Overheard in an Orchard

As I sit in my easy chair and watch the birds in my back yard – robins, cardinals, flinches, blue jays and doves, this poem comes to my mind.

Said the Robin to the Sparrow;
"I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?"

Said the Sparrow to the Robin;
"Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me."

Elizabeth Cheney

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29–31 — New Living Translation (NLT)

One Sentence for Wisdom or Laughter

Some wise – and perhaps some funny – sayings I found in my devotion book. Hope you enjoy them.

  • Lighthouses don’t fire off cannons to draw attention to their light – they just shine
  • If your service for God is worth anything, it’s worth everything
  • By the time you get your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone and your ear to the ground, it’s time for lunch
  • Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship
  • What you possess will go to someone else when you die, but what you are will be yours forever
  • The devil’s best tool is not an active sinner, but an inactive Christian
  • Failure is something we can avoid by doing nothing, saying nothing, being nothing
  • If you realize you are not as wise as you thought you were yesterday, you are wiser today.
  • Some people never change their opinion because after all it has been in their family for generations.
  • Some people pray like God is an aspirin tablet – they only pray when there is a problem.

Is Change Possible?

A few years ago I saw a lot of bumper stickers that said, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”

At first glance, that sounds good. The person displaying that is recognizing that they are not better than someone who is not a Christian. It implies perhaps humility and a non-judgmental attitude toward others.

But I have never been comfortable with that. To me, it implies the only difference between a Christian and a non-believer is one has been forgiven and the other has not.

But is that really why Jesus came, suffered and died and rose again? So we could be forgiven. That’s it. The cross is just a “get out of hell” card.

Jesus said we were to be the “salt” and the “light” of the world. We may have different ideas what it means to be the salt and light of the world. Clearly, though, it indicates we are to be different than our culture. Different than others. Not in a “I’m better than you” attitude but in recognition that following Jesus should change us. One of our purposes of being “light” He said was that our life would bring glory to Him. That can only happen if our encounter with Him changes us.

But is change possible? Is being like Jesus an impossible task?

I would say while we can never be completely like Jesus in this life, it is a goal we should pursue. While we will probably never reach the point where we can say “I never sin” we must strive to not give in to sin with the excuse “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.”

The disciple John told us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Jesus has promised us help with this battle we fight. He said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

God promises to both forgive us and to change us.

It is an ongoing process – and we will never be free of failures in this life – but we must not so easily give in to our temptations with that attitude – “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.”

How Much Faith Do I Need?

The story begins with the disciples approaching Jesus with a seemingly reasonable request:  “Lord! Increase our faith!”  It’s an understandable request given the sort of things Jesus has been teaching: 

  • Love your enemies.
  • Bless those who curse you.
  • Forgive even when it’s not deserved.
  • Give without expecting anything in return.
  • Be ready to take up your cross.  

But Jesus responds to the disciple’s request with a touch of irritation—and he tells them that if they had faith as small of a mustard seed, they could command a mulberry tree to uproot itself and replant in the sea…and it would obey. 

He then proceeds to ask them whether a servant would be so arrogant as to demand a meal with his master, or special praise for doing his basic household duties. 

Now, this may strike us as a little odd because we know Jesus wasn’t in the habit of speaking unkindly about slaves or people of low status. We know the familiar story of the rich man and Lazarus, where a beggar is assigned higher honor than his rich neighbor.  And we know also that Jesus often compared the kingdom to a banquet in which all are invited—slave and free, rich and poor alike—and he often talked about how the least among us would take the high place of honor at that Table to eat with the Master. Jesus was in the business of turning hierarchies and power structures on their head, so why does he resort to conventional social structures to make this point to the disciples? We have to keep in mind that, throughout the gospels Jesus reserves his harshest criticisms for the proud and saves his most biting satire for the folks who need to be brought down a peg. From the beginning, Jesus’ ministry was about lifting up the humble and humbling the proud, of challenging those in authority and giving voice to the disregarded, so it’s safe to assume that there must have been an element of pride or entitlement at work in the disciple’s request to warrant this sort of response. 

And I wonder if we don’t get a little clue as to what that was in Jesus’ strange—downright bizarre—image of a mulberry tree getting planted in the ocean.  Imagine it: A mulberry tree suddenly uprooting itself, flying through the air, and then replanting itself in the sea.  What on earth is that about? Why would anyone want to do that? What an odd expression of faith! 

I wonder if Jesus was gently, playfully poking fun at the disciples’ ongoing preoccupation with flashy signs and wonders as a measure of true faith. They’d been asking for an upgrade in supernatural powers, at one point suggesting it sure would be nice to be able to call down fire from heaven every time someone turned them away from their home. (Jesus responded with similar agitation to that request.) 

But the signs and wonders performed by Jesus and described in the gospels always had a point. They were always constructive. They… 

  • Healed 
  • Liberated
  • Multiplied
  • Fed
  • Blessed 
  • Restored 
  • Comforted

They pointed to the mission of Jesus and the purpose of the Kingdom he inaugurated. And today these stories remind us of our own call to…

  • Heal 
  • Liberate
  • Multiply 
  • Feed
  • Bless
  • Restore 
  • Comfort

There’s nothing more ridiculously useless than replanting a mulberry tree in the ocean! And I wonder if Jesus wasn’t reminding his disciples that faith isn’t manifested in flashy magic tricks, or pointless, self congratulatory displays of power, or in destruction and uprooting, but in daily acts of faithfulness—those acts of obedience that grow the kingdom, one carefully tended little mustard seed at a time. 

It’s helpful here to contrast this bizarre idea of uprooting a mulberry tree with the work of the servant who tends sheep, works the land, plants seeds, makes dinner.  I wonder if Jesus isn’t telling the disciples that if they have enough faith to be faithful, then that is enough. 

Faith, after all, is a gift.  And we don’t have any business telling God we don’t have enough, when God always gives us enough to be faithful. God always gives us enough to do something useful, to “make it work.” 

Maybe the mistake the disciples make isn’t so much in asking for more faith, but in thinking they don’t have enough, in thinking God’s gift to them was insufficient. 

How easy it is to think we don’t have enough! These guys were in the very presence of Jesus and still they wanted more! 

We’re not so unlike the disciples are we?  How often we tell ourselves: “If I only had more faith, I could…”

  • Do something important 
  • Do something impressive
  • I’d never struggle with doubt. 
  • I wouldn’t be so scared. 
  • I’d finally be appreciated. 
  • I’d finally know I’m right. 
  • It would finally all make sense. 

Faith is always a risk, a gamble—and adventure, if you will. The line between faith and doubt is the point of action. You don’t need certainty to obey; just a willingness to risk being wrong.” 

I was letting my desire for more keep me from working with what I had.  I’d convinced myself I needed more faith when what I really needed was more obedience. 

In the Catholic church there is a Saint Theresa whose famous “little way” has inspired generations of Christians to honor God by being faithful in the little things….by taking this faith thing one step at a time.  Theresa talked often about the smallness of her own faith. But she never questioned God’s goodness or fairness in giving her what she had. She never demanded more because she knew she had been given enough to be faithful. She’d been given enough to obey. 

 “God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized,” she said, “so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.”

Theresa (who indeed became St. Theresa), Peter and Paul, Mary Magdalene, St. Francis, Dr. King, Tersa of Calcutta, Nelson Mandela, you and I—we all share the same Master.  And that master has given us all the faith we need to be faithful.  

 So even if it’s just the size of a mustard seed, make it work. 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!

My husband and I are reading through the Bible this year for our daily devotions. Today we read about Moses and how when he would come back into the camp of the Israelites after meeting with God, his face would be glowing. It got me thinking again about this post I wrote a couple of years ago. And I ask myself: when people see me, what do they see? Do they sense God’s love and peace? I hope so, I pray so.

Grandma's Ramblings

Remember the fairy tale where the wicked stepmother would ask:

mirror

Last Sunday in church the speaker taught from the book of James where James wrote:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

As I reflected on these words from James, I thought how often I look in the mirror.  In the morning I look to see that my hair is in place.  I use the mirror to help me as I put on face lotion and makeup.  Depending on what my day brings, I may go back to the mirror to adjust my hair, put on lipstick or, if my husband…

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Why I Go To Church

This Sunday I had to miss church. It is the second Sunday I have missed because I have been sick. Recovering now, but I so hate to miss church. Somehow the week is just not the same when I have not been able to meet with my church family and join in praise of God and hear His word.

Many times I have heard the statement “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” And the one I love is “Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”

While I agree with those statements and sadly realize that many people think going to church makes them a Christian without any real commitment to the Lord or any attempt to follow His word, I question why we would say that.

Of course, there are many who cannot go to church because of health issues or work issues. With the Covid-19 this past year many of us could not go to church because our churches were closed. But I have to wonder why anyone who calls themself Christian and can go to church would choose not to.

Oh I know. There are many stories of people who have been hurt by the church. Members who were judgmental, personal rejection, people who acted one way in church on Sunday and lived differently the rest of the week and the list goes on and on.

I have been hurt – badly hurt – more than once by church people.

So why do I still go to church?

  • First, because I believe the church was God’s plan for spreading the Good News.

In Matthew’s gospel we are told that Jesus declared “you are Peter (which means rock) and upon this rock I will build my church.” I know different denominations disagree on exactly what that meant for Peter, but putting our differences aside, I think we can see that Jesus had plans to use men to build the church. Notice that He did not say “build the church” but rather “build my church.

However, in today’s world the definition of “church” has lost its original meaning.

Look in a dictionary and you will find “church” explained this way:

  •  A building for public Christian worship.
  • The public worship of God or a religious service in such a building
  • The whole body of Christian believers; Christendom.
  • Any division of this body professing the same creed and acknowledging the same ecclesiastical authority; a Christian denomination.

But the word “church” is not actually in the original manuscripts of the Bible. The word that was used (and was translated into church) was “Ekklesia.” In the time of the Greek Empire the word was used to describe the assembly of free citizens to discuss, debate and express their thoughts on the community, the government. Many say it was the beginning of a democratic society.

This word is a compound word. “Ek” means “out of.” “Kaleo” mean “to call.” So the church is supposed to be people who have received the call of God and the outcome of their answer to that call.

Simply put, ekklesia means community.

Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father for this community. In that prayer He said,

I ask not only on behalf of these (that’s the disciples), but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word (that’s us), that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)

  • Most of the New Testament is addressed not to an individual, but to a community of believers. Many of the Psalms talk about praising “in the congregation” or “in the sanctuary” indicating there was a place for worshipping God with others. The Revelation given to John was for the seven churches. When Jesus left His disciples His instruction was to gather together in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. The book of Acts shows that they were in a group praying together – in unity – when the Holy Spirit came. Later as Peter preached a powerful sermon we are told that “the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved”. As people came to faith in Jesus Christ it followed that they were to be a part of this community of believers.
  • In the Apostle Paul’s writing he referred to the church as a body. He talked about we all are a part of that body. The body is made up of many different parts – but if we remove a part from the body, that part will die. And although the body may go on living, it will not be as good as it had been before. From that illustration I understand that to remove myself from my church family has a great danger that I will spiritually begin to die. And even if I am so strong, so spiritual, have such a great knowledge of the Word of God that I would be fine without being a part of a community of believers, that is all the more reason for me to attend. The church needs me just as I need the church.
  • The example of Jesus when He was on earth. Luke’s Gospel tells us that “And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”
  • To set an example for my children and grandchildren. In our society today our youth are being hit with false ideas and dangerous teachings. While the church is not supposed to be the only place our children learn of God (in fact the Bible is clear that main responsibility belongs in the home with the parents), faithful attendance sends a message to our children. It tells them belonging to a community of believers is important.

This community of believers is far from perfect. Why? Because it is made of people just like me – and I am certainly not perfect. I fear that we view church like a consumer. “The church doesn’t meet my needs.” Sorry, but the point of being a part of a community of believers is more than having your needs met. It is to also help meet the needs of others. The New Testament is full of calls for us to minister to others. While we can do that outside of church – and we should – I think it again speaks to the idea that Jesus had when He prayed to the Father that we would be one. Here are some of those “one anothers.”

“…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

“…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)

“…Love one another…” (John 13:35)

“…Love one another…” (John 15:12)

“…Love one another” (John 15:17)

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)

“…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)

“Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)

“…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)

“…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)

“…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)

“Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)

“…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)

“…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)

“…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)

“…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)

“If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)

“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)

“Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)

“…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

“Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)

“…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

“…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians

“Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)

“Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)

“…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

“Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

“Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

“…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

“…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)

“…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)

“…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)

“…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

“Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)

“…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

“…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

“…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)

“Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)

“Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)

“…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)

“…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)

“…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)

“…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)

“…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)

“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)

“…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)

“…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)

“…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)

“…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)

“…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)

“…Love one another.” (II John 5)

Final point is this verse in Ephesians:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

If you have been hurt by the church, do not give up on it. Find another church. We have doctors/hairdressers/restaurants that we have difficulty with. We do not stop going to a doctor, getting our hair cut, or eating out. We just move on to find another one. I am not advocating moving around from church to church like a consumer. But if you have been hurt, the answer is not to ignore the plan of Jesus as we are told that Jesus not only loved the church – but gave Himself for it.

Ephesians 3:19 – “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

While We Wait

This time of Advent we not only remember the birth of our Savior but we also look forward with anticipation to His return. We sometimes long for that day when evil will finally be completely defeated and peace will truly reign.

But what do we do while we wait?

We often pray the Lord’s prayer where we ask that “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” With that prayer we try to imagine what this world would be like if God’s will was completely done on earth?

But what do we do while we wait?

We admire the beautiful sunsets, enjoy the waves of the ocean crashing onto the shore, stand in awe of the majestic mountains and long for a world free of man’s pollution. Our imagination paints us a picture of what the world must have looked like in the very beginning of creation. How we long for the day when the earth will be restored to that beauty.

But what do we do while we wait?

As we look at the chaos and tragedies all around us, we can begin to even lose hope. We can wonder if God has abandoned us.

But what do we do while we wait?

We must remember that we who call ourself Christians, followers of Christ, are called to be His representatives in this world. While we wait for that day when He returns, even now in us we can allow God’s will to be done in our lives. We can surrender our own desires, our own opinions, our own will and allow Him to use us to reach out to others.

‘Wherever God rules over the human heart as King, there is the kingdom of God established.” Paul W. Harrison

“The church is not a fortress community waiting for a future kingdom. Rather, we realize that the Kingdom of God has already arrived, in part…The church is God’s eschatological community, drawing the future into the present, living out Kingdom values and inviting the world to experience its power now….As God’s eschatological community, we hope for ultimate redemption din the future. But, in the present, we break down barriers and bear each other’s brokenness. Through this here and now experience, Christ’s bride, the church, begins to take on the beauty that will be hers when He comes to claim her as His own.” Brad Harper

But what do we do while we wait?

Let us continue to look with hope to His return. But let us not be guilty of just standing around waiting for “someday.” Let us do all we can to show the world what it means to be part of God’s kingdom even here in this world we share. Let us allow God’s Holy Spirit to move through us to bring a little bit of “heaven” to our friends, neighbors, community.

Let’s Pass It On!!!

This time of year my mind goes back to Thanksgivings of the past. One thing I always loved about our Thanksgiving gatherings was it gave me a chance to enjoy my mother’s pies. She was an excellent pie maker. As I remember my mother, I think of all she taught me.  And we owe our mothers for teaching us so much.  A few things my mother taught me – and I bet your mother taught you were:

  • To appreciate a job well done – “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.”
  • Religion – “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
  • Logic – “Because I said so, that’s why.”
  • Perservance – “You’ll sit there until all that spinach is gone.”
  • Weather – “This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.”
  • Hypocrisy – “If I told you once, I’ve told you a million times. Don’t exaggerate!”
  • Behavior modification – “Stop acting like your father!”
  • Envy – “There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do.”

Thank God for the advice of mothers?  Many words of wisdom my mother told me, I passed on to my kids – and now I hear them passing on to my grandkids.  Some of that great advice:

  • Money does not grow on trees.
  • Don’t make that face or it’ll freeze in that position.
  • If I talked to my mother like you talk to me….
  • Always change your underwear; you never know when you’ll have an accident.
  • What if everyone jumped off a cliff? Would you do it, too?
  • Close that door! Were you born in a barn?
  • If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
  • Don’t put that in your mouth; you don’t know where it’s been!
  • Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.
  • I hope that when you grow up, you have kids “Just Like you”! (Also known as the “Mother’s Curse”)
  • Eat your vegetables, children in China (or Africa) are starving.
  • If you fall out of that tree and break your leg, don’t come running to me.
  • Bored! How can you be bored? I was never bored at your age.

We have received and passed on advice just like this.  We heard our mothers say it, we said it and many of us now hear our children saying it to their children.  While we laugh at these words of wisdom, there are words of wisdom we need to be passing on.

In the 16th chapter of Acts we meet a young man who was part of the first “second generation” of Christians.  Paul met Timothy on his second missionary journey and he joined Paul in his missionary work.  Later, when Paul was in prison, Timothy had been left behind in Ephesus as a pastor/leader in the church.  From prison, Paul wrote a letter to Timothy.  This is believed to have been the last letter Paul wrote and he shared with Timothy words of wisdom, reflection and advice. 

In that second letter to Timothy in chapter 1, verse 5, Paul wrote, “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”  Later in chapter 2, verse 15 he said, “You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.”

Timothy – a young man who carried on the work that Paul had begun in Ephesus – was able to do that, not only because of the influence of Paul in his life and the experiences he had shared with Paul.  No – his preparation for the ministry began long before Paul came into his life.  He had genuine faith (sincere, honest, real faith) that had first filled his grandmother and then his mother.  These two women had done a good job of passing on the torch. 

Today as mothers, grandmothers, aunts, friends of children, we have the same responsibility to pass on the torch of faith.  It has been said that God has no grandchildren.  Over and over the Word of God refers to God as our father, but nowhere is God ever called our grandfather.  We are always one generation away from losing the Christian faith.  Today, as never before, our country needs Christian leaders, fathers, and mothers.  We must, we have to pass on the faith.  It is the only hope for our children, our grandchildren, and our nation. 

We need to see that this life is a relay race. Those who want to win the race must be good at handing off to the next generation the essentials they need to live a life of faith. 

But how do we go about passing this kind of faith on to our families – whether it be our children, our grandchildren, our nieces and nephews, the children in our church, our community.  But how do we pass on this faith? 

Again, we must turn to the Bible. Let’s look at the words of Deuteronomy 6 which are a biblical cornerstone for the family. These eternal words talk about the daily discipline of faith building in the home.

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

 Attention, Israel! God, our God! God the one and only!  Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”

 Memorize his laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you’re at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them. Write these laws on the door frames of your homes and on your town gates.”

“And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning” (vv. 6-7 TLB).

The commandments — those excellent, unmatched principles of love, honor, obedience, integrity, kindness, and faithfulness that are true for all people, in all cultures, at all times.

Often when we think of passing on the faith, we get all caught up in passing on rules/regulations to our children.  While it is true that Jesus Himself said if we love Him, we would keep His commandments, it is not rules/regulations we need to pass on.  Many of us have tried that, but a bunch of rules/regulations often lead to rebellion. 

When we look at Acts 16 where Paul first met Timothy and called him to join his mission team, we see that Timothy had never been circumcised.  Circumcision was one of the main rules of Jewish life.  All Jewish boys were to be circumcised on the eighth day of life.  While Timothy’s mother and grandmother were Jewish, his father was a Greek, so it appears that many of the Jewish rules were not observed by Timothy’s father or Timothy.  Yet Paul spoke of the genuine faith Timothy had – genuine faith that had resided in his grandmother and mother.  Clearly, what they had passed on was not a list of do’s and don’ts, but a devotion, a confidence, a trust in God. 

I want to ask you today, “are you passing on that devotion, that confidence, that trust in God?  Perhaps today you are not a mother.  But you may be an aunt, or a beloved cousin or friend to a young person.  We have an obligation to pass on the faith not only to our children and grandchildren, but to those young people we come into contact with in our church, our community.  There are single parents out there trying to be both Mom and Dad who could use someone to come alongside them and spent some time mentoring and caring for their children. There are grandparents raising grandchildren who could use a break, a word of encouragement and again the children could use attention and love from others besides their tired and overwhelmed grandparents. There are organizations like YouthHope and Little Brothers and Little Sisters that could use someone to spend time with children who live many times in homes where chaos and strife are the rule not the exception.

So when I speak of children – I am speaking to everyone here today whether you are a mother/grandmother or not, whether your children are already grown or still at home.

What does it mean to teach these divine principles to your children? It is very important that we understand the meaning of the word teach in this key parenting passage of the Bible. The Old Testament Hebrews had two definitions for teach. The first was the idea of a formal lecture, as in a professor giving a lecture in a classroom on parenting, child rearing, or the family system. Our idea of teaching in the Western World is very similar to this concept of a formal, organized presentation.

However, this is not the meaning of the word teach in this passage. The other meaning had to do with casual, everyday conversation of life, and that is the meaning the writer used here. The other meaning had to do with the casual, everyday conversation of life, and that is the meaning the writer used here. He wanted to get across the idea that character training flows more out of a parent’s day-to-day encounters with his or her children than it does from formal teaching. Whether you talk about baseball or ballet, music or math, the color of the sky at dusk or the dew on the grass in the morning, every conversation can provide an opportunity to teach your children about the things of God.

The basic meaning behind the term teach is that passing the faith never stops. You are always — always — teaching the children around you something. There are no downtimes, time-outs, or do-overs. Everything you do, every moment of the day, teaches children something about life, whether you are in their presence or not. The time you spend away from them at your job, at social functions, on dates with your spouse, shopping, or at church activities speaks to them about the importance of each of those activities. You pass the baton of faith moment by moment, in a thousand seemingly insignificant words, phrases, activities, and conversations. In other words, just as in a relay race, the baton is not taught, it is caught “when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning.”

Christianity is not just a weekend sport. It is a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday lifestyle. Those teachable moments with the children can happen while they are playing games, while they are at the soccer field, shopping at the mall, playing at the piano recital, fishing, or camping. And when children give you those windows of opportunity, take them and teach them words of faith.

When I think about what it means to pass on the baton of faith through teachable moments, my mind rushes back to when my granddaughter, Barbara, was 4.  Her diet consisted primarily of bread – any kind of bread – toast, homemade rolls, just bread and she loved potatoes.  But trying to get her to eat any fruit or vegetable resulted in an almost daily power struggle. Well, one night her parents were determined she was going to eat a tomato. They placed four little bites on her plate, but she immediately began to cry that she didn’t want it. So they said firmly, “Barbara, you are going to sit here until you eat the tomato.” Finally, she stabbed a piece of tomato and slowly lifted the fork to her mouth. Well, if you have ever had a four-year-old, you know what’s coming. Just as it touched her tongue, she gagged dramatically.

Sometimes we have tried to do the same thing with children when it comes to matters of faith. We try to force religion down their throats. This is not how we are to teach the things of God. Rather, teaching happens as we live our lives.  We don’t force it.  We don’t say, “We are going to sit here until you take it.” We live out genuine Christianity in front of them.


If you are raising children right now:

  1. When they come home with a problem at school – maybe someone bullying them, or difficulties learning a subject, share with them how God can help them.  Tell them about times He has helped you in the past.  Pray with them.
  2. Buy toys/movies/books that share the story of God’s love and faithfulness.  The Bible book stores are full of such resources.
  3. Watch TV/movies with them.  While you certainly do not want to have them watch shows that are X-rated or full of sinful actions, in our world today there will be many shows/movies that do not have nudity, violence etc. but may have what we would call “gray” areas.  When their shows come on, you can use them to discuss how that particular scene/action did not line up with God’s Word.  For instance, you may see a family comedy where one member of the family puts another one down to get a laugh.  You can later discuss how getting a laugh at someone else’s expense, is not showing love to one another and is not how a child of God should behave.
  4. Pray with your children – not just at mealtime or bedtime – but any time a need arises.  Also, when God blesses you, share that with your children and have a time of praise.
  5. Talk about the flowers, the sunrise, the birds singing – all the wonderful things God has given us and talk about the wonder of God’s creation.

If you are a grandmother, an aunt, a friend.

  1. Choose the presents you buy – make sure they have books/toys/movies that point to God.
  2. Share with them (they love hearing stories from grandmothers of the past) how God brought you through a difficult time, how He answered a prayer.
  3. Tell them about your favorite Bible verse or Bible character or Bible and why it is your favorite.

If you have children in your church.

  1. Learn their names and greet them by their name. 
  2. Stoop down to their level and talk to them.

There are hundreds of ways to let children know they are loved and are important.  And to share with them that God loves them to.  Just put on your thinking cap and get creative.

In order to pass on the faith to the next generation, we must possess that faith our self.  We cannot pass on what we do not have.  We need to make sure we have a serious and committed relationship our self to God and that we are living lives consistent with His truth.

One Way Jesus

Recently I begin studying the Tabernacle in the Old Testament.

Many who study the Bible never really look at the Old Testament and the truths of the Tabernacle found there. But much of the Bible is revealed in a study of the Tabernacle.

  • More than 50 chapters are devoted to the details of the Tabernacle.
  • In Exodus chapters 25-40 give guidance on the construction of the Tabernacle.
  • Leviticus contains 18 chapters on the function of the Tabernacle.
  • Deuteronomy has 2 chapters on the Tabernacle.
  • Hebrews shares a New Testament commentary on the Tabernacle in 4 chapters.
  • Revelation gives images of the Tabernacle (Temple) in heaven.

The people were told that the purpose of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament was so God could dwell with them.

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8

We see in Revelation that God’s desire is still to dwell among us.

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3

We know that was the point of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus – to make us able to have a relationship with God.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

As we look at the Tabernacle, we notice that there was only one gate – only one way to enter.

This clearly points to Jesus:

“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” John 10:9

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father by through me.” John 14:6

I AM – Jesus used these words several times in the Gospels. In Matthew 22:32 He basically quotes Exodus 3:6.

‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. So he is the God of the living, not the dead.” Matthew 22:32

 “‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:6

Later Jesus made it plan that he was calling Himself God. The people recognized His claim because they tried to stone Him for blasphemy.

“The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am! At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.” John 8:57-59

THE WAY– Jesus did not say I am “a” way. He said He was “the” way. In today’s culture, I know it is not politically correct to say there is only one way. A person can reject Christianity, but if they accept the Bible, they have to accept the claims of Jesus.

THE TRUTH – Again Jesus used the definite article to that He is the only truth. Jesus demonstrated this on HIs Sermon on the Mount. He pointed out different commandments they had and then said “but I say unto you” placing His truth above what the culture of the day said.

THE LIFE – Strange in a way that as Jesus is talking about his death, He claims to be “the” source of life. He claimed because He lived, we would too.

“Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:19

He claimed He was giving us abundant life.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

As a follower of Jesus I believe He was promising eternal life after this life. But more than that, I believe He was promising a real life of freedom from condemnation, of joy even in difficult times. Abundant life consists of abundance of love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5.

In following Jesus I have found true joy. I love this picture of Jesus! To me, this is how I picture Him.

How Did the Baby Change Your Life?

I wrote this three years ago – but wondering again this year – after all the decorations are put up, after all the Christmas songs are put away until next year, after we have posted all our pictures on FB, has the baby made a difference in your life for 2021?

Grandma's Ramblings

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One last look this time around

Brrrrr! It’s so cold outside. So today while staying snug inside I read and thought one more time on the Christmas story which we have just observed. Now it’s time to move forward and begin thinking about spring and about the resurrection story.

But one writer I read during the Christmas season still speaks to me.

…the Christmas story is not just for observing, but for participating. A long time ago, Jesus Christ was born. But today, Christ is born in us. And so we would be wise to spend some time wondering with the sheep and the shepherds, how does this baby change my life?

Sarah Cunningham

For 2017 – how has this baby changed your life?

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