The Power Of Ashes
There is a story of a pastor of a country church who was visiting with one member of the congregation who, over time, had become less and less a part of the congregation. They spoke of many things that affected the parishioner but when the pastor steered their talk back to participation in the congregation, he was met with silence.
As he was leaving, the pastor stopped by the stove that heated the member’s home. Taking the tongs that hung by the stove, he plucked one, and only one, ember from the fire and sat it on top of the stove.
The following Sunday, the pastor looked out over his congregation and there seated in the back was this long-lost member.
What happened to change the mind of this member? Perhaps, it was watching that one ember that the pastor had removed from the fire die out when it was there by itself.
A true story? Who knows? True or not, however, it does illustrate the fundamental truth that as Christians, we need the community of others to keep our “ember” of faith alive.
Scripture: Matthew 18:19-20
A few years back, there was a popular movement that went by the name – “What Would Jesus Do?”. We don’t hear this phrase anymore, as like all popular movements, it has run its course. However, it did ask this question: is my action consistent with what Jesus taught, i.e. is it consistent with God’s will for me and those whom my action will touch?
While the movement no longer exists to the degree that it once did, the question that it asked is still pertinent. Are our actions, and those of our leaders, consistent with God’s will?
There are two separate events told in Genesis that illustrate this point.
Jacob and Esau were two brothers with widely differing talents and gifts. The elder, Esau, literally went to war with his brother. Yet, they eventually managed to reconcile their differences and move forward with their lives.
The interaction of Joseph and his brothers tells a similar story. Jealous of their brother Joseph, the older brothers sold him into slavery. Yet, Joseph who eventually obtained great power over his brothers chose not revenge, but love in addressing the wrongdoing done by them to him.
The point? It’s simple. We must learn to both listen and forgive. Jacob and Esau were able to do this as was Joseph. Perhaps we should be the example to our leaders and show forgiveness for those with whom we differ.
Scripture: Genesis 25 and following
Take Care Of Your Marriage
Marriage is one of God’s gifts to His children. It’s like a fine wine that ages well with care and nurturing. With each passing year it can become more robust and full-bodied, or it can spoil, turning to the sourest of vinegars.
So, what does it take to care for and nurture a marriage? Well, not only does God give us this institution of marriage, He also teaches us how to take care of it.
He tells us that a wife should be submissive to her husband; not as an inferior to him but as a partner in the marriage. He goes on to tell a husband that he should love his wife as Christ loved the Church, placing her welfare first in his life above all else. Still not done, He tells a wife that she should respect her husband, the implication being that he should be deserving of her respect.
If both of you can accomplish this, then your marriage will sweeten and become more robust and enjoyable with each passing year. It will take some work and possibly a change in focus, but it is worth the effort. Why? Because you will be living according to His will for you; finding a peace that can be found nowhere else.
Scripture: Ephesians 5
Hugged Your Family Today?
Did you hug your children before you left for work today? How about telling your spouse that you love him, or her? If you don’t have children or are not married, did you tell a friend how much you value their friendship?
If you didn’t, you missed a wonderful opportunity to strengthen your relationships with them. Perhaps you were just too busy or something else had your attention. Yes, this happens to all of us at one time or another. However, can we ever justify being too busy or too distracted to focus for a few moments on a loved one? Just maybe your day would have been better if you had taken the time to tell someone how much you love them.
It’s a good thing that God is never too busy or too preoccupied to tell you how much He loves you. Even when you don’t think that you deserve it you do, for His love is unconditional!
Give it a try this week and see what happens; you might be surprised.
Scripture: John 3:16
This Year, Whose Time?
Who will control your actions this year – the world, you or God?
On the surface the question seems trivial but it’s not. We do well when we operate according to God’s plan for us but not so well when we allow ourselves and/or the dictates of the world to control our actions and how we spend our time.
The issue here is two-fold. The first is discernment. We have to know His will for us and we do this by asking for it in prayer. The second is patience as we wait for Him to unfold that will.
So, how did you do last year? Was it a year of seemingly constant struggle? If so, then why not try a different approach? Try making God a part of your plans and see what happens.
The New Year
By now the Thanksgiving turkey is gone, the Christmas presents have been unwrapped, and you’re running on “empty.” If Thanksgiving and Christmas were not enough of a drain on your energy reserves, after the New Years celebrations your tank may well be dry.
The holidays, however, are worth the energy that they demand. You’ve had an opportunity to give thanks for what you have, to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and welcome in the new year.
As you’re resting, it’s a good opportunity to think about what you’d like to get accomplished in the coming year. Will this year be just a copy of the last, or will you make changes?
Here’s a suggestion as to how to approach the question. Take a look at your priorities. Do they reflect God’s plan: Him first, your family next, your friends and then everything else.
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 3
Happy New Year
The Office of a Wife
One of the most devastating events in life is divorce! It is a difficult and painful time, not only for those involved but for loved ones as well. Nothing is ever truly right for a long time after the failure of a marriage no matter how much each partner is at fault.
There are many ways in which divorce can be prevented. The most important among these is how a husband relates to his wife.
Scripture tells us that she is to submit to her husband and to respect him. Scripture doesn’t stop here however. It lays an even greater responsibility on her husband. He is to love her and care for her as Christ loved His bride the church. Even though she is not perfect, a husband must place her above all other things, above his own wants and desires just as Christ did for His bride. He willingly gave up His own life so that she could stand before God pure and blemish free.
When a husband can do this, then he makes it possible for her to willingly obey God’s will for her in the marriage.
Scripture: Ephesians 5
Life In The Balance
There is no doubt that we live in difficult times. There are forces, sometimes self-imposed, that tend to throw us off balance. We’re living and breathing but that’s about all.
So why is this? How have we let our lives get so out of control? Perhaps we’re chasing after the wrong things – things that we think will bring peace and contentment but can only fail to deliver.
Jesus spoke of the danger of doing this. He said that man cannot served mammon (that which separates us from God) and God at the same time. He further said that if we attempt this, we will wind up serving one and hating the other.
He’s saying that we can’t have everything. We are free to decide which one, but serving both is out of the question!
So, if you find yourself just existing then perhaps you need to decide – mammon or God. Who should I serve and why? A little prayer might just be in order here.
Scripture: Deuteronomy 5
Two thousand years ago, God fulfilled a promise to His children that He made at the time of their fall from the Garden. Their first parents disobeyed His one command that they not eat from the tree at the center of the Garden – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Well, you know the story. They disobeyed, they sinned, and as a consequence they were ejected from the Garden and the entrance was blocked by an armed guard. They brought sin into the world and man has suffered from it, never able to break free of it.
God’s love for His children was absolute and unconditional. However, He knew that even though He wanted them to be with Him for all eternity, they were incapable of cleansing themselves of their sin and thus could not be with Him.
In order for them to be with Him, He gave them the gift of salvation in the person of Mary’s child Jesus – Son of God and Son of Man. Her child was the only acceptable sacrifice that could atone for the sin of His children.
At Christmas, we give gifts to those we love; a small token of the gift that He gave to each of us. Just like the gifts that you receive at Christmas that are addressed to you, the gift of Jesus was also addressed specifically to you from the Father.
Scripture: Luke 1 & 2
How Large Is Your Plate?
A question that each person must constantly ask is: how large is my “plate” not in terms of that amount of food that the dinner plate can hold but in terms of how I can use my time and talents.
It’s not uncommon to take on too much in the way of commitments. After all its just a little request, and I can tough it out for a while. We tend to forget at times that we need to prioritized our resources in order to remain healthy.
If we don’t, or are unwilling to do so, then something has to give way. All-to-often its relationships with family, loved ones, and God. We allow one, or more, of our relationships to suffer thinking that we can go back later and repair the damage; but do we?
The solution is a simple one – reduce the size of your plate. Prioritize what needs to be there and be selective as to what can, or should, be added. Allow nothing on that will result in something more important to be pushed off.
Need help in doing this? Go to God in prayer.
Scripture: Exodus 20:1-17 (noting the order in which He presents His commandments.