It’s What’s Inside

IMG_1507-300x225.jpg“All that glitters is not gold.” – William Shakespeare

Spring into summer is the busiest travel time for our business/ministry as we participate in various homeschool conferences. As a promotion for multiple purchases, we have a little incentive for our customers. Essentially, people who buy two or more products pick one of several like items that will indicate what prize they will take home along with their purchased products. The items from which they choose are associated with the concurrent season or holiday. For instance, around patriotic days we put flags in a container with numbers on them that are affiliated with our different gifts. There are artificial flowers for springtime. If we are doing an event for Christmas, we have some red and green lollipops for the game. We even have a set of plastic baby bottles for the times when we are featuring a brand-new product.
And then, there are the incredible, non-edible plastic eggs that we put on display in a pretty basket as we are nearing Easter. Each egg holds a slip of paper that reveals what the customer will receive. We use iridescent eggs that are different pastel colors. It became apparent a few years ago that not only are these an attractive decoration on our table for the Easter season, they are fascinating enough to little eyes to be a prize themselves. Recognizing their appeal, I purchased extras so that I can give a few out to those who ask, letting the recipient know that the shell is all they are getting. At this most recent conference we placed the egg basket at the front of the table. When we left for the evening, everything but the cashbox stayed in place. Upon returning the next morning, to our slight dismay, almost all of the eggs were gone! Fortunately, because of the extras I had, along with a few additional prize slips, we were able to replenish the basket and continue the game. Later in the day while we were busy with some customers, low and behold, another egg disappeared. We had to keep an especially vigilant eye on the basket from then on and hide it overnight to be able to continue our little game for multiple purchases.
IMG_1509-160x120.jpgAs pretty as these eggs are, I wonder how many of our pilferers were aware that the prize inside was a mere piece of paper with the promise of a gift on it. Certainly, kids are accustomed to finding treats and treasures inside a plastic egg. Could it be there was some disappointment when these little ovals were opened? The truth is that we all can be lured by shiny, pretty wrappings around what might be very insignificant contents. We go for the gleaming, the glamorous, the beautiful, the striking only to find out that there is nothing worthwhile in the acquisition, and we are disappointed not only by what is inside but by our original fascination with it and the assumption regarding the treasure it might hold.
But then, we have a God who seems to always turn our idea of the world upside-down. He sent us Jesus, his only Son. Jesus, the unassuming, humble, even perhaps unattractive Son of Man. Jesus, the one about whom was written hundreds of years before his earthly arrival, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:2b-5, ESV). Jesus, the one who told us that the last will be first and the first will be last, that one who desired to be great should become a servant, the one who said, “‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it'” (Matthew 16:24-25, ESV).
No shiny covering, no glad appearance, nothing glamorous or striking to behold. But, oh the beauty within! What a wonderful truth to ponder – this Jesus the one and only came to suffer and die in our place, and those who have come to believe in him have the gift of eternal life that holds no comparison here on earth. The first glance at the outward appearance may not draw us in, but a peek inside of just who Jesus is will never disappoint and will be the most worthwhile prize we will ever acquire.
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Simple Faith

Dad’s Lifetime Home

Simple FaithMy dad was a practical man and a very hard worker. He proudly kept the same job for thirty-two years as a Blanker Operator Utility Man at a Ford Motor Company Assembly plant. He and my mother owned a modest two-bedroom, one-bath home in a neighborhood of like houses. He painted the house inside and out when needed, built extra rooms in the attic and basement, did all the lawn chores, and took care of just about everything that required repairs. He didn’t travel much, go out-to-eat, or participate in any type of recreational activities, save for the occasional horseshoe game at family gatherings. Many people might be bored with what they would call a monotonous way of life, but I would say my father was content. No complaints, no unmet desires, just a steady, dependable way to live. Simple, to say the least.
It would not be surprising then, that my dad’s confession of faith was very simple as well. In what became his final days, Dad was in the hospital for weeks on end with an undiagnosed medical problem. By the time the cause of his difficulties was discovered, it was too late for the doctors to do something for him. Being older and in a medical facility for so long, he was often not aware of his surroundings or his condition, and he would drift back and forth between reality, living in the past, and outright fantasy. His ability to be present and rational changed frequently and randomly. It made for interesting conversations. One day he was holding his right hand in front of him and moving it with careful strokes up and down. He’d shift over slightly and repeat the movement. “Dad, what are you doing?” I asked. “I’m painting,” he replied as he continued his repetitive task. Another time he secretly planned his birthday party with me, wanting to invite “the little guy,” who I assumed was my young grandson, but specifically mentioning the “guy who did me wrong” as one to keep off the list. He also saw two of me once, and asked me who the guy was standing next to me whom he insisted was my twin. But then came that simple lucid moment that brought me peace and joy amidst very trying times.
Dad: “I’m going to share something that you are not going to believe.” Me: “What is it, Dad?” Dad: “I’ve done some really bad things in my life.” Now at this point without the rest of the story you might be thinking exactly what I did, that he might be making a confession of something really dreadful like a bank robbery or some shocking crime. He went on, however, by shrugging his shoulders and saying, “I’ve done some really good things too. But you know what? I asked the Lord to forgive me for the bad things and he did! And that’s all I’m going to say about that.” Wow! That was such a simple declaration of faith, but that’s all it took for me to know that when he would breathe his last breath here on earth, he would be in the presence of the Lord to experience a blessed eternity.
The reason I’m sharing my dad’s testimony is twofold. Perhaps some of you have never made a simple confession of faith. Whether you have a list of accomplishments or you feel your life is filled with failure, if you have never been able to say with confidence that you know you are forgiven by the Lord, it’s time to take him at his word and receive his forgiveness. The Bible tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV). And Romans 10:11-13 states, “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:11-13, ESV). Nothing complicated, no ritual, no difficult process to follow. Pure and simple faith, PERIOD.
Dad Painting His House
IMG_0338-scaled-e1618285724913-300x225.jpgFor those who are reading this who may have loved ones who have never trusted the Lord to forgive and save them, my desire is that Dad’s story brings hope. One can never guess when a loved one’s relationship with the Lord will happen, nor can one assume that it likely never will. If God could save one of the greatest persecutors of the church, the apostle Paul in his oppressive prime, and if God could save my Dad at eighty-seven plus years old, he can save your loved one too. Simply commit them to his care, and trust God to bring it about in his time and in his way. Praise the Lord, he does make it so simple!
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Selfless Fruit

Selfless FruitSeveral weeks ago I was reading Matthew’s account of the passion and resurrection of Jesus. As I contemplated his great sacrifice and the eventual victory he experienced, my thoughts brought me to Jesus’ forty-day temptation in the wilderness. The report in the book of Mark indicates that it is likely the devil sought to tempt Jesus to sin in various ways and many times more than what is written in Matthew and Luke. The three instances recorded in those books reveal temptations regarding provision, position, and power. In each case, Jesus used Scripture to combat the wiles of Satan. It occurred to me that when Jesus resisted the enemy, he exhibited two important virtues – self-control and patience. He was willing to wait on his Father’s timing in the short-term to satisfy his hunger, and for a much longer period to inherit his kingdom and to wield the authority that accompanied his rightful role. He took no shortcuts, he did not claim entitlements, nor did he push his way through to a place of ease and adulation (though legions of ministering angels were always at his disposal – from Matthew 26:53). Jesus manifested patience throughout his life and ministry, taking a much longer and harder road to the cross. His selfless act made it possible for his Father’s perfect plans to be fulfilled.
As we navigate through challenges that certainly could be characterized as those of biblical proportions, tremendous opportunities are open to believers to live out our faith in new and interesting ways. As we open our hearts fully to the workings of the Holy Spirit, we can show the same virtues that Jesus did to those around us – our children, our parents, co-workers, neighbors, and friends, even while keeping social distancing in mind. In the book of Galatians these virtues are called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23a, ESV). Along with patience and self-control, the characteristics of love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness are listed. These all testify to a genuine faith in the Lord and a willingness to yield to his ways and promote his values and principles to the world.
In the first of a series of pamphlets entitled “The American Crisis” Thomas Paine, a British-born political philosopher turned American and supporter of American independence, wrote in the midst of the revolutionary war era in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” While some of his philosophical writings are not in line with Christian doctrine, presently, we can relate to that particular statement. It is hard to live through such a time when there is so much sickness and death, businesses folding, and financial hardship in millions of households. Perhaps most heartbreaking are the accounts of people who are either ignoring authority, taking advantage of others’ needs, or willingly sacrificing civility, displaying concern only for themselves. These “works of the flesh” have been evident since Adam’s fall from grace. God desires that we his people show others the best of who he is through attitudes and actions that are counter to human nature and in line with his character. It comes down to a simple choice: selfishness vs. selflessness. Through the Holy Spirit at work in us we can be patient and self-controlled in the midst of trial as well as demonstrate true love, joy, peace, and the other fruit of the Spirit in ways big and small.
A couple weeks ago before stay-at-home procedures became the mandated norm in her state, my daughter, Katie, was at a store with her little girl. As she waited in line, a mother near her gave her young son four quarters and told him it was all he could have to get a little squishy ball from the adjacent vending machine for himself and for his little brother. My three-year-old granddaughter, not wanting to be left out of the procurement of such a valuable treasure, began to express her desire to get one too. Mama held her ground as Jordyn gave way to her emotions over the thought of leaving the store without a ball. Obviously seeing her distress, the little boy turned around to my daughter and asked, “Can I give her mine?” Not wanting to steal his joy and with tears in her eyes, Katie allowed Jordyn to receive the precious gift. This small act of kindness speaks volumes in a world that often encourages a “take what you can” mentality. As we go through what may be the biggest crisis of our lives, let’s pray that God will allow his Spirit to rise up in us so we can be more like his Son and like that little boy. May the fruit of the Spirit be so evident in each of our lives allowing selflessness to triumph over selfishness, and we will open the door for the perfect plans of the Lord to be fulfilled. “Now the works of the flesh are evident… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:19a, 22-23, ESV).
We pray you had a very blessed Easter. In spite of the times, “He has risen, as he said” (Matthew 28:6b, ESV) and that gives us cause to celebrate no matter what is happening around us.
Resource:
Thomas Paine,The American Crisis, Wikipedia, edited update: April 11, 2020, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
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Misconstrued Message

Misconstrued MessageA couple months ago in the midst of running errands I remembered I needed a coffee shop gift card. The shop was nearby and the route easy. When there, I made the purchase, and as I was heading toward the door, a young man and woman stepped inside. In an instant I recognized them: he had been in my son’s church youth group years before, was good friends with my youngest daughter, and my husband and I had actually attended this young couple’s wedding a year and a few months earlier. We exchanged warm hugs and greetings and chatted for a few minutes. I hadn’t realized they had moved out of state, and though it was obvious at a glance, I did not know before this encounter that they were expecting their first child.

Because they had grown up in church with Nathan, I knew both of my daughters would be interested in the exciting news. I called my youngest daughter, Katie, and then I texted Kelley to share the information. I sent that message on a Friday evening. Being a pastor’s wife, weekends are often very busy for her, so I wasn’t necessarily expecting a reply. Neither was I expecting the response I received on Monday. “She’s fixed!” read the words on the screen, to which I replied, “Huh?” I was pretty sure Kelley didn’t know Nathan’s wife personally at all let alone enough to be made aware of any intimate problems she might have faced. Shortly after, a new text arrived with a picture of my daughter’s doll from when she was a very little girl. A few years after Kelley had been given her special dolly, my son was playing around with it and tore off the arm. I had tried to fix it myself, and when Kelley got older, I dressed it in a cute outfit and gave it to her as a memento of her childhood. Just recently someone offered to fully mend the doll, and Kelley wanted me to see a picture, which she did not attach to the original text. Though she had read the message about Nathan and his wife, she had totally forgotten about it and started a whole new conversation. It took a couple texts back and forth for us both to realize what had happened. Now at the point of understanding, Kelley sent a startled Emoji, a crazy Emoji, and one expressing tumultuous laughter to state that she could only imagine how confusing her texting response to Nathan’s news had been.
It seems that messages can sometimes be misinterpreted for whatever reason. Even those that are clear and well expressed are not always received as the message-bearer intended. Jesus had that experience often. One message that stands out in particular was his forewarning that he would be cruelly mistreated, put to death, and then be raised on the third day. It is recorded in each of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), and all three books reveal that he made the statement more than once to his disciples. The following Scripture is the third recorded account in the Book of Luke regarding Jesus’ prophecy about himself: “And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.’ But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said” (Luke 18:31-34, ESV). The disciples’ misunderstanding is confirmed in several passages containing Jesus’ message to them. In fact, in both Matthew 16:21-23 and Mark 8:31-33, Peter, the man who was Jesus’ closest friend, rebuked the Lord when Jesus shared his destiny. Clearly, no matter how many times Jesus tried to give them a heads up on his impending future, no one, not even his disciples “got it,” when he was in their midst.
It was Jesus’ mission to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29, ESV). His death occurred during Passover, which tied his sacrifice to God’s mandate to the Israelites who were enslaved in Egypt to sacrifice a lamb and place its blood on the two doorposts and lintel of each Israelite house so that the Death Angel would pass over the marked houses and spare those inside. On that same night, the Egyptians suffered the loss of every firstborn male of both man and beast among them. Though the scourge of death had threatened all people since the fall of man, the blood sacrifice instituted at that first Passover was God’s redeeming answer for man’s sin problem. However, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4, ESV). According to the verse just prior to that one, the continual sacrifices just served as a reminder of sins each time they were offered. But, “[Jesus, Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:26b-28, ESV).
Praise the Lord that finally after his resurrection, by the power and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples finally understood (all except his betrayer, Judas Iscariot) that Jesus had to die in order to give people the gift of eternal life. And because they understood, they have in turn passed that message on to all of us. Jesus took our sins to the cross, and the sting of eternal death has been transformed into the blessing of eternal life for those who believe and receive the gift of salvation. This is the cornerstone of the Christian faith and the essence of the Easter message. May God bless you with a deeper understanding of that message as you remember his death and celebrate his resurrection. Happy Resurrection Sunday!
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Memorabilia

MemorabiliaMy sister-in-law and her husband own a cozy home near Lake Ontario in upstate New York. It is an older house, but they have renovated and upgraded throughout their time of habitation. David and Brenda are very welcoming to family and friends hosting many in the spare bedrooms that lay adjacent on the upper level, on couches and floors in their family area, and even at times when company is plenty, in trailers in their backyard.

We have been privileged to stay with them on occasion, sometimes with four kids in tow, sometimes when just the two of us have come for a visit. One of the rooms open to guests is one they have named The Sports Room. Packed onto hanging shelves, in an old cupboard and on other pieces of furniture, and attached to the walls are many souvenirs, pictures, pennants, and other items primarily from David’s favorite sports teams. Neatly organized and visually appealing, this comfortable accommodation is a very interesting and inviting place to stay.
Memorabilia PostAn encompassing term for such a collection is memorabilia. Memorabilia serve as reminders of special events, good times, and interesting information. They are collectibles and can include items that are of value, especially to those who are interested in the particular field or theme of the collection. Those who own such a compilation likely can give facts about most of the objects contained therein including dates and times and all the details of the circumstances surrounding their acquisition.
The root of the word memorabilia is, of course, the word memorable. The Sports Room reminded me of a collection all those who consider themselves believers in Jesus should have. It is not necessarily a physical assortment of keepsakes, but something that is stored in the heart and mind of the Lord’s followers: the recollection of all the great things God has done. The Lord speaks about ”remembering” many times in his Word. The fourth of God’s Ten Commandments instructs the people of Israel to “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy… On it you shall not do any work… You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:12a, 14b, 15a, ESV). And further in Deuteronomy, “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not… You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is to this day” (Deuteronomy 8:2a-b, 18, ESV). As a response to the safe return of the Ark of the Covenant, David directs all to sing and praise the Lord, writing into song, “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered” (Psalm 105:5, ESV). Isaiah encourages God’s people by stating, “I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (Isaiah 63:7, ESV). Remembering helps us to honor God, to walk in his ways, and to direct thanks and praise to him. It recalls how faithful God has been and brings confidence that just as he has held onto us and helped us in the past, he will continue to care and provide for us in the future. A collection of remembrances about what God has done is valuable beyond compare!
    A Rose for Nick
Memorabilia PostThe Sports Room may hold even more importance in David and Brenda’s life now. David shared many of his sports experiences with his son, Nick, their only child, who went home to be with the Lord in March. The room serves as a reminder of many special events and good times. Even more important are the memories of all the great things God has done, including the day he reached into Nick’s heart and life and saved him. Recalling and reflecting on God’s faithfulness, goodness, love, and care in the past gives David and Brenda confidence that he will hold on to them and walk them through whatever they face in the future. This collection of remembrances surely is valuable beyond compare.

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