Tuesday, January 25, 2011


The US Constitution in Article II, Section 3, states, "The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." We have come to call this speech the "State of the Union" address.

When Pres. Obama steps to the podium tonight, he will be following in the footsteps of Pres. Washington who delivered the very first "State of the Union" speech to Congress on January 8, 1790. Until Pres. Coolidge broadcast his words on radio in 1923, this speech had been delivered only through the newspapers. In 1947, Pres. Truman delivered the first televised address. 

Besides giving the President's assessment of national conditions, the "State of the Union" address is also a platform for the president's hopes and plans for the nation. Pres. Washington's words stressed the unity of the states, Pres. Monroe explained what became known as the "Monroe Doctrine" to end western colonization, and Pres. Lincoln told the nation he wanted to end slavery. Such has been the importance of this annual event held the past 221 years.

What is the "State of Your Faith"? How would you assess the condition of your faith in Jesus Christ? What hopes and plans do you have for your relationship with God? Is once a year often enough to do this simple analysis? A great Bible teacher once wrote that studying the Ten Commandments is a good mirror to judge our actions. Considering how often we read the Bible, or pray, or help others in need, or attend public worship, we can, with the help of God, realize the "State of Our Faith." 

It is helpful to take a regular spiritual inventory of our life, just as we check our bank account, service our car, or check our appearance in the mirror. Taking a longer spiritual look at ourselves in the mirror of God's Word can perhaps help us see what needs to be done, and with aid of the Holy Spirit, can give us courage to do what is "necessary and expedient" on our earthly journey.

God bless our native land; firm may she ever stand, through storm and night!

Friday, January 21, 2011


Living in a retirement community, one sees mostly older folks, the exception being an occasional visiting young family or favored grandchildren. Retired folks like to laugh, even at themselves, and have their own brand of humor. Recently I saw a video of an invocation given by an older person (see website below) whose message and deadpan delivery were hilarious. Near the end of her invocation she quoted a poem by Esther Mary Walker, which goes as follows:

  Blessed are they who understand my faltering steps and shaky hand.
Blessed are they who know my ears today must strain to hear the things they say.
Blessed are they who seem to know that my eyes are dim and my thoughts are slow.
Blessed are they who looked away when coffee was spilled at dinner today.
Blessed are they with a cheery smile who take the time to chat for awhile.
Blessed are they who never say, "You've told that story twice today".
Blessed are they who know the way to bring back memories of yesterday.
Blessed are they who make it known I'm loved, respected and not alone.
Blessed are they who ease the days of my journey home in loving ways.

I like that poem, especially the line about hearing a story told more than once. With such healthy and active older people these days, it's easy to forget they really do become less able and more frail as they age.

God in His Word honors the aged person, and urges us to do the same in the Fourth Commandment. Besides commanding us to respect our elders, God gives many examples of blessing the world through older people: Hannah, Elizabeth and Sarah gave the world very important children in their advanced age. Abraham, Jacob, and Simeon are examples of old men honored by God in later life.

Leviticus 19:32 tells us, "Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God." Older people cannot demand respect of others, but, like everyone, should seek to earn it. Most older folks truly appreciate it when people are sensitive to their needs. Patience and attention are wonderful gifts to give an aged person. 

The older we grow, the more we can see God's abundant blessings!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


As we consider the sad events of the past weekend, I'd like us to look back at history. In February, 1504, Christopher Columbus was in a bad way. In the course of his fourth visit to the New World, his badly leaking ships left him stranded on today's island of Jamaica. The inhabitants, initially hospitable, had grown hostile at the crew's transgressions, and had threatened to cut off the crew's food supply.

While consulting the Ephemerides, charts that show the positions of astronomical objects at given times, Columbus realized that astronomers had predicted a lunar eclipse that would be visible in a couple of days. The day before the eclipse, he told the local leaders that if they didn't change their minds, the moon would disappear from the sky. They scoffed at his claim, but when the eclipse occurred, just as he had predicted, they relented and gave him food. His ships and crews were rescued and returned to Spain in November, but Columbus never returned to the New World.

Some might call Columbus' actions deceitful, but most would say he did what was needed to save the lives of his crews. We should always seek to do the right, realizing that many of the actions and choices we must take in life involve risk and even deceit. A desperate parent will do things for family that (s)he might otherwise condemn (i.e. Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau). Life is not always a clear choice between right and wrong; sometimes it is the lesser of two evils. This is because of our fallen state, the sinfulness of all mankind everywhere. That is why we need a Savior sent by a holy God to rescue us from the tangles we make in life.

The many complex situations we face in the world today - worldwide immigration, the right of self-defense, freedom of speech, and compassion for those in need (to name only a few) - all require wise choices, as well as resources that are often more than we are able to provide. Such complexities should move us to trust in God and seek the counsel of His Word. To rely only on human wisdom at such a time is truly foolhardy. We need God to show us the way.

I pray our civil and church leaders will seek the Lord's guidance as they act, because human wisdom alone will not solve what lies before us. I don't think things are going to get better in this world, so it would be wise for us all to, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)

Let us turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on us.

Monday, January 3, 2011


My Arizona friend, Pastor Fred, had a great New Year's Day sermon and in it suggested some interesting New Year's resolutions: (1) Eat more - gain 30 pounds if you want - others are doing it, (2) Stop exercising - you won't really do it anyway, (3) Read less and watch more TV - that's what most people really want to do, and, (4) Procrastinate more - in fact, put off all your resolutions until next year.

So, I've decided these four are going to be my New Year's Resolutions for 2011, and I'm starting with #4.

(For these next thoughts, I thank Joe Stowell) Have you ever thought about the value of looking back? Some experts tell us to forget the past and forge ahead, which is usually good advice. But rearview mirrors can be very useful, especially if we use them to see what God has done in our lives. Look at the people He's brought into your life and how they've blessed you! Look at the places you've been and progress you've seen! Consider the resources and talents the Lord has given you. Even some of the pain and difficulties you've had have helped make you stronger.

As we reflect on God's blessings of the past year, you and I can also look forward to His help in the days to come. God has blessed us before, and He will do it again. Psalm 92:4 says, "You, Lord, have made me glad... I will triumph in the works of Your hands."

What happens to us in life is not just a matter of chance (or luck or skill or good fortune, etc.). The Lord has assisted us, directed events of our lives and managed the outcome faithfully. Looking in the rearview mirror this time of year can give us a good picture of God's good work in our lives.

Looking ahead, though, isn't as clear. We're not sure what will come. Sometimes the road ahead seems foggy, twisted and scary. As we move into the New Year of 2011, look again in the rearview mirror of the year gone by. Hopefully you will be able to understand what Jesus meant when He said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you. Thus we can say, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid." (Hebrews 13:5-6)

With the promise of God's presence and His help in mind, you and I can move ahead into 2011 confident that God will be with us. And in Jesus, He will love us, no matter what.

What resolutions have you made for 2011?