The purpose of a thorn is to protect a plant from predators. When we attempt to pick a rose we are actually a predator of the plant; therefore we often get pricked. The reaction of most predators is “Ouch!” Can you imagine how a crown of thorns would feel pressed down on your head? I shudder at the thought and imagine that I and most all of us would scream out in pain. Jesus had a crown of thorns pressed into His head before He was crucified. As painful as this was, He broke His silence only three times the first three hours that He hung on the cross. The three times Jesus spoke was for the purpose of relieving the pain of others, not His own. He asked for forgiveness for those who crucified Him, saved a thief, and assured that His mother would be cared for. In II Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of “a thorn” in his side. This thorn is not the kind that were platted together to make the crown for Jesus, nor the kind you and I prick our fingers on from a rose bush. This thorn that he asked God to remove three times is a weakness that Biblical scholars have often attempted to name. The identity of Paul’s thorn-his weakness is not recorded, but all the information we need to know about it is. God’s answer to Paul, “And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” And Paul’s reaction, “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” Can you say this today about your thorn? Have you asked God to remove it once, twice, or three times even? If so, it is time to realize the thorn is there for a reason. Even though thorns hurt, God allows them to purposely exist. We must learn to concentrate on alleviating the pain of others, more than our own. Our weaknesses should make us stronger for Christ.
In the middle of a wheat field, there was this sign, “The harvest is great, the laborers are few and Jesus’ comes quickly.” The sign was true and thought worthy. The scripture speaking of the great harvest is found in Luke 2. Jesus compared a field of grain in need of being brought into the barns to people who need to be brought into the Kingdom. The B part of the sign declaring Jesus is coming quickly is in Revelation 22. With all the recent unrest and tragedies in the world, more and more people are declaring and believing that Jesus is coming very soon. People whose minds are usually far from thinking of Jesus’ return or anything about Him are thinking on Jesus. The few laborers now have an awesome opportunity to bring in a great harvest of lost, hurting people - people whose hearts and minds are ripe and ready to be filled with the Great News of how they can come to the Kingdom. An old hymn written in 1874 comes to mind titled Bringing in the Sheaves. As a child, I had no idea what a sheave was and honestly sang “sheets.” I always thought of someone grabbing some bedsheets from a clothesline and running in the house with them quickly before the rain began to fall. Later in life, I finally found that ‘sheaves’ was the plural of sheaf which is a bundle of grain. The first stanza of the song speaks of sowing and waiting for the time of harvest and reaping. But the second stanza which I didn’t recall says this, “By and by the harvest, and the labor ended.” And of course the familiar, sometimes missing chorus, “Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves, We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.” Someday, many believe soon, the harvest and labor will end. Jesus will be here. How many signs do we need? Let’s get busy and bring in the “sheaves” quickly before Jesus begins His “reign” on Earth.
Mutts, Weeds, and Other Misfits
The ugliest dog I’ve ever seen came to my yard last week. I don’t know what words I might use to describe his characteristics. He is incomparable to any famous dog I can think of. I suppose, just think of the worst feature of every dog you can imagine, mix them all together, and there you have the dog that came to visit and made himself at home. Try as I might he will not “get.” He “gets” to the pasture out back and comes back to sit on my porch. He” gets” to sit under a tree in the woods, but comes back to eat from my dog’s feeding dish. Today he remains. I believe he believes he’s found his home even though I think I have no place for him to fit. Yesterday I noticed him lying in some weeds out toward the pasture. The weeds have pretty purple flowers. The dog used his big long nose to smell the flowers. He sniffed each one, stretched out his long lanky spotted legs, laid down his oval-shaped head and went peacefully to sleep amongst the weeds. I smiled. I thought what a perfect fit; an unwanted mutt lying in unwanted weeds. God created the mutt. God created the weeds. God creates a lot of things that we sometimes feel have no place or purpose whatsoever in our lives. Things that we think we cannot possibly fit in are exactly what God wants there. God has a way of making things fit perfectly. As I looked at the misfit dog, I remembered all the times I didn’t seem to fit and God took care of it. This week think of things, or even people, you may think of as mutts, weeds, or misfits who God has allowed to walk into your life. What can you do to make them fit? Their purpose may possibly be to help fulfill God’s purpose in your life.
Less Is More, A Little is Plenty, Have You Any?
‘Less is more’ is a popular pop culture phrase which was first quoted by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, an American architect who lived from 1886-1969. Self-educated Miles studied the great philosophers and thinkers and applied what he learned to his architectural designs which were based on simplicity. Another famous quote of Mr. Miles is “God is in the details.” He believed whatever is done should be done thoroughly. I believe God believes that as well and He definitely taught that less becomes more in His Kingdom. Jesus spoke of the reward of eternal life for those who minister to the least of these. He said that when we minister to the least we are ministering to the MOST. For He said when we serve the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned we are ministering to Christ Himself. He proved the point that a little is plenty as He fed thousands with a few fish and a few loaves of bread. This miracle of God is in the details. And what about the blood Jesus shed for all humanity? An average human has ten pints of blood. Jesus shed his ten pints over 2,000 years ago. Jesus said, “This is my blood which is shed for MANY.” So apparently just a drop of the blood of Jesus, or a smidgen of a drop, or a micro molecule of a drop, is enough to wash away the sin and save one of the least of these who are drowning in an ocean of sin. For those ten pints are still plenty to save a lost and dying world. Now the question that we should each be asking this “less is more generation”, who definitely don’t seem to believe that a little is plenty is this, “Have you any?” This week take the time to ask one of the many you know this simple question, “Have you been washed in the blood of Jesus? - A little is plenty. Have you any?”
One year ago, March 2007, Congressman David Cardoza of California introduced House Bill 1376, a bill which would extend Medicaid coverage for children who “age out” of the foster care system. If a child hasn’t been adopted by a family permanently by the age of eighteen the system drops the child. 25,000 are emancipated each year, 65% of whom not only have no insurance but literally have no place to live. The foster care system’s intent is to provide nurturing parental care through adults who are usually not blood-related to the child. Fostering isn’t new to this day and age. In Acts 13:1 we find Manaen who is said to have been the foster brother of Herod, the tetrarch-royalty. Manaen is believed to have become a consoler, a Christian teacher, educated in Rome. Therefore the system must have worked for him. It sounds like he turned out ok. Foster is mentioned one more time in the Bible in Isaiah 49. Kings shall be foster fathers…those who wait on the Lord shall not be put to shame. Today say a prayer for the 65% of emancipated children who have no place to live and don’t have the assurance of having someone to call Father. Pray they will come to know there is a King waiting to adopt them through His blood into His family permanently. They shall not be put to shame.
Joshua 10:13, II Chronicles 20:17
Juxtaposition; the act or instance of placing two or more things side by side; also: the state of being so placed. In II Chronicles, God spoke to King Jehosophat and told him not to fear the great multitude he was about to face. He told him he would not have to fight the battle. He was to position himself close to his enemy, simply stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. Joshua faced a great battle with his enemies, the Amorites. He needed more time. He asked God to keep the sun in the position it was in...And the sun stood still. God positioned the sun where it needed to be for Joshua to win. To win a battle against an enemy we sometime must be near them but only need stand still. Sometimes to win a battle God intervenes and makes elements in our world to stand still. Whatever method God uses, we must learn He is always near, right beside us. He is in control of all things, positioning things near us, and setting things apart from us, whatever we may need to fight a particular battle. He places us exactly where we need to be to win the victory.
Lack of Knowledge
A five-year-old asked an Easter why question. The answer he received was, "Just because." He responded, "But why?" If you are going to tell a child an animal is going to bring eggs, would the most sensible deliver of eggs, (if there could be one), not be a chicken, or some type of bird? Why a rabbit? Inquiring minds want to know. In Germany, a long time ago, people found eggs in nests in the spring which they assumed were nests of rabbits. The nests actually belonged to lapwings, birds that make their nests on the ground which look very similar to the nests of rabbits. Everyone assumed the eggs in the nests belonged to rabbits, not birds. So with this assumption, a nest with a; mistaken identity, the Easter bunny tradition began and continues. In the1500's children would make a nest near their beds in caps and bonnets and wait for a rabbit to hop in and lay eggs in them. In today's commercialized society, children expect the Easter Bunny to hop in and bring huge expensive baskets filled with everything near their beds. But why? Why does the tradition continue to grow by leaps (or hops maybe) and bounds? The best answer to a why question is not, "just because." Never assume anything. But why? The Bible says we perish for lack of knowledge. Use your inquiring mind to always search for truth, not assumptions.
A placebo is a preparation, a drug, which is pharmacologically inert or empty of actual medicine, but despite the emptiness, the drug may have a therapeutic healing effect based solely on the power of suggestion. Many scientific studies and much research proves when people think they are getting medication, they show improvement. Those who argue for the use of placebos, which by the way comes from the Latin word meaning, I will please, say even if they do no good, they really do no harm. Those who argue against placebos say those in need of genuine medication may convince themselves the empty pills are giving them what they need. They may become very ill, or even die before they get what is needed to extend their life. The placebo effect works its way into Christianity. Many are satisfied to get something from a sugar-coated message that gives them a temporary good feeling. Simply by the power of suggestion, they are pleased and do show some improvement. What harm is done? This is not just coming from the pulpits. We all should be careful to let those around us know a true relationship with Jesus Christ comes for a one on one encounter with Him. The world doesn't need any of us to bring empty, temporary, feel-good feelings. What is needed is genuine permanent life change brought by the Truth of the message of Jesus Christ. His power, His Spirit, His life-changing each of us daily.
A young man eagerly went out witnessing for the first time. With tracts in hand, he knew exactly what he would ask when the first door he knocked upon was open. He knocked expecting to see what he knew would surely be an unsaved individual. The door was opened wide by a kind, older gentlemen who asked, “Yes, what can I do for you?” The young man somewhat caught off guard asked, “If I died today do you know I would go to heaven?’ The kind gentleman smiled and said, “Son, I don’t know but I certainly will pray that you join me there. “ Witnessing, sharing our faith in Jesus, doesn’t have to be lines we memorize from a printed tract. The best witnesses simply tell what they have seen and what they know to be true. This week share your faith by telling what you know to be true. Tell someone what you have seen Jesus do. Another great way to witness is simply to live your life in a way that those who witness it will want to join you in heaven someday.
Forget Your Fear Find Your Faith
Tornado Warning, move to a place of safety. As Christians, we sometimes feel heeding a tornado warning is giving into fear. Our God tells us to fear not. The story is told of a Christian who was urged by friends to take her babies into a closet during a recent storm. She felt as if she were giving into fear that she had declared no longer existed, but did move into a dark hall closet. While in the closet she was reminded of things from the past. She found things she had been looking for, things she thought were gone forever. She found a banner she once made with a Bible verse from Isaiah. It was made when she first found her great faith in God. As she stood in the closet she found great peace and forgot all fear. She found the roots of her faith. Sometimes God uses dark places, scary situations, and things from the past to remind us who He is. We should always remember the source of our faith who mercifully takes away all fear. We should always give God all honor and glory for all He gives and all He takes away.
Sufficiency of Grace
In II Corinthians Paul prays for the Lord to take something from him, a thorn in his flesh. The point of what the thorn was is often argued. It is not important what the thorn was. The importance is the answer that Paul received. How Paul was answered is also argued. Did Jesus appear to him again, or did Paul just hear a still small voice? The way Jesus chose to answer isn’t important. The answer received is what is important. God’s grace was sufficient for Paul. Grace is defined as a favor rendered by one who need not do so. Sufficient is defined as a close meeting of need. God’s grace, His favor, is sufficient, closely meets our every need. No matter what the thorn is, no matter how God chooses to appear to us we need to get the point. God’s grace is enough for us to handle any situation, any handicap, physical, spiritual or mental which hinders us from doing what we are supposed to do and being who we are supposed to be in Christ. If we rely on His grace we will be victorious.
Smart as a Fifth Grader
Do you know why Spring is called Spring?
Do you know why the days get longer and the weather gets warmer? The North Pole of the Earth is tilted toward the Sun, and the length of daylight hours increases for the Northern Hemisphere. The hemisphere begins to warm significantly, causing new plant growth to spring forth, giving the season its name, Spring. Most fifth graders know and understand Spring, what it means, and where it gets the name. Do you know why Christians are called Christians? What should Christians do this Spring? As the North Pole, which is in the center of the Earth tilts toward the Sun, it is a great time for each of us to tilt the center of our lives toward the Son. The light in our lives will increase. Time will be more meaningful to us. Our hearts will grow warmer. We will significantly warm the hearts of those around us. We will cause new growth in others and in ourselves. We will spring forth as we grow and become new and Christ-like, giving us the name, Christians. Many fifth-graders know and understand being a Christian, what it means, and where we get our name.
Jeremiah 7:14 O LORD, you alone can heal me; you alone can save. My praises are for you alone! “With the technology they have today they can do anything.” Sounds good, but is it true? Yes, medical testing is advanced, but when you are lying in a cold operating room seeing masked faces surrounding you, you don’t really focus on trusting technology. When you know a tube is going to run through the main artery in your leg to your heart which is being pumped full of dye you don’t really hope the tiny camera is going to work ok and take really nice pictures. It is kind of scary as the doctor tells you they are ready to begin. At that moment you realize all the technology in the world cannot save you. As you close your eyes and think of all the what-ifs you realize all you have is God alone. The earth is God’s and the fullness thereof. The doctors were placed on earth by God, as well as the men who invented the technology. The technological components were made from elements from the earth. Healing comes from God alone. Our praises belong to Him alone.