780) “I Will Never Lie Again!”

Manilal Gandhi  (1892-1956)

From Let Me Tell You a Story, by Tony Campolo, © 2000 , pages 146-147

        (Mahatma Gandhi’s son Manilal continued his father’s work toward achieving civil rights for groups that were discriminated against, and the family moved to South Africa to join the battle against apartheid.  This story is about Manilal, told by his son Arun.)

     Gandhi’s grandson Arun Ghandi (1934- ) told me that one day his father (Manilal) asked him to drive him to a meeting in Johannesburg.  “My father asked me to drop off the automobile at the repair garage and then be back at five o’clock to pick him up,” he said.

     Arun went on to say, “I dropped my father off for his meeting and got the car to the garage by one.  Since it was a long time until five o’clock, I figured I could go to the movies, which I did.  That day there was a double feature being shown, and when I got out I checked my watch and realized that it was past five o’clock!

     “I rushed to the corner where my father had said he would be waiting for me, and when I saw him there, standing in the rain, I tried to think of excuses I could make.  I rushed up to him and said, ‘Father, you must forgive me.  It is taking them longer to repair the automobile than I thought it would take, but if you wait here I will go and get the car.  It should be ready by now.’

     “My father bowed his head and looked downward.  He stood for a long moment and then he said, ‘When you were not here at our meeting time I called the garage to see why you were late.  They told me that the automobile was ready at three o’clock.  Now I have to give some thought as to how I have failed, so as to have a son who would lie to his own father.  I will have to think about this, so I am going to walk home and use the time during my walk to meditate on this question.’”

     Arun Gandhi said, “I followed my elderly father home that rainy, misty night, watching him stagger along the muddy road.  I rode behind him with the headlights of the car flashing ahead of his steps.  And as I watched him stumbling toward home, I beat on the steering wheel and said over and over, ‘I will never lie again!  I will never lie again! I will never lie again!’”

Arun Gandhi and his famous grandfather Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

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I Corinthians 13:6 — Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Proverbs 12:22 — The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

Proverbs 30:8a — Keep falsehood and lies far from me… 

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A FATHER’S PRAYER ON THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT BY MARTIN LUTHER:
Dear God, you have given me spouse, child, house, and land.  I receive these as your gifts, and will care for them for your sake.  I will do what I can to make all go well.  If not all my plans succeed, I will learn to be patient and let whatever cannot be changed take its course.  When things do go well, I will give you the glory and say, ‘O Lord, this is not by my work or effort, but by your gift and providence.’  Be the head of my family.  I will be obedient to you in all humility.   Amen.

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779) Lord, Lead Me…

Amy Grant’s 2013 album How Mercy Looks From Here contains the song Greet the Day.  This song was inspired a prayer Grant heard years ago.  Today’s meditation contains the lyrics to the song, a link to the video, and the simple little prayer the song is based on.

GREET THE DAY

By Amy Grant and Cindy Morgan

Lead me to the ones I need
And to the one who’s needing me.
I won’t assume the worst is true,
And do the best that I can do.
A word of kindness, I believe,
Is heard throughout eternity…

Hey, hey
This is how I greet the day,
I greet the day…

Lead me to the ones I need
And to the one who’s needing me.
And everything that gets me through
Gladly, I receive from You.
All the mercy, all the love,
Pouring down to fill us up…

Hey, hey
This is how I greet the day,
I greet the day…

Hello sunshine
Hello rain
Glad to see you,
Either way

Lead me to the ones I need
And to the one who’s needing me

Hey, hey
This is how I greet the day,
I greet the day
Come on, greet the day
Let’s greet the day…

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You can listen to Greet the Day at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYhK8MVdIqY

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Psalm 88:13  —  I cry to you for help, Lordin the morning my prayer comes before you.

Galatians 6:2  —  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Psalm 5:3  —  In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Psalm 90:14  —  Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psalm 143:8  —  Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.  Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

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Lord, lead me today to those I need, and to those who need me; and let something I do have eternal significance.

778) The Everlasting Arms

From a letter by C. S. Lewis to Mary Willis Shelburne, June 17, 1963.
Shelburne was dying, and Lewis himself died November 22, 1963 after a year filled with health problems.

     Pain is terrible, but surely you need not have fear as well.  Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer?  It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you…  What is there to be afraid of?  You have long attempted (and none of us does more) a Christian life.  Your sins are confessed and absolved.  Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret?  There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

     Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round– we get afraid because we struggle.  Are you struggling, resisting?  Don’t you think our Lord says to you “Peace, child, peace.  Relax.  Let go.  Underneath are the everlasting arms.  Let go, I will catch you.  Do you trust me so little?”

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Deuteronomy 33:27a — The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

John 16:33 — (Jesus said), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

Philippians 1:20-24 — I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.  Yet what shall I choose?  I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

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Let me never think, O eternal Father, that I am here to stay.  Let me still remember that I am a stranger and pilgrim on the earth.  For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.  Preserve me by Thy grace, good Lord, from so losing myself in the joys of earth that I may have no longing left for the purer joys of heaven.  Let not the happiness of this day become a snare to my too worldly heart.  And if, instead of happiness, I have today suffered any disappointment or defeat, if there has been any sorrow where I had hoped for joy, or sickness where I had looked for health, give me grace to accept it from Thy hand as a loving reminder that this is not my home.  Amen.     –John Baillie (1886-1960)

777) Does the Money Really Get There?

 

     I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say they didn’t like giving money to overseas missions, because, “How do we know the money gets there?”  Here’s how I know.

     When I was a child in Sunday School, our mission offerings went to the African nation of Madagascar.  Kids today have heard about Madagascar because there have been some really funny animated movies made about it; you know, the one with the I Like to Move It, Move It song.  But I remember Madagascar because there was always a big map in my early Sunday school rooms, and the island nation of Madagascar was highlighted.  I could find Madagascar on a map before I knew where Wisconsin was located.  Each week we would bring our nickels and dimes and quarters for the Sunday School offering, and our teachers would tell us how those offerings went to help the poor children of Madagascar.  It was for food to feed them, for missionaries to tell them about Jesus, and for teachers and books so those children could go to school.  I was inspired by that, and it felt good about being a part of something big like that way over on the other side of the world.

     Fast forward four decades.  I’m not five years old any more, but in the second part of this story I am forty-five.  I was at a missions conference, and one of the speakers was a pastor from Madagascar.  His speech was about the tremendous growth of the church in Madagascar over the last several years.  He told about how missionaries and teachers from the United States came to Madagascar with the Gospel of Jesus, and how there are now thousands of churches and millions of Christians in that small nation.

     This man was about my age, so I was very interested in his message.  I talked to him later in the conference.  I told him about our Sunday School’s focus on Madagascar missions all those years ago, and how we especially heard about the Christian schools there.  He said he went to one of those schools and that was where he heard about Jesus.  He described how happy he was to be freed from his old tribal religion that was filled with fear and hopelessness.  His whole tribe was converted, and because of that, and the many other changes brought by the missionaries, life is much better in his village.  It was a joy to talk to him, and to realize that when I was a child in Minnesota, faithfully bringing my Sunday School offerings, he was a child in Madagascar learning about Jesus because of those offerings  And now, back in the United States, our church conference was being blessed by his powerful story and teaching.

     I look forward to many conversations like that in heaven where we will have plenty of time to meet all kinds of people.  My present congregation helps support a congregation, orphanage, and school in Haiti.  The leader of that ministry is Pastor Widelson, who I met when he visited our congregation last year.   Sometime here on earth, or more likely in heaven, I might have a conversation with someone from Haiti, and Pastor Widelson’s name will come up.  They will say, “He was our pastor,” and I will say, “Yes, I met him when he was at our church in Hanover.”  And they might say, “O yes, St. Paul’s in Hanover.  We heard much about your congregation.  You helped us, and because of that help I had a place to live after my parents died, and I received an education, and I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  Thank you.  You helped me have a good life.”

     I think this is at least a part of what Jesus meant when in Matthew chapter six when he talked about storing up for ourselves treasures not on earth, but in heaven.  What better treasure could there be than a life made better here on earth, and a soul in heaven forever?

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Matthew 6:19-21  —  (Jesus said), “ “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 28:18-20  —  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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O God of all the nations of the earth, remember the multitudes who, though created in thine image, they have not known thee, nor the dying of thy Son their Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that by the prayers and labors of thy holy church they may be delivered from all superstition and unbelief and brought to worship thee; through him who thou hast sent to be the resurrection and the life to all men, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Francis Xavier, Missionary to India, Japan, and Borneo (1506-1552)

776) Tithing?

     The 10% tithe for the Lord’s work is a Biblical concept that is worth emphasizing and striving toward.  It is also a word at which many folks quit paying attention.  I don’t want to lose you, but neither do I want to ignore this important Biblical guideline.  So I would like to encourage you to consider what is called growth giving.  It is a simple concept, and here’s how it works.  You begin by calculating the percentage of income that you are now giving to the Lord’s work.  The next question is always, ‘before or after taxes,’ and my response is always, ‘whatever you want– you decide.’   You then commit to increasing your giving next year by one percent of your income.  Take note, this is not one percent of your current giving, but one percent of your total income.  If this year you gave 3% of your income, then next year give 4% of your income for the year.  Most people are not giving so sacrificially as to make that a hardship.  The suggestion, therefore, is not for ten percent right now, but for one percent more.  The tithe is not forgotten, rather, it is something you grow toward.  Next year, the challenge will be to add another percent.  But don’t think about that now, just think about the one percent, and then see where you are at next year.  Granted, some folks may not be able to do even this.  But most will be able to, especially if you take an honest look at how you spend your money.

     When I am paying my bills, and the checkbook is running low, I look at each bill, even my church offering or my contributions to the charities I support, as an irritation; “Oh no, another check to write.”  Do you ever have that feeling?  However, a few months later when I am doing my income taxes, I have a much different perspective on those charitable contributions.  There I sit, still well fed and clothed, and still in my warm house.  My contributions have not yet left me destitute.  So then, when I am doing my taxes, those contributions are no longer an irritation, but they are a pleasant surprise.  “Oh good, another deduction; this will help!”  The distance of a few months changes my entire perspective.  I am then well pleased with myself about my previous generosity, even wishing I had written out a few more checks so I could have a few more deductions.  I am pleased about not only the deductions that I am now able to make, but also for the good feeling that is still there; that good feeling that comes with being a part of supporting a good and worthy cause.

     I’m not saying this so you can having more fun when you do your taxes next year; but I want to illustrate the importance of taking the long view of this.  Think now about the perspective that the end of your life will give you on your generosity, or lack of it.  Will you be more pleased then with a lifetime of generosity, supporting those things that you believed in, and helping some people who needed help; or, will you be more pleased about all that stuff cluttering up your garage, basement, and closets.

     What do you suppose God will be more pleased with?

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Leviticus 27:32  —  Every tithe of the herd and flock— every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod— will be holy to the Lord.

II Corinthians 9:6-8  —  Remember this:  Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Matthew 25:21  —  (Jesus said), “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

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Merciful Father, we offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us– our selves, our time, and our possessions, signs of your gracious love.  Receive them for the sake of him who offered himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Offering Prayer, Lutheran Book of Worship, (239)

775) I Wish…

      Brad was a young man just out of college, looking for work.  He lived in a dumpy little apartment in a bad part of town, but he did not plan to be there very long.  As soon as he found a good job and had some money, he’d be out of there.  He was talented, his prospects were very good, and he knew that he would only go up from there.  In the apartment next door to Brad lived Frank, a guy not much older than Brad.  But while Brad was on his way up in life, Frank was on his way down.  A variety of health problems had prevented Frank from getting good, steady work, and the jobs he did get hardly paid for his rent and food.  Getting a car was out of the question, and that made it even more difficult to get a good job.  And his health was getting worse, not better.  Frank did not have much to look forward to.  It looked like he would be stuck in that dumpy apartment forever.

     One day Brad saw Frank pull up in a brand new car.  When he got out, Frank told Brad he was moving out.  He had a brand new house on a lake out in the suburbs waiting for him.  He was back to load up a few things, and the rest of the junk would go into the dumpster.  His new place was fully furnished.

     “What happened?” asked Brad.  “Last month you had to borrow money from me to pay the rent, and all of a sudden you are living like a millionaire.  Did you win the lottery?”

     “No,” said Frank, “I could never afford lottery tickets.”

     “How can you afford this?,” asked an astonished Brad.

     “I can’t,” Frank said, “but my brother is doing all this for me.”

     “Your brother?” said Brad, “I didn’t even know you had a brother.”

     “I hadn’t seen him for a long time,” Frank said.  “He’s much older than I am, so we were never close, and we lost touch after our parents died.  But just last week, out of the blue, he called me.  When he found out about my troubles, he said he wanted to help.  I guess he made big money in some computer business, and he can afford to do all this for me.  I can hardly believe my good fortune.”

     “Wow,” said Brad, “I wish I …..”

     I wish I what?  How do you think Brad finished that sentence?  What did he wish for?  What would you be wishing for in that situation?  Most people would probably answer that in the same way I answered it when I first read this story and was imagining how it would go.  The obvious answer is “I wish I HAD A BROTHER LIKE THAT.”  What a brother!  Wouldn’t it be great to have a brother like that who would be able to give you whatever you’d ever need or want?

     But that isn’t what Brad said in this true story.  What he said was, “I wish I COULD BE a brother like that.”  And he did not mean that in the sense of being rich like the brother and having all that money to spend on himself.  He meant it in the sense of I wish I would be able to help someone out like that.

     That reply reflects a completely different approach.  His first thought was not how such an arrangement might benefit himself:  “If I could only have such a brother.”  His first thought is what he might do for someone else, if only wishes could come true.  You see, Brad also had a brother who was in need, and Brad felt bad that he could not help him, being barely able to take care of himself at the time.  He was hoping that he would be able to help him someday.

     Who do you identify with in the story?  Perhaps you feel like Frank at the beginning of the story– down and out and going nowhere, barely surviving, and needing a helping hand.  Or maybe you feel like Brad, only able to take care of yourself right now, but hoping someday to be doing better, and then willing to be generous with what you have.  Or, perhaps you are like Frank’s brother who hit it big and could now afford to be very generous?

     Actually, if you look at the big picture, most of us are, most of all, like Frank’s wealthy brother.  When Brad saw Frank pull up with the new car, Brad asked him if he had won the lottery.  But think about it.  Just by being born in this country we are all, already, the winners in life’s lottery.  I once heard that even if you are living at the United States government designated poverty level, you are still living better than 89% of the rest of the people in the world.  By living in this country and in this century, we enjoy comforts and conveniences that not even kings and presidents enjoyed less than a hundred years ago.  We are like Frank’s older brother.  That is who most of us are in the story.

     Everything we are and have is from God.  Most of us have been so richly blessed that we can afford to be generous.  Will you use what the Lord has given you in such a way that you will one day hear the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”?

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Matthew 25:21  —  (Jesus said), ““His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

Luke 3:10-11  —   “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.  John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

I Peter 4:10  —  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

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 Almighty God, judge of us all, you have placed in our hands the wealth we call our own.  Give us such wisdom by your Spirit that our possessions may not be a curse in our lives, but an instrument for blessing.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (91)

Image result for generosity quotes

774) Memorial Day Meditation

By Charles Colson for Breakpoint; aired 5-28-10 (www.breakpoint.org)

     Memorial Day is when we honor the men and women of our Armed Services who have made ‘the supreme sacrifice,’ giving their lives for their country.  Especially these days, when Memorial Day seems nothing more than a time for cookouts and swim parties, we cannot be reminded often enough about how great a debt we owe our war dead.  They gave up their hopes and dreams, families and friends.  They submitted themselves to rigorous discipline– something I understand as a former Marine– 24-hour a day duty, and placed their lives in great peril.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  Their sacrifice should inspire in us a profound sense of gratitude– gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy, bought with a price.  And that gratitude should compel us to lives of service as well; serving Christ, our neighbor, and yes, our nation.

     I can’t help but recall the ending of the brilliant film Saving Private Ryan (1998).  James Ryan, now in his seventies, has returned with his family to the military cemetery in Normandy.  He visits the grave of Captain John Miller, the man who a half a century before, led the mission to retrieve– to save– Private Ryan.  At the end of the mission, Miller was fatally wounded.  As he lay dying, his final words to Private Ryan were, “James, earn this.  Live a good life.  Earn this.”  In other words, men have died for you, now live a life worthy of such a sacrifice.

     We then see Ryan kneeling at Captain Miller’s grave, marked by a cross.  Ryan, his voice trembling with emotion, says, “Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge.  I tried to live my life the best that I could.  I hope that was enough.  I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”

     Red-eyed, Ryan turns to his wife and says, “Tell me I’ve led a good life… tell me I am a good man.”

     With great dignity, she says, “You are.”

     With that, James Ryan salutes the grave of Captain Miller.  You see, Private Ryan, out of gratitude for Captain Miller’s sacrifice, did all in his power to live a good life.

     And Memorial Day is a great time for each of us to look into the mirror… to examine our own lives. Columnist George Will called the film “a summons to gratitude.”  Are we living good lives in gratitude for all those who have sacrificed for us– including our men and women in the military, our families, our friends, and most of all Christ?  Are we, like Ryan, kneeling before the cross?  Spielberg, a master cinematographer, had to realize the power of this imagery.  Are we, out of gratitude, doing our duty for Christ in whatever field to which the Lord has called us?

     Examine your life.  And this Memorial Day, at the very least, thank those who have sacrificed for you and those you know who have served in our nation’s armed forces.  Maybe you’ll do what I do when you see someone in uniform… at the airport, at the store, wherever… walk up to them and thank them for their service.  

     And then go and remember Whom it is you serve.

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John 15:13  —  (Jesus said), “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Joshua 24:14-15 — (Joshua said), “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

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A prayer for soldiers and sailors from an old Army and Navy Service Book:

Blessed Lord Jesus, who knows the depths of loneliness and the dark
hours of the absence of human sympathy and friendliness: help me to pass
the weary hours of the night and the heavy hours of the day, as you did, and
know that you are with me, as your Father was with you.  Lift up my heart to
full communion with you; strengthen me for my duty; keep me constant to
my trust, and let me know that however dark or desolate the hour, I am not
alone, for you are with me; your rod and your staff are my comfort;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father and
the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

773) The Tower of Babel and Pentecost

The Confusion of Tongues, Gustav Gore, 1865

Genesis 11:1-9  —  Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.  They said to each other, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building.  The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”  So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.  That is why it was called Babel–because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world.  From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

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     The curse of Genesis 11 is reversed in Acts 2.  Jerusalem in the first century was an international city, a crossroads at the center-point of three continents:  Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Merchants and traders were always passing through, and the city was always filled with a wide variety of people.  It was also the center of Jewish life and worship.  The Jews by this time had spread all over the world, but would often make pilgrimages, returning to the Holy City.

     One the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), there were people from all over the known world in Jerusalem–  from Libya to Arabia, from Rome to Asia, from Egypt to Judea.  None of them were worshiping in the temple with the Christians, but they all heard the sound like a violent wind.  And “they were all utterly amazed, because each one heard them speaking in their own language.”  “Are these not Galileans?” they asked, “So how is it that we all can understand whatever they are saying? ‘  It was a complete reversal of what happened at the tower of Babel.

Pentecost, from the JESUS MAFA collection of 63 paintings (1970’s) depicting New Testament stories as if they had taken place in a village in Cameroon

Acts 2:1-9  —  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.  Utterly amazed, they asked:  “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontusand Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

     That was only the beginning.  What happened miraculously on Pentecost day became the task and the challenge of the Christian church ever since.  Jesus had told his own disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, and Pentecost showed them how to do it.  The great commission was to be fulfilled and obeyed by bringing to all people the Gospel in their own language.

      This has not been the emphasis in any of the other major religions of the world.  For example, the holy book of Islam is the Koran, written in Arabic, the language of its author Mohammed.  Muslims insist that the only way to really read the Koran is by learning Arabic and reading it in the original language.  The Koran has been translated, and you can purchase an English version of it.  But a serious Muslim would want to read it in Arabic.

     Christianity, on the other hand, has always endeavored to put the Scriptures into the language of the people.  After all, Jesus himself spoke Aramaic, but the New Testament was written first in Greek, the most widely used language in the Roman Empire at the time.  From the beginning, the church endeavored to speak in a language that could be easily understood.  The miracle of Pentecost showed the way.

     The church lost its way on this for a while.  In the middle ages, when the church had lost its way on so many things, it was even against the law to translate the Bible into the language of the people.  Martin Luther was the first to do this for the Germans, and John Wycliffe was executed for trying to get the Bible into English.  The Reformation changed things all over Europe, and eventually, the King of England himself ordered an official translation.  That king was King James, and the translation he ordered became the King James version of 1611, the most widely used English translation for over 300 years.  

      The great missionary movement of the 1700’s revitalized the original commitment to taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  William Carey, a self-taught English shoemaker, has been called the father of modern missions.  He went to India, a nation with hundreds of different languages, and spent his life learning the language and customs of the people.  He taught himself 17 languages, and prepared dictionaries and translations of at least parts of the Bible into several of those languages.  And he was only the first of thousands.

     Today, it is not uncommon for missionaries not yet 25 years old, to leave their homelands, and make their home with a small tribe in a remote area, on some forsaken river bank.  There, they will stay their entire lives, learning the language, creating an alphabet, and then a dictionary; because many of these languages are not yet written.  They then teach the people how to read and write their own language, and all the while, they are working on translating the Bible into that language.  It is a lifetime task, and they will do this for a group of people of whom less than a thousand speak the language.  It would be far easier to teach everyone English, but the commitment is to bring the Bible to the people in their language.  There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of missionaries engaged in this right now.  The by-products of this work are the opportunities it brings for an overall education, increased medical care, and an entrance to the modern world.  This too can bring its problems, but unless the newly converted have gone to a place like Harvard and have learned about how angry they should be about all this, they are happy to not be killing and eating each other anymore, as in some tribes, or, at the very least as in most others, no longer living their lives in constant fear and superstition and illness.

     One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is to bring understanding out of confusion.  The spirit also brings community out of disunity.  The church remains a human institution, and has failed over the years in many different ways, and it never perfectly fulfills the goodness that the Holy Spirit intends for it.  But it has been God’s chosen method to do his work in the world through imperfect human beings, and much has been accomplished.  The church that began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost Sunday has blessed the world in countless ways.  One can easily list the shortcomings of the church, but to list the blessings is to describe the progress of civilization since the first century, because the life and message of Jesus Christ has had its impact on every aspect of life.

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To learn what is involved in Bible translation see this video from Wycliffe Bible Translators at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ4nzEpfBQs

https://vimeo.com/123227410

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772) Prayers of Confession

Psalm 32:1-5: 

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:8-9

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Prayers of Confession from several worship books, old and new:

Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be,
so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

———-

Holy and merciful God, we confess our sinfulness, our shortcomings, and our offenses against you.
You alone know how often we have sinned in wandering from your ways,
in wasting your gifts, in forgetting your love.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we are ashamed and sorry for all we have done to displease you.
Forgive our sins, and help us to live in your light, and walk in your ways. Amen.

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Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear.
Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed;
and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image;
through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

———-

Almighty and merciful God, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against your holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.
O Lord, have mercy upon us.
Restore us according to your promises in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O merciful God, for his sake,
that we may live a holy, just, and humble life to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

———-

Merciful God, we confess to you now that we have sinned.
We confess the sins that no one knows and the sins that everyone knows.
We confess the sins that are a burden to us and the sins that do not bother us because we have grown used to them.
Father, forgive us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

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Lord, please forgive our sins, and set us free from them.

We confess to the sin of pride:
We have been sure of our own goodness and importance
and have looked down on others.
Help us to appreciate the true worth of other people.

We confess to the sin of envy:
We have been displeased when others have been more successful
or more sought after than we have been.
Help us to be glad when others prosper.

We confess to the sin of self-indulgence:
We have had enough and more.
Yet we have neglected the needs of others.
Help us to deny ourselves so that others may not be in want.

We confess to the sin of unchastity:
In one way or another we have used sex wrongly.
Help us to create and uphold right relations between men and women,
both in and out of marriage.

We confess to the sin of anxiety:
We have worried about many things.
Help us to trust you to see us through.

We confess to the sin of laziness:
We have been lukewarm Christians.
Make us eager to do your will.

We confess to you our sins and we ask for your forgiveness.
In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

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Psalm 51:1-2, 10-12:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin…

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

771) Leaning on Grandma’s Faith

     

Geoffrey Canada is an African-American man who grew up on the streets of Bronx.  He is the author of the book Reaching Up for Manhood:  Transforming the Lives of Boys in America.  In it, he shares some of his personal experiences and tells how he overcame many adverse circumstances.  He gives great credit to his grandmother, who eventually turned him around and gave him a moral compass.  He relates a story about her final days while dying of cancer.  It was during a terribly difficult period in his own life.  Both his brother and his infant son had recently died.  This is what he wrote (quoted in Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson):

     I might have been able to accept one of these deaths, but not all three.  Why had God taken my infant son, my brother whom I worshiped, and now was going to take my grandmother whom I cherished?  The answer to me was that there simply was no God.  Not only did I doubt the existence of God, but my own life lost meaning.  Why was I working so hard in college, away from my family and friends, sacrificing so much, when death could come at any instant, making all my hard work folly?

     When I went home to see my grandmother she was bedridden.  The cancer had robbed her of her strength and would soon take her life.  Right before I went back to school I went into her room and I asked her the question that was tearing me apart.  I know it was selfish to ask her this while she was dying, but I had to know.

     “Grandma, do you still believe in God?”

     “Of course I do.  Why do you ask me that?”

     “Because you are sick.  You have cancer.”

     “Being sick doesn’t have anything to do with faith.”

     “But how can you have faith when God has done this to you?  Made you suffer.  And for what?  What did you do offend God so much that you have to be in pain like this?”

     “Geoffrey, listen to me.  I know you’ve been through so much with the loss of your son and your brother.  But don’t lose faith in God or yourself.  God has a plan and you’re part of it, so you can’t give up.  Faith is not something you believe in until things don’t go your way.  It’s not like rooting for a football team, and then when they start losing, changing sides and rooting for another team.  Faith means you believe no matter what.

     “Do you hear me?  It’s easy to have faith when you have a million dollars and you’re in perfect health.  Do you think that proves anything to God?  Your problem is that you think if you study your books had enough you will find all the answers.  All the answers aren’t in books.  They never will be.  So do I believe in God?  Yes.  More now that ever before.”

     I reluctantly went back to college after spending a week with my grandmother, not knowing that this was to be the last time I would ever talk to her or see her.  She died within weeks of my leaving.  I spent the rest of my sophomore year in a daze, the combined losses too much for me to comprehend.  But I knew I had to keep trying, and not lose my faith, because that’s what my grandmother wanted.  And when I became suddenly frightened or depressed, and found that my faith was weak and could not sustain me, I felt that I could borrow my grandmother’s faith.  Even though she was no longer alive, her faith was real and tangible to me.  Many nights I leaned on her faith when I felt my own could not support me.   

     Every child needs a grandmother like mine in their lives– a person who is older, and wiser, and is willing to fight for as long as it takes for that child’s soul; a person who is willing to hold his or her life up as an example of faith; a person who both forgives and teaches forgiveness; a person whose abundance of faith will be there in sufficient supply when children need it.  Because sooner or later children need more faith than they possess.  That is where we grandparents come in.

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Psalm 71:17-18  —  Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.  Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Job 8:8-10  —  Ask the former generation and find out what their ancestors learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.  Will they not instruct you and tell you?  Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?

Job 12:12  —  Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?

II Timothy 1:5  —  I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

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 A PRAYER FOR PARENTS by John Cosin:

 Almighty God and heavenly Father, we thank you for the children which you have given us; give us also grace to train them in your faith, fear, and love; that as they advance in years they may grow in grace, and may hereafter be found in the number of your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.