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Rated: E · Book · Religious · #2240915
Feb 26th: Extinguishing Flaming Arrows
Let the peace of Christ, to which you were indeed called in one body, rule in your hearts; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
— Colossians 3:15-17
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February 27, 2021 at 1:57pm
February 27, 2021 at 1:57pm
February 27

In His sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His disciples that they would be blessed if they mourned. That in itself doesn't seem much to receive a blessing. After all, we don't have to told to mourn for our lost loved ones, our friends, or people who have touched us in a special way. But that mourning is largely for our loss. If they have led Christian lives, we know where they are headed. We are sad because they are gone from our lives.

But while that's part of the mourning Christ is talking about, it's not the whole picture. In fact, it's probably a very small part of the picture. He obviously wants us to take a more active role in mourning ... on a daily basis even. But who are we to mourn? After all, the people we know and love don't die every day, or at least we hope they don't.

If we are not mourning for our loved ones, who can we mourn? The Greek word is pentheo, and in this context, means to be sad or sorrowful. So it's not necessarily to grieve for a lost loved one. As a matter of fact, there are lots of people for whom we can be sad and sorrowful. Don't tell me there are no people to be sad for as you drive past your local hospital.

Once I had an extended hospital stay. When they finally released me, I was so happy to be leaving. Most of us are like that—so happy to be headed home from the hospital. But as we were leaving, my wife suggested we stop and pray for those who weren't headed home. In the midst of our happiness, we stopped and took their sadness onto ourselves.

Does that mean we walk around being sad and sorrowful all the time? What about the joy we feel as adopted children and brothers and sisters of Christ? Certainly we should not forget our joy, but how difficult is it to take a few moments out of our joy to remember those whose lives aren't going exactly as planned.

And it's not just sympathy for others, its empathy. Sympathy and empathy are often used interchangeably, but are very different. Sympathy just means you're sorry another person has faced some difficulties. Often you may even say you're sorry they're going through what they are, while at the same time be happy you're not having to. Empathy is where you fully take on what the other person is going through.

The writer of Hebrews had this to say about fellow prisoners: "Remember the prisoners, AS THOUGH IN PRISON WITH THEM (emphasis mine), and those who are badly treated, since you yourselves also are in the body" (Hebrews 13:3). To empathize, we must chain ourselves to the pain and hurt of others. That is what Christ demands.

I've heard Christians say time and time again, "I can't wait for the rapture to come." Certainly, we all want to be with Jesus, but there are still know too many people who have yet to surrender their lives to Jesus to want everything to suddenly come to an end. We need to mourn for those lost souls, rather than to see them left behind for our own selfish motives.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
February 26, 2021 at 11:40pm
February 26, 2021 at 11:40pm
February 26

What is faith? The writer of the Book of Hebrews states, "Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). We can have faith in a lot of things: that the light switch we flip will turn the lamp on, that our boss will treat us fairly, that our doctor is current on all the latest medical research, and so on. Faith is a part of life, but faith in God is the feeling we have that He will protect us from evil even when we cannot see the arrows of sin headed our way.

Archers in armies over the centuries have been used to fill the skies with a multitude of arrows simply in the random hope that they would slip into a space between a soldier's armor and take him down. I'm sure you can recall various movies of heavily armed men, on foot or horseback, charging forward, only to have many of their comrades in arms killed or wounded when a hail of arrows falls from the sky. The enemy archers firing those arrows were not aiming at anything in particular, just in a general direction. The only source of protection was to hold a shield over their body to deflect the arrows.

Our enemy does the same thing. It's called the temptations of the World. Satan and his army of fallen angels may certainly attack us directly, probing our weaknesses, but another way our enemy functions is to fill the world with sinful things in the hope that one of those arrows find their way in. We see it all around us: immorality on television and in movies, the books we read, and just the overall degradation of our sensibilities.

We get drawn into those temptations so easily. There are smart phone and the internet and social media where we are always reading what people say, or distracting ourselves with senseless pursuits. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, but they can open a door to these temptations of the World. We have very little to protect ourselves from these arrows of sin ... that is, except for our faith in God to protect us.

That faith is the same as a modern soldier has. They no longer carry a shield because the arrows have grown so powerful. Modern arrows are ICBM missiles and other weapons of mass destruction that not only threaten soldiers, but civilians as well. However, there is protection. Ground RADAR, missile tracking satellites in space, and defensive missiles are all part of a National Missile Defense System that can intercept enemy missiles. Is this system adequate enough, the soldier has to have faith that it is.

We need faith that God will protect us from the worldly missiles of sin. God doesn't want us to withdraw from the world because that's our battlefield. That's why we fight the enemy, not just for our own sake, but so we can bring the good news of the Kingdom to the rest of the world. So we need to be in the world, but need protection from it so one of those arrows doesn't slip in and bring us down.

How do we keep our faith strong? Through turning to our Great Protector and asking for help. By saying what the centurion said, "Lord I believe, help my unbelief.

In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

February 25, 2021 at 1:18pm
February 25, 2021 at 1:18pm
February 25

The 23rd Psalm is perhaps one of the most well known Psalms, certainly the most quoted from the Old Testament. The author, King David, presents a vivid picture of how God takes care of those who love Him.

Often we hear the same analogy repeated throughout the New Testament by Jesus in his teachings. In them, Jesus becomes the good shepherd watching over His flock, searching out those who have left the fold, and responding to their needs. There is nothing wrong with that, but sometimes I think we make too much of a comparison of Christians as sheep.

Certainly, followers of Christ need guidance and protection, much like a shepherd provides, but we don't follow along behind the Good Shepherd blindly. In fact, God wants us to use our minds, as well as our hearts, in trusting Him. In order to do that, we must first grasp the difference between worldly wisdom and Spirit-led wisdom.

A better understanding of the Psalm can be summed up in four simple words: you are not alone. Perhaps the following poem captures the essence of that.


I'm cold, I'm alone, I'm trembling;
but the Shepherd is coming
to gently lead me
into the warmth.

I'm scared, I'm anxious, I'm hounded;
but the Shepherd is coming
to quiet my fears
and bring me peace.

I'm tired, I'm weary, I'm deceived ;
but the Shepherd is coming
to provide deep shade
so I can rest.

I'm weak, I'm damaged, I'm broken;
but the Shepherd is coming
to remove my yoke
and set me free.

I'm lost, I'm lacking, I'm drifting;
but the Shepherd is coming
to rescue my soul
and bring me home.

We all need help sometimes. Perhaps we need help most of the time. Family helps, friends help, community helps, but all of those can let us down from time to time. The one we can count on time and again, in good times and bad, endlessly, is God.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
February 24, 2021 at 8:58pm
February 24, 2021 at 8:58pm
February 24

One of the most destructive forces in the church today is conflict. Disunity makes the church look weak. Paul compares us to a body with each of us performing a specific function and none able to function without the other. That's a good analogy, but I also like to think about the church as a chain. Since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, it's every member's responsibility to build up each link, so that none break and create half of a chain. That's what disunity does ... it weakens links.

Be careful, though, because a misunderstood desire for unity had led to the world ecumenical movement—a one-world church. It’s true that Jesus said, "... that they may all be one" (John 17:21), but He was talking about Spirit-led unity, not man-made union. There's a difference.

The difference between union and unity is where desire for like-mindedness arises. Imposing control or direction is top-down and therefore man-made union. A grassroots desire springing from each individual's heart as led by the Spirit is bottom-up unity. Man tries to create union, but we don't create unity.

When we are called to follow Christ, unity is placed within us. The Spirit simply maintains it because it’s part of the Spirit. There are no articles of theologic agreement, no creeds, no checklists, no debate over them. The desire for unity is created in us the moment we accept Christ. It’s fundamental to our mindset and underlies and underpins everything we say or do.

That's not to say there are no differences among us. Friction exists and has always existed—from the time when Jew was pitted against Gentile right up to our modern age and the profusion of denominations. Even Paul had to step in and write a letter to the Corinthians when followers of two different teachers, Euodia and Syntyche, began taking sides. No, the wonder of the church is not that everyone is the same. The wonder is that such a diverse group—perhaps more diverse than any other group—is still able to display unity.

I was the younger brother in my family, a fact my older brother lorded over me. He loved to boss me around and point out all my flaws. One day, my brother and I were playing with a friend of mine. As usual, my brother and I got into an argument.

To my utter and completer surprise, my friend began to side with my brother. All of a sudden, my brother switched sides and just like that my brother and I formed a united front against my friend. He had forgotten one very crucial thing, that my brother and I had a fundamental unity of brotherhood that superseded everything else.

In the same way, church unity must be at a fundamental level. Jesus said that our love and unity would be a witness to the world (John 17:21). Too often, though, all the outside world sees is division and disunity instead of real fellowship. We must recognize that relationships are more important than issues and understand that unity of Spirit leaps all human boundaries.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
February 22, 2021 at 1:10pm
February 22, 2021 at 1:10pm
February 22

As followers of Christ, we talk a lot about humility—working towards it, having it, loosing it. I think most people have a pretty good idea of what humility means, but when Jesus told His apostles to be humble as children, it startled them. It has always seemed an odd thing to say even for us today. After all, how many humble children do we know?

To prove my point, I went online looking for humility in children. I waded through so many web pages on improving humility in children, teaching your children humility, having your kids learn humility, and so on. If children need to be taught humility, it certainly can't be something that's intrinsic to their nature.

In fact, it’s something that’s not intrinsic to adults either. We have to learn—and practice—humility because it goes against our human nature. It is obviously so considering the question the disciples asked of Jesus (Matthew 18:1-4):

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

So how are we to become humble as children, when we realize that children aren’t all that humble?

What Jesus is talking about is a different kind of humility, though it is basically the same as our understanding of the word. The Greek word is tapeinōsei, which indeed means "will humble," as in: whoever will humble themselves. Yet, it carries other meanings such as "make low" or "demean." What Jesus was saying was that unless we can see our status to be as lowly a children, we will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Compare that to how the disciples were asking who would be the greatest.

During the time of Jesus, children were little more than tolerated in society. Certainly, the were loved and protected within the family, but in the culture as a whole, they were virtually invisible and too foolish to associate with. Have you ever seen or heard a child walk up to their parent at a social gathering and tug on their sleeve. The normal response from the parent is, "Not now, I'm talking to grown-ups." Not terribly bad, but multiply that exponentially and you have a good understanding of the status of children in the time of Jesus.

It was also evident in the literature of the time. The Greek word for child, pais or paidion, can also can mean "servant" or "slave." Philosophers regularly chided a stupid or foolish man by calling him nepios, which means inexperienced and helplessness, descriptors often used on children. Even Paul told the Corinthians to stop thinking like paida, "children" (1 Corinthians 14:20).

And yet that's exactly what we must make ourselves if we are to be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Make no mistake, Jesus was adamant about that. He didn't simply say, "C'mon fellas, rein in the vanity a little" when they began talking about who would be greatest. It's a conversation Jesus had with His disciple on other occasions, so they were probably all hoping it was them. But Jesus answered sternly, "UNLESS YOU CHANGE …"

We need to begin making those changes in our own lives. We must act like children, not in their sometimes foolish or happy-go-lucky manner, tough the latter is sometimes a good way to be. No, we must act like children in the way Christ meant it, in a way that elevates everyone around you until you have made yourself the lowest of all.

So the last shall be first, and the first, last.
February 20, 2021 at 9:38pm
February 20, 2021 at 9:38pm
February 20

There are two ways Christians let the light of the God shine, by what they say and what they do. Unfortunately, a lot of the words spoken by Christians today, and often what they do, can be summed up with a time-worn phrase: hitting people over the head with the Bible.

We must always remember everything that comes out of our mouths, every action we perform with hands and feet, must come with a stipulation—it should come with gentleness and reverence. That means we should always display an attitude of kindness and respect for whoever might hear, read, or see.

Non-believers, whoever they are, however far away they live, and whatever they believe, are not our enemy. So, everything must be in consideration for the background, religion, culture, and attitudes of the people we are trying to reach. This is foundational to the Christian walk.

The problems is that it can be a struggle to accomplish this for many Christians. We are beginning to face an increasingly secular culture. When trying to combat this, the Christian's tendency today is to lobby for Christian rights, implement a Christian agenda, and try to reform culture based on Christian attitudes.

However, regenerating individual souls should take precedence over ways of codifying behavior based on our moral standards. Though God-given they may be, they cannot be involuntarily imposed. We need to respect other's opinions regardless of faith or lack thereof … to a point.

Of course, there are limits. We must not abide by laws that go against the Law of God. Other opinions end where our conscience begins (Acts 5:29):

But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men."

Yes, we submit to a higher law, but it would be good to understand what that law is. Personal freedom and even our constitutional rights are not necessarily a matter of conscience.

We must separate what makes us uncomfortable or unhappy from that which is our Christian duty. A boss asking us to not wear a Christian themed t-shirt to work because it violates the dress code is not the same as ordering you to lie about a certain business transaction. Wearing an different shirt does not violate any laws of God.

Certainly, we may feel that our personal rights are being stepped on in the first case, but that's hardly a matter of conscience and something that can be fought through other statutes other than religious ones. However, asking you to lie is a matter of conscience. It's important for Christians to recognize the difference if we are to be that light of the world. Too often, Christians pick the wrong battles.

We must also remember that God loves all. That means every single person on the earth, whether they are a believer or not. Too often, Christians think that because they believe, they are the only ones capable of receiving God's blessings. Yet, God sends blessings to all, to the good as well as the bad. This is called Prevenient Grace, and is simply God always knocking at the door of the unbeliever, bestowing blessings in order to show His glory and draw people to Him.

One time I was driving to western Massachusetts for a meeting. It was held near South Hadley, MA where the Yankee Candle manufacturing plant is located. I decided I would stop in and get a candle for my wife. Driving along, I soon realized I didn't need a map to tell if I was near the town ... scents filled the air from miles away. By the time I arrived, the smell of candles permeating everything.

That is what Prevenient Grace is like, God's blessings reaching everyone far and wide so they know of His presence. People can deny it all they want, much as I could have denied I smelled anything, but the truth is it was there. It's important for Christians to recognize God sends blessings to everyone. We need to see that He sheds His light everywhere and we should join him in letting it shine. After all, how does one constrain the sun.

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect.
February 18, 2021 at 7:37pm
February 18, 2021 at 7:37pm
February 18

We often think the first sin was committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden, which was disobedience, or perhaps their failure to ask forgiveness. But their sin was strictly how sin entered the world. There was a sin that preceded them—the real first sin. It was the sin of pride by Lucifer when he felt he was equal to God.

Perhaps it was pride and not disobedience that Adam and Eve first committed as well. If we consider that Satan convinced Eve that "she would not die" by eating the forbidden fruit, it was at that point disobedience began to flare up in her; it was something she hadn't felt up to that point. Obviously, to eat the fruit and thereby disobey God, she must have thought God was wrong and therefore she was "smarter" than God. That sounds like pride to me. In fact, pride may be the father of almost all sin.

And yet, isn't pride a driving force in all of our accomplishments? In fact, at times, isn’t it the only thing that sustains our efforts? It’s pride in doing something good, or righteous, or the correct way that continues to fuel us when we receive no recompense, no accolades, no notoriety. That's because we often labor in private and need pride to nourish our efforts.

It’s only human to feel pride in what we do, and God has made us uniquely fitted to perform each task according to His wishes. We are even proud when the Lord is served. So, is pride such a bad thing?

When I looked up pride in the dictionary, I was surprised to find that in every instance, when pride encapsulated a positive quality, it could also result in a negative one. Self-esteem and self-respect, both required for good mental health, can lead to conceit and disdain of others. Delight in an act, possession, or relationship, also good and even necessary, can lead to ostentatious displays and idolatry.

The truth is we have no bragging rights to the things we accomplish, because all things are done for God's benefit. Every act is approved by the judgment of God, sustained by the actions of God, and accomplished within the dominion of God. So, all glory belongs to God. Understanding that, C.S. Lewis told us in Mere Christianity:

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

Still, God built pride into us for a reason. Pride can be good—no, necessary—but only in small doses. Every act we do is a gift that we should be happy about and take some level of pride in, but we must remember to give God the glory for our gifts and abilities. That way we remain constantly wary that pride does not take a foothold in our lives. It's what Satan uses to lead us more deeply into sin … like the proverbial frog being slowly boiled to death.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every person who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—this is the gift of God.
February 16, 2021 at 11:32pm
February 16, 2021 at 11:32pm
February 16

One of the instructions Jesus left with us to do, or at least we would be blessed if we did, was to be poor in spirit. This can be a misleading instruction for those who don't understand what that means. After all, doesn't poor in spirit mean to be depressed and isn't rich in spirit a good thing? Did Jesus mean that we need to walk around depressed all the time? The answer is no. That's not what it means.

First, notice that it's spirit with an "s" in lowercase. That means it's the human spirit. Professor Bernard Lonergan and his teaching assistant, Daniel Helminiak—both serving in the disciplines of theology and philosophy—considered the human spirit to include mental functions of awareness, insight, understanding, judgement and other reasoning powers. Conversely, Spirit with a capital "S" represents the Holy Spirit within us—our soul. We can be both poor and rich in human spirit, as well as poor and rich in the Holy Spirit. And they are diametrically opposite one another.

I believe we're all familiar with the international sport of soccer. Imagine you're standing at midfield. There are goals at opposite ends of the field—one direction is the human spirit goal and the other is the Holy Spirit goal. If we were to head toward the human spirit goal, we would be getting richer in human spirit.

I can describe the richness end of the human spirit in three words: me, me, me. Here, we are filled with human pride, being all we can be, and every other cliche that advertisers throw at us when we take hold of the world. If we were to score a goal at that end of the field, being rich in the Holy Spirit would be furthermost from us. We would race around, hands in the air, maybe even rip off our t-shirt in celebration of our personal accomplishment.

If we turned and headed in the opposite direction, with each stride we would be getting poorer in human spirit as we grew richer in the Holy Spirit. At the Holy Spirit end of the field, the "me" would have totally disappeared and it would all be about God—and everyone else. We have become completely humble. There would be no celebration of self, just us laying prostrate on the ground giving glory to God.

That's what being poor in human spirit means ... total humility. We are fulfilling Jesus's two greatest commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39).

Obviously we want to reach that goal, but true humility is hard to come by. We throw that word around sometimes in meaningless ways almost as badly as we do the word love. But the Bible gives us the perfect example of true humility. If I were to ask you to imagine a room filled with your friends, and then ask you if there was any one person whom you would not set above you and wash their feet, what would your answer be?

That's exactly what Jesus did (John 13:1-17). When Jesus approached Peter to wash his feed, the apostle balked … probably because he thought it too lowly a thing to do, certainly nothing he would ever do. Jesus said to him that if he did not, "You have no part in me." Jesus did that as an example to us all. I'm not suggesting we go around washing each others feet. What I'm asking is—what Jesus is asking—are you willing to do so?

I asked you to imagine a roomful of friends and then asked if you would be willing to wash their feet. Now imagine a roomful of your enemies. What would your answer be now? That's the only way to become poor in spirit.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
February 15, 2021 at 4:56pm
February 15, 2021 at 4:56pm
February 15

Many biblical scholars agree that Job is the oldest book in the Bible, predating the first five books of the Old Testament written by Moses. They only argue about how old. Using only the Bible as a source and theorizing about Job's age in relation to others who's ages are recorded, many think it was written slightly before the time of Abraham. As such, it's the earliest written record of God's relationship with man. Just as important, it's the earliest written record of God's relationship with Satan.

We see in the book of Job that Satan has access to both heaven and to God. It's where he goes to accuse us of wrongdoing. His movements upon Earth are not restricted, but he is restricted by God with regard to how much he can do. He could only test Job with God's permission. That means that everything that happens to us passes through God's hands first. In modern terminology, there is nothing that happens which first doesn't cross God's desk to approve or disapprove.

Does that mean that our tests, sometimes awful challenges, come from God? Far from it. Satan is the source of everything bad that happens to us. God's approval isn't in the sense that he desires to watch us struggle, but only for him to approve if he believes it's something we can handle and that will transform our faith. Nothing that happens to us occurs without his knowledge, without his evaluation of our ability, and then without his continued support of us.

My father was a farmer and he once told me that the one sure method of making crops resistant to severe drought was if water was withheld from time to time. So why do we sometimes wonder why God allows our faith to be tested? The sole purpose behind our testing is to make us more resistant.

Muscles are built in the same way. When exercised, muscle tissue is first broken down and then rebuilt stronger. Our faith muscles are built in the same way and proven on the battlefield of challenge, not on the feather-bed of our ease—the very reason why God allowed Job to be tested.

Our testing is not meant to bring us harm, but to build us up. It's meant to hold up a mirror to our character and to strengthen it. The important thing to remember is this: no matter what Satan throws at us, God is always in control.

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
February 15, 2021 at 2:25pm
February 15, 2021 at 2:25pm
February 13

It's amazing how fragile our bodies are. It doesn't take much to damage them. We do a lot of things to try and protect ourselves, but those efforts often fail. We take immunizations to protect us from viruses, wear helmets when riding a bicycle, surround ourselves with metal to form a cocoon when we drive a car, and build expensive houses to shelter us from life-threatening elements. Seat-belts, fire-alarms, the list goes on ... all to protect our bodies.

That is not a bad thing. Bodily self-preservation is one of the basic driving forces of human nature. Safety even precedes the search for food and water. If marooned on a deserted island, the first thing we would probably do is try to build a shelter to protect us. Yet, for all our effort, we cannot totally prevent damage to our bodies.

When I was younger, I owned a motorcycle. It was a cheap mode of transportation for a poor college student, even though everyone warned me I was driving a two-wheeled coffin. For safety, I always wore a helmet and kept my headlight on. One day, that did very little good.

I was coming home from classes, driving down a narrow city street and approached an intersection. Though I had the right-of-way, a car suddenly appeared in front of me and I was thrown through the air over it. The first thing I felt hit the pavement was the back of my helmet. If not for the helmet, I'm certain I would have had a significant head injury. Still, I had deep body contusions over most of my body.

The point is, no matter how careful we are and what precautions we take, we are going to get injured or diseased. Yet, we take no special precautions when it comes to the condition of our soul. This is curious, considering the fact that Jesus tells us our souls are of infinitely greater value than our bodies.

Our soul is just as fragile as our bodies. In an instant, our faith can be shaken to the very core and any safety measures we've installed to protect it—bible study, prayer, devotions, church ministries, worship—all do little to protect us when tribulations decide to come at us with full force. I have seen the souls of devout, mature Christian men and women crumble and fall under such an onslaught.

The only sure safety for our soul is the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives to protect us in a very real sense. Too often, we depend on our own effort to protect us. Then, we wonder why we are lying on the pavement, face up toward the sky, with our soul broken and bleeding. We have failed to inoculate ourselves with the most important immunization for the soul—trusting in Christ rather than ourselves to protect us.

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it benefit a person to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what could a person give in exchange for his soul?
February 12, 2021 at 6:17pm
February 12, 2021 at 6:17pm
February 12

I tend to jump around from one version to another when I study passages from the Bible. That's because I understand the difficulties of translating from archaic texts. Sometimes it's difficult to translate a Hebrew of Greek word or phrase exactly into English—there may be no word that fits it. So, I like to see how different translations express it.

In doing so, I sometimes come upon words that jump out at me and touch me in a special way. One of those words is "lovingkindness." In studying the Bible, I rely on the New American Standard, but this phrase comes from the New King James version (Jeremiah 31:3):

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."

As an writer, I should probably object to lovingkindness as a word. It's really just a combination of two words and is now considered an archaic expression, arising from it's use in this very verse. The Hebrew word is hesed and has been interpreted as "faithfulness" or "unfailing care" in other versions. However, it seems impossible to express it using just one word. I think "lovingkindness" is a great attempt that expresses God's consistent love for us.

God has shown that His long-standing love is an active love that draws us to Him. To me, it relates to the nature of God’s divine kindness that is the source of God's mercy towards us, and it's mercy that we need. We are lost in the wilderness without God's love for us. We are mindless beggars, sorting through the scraps that life gives us. We dupe ourselves into thinking we are building a life by our own efforts. In truth, we are aimless without His guidance, weak without His strength, broken without His provision.

When we begin to struggle, when things don't go our way, when we begin to wonder if God is really there watching over us or has turned his back because of our sin; we only need to remember what He has done for us in our past. More, what He has done for all mankind from the beginning of time. Then we know He has been and always will be by our side ... if we would only draw near to Him and accept His help.

That's why, even as these times in which we live are beginning to get darker, we know God has not ceased to love us. Even as we've witnessed the burning of Bibles, we know He will be there to help us because of the love He has shown us in the past. We know that He will continue to do so. We know that the love and mercy He has displayed remains with those who are drawn to Him.

May we always be able to bring his lovingkindness to our remembrance.

Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me.
February 11, 2021 at 9:06pm
February 11, 2021 at 9:06pm
February 11

When I was learning my profession at a university, I was fortunate to have studied under some prominent professors in their fields. They were not so well-known that the general public would have heard of them, but in their professions, they were giants. Often, years later when I would make a statement of opinion, someone would say, "You must have studied under so-and-so, you sound just like him or her." I never took that as an affront, rather as an acknowledgment of the firm foundation of my study.

When Jesus ascended to Heaven and His disciples each began their missions to spread the Good News of Christ, there were times they didn't even need to speak the name of Jesus. People automatically knew who they had learned from just by the way they spoke and acted. Jesus had specifically spoken about that, saying, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). That love became the defining characteristic of their missionary work.

We may grasp that concept in the abstract, but we struggle to do that when it comes to specifics. On November 12, 1959, Charles Schulz published a now-famous Peanuts cartoon that speaks to that. It begins with the ubiquitous Lucy telling Linus, "You, a doctor! Ha! That's a big laugh! You could never be a doctor! You know why? Because you don't love mankind, that's why!" To which Linus replies, "I love mankind … it's people I can't stand!!"

I think, perhaps, we can all relate to Linus. We say we love mankind, but when it comes to those pesky people in our lives, loving them gets a whole lot more difficult. Individuals that we know can be irritating, irksome, and downright disagreeable. Too often they even have opinions that differ seriously from our own. Should that keep us from engaging with them, and even harder … loving them? It shouldn't.

We have to consider, as well, that our statement of love for all mankind is a cover for our inability to connect with people at the personal level. It holds people at arms-length, all the while declaring how much we love them as part of mankind. We know that to truly love individuals, we can end up being laughed at, despised, and outright physically hurt. It's easy to love mankind in the abstract because it can't hurt us. Only individual people can.

But Jesus wants us to move past those fears. To him, individuals are far too important for us to back away. He set the example for us, and we should mimic his humility. He lowered himself to wash the feet of his disciples and expects the same of us. When we can lower ourself before every person in our lives, enough to say we would wash their feet, then we are following the teaching or our greatest instructor. Only then will people say, "You must have studied under Jesus, you sound just like Him."

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.
February 10, 2021 at 8:41pm
February 10, 2021 at 8:41pm
February 10

I love riddles. It's a good way to stretch the mind and keep it in good shape, in much the same way we need to exercise the body. But lest we neglect our soul, which needs exercising as well, let's take a look at a few riddles and how we can relate them to the Bible.

No peeking until you've tried in earnest to solve them. You may need to highlight the answers to read them.

1. What has one eye and a long tail and every time it goes over a gap, it leaves a bit of it's tail behind.

Answer: A needle and thread

What do you suppose Jesus meant when he said "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 10:24)? Many have said there used to be an entrance alongside city gates, big enough for a person, but an unloaded camel must get on it's knees to pass through—similar to an act of penance. It was called the Eye of the Needle, though that explanation for how the rich may enter heaven sounds like a rationalization to me.

When trying to understand a particular bible passage it's always best to read it in context, and in the context of this section, I think we can gauge what Jesus really meant by the apostles' reaction. They were astonished and wondered who could be saved according to that criterion. It sounds to me like they believed Jesus was talking about the actual eye of a sewing needle. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking that holding on to your riches in life will get you to Heaven.

2. What dictates the state of the body as well as the state of mind.

Answer: The tongue

When Adam sinned, his sin was imputed to all mankind, then and in the future. So, whether we wish it to be so or not, the truth is that every human being is born with a sin nature (Romans 3:10–18). Lurking within each of us are varying degrees of hatred, bitterness, jealousy, pride, and so on. The list is almost endless. Every day, these sins are unleashed upon strangers, friends, siblings, and worst of all, among husbands and wives.

Some of this comes by our actions, but most of it comes through our tongues. David sings about keeping the tongue from evil and James suggested keeping a tight reign on it because a small spark from it can start a forest fire. Perhaps Solomon sums it up best (Proverbs 18:20-21):

With the fruit of a person’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied;
He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.

By eating of it's fruits, he meant both physically and spiritually—we will taste sweet or sour fruit based on our state of mind. We must keep it bridled.

3. A sundial has the fewest moving pieces of any timepiece. Which timepiece has the most"

Answer: An hourglass filled with sand

How often do we get vexed while waiting for God to answer our prayers? How often do we let our anger grow toward God because of the length of time it takes Him to right some wrong, to bring about justice? In fact, how long has mankind waited for Christ's return? Waiting upon the Lord is one of our greatest difficulties as followers of Christ. It shouldn't be, but it is.

What we forget is that that the distinction of lengths of time do not apply to God. Rapid responses or long delays are purely human constructs. Peter said it best when he wrote, "With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day" (2 Peter 3:8). In fact, we should be more than content that the Lord has allowed the sands of time to run out as long as they have. Else how could so many more be saved from a second death.

So then, be careful how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
February 9, 2021 at 8:38pm
February 9, 2021 at 8:38pm
February 9

Any one who has watched professional football for any length of time will recognize the title of one particular game from 1978 called the "Miracle of the Meadowlands." It was a game that was played between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles at Meadowlands Stadium in the New York metropolitan area. What made the game so memorable is how it ended.

With only half a minute left in the game—barely more than 30 seconds—the Giants were leading 17-12 and had possession of the ball. The Eagles had no timeouts, so all the Giant quarterback had to do was kneel down and let time run out. Instead, he handed the ball to his running back, or at least tried to. The ball was fumbled and an Eagles player rushed in, picked up the ball, and scored a touchdown to win the game. It was a classic example of victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Can you imagine what those Giant fans felt? It's probably the same feeling that Satan and his army of fallen angels must have felt almost two thousand years ago. They had played the game well, had made all the right moves. They had Judas in their pocket, the pharisees were doing their bidding, and they had turned the crowd against Jesus to such an extent that that they asked for an insurrectionist to be released in place of Jesus.

It was looking good for team Satan, who must surely have thought there was no way to loose. Time was running out as Jesus was scourged and then led to the cross. They were going to win. Victory was theirs. The mighty Son of God was going to die, humiliated on the cross.

Three days later the horrible news came—the resurrected Jesus lived.

Satan had been tried and convicted. At the very moment that Jesus rose from the grave, God's judgement upon him was revealed. He stood condemned—his Kingdom was over and another had begun. All that remained for him was to be executed, which will come someday. That's why Jesus said when he was leaving his disciples that one of the reasons for the coming of the Holy Spirit was to prove the judgement of God on the Prince of the World, who we know as Satan.

Sometimes I think we give Satan too much credit. He is a created being, not anything like the one who had created him. And now he had fumbled the ball and lost the big game. Victory had been snatched away from him in what must surely have been his happiest moment.

Certainly he is stronger than any ability we have to overcome, but he is powerless before Christ, as testified by the Holy Spirit. We can take great comfort in that, knowing that our adversary stands toothless before our Lord and savior, condemned to be cast into the lake of fire.

And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness, and judgment: regarding sin, because they do not believe in Me; and regarding righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you no longer are going to see Me; and regarding judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
February 8, 2021 at 10:07pm
February 8, 2021 at 10:07pm
February 8

There is a short verse in the Bible that is powerful and yet has received multiple interpretations. The verse in question is simply "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). Some translations render "fear" as reverence, respect, awe, and obedience. The truth is, they are all correct and reflect the multiple-faceted sides of God.

The original Hebrew word is yirah, which means reverence for and fear of God. It has a three letter root word that means "to see." So, we see with certainty that no act goes unknown, either by God or our ourselves. It should instill in us a proper caution, respect, and awe for the moral universe created and embodied by God. It refers to a God that is always involved with mankind.

Today, we tend to shy away from actually using fear since it implies terror or fright—an anticipation of danger and pain—and we don't like to think of God in that context. However, in doing so, we may actually be watering down that word's meaning. What we need is a better understanding of what the fear of God embraces.

When I worked in Washington State, I took a trip to see a geologic formation called the Dry Falls. Today, they are just 400-foot cliffs in the scab-lands of central Washington, but twenty thousand years ago, a giant waterfall five times the width of Niagara Falls spilled over them. Ice sheets from melting glaciers that had dammed rivers suddenly broke free and catastrophic flooding caused parts of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon to be under hundreds of feet of water in just a few days. The 65-mile-an-hour flow over the cliffs was ten times the flow of all the rivers in the world today combined.

Standing along the rim of the cliffs and staring down into the basin 400 feet below, it was hard not to feel a sense of awe. Imagining the volume and speed of the water roaring over those rock faces generated a sense of fear as well—fear for the power of nature at it's most violent. All the words translated from the Hebrew word yirah fit the emotion one feels in a situation like that: awe, reverence, respect, and yes, even fear.

There is a well-known story about General Robert E. Lee from the Civil War. He was well-loved by his men, but they also respected his sense of justice. One day a soldier who had been accused of stealing was brought into Lee's tent to be judged. The soldier sat, sweating and nervously twisting his cap, waiting for the General to arrive. When Lee walked in, he saw the condition of the soldier and had pity. Walking up to him he said, "Don't worry, you'll get justice here," to which the soldier replied, "That's what I'm afraid of."

That's what the fear of God means. We know that God loves us, but we also know he of his great power—power enough to create the universe just by thinking it into existence. That kind of power and omniscience sees into the very depths of us and knows all of our shortcomings. We also know that we will stand before him one day with all those shortcomings revealed. It bids us approach God with a healthy sense of reverence for his power, glory, and immaculate sense of justice.

Perhaps some good old fashioned fear of our Creator is just what our modern society needs. Else we might just find ourselves swept over the cliffs ... like those ancient waterfalls.

The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.
February 7, 2021 at 11:07pm
February 7, 2021 at 11:07pm
February 7

One of the more controversial things that Jesus spoke about had to do with our attitude toward sin. He said (Matthew 5:29-30):

Now if your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

That's some pretty serious stuff. Non-believers latch onto this as proof that Jesus wasn't all about love as He is made out to be. Believers look at it as Jesus talking metaphorically and He didn't really mean it. In my humble opinion, he both meant it and didn't mean it. I have a personal experience that guides me in my opinion and helps explain that dichotomy.

Many years ago, when our two sons were in their mid-teens, we decided that they could be left home alone together. This was for the hour after they got out of school and before I got home from work. They had chores to do and homework to start, and they assured us that all would be well. It was only for an hour, so what could go wrong? I would soon find out.

Not long after we started this course of action, I walked in the front door to see my younger son sitting on the couch, pressing a bloody rag onto his wrist. My older son was standing in the middle of the living room, both hands held halfway up as if to stop me. He said, "Dad, everything's okay. We had a problem, but everything's okay now. Don't freak out."

I freaked out.

Through gritted teeth I asked them to explain what happened. Evidently they had come home already fighting. We lived close to their school, about a mile away, and they had been arguing the whole time walking home. My youngest son had carried the trash outside to put it in the bin and my oldest son, who should have known better, decided he would end the arguing by locking him outside. After banging and yelling at each other through the back door for about a minute, they both evidently got the same idea at the same time: the front door.

One son tore through the inside of the house while the other ran around the outside. They both arrived at the open front door at the same time. My older son proceeded to slam it shut as my younger son held up his hand to block it. Our front door was made of smaller window panes and his hand went through one of panes of glass, which cut his wrist.

Awful thoughts ran through my head at the time. All I could picture was my younger son bleeding out on the floor and my older son carrying the weight of that the rest of his life. I could have cared less about the window pane … only about the pain the loss of my son might bring. After checking to see that it was only a few minor scrapes, I said in a strained and seething voice, "Both of you are grounded for life! Now go upstairs and never come out of your rooms for as long as you live."

Did I mean it? You betcha. Is it a punishment that I expected to follow through on? No. What I wanted to convey to them at that moment was the seriousness of their actions. I didn't use hyperbole on purpose—it just came out. But they needed to know that actions can cause serious consequences, and exaggeration to the point of absurdity was the only way that I knew to get that point across.

I would never have the arrogance to speak for our Savior, but I suspect this is exactly the point Jesus was trying to make. He had just finished telling his disciples that even though they don't do anything wrong on the outside, if they think it in their heart, they have already committed sin. If they felt anger toward someone, it was the same as murder. If they lusted after someone, it was the same as adultery.

Perhaps his words stung and caused murmuring among his disciple. This was all new to them and set a standard far exceeding that which they had been taught their whole lives. Or perhaps, knowing the sin that was in their hearts, the full weight of that sin came down to bear on Jesus. He loved these followers of His and he might have wept internally at the consequences of their sin.

I can picture Jesus with those thoughts running though His mind. I can see Him rising from a sitting position, pointing directly at them, and saying those words with the same kind of ache in his voice that I had experienced with my sons. He meant those words, but He would never intend for us to mutilate ourselves. He had to let us know how serious this was and hyperbole is what he used to get His point across.

Too often, I think that we look at our own sin in an off-handed manner. "Whoops, I did it again. Sorry Lord," and then just move on. We don't stop to consider the serious consequences of our sin. Perhaps we all need that finger pointed at us and the words "If your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out," said to us so we wake up to the seriousness of our sin.

The rest of the story is that my sons no longer bicker. They get along very well as adults. However, the incident of when Dad grounded them for life has achieved mythical proportions in our family. I've never taken back those words, though, and don't intend to. I pray Jesus never does as well.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
February 5, 2021 at 8:04pm
February 5, 2021 at 8:04pm
February 5

Idols are everywhere. They're not necessarily the golden-calf kind, but everything we cling to other than our love for God and which we find difficult to let go are idols. The commercial tag line, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend” is a perfect example, when diamonds are treated as treasure and not pressurized carbon rocks that they truly are.

Men are far from exempt. Benjamin Franklin once quipped, “Old boys have their playthings as well as young ones; the difference is only in the price.” Men love expensive fishing tackle, high-priced golf equipment, the fastest speedboats, the most powerful truck available, and so on. I find that if I’m unable to easily give up any one of these kinds of playthings, it’s probably an idol.

Idols also don’t go by price. The most costly thing is not necessarily an idol, while the cheapest can be. For example, if someone asked me to give up my car that I’ve been using to drive handicap people to church, that’s not necessarily an idol. But if I’m unwilling to give the hat of my favorite sports team to someone standing in the rain because I love it so much, that’s an idol. When my love of an earthly treasure replaces my love of God, I’m guilty of practicing idolatry.

We sometimes measure ourselves by the money we make, the promotions we get, the size of our house, and the number of vehicles we own. Yet we also measure ourselves by our standing in church and community. At times, we tend to be more interested in showing how devoted we are to fellow Christians rather than just loving God.

I came across a new word the other day: iZealotry. It's idolatry with an internet twist. It has to do with zeal, or rather being overzealous. Zeal can be good, when used appropriately, but someone with too much zeal is probably being idolatrous. You see it all over the internet in flaming e-mails and posts. Believe it or not, many of these are from Christians. None are meant to gain converts, but to show how righteous they think they are. It's as if the Pharisees have returned.

Then there is our zeal for country, which we’ve somehow married to Christianity. Our love for country can, at times, be more vocal than our love for God. In the movie, A Few Good Men, the Marine on trial named Dawson quoted a code they lived by: "Unit, Corps, God, Country." This is not necessarily the actual Marine code, just Hollywood's version of it, so let's be careful. But notice where God fits in, which is symptomatic of the way many think. Too often we place our love of country above our love of God. How expensive to our soul is that particular plaything? Indeed, idols come in a variety of gilded, golden calves.

We must remember that along with any object or ideal we've been blessed with for a season, comes the ability to give it away. The dust of idols rubs off and lingers in the heart, which soils the soul.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
February 4, 2021 at 6:47pm
February 4, 2021 at 6:47pm
February 4

As followers of Christ, we are called to forfeit our self-centered desires in favor of serving others. This is called the sacrificial life, but what does that really mean? How much, and when, are we supposed to sacrifice? Are we to be like the rich young man that Jesus told to sell all he had and give it to the poor (Matthew 19:16-22)?

Leading a sacrificial life is not about concrete acts of self-denial, but about willingness. It's not about the sacrifice itself, it's about our willingness to do whatever is asked of us. We may be asked to do something extraordinary, like go on a mission trip or even put ourselves in harms way to spread the Gospel. Or we may only be asked to do something very ordinary. It's all about our willingness to do so.

I have a friend named Bob. He and I were helping another friend named Joe do some yard work at Joe's house. Joe had been injured and needed some help because he wasn't entirely capable, so Bob and I pitched in. We were glad to do it. We gave of our time and effort, but we didn't give all of our time or all of our effort. That's not the kind of partial willingness that leads to a sacrificial life.

As we were working, a gentleman drove by in a car. Seeing us working in the yard, he stopped. He got out and approached us, saying he was running on fumes and needed some gas. He pointed to two full, 5-gallon gas cans sitting nearby and asked our friend Joe if he could have some for his car. Joe agreed and proceeded to carry both gas cans over to the man's car.

Bob interrupted him as he was doing so and proceeded to protest. He said, "Don't give him all of it. Just give him enough to get to a gas station." Joe replied, "He may not take all I have, or he may, but I'm willing to give him all." Even though it was a simple thing like gas, that's what living the sacrificial life means.

Not all of us are able to do extraordinary things, but the key is to be willing to do whatever God asks us to do. Between the rich person who gives a $100 dollar bill to a homeless person (a tenth of what they have), and the person who gives all they have left by giving $3, which one is leading the sacrificial life? When we hold back, we are depending on ourselves. When we give all, we are depending on God.

One of my favorite sayings is: God can do more with two pennies in your pocket than you can do with $2,000 on your own. So, why not be willing to give it all. The willingness is what it takes to lead the sacrificial life. And it's something that we have to have settled in our mind. Because when the call comes, it may be quick and unannounced. We must always be ready.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, this is the one who will save it.
February 3, 2021 at 5:13pm
February 3, 2021 at 5:13pm
February 3

God is love. How often have we heard and spoken those words. Often, however we don't stop to think what that means. We can dissect that word and it's various meanings, but we seldom talk about the actual action of loving.

Too often, we look at love a bit passively. We love back when we feel loved. We care about others when others care about us. Sometimes this happens simultaneously, but how do we go about loving and caring when we are not loved? This was on the mind of the writer of Hebrews when he asked us to "… consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24).

This is one instance where I like the wording of the King James version a bit better. It renders that translation as to "provoke unto love." I like the word provoke. It carries with it a sense of immediacy of action. Often it's used in a negative sense, such a provoking someone to anger, which is probably why the later versions of the Bible lean toward encourage or stir up. Yet, if we can provoke someone to anger, how much more important it is to provoke someone to love.

This places the responsibility squarely on us. We are to actively seek a means to spur on others to love, not sit back and simply wait on them to love, and then pat them on the back when they do so. We need to say and do things that will encourage them to love, with the emphasis most likely on what we do to encourage others. In order to do so we need to wage love.

When we wage love, it's not so much what we say, but what we do that carries the most weight. John the Apostle wrote, "Little children, let’s not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth" (1 John 3:18). It seems that to John, our example was of utmost importance. We don't wage love by nagging or threatening, but rather through the way we live our lives—when our actions match our words.

Surely we all know of people who always seem to be positive, always seem to be filled with hope, always showing a caring attitude. This is the kind of thing that simply rubs off on other people. Our tongues are often double-ended, but when we show how much we love, the intent, or "truth" of our feelings is unmistakable.

We are a light to the world, a candle that cannot be hid under a basket. But a candle does not speak, it simply shines. Lets allow our light to shine for the whole world to see during these troublesome days ... let us wage love.

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law.
February 2, 2021 at 6:43pm
February 2, 2021 at 6:43pm
February 2

Happy Groundhog Day! One of my most favorite Christian holidays.


Most everyone knows that February 2nd is a day celebrated in Canada and the United States as Groundhog Day. What most people don't realize is that it started as a Christian holiday called Candlemas, which celebrated an important day in Christ's life—the day that he, as a baby, was brought to the Temple to be dedicated to the Lord.

How do we know the exact date? It's because of Jewish cleanliness rites. God is the giver of life, and life is contained in the blood. Blood therefore belongs to God and God alone. So in Jewish tradition, any contact between blood and human beings requires a ritual time of cleansing.

Childbirth is a messy business when it comes to blood. After a Jewish child is born, the mother must wait a period of time to be cleansed. This differed between a male and a female child. For a female child, 2 weeks of uncleanliness was followed by 66 days during which the mother could not touch anything holy. For a male child, the equivalent times were 7 days followed by 33 days.

Joseph and Mary were devout Jews "and when the days for their purification according to the Law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord" (Luke 2:22). In Roman Catholicism prior to the Vatican II (1962-65), the day was called "the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin.” Today it's known as “the Presentation of the Lord."

The day has been celebrated since the 4th century in Jerusalem. In the 14th century, candles were blessed in what became know as the "Candle Mass," which represented Jesus as the light of the world. In Germany, hedgehogs predicted the weather on Candlemas so people knew when ewes would begin producing milk (about 80-100 days after lambing)—after winter ended. When Germans immigrated to the New World, especially to Pennsylvania, there were no hedgehogs to be found, but groundhogs abounded. From these humble beginnings, Groundhog Day was born.

Yet there is much more to celebrate on Groundhog Day/Candlemas. Jesus represents hope. He is the embodiment of hope. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple, he hadn't done anything yet—he was a mere babe of only 40 days. And yet, hope arrived by his mere presence.

Why do I say this? Joseph and Mary were met at the Temple by two people. The first was Simon, to whom the Holy Spirit had revealed he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. He saw the baby Jesus, took him in his arms and blessed him, calling Jesus, "A light for revelation for the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

Also at the Temple was Anna, a widow 84 years old, who had fasted and prayed for countless days and nights. When she saw Jesus she "began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak about Him to all those who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38).

No, Jesus didn't actually do anything until he reached the age of 30 when his ministry began. And yet, simply by coming into the world, he brought a light into the darkness. It was at his arrival that "the soul felt it's worth" in the words of the Christmas song O Holy Night. People could feel how much value God placed on our souls when Jesus was presented that day in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. It was Satan who saw his shadow in the bright light of our Lord ... and hid.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

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