Saturday, April 29, 2017

Joy in the Morning

Dear Friends,

We delight in our backyard birds. The sight of a gold finch on the clothesline outside my window takes my breath away. As we eat breakfast, we watch bluebirds chase squirrels away from their nesting box. Nature entertains better than television.

But one recent morning we noticed something sticking out of the bluebird house, and it wasn’t a bluebird’s head. It was part of the nest. Closer investigation confirmed our fears. A pile of blue feathers on the ground told us something had gotten its paws or claws on our backyard friend. Inside the bird house the nest was askew, eggs spilling over the side. Bill tidied things up. Perhaps new tenants will move in.

Then I checked the cardinal nest in the rhododendron. That nest too was askew; no eggs and no cardinals in sight. Something sinister stalks our backyard. What can it be? A cat? A squirrel? A hawk? We may never know. But that sinister creature hurt our birds and stole our joy.

So it is in life. We cruise along, enjoying the scenery. Then something sinister creeps in. A crime against us, an illness, a disappointment, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one. All of a sudden we are not as happy as we were before. I for one like things to be perfect. Life is not perfect when I’m suffering or watching a loved one suffer. My happiness dampens as problems deepen.

The bottom line is that life is not perfectly smooth. We have to accept the bumps in the road. Perhaps they jog us into a closer relationship with God. Perhaps they help us appreciate the good times to a greater degree. Predators are part of nature and, unfortunately, part of life as well. Germs, death, accidents, criminals—all predators. They may steal our happiness for a day but they cannot steal the joy of living unless we hand it over.

Take joy this day in what God has done for you. That’s why we celebrated Easter. Christ died on the cross so that someday we can be with him in heaven. There all will be joy! Forever! For the time being, I will delight in God’s grace du jour—a sunny sky, breakfast on the table, a family to enjoy, even April showers that bring May flowers. Oh, there goes a bunny, a fresh addition to our backyard, a creature that doesn’t climb birdhouses and bushes. Welcome!


P. S. A neighbor told us who the culprit was. Our sign is for real.

Coming Engagements:

May 13, 1 p.m. - Friends of the Heart at Word of Grace Ministries, Harrisburg, "That Face in the Mirror: Who Do You See?"
May 20, 12 noon - Friends of the Heart at Millersburg Assemblies of God Church, "That Face in the Mirror: Who Do You See?"

(If interested in attending, just contact us for information about reservations.)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

Have you ever been at a loss to answer questions such as: How could a good God allow suffering? How can a loving God send people to hell? Maybe you’ve wrestled with such questions yourself. Author Timothy Keller does a masterful job of putting into everyday language responses that will resonate with you, responses that will have you saying, “That’s what I always thought but didn’t know how to express it. That illustration makes sense.”

In the book’s introduction, Keller examines the current religious scene and the polarization of positions. His eclectic background has exposed him to traditional denominations and to people who embraced social activism. He writes: “The people most passionate about social justice were moral relativists, while the morally upright didn’t seem to care about the oppression going on all over the world.” He kept asking, “If morality is relative, why isn’t social justice as well?”

Keller eventually became a minister and opened a Manhattan church for a largely non-churchgoing population. As individuals doubting their faith confronted him, he urged them to “doubt your doubts.” This book resulted from many conversations with individuals of all persuasions—from skeptics to believers—who came to him to discuss spirituality.

Part 1 centers on “The Leap of Doubt,” and articulates the questions most doubters present. Besides the questions listed in the first paragraph, chapter titles include: There Can’t Be Just One True Religion, Christianity is a Straitjacket, The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice and Science Has Disproved Christianity.

Part 2 presents “The Reasons for Faith.” Here Keller offers: The Clues of God, The Knowledge of God, The Problem of Sin and several chapters related to the gospel. The book includes extensive notes and an index. Rather than an easy read, it’s a thoughtful read, but quite understandable. A great book to keep on your shelf to help you articulate responses to questions about spirituality posed by friends and associates.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Do We Stand Out?

A rayon shirtwaist I made in my younger years on a cotton quilt made by my mother. Wonder if rayon, a synthetic fabric, would have been acceptable to wear in Old Testament times.
Did you know there’s an Old Testament law that says it’s wrong to wear a garment made of “mixed fabrics,” and it’s wrong to plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together?  And then there’s the verse that says it’s wrong to cook a goat in its mother’s milk (not that I’ve ever been inclined to cook a goat, period).

According to a footnote in the David Jeremiah Study Bible, the purpose of Old Testament laws such as those found in Deuteronomy 22 was to set the Israelites apart. Perhaps the people of the land the Israelites conquered wore clothing woven of wool and linen fibers; perhaps cooking a goat in its mother’s milk was a pagan custom of worship. God called the Israelites to be “different,” set apart for Himself. If they kept His laws, He would bless them. Then people of other nations would notice and want to know the God they served. It makes sense.

So then I have to ask, what does that mean for me today? How does God ask me as a Christian to be different from people in general? And that makes me wonder if I’m different enough. Are we as a group of Christians different enough so that others take notice? Do people talk about those remarkable Christians at your church, at my church?

I do know that Christians have started mighty movements—hospitals, schools, ministries to the needy and the abused. But still, what does that mean for me?

I made a list. What do I do that a nonChristian would not do, and what do I not do that a nonChristian might do?

1.       I read my Bible and pray daily.
2.       I go to church on Sundays and keep Sunday as a day of rest. While I alone may not be noticed in that practice, perhaps nonbelievers will be impressed if they notice large crowds of believers flocking to church doors. And just what constitutes a day of rest? I grew up in a day of Sunday “blue laws” when stores were not open on Sunday so that people were forced to observe the Sabbath. So I will not go grocery shopping on a Sunday, although I will pick up something I need on the way home from church. But is that any different than shopping for a whole order? Or eating in a restaurant (which I do)?
3.       I serve in church leadership, but that is only noticeable to those in my congregation.
4.       I speak and write about my faith. I’m hoping somebody notices that.
5.       I don’t lie, cheat or steal but rather deal with others with honesty, kindness and love; at least I try to. But there are plenty of unbelievers who do that as well.

Do we as believers truly stand out from unbelievers? I wonder…. Monitor yourself this week and make your own list. Feel free to click on the link below and leave a comment about how you notice Christians stand out from the crowd where you work or play or live. Let’s motivate and challenge each other to be so different that people want to know the Christ we serve. Now there’s Someone who stood out!

Have a blessed day!


Upcoming Engagements:

April 8, 1 p.m. –  Friends of the Heart at Hilltop Christian Church, Newport, for a Ladies Tea, “If Our Closets Could Talk.”
April 12, 10 a.m. – Shirley speaking at the CEF of Dauphin County Volunteer Appreciation Banquet, “Encouraging Words.”