So is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11
As an author, one of the most rewarding times in my life is when people ask me to personalize a book they have purchased from me. I write books about my life in Christ and the tragedies that brought me to the cross. I am honored that people want to read my books, and I never take a personal encounter with a reader lightly. Writing is a way I can reach others with the story of God’s grace and mercy through the saving work of His Son Jesus. Many people I meet are excited to make contact with an author who writes about the human condition and the hope we have in Christ. I can’t meet all my readers, but it is a pleasure for both author and reader to connect in person.
The Bible is the only book every written where the Author shows up in person every time the manuscript is read. I often think my Bible should be smoking because of the power held within. I have read the Word when I was so low, I didn’t believe there was any chance I’d ever look up again. And I’ve studied many passages while in a state of profound gratitude and adoration for my God and King. Some passages are clearer to me than others, but I keep on studying those words, every day, day after day. The prophet Isaiah heard God say to him, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s message to the prophet continued by saying that His Word—the Bible—would “not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). Each time a person—even one who is not sure of her faith—reads the Scriptures, God is at work through the Word and the Spirit to effect change in that very individual’s mind and heart. Pick up the Bible today and see how it can move you.
Keeper of the Sacred Word, stir our hearts to see and hear and know You in the Scriptures. Amen
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7-8
“The trainer who had him before us said ‘I’ve been training horses for 35 years. This is the craziest horse to ever look through a bridle.’” So spoke Joe Davies to CBS 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose in a segment about “timber racing” in the United States. Davies, a “timber race” trainer, took a chance on a magnificent horse named Senior Senator, who by all intents and purposes was washed up after failing to perform well in “flat track racing.” The track vets wouldn’t go near the horse. He tossed every jockey every time before they even got to the gate. Davies’ opinion: Senior Senator was bored. Running around an oval track just wasn’t enough for him.
Enter Davies and his wife, Blythe Miller Davies. They gave Senior Senator a new home, let him race around an open pasture instead of cooling his four heels in a ten-foot square stall. They spent time with him and taught him—slowly—to love the spirited sport of “timber racing”—charging through lush green fields and dappled woodlands, jumping four to five foot “timber” fences—a sport invented in Ireland over two hundred and fifty years ago. And a champion was reborn from a renegade.
Jesus met His share of washouts and renegades, starting with His twelve disciples. James and John asked Jesus to grant that they might sit at His right hand and His left in glory (Mark 10:35-37). They even brought their mother into the discussion (Matthew 20:21). Thomas would not believe Jesus had conquered death and risen from the grave until he saw the nail marks and the place where His chest had been pierced (John 20:25). When the Lord healed ten lepers, only one came back to thank Him (Luke 17:11-19). Yet Jesus loved and forgave them all. He cast out demons, healed countless diseases and disabilities, and explained the Scriptures in simple ways that turned people’s hearts and lives completely around. In His soothing and uncomplicated way, Christ transformed those He encountered from troubled and aimless shells into living vessels available to do God’s work. Still today, He transforms failure into victory and catastrophe into triumph.
Jesus, take my worst traits and mold them into Your best promises. Amen
For God is the King of all the earth; sing to Him a psalm of praise. Psalm 47:7
I have always imagined God would want us to look at what brings people together, not what is different or divides us. One place where this practice is played out every day is in the worldwide meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, or AA, and their companion gatherings of Al-Anon and Al-Ateen (for friends and relatives of those with chemical issues). Two men who are known today as Bill W. and Dr. Bob began AA in 1935. The program is based on a series of spiritual principles, the first of which is the members’ acknowledgement that they are experiencing a problem with alcohol over which they have no control. The next step was to turn their lives and their will over to God, or a “Higher Power,” recognizing that a Divine Being could guide them in their recovery. The remaining Twelve Steps of AA continue the personal development of the “recovering” alcoholic (the members believe they must continue to work on themselves every day).
AA has helped countless people worldwide with alcohol addiction, and those with many other addictions have used its principles as well. As a counselor, I often pointed people to the AA program, whether or not they appeared to have issues with addiction. The principles found in this program are universal and help us realize how humility is an essential element in faith. AA is a spiritual program, and also an ethical program which embodies the spiritual principles and honorable standards of every major religion in the world. One list of these principles is found in Galatians 5:22-23, and known by Christians as “the fruit of the spirit.” “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” are regarding as “good” behavior by people with integrity in every society, race and culture. As Paul states, “Against such things, there is no law.”
I believe that Bill W. and Dr. Bob were really on to something transforming. These wise men took their own worst problems—addiction to alcohol—and turned it into a recovery process that reaches across all faiths, social classes, races and creeds to lift others out of the pit of fear and shame and into the light of God’s marvelous love.
Lord, thank You for men and women who see each other as equals. Amen
And…He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:22-23
Yesterday our congregation celebrated Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the twelve disciples and, later upon other followers of Jesus, as described in the second chapter of the book of Acts. Many Christians believe this event represents the birth of the Church. I believe Pentecost demonstrates the importance of patience!
After all the hoopla of Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the disciples were understandably a little shell-shocked and ready for a little rest and relaxation. But their Friend Jesus had just challenged them to change the world, so there was no time for hanging around. Jesus had breathed the Holy Spirit on them first (John 20:22-23), leaving them to do the rest of the work. Acts 2:2-4 describes a mass infusion of the same Holy Spirit like this: “…they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house….They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” The original disciples must have stood in total awe that Jesus could make all of this happen when He was no longer even there in the flesh!
Fast forward to our little suburban church in Minnesota, where we gathered yesterday morning, many of us clad in red to commemorate the Holy Fire bringing down the Spirit. We sang, “Holy Spirit, come to us,” while the pastor and our music leader sang, “Come from the four winds…renew and strengthen your people….Kindle the flame in the darkness.” For over two thousand years, Christian churches throughout the world have celebrated this pouring out of God’s Spirit, which emboldens us to love, to serve and to work for peace among all people. Patience is needed to wait for God to accomplish all He said He would. Not all will come to believe, but for those who do, God promises the flame that will never be extinguished.
Come, Holy Spirit! Put fire in our bones and love in our hearts! Amen