Tuesday, April 29, 2008


In my home office wall I have a small plaque that I got from my mother. It reads (in German), "Das Leben ist am schwersten drei Tage vor dem Ersten," which means, "Life seems most difficult three days before it happens."

Worry affects us all, doesn't it? In some ways I struggle more with it now that I'm retired than before when I had less time to do it. My mother once told me "Worry is concern without faith." She said everyone should be concerned about what might happen, because if we weren't, we couldn't plan things well. But when we think it all depends on us, or if we forget God's place in our life, we can get hooked on worry.

Jesus once said to His disciples, and to us, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about, clothes... or food... or drink? The pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them." Then Jesus gets to the heart of things: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:31-33)

I've been doing spring cleaning in our Colorado house (Some folks do stuff like that when they get worried) and as I sought my Bible for what Jesus said about worry, I discovered I'd put it in a closet. A place for everything and everything in its place, you know! But it was doing me no good in there, so I put it back where I used to have it, by my favorite chair where I can get to it easily.

If we put God first in our lives, or at least get Him out of the closet, worry becomes less a problem. Notice I didn't say it vanishes. Worry is like dust - you're always going to have it around, but you can take steps to get rid of it now and then. Like pray more often. Or worship God each week. Or read the Bible more often. Or take a needed step to lessen a particular worry.

As sinners we can never be completely rid of worry, because do have legitimate concerns about self or family or the state of the world. But Jesus came to forgive our worrying, and to help us live better, and to remind us God always provides. So seek first the Lord, His kingdom, His righteousness, and that other stuff will take care of itself. It's His promise, and He always keeps His promises.

I think I have some more dusting to do!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Where do we get our names? Today most first names are made up, based on sounding nice or copied from former generations. There was a time when last names were given based on what a person did (Miller, Cooper), to whom they're related (Johnson, Olson), where they lived (Hill, Townsend), or a wish for a person (Benjamin=son of the right hand, William=protector). Some names have been altered so much it's hard to tell where they came from.

I've always been interested in the origin of names, and many are easy to figure out. Our summer home is Castle Rock, Colorado. There is a huge monolith on a hill as you enter town from the north that looks like a castle. Hence, it was called Castle Rock. "Colorado" probably comes from the Spanish word for "colorful."

Our winter home is now Arizona, and most assume it comes from "Arid" and "zone", which would make sense since it's a very dry place. But historians believe the word comes from two Papago Indian words, "ali" (small) and "shonak" (spring). Thus, Arizona means "place of a small spring," which would make sense given some history of the few springs we have in the state.

Arizona was part of the territory received in the Gadsden Purchase, which was shaped like a large nose. Good thing they didn't name it "Narizona," from the spanish word "nariz," (large-nosed woman). In 1854, Arizona and New Mexico were given separate territorial status, and the name "Arizona" was made official. I believe it's a far more noble name than West Mexico or Gadsonia.

Acts 11:26 tells us a small religious sect of Jews and Gentiles were first called "Christians" in the city of Antioch. They believed Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the "anointed one," the deliverer who had been promised for centuries in Hebrew writings. They believed He was the Son of God, and though He had been crucified and died, He had arisen from the dead and now lives in heaven, from where He will come to judge all people. They believed all who trusted in Jesus would join Him in heavenly bliss and joy.

We Christians still believe that, at least most Christians do. Names may remain, but people often change what the names stand for, and that had been true since the name was first given. There are many who are Christians "in name only," people who want to have that identity, but have long lost the beliefs that make them a Christian.

Being born into a Christian home does not automatically gain a person entrance to heaven. Each one of us must believe and trust Jesus of Nazareth ourself. We all need to be "Christian" by our faith in Jesus Christ.

I pray you do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The cactus flowers are blooming in Arizona now. Lovely and fragile pink, yellow, white and red flowers dot the tips of the green and grey cactus pods, and for a short time they make us forget the sharp needles that protect them. There are hundreds of varieties of cacti, from the tiny 1/2 inch lilliput to the 40 foot saguaro. All are succulent plants, retaining water in their leaves and stems, adapting themselves to the desert climate. Cacti are found as far north as Canada and all are native to the Americas though a few varieties live in dry parts of Africa and Sri Lanka. The most common is the prickly pear which has more than 1,000 varieties, shapes, sizes and needle length.

Oh yes, cactus needles! Those razor sharp spines from 1/16 to four inches long that penetrate cloth and skin. Don't get too close! Cacti live mostly dormant lives, taking in water and food when it's available. A mature saguaro can drink up 500 gallons of water in a week during the monsoons, storing it for dry days. Birds, butterflies, bats and bees depend on cacti for food and housing.

I've planted a dozen and a half varieties in my backlot here, gifts of neighbors. A cactus cutting can set down roots in a few months and grow in the hardest of dry soils. But it will rot if over-watered. And for these few short weeks each year, cactus flowers beautify the desert. God has given us such an amazing world.

There is a movie coming to theatres soon called, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." In it, Ben Stein tries to show there must be a Divine Power at work in the universe, using rationale and opinions of scientists and philosophers who can no longer explain the nature of life without considering God. It might be worth viewing, though many have already panned it.

People have always panned God, but especially today. We have gotten past such old beliefs. It's all superstition, we say. Evolution explains all things, we claim. But of course it doesn't, not at all. The theory of evolution is based on the premise that all things are adapting and becoming more complex, while laws of science say all things are breaking down and becoming less complex. Seems to me it can't be both ways.

ut with God all things are possible. Belief in God is not complex: He created all things and wants people with Him in heaven. But sin and evil came into the world, so God sent His Son Jesus to take away the punishment of sin and evil. All that's left is for us to trust in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit even helps us do that. God makes all things possible, including accepting sinful people into heaven.

Belief in God is not complex - we just need to get out of His way.

Soon we will be back home in Colorado with its green mountains and spring snow. Later on, we'll have flowers there too, but none as lovely as the cactus flowers of Arizona.

I think I'll go out and take a walk.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


In a recent western movie, "Broken Trail", cowboy Prentiss Ritter is called upon to speak at the burial of a friend. He spoke these words, "We are all travellers in this world. From the sweet grass to the packing house, birth till death, we travel between the eternities."

Though devoid of the Gospel, in a sense he was right. We are all travellers and pilgrims in a world that offers no lasting peace or rest. And while there is only one eternity, we travel between the past and the future, waiting for promises of an eternal home and a hope that will last forever. And while we travel, we trust that God will fulfill all His promises to us.

Whenever the troubles and struggles of life threaten us with anxiety or despair, we must remember we have a Savior who travels with us, the Lord Jesus who is Master of Eternity. He offers us hope for this life and an even greater hope for a life to come, a life of joy and hope for all eternity.

In Hebrews 11:13, the writer, speaking of many heroes of faith, says, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off [they] were assured of them." The men and women of God who did not know Jesus, but who still trusted God would someday send a Savior, were truly heroic in their faith.

You and I live in the present moments and hours and days, but we look ahead by faith to being with the Lord. Jesus has said, "I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35) And again, "He who believes has eternal life." (John 6:47). One day we will experience that eternity when faith will become sight, and we will see the Lord. Such hope lifts us out of the past to a future life that is eternal.

For time and eternity, Jesus is all we need.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


It is a tradition on the first of April to pull harmless jokes on those near and dear to us. Usually the jokes are funnier in our imaginings than how they play out, but even the most staid among us has been known to indulge in a practical joke on April 1. So be especially aware of what people do and say to you today.

The origin of pranks on April 1 remains a mystery. Until the middle ages, the western world used the Julian calendar which began each year on March 25. But since March 25 fell during Holy Week, New Year's festivals were celebrated April 1. The adoption of the Gregorian calendar during the 1500s moved the New Year to January 1. Some think the origin for April Fools' Day was tricking people into thinking April 1 was still New Year's. Another story says that April Fools' Day commemorates the fruitless mission of the dove, who was sent out in search of land from Noah's ark during the flood. Most probably the custom is a carry-over from the Romans' end-of-winter celebration, Hilaria, celebrated near the Vernal Equinox.

A story going around the internet tells of a judge who tried a discrimination lawsuit filed by someone who wanted a holiday for atheists. With all the religious holidays, what about giving atheists a holiday of their own? The judge tossed the case out, ruling that atheists already had a holiday. Quoting Psalm 14:1, "The fool says in his heart there is no God," he ruled that April Fool's Day is already the holiday for all atheists.

Well, at least the sentiment of that story is true. We live in a highly educated time of history. People pride themselves in finding explanations for most everything. But of all the explanations of human wisdom, none explains the presence of evil in the world. How did evil get here? And if there is no such a thing as evil, why do "evolving" people keep doing the same terrible things to each other, generation after generation? 

Of course evil does exist. And people believe God exists, though most are confused as to who the true God is, and not all who know Him really trust Him. Evil is not some trick God has played on us. It's the work of another person who exists, Satan, and he hates God and Christians. But God's love is far more powerful than Satan's evil, and that's good news for us all.

With Easter already behind us, April 1 this year is a good time to give thanks that Jesus is God's true and living Son. His death is a historical fact, and so is His resurrection. Christ's death and resurrection have defeated the forces of evil. Evil is a headless rattler, making a lot of racket, but already slain. God loves us, and that's the greatest fact of all.

The Lord Jesus is alive, and that's no joke!