Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Grinch stole Christmas?

We have all heard of the Grinch who stole Christmas and I have not talked to anyone who admits to being his friend.  He is rather universally recognized as the one who steals what we love about Christmas ...

Let me do a little play on words ... yes.. the Grinch steals the joy of Christmas but what if we allow a 'Grinch' to be our in-house guest all year round ?   And give him not only the joy of Christmas but also the joy of every day?

Who is this 'Grinch' ?  We know him by the name of Grudge.

We have all entertained grudges at some point in our life, I'm sure - but maybe you never realized what a destructive thief a grudge is.

Who doesn't love babies ?  They are such adorable little joy-givers - that one smile just melts your heart. Who can walk past a fresh-faced, wide-eyed baby in the grocery aisle and not smile and coo at them?
For those of us who are mothers we know all about carrying them for nine months, then bearing them -giving birth, then holding them close and nursing them  - giving them the nourishment they need to grow and flourish.

Now consider the key words in my comment about babies -- and see how we use all of them when we refer to grudges.

  • we carry a grudge 
  • we bear a grudge 
  • we hold a grudge 
  • we nurse a grudge 
What does that tell us ?  Think about when you first held your newborn.  It immediately captured your all-consuming attention and became a 24/7 focus and priority, did it not?   Everything else in your life was decided upon only after you considered how it would affect your baby. The child's well-fare - truly, his very life- depended on you. The responsibility was huge. 
Other needs became secondary to the needs of your child.  No penny spared, no effort too costly. 
And .... how many sleepless nights did you endure trying to pacify your restless child?   

Hmmmm ...   all too applicable to that 'grudge' we hold so dear, are they not?   

A grudge has a 'feel-good' aspect to it, because it makes us feel justified - we have been ill-done-by and we are entitled to being vindicated. We can't just let the offender think he did nothing wrong! 
Once we 'bear' a grudge, we hold it close and nurse it in our thoughts and through sleepless nights when we focus on the offence over and over and it grows as we nurse it. What we may not realize is that we can't really hide a grudge - just like the baby in the grocery aisle, our grudge shows where others can see it. 
Yet... what does it do for US?   Like the Christmas Grinch,  it steals our joy, it steals our peace, it steals our love and its steals our contentment and our thankful heart.
And most importantly of all, it steals our sweet relationship with the Lord.  

We read in James 3:9,  "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!"   (the Greek word translated 'grumble' is also translated 'grudge'. )

Jesus also speaks to our human weakness to carry grudges. 
In Luke 6:37 He says ... "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

So often a grudge is based on a faulty judgement on our part and we withhold our forgiveness without just cause. 
Someone wise once said that if we walked in someone else's shoes we would probably do the same things they do. 
A person might offend us with a sharp remark or criticism but we are unaware that their day has been filled with unbearable pain. A person might respond or act in a way that wounds or angers us because it was totally uncalled for, inappropriate or extremely hurtful ... but if we really knew or understood what caused them to do what they did, would we judge them in the same way we did?  

We hold our children tight and are fiercely protective because we know no one else can or would care for them they way we can.  We feel the same way about our grudges. We feel if we let them go, justice will not be served, the guilty one will go free unpunished,  we will be left as the victim, paying the price,  and the guilty one rewarded. 
But we forget ....  letting go of a grudge sets US free and returns to us the 'good things' we let that grudge steal from us.   But we are not abandoning our 'baby' any more than a teen-aged mother who gifts her child to good adoptive parents.  No .. .when we 'give up' our grudge we surrender it to God who  will not only be our defender and healer  but will also make sure that righteous judgement prevails.  If I forgive someone's offense against me, I set myself free, but I do not set them free before God.   
Consider this ... do you want God to judge you according to what other people say or think about you?  Or would you prefer that He judge you according to how HE sees and understands you.  I know I prefer to stand before God without any accusers. Should I not extend that right to others as well?  When we let God judge those who have hurt us, He does not make the mistakes we make when we judge others. 

My Challenge --  Let us celebrate this Christmas season without any Grinches or Grudges in our home or heart.


From my heart to yours --  
May you fully enjoy the blessings of Christmas and experience the love, hope, joy and peace our Savior's birth gifted to the world.  .   


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Melchidedek - a Type of Jesus

In a court of law if a person is charged with 1st degree murder, evidence must be found to prove the crime was premeditated. Should there be a lack of evidence the charge would have to be dropped.
For God to say that He knew the end from the beginning, and that His plans and purposes were indeed “From the foundation of the earth” (Rev. 13:8)….  then He would need to provide evidence of ‘foreknowledge’.  
Since the spiritual kingdom is not physically visible - our God cannot be seen with our physical eyes nor his works proven by physical laws, God had to find another way to provide  undeniable proof that He is indeed who He says He is  and that His promises are based on infallible proof of His ability to perform them.  And because He sits above time and knows the end from the beginning it was easy for Him to use types, foreshadowing, prophecy in His scriptures that would prove to us that we indeed have been given the TRUTH and we can trust every word that comes out of His mouth.
God’s creation is so infinitely detailed that scientists are still a long way from understanding all that creation is … and the more they discover the more they discover they do not yet know or understand and they discover  to a greater and greater degree how detailed our physical world is.
Would He not be as infinitely detailed in His word?  That His word would be an unparalleled work forever unmatched by any other book written or produced?   The more I study God’s word the more I find to amaze and delight me and show me how much deeper I can still go !  And in the same way that every one of the details and laws that rule our physical earth are needful and important (whether we understand them or not!)  so also every word of God is important …  and has meaning for us.
 Some of us were raised by ‘old school’ parents who followed up our ‘why’ questions by the standard… ”Because I said so!!!” and  -consciously or not  - we tend to transfer that experience to our perception of God.  And yet God is not like that at all.  
Our God is invested in revealing that He alone is God, that His word will always stand the test of time and come unscathed through all scrutiny. 
He truly wants to dialogue with us, reason with us, speak face to face - even as He did with Moses - so that we will have an answer for anyone who questions us. 

The more we dig, the more we find how true our God is and how absolutely amazing!  
The Bible is written in such a way its content and the way it is recorded provide all the information we need to understand who God is and how we are to live in  His kingdom. 
(see I Cor. 10:11, Rom. 15:4, Heb.1:10, Col. 2:17, Luke 24:25-27)
  One way that God provides ‘evidence’ that He indeed did premeditate the end from the beginning is by putting ‘types’ in the Old Testament. 
 A ‘type’ is a person who by some aspects of his life or character point to Jesus who is the ‘anti-type’.  A ‘type’ is LIKE the ‘anti-type’ it is pointing to.  
So a ‘type’ is a person who is always in the Old Testament and points to the ‘anti-type’ who is always in the New Testament.  
Some types are ---
 Moses -- (Hebrews 3:1-6)   God said He would send someone LIKE Moses Deut. 18:15 -- obviously pointing to Jesus who LIKE Moses ‘would be faithful in all His house’.
Adam --    I Cor. 15:45-49  --   Adam - the first man is LIKE Jesus in that both of them did something that passed on to all people  ---  From the first man Adam, we all received physical life , and also inherited a ‘sin’ nature that condemns us with Adam …   Adam points to Jesus whose substitutionary death gave us spiritual life if we are ‘born in him’ …  So from one we received physical life / condemnation but from the Second Adam, Jesus, we receive eternal spiritual  life / salvation.  As surely as we received from the first Adam , we can have confidence that we also receive from Jesus.
King David -- David was LIKE Jesus in that He was a King after God’s own heart and ruled over his kingdom … God promised in I Sam. 7:16 that David’s throne would be forever ….  Pointing to Jesus who was indeed a descendant of David and His throne is forever!!  Several times Jesus is referred to as “the Son of David”  
Joseph --  while Joseph is not noted as a ‘type’ of Jesus, he so obviously is as I have found 56 ways Joseph is LIKE Jesus …  as in neither have ‘any sin’ attached to them … and both sold for pieces of silver. 
So in our scripture of focus -- Melchizedek is another type that points to Jesus  --  in the ways he is LIKE Him…  
1.    Melchizedek  - His very name means “King of Righteousness”   …  Jesus is our King of Righteousness ….  (Heb. 7:2 , I Cor. 1:30)

2.    Melchizedek -- King of Salem --  Salem is the old name of Jerusalem and means ‘peace’ … and Jesus is our King who is our Peace and He rules  the Heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22)

3.    Melchizedek --  served Abram bread and wine ….  Jesus’ gave His body as ‘bread’, His shed blood ‘wine (Matt.26:28-28)

4.    Melchizedek --  has no mother, no father, no genealogy , no beginning or end…  in this he points to Jesus being more than a ‘man’ - that He was truly God come in the flesh  , as God having no mother or father or genealogy or beginning or end …  a very important LIKE that this Melchizedek type shows about Jesus … it is ‘key’ that we know Jesus, while having walked among us as fully man was also fully God !

5.    Melchizedek - a Priest of the Most High God -  a priest that was not from the tribe of Levi (all Old Testament priests had to be)  Here Melchizedek is LIKE Jesus in that he was of a different kind of priest …  Jesus was not a priest according to the old order of the law, but of a higher order .. a new order that allowed for there to be a change in the law … Had Jesus been a priest of the Old Covenant order then we would still be under the law …  but now we are under the New Covenant of grace that Jesus established in His kingdom!

6.    Melchizedek - blessed Abram who had the promises of God --  so Jesus blessed us who have the promises of God …. 

7. Melchizedek received tithes from Abram …  without this detail we might wonder who was greater, Abram who was chosen by God to be the one through whom God would from His nation … or this Melchizedek who was a priest living somewhere in Abram’s area and time.
But Hebrews tells us  - so we are left without doubt -- that the one who receives the tithe is greater than the one who pays it, and the one who is greater blesses the one who is lesser.  (Heb. 7:4 and 7)
So we see that Jesus is pointed to as being the greater -- the one who blesses us, the one to whom we owe our ‘all’ ...not of what we have ‘earned’ but to give back to Him what we did not earn .. (Micah 6:8)
Note - that Melchizedek did not receive tithes from what belonged to Abram but rather from ‘the plunder’ that was in his hand 

8. Melchizedek - the only Old Testament character who was BOTH priest and King … in that he was shown to be LIKE the coming Jesus who would be both High Priest and King ! 

9.  Melchizedek --  lived before the law , therefore not under the law to obey the law …  in that he was LIKE Jesus in that Jesus came to fulfill the law and bring in a NEW law ...that freed us from the obligations of the law ..and put us under the law of ‘love’ that defines the obligations of the New Covenant. 

So we can see the evidence shows that Melchizedek is a type of Jesus and points to what God foretold that the Messiah would be LIKE.  
Not a single person in the Old Testament believed that the Messiah would be other than a man  called and chosen by God, as other godly men had been, so it is important for us today to see that God revealed thousands of years before Jesus was born,  that the coming Messiah would be GOD in human flesh and offer His body as 'bread and wine' for our salvation..  

Interesting to note that even today, there are still many who believe that Jesus was a righteous man but was not ‘God’. 
If they would but look at the ‘evidence’ they would see that it would easily stand in a court of law!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A Character Study - King Asa

The King brought into the temple silver and gold articles that he and his father had dedicated to God. There was no more war until the 35th year of King Asa’s reign. (This story continues with a set of images at entitled ‘King Asa fails to trust God and faces conflict’). – Slide 21

I love character studies - looking deeper than the physical description of what makes a person visually recognizable.  Digging deeper into what defines their character and how that determines their choices and decisions is much more interesting and revealing.
And when the character studies are bible characters we have the advantage of God's opinion which far surpasses even the most perceptive analysis by any human being even though they knew the character personally.

There is a reason we have a record of the lives of many Bible characters.  We may judge them favorably or otherwise, but always we can hold them up as a mirror to our own life and learn from what we are told about their failures and/or successes.  Taking a look at what God praised and what God judged as 'evil' can be very enlightening in looking at weaknesses we commonly share, but too often are blind to recognizing them in ourselves.  Being willing to learn from others'  experiences, saves us  the pain and consequences of missing the mark in our own life.

One Bible character that I have looked at recently is Asa - one of the kings of Judea.  I find him especially interesting in how he reveals a character flaw that I think tempts most of us ... and, hopefully, looking at his life will insulate us from following his example.

Asa was born in a time when God's people indulged in following the customs of the heathen nations around them, borrowing their gods and justifying gross immorality.    In the name of 'worship' everything was justified including orgies at the temples of the false gods they embraced, rejecting God and His commandments.

A quick look at Asa's family tree, to understand where he came from.

His grandfather was Rehoboam, who was Solomon's son and successor.

Rehoboam was a weak man, who followed his father's 'end-of-life' bad example. He has one 'good thing' reported about him in II Chron. 11:23 that  he was wise in dealing with his sons. Recognizing that being indulged in a lazy, affluent, unrestrained  life-style, as he had been, was not the best upbringing and so he made sure that his sons were given responsibilities and duties to preform. In other areas of his life he displayed his instability and weakness of character and God's opinion of him is ... "he did evil, because he fixed not his heart to seek the Lord." (II Chron. 12:14)

A huge influence in Rehoboam's life was his favorite wife, Maachah - who was the daughter of Absolum. Rehoboam was content to let her rule the Court.  She was 'evil' in that she leaned toward all the revolting practices of idolatry. (I Kings 15:13) She built altars to strange gods and to Asherah for her worship ceremonies, which Rehoboam did nothing to deter, even openly supporting her.

Rehoboam and Maachah had a son named Abijah, who - no surprise considering his parents - followed in his father's example and did nothing to encourage people to turn back to worship the God of Israel. All the evil involved with worshiping false gods, continued through his reign and his mother Maachah  real ruling influence in the court was not hindered.  She focused the people's worship on the degradation and moral evil  of the religious ceremonies held at the sacred groves and temples that she delighted in.

Abijah had a son named Asa - the focus of our study- who became King of Judah when his father Abijah died.
Considering his family heritage and the dominance of evil in and around him, it would be expected that Asa was strongly influenced to follow in that same direction.
But he didn't !
We are not told what influenced him toward the good.  Perhaps he was a sensitive boy who hated the wickedness connected with the prevalent  idol worship. Perhaps it was something randomly simple, a godly nurse that he had in his childhood?   Or something he read or heard of the God that had called Israel His people?  We don't know ...  but we do know that Asa in his growing up years made choices and decisions that molded his character toward godliness.
He was only twenty years old when he became king, but he showed wisdom that belied his youth.
He determined that his reign would be marked by an adherence to the 'old faith' and a  rejection of the idolatry and heathenism practiced by the three preceding kings.

He removed from the kingdom every trace of heathenism - as much as he possibly could, destroying the places of idol worship and removing the images and idols.
To be able to do this he had to first deal with his grandmother, Maachah. who still had influence and presence in the court.  He degraded her position and deprived her of all authority that she had exercised for so long, through both her husband's and son's reign. But no more - not on his watch !
God gave Asa a period of 10 years of peace during which he 'cleansed' the land of evil and focused on re-establishing a godly reign.

Then, came the day when an enemy army threatened his kingdom -   a huge Ethiopian army under the command of Egypt, Asa gathered his comparatively small army to meet his enemy..II Chron. 14:11 tells us that he prayed to God asking for His help and victory, a lovely prayer in which he acknowledges God's strength to help, and his declaration is of trust and reliance on his God ! It needed to be a God-work since only with God fighting for him could he possibly have won the battle.
After an amazing victory, he was  surely elated and relieved ! 
On his way home he was confirmed by God who sent  a prophet of God  to him with a message. The message was that he and his people were under God's favour and would continue to be as long as they continued to be faithful servants... to not be lax in their efforts but to be strong and determined !

That must really have encouraged Asa, since his desire was to serve God with all his heart , and to have God's praise publicly proclaimed must have been heady stuff.  Under his influence all of his kingdom loudly confirmed their intent to 'seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul.' (II Chron. 15:13)

When the northern kingdom saw what was happening in Judah, many came over to join them.
The king of Israel, Baasha, of course, was hardly pleased that 'his' people were defecting to the kingdom of Judah. He determined to put up a huge fortress (or wall?) at his southern border that would block the entrance into Judea and put a stop to the emigration from Israel to Judea. Baasha proceeded to fortify this position.
Asa realized that the enemy must be dislodged - they could not possibly tolerate having a hostile force in Judea, it was a threat to Jerusalem.
Asa knew that he had to do something but did not trust his own ability or the strength of his own army to defeat and remove the enemy at his border.

Something happened.
Asa to this point had 'done was right in the eyes of the Lord'  and the Lord had even sent a prophet to confirm to him that God was pleased with him.
He had 'prayed' about a previous battle,  and the Lord had answered and given him a resounding victory ... but now he seemed to forget that.  Instead of again calling on God's help, he sought the help of the Syrian king Banhadad, the most powerful monarch in the region.  He purchased his friendship with gifts of treasure from the temple.

Asa was again successful in battle, with Benhadad's help, and he tore down the wall that Baasha had erected.
On his triumphant return home, he was again met by a prophet of God, with another message.  But this one was not as favorable as the first.
The prophet, Hanani,  rebuked him for his lack of faith in calling Benhadad to his aid, instead of trusting God.  God told him he had done 'foolishly'.  (II Chron. 16:9)

He lost his temper with Hanani, who had effectively destroyed his pride in how easily and well he had gained the victory, without losing a single drop of Jewish blood.
But God saw a turning of Asa's heart - away from trust in Him to trust in the arm of man. Asa felt his success justified his actions.  His reaction is recorded in II Chron. 16:10)  He was angry!
He had Hanani arrested and thrown into prison.
About this same time Asa also "oppressed some of the people" (II Chron. 16:10)

And again, we are told in the end of his life he was 'diseased in his feet' and once again he did foolishly in seeking the help of physicians instead of asking help from God.
An interesting side-detail.  The meaning of the name Asa is 'physician' . At the end of his life he proved where his trust lay.

And yet. he was given the positive epitaph  that he 'did right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father"  and 'his heart was perfect all his days" ( II Chron. 15:17)  and it is said about his son Jehoshaphat, that "he walked in all the way Asa his father, he turned not aside from it, doing that which was right in the sigh of the Lord."( I Kings 22:43)

Asa died in the 42nd year of his reign - he was about 60 years old.

I think the lesson Asa would teach us today is how easy it is as we grow in successes to begin to trust in ourselves and our own ability instead of trusting wholly on God.

While no fault is found in Asa's deeds and his rule over Judea, it is sad that fault had to be found in his heart.  How sad that suddenly it seemed to him that there was no need to bother God when human resources were readily available to him.

If we are honest, are we not the same? 
Like, Asa, do we love to hear the praise and compliments and affirming messages, but then reject any message that doesn't sit well with us?  A message that is critical rather than positive?   If Asa had accepted the criticism it would have had good results in his life, would it not?  Sometimes we can learn more beneficial truths from criticism than from praise -- although, of course, the praise is always welcome!
Do we not call for God's help only if  we can't figure out something on our own?
The most precious thing we can offer God, in fact, the only thing He does not have if we don't give it to Him, is our trust in Him.  And scripture tells us that to God our faith is indeed precious. (I Peter 1:7)  God brings circumstances and trials into our life to test us ... how much will we trust God?  How solid is our faith in trusting Him to guide us in all our ways? 
We can trust God too little, but we can never trust Him too much !

Let Asa's life-story inspire us to not fall into the 'self-reliance' trap that moves our faith from being God-focused to man-focused or self-focused.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

"Don't do this ... Don't do that !"

Mother Scolding Child Image
The above image is copied  from a very old vintage catalog. Even in black and white the body language speaks loud and clear  !  

 The mother struck a match to light the candles on her festive dining room table.
She looked up to see the gleam in her 5 year old son whose wide-eyed attention was focused on what she was doing.  Replacing the match box in the cabinet drawer, she looked up to note the intensity of his gaze  riveted on the drawer as she pushed it closed. Knowing her son, she easily discerned his intent .
Wanting him to focus on the 'right' things, she said , "Bobby, there is a lovely set of trains in your toy box. Play with them, or, Call your little friend next door and ask him to play in the pool with you."

As experienced parents, we shake our head at her lack of 'mother-wisdom'.    Bobby heard not a word about the 'good commandments'  his mother gave him - his mind and will was focused on those matches and the fun he could have playing with them.
We easily guess the end of that story !

I often hear people complain about God's commandments.  "Why are they all so negative ?  'Don't do this, don't do that'."
God, being a wise parent who fully understands His children, knew that the human race was more inclined toward disobedience than toward obedience.  So He  gave His commandments from the perspective of our fleshly weakness.
We do wrong before we do right;
We sin before we seek righteousness;
We indulge the fleshly desires before we exercise ourselves in godliness.
We are selfishly inclined before we learn to consider others before ourselves.

How easily God could have thought - and rightly so - that man was sinful in all his ways, and whatever bed man made for himself he could just lie in it. 
No, we do not serve that kind of God.
God loved / loves every person  and desires the best for him.  So while He desires that we do right, He understands that first we will tempted to do  the 'wrong', so God gave us a list of 'wrongs' to avoid.
We try to hide our sin from others, and oft from God Himself, but if you read through His Ten Commandments, you will see that God knows exactly where our heart inclinations lie. He knows  the temptations that we so easily give in to. He understands the weakness of our flesh.

It is tempting to read through the commandments and soothe our consciences by judging ourselves not guilty -- especially of the 'do not murder' one.   But Jesus puts His finger on that one and points out that every murder is birthed in feelings of hatred.  And if we hate, we have already murdered in our heart. 
I recently gently chided a friend when she expressed her hatred for someone in her life.  She stopped for a moment, considering my admonition, and then replied, "Okay, I don't hate them, I just can't stand them."    We may smile - but wait -- are any of us really innocent?  Do we not all at some point or another just 'relabel' our emotions / feelings , even actions, and then declare ourselves innocent of disobeying God's commandment?

I find it so comforting - so freeing -  that I don't have to be afraid that God will find our what I am really like.  He already knows and loves me anyway.  That sets me free to rush into His presence where I will find the grace to grow more like Him.  Being in His presence turns me away from the sin 'that so easily besets us' and I desire much rather to  pursue goodness and righteousness.

 In Jesus' words ... "There is no other commandment greater than these ... Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength .....  and love your neighbor as yourself." Mark12:30,31
Love covers and fulfills every commandment God gave ...  the do's and the don'ts.
 If  we whole-heartedly love God and love each other  ... then there will be no cause for stumbling in us. (I John 2:10)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Gift ? or Gag Gift?

Two identical gift bags. One contains a useful gift, the other a gag gift.

I have never met anyone who does not get excited over a free gift or a good deal!
We are happy to be able to buy what we want or need, but if we can get a bargain we are over the top excited and eager to tell someone!

Why is it such a universal trait to be excited about a good deal? 

I believe it is written in our DNA make-up.  God has pre-programmed us with certain 'helps' to make it easier for us to live a fulfilling and productive life - to live in the way He created us to live. Even something as simple as appetite, a love of food !  God didn't want us to forget to eat and starve to death.

That we place a  high value on things we get free or at a bargain is another example of those helpful tendencies God put in all of us. 
 So that we would be able to value the free gift of salvation! Salvation - a gift so valuable that not  one of us could  begin to pay for it, not even if we worked for an eternity.

Like all of God's gifts to us, our love for freebies or bargains can be an asset or it can be our downfall. 

I needed thread for my embroidery machine and I found a wonderful 'bargain' on Amazon.  I was able to order forty spools of good quality thread for $34.00 including shipping.   Had I bought the same amount of thread at my local fabric store it would have cost me close to $400.00.  Of course, I'm thrilled with my bargain.

My granddaughter's friend , a single mom, is struggling to make ends meet.  She met a nice young man on line and thought he was a gentleman and trustworthy.  He was a business man and gave her a glowing report of his success.   He made her a tempting offer.  He promised if she gave him a few thousand dollars he could in a matter of a couple of weeks double or triple it.  She borrowed the money to give him, and ....  yes, he took the money and was gone.  The 'gift' was not as free as it looked, nor was it a bargain.  Instead of making her life easier, it became harder.

A friend of mine, who recently lost her husband, told me of her granddaughter who had gone to see a medium.  The medium, who had never met girl,  looked at her and immediately put her hand over her heart and said ... "Ohh .. you have had a loss! and purple amethyst is important to you."  - the birthstone of her grandfather. And she went on to tell her her grandfather was fine and was very happy where he was.
The sympathy felt so sincere ,  the message so comforting ...   BUT was it a free gift?  or was a gag gift - a trick gift. How could she know?

Often gifts and gags look equally tempting and appealing.  How do we tell the difference? Sometimes experience or common sense will enable us to make a wise choice ... but other times, how do we know which ones to accept and which ones to turn away from ?

We need someone who knows what is in the 'bag' before we open it.
 And, thankfully,  we have Someone who does, don't we?

We have a God who sent His Spirit to dwell within us,  who guides us through the maze of life choices. A God who gives us the wisdom we need to see beyond the 'pretty wrapping' of any 'free gift' offer. A God who knows what is good and what will cause us harm. Do we sometimes turn His voice off , and then, too late realize we made a mistake?

We also  have God's Word that is our handbook of instruction - how we are to live in a confusing world and make sense of it.  God's Word will keep us on the straight path and keep our eyes and ears open to discern the enemy's temptations and recognize his lies.
Keeping our focus on the Lord, and His word in our hearts and minds, will keep us from opening 'gag-gift' bags and will keep us in the blessings of His abundantly good 'gifts'.

Monday, July 9, 2018

A Thai Cave Parable

There is an ongoing captivating news story that has held the the world's attention for the last two weeks.

In Thailand, twelve boys and their coach were trapped in the depths of a cave, one-half mile from the surface and a mile and a half from the cave entrance.
Though it was monsoon season and the coach knew that cave conditions could suddenly change, he chose to listen to a contrary opinion, a weather report that did not call for heavy rain, and he decided it was safe to take the boys caving -  a post-game outing.
Anticipating the fun of a short day-adventure, the boys entered the many-tunneled cave. That day the unexpected happened, a sudden downpour and a flash flood quickly flowed into the cave blocking the only exit from the cave.
They were trapped  with no way of escape . Being familiar with the cave, they used the light from flashlights - whose batteries would soon die, leaving them in total darkness -  to find a shelf where they were high enough to stay dry.
The world outside watched the desperate attempts, of many volunteers, to find them, hoping against hope to find them alive.  Finally,  on the tenth day of intense searching, two English divers located them.
Incredible relief and joyful cheers reverberated around the world !
 But their ordeal was not yet over. Getting them out was not an easy task. One solution under consideration was that the boys would have to wait up to four months until the rainy season was over and the water receded enough for them to be able to escape safely.  Thankfully, another way of escape was found to bring the boys out in days, rather then months. The boys were taught the skills they needed to learn, and taught how to wear the gear to allow them to breathe underwater as scuba divers guided them out. At this time of writing,  four boys and their coach are still in the cave awaiting their turn.

I tuned in daily, watching, prayerfully hoping the boys would be found and rejoiced when they were all thirteen shown to  be alive.
As I followed the story,  I realized that it portrayed a parable of our spiritual earthly life.

Adam and Eve knew God's warning, but they chose to listen to a contrary voice and their fall caused a tsunami of sin that blocked man's relationship with God.  The people of the world sat in darkness, on an earthly shelf that allowed a measure of protection, but they longed to be rescued, to be taken out of the darkness.

I can hardly imagine the boys relief and joy when they realized that FINALLY they had been found - their fading hope now a reality.  When they saw the light of their rescuers, it must have been the most welcome sight !
So too, finally, when hope was dim,  our Saviour came , and the Light shone in the darkness of this world.

   “The people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”  

Joy unspeakable filled the hearts of God's people.  The world was watching and the news of the miracle spread quickly.

Though there was great rejoicing that the boys were found, their situation was still a dangerous one - they were still trapped in the cave.
So also we - even though we are found, even though we are saved  - we are still trapped in our earth-cave and we are oft confronted with danger and persecution and trials.
We will have to wait until, finally, death opens the tunnel that will allow us to escape this earth  - and into the heavenly life we look forward to.

But consider ...   once the boys were found, though they were still in the cave,  everything changed. Light shone in the darkness - they could SEE !   Doctors came  to evaluate their medical needs, food was brought in to restore their strength and renew their starving bodies. Blankets were brought in to warm them.  They were no longer alone, whatever they needed was brought to them and they were able to communicate with those from the outside.
So also with us.  Though Jesus came to set us free, we remain here on earth.
But everything has changed.  We are no longer alone, Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us Everything we need He will provide.  We no longer sit in darkness - we can SEE !
We are being watched by those outside the kingdom … “a cloud of witnesses”  who are cheering us on.  Our relationship with God is restored and we can communicate with Him in loving relationship.

The boys needed to learn new skills -- otherwise they would not be able to be brought out. They needed to learn to swim and scuba dive and mentally prepare so they would not panic when they became disoriented in murky water. They needed to become familiar with the equipment that they needed to wear.  They needed to trust their guides.
We too need to learn new skills if we are to persevere through the challenges of this earthly life.
We must learn to renew our mind, to embrace a  new way of living.
We need to learn to follow, even  in difficult life situations where we cannot see through the murky doubts that assail us.  .
We need to learn to trust even when we are afraid.
We need to put on the armor of God so that we will be equipped and be found strong  when death opens the tunnel,  ready for Jesus to lift us from this earthly life into His glorious Presence, where there is no pain or suffering or death  - but joy and pleasure for ever and ever !

Saturday, June 30, 2018

There is a Time - When

Ecc. 3:2-8
A comment from a friend prompted me to take another look at the oft quoted passage in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8  - the familiar list of  "There is a time to....'.

If you are like me, you have always thought of this list as a list of things that all have a proper place in our lives - a list of things God made on how to do life. Not unlike me making a list of household duties needed to be completed to have a clean, orderly home.

Perhaps we have only skimmed the surface in this passage - maybe there is more to it to understand and glean from it.

First, we note that this list is limited to things done  'under heaven' .
In Ecclesiastes the phrase 'under the sun' appears 27 times - always the reference is to earthly things. 'Under heaven' or 'under the sun'  point out that what is stated pertains only to this earthly life.
It is not a list that has anything 'eternal' about it. 

That this list in Ecc. 3 is prefaced by 'under heaven' we immediately know that this is not a list that God laid out as something that He decreed. 

But .. you might say ... it says "there is a time, a season" for each of the things in the list. Yes, true, but I looked at the Hebrew word translated 'time' and I saw something that added a new stroke of meaning. 
A big of trivia here to clarify.
Hebrew is a very efficient language in that it can say a great deal using a limited number of words. You need learn only 641 Hebrew words to recognize 80% of the  Hebrew vocabulary - unique words- contained in the Old Testamenttotal number of unique words  contained in the Old Testament.-  according to Rev. Dr. Walter Maier III, Professor of Hebrew at Concordia Theological Seminary, are 8,679 words)
To  understand 75% of conversational English you need 1000 words. 

The total number of unique words used in the Old Testament are 8,679 compared to 31,534 different words used by Shakespeare in his plays.

While fewer words means it is an easier language to learn, it also means that it is at times difficult to translate because each Hebrew word has multiple meanings determined by context or other grammatical details we don't have in English.

So ...  back to our word 'time'.  In English the meaning is straightforward,  but the Hebrew word can also be used to denote 'when' . 
This same Hebrew word used here in our passage is translated as 'when' in passages such as found in Judges 21:20 - "And it shall be, WHEN their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain.."
So maybe the first verse could be read this .... "Everything on this earth happens at a time or season, but not without a purpose ..." 
Then let's link this verse with the one in Romans 8:28 that says, "and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God..."

 Is God here saying that nothing that happens is outside of His knowing ? 
That He is aware of every good and bad thing that can and does come into our life, but He has already gone before?
Is this God's list for everything He is able and willing  to work together for good if we who love Him but put our trust in Him,  knowing He has a 'good end-purpose' for everything that happens in this earthly life?


Monday, June 25, 2018

First Entry - That's the Law

We have a park near our home. It is a pretty park surrounding a small lake. However, when visiting this park you do have to be careful where you place your feet because of the 'evidence' left by the  many Canadian Geese and ducks that call it home.

We spent some time there yesterday afternoon and enjoyed just sitting and watching the turtles, geese and ducks, many of them in families. The above photo was my favorite - a mommy duck with her lone little duckling. The duckling was very newly hatched and stumbled awkwardly over uneven ground  scrambling to follow its mother who slowed her walk to allow her little one to keep up.

Do you know that when a duckling hatches from its egg, the first thing it sees that moves is accepted as its 'mother' and it will accept no other?
One summer I hatched duck eggs, bought from a hatchery,  under a light.  The first thing the little ducklings saw was my moving feet and I was declared to be the 'mother'.  They followed me everywhere, and loved to snuggle up under my clothing, on my lap or on my feet. They quacked loudly if I was not in sight and refused to eat until they could see me again. Then they cooed contentedly, ate, and settled down, until I moved when they scrambled to follow as fast as their little paddled feet could go. My heart was so moved by their trust in me, their dependence on me and how unquestioned this attachment was.  It was a very fun summer, and I kept those ducks for several years during which they never lost their love for me.

God has placed so many picturesque lessons into nature to teach us of His ways and how we are to live in relationship to Him.
God has wired our brains in the same way as He wired the little ducks.  The very first information that we receive - on any subject - becomes our 'truth' and it is very hard to change. The first 'rut' is very deep and it becomes 'the law' by which all subsequent information is judged.

Since the mother duck is sitting on her eggs until they hatch, it is almost a given that the first thing the ducklings will see is their mother.  But if the mother duck is not there, the little duckling could be in real trouble as to who or what will move first in its line of vision and become the 'authority' in their life - be it good or bad.

This is why God gave the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:6,7
God was instructing His people regarding the commandments they would need to obey to live safe and happy lives in good relationship with God and each other.
This is what He commanded regarding their children.

  "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." 

The first thing the children were to learn was God's word, The parents  were to be so diligent in teaching them, it was to be the FIRST thing the children heard in the morning, and the LAST thing they heard at night , and the ONLY thing they heard as they walked through their day. 

Few, if any,  of us have grown up, or lived our adult life,  with God's truth being our first truth on every subject.  Those deep 'ruts of first truths' are often  dug by worldly opinion or advice or are simply self-determined.  
But all is not lost -  God has a plan "B".  He tells us to 'renew' our minds, to seek out that which is not God's truth and replace it with what His word teaches. 

 And do not be conformed to this world, 
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 
Rom 12:2 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

TV Game Shows and the Game of Life

Spelling Lesson Plan - Wheel of Fortune Activity from The Middle School Classroom on - (2 pages) - Using this lesson you can successfully implement the "Wheel of Fortune" game show with your class using the spelling words your students are studying.

This morning as I was flicking through the channels looking for the news, I clicked past Price is Right and wondered at how many years that game show has been on - still looking the same!   And I thought of two other TV game shows that have survived over the many years - Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.  The thought came to me that there must be something in those games that so appeals to human nature that they seemingly have no shelf life, but continue to hold the interest of the continuing generations those who watch them. (I did a quick google check and found that the above TV game shows  started  in 1975,1956, 1964, respectively) 

My thoughts quickly formed  themselves into something I thought could be post-worthy - using my observations as a parallel or parable to our Christian faith.

The creators of these three TV game shows obviously understood how people work - either they had a degree in human nature or had  a high degree of intuitive wisdom.  As I mentally compared these  successful game shows, one with another,  I came up with a list of eleven things they had in common and realized that they shared this list with with the Game of Life that the Creator of all things designed.

Let me list the aspects these three games have in common, and then for each draw a parallel to our own Christian  'game of life' -- (using the word 'game' as a generic word for something that must be 'played/lived out') 

1.  A HOST, GIVEN AUTHORITY   by those in charge -  to keep the game moving and to guide the contestants.
  • Game of Life - We also have Someone given authority -- Jesus - who guides us through life -following what is 'said and done' by the Father, 
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,
 "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Matt. 28:18  
"The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do,....: John 5:19 
"..."just as the Father has told Me, so I speak." John 12:50

2.  CONTESTANTS ARE CHOSEN  -- in all three games the participants are chosen out of many - choosing those who fulfill the requirements. 
  • Game of Life -  Here too the 'participants' are chosen  - those who fulfill the requirements.. a few out of many. 
"For many are called, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:14
"For by grace you have been saved (chosen) through faith, and that not of yourselves,
 it is the gift of God." Ephesians 2:8

3.A CHEERING SECTION .   In each game show there is a watching crowd of people - supporting, cheering. 
  • Game of Life -- we, who have been 'chosen' also have a cheering section, those who are watching and supporting us. 
 " Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses ...."
 " Hebrews 12:1

4.  EMOTIONS -  without emotions the game would be dull, so the emotions of excitement and anticipation run high in all the games. 
  • Game of Life  --  God never intended that man should be 'emotionless' ... but that emotions should be enjoyed !  
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ....." Galations 5:22a 
"Rejoice always !! "  I Thessalonians 5:16 

5. COMPETITION -- there is something in man that thrives with competition, maybe because competition pushes us to do our best !  
  • Game of Life --  Here too we find 'competition' but rather than try to be better than someone else we are to compete with 'ourselves' ..  running to win !  striving to be our best  - always comparing ourselves with Christ, whom we follow and whose example we pattern our life after. 
 "For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."  II Corinthians 10:12
there is still the competition to better ourselves, comparing ourselves with Christ's example ..
"....  let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." 
"He that says he abides in Him, ought himself also so to walk even as He walked." I John 2:6
  "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless" II Peter 3:14

6. CHALLENGES -- I can't resist the something that rises up in me to prove wrong the person who says I can't do something!  We love a challenge, especially if we think we can win ! Contestants are challenged to choose well, or to answer well, or to make the right decisions that will result with them having the advantage to win over their competitors.

  • Game of Life - There are many verses that present a challenge to us in our Christian walk  Do you catch these 'challenges' and feel an answering call in your spirit ? or do you give up before you even try .....

    .. Jesus challenged the young ruler ... "If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor...." Matthew 19:21 The ultimate challenge to be perfectly mature.
    sometimes the challenge seems contrary to what is 'natural' ..
      "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; 
    and your reward will be great,

     and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil."Luke 6:35
    or Jesus answer to the question of often we had to forgive ..
    "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Matthew 18:22
7.  RULES --  We have a love/hate relationship with rules.   We are prone to want the rules to apply to everyone else, while for ourselves we seek the loopholes.  But, seriously, we know that rules must be put in place for anything to be 'fair' ...  for there to be peace and unity and a place where everyone knows how 'things are to be done'. 
Can you image a 'game' where there are no rules?  Are the rules not there so we can 'enjoy' the game rather than have it be an endless frustration? 
  • Game of Life -- God has given us the 'rules' by which we should live to make our earthly life fulfilling, enjoyable and productive.  Rules that 'give'  rather than take away.  Next time you balk at a 'rule' God has given, think about playing a game without rules .... and who better to make the rules than the one who created the game?

    Jesus came to make the 'rules' of His Kingdom as easy to obey as possible ..
    In fact... if you can remember - and obey - only two rules, you will WIN !
    "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and with all your mind.....this is the first commandment and the second is ... you shall love your neighbor as yourself....." Matthew 22:37-40  

8.  UNKNOWN -  So much in life is 'unknown'. There is a rush of adrenaline when we face it - in our minds or in looking to the future.  We have heard countless stories of brave men and women who ventured into the 'unknown' seeking the experience of the adventure.
In all of three of the games I noted,  there is an element of the unknown...  how will the game play out?  What will I encounter?  Will I win? Will I lose? 
While the unknown in real life  more often than not stirs up a sense of fear .... did you know that fear and excitement are really the same emotion?  The emotion  is interpreted in our brain, by its 'context'  to be felt as either fear or excitement.   Perhaps in playing games we are able to 'play out' this emotion in a controlled setting where we can override the fear in favour of  pleasant excitement. 
  • Game of Life -  Here too is the element of unknown.  We do not not what the future holds. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. We don't know what our sweet children will grow up to be, or if they will be safe today.  While the unknown often causes us  anxiety , fear or worry , it is here that we are exercised to trust, to have faith,  in the One who holds the unknown.

    God understands our propensity to fear the unknown .  God tells to 'fear not' about 80 times in the Bible ... He would only need to say it once for it to be important , but to say it more than 80 times means He knows how important it is for US ...

  • What if we really believed , like Jeremiah , that nothing is beyond the control of our God..
     "'Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You." Jeremiah 32:17

    Then when an 'unknown' threatens us, instead of 'fear' we could rather feel 'excitement' and wait to see what God will do !!! 
    Is this not what Jesus was talking about in John 16:33?
    "These things I have spoken to you........ in the world you will have tribulation , but be of GOOD CHEER, I have overcome the world."
     ".. for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you.."

    God knows the 'unknown' of our future and has already taken care of it...
    "Your Father knows that you have need of these things - but seek first the kingdom of God .... and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,"
    Matthew 6:33,34

9. RISK    -  I really don't have much of a 'risk-gene'. I will always choose the 'sure thing' .. But I see and wonder about people who seem to thrive on 'risk' and will literally put their lives on the line.  Those indulging in extreme sports, or those who will gamble their life savings, or those who 'risk' that promising business deal that could go either way. A 'risk' factor is built into each of my  games -- Price is Right -- risking what is in their hand for what is behind a closed door ..  Wheel of Fotune - risking their money in hand for the '10,000.00 or bankrupt' card. Jeopardy - risking / making a wager against what they have to add more IF they answer the bonus question right.
  • Game of Life - We also have a 'risk' factor built into our life of faith. God asks us to 'risk' a great deal. Do we believe it is a safe risk? Or do we hold back because we are afraid we will end up with less than we had before.

    Jesus asks us to risk this physical life for the 'hope' of eternal life.
    He tells the story of the man who found a 'pearl of great price' and  sold everything he had to buy the field in which the pearl was  hidden.
    "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls , who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all he had and bought it." Matthew 13:46

    Jesus also asks those who wish to follow him to 'risk' everything, even their own lives.
    "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me, for whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake
    will find it." 
    Matthew 16:24,25
10. HIDDEN THINGS  - I'm sure you have childhood memories of games that involved finding hidden things ...   Button -button so high ! -- Scavenger hunts --  Egg hunts -- to name a few.  And we all identify with the excitement of finding something that was 'lost' or 'hidden' or finding that 'treasure' in some flea-market or garage sale.  The Price is Right has lots of hidden things, including the things hidden behind the 3 final Doors.  Wheel of Fortune has hidden letters, that must be uncovered.  Jeopardy has hidden 'Daily Doubles' that give the 'finder' an advantage. 
  • Game of Life -- Are there 'hidden' things?  Oh yes !  Tucked into the scriptures are hidden truths and life lessons and prophecies for us to find. God knew that to make His Word continually interesting to us, He would  'hide' things so that the more we looked, the more we found !  How often does God tell us to 'seek' Him ? or 'seek' wisdom or truth or seek the 'treasures' of His Kingdom.

     He compares seeking wisdom to seeking for treasure! 
    "If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures.... then you will understand the fear of the Lord."  Prov. 2:4,5
    And He invites us to come and He will show us things hidden to others ... 
    "I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel." Isaiah 45:3

11. UNLIMITED FUNDS -  I am often amazed at how there never seems to be a lack of funds to support all the prizes and winnings offered and given to  the contestants. It seems that the financial backing of these game shows is a bottomless pit !  
  • Game of Life -  We know that our God has an unlimited source of riches to be able to supply abundantly above anything we need and able to meet the cost of any of His promises to every one of His children ! He is beyond wealthy !!

     He owns ..
    ."the cattle on a thousand hills ....the world is His and all that is in it ...
    the silver and the gold" 
      Psalm 50:10, 5:12 , Haggai 2:8
    He is quite able to afford all our expenses !
    "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19
12. REWARD - Without a reward, we are motivated to do almost nothing !  We want our efforts to be 'rewarded' in one way or another ....  and somehow  financial reward motivates quicker than any other.  Of course, in the TV games,  financial reward drives them all three. To win money we didn't have to work for is a reward our dreams are made of.  And if we can't 'win' then we enjoy  feeling the excitement of someone else  and participating in their joy. 
  • Game of Life --  are we promised rewards?   Oh yes... God understands what motivates us ! And all earthly rewards pale when compared with the rewards God promises us !

    Jesus promises ...
    "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work." Revelation 22:12

    In I Corinthians is a lovely passage that promises rewards 
  • for  competing well in our earthly journey ...
    "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes (for earthly things) do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown !"  I Corinthians 9:24,25

I hope that this  look at how our Christian life parallels the features that make a good game enjoyable encourages you to play with zeal and excitement the life-game that God laid before us. 
And may you WIN !!   

Saturday, May 26, 2018

O God of Detail - We Praise You !

Here are a few photos of some of patio pot flowers.  

 The above is the center detail of one of my petunias  - a detail you would never notice unless it was magnified.

Above a photo of a dead stump in my back yard.  A couple of years ago I planted a little starter plant in it, and I thought it was dead - dried out from summer lack of water, frozen in the dead of winter.
 Last year it wasn't there at all ... and this year to my surprise it is growing profusely !! 
Such happy little faces ... I can almost hear them say ... "SURPRISE !!!!!"    

 I have been so enjoying my flowers  - each so uniquely designed and coloured - which to me speaks of the kind of God we serve ! 

God is a God of incredible detail ....                                                                                             
  I am amazed ....  

At the infinite detail and variety of flowers that bloom so profusely, that come miraculously from a lifeless nondescript brown speck of  seed 
Matt. 6:30 , Luke 12:27 
That not only did God create countless billions of stars - out of nothing-  , but He named and knows the name of every one. 
Psalm 147:4, Isaiah 40:26
That God created the birds of the air, dressed each one in a designer coat of feathers, and knows and cares when each one dies ... 
Matt. 10:29 
That God, out of a thought, created the snowflakes, that fall in countless number , but not two of them have the same intricate design .. 
Job 37:5,6
That God counts the hair on each of our heads .... does it really matter or make a difference to anything? 
Matt. 10:30 

If God shows Himself to be such a God of detail to do all of the above,  then how much more does God care about the smallest detail of who you or I are .. ... 
There is not a detail about us, -individually -  that God is not aware of , and not just aware of  but also deeply cares about ....  Isn't it almost overwhelming to think about?  
The God that created the universe, the God that has the power to do anything He wills, cares about and understands you and me, and not just in a passive way ... NO !
Rather He cares in a very interactive and involved kind of way ...-  
Just to keep track of the constant changing number of our hair means He is constantly watching over us ...  
and if He does that , would a God of Love not so much more care about the things that are important to us, small as they may be ?    

          "Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us
 that we should be called children of God !" 
I John 3:1

"Dear Holy and Great God, 
you who are also our loving Father, how we bow before you today in wonder.  
You are bigger than we could ever comprehend, and yet we acknowledge that you call us each by name.. 
You know and lovingly care about every detail of who we are and what is important to us, 
and even what is not. 
You who have numbered our days, and planned our life path, 
We offer to you today the one thing that we have of value to give you ... our TRUST, our FAITH in you ... 
We believe your words, your promises and we desire to follow you in everything we are and do . 
There is nothing else, no one else, we can trust in. 
I thank you for each reader this morning, I thank you for who you created them to be
 - unique and special. 
I pray that today they will be overwhelmed anew as they see around them the wonder of who you are. 
May their trust in you grow, and their hearts expand with praise and thanksgiving to you. 
I pray in Jesus' Holy name, amen."