Welcome to the October 2001 Archive. You are welcome to read the entire archive, or find a topic on the list below that is of interest to you. Just click the link, and you will be taken directly to the day it was written. Enjoy, and may you know God's peace as you read His Word.
When writing, I used the New International Version of the Bible. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves.
A WORD FOR TODAY, October 2001
October 1, 2001
Seasons This morning was the first time I could see my breath when I stood outside waiting with Zack for his bus. Though we have been in autumn for over a week, the signs of seasonal change are just beginning. A few trees are changing colours; the grass is not growing as fast. The flowers in my garden are beginning to pass away. The summer heat is gone and the winter cold is just around the corner.
Each season is necessary for the continuation of life. Spring brings new life to plants and animals. Summer heat and sunshine causes crops to grow. Autumn brings about the completion of the growing process and harvest. Winter brings a time of hibernation and rest for everyone. We could not have the spring if we did not go through the winter. Death brings new life. Life brings growth. Growth brings maturity. Maturity brings death. Then they cycle begins again.
Our spiritual lives go through similar seasons. Our life in Christ begins when we die to our old nature, drawn into the kingdom by His love and mercy. We confess our sins and repent, leaving behind our old life. This is a death of self, bringing with it a new start. Springtime and summer brings growth to our faith. The change is most noticeable in the springtime, when we stop the most blatant sins and start living for the Lord. The summer brings maturity and fruit, as we share our faith with others. In the fall, the fruit is harvested and we have nothing left to give. This can be a time of self-sacrifice or complacency. We become burnt out or apathetic, unable to serve the Lord. This brings a time of rest and death to self, so that we can begin again. We go through the seasons many times, often brought about by our live circumstances. Satan tries to get a foothold during each season, to stop growth and harvest, or bring about a permanent death.
Through our seasons, there is one thing that remains stable, the Lord God Almighty.
Read Psalm 102:25-27
The writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 1:10:12) used this Psalm to encourage the church, identifying this constancy with our Lord Jesus Christ. Though our lives in this world will change and eventually come to an end, one thing remains true – God is faithful to His children, fulfilling His promises. He that has no beginning or end does not change. God uses each of the seasons of our lives to bring the change necessary to our growth in faith. Our winters give us rest and death to our old selves. Our springs bring new birth and early growth. Our summers bring maturity and fruit. Our autumns bring emptying of ourselves so that we can begin again. God remains with us, never changing. In Him we will find the life, breath, gifts, strength, wisdom and love to go from season to season living for His purpose. Thanks be to God.
Wet Late yesterday afternoon, I was walking through our hallway and I found a wet spot on an area rug. My immediate reaction was to blame Felix. I found a towel and tried to wipe up the mess. It was a very small spot so I left it go. A little later, I walked on the rug and once again found the wet spot. By this time, it had grown a little, and I wondered who might have spilled something. I lifted the rug and found it was fairly wet underneath. We dried the floor and moved the rug. After awhile, we were sure the water was coming from below the floor. We woke this morning to puddles of water in the hallway. When the maintenance crew arrives later today, they may find a broken pipe or even worse.
When a pipe breaks, the water flows. It is not good when this happens in the material world. This problem will cause a great deal of inconvenience to our family and work for the crew. The crew will have to find and fix the problem. The wood in the area around the break is already damaged and may need to be replaced. I can’t do anything with water in the kitchen or laundry until I’m sure I won’t cause more damage.
Read John 7:37-39
Jesus said that if we believe in Him, He would give us living water that will flow from our lives. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, to live and work to God’s glory. Unfortunately, many of us keep the Spirit locked inside a pipe, blocking the movement of God with our fear, doubt and sin. As believers, we live in Christ, baptized into His body. We are joined with other believers by the power of the Holy Spirit as He moves in our lives. For most of us that’s where our faith stays, locked inside the body of Christ. We are afraid to share with others. We doubt our worthiness so we the witnessing to others who seem closer to God. Or we simply have unrepented sin that blocks are ability to do the work.
Pipes keep water confined so that it can move from place to place within a house. We don’t see the water unless we turn on the faucet. Our spiritual life is similar to such a water system. The water comes from a source and moves through the house, which is the body of Christ. The only time we see the water is when it comes out of the faucet. Too often, the only time the world sees our faith is through our work in the church. God wants more than that. He wants the living water to flow from our individual lives, too.
The maintenance crew will find the problem and fix it so that the water will once again be confined. God’s maintenance works much differently. In our spiritual lives, God goes in and breaks the pipes of fear, doubt and sin so that His Spirit is set free to flow from our lives. Our Father gives us the greatest gift when we believe in our Lord Jesus Christ. He gives us His Spirit who lives and moves in our lives so that others will be able to drink from the fountain of life. Thanks be to God.
AAA The Automobile Association of America is currently running an interesting advertising campaign for its car insurance. The mother calls out, “Hey kids, Daddy just bought tickets to the circus!” The children get excited and ask when they will go. “Go? We aren’t going, we just bought the tickets.” They children are disappointed by this turn of events. Then Mom and Dad decide to cheer them up by telling them about the vacation they paid for but won’t be taking. The point of the campaign is that other insurance companies sell you insurance with the hope you’ll never have to use it, but AAA gives you far more benefits for you money.
Jeremiah the prophet lived during a time of decline in Judah. He was called by God to speak His Word to the people, so that they would turn back to Him. He saw the evil no one else saw and was disturbed that the wicked succeeded in their plans. He asked God, “Why do the wicked prosper?” Christians all over the world are suffering persecution for their faith, even though they are living in obedience to the Word of God. Yet, there are evil people who lie, cheat, steal and kill to accomplish their goals.
The LORD answered Jeremiah by telling him that he would abandon the Jews to their choices. As an example, He told Jeremiah to buy a linen belt, wear it awhile, and then hide it in a crevice in the rocks of Perath.
Read Jeremiah 13:10
God did not destroy those who were disobedient, but He left them to their own ways. They did not perish at the hands of their enemies because God remembered His promise and had compassion upon His people. They suffered for a time, the consequences of their own sin against God, but He restored them. Ultimately the reconciliation came through the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the forgiveness of all their sin. He also died for us.
God has promised to never leave nor forsake us, and God is always faithful to His promises. We will not suffer His wrath, because Jesus already suffered for us. However, if we do not live according to His Word, in faith, we will suffer the consequences. The gods in our society today are not as they were in the days of Jeremiah, but we do serve the things of this world above the Lord God Almighty. Our jobs, families and material possessions are more important than the Word of God. God does not abandon us when we focus on the things of this world, but we become completely useless to Him and we suffer the consequences. Life in this world offers many wonderful things for today, but they will perish. Life in Christ is one filled with great blessing of present hope and future glory. Don’t be like the family in the AAA commercial. Don’t waste the great and glorious gift you have been given in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Be obedient to God and worship only Him. Give Him the room in your hearts and lives so that He can use you for His Kingdom today.
Ninevah Jonah was in a sticky situation. He had a unique relationship with the LORD; he was a prophet. A prophet was called by God to speak His Word to the people to bring repentance. This is a tough job because no one really wants to hear God’s opinion about things. Living in obedience is a tough task; God’s expectations are much different than the world. Jonah didn’t mind preaching to his fellow Hebrews, but he wasn’t interested in preaching to the pagans.
God knows His plans and does not really care about our opinion about His work. Sometimes He sends us to do the very thing we do not want to do. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. The people of Nineveh were pagans and were enemies to the Hebrews. They were evil and violent. The prophet Nahum describes their actions to include plotting evil against the Lord, cruelty and plundering in war, prostitution and witchcraft and commercial exploitation. God commanded Jonah to go tell these pagans to turn from their wicked ways or Nineveh would be destroyed. Imagine Jonah’s feelings at this moment. He knew his enemy would be destroyed, but God wanted to give them one last chance.
Jonah had no interest in helping his enemy, so he tried to run away. He took a ship to Tarshish, but the LORD knew where he was hiding. The LORD sent a great storm that nearly killed the crew, but when they learned that Jonah was to blame they did as he said and threw him into the sea. A great fish swallowed Jonah and for three days he prayed. He vowed to be obedient to God and promised to preach to the Ninevites.
When he arrived in Nineveh, Jonah proclaimed the word of God and the Ninevites believed. They fasted, mourned and repented. Even the king took off his royal robes, put on sackcloth and sat in the dust. When God saw that they turned from their evil ways, He had mercy on them and spared their city.
Read Jonah 4:1-3
I can just see this scene. Jonah was talking to the LORD saying, “I knew it, I knew you’d never go through with it. You have too much love and hope and mercy. So, I figured I’d help by keeping the truth to myself and not telling them how good and wonderful you are. That way you could still pass judgment on my enemies.” But God knew their hearts and He wants none to die. When they heard the word, they were immediately transformed and God withheld His anger.
Has God commanded you to speak the truth to your enemy? Who is your Nineveh? It could be a neighbor or co-worker. It could be a family member who has hurt you in some way. Perhaps you are called to preach to a civil or religious leader, or even a whole community. Will you answer the call or will you try to run away? It is easy to preach the Gospel to those who already believe and extremely difficult to give your enemy a way out of their fate. It isn’t our place to decide who will be saved. When God speaks, go and do. The consequences of disobedience could mean three days in the belly of a great fish. But the blessings of obedience are life for all who hear. Thanks be to God.
Abstention There are some things that are difficult to give up. Cigarettes, alcohol and drugs are substances that are addictive for many people. For others, bad language and physical violence are habits that are tough to break. Some people are drawn into sexual promiscuity. They justify continuing in their way of life by saying it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Many times they try to stop but other factors stand in the way. One excuse is that they are dealing with too many other things – such as financial or emotional problems, and their habit helps them cope. They claim that they will give it up soon, after they get through some situation. Also, our bodies do not want to give up our addictions, so it goes through painful withdrawal.
One of the major problems for those trying to quit bad habits is peer pressure. When we socialize with our friends, we take part in the same activities. Parties include drinking, smoking and other habits. Nights out on the town are spent in bars, picking up members of the opposite sex. Its fun! Yet, the time comes for many when they realize that these activities are not harmless. They recognize the dangers involved in excessive drinking or unsafe sex. So, they try to stop. Their friends make it so difficult. They say, “You were more fun when you were drinking.” Or, “You have become such a prude.” It is our nature to want to fit in with the crowd. We are tempted to go back to our old way of life. For a new Christian, this is one of the hardest things to overcome. It is often the cause of lost friendships. We suffer persecution from those who think we are being ‘holier than thou’ with our newfound faith.
Read 1 Peter 4:1-4
What bad habits should you be working at in your life? Do you get angry too quickly, or overeat when upset? Do you spend too much money when you are shopping? Do you drink, smoke or swear? If you have tried to stop, how are your friends dealing with the changes in your life? Have you been persecuted for your new actions, abusing you in word or by tempting you to return to your old ways?
Remember, you have life in Christ, a new life that should be according to the will of God, our Father Almighty. The old ways that we so enjoy should become things from our past as we live in love, hope and peace. The fruit of the Spirit should be manifesting in your life, and will as you get rid of the acts of the sinful nature. We cannot be a friend of Christ and continue in our old life. There is no room in our heart for both man’s ways and God’s ways. When you face the persecution that comes with new life in Christ, stand firm in faith. Suffer with your Lord, knowing that you have chosen the better way and God will give you strength to live in Him. Thanks be to God.
Homecoming High schools around the country this month are having a football homecoming game. The event includes activities including special half-time programs, parades, dances and a contest for a Homecoming queen and king. It is typical for these roles to be filled with the most popular members of the senior class. The king and queen tend to be those who stand out in the crowd. The head cheerleader and quarterback are among to top choices. Their beauty, ability and charisma draw people who want to be part of the in crowd.
In politics, business and other aspects of life in this world, successful leaders tend to be those who have a personality and good looks. They make people desire to be a part of the team. Talent, financial stability and intelligence are also good characteristics of people in positions of authority. These are all factors that draw us into their presence. We listen to what they say and follow their direction without question.
It is difficult for someone to be heard when in the presence of someone with such charm. Television commercials and movie plots use this theme to get a good laugh. In the movie “The Brady Movie” Jan has a terrific idea, but she is invisible to her brothers and sisters. As soon as Marsha presents the same idea, they all cheer for joy that they have found a solution to their problem. When someone speaks in a way that is different than we expect, we ignore their words and listen to those who fit the expectation of one who would be homecoming queen or corporate leader, one with beauty and majesty to draw us to them. Yet, the kingdom of God is different.
Read Isaiah 53:1-3
This message from Isaiah is quoted in the New Testament twice. Both John and Paul attributed this to our Lord Jesus, who was in flesh not a person with any beauty or majesty that would cause us to be drawn to Him. Yet, He spoke with a true authority, which is of God Himself, and His Word changed lives for those who would listen. Unfortunately for many, they ignored what He said then, and they continue to ignore Him today. Many people are drawn into ministries that have leaders with fine flesh qualities. They follow the words because they have all the things expected in this world – personality, good looks, talent, financial stability, intelligence and charm.
The truth of Jesus Christ is lost in the popularity contest between such ministries and ministers. The voice of God is lost because people are looking toward the ones who stand out in the crowd. They are not listening to the invisible one speaking truth. Jesus was not necessarily a handsome man with blue eyes and perfect features. He was more likely one who would get lost in the crowd, who would not be elected homecoming king, who would be despised and ignored like Jan Brady. Yet, He spoke with authority and some believed. This continues today, as those who speak the Word of God are despised and ignored by those who expect the truth to be given by people who fit into the expectations of earthbound leadership. The vessel does not matter; listen to the authority by which a person speaks. That authority is given by our Lord Jesus Christ, and proves itself true every time. Thanks be to God.
Grunt work I spent several years working in retail management. One of my leadership traits was that I would not ask anyone to do something I had not done myself. In other words, even in a position of authority I took on some of the grunt work and was trained to deal physically with the problems that occur. This gave me first hand knowledge of the best way to go about completing the task so I could teach and direct my employees to do it most efficiently. In my years of managing I did many things I hated to do. I unloaded trucks, scrubbed the floors and cleaned up after sick children.
Many store managers consider themselves too good for the grunt work. They wear Armani suits while they sit around drinking coffee telling the employees what to do. There does come a time when one must stand firm in their authority, particularly if an employee refuses to do their job. However, there is always a time for humbling oneself and picking up a broom to get the job done.
In yesterday’s scripture from Isaiah, we saw a man who did not fit the normal expectation of the world. Jesus fulfilled that scripture, being a man without worldly charm but who spoke with the authority of God. His Word changed lives though many refused to listen. Isaiah goes on to write, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:4 (NIV)
In that day, sick people were considered cursed by God. The society considered their suffering as a punishment for some sin. It was against the law for the temple leaders or anyone else to even touch such a person. If they did, they became unclean and had to go through a ceremonial cleansing to be clean again. Yet, Jesus did not follow such laws. He was compassionate and merciful to the sick.
Read Matthew 8:14-17
Jesus took up our infirmities. He had to power to speak the disease away from those who were sick, yet for many the pain was far deeper than just a physical malady. They were outcasts, shunned for some unknown sin they did not commit, blamed for their own illness. People avoided being with them, put them in colonies to be rid of the danger. They dumped them at healing pools or at the city gates, where they hoped against hope someone would help them.
Jesus was different. He touched them in body, heart and spirit. He put His hand on the lepers and let the bleeding touch his clothes. He forgave their sins, loved them and then treated the disease that had wrecked their bodies. They needed compassion and mercy, and so do we. During His ministry, Jesus healed many people, but it was not possible for Him to stay here forever. He needed to go back to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could come live in the lives of those who believe. So, at one moment, Jesus took all our infirmities to the cross. The world ridiculed and persecuted Him, but He set us free. Though our physical bodies may still suffer the effects of earthbound living, Christ died so that we would no longer be outcasts, dumped at some pool or gate without hope. The Spirit of God heals us in spirit and we have a hope that is eternal. Thanks be to God.
Worship Theophilus of Antioch, an early church father from the 2nd century A.D. once said, “For in glory He is incomprehensible, in greatness unfathomable, in height inconceivable, in power incomparable, in wisdom unrivaled, in goodness inimitable, in kindness unutterable.” In other words, God is bigger than we can possibly say or imagine. Oswald Chambers said, “It is perilously possible to make our conception of God like molten lead poured into a specially designed mould, and when it is cold and hard we fling it at the heads of religious people who don’t agree with us.” Though it is impossible for human beings to completely define God, we certainly try. We even use our ideas in condemnation against those who define Him differently.
Lately our lives have been filled with many emotions and questions. We feel grief, anger, doubt, uncertainty and fear. Today, as we realize the magnitude of our involvement in the war against terrorism, we will continue to question our very understanding of God. Who is this God we worship?
Read Psalm 93
The Psalmist defined Him as King over all of creation. The Lord reigns. Jesus Christ asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” It is vital that we answer the question personally, by faith, prayer and understanding. Peter’s answer was “the Christ of God.” In today’s world, it seems many people are willing to confess Jesus as Christ, just like Peter, but we are just as likely to deny Him before men. Faith is a paradox. We first must realize that God is bigger than we can ever define, but we then must define Him for ourselves. We must stand firm in our faith in Christ, but we must not use our limited understanding to bring condemnation to those who are different. Our faith should never be used to beat people over the head. In Christ we live in accordance with His word, set apart as holy for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God. When we live our lives of faith in Christ in true worship, the world will see the majesty of God and come to worship Him. Thanks be to God.
Sunshine The weather in Arkansas has been gorgeous. The sky has been free of clouds, a magnificent shade of blue. The temperatures have dropped significantly – no longer the oppressive heat of summer but rather the cool, refreshing air of autumn. The leaves of the trees are beginning to change to shades of yellow, orange and red, a beautiful site against the blue of the sky. The shining sun has added a sparkle to the landscape of the earth.
Such beautiful weather has its disadvantages. We are well below the average rainfall expected for our region. The pollen counts were rather high for a while, since there hasn’t been any rain to wash the particles out of the air. The constantly shining sun has made driving difficult. Many people have had some trouble seeing with the glare from the roads and buildings as well as the intensity of the direct sunlight. This bright light is dangerous because it can cause distortions to what we see, blocking potential dangers from view because of glare or squinting. It is also harmful to our eyes. When the sun is so bright, it is necessary to wear sunglasses to filter the harmful rays and protect our eyes. They cut the glare and make it easier to see.
Throughout the history of Israel, the Lord God Almighty promised that one would come to set them free from the bondage they faced. The Jews were living in a kingdom where another nation ruled, and though they were able to worship in the temple, they were burdened by the taxes and other civil rule of the Romans. They thought the coming Messiah would be an earthly king like David, who would rule them as a nation once again. God’s plan was much different.
It was time that Israel turned to Him once again as their sole King, no longer a nation like others, but one that lived according to His covenants with them. He knew there was no way for them to be able to obey His Law as the religious leaders perverted it. So, He sent His Son. Jesus Christ is the light, and God knew that what He would give to the world would be too much for them to bear all at once. So, He sent messengers ahead, to filter the light.
Read Luke 1:76-79
The message of Christ is difficult for us to bear. Jesus taught many lessons that were much different than earthly expectations. God’s Kingdom is completely opposite from the ways of this world. Jesus spoke of love instead of hate, forgiveness rather than anger. The world is blessed by our weaknesses not our strengths. The Son shines so bright, but it is often like glare off our own flesh. Our sin – arrogance, pride, doubt, fear, anger and hatred – catches the light and it is blinding for us to see ourselves as we are. But, God did not simply send Christ to show us our wickedness. He took it upon Himself so that we would be free to live in the light. He has provided filters, like Son-glasses, to help us see more clearly. The prophets foretold of His coming and point to Him today. The scriptures tell us the story of our Lord and help us to understand the depths of His love. Other Christians help us to stay on the path of truth and light. To look at the face of God directly would bring instant death, yet we can look at Christ through His Word, both written and that which has passed through the generations since the beginning of time through faith. Thanks be to God.
Weather “Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red skies in morning, sailors take warning.” “When the leaves turn over, rain is on the way.” These were a few things we used to say pertaining to the weather when I was growing up in Pennsylvania. Atmospheric conditions caused the signs that brought rain and bad weather. An incoming storm will change the air pressure, temperature and wind. A storm is often preceded by gusty wind, which rattles the trees and turns over the leaves. A farmer can smell the coming rain and will prepare his farm for rough weather. Some people can ‘feel it in their bones’ as the changes cause pain in arthritic joints or old injuries.
The weatherman predicted storms for our area today. He has scientific equipment and computer models that help him make an educated guess about the weather for the day. When I went outside to wait for Zack’s bus, I noticed the wind had picked up over the night and there were more clouds in the sky. By the signs, we can tell there will be rain, and we will do certain things to prepare. I ensured the children were properly dressed. I will not leave any windows open when I leave home today. I will leave extra time to get to my appointments, since driving in rain can be dangerous and should be done with caution.
Read Luke 12:54-56
The people in Jesus’ day were good at predicting the weather based on the signs, yet they had no idea they stood in the presence of God. For centuries the prophets pointed toward the coming Messiah, speaking God’s Word about who He would be and what He would do. Yet, they did not recognize the time when it came. Even today we have the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ to look back upon, the scriptures that tell the story and the lives of those who have paid witness to it over the millennia since Jesus lived, and many do not know how close they are to the Kingdom to God. Jesus lives. He lives in the hearts of those who believe and He works through their lives.
We know when it is going to rain, but do we know God’s presence in our lives? Do we hear His voice and recognize His work? In the next verses of Luke, Jesus calls for repentance. He called their attention to the news stories of the day, the slaughter of Galileans and the destruction of a tower in Siloam. He then said, “Do you think they are more guilty? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Death is a consequence of our sin. Sin is living a life separated from God. Repentance is turning back to Him. God is present in this world, in your life. Do you know it? Are you living accordingly? Is your fruit fitting of repentance? Now is the time to consider these questions, because all we have is Today. Read the signs of the times and be prepared – in heart, mind and body. The Kingdom of God is near. Thanks be to God.
Magnetism John Bunyan, the writer of the Christian classic “A Pilgrim’s Progress,” was not always a Christian. As a matter of fact, he recalled being a lost and profane man before his conversion. One day when he was in Bedford to work, he came across three or four women discussing their faith. He was drawn to listen to their conversation, and though he did not understand he stayed for a time. The women talked about faith, the miserable state of their nature and how God came to them with love and forgiveness in the Lord Jesus. John could hear the joy in their words and voices. In time he needed to return to work, but their words did not leave him, he took what he heard with him and it changed his life. He wrote in his book ‘Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners,’ “Therefore I should often make it my business to be going again and again into the company of these poor people, for I could not stay away…”
John Bunyan was drawn into the company of the women because they spoke the Gospel of truth in words of praise and thanksgiving. They may have even been singing hymns or reciting Psalms.
Read Psalm 103:1-5
When people overhear your conversations about God and faith, what do they hear? Do they hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ – His love, forgiveness, healing and redemption? Do they know the benefits of following Him? Do they see your life as one they would want to emulate, one of praise and thanksgiving to God? Can they hear the joy in your words and voices? If someone overheard your conversations today, would they be drawn to stay and listen? Would they want to return?
We certainly can spend time discussing the details of our faith and understanding about God. It is in these discourses that we grow in knowledge and establish in our minds as well as our hearts an answer for anyone who asks. After all, Paul encourages the Church in his letters to study and to hold firm to sound doctrine. However, he also warns us that we should not quibble over words because it leads to ungodly behaviour.
We do not know who might be listening in on our conversation. Praise God in your words today, remembering that His promises are very real and personal. Praise the LORD, every soul. John Bunyan has touched the lives of millions with his story of Christian’s journey to eternal life. It all began because three or four women were discussing their faith in praise and thanksgiving. Whose life will you touch today? You may never know, but God will bless you for being a magnet in His kingdom. Thanks be to God.
Count Zinzendorf From an early age, this German man had the motto, “I have one passion; it is Jesus, Jesus only.” He was passionate for Christ, constantly desiring His presence. He lived during the 18th century, a time when Christians were being exiled from Bohemia and Moravia. He allowed the exiles to establish a community on his estate. They called this place Herrnhut that means “Under the Lord’s Watch.”
He understood the necessity and the power of prayer, and his passion was passed on to the community of Moravians. In 1727, twenty-four men and women covenanted to hold to constant prayer, each member of the group taking one hour a day. This small but committed prayer team grew as others joined. Their community was strengthened by unceasing prayer. They met together once a week to share prayer requests and encourage one another. Eventually, this constant prayer led to greater outreach when Zinzendorf suggested they send missionaries to other nations.
This prayer meeting, which began in 1727, lasted a hundred years. Over three hundred missionaries were sent around the world. The Moravian fervor touched the lives of two men in England, John and Charles Wesley, bringing them to Christ. These two men have had a significant impact on the Christian church, in music and preaching. The Moravian’s passion for Christ and for lost souls had an impact on the Church around the world, playing a role in the Great Awakening, a revival that spread through Europe and America. These twenty-four people prayed unceasingly and touched the lives of millions. The results of their prayers will last for eternity.
Seeking the LORD and calling on Him is spending time in prayer. Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians realized that God is always present with us and that they should be in prayer without ceasing. Not only did they have this group of people interceding constantly, but they also lived within a community of believers that practice lives that showed the fruit of prayer. They lived like the early Christians in Acts, having everything in common, spending time together in fellowship and worship. They had a heart for spreading the Gospel and did what was necessary to bring Christ to the world. They knew the great gift of salvation and they were willing to follow their Lord Jesus anywhere.
All this began with prayer – seeking the LORD while He may be found and calling on Him while He is near. This is every moment of every day, because our Lord Jesus has promised to never leave or forsake us. When we are in constant prayer, there is no room for wickedness or evil thoughts. Turn to the LORD today. Your prayers may just bring about everlasting change. Thanks be to God.
Edward the Confessor Edward was king of England from 1042 to 1066. He is not remembered as being a great king. As a matter of fact, his father-in-law Godwin held a great deal of control over the country. Edward reigned at a time of confusion as to the succession of the crown. There were claims from several mainland nations – the Normans and the Danes. Edward’s father was Ethelred, a very ineffectual ruler who allowed a Danish takeover. Edward’s mother was the daughter of the Duke of Normandy. Edward had no children, so he named as the heir to the crown William of Normandy. The English people disliked Edward’s Norman heritage and the large number of Normans he placed in positions of authority. On his deathbed, Edward changed his mind and named Harold, the son of Godwin as heir. The damage had already been done, and the Normans had enough power and reason to invade England. William the Conqueror killed Harold at the Battle of Hastings and became king of England in December 1066.
Though Edward’s political life was less than successful, he became known for his piety. It is said he gave generously to the poor and spent time in prayer. He would lay hands on men and women who suffered from disease in the hopes of healing their ailment through prayer. He worked for peace, negotiating rather than fighting when possible. It was because of these characteristics that he was made a saint. October 13 is the feast day of Saint Edward the Confessor.
The stories do not tell of actual healings, but of a desire to bring healing. Today there are many people who live similar lives, in prayer and seeking peace. Yet when they pray for a divine touch, the physical healing does not seem to come. We read of the incredible acts of Jesus in the scriptures, of the blind receiving site, the lame walking and the dead being raised, we wonder why we aren’t seeing such miracles today. Many of the stories we hear of the work done by faith healers has been proven false.
Habakkuk the prophet lived in a time like ours, when God seemed to be silent. The people had turned from the Lord God Almighty and were worshipping other gods. They were living lives filled with bloodshed, drunkenness and adultery. Habakkuk was discouraged, even calling out to God, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not hear?” But the Lord promised Habakkuk He would not remain silent for long. “For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Habakkuk listened to the Word of God, then prayed.
Read Habakkuk 3:2
Habakkuk saw the hardship of the people. He knew there were death and flood, famine and drought, yet he prayed. At the end of his prayer he said, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” In today’s world, we see so much suffering. There is hunger and poverty, ill health and violence. Like Saint Edward, we try to bring healing in prayer. Like Habakkuk we are discouraged. Yet, when all seems lost, when the world seems bent on destruction, we can turn to the prayer of Habakkuk, one that praises God in the midst of suffering and remembers His power. We have heard of His fame, from the witness of the scriptures and the saints of all time, and we do stand in awe of God’s good works. God answered Habakkuk’s prayer, in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today, let us remember that it is by His name that God’s deeds will flow and through Him God’s mercy endures. We call out to God, as did Habakkuk, “How long, O LORD?” God answers, “Watch! I am about to do something you would not believe.” Oh, Lord, renew your deeds today and make yourself known. Have mercy on us, and grant us peace. Thanks be to God.
George Bush For many in the United States, there was some question to the validity of George Bush’s presidency. In the months since he has taken office, his detractors have questioned many of the things he has done. Even today, there are still people who are concerned about certain action. However, in matters of justice, the response to the attack of America, most Americans agree he has acted with authority.
The word authority means, “the right and power to command, enforce laws, exact obedience, determine, or judge.” Even Al Gore has called Mr. Bush “my commander-in-chief.” He has acted with reason, putting thought and prayer into every decision. He established a defense while establishing an offense. He has acted with compassion, even withholding bombing on the holy day of his enemy. He has arranged to meet the physical needs of the innocent by sending food and other supplies. The goal of this war is justice, not death and destruction. He has defined the enemy and will do everything he can to spare as many innocent in the process. George Bush has acted with authority.
When Jesus taught, the people were amazed at his words, actions and the authority by which He spoke. They knew He had the right and power to command. They disciples saw it in the way He even commanded the storm to cease and the people say it in the way He brought healing to the sick. When He commanded a demon to depart, the demon obeyed. The leaders were concerned about his authority. They knew that the people would be obedient to His word and would trust His judgment. There were even people who were not Jews who recognized the source of His authority.
Read Matthew 8:5-13
We have seen that George Bush has the right and power to command, and it is by his word that people obey. The centurion knew that it was not Jesus’ touch that brought the healing, but that it was His word. Jesus spoke with authority that came from beyond this world. He knew all Jesus had to do was say it was true and it would be. Do we have such great faith? Do we hear the Word of God spoken through our Lord Jesus and know without a doubt that it is true? Do we live such a life of faith, trusting every moment that God’s promises will be fulfilled? Our Father gave all power and authority to His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Live today in faith like the centurion – knowing that all that Jesus spoke ‘is’. Thanks be to God.
Breakfast We feed Felix, our cat, as soon as we get up in the morning. He is so used to eating at that hour, that when that hour arrives, he is ready to eat. Most days he waits until our alarm goes off, then he does whatever is necessary to get us out of bed. First he sits and purrs in our ear. If that doesn’t work, he puts his head under our hand to get us to pet him. He climbs all over our bodies and sits on our chest with his nose in our face. He shows us love to get our attention. He is persistent and anxious to get his food, but his actions show his love and trust. He can be quite annoying, particularly on those days when we are able to sleep a little later. Yet even when we refuse to respond, he remains patient, knowing he will be fed.
What does it mean to trust? Trust is defined as having total confidence in the integrity, ability, and good character of another. Though a cat is unable to discern and define such character traits, they certainly can recognize those who will feed and care for them. They don’t reason the way people do, but they learn to trust based on action.
Sometimes we human beings reason too much. We think about our needs and worry about where we will get the money to do everything we need and want to do. We look at our budgets, often cutting our charitable giving first. We know we need to eat and pay for shelter to keep safe and dry. We don’t realize how much of our money goes to things that simply are not necessary – the bigger car, the house in the best neighbourhood or the newest technology. Human beings trust in the wrong things. We turn to our jobs, our credit cards and our desires for worldly objects for happiness and contentment.
Yet, we should never put our trust in worldly things. God our Father has promised to provide everything we need to live day to day.
Read Luke 12:27-34
If only we could live our lives like Felix. He needs nothing but a warm place to sleep, a bowl of food to eat and the companionship of people who love him. He trusts that we will continue to provide him with all those things. If it seems like his needs will not be met in his time, he comes to us with a love that speaks of thankfulness for that which he knows to be true, that we will be faithful to our promise to care for him. He is content.
Too often, we human beings trust in the things of this world rather than One who gives us all we need. We worry about bills and where our next meal will come from, but we fill our homes with stuff that is just not necessary. We think contentment comes from our material wealth, yet it will perish. Jesus tells us that we should trust God our Father, because He is faithful to His promises. He has promised that He will provide everything we need, and as we live our life of faith we will gain a treasure that can never be destroyed – eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Do you feel like God is slow in answering your call? Seek His kingdom; enter into His presence with love and thanksgiving. When you trust Him, He will provide for your every need. Thanks be to God.
Individuality I’m often asked the question, “Why are there so many different types of Christians?” The reason is that we are individuals, uniquely created by God, with our own gifts and purpose. We are bound together by the power of the Holy Spirit to the one purpose, which is to glorify God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. One Christian is called to leave home and be a missionary in the far corners of the earth, worshipping God in a grass hut with strangers. Another Christian is called to serve on the altar guild at her local church while she raises her children in the faith. Yet other Christians are gifted to share the Gospel in their regular places of business, witnessing with their life to whoever comes their way.
Each Christian is drawn into God’s heart in a unique way. The scriptures show that some followed without a word, while others questioned Jesus’ choice. In Luke 5, Jesus told Peter to go back to fishing. Peter argued that they’d fished all night without catching anything. You can almost hear his sigh as he agrees to go. When they hauled in the huge catch of fish, Peter fell to his knees and said to Jesus, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” In Matthew 9, Jesus said to the tax collector Matthew, “Follow me.” Matthew, who was busy with his work, got up, left everything and followed him. In John, Andrew heard John the Baptist proclaim that Jesus was the Lamb of God and he followed Jesus.
The young pastor Timothy grew up in a faith filled home, with his mother and grandmother. The Ethiopian official was reading the book of Isaiah when God sent Philip to help him understand in Acts 8. Paul spoke the Gospel of truth and life to Roman guards when he was in prison. In Acts 16, an earthquake freed the prisoners from their chains, but they did not escape. The guard was prepared to kill himself when Paul shouted for him to stop. The guard listened to Paul speak and his whole household became Christians. The guard believed on account of the faith of the prisoners and the awesome power of God.
Paul himself went through a dramatic conversion experience. He shared his testimony wherever he went. He once persecuted the people who followed the Way of Jesus Christ, but our Lord appeared before him and spoke the Word of Truth into his life. From that moment, he lived a life in submission to the Gospel.
Read John 15:26-27
For some it took the direct word of Jesus Christ and for others they believed based on the witness of another. For some it took a miraculous event and for others it was a way of life taught to them by their parents. Each person was touched by the Word of God and by His Spirit, drawn into the kingdom and given gifts so that they could live and work to the glory of God. No matter how they came to know the Lord Jesus, God used them for His purpose – to spread the Gospel to the world.
Today, we all come to know and understand our life of faith in Christ differently. Some know Jesus from an early age and others have a dramatic touch of His hand. Each is given individual gifts to be used to His glory sharing the Gospel. Though we come to Him as individuals, we are given the same truth by the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can witness to the world. Thanks be to God.
Music Last night we attended a play at Zack’s school. The second and third grade classes put on a program called “Fiesta Mexico.” The children had lines to memorize, dances to learn and songs to sing. They put the play together in just a few weeks, and they did a terrific job. These young children cooperated with their teachers and knew where they should be and what they should say. They knew the music and sang with such gusto!
Music is a wonderful way to learn. When we were little children, we learn so many things through music. Sesame Street teaches valuable life lessons through the songs that are sung. Which child did not learn their letters by singing the Alphabet Song? Every child in Sunday School learns about the love of God with the classic, “Jesus loves me.” Music is not only fun, but it also writes the words and ideas upon our hearts. They become so much a part of us that we find ourselves humming our favorite songs or hymns as we go about our daily task. The music in our soul keeps us close to the things we love.
Martin Luther firmly believed in the power of music. He wrote, “If any man despises music, as all fanatics do, for him I have no liking; for music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity and other devices.” He also wrote, “I wish to compose sacred hymns so that the Word of God may dwell among the people also by means of songs.” His hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” was inspired by Psalm 46, scripture that celebrates the security of living in the refuge of God. Millions have sought comfort in the words of that song, for the eternal truth of God’s presence has been written on our hearts through the power of the music.
Read Psalm 100
Praise the Lord today in song. Sing of His glory and His love. Hum the tunes of your favorite hymns and break out in the words of “Jesus loves me.” The children did such a good job last night because it is in the power of the music that they are able to remember their lines and songs. God has written His Word on our hearts, and we can easily reach for those words in the songs that we hold dear. In our singing, we keep God close to us, remembering His truth and sharing them with the world. Shout for joy and sing joyful songs, give Him thanks and praise His name! Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Thanks be to God.
Buffet I love those restaurants that offer a full buffet. You can pick and choose whatever you want to eat. There is always something that everyone will like, plenty of food to go around. There are several types of meat or main dish, a variety of vegetables, every type of salad fixing and desserts galore. These meals are generally very affordable, particularly if you are someone who likes to eat a lot of food.
Though I love to go to such a restaurant, I find that I never have enough room in my stomach for the food I want to eat. I have to try a bit of everything because it all looks so good, but the plate fills so quickly. I have to pick and choose the best because I’m bound to leave some on my plate if I take too much.
The world seems to offer a buffet of ideas and practices. We can pick and choose from different religious, political and social experiences. Some places have a great diversity within a confined area, while others are more limited in its culture. Our children attend schools that have children from many backgrounds. Vicki has told us about her friends who were born in other countries. She hasn’t limited herself to one type of friend, she is learning about others through her friendships.
It is good to have such a variety when it comes to our friendship and our life experiences. However, when it comes to our faith it is important to stick with the staple, the One True and Living God found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, there are many in today’s world who aren’t willing to settle for one, they would prefer have choices about faith. This isn’t a new problem. Elijah faced a similar situation during the reign of Ahab.
Ahab was a wicked king. He was married to the Sidonian named Jezebel and they allowed Baal worship. Ahab even built a temple to Baal and made an Asherah pole. The people had a buffet of gods from which to choose. The prophets of the God of Israel were killed, leaving only Elijah. The day came when Elijah had to take a stand. The people had to choose which God they would follow, either the Lord God Almighty or Baal. He invited the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal to a contest. He brought two bulls, allowed them to choose which they wanted, then directed them to set up the altar of sacrifice. They were not to light it themselves, but to call on their god to rain fire upon the altar and burn the flesh. Elijah would do the same, and the god who answered would be God.
The prophets of Baal did as directed and prayed. For hours they called upon their god. Elijah taunted them and said, them. “Shout louder! Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” But Baal never answered. So, when the time was right, Elijah prepared the altar to the Lord. He covered it with water, soaking the wood and even leaving a trench of water around the base of the altar.
Read 1 Kings 18:36-39
This world offers a buffet of beliefs in different kinds of gods, but the feast is only found in the One True and Living God. Though we live in this world and can enjoy being part of the culture of diversity that is such a blessing in the United States and other countries, we have to remember that we cannot turn to other gods. The Israelites thought it was ok to worship God as well as Baal. They learned that Baal was powerless against the power of God.
The gods of this world are powerless against the Truth that is found in our Lord Jesus Christ. One day Christ will return and will prove the almighty power of our Father. At that time, every knee will bow before Him and cry, “The LORD – he is God!” The prophets of Baal were killed for their disobedience. Likewise, the false prophets of this world suffer the wrath of God. Who is your god? Do you try a taste of everything at the buffet, or do you stand firm in our Lord Jesus Christ? There is not room for more than one god in our hearts. The LORD – He is God! Amen.
Kittens Weeks after the twin towers of the World Trade Center tumbled to the ground, workers are still trying to remove the rubble and perhaps find some trace of those who are still missing. It is a daunting task, exhausting both physically and emotionally. A few days ago, in a napkin box in the basement of a restaurant in the middle of the destruction, they found hope. It wasn’t a hope that they would find human survivors, but rather a remembrance that in the face of death, life goes on.
There in the box was a cat and her three newborn kittens. The mother was dehydrated and frail, yet she managed to feed her children and keep them alive even though they were trapped by the ruins. The cats were taken to a veterinary hospital where they have been treated. They were just some cats, but they were so much more. Those cats were lives that needed to be saved, even though there was more important work to do. The rescue workers showed compassion and mercy to God’s creation.
Jesus knew that compassion was more important than the rules and reason of this world. He often forgave those that others would have stoned and touched those who were outcasts. He ate with the wrong people and taught lessons that seemed to go against everything the people believed. Compassion is meeting the needs of those who suffer despite whatever circumstances surround the situation.
Read Luke 13:10-17
The leaders of the Jews felt it was more important to follow the rules than to meet the needs of those who suffered. The leaders spent years developing an understanding of the Law of Moses. They were able to meet the physical needs of their livestock but could not give healing to a sick woman on a Sabbath. They felt those who suffered from dis-ease were disabled by their sin. They may have even felt she was unworthy to be in their presence, particularly on a holy day. Their idea of compassion was providing for the needs of those things they cared about – such as their property. There were more important things to do on the Sabbath than to care for a sick woman.
Jesus knew she needed to be freed from what bound her, not only physically but also spiritually. She needed to know the forgiveness of her sins, something she should have been hearing at the synagogue. Jesus knew she needed healing, and He provided it for her. Jesus laid it on the line for His opponents and humiliated them. Their idea of compassion was selfish and went against the intent of the gift of the Sabbath given to man by our Father.
The rescue workers showed compassion to four tiny lives in the midst of their own pain and exhaustion. Jesus showed compassion to the crippled woman even though the rules disapproved of such action. In what way is God calling you to show compassion today? Is there an outcast who needs healing, an enemy who needs forgiveness or a dying soul who needs to hear the Word of God? Whatever needs to be done today, walk in the ways of compassion. Meet the needs of even the least of God’s creation rather than your own selfish desires. You will find that life does go on in the face of death. That is God’s way.
Peace Warren W. Wiersbe wrote, “When you think of Jesus Christ as ‘Prince of Peace,’ you immediately think of his character. Jesus was a man of peace. You see this as you watch him in the different circumstances of life. He was able to fall asleep in the ship in the midst of a storm so threatening that even his fisherman disciples were terrified. He looked at over five thousand hungry people and knew what he would do. Our Lord’s peace didn’t come from the absence of trouble. It came from the depths of his soul where he fellowshipped with the Father. Peace and character go together. What we do depends a great deal on what we are. The secret of our Lord’s peace was his relationship to his Father. He loved the Father, and therefore he trusted the Father. This gave him peace.”
We live in difficult and frightening times. We are at war against a known but hidden enemy. We are living in fear, which is fed by news stories and rumors that are spread across the Internet. One of the top news stories yesterday was about the hoaxes that are so rampant – the picture of the guy on top of the WTC and the warning to stay out of malls on Halloween. There are people using the events of this day to play practical jokes, such as the guy who crushed up a lifesaver and sent it in a letter to a friend. These actions feed the fear, causing us to see the enemy at every turn.
The police are suggesting that parents avoid Trick or Treat this year and have a party instead. They don’t see a threat to the children, but know that even one broken Pixie Stick will cause panic. They simply do not have the resources to deal with the potential of unfounded fear that night.
It is certainly good to be aware of our surroundings, to be watchful and to report anything suspicious to the authorities. However, we should not live in fear. Fear feeds itself, increasing with every threat, even if the threat is not real. This fear is unhealthy, breaking down the physical defenses of the body as well as creating emotional problems such as depression. We become nervous and jumpy, often jumping to wrong conclusions and reacting negatively. Our fear then manifests in wrong action – violence, slander or hatred. Jesus knew this was no way to live, so He gave a great gift.
Read John 14:25-27
We live in difficult times. Our physical existence is threatened by the possibility of violence and disease. The anthrax and bomb scares are real and we should be on our guard. However, we must not let fear run our emotions. Where there is fear, there is no peace. The peace Jesus taught is not the type where two enemies get along. It isn’t about treaties or tolerance. It isn’t about warm fuzzies and lack of violence. The peace of Jesus is an inner peace, one that holds firm in trust and faith no matter what circumstances surround us. It is a type of peace in which there is no room for fear.
Jesus has given us the greatest gift, His Holy Spirit. He lives and dwells within us, to give us everything we need to live our lives in this world. We should be so deeply in fellowship with our Father that there is no earthly threat that would take away the peace that comes from life in Christ. Our character comes from deep within, and manifests in the way we deal with our circumstances. Today, are you living in fear or in faith and trust of your Father?
Charity Shortly after Princess Diana died in a car accident in Paris, an organization was established to provide funding for charitable endeavours. Princess Diana had made it her life’s work to be kind to the sick and the poor, to touch the lives and hearts of those less fortunate. People loved that about her and the fund was a way to remember her most wonderful quality. People from all over the world gave a tremendous amount of money to the fund. After a time, people realized that the administration costs of this organization were too high. The executives were paid high salaries. It took months of legal intervention to get the money flowing. Some of Princess Diana’s favourite charities were passed over, rejected for one reason or another.
At the time, people gave very generously to this fund, diverting their giving from their normal charities to give to the Princess Diana Fund. I remember hearing a story on the news that many organizations were not going to be able to meet their financial obligations because their expected income dropped radically. For those who were giving, they thought they were being good stewards of their money, giving to such a worthy cause. They were filled with pride for the work they did. In the end, a few people became wealthy, a few organizations got some money and many people were left stranded without the help they needed.
Many Christians feel it is their duty to give back to God a certain portion of their income to help God’s people. In actuality, there is no such thing as “Christian giving.” The Christ perspective is that everything we have is God’s. The issue is not our “giving” but rather our good stewardship of what God has provided for our use. The early church as described in Acts recognized this and they lived in community, sharing everything with everyone.
When the Israelites were settling in the Promised Land, David knew it was time to build a home for the Lord God Almighty. Though God would not allow him to build, because he had shed too much blood, God did appoint his son Solomon as the one who would build the Temple. David prepared the way, by gathering all the finest materials to use. The leaders gave extraordinary gifts of gold, silver, bronze and gems. The people rejoiced at their willingness to give so freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David also rejoiced and offered a prayer. He praised God in song.
Read 1 Chronicles 29:10-16
There are many today who are rejoicing at the great generosity that has been exhibited, and there is reason to rejoice. People are giving of themselves and their possessions in quantities that far exceed expectation. The Salvation Army and other organizations had to ask people to stop sending food, blankets and clothing because they ran out of room to store it all. However, in the midst of this joy there is a dangerous sense of pride. Many people, including Christians, have boasted about how much they’ve given, forgetting to praise the One who owns it all.
Everything we have, and are, is God’s. He is our Creator, our Provider, our Sustainer and our Redeemer. We have nothing of our own to give, but we have been called to manage His resources wisely. There is no such thing as Christian giving, but in His incredible grace God has trusted us with the building of His temple on earth. Our use of the gifts He has given, material as well as spiritual, will help draw others into the Kingdom of God. Thanks and praise to God our Father for His generosity and our Lord Jesus Christ for His life in us. May we always be good stewards of God’s creation, using it for His glory rather than our own.
Doxology Our family ends each night with a time of prayer. We gather in one of the children’s bedrooms, hold hands and say the Lord’s Prayer. We use the version that is most common among Christians, the one that includes the final line, “For yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory.” This line is not found in the text in the book of Luke and most scholars agree that it was a late addition to Matthew. It is called a doxology, which is a hymn of praise to God. Though it may not have been part of the original writing of the prayer, concluding our intercession with praise brings our focus back to the one who will provide the answers to our prayers.
The Book of Common Prayer and other such worship resources use a doxology that has been around since the 4th century. “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost: as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” These words follow the reading of the Psalms, bringing the fullness of God into the worship hymns of our forefathers. There are other appropriate times to say a doxology, such as before a meal or after the reading of God’s Word. In all things, it brings our hearts and minds into worship of the Lord God Almighty.
Are you ever convicted by the words you read in the scriptures, a devotional or by the message of a sermon you hear at church? There are times we all hear the Word of God and it rips through our flesh and shows us our true nature. This can be upsetting, bringing us into a sense of worthlessness, making it impossible to do God’s Work. But if we sing a doxology, a hymn of praise, we are reminded of the greatness and the glory of our Lord.
The last letter of the New Testament is the book called Jude. It is likely to have been written by the brother of Jesus or one of the apostles to Christians who had among their ranks godless men. Jude wrote to remind them of the destruction that came to those in the past who did not believe. He warned about those who followed the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. “These men are grumblers and fault finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their advantage.”
Imagine what it must have been like for those who received this letter and heard it read in their assembly? We all are guilty of these things at times, and those of pure heart would have been reminded of their own sin. Jude doesn’t leave it go at that, however. He writes a call to perseverance, reminding them of the Gospel and encouraging them to build their faith and keep from following the foolish ways of the godless. He then ends the letter with a doxology.
Read Jude 1:24-25
Jude gave them a reminder that it is God who will keep them from following the foolish ways of the flesh. If he had written only of the godlessness, the people would have left feeling unworthy to do the Lord’s work, however he reminded them of the true focus of faith.
When we share the Law, we must follow with the Gospel. When we show people their sin, we must remind them of the source of their forgiveness and strength to overcome. When we preach, we should follow with a doxology of praise, so that we can go out with hearts that are living in worship of the fullness of God. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost: as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Solid I received an email yesterday with a story about forgiveness. “A story tells that two friends were walking through the desert. In a specific point of the journey, they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without anything to say, he wrote in the sand: ‘TODAY, MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.’
There is permanence in rock. It is hard, strong, does not wear away easily. When a person builds a house, he chooses to build it on rock rather than sand. Rock provides a good foundation because it is stable. Jesus Christ is called the Living Stone, and it is important that we build our Christian life on that solid foundation. In Christ we become like Him, living stones being built into a spiritual house.
Read 1 Peter 2:4-10
The man in the story thought the actions of his friend was silly, so he questioned his friend. The friend has realized the importance of having a solid foundation for the goodness of life, and the futility of holding on to the things that bring us pain, anger or hate. So, he has learned to practice a life of forgiveness. In that life put the bad things in sand so they will be blown away, while writing the good things in stone. When we believe, we become part of something much greater than ourselves, the kingdom of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ died to forgive our sins, so that we might know the love and mercy of God. In that forgiveness, we become like Him, living stones that are part of an unmovable spiritual house. Are you standing firm on the Rock, or are you standing in the sand?
Press Conference For the past few weeks, the news media has focused their attention on our response to the attack on America. The actions of the President and other national leaders have been under intense scrutiny. There have been reports about the positive effects of the decisions made about military action and national security. However, as soon as something negative happens, the reporters gather like sharks on a feeding frenzy. They second-guess the decision and place blame. Hindsight is 20/20 vision. While it is good that we learn from our mistakes, it is important to look at our failure and apply it to the future circumstances without harping on the past.
The story in yesterday’s devotional focused on forgiveness. We learned that we should write failure in sand so that it will be erased by the winds of forgiveness. The man did not simply ignore the act; he wrote it in sand so that the truth will be made known. The man showed his friend that he was hurt. Also, if the two were walking along a busy road, many people may have read the words before they were blown away. He did not hold on to the pain. He spoke the truth and then let it go.
The latest issue that we have had to face in America is the people who are getting sick and dying from the anthrax that is being sent through the mail. The longer this continues, the more frightening it becomes for everyone. The latest deaths brought a volley of accusation from the media that the officials should have known. They have had to defend themselves, showing that their decisions were based on the best information available. They have also had to recognize that they failed. The lessons learned will be applied to future situations, and we can pray that there will be no further harm.
When it comes to our Christian faith, there are times when we make wrong decisions about how to deal with a situation. We answer perceived persecution with accusation and anger. We try to justify our actions based on our own thoughts rather than seeking the Word of God for our answer. We write the failure on stone and feed the desires of our flesh rather than granting forgiveness and seeking peace.
Read Colossians 4:2-6
The officials dealing with the attack on America are doing the best they can to do what is right and to provide the people with as much security as possible. The media is doing all they can to bring to light the problems with the situation so that we can learn from our failure. The actions of both are necessary to make the best of this situation. The difficulties arise when we write the negative in stone and do not leave room for change.
Paul was writing to a church that was dealing with false teachings. He laid down some guidelines to help the people live according to the truth of Christ. He set aside the negative to focus on the ways to positively change the situation. The passage instructs us on how to we should respond to the world. We should pray - seeking awareness and giving thanksgiving to God. We are presented with opportunities daily to share the Gospel of Christ. Are we making the most of every opportunity, allowing the Spirit to work through us? We must be prepared with answers, based on the wisdom of God. We do this through prayer and through the study of the scriptures.
May the grace of God be with you, so that everything you say will be like salt to those who listen, a proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. Thanks be to God.
Beheaded On October 25, c. 285 AD, two brothers were beheaded for their faith. They were named Crispin and Crispinian. They were Roman Christians who went as missionaries to Gaul. During the day the preached the Gospel, at night they worked leather into shoes earning enough to support themselves financially and to share with the poor. They ministered to the pagans who enjoyed their charitable lives. Many were converted to Christianity. Some of the pagans complained to the Roman authorities that hated Christians. Rictius Varus tried to dissuade them by offering them alternately great riches or death, but each time they managed to escape. He was so disturbed by their immovable spirit that he killed himself. Emperor Maximian ordered their beheading.
During their time of persecution under Rictius Varus, Crispin and Crispinian are recorded as saying, “Thy threats do not terrify us, for Christ is our life, and death is our gain. Thy rank and possessions are nought to us, for we have long before this sacrificed the like for the sake of Christ and rejoice in what we have done. If thou shouldst acknowledge and love Christ thou wouldst give not only all the treasures of this life, but even the glory of thy crown itself in order through the exercise of compassion to win eternal life.”
Crispin and Crispinian stood firm in their faith in Christ. They did not allow the terror or the temptation of this world to distract them from their work. Their actions were extraordinary, yet their words are ones we should all take to heart. Death has no sting for Christians who have the hope of eternal life, and the treasures of this world have no meaning for those of us who know what the Kingdom has to offer.
Read Matthew 10:26-31
October 25 is the feast day of these incredible men of God. Our world is filled with terror and temptation. Do not be afraid and do not fall under the burdens that this world holds. The Lord God Almighty loves you so much that He knows the minutest details of your life. He is with you, to guard and guide you to toward the fulfillment of His promises. When you face persecution - whether the world offers you the grandest riches or the most frightening death - remember the words of your Lord Jesus Christ, “You are worth more than many sparrows.” Thanks be to God.
Wheaton College The motto of Wheaton College, which is located in Illinois, is “For Christ and His Kingdom.” Wheaton is a center of Christian evangelical activities including the headquarters for the National Association of Evangelicals and the magazine “Christianity Today”. Billy Graham and his wife Ruth are among the many ministers who received their education at Wheaton. A man named Jonathon Blanchard founded the college in the mid 19th century. He was also involved in the foundation of Knox College. He was a staunch abolitionist and crusader for social reform.
In the book “Minority of One: A Biography of Jonathan Blanchard, Clyde S. Kilby quotes a prayer said by Jonathan when he was still a student. He said, “O my Savior God, deliver me from sluggishness on the one hand and from ambition on the other. May I do all I can do, and feel no more lifted up than if I did nothing.” Jonathon understood what it meant to be humble. It doesn’t mean that we should lack self-esteem, for we cannot accomplish our work in this world if we do not consider ourselves capable of doing it. However, we must remember that the work we do is not for our own selfish and self-centered purposes.
Read Philippians 2:1-4
So much of our time is spent wavering between our own sense of pride and an utter feeling of worthlessness. When asked about which law was the most important He said that we should love the Lord our God with everything that we are and our neighbor as ourselves. We love God by putting Him first in our life, by making Christ the center of our existence and keeping ourselves grounded in the faith that has made it possible for us to live in His love. Then we are bound together with others in that love, giving of ourselves because it is what God wants from us.
There is a difference between selfish ambition and self-esteem. It is not possible for us to give love to our neighbor if we do not love ourselves. This love is not one of pride and self-centeredness but rather of caring for one’s body, heart and soul. We cannot love our neighbor and provide for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs if we have no concern for our own. If our bodies become filthy or unhealthy due to lack of care, then we will not be able to provide the necessities to help our neighbor be clean and healthy. If we allow people to step on our feelings and destroy our reputations, then we are not able to help others know the truth of who they are in Christ. If we let Satan steal from our spirit - taking things such as our faith, trust and joy, then we are unable to preach the Gospel to those who need to hear the Word of God.
It is a fine line between pride and that utter feeling of worthlessness. However, when we live in the life of our Lord, we know that we have been given the gifts necessary to do the work He is calling us to do. We are made worthy by His life in us. If we remember the source of our life and center it on "Christ and His Kingdom," we'll stay humble while continuing to be all that we are called to be. Thanks be to God.
Lightning Bolt Vicki’s school had a fall festival yesterday. It was a way for the PTA and the different clubs to earn some money to use for special programs. There were food booths and games of all sorts. The kids got a kick out of trying to ring the bell with the big rubber mallet, finding their pitch speed, and ringing the bottles. There were games of strength, skill and intelligence. I ran a game called Lightning Bolt. There was a metal rod with bends at sharp angles connected to a very loud buzzer and a metal wand with a loop at the end connected to a battery. The object of the game was to move the wand down and up the rod, with the rod in the middle of the loop. If metal touched metal, the contraption made an loud, annoying noise.
Since I was there early to help, and there were plenty of helpers, I had time to practice with the game. By the time the children came to play, I was very skilled at moving the wand down and up, making the task look very easy. Every child received a prize, a piece of candy, whether they accomplished the task or not. However, there were several kids determined to beat the game. It was interesting watching them try to solve the puzzle.
Most of the children thought it would be best to hold the wand with two hands, to give themselves more stability and to keep from shaking. However, when they reached a sharp bend in the rod, they had no flexibility to make the wand go around the curve. They did not consider the geometry of the game, holding the wand in a direction that made it easier to see, but gave them very difficult angles to maneuver. Also, they kept their muscles so tense that every movement was an overreaction, causing them to hit the rod with the wand. They were amazed that I could do it with such ease. What they did not realize is that it was because I was relaxed that I was able to do it.
By the time Jesus walked on the earth, the temple leaders had made the Law of Moses a very strict set of rules to keep people holy and righteous. They had a very firm hand on the lives of the people, making living in the Law a burdensome task. One day, Jesus and His disciples were in field and they were hungry. They picked some heads of grain and ate them.
Read Matthew 12:2-8
The Law was never meant to become a burden, but rather to help the Israelites live as they were intended to live. The spiritual purpose is to bring condemnation so that we will know we need a Saviour. In this story, the Pharisees were talking to Jesus, the One greater than the temple. He is greater because the temple was designed to be a shadow of the pattern Moses saw on the mountain, which was Jesus Himself. Yet, to the Pharisees, it was more important to obey their interpretation of the Law, a sacrifice to the people that caused them to sin.
With the Lightning Bolt game, it was much better to use knowledge of angles and stay relaxed when trying to win. When I realized these facts, accomplishing the task became natural and easy. The same is true with the Law. We need to understand the purpose of the Law, which is to show us our sin so that we’ll turn to the One who is our Redeemer. When we rest in Him, living the Law becomes a very natural response to the love and mercy He has shown us. Thanks be to God.
Best Friend Gordon MacDonald, in his book entitled “Restoring Your Spiritual Passion”, writes that the apostle Paul had a great need for friendship. “The apostle Paul was clearly a man committed to raising up a band of special friends. He knew who they were, and he regularly recognized them for their contribution to his spiritual passion. His friends were a resource upon which he obviously depended and without which he would not have survived.”
Though we may be blessed with many friends, there are usually just a few that we consider our best friends. As someone once said, “A real friend is someone who walks in when everybody else walks out.” Our best friends will be honest when we need correction and will be present when we need comfort. They know us so well that they can almost read our minds and tell us what we are thinking. They will stop us from doing something stupid and encourage us to do the right thing. Even when we make a mistake, they are quick with forgiveness and slow to remember our faults.
I have my own circle of friends upon which I depend and without which I would not survive. Bruce is my best friend and husband, who keeps me grounded in love. Debbie encourages me and helps me to write sound doctrine. Vic is my web partner and without him this ministry would not exist. Loren is a spiritual ally who is always ready with a prayer, scripture or word of truth to help me through the day. They all know me so well that they can lift me out of a slump when I’m down or knock me off the mountain when I’m feeling a little too proud. They love me through my pain, anger, fear and doubt. They are gifts from God for whom I am extremely grateful. Bruce, Debbie, Vic and Loren – thank you for your love and everything you have done for me.
It is a blessing to have friends who stand with us and help us through this life, but even our relationships with our best friends are imperfect. I have had other friends over the years that have been lost to the ravages of time and sin. We have grown apart for one reason or another, contact broken and never restored. Childhood friends take different paths, school friends move away. Arguments create irreparable damage and walls are built that separate us forever. We do not know what may affect our relationships over time. However, there is one relationship that will stand forever. He knows us better than anyone.
Read Psalm 139:1-6
The love of our Lord God Almighty is greater than any we can receive from our earthbound friends. He knows everything about our life, even before we know it. We cannot hide from Him. He created us and laid our path before us. He gives us everything we need to live in this world, His life and word. We can go to Him for whatever we need. He will guard and protect us; He will mold and guide us. He is our best friend, on which we can depend and without which we would not survive. Thank You, Lord, for your love. Amen.
Seal During our years in England, we had the chance of seeing some incredible things. We saw the original Doomsday book, the census taken just after William the Conqueror invaded England. We saw Stonehenge, the 5000-year-old mysterious pile of stones on the Salisbury plain. In some of the cathedrals and castles, we saw ancient furniture and other artifacts, including original illuminated bibles and other important documents.
In June 1215 a constitutional charter was written at Runnymede. The barons were tired of being excluded from the government and of the high taxes imposed by King John to finance his wars. John rejected this agreement, but the barons signed this document and it established the way for a constitutional government in the future. Our own Constitution used the Magna Carter as a model.
At the time, forty-two copies were made, one for each region of England. Today, only four survive. Two are kept in the National Archives in London, and are not available for public viewing. However, there are two copies that you can go see, on in Salisbury and on in Lincoln. We saw both of these copies during out travels. Each of these documents was handwritten on vellum, signed and then sealed.
In today’s world, we most often seal a document by placing it in an envelope or container, which is locked in some way. The only way to read the contents is to break the seal. The Magna Carter and other ancient documents were sealed in a different way and for a different purpose. The agreement between the barons long and needed a very large piece of vellum, and each was different because there were several scribes with unique handwriting. Every copy needed to be made and kept identical, which is difficult in a world where there is so much greed and hunger for power. So, the text was written on a larger than necessary piece of vellum, so that the entire message would fit. Unfortunately, this meant there was room left at the bottom where an unscrupulous leader could add more text to the agreement.
To guard from this possibility, the document was sealed. The leftover vellum was folded until the bottom edge lined up with the last line of text. Then a hole was punched in the layers, a cord tied through the hole, and a piece of clay pressed against the cord. The clay was marked with some design to identify the parties involved in the document. Even if the clay was broken and the cord untied, it was still impossible to add to the text because the fold and the holes in the vellum would reveal tampering. With this type of seal, everyone was able to read the agreement, but nothing could be added to the words and requirements listed.
Read 2 Corinthians 1:20-22
Christians are documents, written by God and meant to be read by the world. He writes His Word on our hearts, so that the Gospel will shine to the lost, the sinners who need to hear about God’s redemptive promise in Jesus Christ our Lord. He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit; the design of that seal is the Cross of Jesus. Nothing can be added to the promise or taken away. No one can attach any requirements. What God has spoken is true and has been answered in Christ. We agree to the promise so that God will be glorified; yet it is God who makes and keeps the promises. We have been sealed for eternity, by the sign of the cross and with the Spirit to keep us until the day when we receive the fullness of what is to come. Thanks be to God.
Bully Our local television station is doing an in depth news story about bullying. The story today was about a young boy who has been picked on for several years, and was at times too frightened to go to school. The bullies waited for him, threw things at him and hit him with books. He never knew when he left for school if he would return home unharmed. He was not physically strong, which is why the bigger boys used him as their punching bag.
One day, he decided to do something to change the situation. He signed up to perform in a talent show at his school. His talent was to show his skill in jujitsu to the students. He did not enter to win the contest, but he wanted the bullies to see that he could defend himself. He won second place, got the prize for the most popular act and earned the respect of those who had beaten him for so many years. He could have used his talent to harm the bullies, but he decided there was no value in returning evil for evil.
When we are harmed by the worldly actions of the people who surround us, we are very tempted to seek revenge in the same manner. When someone attacks us physically or with words, we tend to fight back. When someone questions our faith or commitment to Christ, we do the same to him or her. Yet, this young boy realized that it would be fruitless to return the violence. So, he showed his power without harming another, and received thunderous applause.
When it comes to our Christian walk, we need to expect that we will be bullied by the world. They do not understand our perspective or attitude, so they will do everything they can to put us down or make us like them. However, our life in Christ should be different. We are commanded to love our God and our neighbor. Jesus taught that we should love our enemy and do nothing to bring him or her harm. Jesus taught that it is better to suffer persecution for the Gospel than to turn to the ways and methods of the world.
Read 1 John 5:1-5
The boy who was bullied overcame the world, not by fighting it, but by showing his gifts. As Christians, we are to obey God, live by His commandments, and show the world our gifts. The world will continue to disagree with our perspective. They will bully us because of our love. They will beat us to make us act like they do. However, the work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ has overcome this world and its foolish action. Those of us who believe in Jesus Christ no longer need to live according to the ways of this world, but according to the love and commands of God. When we do so, the world will see the light of Christ and they will know we are Christians by our action.
Halloween Halloween was always one of my favourite holidays. I had fun decorating, creating costumes, trick or treating. When I was younger, I pulled some pranks on my neighbours, such as tic tacking (throwing field corn at the windows). I used to love visiting haunted houses, and I even helped design a few over the years. It is still a very popular holiday. More and more people are decorating their lawns as they do at Christmas. There are orange twinkle lights and props of every sort available to create your own autumn wonderland.
My attitude has changed significantly over the years, as I grew closer to our Lord Jesus Christ. I came to realize that Halloween was about death and evil. Witches and demons are not cute even if you make them cartoons and put a smile on their faces. Death is never something to celebrate, particularly the wicked and violent death portrayed in the costumes and decorations that are for sale in the stores. Halloween has become the second most popular holiday and this is evident as you visit the retail stores and drive through the neighbourhoods. People are creating graveyards in their gardens and have ghosts hanging from their trees.
How do we, as Christians, deal with this holiday? It is nearly impossible to avoid. Most schools have some sort of party with costume contests. In our last school, the children were required to create a costume based on a storybook character and they had to write a report about the book. It was good that they made the fun into a learning experience, yet there was no way to avoid it for those who preferred not to be involved in the holiday. The children enjoy dressing up, visiting their friends’ houses and getting treats. Is it necessary for us to avoid these things to be Christian?
Jerusalem in Jesus’ day was not the most pleasant place to live. The Romans and the Jewish leaders oppressed the people. There was political unrest. In terms of faith, the people were burdened by an interpretation of the Law that made it difficult to live. Their leaders were hypocrites, saying one thing while doing something different. They were poor, tired, afraid and without hope. When Jesus walked on the earth, He gave them a sense of peace. But then He died, leaving them confused and angry. After the Resurrection, Jesus spent time with the disciples to prepare them for the new life they were called to live.
Read Acts 1:2-8
It must have been a temptation for these men to run from Jerusalem, the place where their Lord was murdered and where they were already feeling the sting of persecution. They were afraid and doubted their own ability to do the work. After all, it seemed as though even Jesus failed, how could they possibly do any better? Yet, Jesus encouraged them to stay, to receive His gift and to do His work. They were to be witnesses in the world to share the Gospel and teach the truth.
We are called to do the same in the world in which we live. We are tempted to hide from the things that we dislike about this life, yet what sort of witness is that? Instead, we should do everything in a way that glorifies God. Open your doors to the trick or treaters and witness to them by sharing the love of God and the light of Jesus. Decorate your yard with things that celebrate life; carve your pumpkins with symbols of faith. Pray for those children whose costumes and those families whose yards glorify evil. Ask God to open their eyes to the danger of such a focus. God has blessed you with life in this world for a purpose, to be His witnesses. There is no better day to do so than a day when Satan thinks he’s getting all the attention. Give glory to God; share the name of Jesus today. Amen.