Monday, March 31, 2014


In the 1950's, singer Tennessee Ernie Ford popularized a song by Merle Travis titled, "Sixteen Tons." It was a coal miner's lament that no matter how hard he worked, he felt trapped and unable to change his situation.

Early coal miners worked long, hard hours deep in the earth under severely unhealthy conditions. They often lived in company owned houses and were paid in "scrip," coupons that could only be used at the company store. Their children grew up in squalor and seemed destined to work in the mines also. Hence, they felt trapped by their world of work.

The Company embodied the world's evil, and the miner felt possessed and unable to change his situation. Even if he were summoned to heaven, he couldn't go because the Company "owned" him. The final line in the chorus went, "St. Peter, don't you call me 'cause I can't go - I owe my soul to the Company Store."

Sin traps us all. No matter what we think we can do, we cannot remove the consequences of our sin. We can change, but we still need a Savior, One who can transcend the squalor of our sin and bring us cleansed to God. Jesus is that Savior.

People of all ages have struggled with feelings of hopelessness and bondage due to lack of finances, poor health and a bad relationship. Sometimes the bondage is imagined, but more often it is actual, such as when nations shackle certain peoples who do not fit their national needs.

Jews have struggled with bondage since the Egyptians enslaved them 3500 years ago. Since the time of the Romans, Christians have been enslaved and killed for their faith, and even today today many believers are "owned" by cultures who believe they should be removed or even destroyed.

God does not abandon His people when they become trapped. God told the enslaved people of Israel in Exodus 6:6, "I will rescue you from their bondage and will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments." We may feel trapped by a relationship, debt, or a hospital bed, but God is always there to rescue us.

God rescues His people in many ways, but the best way is through His Son Jesus Christ. St. Paul said, "While we were powerless to help ourselves, Christ died for sinners." (Romans 5:6 - Phillips) When life is at its lowest ebb, we are not without hope because we have God's grace by faith in Christ Jesus.

No one is hopeless whose hope is in God.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Shrek the New Zealand sheep was lost for six years. Its owner said it hated being shorn and was able to hide in caves on the ranch. But Shrek had a problem. It could not shed its wool. When found, Shrek had six years growth and looked like a huge dirty snowball with tiny feet and a barely visible nose. When shorn, its wool weighed sixty pounds, enough to make twenty suits. If it hadn't been found, its wool would just have kept growing and growing.

Unlike their wild cousins, domestic sheep have been bred not shed their coats so the wool can be used for clothing. It is doubtful domestic sheep can keep all their wool and live an normal life. Too much wool can cause overheating, and its weight causes mobility problems. If an unshorn sheep of many years falls down, it might not be able to get back up. A sheep's face can be covered with so much wool it can't see or even eat.

When shorn, Shrek was thin but weak. Its owner stated it died at the age of sixteen, a normal sheep life. But without its wool being removed regularly, it would have died sooner. The weight of wool can be deadly for a sheep. 

So also, the weight of sin can be deadly for us people. We often carry a load of sin that weighs us down. Sins of anger, resentment and regret, sins we have done and those we have left undone, all can combine to make life difficult. Without its removal, sin is truly deadly. The weight of unforgiven sin can crush us eternally.

Almighty God our Heavenly Father knew this, so He sent His only son Jesus to take our sins upon Himself. He went to the cross so that we might not be crushed by the weight of our sin. Jesus is truly our Savior, who has removed the weight of our sins. "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) This is the message of the season of Lent.

Think what you'd feel like carrying an extra sixty pounds on your back, every day and every night, its weight only increasing and never becoming lighter. Even the strongest of people would be crushed under its weight. People need Jesus and need to trust in Him as their saving Lord. 

Give thanks to God you don't have to live under all that unnecessary weight like Shrek.

Monday, March 3, 2014


The national news this past week carried a story about a Bible that saved an Ohio man's life. Rickey Waggoner, an RTA bus driver, was fixing a mechanical problem outside his bus when three assailants approached and tried to kill him. It was likely a gang initiation.

Waggoner was shot twice in the chest at close range, but a contemporary version of the Bible he was carrying, The Message, absorbed the bullets that otherwise should have killed him. Upon hearing of this story in the Dayton Daily News, Eugene Peterson, age 81 and editor of The Message said, "That's wonderful. I've heard stories about something like that happening during the Second World War. I'm glad to be in the club."

"There was obviously some kind of intervention involved in this incident because Waggoner should probably not be alive," a Dayton Police Sergeant told a reporter at the scene. Waggoner told police that one of the assailants told another to kill him, "if you want to be all the way in the club."

Waggoner was shot once in the leg and twice in the chest, bullets which were stopped by his Bible. He was also stabbed, but was able to grab both the gun and knife as the teenage suspects fled. Waggoner then called police from inside his bus.

While this kind of protection by a Bible is quite unusual, protection by God's Word is not. God's Word always protects those who read and value it. Actually, it gives people real life. The Bible's words are timeless and real, because Jesus Himself is the Word of God in human form. He died to give salvation to all, even those who wanted to kill Him or His people.

We give thanks to God that Waggoner was saved by The Message, but we especially give thanks that Jesus Christ, the heart of The Message, has saved the millions of people all over the world by giving them faith through the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle John once wrote, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish." (John 1:14, The Message)
We pray those two young man will one day trust the real Message, Jesus.