a waste of time to the circumcised believers because how could they believe if they had not been obedient to God’s Law?
Yet, God gave them the same gift of faith in Jesus Christ, salvation and the Holy Spirit. They became part of the vine, part of the Kingdom, part of the body of Christ. They have been embraced by His love and become part of the circle of friends of Jesus, who by His power will love others into the Kingdom. God also embraces those who do not fit our own understand and expectations of faith, and He calls us to be like Peter, to take the risk to be obedient to His command and share the Gospel with the very people we do not believe deserve it. We will join with Peter and experience the joy of knowing that God’s kingdom has grown because we were willing to make the sacrifice for someone else’s sake.
“Who then is Apollos, and who is Paul, but servants through whom you believed, and each as the Lord gave to him? I planted. Apollos watered. But God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are the same, but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s farming, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each man be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:5-11, WEB
William Carey got off to a bad start in life. He was born in the mid-eighteenth century England. He was a sick child in a poor family with little education. He was a troublemaker as a youth, hanging out with the wrong crowd. Eventually he was made an apprentice to a shoemaker. John Warr was one of his coworkers and was a faithful Christian who witnessed to him daily, but William didn’t care. John convinced him to go to a church service for a national day of prayer instituted by King George III hoping for God’s help for the war against the rebellion in the New World. William agreed to go.
The preacher gave a rousing sermon urging all to give their lives to Christ. The message spoke into William’s heart and he was converted to the Christian faith. He was baptized and became active in a local Baptist church. He eventually began preaching and pastoring in nearby Baptist churches. He married, had a daughter, and worked as a cobbler for a number of years, but became increasingly interested in world travel and missionary work.
Unfortunately, William lived in an age when most Christians saw no need for missionary work. He continually brought up the subject at religious meetings, but the other pastors ignored him. The pastor that baptized William even said, “When God pleases to convert the heaven, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.” He became dismayed, but wrote a book and continued to teach the importance of Gospel evangelism. Eventually he was given the opportunity to present his ideas and he convinced the meeting to support missionary work. On October 2, 1792, the first collection of pledges for organized, home-supported Protestant missions was collected. William made plans to go to India. He ran into many difficulties, but eventually did get to India and accomplished some amazing things. He translated the Bible into six languages, wrote dictionaries and grammar books in five, founded many schools in rural India and founded a college to train ministers, which is still in operation. He introduced the idea of a savings bank, published the first Indian newspaper. His work made such a difference in the country that the ancient practice of burning widows was stopped.
Mary Drewery, who wrote a biography about William Carey, said, “The number of actual conversions attributed to him is pathetically small; the number indirectly attributable to him must be legion.” William’s work began an era of missionary work in the church, as many Christians went to foreign lands to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of those missionaries impacted the world in which they went to live, bringing hope to the people in both spiritual and temporal ways. He may not have converted many people, but through his life God changed the world as he built on the foundation of Jesus Christ. We, too, are called to go out into all the world to share the Gospel with those who need to know His love and forgiveness.
It is interesting that William Carey came to faith in Jesus Christ because of a National Day of Prayer. Of course, George the III was praying for obedience from his wayward subjects here in the colonies, and those wayward subjects were praying for their own idea of peace. But whatever God’s intent was for those prayers, one man truly heard the Gospel and his faith impacted the world. The same thing could be true during any days of prayer in any nation.
I sometimes think that we are in a similar time as William Carey. His faith eventually led him to India, but our own faith doesn’t have to take us so far afield. Our neighbors need to hear the Gospel, too, though too many Christians think like William’s baptismal pastor. “If God wants them to be a Christian, He’ll make it happen without us.” That might be true, but we are called and gifted to share the Gospel with the world. When the Gospel is shared, God does incredible things in people’s hearts. They need to hear the Word to believe, and once they believe they may feel called to do incredible things. The thing we must remember, however, is that it all begins with prayer.
Today is the National Day of Prayer and people all over America will join together in prayer for our nation, its leaders and each other. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard about many opportunities for prayer together. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have even remembered it was today without someone asking if our church was doing something. Our pastor joined others from the small town where we are located and are doing prayers regularly on the radio. There are probably gatherings in some places, but nothing so big as to make the news. We need prayer right now, not only for health and peace, but for a sense of normalcy, whatever that means.
Find time today to join with your brothers and sisters in Christ to ask God for His blessings on His creation.That prayer might lead someone into a relationship with Jesus Christ. That prayer might lead someone into a life of evangelism. That prayer might lead someone toward a vocation that will make a very real difference in our world today, doing something to make the world right side up again. Even as you are praying for the usual things on the Day of Prayer, remember to pray for those who do not yet know Jesus. Invite them into your life. Missionary work is not just overseas, it is in our own backyard.
I don’t know what will happen at the end of this day of prayer, especially since so few even know it is happening, but perhaps today might just be the beginning of a long outpouring of prayer to our Lord God Almighty in Jesus’ name. And perhaps that prayer will be the beginning of the changes in individual lives, in our national life, and around the globe that are necessary to make all things right in our world. It will only be right when it is built on the foundation that is Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
“Praise Yah! I will give thanks to Yahweh with my whole heart, in the council of the upright, and in the congregation. Yahweh’s works are great, pondered by all those who delight in them. His work is honor and majesty. His righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonderful works to be remembered. Yahweh is gracious and merciful. He has given food to those who fear him. He always remembers his covenant. He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of his hands are truth and justice. All his precepts are sure. They are established forever and ever. They are done in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to his people. He has ordained his covenant forever. His name is holy and awesome! The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom. All those who do his work have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” Psalm 111, WEB
My husband was stationed in England for four years. It was a wonderful experience, but difficult in some ways. Worst of all, my mother was not well, and I was too far from home to be with her in her final days. I did visit a couple months before she died. My father was having surgery, and she wanted me to be home with her to help care for her during his absence. I was surprised at how well she seemed and even more surprised how quickly she was moved into a assisted living after I flew back to England. My mom didn’t want me to worry, so she rallied during the time I was there.
I worried anyway, especially when I realized how sick she really was. I wondered if I should go home, to see her before she died. It was a hard decision. She could linger if I went too early. I could not stay home for an unlimited amount of time. The decision was made for me when my sister called to tell me my mother had died. The people in my husband’s squadron and in the Red Cross were extremely helpful. They helped us get home to mourn her death and celebrate her life. I was so grateful for the visit two months earlier. And I was grateful that she rallied; though I knew she was sick, my final memory is from those days.
One of the things I loved most about my mom is how she was like a mom to all my friends. I was involved in an organization where the mothers were very important, and they were all like moms to us. My friends from the old neighborhood called her Mom. My mom and dad owned a bar in the final years of her life; many of the staff and the guests called her mom. She did kind things for many who crossed her path. She lent people money. She wasn’t perfect, of course, but who is? It has been more than twenty years, and I miss her, especially at this time of year. She was born at the end of April. She married my father at the end of May. And we celebrate Mother’s Day in between.
Have you ever wondered at the relationship between Mary and the disciples? I think it is fascinating that the last time we saw Mary, the mother of Jesus, was at the cross. She is not found in the resurrection accounts, but she was part of that community of believers. The book of Acts tells us that Mary was in the Upper Room after the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:14.) Tradition says that she died in 41 A.D., and since John was given guardianship, I imagine that she spent lots of time with the disciples until they began to go out into the world. Was she like a mother to those boys, caring for them as she’d cared for Jesus? Did they look to her for motherly love and encouragement? Did they use the familiar name “Mom” as they used “Abba” for God our Father? So much of the scriptural accounts focus on the work of the twelve disciples that we forget that others were part of that early community. They all lived and worked together for the sake of the Gospel, men and woman, apostles and disciples caring for one another and devoting themselves to prayer.
We often lift up Mary and put her on a pedestal, but she was as imperfect as all our own mothers. Yet, she is a wonderful example for us to look to for motherhood. She was given a most unusual life, a most unusual child, and she accepted it all with grace. Mary treasured every word and sign; she pondered them, and she trusted God’s faithfulness even through any uncertainty. Mary must have been overwhelmed with the responsibility of being the mother of our Lord, but she praised God for His faithfulness that He kept His promises for His people.
We can do the same. We delight in God because He has done great things in our lives. He has given us life and so much through a woman we call “Mom.” Our mothers are all different. Some are good and some not so good, but we can be thankful to God for our mothers. As we remember our mothers this weekend, whether they still live or have passed into life eternal, let us join with Mary and praise God for His goodness.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things which I say? Everyone who comes to me, and hears my words, and does them, I will show you who he is like. He is like a man building a house, who dug and went deep, and laid a foundation on the rock. When a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it was founded on the rock. But he who hears, and doesn’t do, is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49, WEB
Today’s question comes from the book of Psalms: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (11:3)
We spent a few days last week visiting the coastal city of Galveston, Texas. The island sits on the Gulf of Mexico and has repeatedly experienced devastating hurricanes, being brushed or hit by one every few years. The most recent to do significant damage was Hurricane Ike in 2008. We were supposed to go visit the island that year, that week, but the threat of the storm canceled our trip. Our hotel was destroyed along with much of the island. It isn’t just the wind that does the damage; hurricanes come with a storm surge that can put much of the island under water.
The worst recorded hurricane was in 1900. The Great Galveston Hurricane killed thousands of people and destroyed half the buildings on the island. The winds were 145 miles per hour at landfall and the storm surge was 15 feet during low tide. It is said that a one inch steel hull of an ocean going freighter was pierced through with a piece of lumber. It is known as the worst natural catastrophe in the history of the United States. It was not the first and it certainly was not the last, but the city learned an important lesson from that hurricane. Within a few years, they began the construction of a seawall that was designed to provide some protection from the water, especially during heavy storms. The seawall runs 10.3 miles along the shoreline facing the gulf at the densest part of the city of Galveston. You can see a few feet of the all above ground, but it was built deep into land, providing a firm foundation.
Bruce and I enjoyed our vacation, but we both agreed that we did not think we’d want to live there. Every place has its own risks, of course. Earthquakes, tornadoes, deep freeze or oppressive heat can cause damage and death. I just can’t imagine having to repair my home every few years because it has been flooded or torn apart by heavy wind. Yet, many people have made that choice. The western end of the island, which is less than a mile wide and barely a few feet above sea level, is mostly residential. Many homes in this area sell for millions of dollars. You’ll note, though, these houses are all built on stilts, a practice that began after the great hurricane of 1900. I am sure they still suffer damage, but I am amazed when I see footage of coastal damage after a hurricane how many buildings remain intact despite the heavy wind, rain, and storm surge from these storms.
They stand because they are built on a good foundation. Just as you can’t see most of the seventeen feet of seawall under the sand, you can’t see the cement that holds those stilts solidly to the beach. The water can come and the wind can blow, but the foundation doesn’t move.
The writer of the book where I’m getting these questions (“The Jesus Code” by O.S. Hawkins) answered this question from the perspective of our national identity, with its crumbling pillars of dignity, devotion, duty, and decency. I am want to focus in a different direction, however. This is a more personal lament, written by David who was facing enemies without and within. He was constantly pursued by enemies, but in this instance his advisors told him that he should flee from the danger. David knew that he was secure in God, who is His foundation. What can the righteous do when the wicked seem to have gained the upper hand? We can pray in the midst of our persecution. Some may suggest we flee, but we can calmly face our trouble trusting in God to help us through.
God is our foundation. He is the cement holding the stilts or the pillars in place even when we face the roughest storms. We might be hurt or rejected. We might even die. David asked what would happen if the foundations were destroyed, but he knew that God was there, watching and protecting His people. God can never be defeated. If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? We know that the foundation that is Jesus Christ can never be destroyed, but when things look bad we can trust that God will help us in this life or to the next, according to His good and perfect will.