1511) A Simple Gift

     Jesuit priest Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991) tells of visiting his brother Jesuits who were working in a desperately poor slum in Latin America.  During his visit he celebrated Mass for the local people in a small, decrepit building; cats and dogs wandered in and out during the Mass.  Afterward, Arrupe was invited to the house of one of the members of the congregation, where he received a memorable gift.

     Here’s what happened, in Arrupe’s own words (in One Jesuit’s Spiritual Journey):

     When it was over, a big man whose hang-dog look made me almost afraid said, “Come to my place.  I have something to give you.”  I was undecided; I didn’t know whether to accept or not, but the priest who was with me said, “Accept, Father, they are good people.”  So I went along with him to his place.  His house was a hovel nearly on the point of collapsing.  He had me sit down on a rickety old chair.  From there I could see the sunset.  

     The man said to me, “Look, sir, how beautiful it is!”  We sat in silence for several minutes.  The sun disappeared.  The man then said, “I didn’t know how to thank you for all you have done for us.  I have nothing to give you, but I thought you would like to see this sunset.  You liked it, didn’t you?  Good evening.”  And then he shook my hand.

    As I walked away I thought, “I have seldom met such a kindhearted person.”  I learned many things that day among the poor.  


Image result for sunset slum images


Ecclesiastes 5:18  —  This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink, and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot.

Ecclesiastes 6:9  —  It’s better to enjoy what we have than to always want something else, because that makes no more sense than chasing the wind.

Psalm 50:1-2  —  The Mighty One, God, the Lordspeaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.


All praise to thee, my God, this night
For all the blessings of the light.
Keep me, oh, keep me, King of kings,
Beneath thine own almighty wings.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

–Thomas Ken, English pastor and hymnwriter  (1637-1711)

1510) Now or Later?

Image result for 2 corinthians 4:18 images

By Rick Warren, at his Daily Hope blog, May 28, 2017 (www.pastorrick.com/devotional)


     We rarely evaluate our values or question our perceptions until we have a crisis.  Once we’re in deep pain, we begin to examine what we’re basing our lives upon.  Whether it’s materialism, feeling good, or looking good, we instinctively realize there has to be more.

     That’s why it’s so critical that we ask ourselves — before we’re mired in pain — what is going to last?

     Our culture encourages us to do just the opposite.  Our society values the here and now.  Tomorrow doesn’t matter.  Next year doesn’t matter.  A thousand years from today doesn’t matter.  Eternity and Heaven don’t matter.  Live for today.

     But the Bible says something different in 1 John 2:17: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

     Consider what happens when we’re tempted.  Temptation is not just a battle between good and bad, or, what’s best and what’s not best.

     Temptation is always a battle between now or later.  Will I do what God says and enjoy the benefits later, or will I do what I want and enjoy the benefits now?

     The Bible teaches us to “fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen.  What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18).


II Corinthians 4:16-18  —  Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I John 2:17  —  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

I John 5:11b-13  —  God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.



Hymn by James Montgomery, English poet, hymnwriter, journalist (1771-1854)

In the hour of trial,
Jesus, plead for me
Lest by base denial
I depart from thee.
When thou see’st me waver,
With a look recall
Nor for fear or favor
Suffer me to fall.

With forbidden pleasures
Should this vain world charm
Or its tempting treasures
Spread to work me harm,
Bring to my remembrance
Sad Gethsemane
Or, in darker semblance,
Cross-crowned Calvary.

Should thy mercy send me
Sorrow, toil, and woe,
Or should pain attend me
On my path below,
Grant that I may never
Fail thy hand to see;
Grant that I may ever
Cast my care on thee.

When my last hour cometh,
Fraught with strife and pain,
When my dust returneth
To the dust again,
On thy truth relying,
Through that mortal strife,
Jesus, take me, dying,
To eternal life.

1509) “She’s Perfect, But…”

Image result for beautiful muslim women

     One afternoon, according to an old Sufi (Muslim) tale, Nasruddin and his friend were sitting in a cafe, drinking tea, and talking about life and love.

     ”How come you never got married, Nasruddin?” asked his friend at one point.

     ”Well,” Nasruddin said, “to tell you the truth, I spent my youth looking for the perfect woman.  In Cairo, I met a beautiful and intelligent woman, with eyes like dark olives… but she was unkind.  Then in Baghdad, I met a woman who was a wonderful and generous soul… but we had no interests in common.  One woman after another would seem just right… but there would always be something missing.  Then one day, I met her.  She was beautiful, intelligent, generous and kind.  We had everything in common.  In fact, she was perfect.”

     ”Well,” said Nasruddin’s friend, “What happened?  Why didn’t you marry her?”

     Nasruddin sipped his tea reflectively.  “Well,” he replied, “It’s a sad thing.  It seems she was looking for the perfect man.”

–As told by Rick Fields in Chop Wood, Carry Water, page 35.


James 3:2a  —  We all stumble in many ways.

Romans 3:23  —  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Ephesians 4:2  —  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

I Corinthians 13:4-7  —  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Colossians 3:12-14  —  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.



O God, we thank you that you have given us another year of life together.  We thank you for the love which grows more precious and for the bonds which grow more close each day.  We thank you for the happiness we have known together; for the sorrows we have faced together; for all the experiences of sunshine and of shadow through which we have come together to this day.

We each ask your forgiveness for any disloyalty on our part; for any times when we were difficult to live with; for any selfishness and inconsiderateness; for any lack of sympathy and of understanding; for anything which spoiled even for a moment the perfect relationship which marriage should be.

Spare us to each other to go on walking the way of life together, and grant that for us it may be true that the best is yet to be; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–William Barclay, Scottish minister, professor, and author (1907-1978), from A Guide to Daily Prayer, page 102-103 (adapted).

1508) “She is on Her Way to You, Jesus”

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     God’s offer of eternal life changes everything for those who believe, even in this life.  Eternal life is not just something that gets tacked on at the end.  It is, as Jesus said, the way to have an abundant life right now (John 10).  This eternal promise gives us the hope and the perspective to face anything in this life, knowing that this world is not our final home, but that we are on our way to a place more permanent, one not filled with tragedy and tears and pain and death (Revelation 21).  This is the hope we have in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.

     The difference this new perspective makes now, in this life, is illustrated by the stories of two little girls.

     Robert Coles, Harvard psychologist, author, and Christian, tells the story of a little girl he met in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  He says of that poverty stricken village, “Death haunted every shack; miscarriages, babies dying of a variety of untreated diseases, children chronically ill, and children often telling of the loss of this or that friend, and of parents who were dead or very sick.  Death was ever present.”

     The ten year old girl Coles was writing about said to him casually, “To die is what can happen to you any day; that much we know here.”  Yes, Coles thought, we all know that here in the United States, too; but not so well as they know it there.  Few ten year olds here are as experienced in facing death as are all ten year olds there.  So he was struck by how, with the resigned shrug of the shoulders, the little girl had said, “You can die any day.”  Such matter-of-fact acceptance of death is commonly seen here in nursing homes, but not so much on playgrounds.

     Then the girl told her story:

My father died when I was just a baby; less than a year old, I think.  My mother will soon join him.  She wanted to stay with us children, but now most of all she wants to die and go to Jesus.  She is in so much pain all the time.  At night we hear her cry.  We should be sleeping, but we hear her and we worry about her.  She doesn’t want us to worry about her, so she tries to let out her tears only in the dark.  During the day, she tries to smile, talk to us, and teach us everything she can.  I have younger brothers and sisters from my stepfather, and I had to learn to cook for them.  Mother is teaching me and I am getting better at cooking, and I am also getting better with my little sisters and brothers.  Actually, I think I am getting better all the way around.  I don’t want to brag, but this is just what is happening.  Mother says I have to learn much because soon she won’t be here.   As for my stepfather, well, he gives us some money, but he comes around only sometimes, and then he is gone again.

     Coles then asked the little girl if she could tell him the most important thing that she learned from her mother.  She said:

Oh yes, I will tell you what our mamma tells us all the time.  She says that in this life we are just visiting here.  That is what life is, just a visit; and then we have to leave.  So, she says, be glad that you are here, but don’t forget, we are only here to visit, and be prepared every day to say ‘good-bye.’  She said she is doing that now to us, saying ‘good-bye;’ and even though the pain is terrible and she wants to die, she also is grateful for each day to teach us, so the memory of what she says can grow stronger in us.  She tells us she is proud of us, and when she sees how much we love her, then she knows why she was born.  She was born so that we could be born.

     A few days after that visit, the little girl’s mother died at the age of 30 with her children all around her.  To the end she was whispering her advice, her guidance, and her encouragement to the children to be faithful to God and to be good.  After her mother died, the little girl looked up at that famous statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched high up on a hilltop over Rio de Janeiro, and she said, “She is on her way to you now, Jesus, so be ready for her.”  It was with such faith and courage that that ten year old girl faced the death of her mother and the awesome responsibilities now ahead of her.  Her mother had passed on to her a firm faith in that larger perspective of the eternal life that is to be found in Jesus.  We are only visitors here, she would say.  We are on our way to that home Jesus himself is preparing for us.

     The other little girl, also about ten years old, is the daughter of teacher and author Frank McCourt.  In his book Teacherman, McCourt described the death of his mother.   At the funeral, Frank McCourt’s daughter had a question.  “Where’s Grandma now,” she asked her dad.  Having long ago abandoned the Christian faith of his childhood, Frank McCourt was speechless.  He wrote in his book, “I had no words for her for a time like this.”  He had no words, no hope, nothing he believed in enough to offer to his daughter.

     What a contrast between the two parents.  A poor, probably illiterate, Brazilian mother, armed only with faith, leaves her ten-year old daughter with the confident faith and strength to face the death of her second parent and the task of taking over the care of the family.  Frank McCourt, brilliant Pulitzer Prize winning author and master of words, but of no faith, has not even one word of hope or comfort for his daughter on the death of her elderly grandmother.


John 14:18-19  —  (Jesus said), “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you. Before long the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me; and because I live, you will live also.”

John 10:10b  —    (Jesus said), “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Revelation 21:3-5  —  I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look!  God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


O Lord our God, from whom neither life nor death can separate those who trust in thy love, and whose love holds in its embrace thy children in this world and the next; so unite us to thyself that in fellowship with thee we may always be united to our loved ones whether here or there; and give us courage, constancy, and hope; through him who died and was buried and rose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury  (1881-1944)

1507) Wasted Efforts?

hosp bed


     In a home for severely disabled children, Catherine was nurtured for twenty years.  The child had been intellectually and physically disabled from the beginning and had never spoken a word.  She either gazed quietly at the walls or made distorted movements.  Her life seemed to consist of nothing more than eating, drinking, and sleeping.  She seemed not to participate at all in what happened around her.  A leg had to be amputated.  The staff wished Cathy well and hoped that the Lord would soon take her to Himself.

     One day the doctor called the director to come quickly.  Catherine was dying.  When both entered the room, they could not believe what they were hearing.  Catherine was singing Christian hymns she had heard and had picked up, just those suitable for death beds.  She repeated over and over again the German song, “Where does the soul find its rest?”  She sang for half an hour with transfigured face, then she passed away quietly.  

–From The Best Is Still to Come,Wuppertal: Sonne und Shild.


     We can never be sure if what we are doing, even if it seems useless, might have deep meaning and purpose in ways we will never know.  Many people today would think Catherine’s life did not have worth.  They might use terms like “quality of life” to rationalize shortening her existence.  But in God’s view Catherine’s life had value, worth, and purpose.  Some of the home’s caregivers had been singing songs to this severely damaged child, and it might have seemed even to them like a wasted effort.  But nothing done for Christ is ever wasted.  Thus it is written in I Corinthians 4:5:

Judge nothing before the appointed time.  Wait until the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.  At that time each will receive their praise from God.

     You may think that what you are doing is useless, but you don’t know.  You may wonder if what you’re doing is making any eternal difference, but the final evaluation isn’t in yet.  You may never see the fruit of the seed you plant.  Your part in the harvest might only be watering or tending, and later on someone else will reap the harvest.  Keep going.  As it is recorded Jesus said in Matthew 10:42:

Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.

–adapted from  www.redemptionministry.org


Romans 12:11  —  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Colossians 3:17  —  Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed, we shall meet at last.

–Catherine von Schlegel, 1752

1506) Challenge Accepted

     The strongest argument for the Gospel of Christ is the personal testimony of someone whose life has been changed by it.  The changed lives of Christians does not prove the historical truth of Christianity, but it is an important piece of supportive evidence; and, it is consistent with the Biblical promises and descriptions of what can happen when someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ.

     In the later part of the nineteenth century, political activist Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) was one of the most outspoken atheists in London.  During those same years, down in one of the slums of London, was a Christian evangelist by the name of Hugh Price Hughes (1847-1902).  Hughes was investing his life in the poor people of London.  He had gone to those who were alcoholics and others who did not have a place in society.  He started homes for women who had been abused, and many other ministries to those who were down and out.  All London was aware of the miracles of grace accomplished at his rescue mission.

     The atheist Charles Bradlaugh publicly challenged this Rev. Hughes to a debate on the existence of God and the truth of Christianity.  Both men were well known, and London was greatly interested.  What would Hughes do?  Hughes told Bradlaugh he would agree to the debate on one condition.

     Bradlaugh was a lawyer, and Hughes pointed out that in a court of law you are always allowed to bring witnesses.  Hughes therefore agreed to debate Bradlaugh if Hughes could bring one hundred witnesses-– people whose lives had been changed because of the existence of God and the truth of Christianity.  They would be people who once lived deep in sin, some having come from poverty-stricken homes caused by the vices of their parents.  Hughes said these people would not only tell of their conversion and how their lives have been improved since trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior, but would also submit to cross-examination by any who doubted their stories.  

     Hughes told Bradlaugh that he could also bring one hundred witnesses, non-believers whose lives had been changed because there was no God, and they could tell how they have been helped by their lack of faith.  Hughes said, “I propose to you that we each bring some concrete evidences of the validity of our beliefs in the form of men and women who have been redeemed from the lives of sin and shame by the influence of our teaching.  I will bring one hundred such men and women, and I challenge you to do the same.  If you cannot bring one hundred, Mr. Bradlaugh, to match my one hundred, I will be satisfied if you will bring fifty men and women who will stand and testify that they have been lifted up from lives of shame by the influence of your teachings.  And if you cannot bring fifty, then bring twenty people who will say, as my one hundred will, that they have a great joy in a life of self-respect as a result of your atheistic teachings.  And if you cannot bring twenty, I will be satisfied if you bring ten.  Nay, Mr. Bradlaugh, I challenge you to bring even one, just one man or woman who will make such a testimony regarding the uplifting of your atheistic teachings.”  All Bradlaugh had to do was to find one person whose life was improved be atheism, and Hughes, who could bring one hundred people improved by Christ, would agree to debate him.

     Mr. Bradlaugh withdrew his challenge.


Hugh Price Hughes2.jpg

Hugh Price Hughes


The ‘evidence;’ early residents of the West London Mission whose lives were improved by knowing Jesus


“It is because the spirit of Christ has not been introduced into public life that Europe is in a perilous condition today. . . My wish is to apply Christianity to every aspect of life.”

–Hugh Price Hughes, in Social Christianity, 1890.


The West London Mission continues to serve the needy today.  This is from their website:  

The West London Mission was established in 1887 as part of a new initiative within Methodism – the mission movement, which combined evangelism with radical social action.  The driving force behind WLM was the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes.  The opening service was held in October 1887 in St James’ Hall, Piccadilly, and over 2,000 would come to services each Sunday.  At that time the West End was rife with poverty and vice alongside great wealth and riches.  WLM developed a wide range of ‘social rescue’ alongside their religious activities.  Early work included ministering to the sick, a dispensary, a nursery, children’s clubs, a soup kitchen, a ‘poor man’s lawyer’ and a hospice.  Hostels and homes were run for unmarried mothers and their babies, ex-offenders, those on bail, elderly people, and recovering alcoholics– all pioneering projects long before any general public provision.  Professional social work of high standard, alongside a worshipping centre and a strong Christian motivation are WLM principles that continue today.


I Peter 3:14-16  —  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Romans 12:9-13  —  Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.


O loving Father, we pray for all who get left behind in the race of life.  We pray for those worn with sickness and misery, those wasted with addiction, for the dying, and for all unhappy children.  May they come to know the suffering love of Christ, and may they have a heart that trusts you even in the dark.  We ask this in the name of Him who took our infirmaties upon himself, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

–A. T. Fisher  (1906-1988), Chaplain, Magdalen College, Oxford.

1505) How the Church Moves the World

By Mindy Belz, in World magazine, May 27, 2017, page 28 (www.wng.org).


How does the church move the world?

An Iraqi boy prays inside St. George’s Church in Baghdad


     Months into the invasion of Iraq by ISIS, I emailed a friend in Baghdad to check on his family and his church.  Islamic State militants by that time controlled one-third of the country and could reach Baghdad by car in 40 minutes.  Bombings were up in the city.

     Dawlat Abouna is a deacon in St. George’s Church.  He had a library in his home where he kept documents tracing his Christian ancestry in Iraq to A.D. 1117.  He loaned me history books and translated documents for me as I wrote a book about Iraq.  So I asked:  How is your family?  With so much turmoil, are worship services continuing?

     Dawlat answered:  “Oh yes!  We have started two new groups here at the church— one to pray for our persecuted brothers in the north, and one to pray for our enemies.”

     I don’t know any churches in the West with meetings dedicated to praying for enemies.  And if the enemy breathing down my neck were ISIS, starting such a group would not be the first thing to come to mind.  We live in a society so polarized that loving one’s enemies in any active, intentional way is foreign, maybe even a little absurd.

     Yet Dawlat and the faithful at St. George’s know and practice something deeply important, if rare, something history and Scripture tell us is what Christians do, what makes them distinct.

     Not long before Dawlat’s email, the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, preached from a mosque in captured Mosul:  “Terrify the enemies of Allah and seek death.”

     ISIS teaching on terrorizing enemies isn’t a distortion of Islam; it’s woven into the Quran, the sayings of Muhammad (the hadith), and its history, which began as brutal conquest.

     Preaching in Egypt last month on a Muslim Brotherhood channel, Egyptian Salafi leader Mohamed al-Saghir said “suicide bombers” are the greatest resource in the Muslim community, boasting that they are found nowhere else.

     Writer Nabeel Qureshi, himself a former Muslim, writes in No God But One, “The historical Jesus never sanctioned violence and endorsed absolutely nothing like the Crusades, whereas the historical Muhammad engaged in jihad as the greatest deed a Muslim can perform.”

     Jesus made “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” a byword and reconciliation the essence of his ministry:  “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

     Like all things that aren’t natural or easy (or safe), loving one’s enemies and praying for those who persecute you is a discipline, the work of weekly prayer meetings and day-to-day service in a potentially hostile community.  And potentially hostile communities can inflict real harm, no matter the prayers or good deeds.

     At St. George’s over the years, Islamic militants aimed crippling bomb attacks.  The church built blast walls, planted hedges over them, and continues to hold services and to serve the community.  Hundreds of mostly Muslim women line up to collect food parcels every month as part of one program.

     In the United States we live in a time of political upheaval, social fracturing, and racial strife.  Calling out one’s enemies has become high art.  Checking into social media requires dodging a barrage of insults and ire.  How many of us pause to pray before we post?  How many of us pray for those who make our lives hard, whether they live nearby or far away?  Commit with me to praying for such an enemy this month and next, for someone who is a real pill, making your life hard, undermining a faithful witness in your community.

     Praying for enemies has a dividend:  It tends to cast out fear.  Over and over in the book of Acts we see the early church praying boldly, suffering mightily, thanking its persecutors for scattering its people, and doing it all over again.  It may look as if the church is being pushed around, but in reality it’s how the church moves the world.


Matthew 5:43-45a  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

Luke 6:27b-28  —  (Jesus said), “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Romans 12:17-21  —  Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:  “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I Peter 3:9  —  Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.  On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.


 Heavenly Father, we pray for those who do not know you, and for those who hate you, and for those who hate us.  Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do; open their hearts to the work of your Spirit so that they may come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; and may they, and we, learn to love all people as Jesus did.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

1504) It Depends on What You Mean by a Miracle

The Wanderer, 1935, Josef Sigall (1891-1953)


By Joan Chittister, National Catholic Reporter, vol. 37., #18.

     Once upon a time, a seeker went from land to land to discover an authentic religion.  Finally, the seeker found a group of extraordinary fame.  They were known for the goodness of their lives and for the singleness of their hearts and for the sincerity of their service.

     “I see everything you do,” the seeker said, “and I’m impressed by it.  But, before I become your disciple, I have a question to ask: Does your God work miracles?”

     “Well,” the disciples said to the seeker, “it all depends on what you mean by a miracle.  Some people call it a miracle when God does the will of people.  We call it a miracle when people do the will of God.”


Matthew 12:50  —  (Jesus said), “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Matthew 5:16  —  (Jesus said), “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

John 14:23  —  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

John 14:12  —  (Jesus said), “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”


O God, grant unto me such a knowledge of your will and trust in your grace that I may truly exemplify in my life the faith that I profess, so that others may see the light of Christ shining in what I say and do; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

–adapted from Service Book and Hymnal, Augsburg Publishing House, 1958, pafe 227.

1503) Creatio Ex Nihilo

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Creatio Ex Nihilo (Latin) = “Creation Out of Nothing.”


I Believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

–First Article of the Apostle’s Creed


Nothing can be made from nothing; once we see that’s so,
Already we are on the way to what we want to know.

–Lucretis, Roman poet and philosopher (First century, B. C.)


“You may find it hard to believe that God made everything out of nothing, but it takes a lot more faith to believe that nothing turned itself into everything.”

–Mark Cahill


“I felt in my bones that this universe does not explain itself.”  

–C. S. Lewis


There is nothing in observable natural law that can explain the creation of matter and energy out of nothing.  There have been many wild speculations by scientists, all of which require far more faith to believe in than Genesis 1:1.  And just because it is a scientist doing the guessing, does not mean that such guesses or speculations can be even tested by the scientific method, much less verified.  Many people have therefore concluded that there must be a God above and beyond what science can observe, measure, and test.  

Then again, as children often ask, “But who made God?”  That is an interesting question, but not one a Christian is required to answer.  It is the atheist whose explanation of the universe must be limited to the observable laws of nature.  Christians believe there is more to reality than can ever be explained.  Christians believe in a God who we cannot see, whose power is unlimited, who is not bound by any natural laws we have observed, and whose kingdom is bigger than the universe that we observe, test, and measure.  With such a God and that view of reality, anything is possible.  We will know something about that God only if He chooses to reveal Himself, and then confirms such revelations by miracles that defy natural explanation– such as a man rising from the dead.

Christians will readily admit we do not have the observable facts or the tools to explain the universe.  We confess our faith in a God beyond our knowing, who is eternal and “not made” (Nicene Creed) by anyone or anything else, and who is beyond the necessary ’cause and effect’ chain of events of our universe.  Our small minds cannot even imagine the fullness of God; just as we will never be able to explain this universe and its origin without reference to the God above it.  And the more we learn about the universe, the laws of nature, and the complexity of life, the more difficult it becomes to explain it all without reference to a power beyond what we see. 


From a scientist (considered by many to be the Einstien of today) who does not believe in God and has done a bit of such speculating about the origins of the universe:

“The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the big bang are enormous,” he told me.  “I think there are clearly religious implications whenever you start to discuss the origins of the universe.  There must be religious overtones.  But I think most scientists prefer to shy away from the religious side of it.”

–Theoretical Physicist and Author Stephen W. Hawking, quoted in  Stephen Hawking’s Universe, by John Boslough, page 109.

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Genesis 1:1  —  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Psalm 33:6…9  —  By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth…  For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Isaiah 40:28  —  Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

Hebrews 11:3  —  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Romans 1:20  —  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.


Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  You have set your glory in the heavens.  (Psalm 8:1)

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.  (Psalm 19:1-2)

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  (Psalm 19:14)

1502) Flying Feathers and Careless Words

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     A woman whose tongue was sharp and unkind was accused of starting a rumor.  She was brought before the village rabbi to be reprimanded, but she protested: “What I said was all in fun.  I was only joking.  Besides, it was others in the village who carried my words forth.  I am not to blame.”

     But the victim cried for justice, saying, “You’ve soiled my own good name!”

     “I can make amends,” said the woman accused.  “I’ll just take back my words and you can excuse me.”

     The rabbi listened to what she said, and sadly thought as he shook his head, “This woman does not comprehend her crime, so she will do it again and again.”

     And so he said to the woman accused, “Your careless words cannot be excused until you bring this feather pillow to the market square.  Cut it and let the feathers fly through the air.  When this task is done, bring me back all the feathers; every last one.”

     The woman reluctantly agreed.  She thought, “The wise old rabbi’s gone mad indeed!”  But to humor him, she took his pillow to the village square.  She cut it and feathers went flying in the wind.

     She ran and ran, this way and that way.  She tried to catch this feather and that feather.  But for every one she picked up, a hundred blew farther and farther away.  Weary with effort she clearly discovered that the task could not be done.

     She returned with very few feathers in hand.  “I could not get them back,” she said, ” for they have scattered over the land.”  She sighed as she lowered her head and said, “I suppose that is like the words I can’t take back from the rumor I spread.”


     Socrates was visited by an acquaintance of his.  Eager to share some juicy gossip, the man asked if Socrates would like to know the story he’d just heard about a friend of theirs.  Socrates held up his hand to silence the man and asked, “Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?” 

     The man shook his head. “No, I actually just heard about it, and …”  

     Socrates cut him off.  “You don’t know for certain that it is true, then.”

     “No, I do not know if it is true, ” said the man.

     Socrates then asked, “Is what you want to say something good or kind?”  

     Again, the man shook his head. “No.  Actually, just the opposite.  You see …”

     Socrates again lifted his hand to stop the man from speaking.  “So you are not certain that what you want to say is true, and it isn’t good or kind.  One more question remains, though, so you may yet still tell me.  Is this information useful or necessary to me or anyone?” 

     Defeated, the man replied, “No, not really.”

     “Well, then,” Socrates said turning away, “If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say it at all.”


Proverbs 6:16-19  —  There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 16:28  —  A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 26:18-20  —  Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”  Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.

Ephesians 4:29  —  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.



O God, you command us not to bear false witness against our neighbor.  May we so fear and love you that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor; but defend him, speak well of him, and explain his actions in the kindest way; through Jesus Christ,  your Son, our Lord.  Amen.