“Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.” Jude 1:23
Eugene Peterson, author of “The Message,” uses more eloquent words in this scripture—“tender” and “soft.” Years ago a family from my church lost a brilliant and talented son in a bicycle accident in Japan. After college, David chose to go to the mission field and teach English. One afternoon a young mother fell asleep at the wheel of her car and hit David. Shortly after the accident, David’s parents went to Japan and found the woman, who was not a Christian, and forgave her.
It was too much for her to understand that someone could forgive her for choosing to drive a car while being too tired. It was too much for David’s parents not to forgive her. This isn’t a story of “sin that stinks to high heaven,” such as when a child is molested or someone beats up a neighbor, but it reminds us to be tender to those who have sinned, while hating the sin regardless of the pain it caused.
Dear Lord, remind us to love the sinner in spite of the sin. Amen.
“Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.” Philippians 4:4
I wonder, “Why does an opinion expressed on religion, politics, parenting, etc., separate one from another—sometimes permanently?” We are told not to squash our children’s imagination, ideas, and to engcourage them to broaden their outlook on life. Then we become adults, and all of a sudden, opinions become right or wrong.
I read the editorial comments in our local newspaper and am amazed by the amount of childish behavior in the “he said—she said” attitudes that comes out in print. Rebuttal after rebuttal—and no one gets to a conclusion, only angrier. I couldn’t read any longer without contributing my own crazy letter commenting on what I see while “Straddling the Fence.” [Published 09/28/2011 and available on my website: http://souly4you.com.] We need to learn how to climb over the fence and greet those who have ideas we do not agree with and try to glean something from what they say that might make a difference in our lives.
Dear Lord, help us to put down our own opinion long enough to listen to someone else. Amen.
“God, my Shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows; you find me quiet pools to drink from.” Psalm 23:1-2
Thumbing through a tabletop book of the U.S. National Parks, I saw a picture of a lake in Glacier National Park surrounded by mountains. Instantly, I wanted to go there. I’d take my journal, a few good books, including The Message Bible and spend time meditating on everything God has given me.
Nature, undisturbed by man’s hand, is precious and feeds my soul. I have yet to make the trip to Glacier National Park. It is on my bucket list, and I realize I’m not getting any younger. Perhaps next year …
After a long day, perhaps one with bad news from a doctor, an argument with a spouse, or the fear of opening a door to a new opportunity, we can be bedded down in the lush meadows of God’s grace and drink in his love for us. Sleep well.
Dear God, let me find lush meadows and quiet pools surround me today. Amen.
“Here on the mountain, God-of-the-Angel-Armies will throw a feast for all the people of the world, a feast of the finest foods, a feast with vintage wines, a feast of seven courses, a feast lavish with gourmet desserts.” Isaiah 25:6
Most of the time, Glen and I “eat”—we don’t “dine.” Perhaps that comes from a farm background. By the end of the day, everyone was tired and wanted to eat, rest a while, and go to bed. Years ago we celebrated our anniversary with friends. They spent time planning, preparing, and serving us a wonderful meal. The beef and shrimp kabobs were perfectly grilled, and the pleasure of eating the apple-wrapped pastry with caramel sauce made my taste buds say, “More, more!” Two hours after taking the first bite, we placed our napkins on the table and said our goodbyes. Dining had been a pleasure–not just something to keep our bodies strong.
God throws feasts for us and wants us to dine, not just eat. “Feast on the fine wine, lavish in the gourmet desserts.” When we feast with God, the pall of doom that hangs over us goes out with the dishwater.
Dear God, let us feast with you throughout the day—rejoicing and giving thanks for all you give us. Amen.
“Love can’t be bought, love can’t be sold—it’s not to be found in the marketplace.”Song of Songs 8:8
I have single friend who said, “I’ve had a husband—I don’t need to start over and train another one.” Other friends are on-line with dating services, often discouraged from the lack of candidates that fit into their expectations. But they keep pulling up the website, hoping Mr. Right will appear.
I didn’t realize how much I needed a companion until I didn’t have one. During the time that I thought I wanted to be single, I attended a spirit-filled conference and went home to an empty home—no one to share the experiences I’d had. Sadness sucked the joy right out of my spirit.
After God created Adam, he saw the need for man to have a suitable companion and created woman. It’s natural for us to want a companion, too. In some cases, it’s the love we have for close friends that can’t be bought. For many of us, it’s the love of a good spouse we’d never sell.
Dear Creator of life, I give you thanks for the gift of love. Amen.
“Let that vine cling to me for safety, let it find a good and whole life with me, let it hold on for a good and whole life.” Isaiah 27:5
The monsoon season (wind and rain) is officially over for Arizona. I live in the northwest valley of Phoenix, and most of the weather patterns come out of the southeast. By the time a storm gets to our neighborhood, the high wind and heavy rain becomes a breeze and a light shower or sprinkle. We miss the evening lightening shows, and fortunately, the clouds of sand and dust called haboobs, leave only a light layer of tan dust on our patio furniture.
The metaphor of the grape vine appears again in today’s scripture, as a sign of hope. God promises to water it, keep it from being damaged…remove thistles and thorn bushes. Perhaps that’s why heavy clumps of grapes can cling to a branch during a storm and why hang tight to our faith during our personal storms.
Dear Lord, please hold on to me tightly during the monsoon seasons of my life. Amen.
“The sturdy branches dried out, fit for nothing but kindling. Now it’s a stick stuck out in the desert, a bare stick in a desert of death, good for nothing but making fires, campfires in the desert.” Ezekiel 19:12-13
Ezekiel’s message from God refers to the people of Israel as a vine in the vineyard. The people were overwhelmed by devastation and couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. The grape vine was dying.
I hear people say, “I don’t need to belong to a church. I can talk to God anywhere.” They are right—they don’t need a church. They can talk to God anywhere, but a congregation of people is like a vineyard. Each individual, growing in faith, produces a branch that entwines with others to make a stronger church body. Strong churches are like the vines that go out into the community and share their fruit.
Like the people of Israel, when today’s churches lose their purpose, their vines dry up, and the doors close. All is left is the kindling.
Dear God, please help my soul from becoming kindling for a campfire in the desert. Amen.
“You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly… Philippians 4:8
A while back I talked with a friend struggling with personal issues close to her heart. I shared with her my mother’s only advice when eleven years ago I whined to her about about my sagging marriage. She said, “Linda, think happy thoughts.” My reaction (without saying it aloud) was, “How can I think happy thoughts—all I want is to get out of this marriage!”
After months of sessions with a good marriage therapist, our marriage was reconciled into an even better marriage. One day I thought of those three little words from my mother’s wisdom: Think happy thoughts. She was right. Tomorrow we celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.
Dear Lord, help us not to dwell on our concerns so long that we forget about the good things happening in lives. Amen.
“The stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone. This is God’s work; we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it.” Matthew 21:42
October 2, 1965
Fifty years ago today I married Glen–“till death do we part.” I was nineteen—a Navy man’s bride. At about year 39, I decided I no longer wanted to be married. We’d grown emotionally apart. I thought that since I was lonely in the marriage, I’d be better off alone. When it became apparent that Glen, too, was lonely, that’s when the work began on re-building the cornerstone of our marriage—pebble by pebble to have a stronger marriage than ever.
In the Matthew 21 scripture, Jesus was referring to the Pharisees and chief priests who wanted to get rid of him. When they put Jesus on the cross, they had no idea he would rise to become the cornerstone for those who put him to death.
When couples put the needs of their partner near to their heart, all the messiness in the relationship can be cultivated and nurtured to make for two happy people.
Dear Lord, whether I want to admit it or not, I continue to have loose mortar in a corner of my life. Forgive me and help me keep the foundation of my life strong. Amen.
“War broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought the Dragon. The Dragon and his Angels fought back, but was no match for Michael.” Revelation 12:7
“Michael,” a popular 1996 comedy, ranks high on my list of “to-watch-again” movies. Michael is a slovenly, lost angel who smells like cookies, acts like a playboy, and to everyone’s surprise, performs minor miracles. Chicago reporters want to make a tabloid story out of this rumored angel, and … I won’t tell you the rest of the story. Rent it and watch it!
Michael and his “angel” Mikaila.
The Michael angel of Revelations waged war against the devil in heaven. As I live out my life on earth, I need angels to protect and rescue me. At an angel reading party, I drew from a stack of cards the angel Michael. Many years earlier I named my son Michael–without knowing that much about Archangel Michael.
I’d hope my angel is like the movie angel, Michael, instead of the angels in flowing white gowns depicted in paintings, or like the statues and ornaments I use to decorate my home every Christmas.
Dear God, help me recognize the “Michael” angels that hover around me day and night. Amen.