Thank You Son

"I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" Philippians 4:11 NASB 

I have thought a lot about our conversation, son, and wanted to add a few additional thoughts with you. 

You mentioned that it has been bothering you that it is easy for those who have everything to talk about God's love and blessings, but for those who have nothing-not so much.

I've come to understand that each of the Lord's children has a different road to travel because our Father knows best and knows what is needed for each of His children to pass through. Life is but preparation for heavenly shores.

One thing came to me after our talk- Paul had no family, home or comforts. He experienced prison, stoning, medical problems yet, be had learned to be content in whatever condition he found himself, whether hungry or full.

Philippians, the fourth chapter reveals this reason for his contentment was simply his personal relationship with Jesus. This overcame all of life's changes by trusting faith in His savior's love and wisdom about what was best for him come what may.

When concern overwhelms focus on what our Lord suffered on the cross to pay for sin and suffering as He conquered death.


Dear Lord help us to remember that You are the way, the truth, and the life and to come to You when we are heavy laden. Thank You, Amen. 

Dr. Bob, AZ

Surving The Storm

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Matthew 8:27 (NIV)

As I read the familiar story of the fierce storm in Matthew 8, I reflected on my handwritten notes.

It was only about three miles across the lake; they weren’t expecting a problem. We usually aren’t expecting problems when they arise, are we? This was huge—I wrote “mega” next to the storm’s description. I've had “mega” storms; I imagine you have also.

His disciples, all experienced sailors, were terrified, but Jesus calmly slept through it all. He had been teaching all day and most likely was exhausted. I was a middle school teacher—I have an inkling of how he felt.

They couldn’t handle it any longer and woke Him up, probably yelling at Him over the storm to wake up and do something. “We’re going to drown!” They were certain it was the end. I’ve felt like yelling that at Jesus now and then.

I can imagine Jesus opening His eyes and calmly saying, “Stop—be still!”--and the fear and wonder of the disciples. At first, they didn’t think He could do anything, but they woke Him up anyway. Then, when everything instantly stilled, they couldn’t believe it. “Who is this man?” must have reverberated around that small boat. How often have we turned to friends with questions about our lives and disbelief at the outcome—either good or bad?

It's easy to empathize with the disciples. They went through a full spectrum of familiar emotions. They didn’t yet understand that Jesus could take care of them in any type of storm, physical, mental, or emotional. 

The passage ends with: “Even the wind and waves obey Him.” My notes: “Lord, make me like the wind!”

Lord, help us in the storms of life to look to you, to depend on you, and to obey your commandments. Amen.

Sharon, Arizona

The Lasting Value of Joy


So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 8:15 NIV)

The clamor of four jubilant boys like stairsteps tearing across the parking lot caught my attention. The youngest, two, maybe three, lost his footing in the rush and was on the verge of tears when his mother just scooped him up and set him upright. Undaunted, his celebratory mood returned and he caught up with the other three and climbed inside their SUV with them.

The whole while the father, a muscular, fit man was unloading the groceries into the open hatch. Theirs was a picture of perfection to me, so happy to be on vacation, so caught up in the moment. I smiled. 

Only then did my eye follow the father returning the shopping cart to the cart stand. What I saw surprised me. He was wearing a prosthetic leg below the knee. I didn’t know if he was a wounded veteran of an amputee because of some rapacious form of cancer. Does it really matter? He and the rest of his family knew the secret of finding joy in the here and now in even the simplest of tasks, like a trip to the grocery store.

I think the reason I found their unbridled joy so infectious was it spoke to the part of me where memories of my own family’s summer beach vacations sat dusty and unattended. Like that family, there were four of us kids. Towards the end of his life, my father told me every night of our annual week’s vacation he would count his money to make sure we could make it through another day.

We always stayed in a modest cottage and my mother cooked nearly all of our meals. It was a no-frills affair every year, but it was one we all lived for. Somehow, my father, through sheer ingenuity managed to weave adventure into the fabric of our days, transforming ordinary pastimes like a picnic lunch served from the back of our station wagon into memories I wouldn’t take anything for. It was good to see the magic is still there for the picking.

Every family has its challenges. My mother struggled with mental health issues all of her adult life and it was all she could do to see to it the simple bare necessities were taken care of. There was no extra energy for affection and interaction with us four on a personal level. So my father stepped in and tried to do the hands-on parenting for the both of them.

Regardless of our circumstances, God didn’t intend for us to go through life in sackcloth and ashes. He knows the value of taking time off to recharge and enjoy ourselves and he doesn’t begrudge us having that time. Some of our most meaningful memories are made during those times, ones that solidify the family unit and help us learn the value of a life well-lived. 

Dear Father, Please help us to be ever mindful of the role joy plays in our well-being. Amen.
Carol (NC)

At Face Value

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (I Corinthians 4:5 NIV)

My late husband was constantly trying to read my face as an indicator of what was going on with me internally. What I thought was a blank face, he interpreted in a variety of ways and his speculation only served to worsen my mood. When I am preoccupied with the mechanics of my life, you can read it in my demeanor. There are people who can project happiness whether they are or not; I struggle with whether this is a virtue or simply artifice.

In my family we disparage this as being “an act”, the implication being such people are less true to themselves than those whose faces betray them. I confess I envy them the luxury of being able to hide behind a mask. I suspect in their public lives at least, they are generating less fallout to be held accountable for than those of us who don’t go to all that trouble. 

The ones who masquerade behind a forced smile are subject to different kinds of repercussions than those whose faces we initially think are more inscrutable. Instead of being confronted with an endless string of “What’s the matter with you?” questions like I faced at home, they are met with suspicion and resentment. Each posture is a form of adaptation to guard against further pain and rejection. Each has its downside, but it isn’t up to us to sort it all out.

While we may think such guesswork facilitates a better understanding of those we encounter, it isn’t our responsibility to ascertain whether their outer personas accurately reflect the state of their inner man. That formidable responsibility falls to God and fortunately for us, he is more merciful in his judgments than we are. God finds in each of us something to value beyond the superficial and we would do well to copy his example.

Dear Father, Please strengthen us to withhold judgment of others and to extend mercy in its place. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Attitudes Grow


"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the works of His hands." Psalm 19:1 NASB

I have learned a lot by closely watching nature.

Before I began paying more attention to nature I often forgot that God, in creation, gave another revelation in addition to His revelation in His written Word, the Bible. It is interesting that in Psalm 19, The Spirit of God's inspired words mention the revelation found in nature before He mentions the written Word.

Of course, this order should not surprise us as Romans 1:20 reveals: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood by what has been made, so they are without excuse.

Harmful attitudes are like harmful bushes that grow at an alarming rate if they are allowed to grow. Much of a successful Christian life is produced by being a gardener that consistently monitors his or hers heart's garden and pulls out the weeds before they can grow.

Prayer: "Dear Lord help us to be good gardeners as we go through Life. Help us to have clean hearts and hands so the Holy Spirit can grow His healing fruit in our lives. Amen."

Dr. Bob, AZ 

Be More Kind


Hebrews 13:1-2,"Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (NIV) 

I haven't really been as kind as I should. However, I often commit myself to be more kind as the day goes by. Our question today is whether we know how much a simple act of kindness may mean to someone. I realized that the other day I boarded a public van. My little sister and I were headed to a remote place that had few vehicles due to the impassable road. The vehicle was full. I sat on the remaining space holding a heavy luggage I had. My sister had to get a space to stand on.

As the vehicle drove through the hilly, curvy road, I could see her struggling to balance in the squeezed vehicle. She looked at me with her tired, innocent eyes expecting a response. I felt a deep pain since there was nothing I could do. A certain lady pitied the little girl, took her and held her. What a relief I felt seeing the smile on my sister's face. I literally cry when I remember that incident.

I realized that God expects us to show kindness to people including a stranger. In this busy world, with lots of evilness, as the child of God, I need to be the light. Even when people don’t seem to appreciate, I do it because that's what God expects of us.

Dear God, thank you for reminding me to be more kind. Show me the people who need my help today. Grant me a heart that cheerfully displays this kindness to your people. Amen

Doreen (Kenya)

Practical Advice


Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Prob. 3:5 KJV)


My father was known within our family for his fitting quips, many of which were gleaned from his knowledge of the book of Proverbs. Authored in most part by King Solomon, son of David, it is treasured for its wisdom and timelessness. Recognizing that it was full of practical advice concerning the predicaments we, imperfect people, are always finding ourselves in, my father drew from it to introduce levity into many situations; but at the same time, he was using the sayings to coach us in some life lesson.

When he wanted to advise us in keeping our tempers he cited Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” When the topic was friendship, he was likely to say, “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). To jar us out of a bad mood the chosen adage was “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 15:13). My own personal favorite probably came up more often than it should have when he found my mother to be particularly vexing. It is taken from Proverbs 21:9. “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.” It may not be politically correct, but it was good for breaking the tension.

The findings in this collection speak to our modern sensibilities in surprising ways. A cautionary word concerning the perils of pursuing a dissolute lifestyle, featuring some colorful imagery can be found in Chapter 23: 29-35 (NKJV). To a world where so many people are litigious, Chapter 25: 8-10 (NKJV) offers legal advice. The case for a strong work ethic is made in several places, notably in Chapter 24: 27, 30-34 (NKJV). 

God didn’t intend for us to be set adrift in a threatening world without guidance. He knew we would wrestle with pragmatic issues as well as spiritual ones and he provided relevant instruction for us in the words of Solomon. Finding humor in them like my father did is to be expected, but underneath the surface of these brief soundbites is a current of plainspoken wisdom not to be overlooked.

Dear Lord, Please accept our petitions to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Amen

Carol (NC) 

Just One Thing

 

"I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5 (NKJV) 

I have been met with a smirky little smile several times when I have quoted: "Without Me you can do nothing."

Sitting in my office one day interviewing some new patients, that a pastor had referred to me, I made a wrong assumption. As they were evidently Christians, I thought we were on the same page in regard to our need for Jesus' blessing to accomplish good things. They had a broken relationship that lacked warmth and friendship. The husband was a "I don't need anyone else" type of guy. Of course, this attitude left his wife feeling she wasn't needed and their problems spiraled from there.

He had written a book that was going to be published in the then near future. I was happy for him and mentioned the Lord's gracious help to each of us. He didn't want to hear about needing Jesus as he was as proud as a peacock. Thus, his smirky smile. He didn't realize that without Jesus, His children cannot bear kingdom fruit. I don't think he cared as all a peacock wants to do is to spread his tail and strut.

He didn't understand that there is only one thing God's children need to do each day: all a Christian needs to do each day is to rest in their relationship with Jesus and He will produce what this world needs- Kingdom fruit. 

Dear Lord help us to realize that when we trust You to produce fruit through us- we will be fruitful. In Your name, Amen.

Dr. Bob. AZ

Never Retire


The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” Psalm 92:12-15 (NIV)

I work with a ministry that provides chapel services for retirees who come to the Arizona mountains to escape the summer heat. Last week one of our pastors preached on Moses’ life. Exodus 7:7 (NIV) tells us that “Moses was eighty years old… when they spoke to Pharaoh.” Then he led the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years. Deuteronomy 34:7 (NIV) ends his story: “Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.”

Moses would have fit well into our ministry. Over the years, our pastors’ ages have ranged from 60 to 90 (one year we had a retired missionary who started working with us at 88). Our director is in her 80s. She’s finally retiring this year after 27 years in ministry. They are all wonderful examples of Psalm 92:14 (NIV): “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.”

After my husband died, I prayed for a ministry and now, at 75, I will be the next director, one of God's senior saints, continuing in His service as long as he allows. I doubt he’ll extend my life to 120 years, but I hope I will continue to “bear fruit and stay fresh and green” until the Lord calls me home. As our Director says, “There’s nothing in the Bible about retirement.”


Lord, help us to serve you until the end of our days in any way we can. We pray for strength, both physical and mental, to be able to use our days on this earth to glorify you.

Sharon, Arizona

Appearances Can Be Misleading


For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)

Several months ago after work one night when I hurried through a large discount store in my annual search for tax software I became frustrated and tired of the long walk thru that big box store; so when I saw the telltale vest and badge worn by their employees on a man coming towards me I jumped at the chance to ask him for directions. When I looked up to greet him face to face, I was flustered to learn he was handicapped and wondered if I was putting him in an uncomfortable position. For some reason, with my question tumbling from my mouth I didn’t catch myself and stumble over the words but plunged on ahead. As he moved towards me I saw he had a slow, uneven gait and when he struggled with forming the words of his response I struggled with him to hit the right balance between allowing him the extra time he needed and not letting on that I was thinking anything out of the ordinary was happening. 

It soon became apparent he was the right store employee to have stopped, as he was very knowledgeable and congenial. Of course, I picked that inopportune moment to admit the software he was pointing out wasn’t the brand I was seeking. Kindly, seeing my dilemma and no doubt, the tired look on this old lady’s face, he suggested we look in another aisle. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the item I was looking for there either. At this point, he volunteered that he did his taxes online for free.

Magically he had put me at ease so I confessed I wasn’t brave enough to do that as I was prone to make mistakes. We both laughed and he followed up by saying “Everyone does that occasionally.” “Yes, but I do that more than most,” I ventured and with a brief thank you, our conversation came to a natural end, not petering out awkwardly like I am known for. He gets all of the credit for that. It was apparent he was more self-assured and comfortable in his skin than I am in mine and had a gift for putting the other person at ease. Clearly, I had a lot to learn from this young man.

So many times we prejudge people based on the superficial when a few moments in their company would educate us on what they have to offer. Jesus had an affinity for those that society was quick to label “different”, as He always made time for them. When we shy away from them just because we feel awkward, it is more to our own detriment than theirs. 

Lord, May we strive to see others through your eyes, looking to the inner man, instead of making snap judgments based on outward appearance. Amen

Carol (NC)

Not Just Semantics


If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness 1 John 1: 8-9. (KJV)

“Repent---the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” These may sound like the words of some pulpit pounding evangelist, yet they are the first recorded words of Jesus ministry in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. The word “repent” may strike us as being anachronistic as in many of our churches the Gospel preached is heavy on love and peace, with the notion of “sin” shuffled to the back of the sermon order. But why would Jesus have launched his ministry with this message if it weren’t a crucial factor in our relationship with him?

When confronted with our misdeeds we are prone to stumble over the word “repent”, but Christ makes it clear that confession is a prerequisite for forging a life with him at the lead. We have the same reservations about using the word “sin.” We dodge the truth by saying we were wrong, or that we made mistakes or had errors in judgment or suffered moral lapses, all just dilute substitutes for the real word---sin. It isn’t any less true simply because we like to think of ourselves as more refined and self-aware than Christ’s audience.

If we want to pursue a life with him, we are asked to humble ourselves like children and he, in turn, like a parent nudging her child to admit wrongdoing, asks us to repent. Priding ourselves on being thoroughly modern men and women we struggle with such an old-fashioned concept. We will go so far as to apologize and undergo the momentary discomfort that carries with it, but repent---doesn’t that imply we are guilty of something bordering on the criminal? Or in the very least hint at the existence of some heavenly judicial hierarchy that we are uneasy about appearing before?. Surely many of us are convinced we have nothing more than petty sins on our accounts if indeed someone is keeping score.

There is a delicate dance of sorts that exists between our maker and his progeny, just as there is between us humans and our children As any parent knows, any apology was given solely because it is expedient, coaxed, is half-hearted and no apology at all. A wise parent will make her case, prick her child’s conscience, and then leave him alone to reason with himself.

So similarly Christ doesn’t insert or insinuate himself into our decision making when it comes to owning up to our sins. He puts the invitation to us; it is poised between us like a dance partner beckoning us onto the dancefloor—it is up to us to accept or refuse.

Our Father, Please help us to understand the far-reaching impact of your gracious offer of salvation. Amen.

Carol (NC)

My Life and My Car

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2, KJV).

I drove a used car that compares to my life.

The misused car had sticky food left by children, and pieces broken off the dash could not be found. Driven for so long on empty, the fuel pump didn’t work. Like the car, my problems started many years ago. I did not like sharing toys with my sister. Because I got my way for so long, I became mad when I didn’t. I didn’t automatically say “Hi” to people, so I became unlikeable. I thought everyone hated me.

My daughter, a mechanic, bought the car not working. She installed a new fuel pump, new window motor units, and other things. Just as the car didn’t work properly, Jesus bought me when I was still in sin. The Lord found me and began cleaning my personality. He installed more compassion for even people in the grocery store. Like my bad habits, the car has re-occurring problems. My daughter works on them, and I go to my Fixer of bad habits for help. 

My daughter doesn’t worry about how it looks, and God doesn’t expect me to be perfect either. The car (now getting nearly 30 mpg) and I both are running better than we used to. I looked forward to giving up the car for a better one. God and I both are looking forward to giving up my flesh for a glorified body.

Prayer: Thank you for your Son Jesus so that we can enjoy life better and know You will not leave us in corruption.

Bonnie, Kansas

Lost in a Store

Look up and see:
who created these?
He brings out the starry host by number;
He calls all of them by name.
Because of His great power and strength,
not one of them is missing. Isaiah 40:26(HCSB)

When I was young I think the scariest time was when I was separated from my parents in a store. I looked for them down some aisles, but they were nowhere to be seen. Eventually, a kind store worker saw my dilemma and took me up to the front where my parents were paged. 

Now I don’t get so frantic when life gets scary, because I know that the same God who knows all the stars by name is the same God who has the power to change my circumstances. If He has not changed anything, then I must continue to look up and believe there’s a reason behind the delay. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned, a trait to modify, or mindset that needs to change. Do you believe that God’s power will work for you? If there’s a delay in His power, are you willing to believe there’s a reason? 

Prayer: Father, I confess that I tend to look at my problems too much and I don’t look up enough. Please, may the same power that created the stars work things out in my current situation for my good and your glory. Amen


Caleb (Wisconsin)

A Homogenized Life

 

"May the God of peace sanctify you wholly: spirit, soul, and body." I Thessalonians 5:23

Many years ago, during the 40's and 50's, fresh milk was delivered daily to my families' doorstep.

As a lad, I was amazed by how the pasteurized quart bottles had cream at the top, which my folks used for their coffee; a skim milk, which we fed to the cats; and, a middle milk, which we used on our cereal. Once homogenized milk became the fad in the 60's, I was disappointed by the cream being equally mixed throughout the milk. I had drawn the conclusion that keeping the cream at the top was better. I was wrong.

This childhood lesson taught me a very valuable principle that has helped me understand life and serve the Lord.

I finally understood that failing to find a balanced/homogenized life frustrates the life of freedom in Christ, and this binds a person. "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled with the yoke of bondage." (Galatians 5:1) In salvation, God creates a condition of liberty, or freedom, for the whole person: spirit, soul, body. ( I Thessalonians 5:23)

Stand fast in the freedom from bondage Christ has given you in the new birth.

Let's pray together: "Dear Lord, thank You for Your designs. Help us to be thankful for and healthy in our spirit, our soul, and our body. We need Your Spirit's help to find a powerful integrated/homogenized life. Thank You, Amen."

Dr. Bob, Surprise, AZ 

Lasting Treasure



Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6: 19-21 (NKJV))

If you go looking for Jesus, the Savior, you will find He isn’t one with a flashy smile, a showboat who peddles parlor tricks like an amateur magician as do so many people who try and speak for Him today. He did not shy away from the performance of miracles when the need arose: He turned water to wine, He fed thousands from five small loaves and two fish, He calmed a turbulent sea with a few words. But He wasn’t an egotist who sought glory for Himself. Instead, even though He knew His stature in the universe, He still humbly submitted to His Father’s will. Jesus was not a shill for His Father, hawking cheap potions for fake cures. He was a faith healer, to be sure, but in the truest sense. He healed the blind, the lame, the leper---He even raised the dead. But He was in His true element when He looked into and healed the soul. Think of His treatment of the Samaritan woman at the well, or of Peter, when after three denials, whom He was willing to forgive over a casual breakfast of fish on the beach.

He preached a gospel of love, for God and for our fellow man, not one of sewing a seed of faith in the form of a financial pledge. When the subject of money was brought up, He valued the widow’s mite much more than silver dropped into the temple coffers by the elite. He knew the tentacle-like hold money could have on a person. That is why the story of the rich young man who came to Him in search of the way to inherit eternal life is such a poignant one. He admitted he had followed all the ten commandments to the letter. Yet, when Jesus confronted him with the most important one, of giving all his worldly goods away to the poor in order to follow the Lord and prove his singular allegiance to God, the young man withdrew in sadness. 

If you search for Jesus, rather than making a financial investment in a prosperity ministry that boasts outlandish returns, why not invest in something far more dear to God, like Mary in the Gospels, by spending time at Christ’s feet? Your return will be more rewarding. In fact, unlike material success, where your satisfaction will always be fleeting, spiritual rewards are enduring. Matthew, the tax collector knew this, and Zacchaeus learned this lesson as well. They are both memorialized in Scripture for trading in a life of shady deals with vast monetary rewards for one of faith and service. 

In our fast-paced, commercially driven world, it is easy to mistake acquiring the latest style or gadget as a means to satisfy the constant need that gnaws at us from within. But true peace cannot be found online or in a brick and mortar store, but in a life of simple communion with Christ. And better yet, it is free!

Blessed Jesus, thank you for bearing with us when we make self-centered choices and for showing us a better plan for our lives. Amen.

Carol (NC)

Our Father Knows Best

"If you endure chastening, God deals with you as a son." Hebrews 12:7

Looking back over my life, I have rarely valued the hard times more than the enjoyable times. I must confess that this is a commentary on the lack of spiritual maturity I have possessed.

Many Christians can testify that the best times in their lives have not been the most pleasurable times, rather the best times were when they walked one painful step at a time holding Jesus' loving hand. In His presence, they found more than they ever imagined.

It was somewhat of a shock to me when I learned about the potential found in the Father's chastening (or child training) when I passed through what my attending physician described as:"you have been given a divine reprieve to a death sentence, enjoy it".

Spirit-controlled believers often feel, contrary to human reasoning, blessed and thankful for the refining pain of earthly tragedies. They have learned that the Lord's love and presence are often easier to experience when the things of this world grow dim. Knowing that it is because of his love that they are being taught, they cling to Jesus. The difficult times of this life are proof that they are loved: "The Lord chastens those whom He loves." (Heb. 12:6)


"Dear Lord, help us to look back over our lives and see in the sands of time only one set of footprints where you have carried us through our sorrow and pain. In Your name, Amen." 

Dr. Bob, AZ

The Power of a Hug

And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:47 NIV)

Our last pastor was a hugger. Every week he stood at the open church door after the closing hymn and welcomed each person who passed through with a heartfelt, personalized hug. The line was always long and slow-moving as nearly everyone was eager for their turn to be blessed. I am ashamed to say at times I groused at how long it took for the congregation to be processed through, but I was as motivated as anyone for my free hug. I suspect I am not alone in saying that more often than I care to say, other than the occasional handshake, this was the only physical contact I had with another human all week long. Some of us were widows or widowers (for our pastor didn’t shy away from offering his hugs universally to men and women alike), some of us were in a transitional phase between relationships, or worse yet, I imagine there were even those among us who poured out their love all week long, receiving little or nothing in return. Whatever the case, we all appreciated the mission this young man was on to improve the quality of our lives, if only for a passing moment.

Our church no longer has the benefit of this young minister serving among us, but I have noticed an uptick in the warmth within our congregation as we struggle to fill the void left by his absence. Last Sunday I witnessed an outpouring of welcome I doubt I would have seen prior to our young minister’s tenure. A man who was clearly down on his luck was drawn into a warm, inviting hug by one of our ushers. This brought to mind our pastor’s message to indiscriminately welcome others into our midst who don’t fit into our mold. While we have never given outsiders a chilly reception, we are guilty of being somewhat reserved. Our pastor’s example exposed our need to be more inclusive. I suspect losing him jolted us out of our complacency. 

The best leaders do so by example and their influence is a ripple effect that bears witness of them long after they are gone. Sometimes their methods are unconventional and go against tradition, but if we follow their lead of offering comfort wherever we see that it is needed, we will be drawing from the best within ourselves and in God’s world this behavior will not go unrewarded.

Dear Lord, Help us to broaden our reach and offer your warmth to those we may consider to be outsiders, not only as a church but on a personal level as well. Amen.

Carol (NC)

My Manna

"...He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna..."
Deuteronomy 8:3, NIV

What is it, Lord? 
I question what You've brought... 
I had an idea of what it should be
but this isn't it, it's not... 

What is it, Lord? 
I don't recognize it at all... 
what is this that's been given, 
from Your hand it did fall..? 

What is it, Lord? 
I am struggling to process, 
l think of the mystery You gave
to the Israelites in the wilderness... 

The provision that You choose
that would be their nourishment
even if they didn't understand
but on and on it went... 

Are you asking me, also, 
not to complain but to receive, 
to trust what Heaven determines
for the feeding of my needs...? 

Then, Lord, so be it, 
may I trust what comes from above, 
may I not need You to explain
and may it taste like love. 

Cindy (GA) 

"...to the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna..." (Revelation 2:17, NIV)

My Demanding Past

"For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death." II Corinthians 7: 10 NASB

I was sitting in my office chair one morning asking the Lord what He would have me learn that day. Praying Samuel's prayer from long ago: "Speak Lord for Your servant is listening" (I Samuel 3:9), I felt my heart relax and a peace that passes understanding flooded my soul.

My heart kept going back to what we had seen with a group from our church the previous evening. We had seen the popular movie "I Can Only Imagine". My heart was led to the subject of repentance (or turning away from).

Repentance is at the center of an honest confession of our sins that enables forgiveness. I was being taught that there is a sorrow that is the will of God that leads to deliverance, because it produces an abhorrence of the attitudes and choices we had that led to our sinful condition.

Tears came to my eyes as I identified with the star of previous nights movie, an abused young man in his inability to forgive his father even though the father had found salvation later in life. My wife joined me as I cried, I tried to hide my tears, she didn't. My sorrow turned into deliverance without regret as I finally forgave my Dad.

"Help us Father to not be as spoiled children who accept Your forgiveness without giving that forgiveness to others. In Your Son's name, Amen."

Dr. Bob, AZ

A Safe Bet

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does (Psalm 145:13 NIV)

In a certain sense, we are all gamblers in life. If we are to forge bonds with others, regardless of the type of relationship, we must go all in if we are to be successful at it, taking our guard down long enough to know and be known.

Unfortunately, all some of us learn when we take the risk of trusting another person on a deep level and are betrayed in return is that we don’t want to put our most precious feelings on the line like that again.

This reluctance to commit may transfer to our relationship with God as well. Opening our hearts and minds to an ongoing communion with God involves a certain element of risk taking too. Only when our eyes shed the scales that keep us from seeing ourselves as God sees us, do we cast about for spiritual fig leaves to cover our shame. We fear we may be exposed as imposters, unworthy of the trust Christ has lavished on us. If we don’t get beyond these feelings of guilt and self-accusation, we risk leading lives that are stunted and distorted, falling far short of the glorious lives Christ has envisioned for us.

God knows what courage it takes to break from the comfort of a life of complacency and self-interest in order to make this new beginning---one promising hardships and challenges, and a level of commitment that far exceeds any of our earthly relationships. Yet he also guarantees us peace, joy, and a camaraderie unlike any we will find in what the world has to offer. We may not reap the money or prestige that sadly, as a society, so many of us have come to equate with a wise and successful wager, but we will know the complete satisfaction of a life well-lived. Going all in on God is the safest of all bets. 

So let the world see you living like a winner because if you have given your life to Christ, you have made the decision of a lifetime. After all, He has promised us an afterlife in which there will be “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying….no more pain.” (Rev 21:4 NKJV) What earthly pursuit can make such a promise and deliver on it? Trust God---He is unwavering, unchanging, and His words ring true.

Heavenly Father, Please help us to realize trusting you introduces us to an unparalleled closeness, one which will never let us down. Amen

Carol (NC)