2101) Retirement Sunday (part one of two)

 Last month I retired after forty years as a Lutheran pastor.  The next two meditations contain some of what I said in the sermon on my last Sunday (August 25).


     …Many years ago, on my first Sunday in my first parish, an elderly lady introduced herself to me and then said with a sneer, “I’ve been a member of this church for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of you pastors come and go, and I know what you are like, and you are all the same.  Welcome to Christ Lutheran.”  I wasn’t sure what she meant by that, and the way she said it was a little scary.  But I do have to admit, part of what she said was true.  Pastors are different, but we do come and go.  And we are all the same in that we are sinners like the rest of you, and we do come with our own mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses, gifts and quirks, skills and short-comings, and annoying faults.  But hopefully, along with all of those secondary, organizational things we have to do, we will by the grace of God, faithfully bring you a bit of God’s Word each week.  

     Now that elderly lady turned out to be a difficult one, but she was a pretty good person and a faithful servant of God as she served her church.  She had a common trait of many church members– she was difficult because she cared.  She cared about her church and wanted things done right, and that’s a good thing.  But right for her sometimes meant doing things only her way, and that’s not a good thing.  But I have needed to learn from people like her to appreciate the care and the hard work behind their rough edges; and people like her need to learn to care and work in less difficult ways.  And none of us ever get it completely right.  That is why we come to church to hear about the forgiveness of sins.

     And, we also come to church to hear about eternal life.  Several years ago a pastor friend told me a story about an old friend of his who was the pastor of a little church in a small town in Germany.  The pastor would walk to church every Sunday morning, and on his way he would walk by the home of Albert.  Albert was baptized and confirmed in that little church, but had not been there for worship since his confirmation day.  Now he was old and retired and had nothing to do but sit on a rocking chair on his front porch and drink beer.  And the pastor and Albert would always exchange friendly greetings, and oftentimes the pastor would invite Albert to church.  “Albert, komm zur kirche,” the pastor would say.  “Albert, come to church.”  And Albert would always raise his beer mug and reply, “Nein, Pastor, Ich habe etwas besseres.”  “No, Pastor, I have something better.”

     There is much one can say about that interesting little exchange.  Albert told the pastor he had something better.  Isn’t that what we are all, always looking for in life– something better?  A better house for some, a better job for others, a better car, a better vacation idea, better relationships, better financial security, or maybe even a better time of life, perhaps somewhere off in the future.  It is a rare individual who is completely satisfied with everything in their life and can say they are not looking for any improvement in anything.  And there is nothing wrong with wanting something better.

     But there is something deeper in the pastor’s invitation to Albert to come to church.  The pastor did not mean Albert should just change chairs on Sunday mornings, from the chair on his porch to a place in one of the pews at church, and there drink coffee instead of beer.  The invitation to church implied the offer of something bigger than what to do on Sunday morning.  It was an offer for a relationship with God in Jesus Christ, and the offer of eternal life in Him; not only something better for the here and now, but for forever.  We go to church to hear about that eternal hope, and to sustain our faith in that.  And Albert’s friendly refusal to the pastor’s invitation was not a personal snub.  He and the pastor got along fine.  Rather, it was an indication of Albert’s lack of interest in anything beyond the here and now.  The glass of beer in his hand was ‘something better’ for him than what went on church every week.

     The apostle Paul would not agree with Albert, but proclaimed in his ministry, as I have tried to proclaim in mine, that there is nothing better than what the Gospel has to offer.  In this morning’s reading from I Corinthians  he begins by saying:  “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved!”

     Paul then goes on to say:  “What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”  Paul first lays the basis for his trust in Jesus, and that is that Jesus rose from the dead.  And he adds that well over 500 witnesses saw the living Jesus, back from the dead, and most of them, he said, were still living at the time.  In other words, his listeners could go ask them.

     Then, having laid the basis for his faith, Paul describes how that is the basis for his ministry, saying, “I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am.  I worked harder than all the others—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.  Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”

     So Paul begins by saying his message is of FIRST importance, something better than anything else we could come up with on our own.  What could be more important than rising from the dead to live again, after this brief and troubled life is over?  Then Paul tells the Corinthians why he believes in it.  He has seen Jesus, back from the dead, with his own eyes.  And then he says that is why he is a preacher, so that others can believe that great message and also be saved—so everyone can have that ‘something better.’  That German pastor wanted Albert to come and hear about it, so he could believe it, and receive it, and live, now and forever.  (continued…)

2100) Seeing the Glory of God

Image result for street musician images

    If you go to the downtown area of any big city you will see street musicians.  They will be leaning up against a building, playing their guitar, saxophone, violin, trumpet, or whatever.  Their instrument case or hat will be lying open on the sidewalk ahead of them in hopes of receiving some coins or dollar bills from appreciative (or sympathetic) people walking by.  Some of these musicians are better than others.  Some are enthusiastic and entertaining; others have that ‘hangdog’ look, and you can tell they have pretty well given up on life.  But they are probably hungry, and desperate for the few coins that might be thrown their way.

      A while back a man quietly took his place against a wall in a subway station in Washington, D.C.  He took out his violin, placed his hat on the ground, and began to play.  For this day he had chosen six selections by Johann Sebastian Bach.  During this sidewalk performance, several thousand people walked by.  A few stopped to listen briefly, and some slowed their pace; but most of the money in the hat came from people who did not slow down at all.  They just dropped something in the hat as they rushed by, perhaps out of pity, but certainly not in appreciation for the music that they did not even stop to hear.

 On several occasions little children stopped to listen, but every time they did the parent would pull them on, much like one does with a dog that wants to stop to sniff at something.  Maybe it was for the kids just a child-like curiosity.  Or maybe, like a sniffing dog, the children sensed something special was there.  Actually, it was something very special.  The street musician that day, that shabbily dressed ‘beggar,’ was the world renowned violinist Joshua Bell.  The violin he was playing is valued at 3.5 million dollars.  Just two days before, people had packed a Boston theater to hear him, paying an average of $100 per seat.

Joshua Bell playing Bach

Joshua Bell performing in a New York subway station

     That day in the subway station Bell made a total of 32 dollars.  When he finished, there was no applause, no standing ovation like he usually receives, nothing at all to acknowledge the magnificent talent that had just been on display.  For nearly an hour, greatness had appeared in that otherwise bleak subway station, but no one noticed it.  People just rushed by, unaware.

     This interesting little experiment was carried out by the Washington Post, but the same thing goes on every day, everywhere, for everyone.  There is greatness, beauty, magnificence, and miracles all around us, but we are usually blind to it all.  The Bible says the heavens and all creation declare the glory of God, but we usually miss it.

     Once in a while we might get a glimpse.  The other day I say a wonderful photograph of a leaf.  It was just an ordinary leaf off a tree, but the photo showed its tremendous beauty.  The leaf had for the most part decayed and disintegrated, and all that was left was the intricate system of little veins going out from the center stem to the outer edges.  The photographer had the leaf held up against the sun, the light was shining through the silhouetted veins, and it was beautiful.  This was just a common leaf.  How much more wonder is all around us all the time?!

   I am always amazed to see an old Michael Jackson video, seeing his moves, especially the way he could do that incredible moon-walk.  But the most amazing thing is to be able to walk at all, and most of us can do that.  A full description of the actual process would fill a library.  There first must be two living legs, the tissue being maintained by outside energy that is processed in the digestive system and the respiratory system, and delivered by the circulatory system.  The exhausted energy must then be delivered back by the circulatory system to other organs that process it for elimination from the body.  So far, this is all just to maintain the tissue.  Then the movement must be commanded by the brain, another miracle, with the message being delivered by the nervous system, and the command carried out by a precise arrangement of muscles, ligaments, and cartilage, with the necessary structure and support of the skeletal system.  There are a million things all must work together, all at once, in order for you to put one foot in front of the other.  If there is even a small glitch anywhere in the system you are in a wheelchair or even dead.

     Eight centuries ago St. Francis taught the world to see the extraordinary blessings and miracles of God in the seemingly ordinary things of the natural world all around us.  The hymn All Creatures of our God and King, based on a poem by St. Francis, describes how nature itself sings praises to the glory of God, with the sun and the moon, the clouds and the wind, water and fire, fruits and flowers, all declaring the wonder of God’s creation.  God has chosen to reveal himself in the ordinary.  If you look for God there, in the ordinary, you will see him all over the place.  Think of that the next time you take an ordinary step, and give thanks to God for the miracle of your ordinary body.  And give thanks to God for Jesus, who promises an even more perfect body, one that will last for all eternity.


Psalm 19:1 — The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 139:14-15 — For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

II Corinthians 5:1 — Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

Lord, make me see your glory in every place.  Amen.   –Michelangelo

2099) Thinking Ahead

From “Living For What Will Matter 30 Million Years From Now” blog, posted by Randy Alcorn, April 2, 2014 at:  



Live for the Line

     When it comes to money, financial planners often tell us, “Don’t think just three months or three years ahead.  Think thirty years ahead.”  Christ, the ultimate investment counselor, takes it further.  He says, “Don’t ask how your investment will be paying off in just thirty years.  Ask how it will be paying off in thirty million years.”  That’s not only true of how we invest our money, but every part of our lives, including our God-given resources of time and talents and possessions.

     This life is the headwaters out of which life in heaven flows.  Eternity will hold for us what we’ve poured into it during our lives here.  When we view our short today in light of the long tomorrow of eternity, even the little choices we make become tremendously important.

     Your life on earth is a dot.  From that dot extends a line that goes on for all eternity.  Right now you’re living in the dot.  But what are you living for?  Are you living for the dot or for the line?  Are you living for earth or for heaven?  Are you living for the short today or the long tomorrow?

 In this great 4-minute video, Francis Chan uses another illustration, somewhat similar, that demonstrates just how short-sighted living only for this present life is:


     This is a great reminder to invest in what will last, and to center your life around God, and His Word, and His promises and commands. Do this, and you will be living not for the dot but for the line (or in Chan’s case, the rope)!


Colossians 3:2  —  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

II Corinthians 4:18  —  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.


Almighty God, give us a measure of true religion and thereby set us free from vain and disappointing hopes, from lawless and excessive appetites, from frothy and empty joys, from anxious, self-devouring cares, from a dull and black melancholy, from an eating envy and swelling pride, and from rigid sourness and severity of spirit; all so that we may possess that peace which passeth all understanding, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.       

–Benjamin Whichcote (1609-1683), English philosopher

2098) A Good Name


By Armstrong Williams, businessman and nationally syndicated columnist (March 1996 column).

     One summer day my father sent me to buy wire and fencing for our farm in Marion County, South Carolina.  At 16, I liked nothing better than getting behind the wheel of our Chevy pickup, but this time there was a damper on my spirits.  My father had told me I’d have to ask for credit at the store.

     Sixteen is a prideful age, when a young man wants respect, not charity.  It was 1976, and the ugly shadow of racism was a fact of life.  I’d seen my friends ask for credit and then stand, head down, while a patronizing store owner questioned whether they were “good for it.”  I knew black youths just like me who were watched like thieves by the store clerk each time they went into a grocery.

     My family was honest.  We paid our debts.  But before harvest, cash was short.  Would the store owner trust us?

     At Davis Brothers General Store, Buck Davis stood behind the register, talking to a middle-aged farmer.  Buck was a tall, weathered man in a red hunting shirt and khaki pants, and I nodded as I passed him on my way to the hardware aisle.  When I brought my purchases to the register, I said carefully, “I need to put this on credit.”

     The farmer gave me an amused, cynical look.  But Buck’s face didn’t change.  “Sure,” he said easily. “Your daddy is always good for it.”  He turned to the other man.  “This here is one of James Williams’s sons.”

     The farmer nodded in a neighborly way.  I was filled with pride.  James Williams’s son.  Those three words had opened a door to an adult’s respect and trust.

     That day I discovered that a good name could bestow a capital of good will of immense value.  The good name my father and mother had earned brought our whole family the respect of our neighbors.  Everyone knew what to expect from a Williams:  a decent person who kept his word and respected himself too much to do wrong.

     We children — eight brothers and two sisters – could enjoy that good name, unearned, unless and until we did something to lose it.  Compromising it would hurt not only the transgressor but also those we loved and those who loved us.  We had a stake in one another — and in ourselves.

     A good name, and the responsibility that came with it, forced us children to be better than we otherwise might be.  We wanted to be thought of as good people, and by acting like good people for long enough, we became pretty decent citizens.

     The desire to keep the respect of a good name propelled me to become the first in our family to go to university.  Eventually, it gave me the initiative to start my own successful public relations firm in Washington, D.C..

     I thought about the power of a good name when I heard Colin Powell say that America needs to restore a sense of shame in its neighborhoods.  He’s right.  If pride in a good name keeps families and neighborhoods straight, a sense of shame is the reverse side of that coin.

    Doing drugs, abusing alcohol, stealing, getting a young woman pregnant out of wedlock — today, none of these behaviors are the deep embarrassment they should be.  Nearly one out of three births in America is to an unwed mother.  Many of these children will grow up without the security and guidance of a caring father and mother committed to each other.

     Once the social ties and mutual obligations of the family disintegrate, communities fall apart.  Politicians may boast that crime is falling, but while the population has increased only 40 percent since 1960, violent crime in America has increased a staggering 550 percent — and we’ve become used to it.  Teen drug abuse is rising again.  No neighborhood is immune…

     Cultural influences such as television and movies portray mostly a world in which respect goes to the most violent.  Life is considered cheap.

     Meanwhile, the small signs of civility and respect that sustain civilization are vanishing from schools, stores and streets.  Phrases like “yes, ma’am,” “no, sir,” “thank you” and “please” show self-respect and respect for others.  Yet, encouraged by the pervasive profanity on television and in music, kids don’t think twice about aggressive and vulgar language.

     Many of today’s kids have failed because their sense of shame has failed.  They were born into families with poor reputations, not caring about keeping a good name.

     Today, when I’m back home, I receive respect because of the good name passed on as my father’s patrimony and upheld to this day by me and my siblings.  People like Buck Davis came to know of my success in the world.  But it was my family’s good name that paved the way.

     Keeping a good name is rewarded not only by outsiders’ esteem but when those who know you best put their confidence in you.  In the last months of his life Daddy, typically, worried more about my mother than about his illness.  He wanted to spare her the grief of watching him die at home.  So he came to me.

     By then I was living and working in Washington, D. C.  When Daddy arrived from South Carolina, I had him admitted to a nearby hospital.  For two months, I spent every day sitting by his bedside.  Both of us knew he had little time left.

     When he was not in too much pain to talk, he would ask about the family.  He wanted to be sure he had met his responsibilities in this world.  On the last day, I was there with him as he passed away.

    My daddy had never been rich or powerful.  But in his dying, he gave me a last gift:  his faith that I was the man he had wanted me to be.  By trusting me to care for him at the moment of his passing, he showed not only his love, but his pride and confidence in me.

     After all, I was James Williams’s son — a Williams of Marion, South Carolina —  and a Williams would do right.


Proverbs 22:1  —  A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Proverbs 3:1-4  —  My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  Let love and faithfulness never leave you… write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.


I confess and ask for your grace, because I have so often in my life sinfully spoke with malice and contempt against other people.  They depend on me for their honor and reputation, just as I depend on them for the same.  Help us all to obey this commandment, giving our neighbor the benefit of the doubt, and explaining their actions in the kindest way.  Amen.

–Martin Luther, prayer on the 8th commandment

2096) Hypocrites in the Church

     One of the most common criticisms of the church is that it has too many hypocrites.  To someone making this objection, I would say, “Are you kidding?  Of course we have hypocrites.  We also have liars, cheaters, snobs, adulterers, fornicators, people who are too greedy for their own good, crabby and ungrateful people, angry and mean-spirited people, jealous people, people who gossip, smart-alecks, rebellious teenagers, and we might even have a few bigots.  Yes, we do let in just about anybody.  In fact, the only type of people we don’t allow is perfect people.  And that’s because Jesus himself said he wasn’t here for them.  He was one time criticized for hanging around with some people with a bad reputation and he told them he wasn’t here for the healthy but for the sick.”

      In Luke 15:1-7 Jesus tells a parable about a good shepherd who looks all over and tries everything to get back one lost little sheep.  Well, that’s who the church is here for– for those who are lost in sin or confusion or envy or despair or even hypocrisy.  And just because someone has signed up for membership doesn’t mean they have overcome all the sin in their life. 

     What would the critics want us to do?  Keep out all hypocrites?  Who else then should we keep out?  And then who should decide who we allow in and who we do not allow in?  Well, we have decided to let Jesus decide, and Jesus says let anyone in, that is, unless they are perfect. 

      Now, once in, everyone is expected to start making some changes.  God accepts us as we are, but he doesn’t want us to stay like that.  God expects us all to grow in faith and obedience to his Law.  But all are invited to get started.

     My wife and I had a couple kids.  And do you know that when they came home from the hospital after they were born, they couldn’t even talk or walk?!  But we brought them home anyway, hoping there would be some improvement in their abilities.  And there was– but it took a while.  

     In God’s eyes, we are all children, babies even, crawling along in the faith, with a long way to go.  But God is working on us, and he does that by his Word, and you hear that Word in church.  Some people might be doing better than others, and some aren’t doing very well at all.  But I do believe God is making some progress with each of us; and you never know how much worse someone would be if they weren’t coming to church and did not have that connection to God.

      Yes, the church has its troubles, we often do not get along like we should, and we might not always give the best impression to outsiders.  The church is made up of sinners, to be sure.  But so is every other group of people.  Does anyone ever find the perfection they seek at work, in schools, in the business world, in the government, in their entertainment choices, in their families, in their neighbors, in their friends… or anywhere? 

     I also have had my frustrations with the church, but there are some things that I get there that I can get nowhere else:  an eternal word from God, and an opportunity to confess my sins and start over, a promise that lifts me above my troubles, and, a really wonderful group of people, though we are all still imperfect sinners.  It’s a messy world out there, and the church is no different.  But I go to church to find a word of grace and hope, the opportunity each week to have a fresh start and do better, and fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

     In Numbers 10:29 Moses, an insider, makes an invitation to Hobab, an outsider.  Moses said to him, “Come with us, Hobab, and it will do thee good.”  Hobab says no, just like a lot of people we might invite to church often say no, perhaps citing the large number of hypocrites.  But Moses asks again, “Please do not leave us,” he says, “we will share with you whatever good things the Lord gives us.”  There the conversation ends.  We don’t know what Hobab did.  But this was a friendly invitation, from a tired man, who was leading a motley crew of imperfect and infuriating people, through a dreary wilderness.  But Moses knew they were on their way to something better, and said, “Come on along.  It will do thee good.  The Lord has good things to give us.” 

     When people object to who we are and what we do, we oftentimes have to agree they might be right.  We all have our ‘issues,’ as they say now-days.  But none of us are in the church primarily because we are so good, or, because the rest of the people there are so good– but because God is so good.  “The Lord,” Moses said, “The Lord has good things for us.” 

     As the Psalmist prayed many centuries ago, “Oh give thanks, unto the Lord, for He is good, and his mercy endures forever.”


Mark 2:16-18  —  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples:  “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Numbers 10:29…32  —  Moses said unto Hobab, the son of Raguel the Midianite, Moses’ father in law, “We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it you:’ come thou with us, and we will do thee good:  for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel…  And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee.”

Colossians 3:15-17  —   Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And 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.


Praise ye the Lord.  O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

–Psalm 106:1

2097) Persecuted

From the NEW YORK POST, December 12, 2014:

     Four Christian children were beheaded by ISIS militants in Iraq for refusing to denounce Jesus and convert to Islam, according to the leader of the Anglican church in Baghdad.  Canon Andrew White, know as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” fled Iraq in October for Israel and recounted how brutal the country has become for Christians.

     “ISIS turned up and said to the children, ‘You say the words that you will follow Mohammed,’” White said in a video posted on the Christian Broadcasting Network Web site.  “The children, four of them, all under 15, said, ‘No, we love Yeshua (Jesus), we have always loved Yeshua.’  They chopped all their heads off.  How do you respond to that?  You just cry.”

See also:  Emailmeditation #370)  The Vicar of Baghdad; ( https://emailmeditations.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/370-the-vicar-of-baghdad/ )


From The Voice of the Martyrs (website:  http://www.persecution.com/  ):

     Little 3-year-old “Joel” was on his way home from Sunday school when Islamic terrorists ripped his children’s Bible from his hands and tossed it onto a burning pile.  Joel ran after his Bible and tried to scoot it out of the flames with a stick.  When one of the insurgents saw him, he shoved Joel’s head into the fire and held it down with his boot.  “You stubborn infidel,” the man hissed.




From The Persecution Blog, by Dr. Jason Peters, on The Voice of the Martyrs website: 

     In July of 2013, two young girls in Pakistan received a copy of The Story of Jesus in their native language of Urdu.  The Christians who distributed the booklets happily reported that these girls trusted Christ after reading these engaging booklets.  Two more sisters were added to our Christian family!

Peshawar Victims

   Just a couple of months later, on a sunny Sunday morning, two suicide bombers entered the All Saints Church compound in Peshawar, Pakistan.  These Islamists waited until the services were over and the nearly 500 worshipers began to gather for a meal together.  At 11:45, they detonated their suicide vests and killed 78 people and injured another 130.  It was the deadliest attack on the Christian minority in the history of Pakistan.

     In October, I received word that the two young sisters who received The Story of Jesus during the July distribution, and began to follow Jesus, were killed in the attack on that bright Sunday morning.


Matthew 5:10  —  (Jesus said), “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 10:38-39  —  (Jesus said), “Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 18:6  —  (Jesus said), “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”


Almighty God, who has taught us through your Son Jesus Christ that those who follow Him may be persecuted; strengthen, comfort and encourage all those who suffer harassment, violence, imprisonment and even death for being followers of Jesus.   We pray for those who persecute your people; may their hearts be turned towards you through the faithful witness of those they persecute.   Protect those who are persecuted and bless their ministries.   Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

2095) Lessons from Candy Land

By Joshua Rogers, posted September 21, 2019 at:  http://www.joshuarogers.com

Image result for playing candyland images

     I’ve spent a lot of time on the floor with my kids playing with all kinds of toys, including blocks, baby dolls and board games.  The kids love being there with me and I love being with them too.  One person they can thank for that is my mom.

     Mom never had a prestigious job; she didn’t feed me organic foods; and she didn’t enroll me in a Spanish immersion school.  We didn’t have a lot of money, so she didn’t give me lots of toys either.  But here’s what she did give me: her time, her attention, herself.   And in doing so, she gave me a lot more than that.

     When I was a kid, I just assumed Mom wanted to do the activities I found interesting.   Although I’m sure she did enjoy being with me, now that I’m a parent, I know it was more challenging than I realized.

     I remember being five and Mom playing Candy Land with me before nap time. I thought it was great fun.  I don’t know if you’ve played that game recently, but it’s not particularly challenging or fun at all.  Nonetheless, Mom kept on flipping those cards, trying to beat me to the Candy Castle.

     I remember being three and my mom standing in a yellow, terrycloth tube-top in the back yard, spraying water on a shower curtain she spread onto the grass.  Over and over, my brother and I ran and jumped onto the makeshift Slip n’ Slide as she held the water hose.  I felt like I was at a theme park; but I imagine that standing in one place spraying the water hose got old after a few minutes.  If Mom got tired of doing it, she didn’t make that known to us.

     I remember Mom taking me for a walk through the woods in my hometown of Petal, Mississippi.  When we came to a little stream, I didn’t know how to get around it without getting my red and white sneakers wet.  She showed me how to toss a large stick in the middle of the stream and use it as a stepping stone.  She could’ve just done that herself, but she took the time to explain it to me.

     After we got through the woods, Mom took me to the Sunflower grocery story, bought a Baby Ruth, and split it with me.  We sat on a curb together and talked about God knows what.  Whatever the conversation was, I’m sure it was a lot less stimulating than the adult conversations she could’ve had if she were at work.

     Here’s what my mother communicated to me by playing Candy Land, setting up a makeshift Slip n’ Slide, walking with me through the woods and having conversations with me: You are valuable.  The little things you care about aren’t little things at all, because you’re important to me.  What matters to you matters to me.

      I believe God cares about us like that, and it’s important that we realize it.  If we trust that He cares about the little things, we will trust Him with every area of our lives, which can sometimes seem so insignificant.

     That’s why one of the most powerful ways we can teach the Gospel to our kids is to play with them, listen to them, spend time with them and care about those things that are important to them.  If they believe we care about their concerns when they are young, they will be more likely to believe God cares about their concerns when they are adults.

     So thanks, Mom – you thought we were just trying to make it to Candy Castle.  You were teaching me how to receive the love of God.


Matthew 25:21  —  (Jesus said), “The master answered, ‘You did well. You are a good and loyal servant. Because you were loyal with small things, I will let you care for much greater things. Come and share my joy with me.’”

I John 4:19  —  We love because God first loved us.

Luke 18:16  —  Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”



 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.

2094) Prayer to Make Good Use of Sickness

By Blaise Pascal  (1663-1662)  (Adapted)

     Lord, you are good and gentle in all your ways; and your mercy is so great that not only the blessings but also the misfortunes of your people are channels of your compassion.  Grant that I may turn to you as a Father in my present condition, since the change in my own state from health to sickness brings no change to you.  You are always the same, and you are my loving Father in times of trouble and in times of joy alike.

     You gave me health that I might serve you; and so often I failed to use my good health in your service.  Now you send me sickness in order to correct me.  I pray that I may not use this sickness to irritate you by impatience.  I made bad use of my health, and you have justly punished me for it; O, that I may not make bad use of my punishment.  In my sinfulness, your favors to me became snares to my spiritual life; grant, O Lord, that your chastisements may be beneficial to my spirit.  My health was full of pride and selfish ambition when I was well.  Now please let sickness destroy that pride and ambition.  Render me incapable of enjoying any worldly pleasures, if that is what is necessary for me to learn to depend on you alone.  Grant that I may learn to trust in you, now in the lonely silence of my sick bed.  Grant that, having ignored the things of the spirit when my body was vigorous, I may now enjoy spiritual blessings while my body groans with pain.

     How happy is the heart, O God, that can love you and find its peace in you.  How secure and durable is the happiness that is found in you since you endure forever.  Neither life nor death can separate such happiness from its source.  Move my heart, O God, to repentance for all my faults, and for all the many times I looked elsewhere for fulfillment and hope.  Let this disorder in my body be the means by which my soul is put in order.  I can now find no happiness in physical things; let me find happiness only in you.

     You can see me, Lord, as I truly am; and surely you can find nothing pleasing.  I can see in myself, Lord, nothing but my sufferings.  Yet I find comfort in the knowledge that, in a small way, my sufferings resemble your sufferings.  You became a man and suffered in order to save all people.  In your own body you embraced all bodily suffering.  Look down, Lord, on the pains that I suffer, and on this illness that afflicts me.  Let my sorrows become my invitation to you to visit me.  

     Uproot in me, Lord, the self-pity on which self-love feeds.  Let me not dwell with self-pity on my own sufferings.  Let me not regret the loss of worldly pleasures, but remind me that such pleasures can never satisfy my heart.  Let me henceforth ask for neither health nor life, but rather let me be content with your will for me.  Let health and sickness, life and death, be equal in my sight.  Let me joyfully acknowledge you as king, able to give or take away your blessings as you wish.  Let me trust in your eternal providence, receiving with equal reverence all that comes to me from you.

      And finally, as I share in your sufferings, let me one day share in the joy of your risen life.


Death mask of Blaise Pascal.

Pascal, a mathematical genius and inventor, died at the age of 39, suffering from many ailments.  His last words were, “May God never abandon me.”


Romans 5:1-5  —  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

1 Peter 4:12-13  —  Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

Philippians 4:11b-12  —  I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

2093) How to Win the Lottery

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By Jeff Minnick, my favorite writer at http://www.intellectualtakeout.org , posted there September 20, 2019. 


It’s mid-September, and I am privileged to spend five nights at a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina at the invitation of a long-time friend, John.  Two of John’s other friends, Susan and Franklin, are also here.

The weather so far has brought ocean breezes, blue skies, and moderate temperatures.  The house is two blocks from the water’s edge, surrounded by live oak trees and the usual collection of smaller, scruffy plants found near the ocean in this area.  The interior sports all the modern amenities – an icemaker in the refrigerator, a microwave, a gas fireplace, and more – and is decorated with seashells, paintings, and unusual furniture.  The owners’ wine bottles, for example, sit on a rack in a painted canoe, cut in half and standing erect.  The shower in my bathroom measures five feet by five feet and sports two shower-heads.  Behind the house is a swimming pool replete with palm trees and a covered porch.

Lap of luxury doesn’t begin to describe this home, which opens its arms to visitors, embraces them, and encourages them to cast aside their worries.

At one point, Franklin and I were talking when the subject of the lottery came up.

“Friends are always telling me I should play the lottery,” Franklin, who like me is a man of modest means, said.  “They say, ‘Franklin, you could win $63 million.’”

“And what do you say?”

“I tell them I already won the lottery,” Franklin said.  “I was born in the United States of America in the middle of the twentieth century.”

There is a man who understands the meaning of gratitude.

As Franklin later pointed out, the average American in 2019 lives better than royalty only a century ago.  Our homes are climate controlled, we travel by car and plane, and our medical care is superb.  We go to the supermarket and select food from around the world; we communicate via the internet and cell phones; we possess at our fingertips more venues for news and entertainment than we can possibly absorb; and we have vast opportunities for education and bettering ourselves.

Even the poor in America fare better than many in the rest of the world.  In a piece for Forbes, Tim Worstall addresses the gulf between rich and poor Americans, but then demonstrates that Americans living below the poverty line are still “richer than 70% of all the people extant.”

And our response to these incredible gifts?

All too often it is resentment, greed, and ingratitude.

Some of us resent those who have more money or possessions.  We rent a mobile home, while a family a mile away lives in a mansion.  We look across the valley at that chateau and despise them for their wealth.  We fail to consider that they pay more in taxes every year than we earn, that they gave employment to a construction crew for months, that they may have invested their time, talent, and money more wisely than we did.

I felt that resentment toward others for a few years in my thirties.  It was an ugly foolishness I eventually abandoned.

We are greedy for more, more, more.  We own a Honda but want a BMW.  We own a three-bedroom house perfectly adequate to our needs, but want five bedrooms.

Worst of all is our ingratitude.

We have liberties that would have astounded a slave in Ancient Rome, a serf in Medieval England, or a black woman in the American South in 1950.  We have wealth and advantages beyond the ken of our great-grandparents.  Best of all, we are alive, whirling about the sun on a planet that nourishes us, surrounded by our fellow human beings whose talents and intelligence bring us amazing advancements in such areas as medicine and technology.

Yet many of us indulge in a daily litany of complaints about our lives.  We moan about our healthcare, our housing, our jobs, our missed chances, our lack of money.  Perhaps these complaints are part of our nature, but given our abundance of wealth and the comparative discomforts of the generations which preceded us, these complaints should also embarrass us.           

My time at this beach house, where stress and obligation have drained away, where the pace is slow, has reminded me to be grateful for being a part of the human parade, for a beating heart, for the chance to soak in the beauty around me.

Some debts can never be repaid.

For me, being alive in America in 2019 is one of them.


Proverbs 14:30  —  A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Psalm 103:2  —  Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

Psalm 8:3-4  —  When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?


O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

–Psalm 107:1

2092) Giving Thanks for Everyday Miracles

By Philip Yancey posted August 19, 2019 on his blog at:  http://www.philipyancey.com:

This month IVP has released a new, revised version of my writings with Dr. Paul Brand, Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God’s Image.  Gratitude was the one quality that most impressed me about Paul Brand.  For him, the universe was God’s own work of art, and the human body God’s masterpiece.  He kept making notes on scattered computer files, calling them “A Litany of Thanksgiving.”  Dr. Brand never finished his litanies, but here are a few of his final musings on the human body he knew so well.  They sum up the spirit of a man who accepted the world as a marvelous gift, to which the proper response is gratitude.


I thank you, Lord, for my heart.

Moment by moment and day after day my heart has pumped blood to every limb and organ of my body, supplying the nutrients that give life and energy.  It has needed no maintenance or spare parts, no special fuel or lubrication.  It has surged with power when I needed help for strong exertion, and has quietly sustained me during sleep.

Grant me, O God, the grace of self-control.  I must not eat so much that I accumulate unnecessary fat, increasing the work required of my heart.  Help me avoid the seduction of rich foods that narrow my arteries.  Neither let me neglect to maintain my strength, by lazily relying on cars and machines when I could as readily use my legs and arms.

Save me, Lord, from ambition that gives high place to wealth and power and prestige, in the process adding stress to my waking hours and robbing me of restful sleep at night.  Control me with your Spirit who teaches me to forgive when anger builds up, to seek forgiveness when I’m oppressed by guilt, and who grows in me the fruit of love and peace.  Then shall my heart beat with the rhythm of contentment, and my whole body will know harmony and quiet joy.

When in the fullness of time the beat of my heart must falter and fail, give me this grace, dear Lord: that my response shall not be petulance that it does not last forever, but gratitude that it has served me long and well.


I thank you, Lord, for the gift of sight.

Not content that I should see light and shade, you have blessed me with the ecstasy of color, with millions of cells at the back of my eye, each calibrated to its own wavelength of color.  You designed living lenses, crystal-clear, flexible, and guided by tiny muscles that allow instant and precise focusing.  I praise you for tears that cleanse, and for eyelids poised to blink down protection in a split-second reflex.

Lord God, I marvel that, though light never enters my brain, thousands of the finest nerves convey images of reality into my mind, which stores them away for future retrieval.  I carry around a memory bank of friends and children and grandchildren; I close my eyes and my mind re-creates the images those nerves once ushered in.

I know many people who can no longer see.  If I live beyond the life span of the cells in me that sense the light, or if cataracts cloud the shining globe that gives me sight, I too shall live in shadows and depend on the eyes of those who see.  Help me, dear Lord, to use these days of sight in a way that honors the gift of light.  Help me to gaze at each sunset as if it were my last, to look upon scenes and friends with an artist’s eye, compiling a memory bank of beauty and love.  If someday I lose your gift of sight, these same images may return and beautify my inner life when all outside falls dark.

And while I see, may my guiding hand be quick to help the one who falters because his world is dark, to share with others the benefits of the gift of sight.


I thank you, Lord, for the sense of hearing.

Deep in the dense bone of the base of my skull, you have placed rows of tiny hairs that bend to the movement of the fluid that bathes them.  Too fragile to be exposed to the hurly-burly of the outside world, they feel vibrations filtered through canals and mediated by tiny guardian instruments of bone.

Music and voices come to me without effort, awakening without my conscious thought memories of sounds and of speech.  I hear an echo of a concert from long ago, or recollect a person long forgotten whose face suddenly springs to mind, roused by a tone of voice or a lilt of laughter that calls up a remembrance.  The design that makes such wonder come to life lies beyond the fathoming of science, but God forbid that I should revel in the ecstasy of music and the joy of sound without giving thanks to you, my Lord.

A capacity to hear sufficient to warn me of danger and protect my life is all I might have asked, but I have joy far beyond that need.  For the sound of rushing water, singing birds, and the quiet whisper of a friend, I thank you now.  Grant me the wisdom to guard this gift well and to be content with sound enough to hear and yet not to blast my eardrums and shatter the finest hairs with sound amplified beyond nature.  Teach me to love the silence of open spaces, the distant cry of the loon, and the soft sounds of falling night that lull me to sleep, knowing that my hearing never sleeps but remains alert to awaken me to danger or to the chorus of the dawning day.

You have given, too, an extra gift beyond that of my sense of hearing: the ability to listen.  My mind can shut out noise and talk, and even calls for help, that I do not want to hear.  Grant, oh Lord, that I may tune my hearing mind to detect that human voice that needs a listening ear.

To listen is my gift to give.  To a soul who has lost hope, whose way ahead is dark, whose sense of worth has fallen and is too weak to rise, I have a way to bring back hope.  I can let them know that someone cares.  The simple statement of their fear may be all they need, because now it has been shared, and they are not alone.  Help me, Lord God, to listen to your lonely child and so express my thanks to you for ears to hear.

― Dr. Paul Brand


Psalm 139:13-14  —  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.


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