My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. (James 1:19-21)
We live in a culture in which expressing yourself is considered a virtue. Even if what you have to say is obscene or offensive, even if it annoys or abuses a fellow human being, even if it is ignorant or inflammatory, there are people who will speak up to defend your right to abuse free speech, without qualms or consequences. As followers of Jesus, we are called to better. We greatly value the freedom to speak, but do so humbly, eager to speak only the truth, and only in love. That requires listening and patience, both of which involve humility. Yet we have the Spirit of Jesus in us—our incomparably patient and humble God. He embodies the truth, yet is continually listening to us, patiently inserting His saving Word whenever we tire of our own voice and turn to hear His.
“Heavenly Father, make us quick to listen and slow to speak, so that we might not be known as angry people, but as righteous people, implanted with your Word, speaking the truth in love. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
CELL PHONE ETIQUETTE…
After a very busy day, a woman settled down in her seat on the commuter train.
Closing her eyes for some much-needed rest, she barely registered the man next to her.
As the train rolled out of the station, however, the guy pulled out his cell phone.
He dialed a number and started talking in a loud voice: "Hi, sweetheart, it's Eric!”
Ignoring the other passengers, he continued to shout: “I'm on the train!
Yes, I know, it's the six -thirty and not the four- thirty, but I had a long meeting.
No, honey, not with that floozy from the accounts office, with the boss.”
Ten minutes later, he was continuing to ignore the other passengers.
He continued to loudly make his case to the woman on the other end of the call:
“No, sweetheart, you're the only one in my life. Yes, I'm sure, cross my heart…"
Fifteen minutes later, the woman next to him obviously had enough of Eric’s shouting.
Angered by his continuous diatribe, she yelled at the top of her voice:
"Hey, Eric, turn off that stupid phone and come back to bed!"
Eric doesn't use his cell phone in public any longer.
God grant you discernment and sensitivity to others this week! Joy in Jesus,
Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” (Isaiah 49:13-16a)
Does God have tattoos? Isaiah says He does—well, engravings, anyway. To His suffering people, conquered by an invading army and exiled to a foreign land, it seemed as if God had forgotten them. So He reassured them, and us, that His care and consciousness exceed that of a nursing mother. It’s as if He has us engraved on His hands, so that every time He reaches out to intervene He is thinking of His people. That’s a comforting thought as schools start and schedules fill up for the fall. Though we may at times forget His care for us amidst the business of our lives, God our Father never forgets us. Though the challenges and difficulties we encounter can cause us to doubt God’s concern, nothing can cause God to act without our best interests in mind.
“Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your memorable love and ceaseless care. Remind us of Your interest in every detail of our lives, and bless both teachers and learners in this new school year. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
He was a widower and she a widow.
They had known each other for many years as high school classmates and at class reunions.
At their 60th reunion, the widower and the widow made a foursome with two other singles.
They had a wonderful evening, their spirits high.
The widower throwing admiring glances across the table. The widow smiling coyly back at him.
Finally, he picked up courage to ask her, "Will you marry me?"
After about six seconds of careful consideration, she answered, "Yes...yes I will!"
The evening ended on a happy note for the widower. But the next morning he was troubled.
Did she say “Yes” or did she say “No?”
He couldn't remember. Try as he would, he just could not recall.
He went over the conversation of the previous evening, but his mind was blank.
He remembered asking the question but for the life of him could not recall her response.
With fear and trepidation he picked up the phone and called her.
First, he explained that he couldn't remember as well as he used to. Then he reviewed the past evening.
As he gained a little more courage he then inquired of her.
"When I asked if you would marry me, did you say “Yes” or did you say “No?”
"Why you silly man, I said ‘Yes. Yes I will.’ And I meant it with all my heart."
The widower was delighted. He felt his heart skip a beat.
Then she continued. "And I am so glad you called because I couldn't remember who asked me!”
God bless you unforgettably this week, in Christ Jesus.
“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.”
(1 Timothy 4:9-10)
This coming weekend includes Labor Day, which originated in the organized labor movements of the 1880s and is celebrated, according to the U. S. Department of Labor, so “that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.” Of course, American workers who are Christian recognize that strength, freedom, leadership, and labor itself are not, in fact, ultimately human achievements, but gifts of the true Creator! So how do we celebrate this politically generated and self-congratulatory day? Much the same way we celebrate every weekend. We pay tribute to the Creator, who in a wonderful act of generosity on the seventh day of creation rested from His labors in order to give us the weekend! We give thanks, not only for the gift of meaningful work, but for the most meaningful work of all: the work of redemption accomplished for us on the cross by Christ! We pray for God’s Spirit to strengthen our labors and grant success to our striving, that our hope in the salvation of the living God might spread to every person on earth in preparation for the end of all labors!
Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your labors on our behalf in the creation and redemption You freely give to us. Through Your Spirit strengthen our faith and sharpen our minds that our labors and striving might enable others to find eternal freedom, in Jesus’ name, amen.
IN HONOR OF LABOR DAY—Signs Seen at Businesses:
On a Handyman's truck: "We repair what your husband fixed."
On an Electrician's truck: "Let us remove your shorts."
On a Plumber's truck: "Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber."
On a Tow Truck: "We don't charge an arm and a leg. We want tows."
On a Septic Tank Truck: "We're #1 in the #2 business."
At a Chicago Radiator Shop: "Best place in town to take a leak."
At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee: "Invite us to your next blowout."
Outside a Muffler Shop: "No appointment necessary. We hear you coming."
At a Car Dealership: "Get back on your feet - miss a car payment!"
In a Podiatrist's office: "Time wounds all heels."
At a Plastic Surgeon's: "Hello. Can we pick your nose?"
At an Optometrist's: "Don't see what you're looking for? You're in the right place."
At a Proctologist's: "To expedite your visit please back in."
On a Maternity Room door: "Push. Push. Push."
In a Taxidermist's window: "We really know our stuff."
In a Veterinarian's waiting room: "Back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!"
At the Electric Company: "We’ll be delighted if you pay on time. If not, you’ll be."
In a Restaurant window: "Don't stand there hungry. Come in and get fed up."
In the front yard of a Funeral Home: "Drive carefully. We'll wait."
At a Propane Filling Station, "Tank heaven for little grills."
The Lord bless all your labors this week!
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet. 'But they paid no attention and went off--one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (1 Peter 5:8-11)
Food was not the issue. Certainly, it is not every day that one is invited to a king’s feast, and even the wealthy and well fed could look forward to a memorable meal. But the real reason for accepting the king’s invitation was to show reverence and respect for the great power and generosity of the king by celebrating with him the wedding of his son. So too, those who gather for the wedding feast of the Son of the King of Heaven will not be those who simply desire to experience the feasting of heaven, but those who recognize the gracious gift of God’s provision in Christ, though they are in no way worthy of a seat at the table.
“Almighty God, save us from our busy lives and our lack of reverence, so that we are always ready to heed Your call and bring glory to You, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
SPEAKING OF WEDDINGS…
Jacob, age 81 and Rebecca, age 80, are all excited about their decision to get married.
They go for a stroll to discuss the wedding, and on the way they pass a drugstore.
Jacob suggests they go in. He addresses the man behind the counter:
"Are you the owner?"
The pharmacist answers, "Yes."
Jacob: "We're about to get married. Do you sell heart medication?"
Pharmacist: "Of course, we do."
Jacob: "How about medicine for circulation?"
Pharmacist: "All kinds."
Jacob: "Medicine for rheumatism?"
Jacob: "How about suppositories?"
Pharmacist: "You bet!"
Jacob: "Medicine for memory problems, arthritis and Alzheimer's?"
Pharmacist: "Yes, a large variety. The Works."
Jacob: "What about vitamins, sleeping pills, Geritol, help for Parkinson's disease?"
Jacob: "Everything for heartburn and indigestion?"
Pharmacist: "We sure do."
Jacob: "You sell wheelchairs and walkers and canes?"
Pharmacist: "All speeds and sizes."
Jacob: "Adult diapers?"
Jacob: "We'd like to use this store as our Bridal Registry."
The LORD give you joy in His provision this week!
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
The end of the school year brings final exams, commencements, and celebrations that can leave even youth exhausted—not to mention their parents and teachers! Being tired is not in itself evil: productive exertion is one of our purposes. Yet even before our ancestors fell into sin, God created the weekend: a day of rest every week on which we are urged to cease our labors, celebrate God’s goodness, and have our strength renewed by our Creator. The Lord lead you to fill your summer not only with recreation, but with Sabbath: the refreshment of your spirit through trust in and time spent with God!
Heavenly Father, give us wisdom to rest in You this summer, renewing our strength in body and spirit. Bless our children, and especially our graduates, with a sense of Your Spirit’s calling, in Jesus’ name, amen.
BEST LAID LESSON PLANS
A Sunday school teacher was telling the story of the Good Samaritan.
She asked her class, "If you saw a person lying on the roadside,
all wounded and bleeding, what would you do?"
A thoughtful little girl broke the hushed silence, "I think I'd throw up."
Another Sunday school teacher was telling the story of Noah.
He asked, "Do you think Noah did a lot of fishing when he was on the Ark?"
"No," replied one student. "How could he, with just two worms?"
Another teacher was working with her class to learn Psalm 23.
She gave the children a month to memorize all six verses.
One boy tried hard, but suffered from a learning disability.
On the day that he was to recite the psalm in front of the class,
he was nervous and found he could barely remember the first line.
His parents assured him that God understood and told him to do his best.
When it was his turn, he stepped to the front of the room and said proudly,
"The Lord is my Shepherd, and that's all I need to know."
The Lord enable you to rest in Him this summer!
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13-17)
Knowledge is passive, but wisdom is active. No one can see whether we possess knowledge of a particular topic, but everything we do or fail to do reveals whether we possess wisdom. The wisdom of God was revealed in the incarnation of Jesus, who became like us in order to save us, enacting God’s mercy while upholding His justice. The wisdom of God is revealed today when we imitate Jesus’ humble, selfless, pure, compassionate presence in the lives of others.
“Heavenly Father, give us wisdom to act as Jesus did, out of humble, selfless compassion, bringing peace to whomever we encounter and producing fruit that glorifies You, grateful for our salvation and Your Spirit, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
THE PRICE OF PEACE
An attractive woman finds herself seated next to a wealthy lawyer on a long flight.
Attempting to flirt with his seat mate, he asks if she would like to play a game.
The tired woman politely declines and turns to the window to catch a few winks.
The lawyer persists and explains that the game is easy and a lot of fun. He explains,
"I ask a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5, and vice versa."
Again, she declines and closes her eyes to nap. The lawyer, now agitated, says,
"Okay, if you don't know an answer you pay me $5, and if I don't know one, I’ll pay $500."
This catches her attention and, figuring she’ll have no peace until she plays, she agrees.
The lawyer asks the first question: "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?"
She doesn't say a word, reaches into her purse, pulls out a $5 bill and hands it to him.
"Okay," he says, "your turn." With a thoughtful look, she asks:
"What goes up a hill with three legs and comes down with four legs?"
Puzzled, he takes out his laptop and searches all his references, no answer.
He hops on the Internet and searches Google and the Library of Congress. Nothing.
Frustrated, he sends e-mails to several friends and coworkers, to no avail.
After an hour, he wakes the young woman and hands her $500.
She says, "Thank you," and turns back to get some more sleep.
The lawyer, more than a little miffed, stops her and asks, "Well, what's the answer?"
Without a word, she reaches into her purse, hands him $5, and goes back to sleep.
The Lord give you wisdom for all life’s challenges, in Jesus!
I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)
The Easter Bunny is a convert to Christianity. Thought to be named for the Germanic pagan goddess Easter, (April was named Eastermonab in West Saxon and Old English) Easter bunnies and eggs were likely part of the spring fertility rites. Yet early missionaries to my pagan ancestors converted the name and symbols to introduce the Celebration of New Life through Christ’s Resurrection: the eggs representing the stone rolled away from Jesus tomb to reveal His resurrection, and the bunny becoming a symbol of the joyful spread of the new life made available through Him.
Those who take seriously our Lord’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations” have always sought common ground with nonbelievers in their native culture, and we continue to do so—after all, you are reading this in English, as an email sent on the internet—all of which were at once new territory for Christianity. The downside of converting culture, of course, is that people often celebrate the trappings while missing the great message meant to be communicated. The upside is that in images such as bunnies and eggs, we who know the message have an opportunity to share the good news that brings new life.
Heavenly Father, as we celebrate the passion and resurrection of Your Son, enable us to share with those who have not yet grasped it the reason for the season: the new and lasting life given us through Jesus. Draw those without hope to the light of Your salvation, and draw us into conversation with them, that they too may be converted, in Jesus’ name, amen.
SPEAKING OF NEW LIFE…
A man was blissfully driving along the highway, when he saw the Easter Bunny hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the bunny, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of his car and was hit. The basket of eggs went flying all over the place. Candy, too.
The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to see what had become of the bunny carrying the basket. Much to his dismay, the colorful bunny was dead.
The driver felt guilty and began to cry. A woman driving down the same highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong.
"I feel terrible," he explained, "I accidentally hit the Easter Bunny and killed it. What should I do?"
The woman told the man not to worry. She knew exactly what to do. She went to her car trunk, and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the limp, dead bunny, and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the little furry animal.
Miraculously the Easter Bunny came to back life, jumped up, picked up the spilled eggs and candy, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped on down the road. 50 yards away the Easter Bunny stopped, turned around, waved and hopped on down the road another 50 yards, turned, waved, hopped another 50 yards and waved again!!!!
The man was astonished. He said to the woman, "What in heaven's name is in your spray can?" The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label. It said:
"Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave."
The Resurrection of our Lord be your joy and strength this week!
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:1-10)
What incredible comfort in knowing that we are fully known by God! If He were not full of compassion and abounding in love, if He had not secured our redemption through Jesus, if He had not brought us to faith through His Spirit, it might be terrifying to discover that God knows our every thought, word, and action, and that there is no way we can escape from Him. But as those who know God’s compassion and promises in Christ, we rejoice in remembering that we are never alone and never unknown. God is always graciously able to guide and guard us.
“Heavenly Father, thank you for creating, redeeming, and sustaining us through Your presence. Increase our trust and confidence that You are always with us, and open our hearts so that You can ever guide us, in Jesus’ name, amen.”
A pastor accepted a new call and was saying farewell to his congregation.
As he greeted people for the last time, he shook the hand of an elderly lady.
She said "Your successor won't be as good as you."
"Nonsense" said the pastor, in a flattered tone.
"No, really" said the old lady, "I've been here under five different ministers.”
She continued, “Each new one has been worse than the last."
“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.” (Psalm 37:7-9)
As a type A, 21st century American, who drinks a lot of coffee, being still is not my strong suit. In fact, I hate waiting, and patience can really require a lot of will power. Fortunately, we are called to “be still before the Lord” and “wait patiently for Him.” The kind of stillness the psalmist urges is not necessarily a lack of physical activity, but a sense of confident peace, a trust that God is aware of and cares about all aspects of our lives. We are able to wait patiently for God to fulfill His promises because He has always faithfully done so. Not only is fretting futile and anger counter-productive, they display a lack of faith that the God who provided redemption in Christ will certainly vindicate us on the day of resurrection.
“Heavenly Father, give us the strength to wait for You, trusting confidently in Your promises and empowered by Your Holy Spirit. Enable us to be free of worry and anger, knowing that You are our hope, in Jesus, amen.”
SIGNS OF AGING…
The large sedan was moving extremely slowly, backing up cars on a two lane highway.
A state trooper noticed the hazard being caused by the slow driver and pulled her over.
The car was full of fearful looking senior citizens, with a very elderly woman at the wheel.
“Ma’am,” said the trooper, “I’m afraid you are creating a hazard by driving so slowly.
The speed limit is 55 mph; if you can’t drive at least 45 mph I’ll have to give you a ticket.”
“Oh, my,” replied the driver, “I am so sorry officer! The last speed limit sign I saw said 25!”
“Ma’am,” the officer responded, “that was not the speed limit. This is highway 25.”
“Oh dear,” said the woman, “that explains all the cars honking and passing us.
Thank you for telling me, officer—I will definitely speed up to 55 then!”
The officer said, “Please do. I’ll let you go with a warning this time, but I have to ask:
Your passengers are all pale and covered with perspiration. Are they sick?”
“Oh, they’ll be fine,” the woman said, “but I think we just got off Highway 120.”
The LORD give you peace this week!
At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:10-13)
During this icy time of year, we get an idea how dire is Jesus’ prediction that as the world nears its end the love of most will grow cold. We have an acute understanding that without warmth there is no growth, the strongest shelters are brittle, and death rules the world. Yet we are called to stand firm in faith that into this cold, dark, world of death God sent His Son to bring warmth, light, and life. We look forward to His return, when heaven and earth will be remade without cold, darkness, sin, sorrow, pain, disease, disaster, or death. The forecast for the immediate future of this world is not very encouraging, but we have a refuge in the storm and hearts set on the paradise to come.
“Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son into this cold world to restore us through the warmth of Your love and give us refuge in your promises, through Jesus, amen."
HOW COLD IS IT?
I chipped a tooth on soup!
Cows are producing ice cream!
Starbucks is introducing coffee on a stick!
Hitchhikers are holding up pictures of thumbs!
People are getting their tongues stuck on metal cutlery!
People are opening up freezer doors to warm up their kitchens!
Opticians are giving away ice scrapers with every pair of glasses!
People are carrying hammers and chisels to get out of their parkas!
A family chopped up their piano for firewood—but only got one chord!
People parking dog sleds have to plug in the dogs or keep them running in place!
Words are freezing mid-air! I heard about it when I warmed up someone else’s sentence.
(From the collection of 400 cold jokes at Athropolis.com)
The warmth of God’s love comfort you this week!
As Pastor at Pilgrim, Kirk is fueled by a passion for God's Word and a lot of good coffee.