Traditions

Tevye, the whimsical patriarch in the movie Fiddler on the Roof explains the definition of a tradition perfectly. Speaking of Jewish tradition in Tsarist Russia, he declares: “You may ask, how did his tradition get started?” Then he pauses before answering his own question: “I tell you why: I don’t know.”

Young people (I was young once, too) like to ask the question, “But why do we have to do it this way?” Those of us who are older have to do better than to simply say, “Tradition!” Continue reading “Traditions”

The prayer of faith: It’s a done deal

In the Old Testament, when God promised a thing, he would put the promise in the past tense. If he said it, it was a done deal. If he promised, you could count on it being done.

On the banks of the Jordan River, Moses recounted to Israel the work of God among them. When King Og of Bashan came out with his whole army against the nation, the Lord said to Moses:

“Don’t be afraid of him because I have already given him, his whole army, and his land to you” Deuteronomy 3.2a. Continue reading “The prayer of faith: It’s a done deal”

Road building

“Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth” (Isaiah 40:3-4).

Roads through mountains or high hills have always fascinated me. The sheer amount of labor involved in cutting a way through a rugged range, not to mention the engineering skills and material required, is staggering. Yet wherever I travel it seems that someone either already has or is in the process of making a better route. Continue reading “Road building”

God sees the heart

“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:6-7 NIV).

God had rejected Saul as king (1 Samuel 16:1). He sent Samuel to anoint another to be the next king over Israel. God had already selected the one that he wanted, one of the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. Continue reading “God sees the heart”

Kingdom come

“till they have seen the kingdom of God come” (Mark 9:1).

John and Jesus taught that the kingdom was “at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). They obviously believed it was forthcoming.

Some followers were so convinced of it, they attempted to force Jesus to lead a coupe d’état to declare Israel’s independence from Rome (which, by the way, he rejected, cf. John 6:15). Nevertheless, Jesus continued preaching about the kingdom’s imminent arrival.

Did it ever come? Was it only metaphor? Is it yet future? Continue reading “Kingdom come”

God’s people then and now: Their purpose

God has had many purposes for his people then and now. God chose to bless all nations through Abraham. God commissioned Israel to be a kingdom of priests serving others. As those who had witnessed God’s power and love, God commissioned Israel to announce to the nations his greatness, thus drawing others to God. A theme emerges from these beginnings revealing God’s love for all people.  Continue reading “God’s people then and now: Their purpose”

When a blessing doesn’t look like a blessing

“Don’t be deceived,” James warns, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father … who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:16-17).

Some are indeed deceived. They mistake the temporary gratification of sin for a blessing “from above.”

After all, the pleasures of adultery are undeniable. Revenge can bring quick and cheap gratification. Crushing someone else by gossip or hurtful words can bring a kind of pleasure. Continue reading “When a blessing doesn’t look like a blessing”

How to overcome negativity, and other sundry thoughts

How to win over negativity? Overpower it! Repel it! The old phrase, like water on a duck’s back, is suggestive. Don’t let it penetrate. Power up your mental strength. Fill your head and heart with God’s blessing and goodness.

The use of the word “overpower” against negativity sounds militaristic, and it is. To say we’re in a battle might seem melodramatic, but the Bible describes the Way in such terms. So many of us go with the flow, however, we have yet to feel the heat of the conflict. We’ve been conquered. Continue reading “How to overcome negativity, and other sundry thoughts”

The greatest injustice

Jesus suffered arrest even though he had done nothing wrong and not even the false witnesses could agree on what he had done.

Jesus preached love, joy, and peace in a world that needed all three. He helped people understand their need to obey God and live according to God’s word. He pleaded with the Jews to abandon their hypocrisy and become the shining lights the world needed.

For all this, Roman soldiers and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus, bound him and delivered him to Annas and Caiaphas, the two men acting as high priests.

They hated Jesus for no other reason than they were envious of him (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10). Continue reading “The greatest injustice”

Through all and in all

It’s that time of year to think about planting bulbs for a beautiful winter and spring! The first thing to do is to dig up the now-dormant bulbs that need to be spread out into other areas. In the process of doing that, we often end up digging up ground covers that have also exploded in growth over the past year.

It is quite the challenge to find new places for ground covers and other spreading plants. One such plant is the lovely Sheffield mum. While it isn’t exactly a ground cover, it acts like one; spreading its stolons just under the surface of the soil to pop up as new plants further and further away from the original.

The nicest thing about this close relative of your common florist’s chrysanthemum is that it stays pretty small and wispy all summer as it weaves its way through the irises and daylilies. Continue reading “Through all and in all”