Tuesday, January 29, 2008


As a president's tenure nears completion, we begin hearing about his legacy. A legacy can be a person's possessions, wisdom, or the lessons learned from that person's life. Have you ever wondered what your legacy will be, what you will leave behind for future generations?

Daniel of the Old Testament was a young Jewish captive living in a foreign land. We remember the story about how he and his friends refused to bow down to the king and were thrown to the lions. The story of Daniel's faith and courage is quite memorable.

But we may not also remember that later on Daniel interpreted the dreams of that same king, and as a result was promoted to be the king's chief advisor (Daniel 2). If the story ended there, those facts alone would be remarkable. But many scholars believe that Daniel's influence, his legacy to the Babylonian people and to us, was a prophesy that a future Messiah who would be born in his native land. 

Daniel's most important legacy may have been the reason why 500 years later Magi from that area of the east followed a star to Israel to find a newborn king, to worship Him and then to return to their own country with the good news. Thus today, over the doorway of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, an inscription is carved in stone regarding the birth of a king, words written in the Persian language that originated near the land of Daniel's captivity. Daniel's legacy was not only the lions den, but may also have been the journey Wise Men.

You and I don't know what our legacy will be, but it will be more than possessions. They will fade. No one remembers Daniel's wealth, but all who know of him remember his faith. And perhaps some even remembered a godly prediction that moved Wise Men from the east to come and worship their Savior.

Wise men (and women) still come and worship Jesus.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


What is your name? Do you like your name? Would you like a different one? Names are important, and how parents name their children changes with the times. Years ago we based our names on vocation (Cartright, Miller) or location (Aufdemberg=On the Mtn, or Vondenkamp=From the Battle) or relationships (Johnson, O'Malley). We named our children after beloved parents or friends, or names were descriptive of relationship to God (Timothy=Honors God, Micah=Who is like God). People giving such names hoped that person's life would reflect the meaning of the name they gave them.

Today names are often based on sound or popularity. For a short period in the 1960s, American names were merely cute or even silly, but parents now have returned to the more endurable names of Emily, Isabella, Abigail and Olivia, or Jacob, Michael, Daniel and Matthew. Whatever our name is, we hope it will be honored, and that people will think good of us when they hear our name.
A few people dislike their names so much that they have them changed. They hope it will alter how people view them, or even change their destiny. Some have even had altered family names restored to their original spelling, because names are important to people.

Those who put their trust in Jesus as their Savior are given a name that changes their destiny. We are baptised in the NAME of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and we are named CHRISTian, a name that carries the power of God. The apostles performed miracles in the name of Jesus. They cast out demons, healed and taught the Gospel, which is centered on the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus gives life to all who honor Him as Lord.

It is only through the name of Jesus that we have access to the God of the Universe, the only true God who made the heavens and the earth. When we become Christians at baptism, we share in the meaning and power of Jesus Christ. Christians, therefore, should strive to live out the name of Jesus and become like Him, reflecting His love and compassion in service to others.

Our Lord Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) Those who reflect the name of Christ honor Him and help spread the Good News of eternal life in His name.

Do you know the meaning of your name?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Sir Edmund Hillary died this past week, the first man known to have conquered Mt. Everest. Though I've never quite understood the spirit that moves men and women to climb mountains, I respect what they do. I've always felt there are enough mountains (mental, financial, emotional) to climb each day we get out of bed without adding the physical demands of moving one's body into the rarified air of 15,000, 20,000 or 25,000 feet. 

Yet one must respect the men and women who tackle mountain peaks. They have to take serious precautions as they scale such rugged terrain. When people climb with others they utilize a safety feature called the "belayer." In climbing, a "belayer" is a cleat, a pin or other fixed object, even a person, who controls the amount of the rope fed out to a climber. If a climber loses his balance or falls, the belayer holds him securely until he can regain his footing and continue his ascent or descent. To "belay" is to anchor, hold securely, or keep safe.

Life is the mountain we are climbing, and Jesus is the best "belayer" we can have. People can help us, but people can also fail. Jesus never fails. He is always there for us. People can be good belayers (that's part of why we should seek friends) but Jesus is the best. People can be taken from us through illness, accident, tragedy or personal choice. They may not be able to hold us tightly enough to keep us from falling. But Jesus can and He will, if we will but trust Him. 

Do you have a belayer, someone you can trust when you stumble, or lose your grip during your climb in life? Are you a belayer for someone else, holding their rope in times of spiritual or physical trials? Should you be? A pastor can be a belayer for his church, but members can and should belay other members as well. But if you are not in a church, or do not have that special friend in your life, who will keep you from falling? 

Whose rope could you hold for someone else?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


"Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should." That was the title to a sermon I wrote several years ago about choices we make in a privileged society.

That sentiment is still valid, whether it's about things we can do, things we say, or how we spend our time. Just because we can do it, doesn't mean we should. In life we will see open doors before us, but that doesn't mean we should go through them all. We need the wisdom and the guidance of God's Word to help us decide which to take.

We who live in a wealthy nation have more choices, and the more we have, the more apt we may be to make bad ones. Our computer can take us to many places; should we therefore go there? Just because it feels good, should we do it? Just because it tastes good, is affordable or is fun, should we go there?

When you and I have enough time, money, energy or skills, it is tempting to think we can do whatever we wish without facing the consequences. But we must use our head in life. God tells us in Proverbs 15:21, "Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course." We must take care in what choices we make, for the consequences may be with us for years to come. 

A young man struggles to grasp his coffee cup because of an accident on a motorcycle. A young unmarried woman clutches her kleenex as she tells of her pregnancy. A young man looks pleadingly as he tells of his drug useage. A middle aged man stares blankly at the floor as he relates his financial woes. An older man wonders aloud what really led to his divorce. 

With all the choices we have, you and I must seek the guidance of God's Word. We have forgiveness by faith in Jesus Christ, but He still wishes us to pay attention to what He says. Just because the Lord doesn't stop us from doing something, it doesn't mean He wants us to continue. To discern what choices to make, we need to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)

May God lead you to good choices in 2008,

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Most fairy tales have much in common. There's a villian, and there's pretty a girl who, though she's a princess, lives under oppression and is waiting for someone to come and rescue her. That someone is usually Prince Charming who delivers the princess by defeating the villain and taking her away to live with him in his kingdom. Such fairy tales expressed the hope to struggling people that someone good will come along and make things better.

A few years back on New Year's Day I received a phone call took me to a seedy motel room where three young adults "lived" with two small children, one about three and the other barely a year old. Their mother was in her mid twenties, hoping to get work after the holidays. The young man was about 21, just out of jail and also looking for work. The 17 year old girl said she had no ID and was probably a runaway. I asked about their plans and gave them some grocery certificates for food and information on a temp agency nearby. Then I paid three nights rent at the office and took the 17 year-old to get some clothes from our church's clothing bank. 

Through it all, I kept trying to hold down a nasty cough I'd caught, but also a nasty feeling about their future. These three young folks weren't related and had little in common except the will to survive another day. All they'd wanted was a day's rent -- I'm not sure they looked beyond each day. The mother said she'd work while the 17 year-old cared for her kids. I had no idea what the future held for them. Yet today, there are many such people who are trying to get by, and it's doubtful any Prince Charming will come along to rescue them.

And yet there was cause for hope, not merely the hope of work or money or health or home, but hope that lasts, the hope God gives us, hope that comes from trusting Jesus to bring us through each day, through life and into eternity. He taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," and that is a prayer of faith. You and I will live our lives only one day at a time during 2008, and any day that includes Jesus can be a good one. True, it may have struggles and pain, but when Jesus is our Immanuel, our "God With Us", we will be okay, no matter what 2008 may bring.

My prayer is that your new year is filled with such hope and faith