Another Word…by Gus Keiser

April 16, 2018

“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?”

                                                                                                                        Galatians 5:7

 It was a hundred and six years ago this past Saturday the day that unsinkable ship sank. The Titanic was on its maiden voyage under the orders of Captain Edward John Smith.  On the evening of that tragedy, Captain Smith was attending a dinner party given in his honor in the ship’s dining room.  He excused himself and went to the ship’s bridge, having received numerous iceberg warnings throughout the weekend.  After talking to the crew, he gave orders for them to alert him immediately with any weather concerns and then retired to his cabin to sleep.

It was about 11:40 p.m. when he was awakened suddenly by the collision and he rushed to the bridge. After receiving what details were available about the collision, he then made a quick personal inspection of the ship.  He immediately ordered the lifeboats prepared, but wavered when it came to the order to lower and load them.  He eventually gave the order, but after that order was given little is known about Smith’s actions in the first two hours before the ship sank.  His legendary skills of leadership seemed to have left him.  Instead, he was curiously indecisive and unusually cautious.  He was last seen in the bridge area after having given the final order for everyone on board to abandon ship.

So often, as Christians, we, as Paul wrote to the Galatians, start the race well. We run with the greatest of speed, agility, and endurance.  We can feel the air rushing around us and we hear the crowd cheering us on as we sense the energy searing through our body.  Life is good, our faith is growing stronger, and then suddenly the road before us seems to disappear or, like Captain Smith, we smack into an iceberg.  At first, we’re not quite sure what happened and we underestimate the damage.  Soon however, confusion clouds our ability to make decisions, and the excitement of the race is replaced with the fear of never being able to finish.

Paul realized that this was the case with these new Christians so he warned them while challenging them with the question, “Who cut in on you?” They were running a good race, staying faithful to the truth of the gospel…but then something happened.  Does this scenario sound familiar to you?  Where are you in the race you’re running today?  Are you running headstrong?  Do you feel yourself loosing pace?  Or are you seeing yourself standing on the sidelines instead of running with the pack.  Most coaches will agree that anyone can start a race, but what matters is who finishes that race.

The twelfth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews begins with these words of encouragement, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

 Today, if you’ve left the race, if you’ve given up, may you be challenged to dust off those running shoes, grab your water bottle, take God’s hand, and get back in the race.

God of all power and might…strengthen us for the long run, for we know that life is more a marathon than a sprint. Be our running companion as we run the race you’ve set before us, all the way to the finish.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

April 9, 2018

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

                                                                                                                        Jeremiah 29:11

 It shares the number eight on the regular part of your computer keyboard. It’s the asterisk (*).  Asterisks indicate that additional information has been omitted from the text, or at times, that the information given needs to be qualified in some way.  When you see an asterisk attached to a word or phrase, you search to find the additional information so you can learn the “rest of the story”.

However, when it comes to communicating truths about the Christian life, the need for asterisks is everywhere. Let’s use today’s Scripture text as an example.  This passage is often used to offer encouragement and hope to those who are experiencing crisis, or trial and difficulty in life.  It’s a wonderful passage, with a message that is so true!

Yet, there’s still need for the use of an asterisk here if we just leave the message isolated to verse eleven. Looking at the entire twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah, the context of verse 11 practically jumps off the page.  It’s part of a letter Jeremiah wrote to captives in Judah who had been uprooted from their homes and taken as captives to Babylon.  Jeremiah tells them to put down roots in Babylon, to pray and work for peace and prosperity.  This statement is followed by a statement that can be paraphrased along these lines of  “Oh, and by the way, you’re going to be captives here for seventy years and God says that after that he’ll bring you back home again,”  Then comes verse eleven: “I know the plans I have for you…”

 For the vast majority of people who would have heard or read this message of the letter, the bottom line was that they would live and die as captives in a foreign land. I can only imagine that many of them wondered how God could possibly consider this to be a good plan.

Still, it is what God said. What he offered them here was just a longer-term view: God’s good plans for a future and hope were more for the generation that would follow after the exiles and less for the individuals who read the letter.

Many of us live out our lives in a similar context. We face crises, difficulties and trials that we don’t understand.  We wonder what we’ve done to deserve them.  Sometimes, we can’t resolve them; so we begin to question God, asking him why he allows us to live through a season or lifetime of challenges.  And he directs us back to verse eleven…”I know the plans I have for you…”

 Although we may never see our life situations change drastically, how we respond to our challenges (remaining faithful to God and trusting him day-to-day) matters! If we believe in the message of Jeremiah 29:11, we’ll persevere despite the challenges, and we’ll influence those who will follow after us, for it will be they who will ultimately reap the benefits of receiving the future and hope that God promises

I think I can handle that. How about you?

Patient God…ours is not to question why. Ours is to trust you with our lives.  Teach us patience Lord.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

April 2, 2018

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.–Ephesians 2:8

On this Easter Monday, as you continue to nibble at your candy, I thought it might be helpful, in order to keep our minds focused on the events and the feelings associated with yesterday, to share a story with you that I’m sure I’ve offered before, but, for me at least, whose message is timeless.

One Easter Sunday, a local pastor used the following illustration to demonstrate the free gift of God’s grace: he called a bright-eyed, eager three-year-old girl with deep dimples and tight, curly hair to the platform. He then announced that she would receive the first egg of the annual Easter egg hunt. The audience cheered as anticipation of the egg hunt grew.

The pastor then asked the girl what she did to deserve the first egg of the hunt. She began to chatter into the microphone about all kinds of things as a smile grew on the pastor’s face. Then, the pastor explained to her that she did nothing to receive this egg. It was a gift. He proceeded to give her a new Easter basket full of candy and toys. Once more, the crowd cheered with excitement. The pastor asked the eager little girl what she had done to receive the Easter basket and again she began to chatter into the microphone. The crowd was beginning to pick up on the message.

Again, the Pastor told the girl that she did nothing to receive the Easter basket. As if that were not enough, the pastor looked at a brand-new bicycle that was to be given away to one fortunate boy or girl and told her there was one more gift he had for her. As another volunteer brought the shiny new bicycle to her, the audience went wild. The pastor informed the little girl that this bicycle was hers. The audience cheered with delight as the little girl’s face shone with unmistakable joy. For the third time, the pastor questioned the girl about what she had done do to receive this brand-new, shiny bicycle. Before she could begin chattering gleefully into the microphone, the pastor whispered into her ear. She looked at him and then, into the microphone, she timidly said the word “nothing.” Everyone cheered and the egg hunt began.

Grace…God’s unmerited favor toward us. It is a free gift, unearned, undeserved and waiting to be received. The apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the church in Ephesus that salvation is a gift of God. We cannot earn it, work toward it and we certainly do not deserve it. It is simply a gift. And, as with any gift, we must choose to receive it. It sounds too easy and I suppose it is. That is part of the mystery of grace. Today, ask yourself, “Have I accepted the gift of God’s grace or am I working to receive his love and acceptance?” Just like a package that is beautifully wrapped with your name on it, grace is extended to you today… not because you deserve it, but because God loves you. Will you accept the gift?

Have a joyous and happy Easter Season!

Hallelujah, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!  Hallelujah!  Amen!

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

March 26, 2018

Jesus stopped and ordered this man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”  “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

                                                                                                                        Luke 18: 40-41

 Here was a man who, until Jesus showed up on the scene, probably had resigned himself to being blind for the rest of his life. But Jesus changed all that following one question to the man…”What do you want me to do for you?” That was it.  No long sermon.  No extensive Bible study with the man.  No major hoopla; just a simple question, followed by an honest answer, followed by a miraculous act.  And that was that.

I’m not quite sure why, but the events of this story remind me of another story I came across quite a few years ago, and it goes something like this…

A man took his children out to eat. Before they began to eat their meal, the man’s six-year-old son asked his dad if he could say grace.  As the group bowed their heads, the boy began to pray…”God is good.  God is great.  Thank you for the food and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert.  And Liberty and Justice for all, Amen!”

 A number of other diners sitting around them overheard the young boy’s prayers and responded with polite laughter, with the exception of one woman who was heard to remark, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids don’t even know how to pray.  Asking God for ice cream!  Why, I never!” (and maybe she shouldn’t have)

 Hearing this, the man’s son burst into tears while asking his father, “Did I do something wrong? Is God mad at me?”  As the father held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and that God was certainly not mad at him, an older man who had overheard the whole thing approached the family’s table.  He winked at the boy and said, “I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer.”  “Really?” the boy asked.  “Cross my heart.”  Then in a theatrical whisper, the man added, “Too bad she never asks God for ice cream.  Sometimes a little ice cream is good for the soul.”

 This is what the man in the above scripture understood. In response to Jesus question, he asked for what he desired.  Can’t you just picture the scene in your mind?  This blind man had been content with going about his days performing his monotonous ritual of begging day after day.  Without any hope for a miracle, he was convinced nothing in his life would change.  There weren’t any optometrists or ophthalmologist then.  There was no lasik eye surgery no cornea transplants.  Blindness and begging was his destiny…until the day Jesus passed by.  With a buzz in the air, he senses people rushing past him, filled with excitement.  Although he can’t see with his eyes, he feels the energy in the air and hears it with his ears.  He knows that Jesus is near, and in desperation and with a hope-filled heart, he cries out. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”   Being rebuked by the crowd for his insolence only causes him to yell louder until he gets Jesus’ attention.  For certain, the crowd did its best to ignore him…but Jesus took notice and responded to his plea.

The noted biblical commentator, William Barclay wrote, “A gentle, sentimental longing never really taps the power of God; but the passionate, intense desire of the very depth of the human heart will never be disappointed.” Too often our faith is so proper and too often what others think determines our actions…even in our relationship with Jesus himself.

Today, hopefully, may we be more like that blind beggar who cried out in desperation…and whose desperate cries were answered.

Lord Jesus Christ, May the needs in our prayers be definite, and may we rejoice in your answers to those prayers. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

March 19, 2018

And he said, “then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house for I have five brothers…warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.

                                                                                                                        Luke 16: 27-28

 We all fall in holes, don’t we, as the following story should serve as a reminder:

There was a man who worked at a department store in a small town. Now this man was known to also dabble in some occasional retail thieving.  Every day he would make the walk into town from his home on the other side of the town cemetery.   He would always cut through the cemetery both on his way to work and home again in order to save himself some time each day.  On one particular day, he’d managed to take from one of the registers a rather significant sum of money.  After the store closed late that night, proud of his sneaky accomplishment, he once again started on his way home.  Unbeknownst to him, the grave digging crew had dug a fresh grave that day for a burial the next morning.  As he walked, fingering the wad of cash in his pocket and grinning with glee; suddenly he felt the ground disappear beneath his feet as he fell the bottom of freshly dug grave.  In the dark and in a state of sheer panic, he began to scream as loud as he could, all the while clawing desperately at the sides of the grave, but to no avail.  Hoping against hope that someone would hear him, he continued to scream for what seemed like hours on end, “I’ve got to get out!  I’ve got to get out!”  He kept digging and he kept screaming “I’ve got to get out.  I’ve got to get out!  But as he drew in a breath preparing to scream yet again; suddenly, out of the darkness and the silence, he heard…”You’ll never get out.”  Zip…gone.!  The source of that voice…a fellow hole dweller.

 We’re walking our way through life and sooner or later, we find ourselves at the bottom of some hole, looking up at the sky wondering how we got here. It’s inevitable.  Holes happen!  You see, the issue with these types of situations in life is not that they happen, but what we do when they happen.  When it happens, were left with five choices:

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I fall in.  I’m lost.  I am helpless; it isn’t my fault.  It takes forever to find a way out.

 I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I pretend I don’t see it.  I fall in again.  I can’t believe I’m in the same place; but it isn’t my fault.  It still takes a long time to get out.

 I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I see it there.  I still fall in…it’s a habit.  My eyes are open.  I know where I am.  It is my fault.  I get out immediately.

 I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.  I walk around it.

 I walk down a different street.

 What a great imagery for the Christian experience. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all learn from the “holes” in life and not repeat the inevitable one-way ticket back to the bottom?  Instead of blaming , instead of succumbing to habit, if we could only trust the Lord to guide us to a new street in life, our would be different.

But transformation can only occur when we’re committed to being formed into the likeness of Christ. Learning to follow Jesus is about learning to walk down streets that are different.  So today, why not choose to walk down a “different street”.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

March 12, 2018

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.                                                                                                                        Genesis 12: 2-3

 What an astounding proclamation God makes to Abraham in this passage. God lays upon Abraham a most astounding blessing.  Yet with this blessing also comes a tremendous responsibility.

I wonder how many of us have been trained to see the word “blessing” and automatically think of it as being directed toward our personal being. God “blesses” and we receive the “blessing”.

However, if we take a closer look at what God is saying to Abraham here, it should quickly become apparent that blessings are always something to be given away. We haven’t been blessed in order to enjoy them for ourselves, as if we’re hoarding the last piece of birthday cake long after the party is over.  No, in fact we’ve been blessed in order to be a blessing for others.

Take a quick look once again at the passage above. Notice that only once does God tell Abraham that he’s going to bless him, while three times God tells him that others will be blessed through him.  God doesn’t bless us in order for us to feel good about ourselves or merely because he wants us to enjoy his blessings for ourselves.  This misses the point completely.  God bless us so that in turn we can bless others.

In other words, to live generously is to fully live in tune with the heart of God. We receive so that we can then give.  God wants us to live generously because that’s the way God lives.

But apparently, living generously has a far greater impact than we may ever know. When we make the choice to live generously…giving, loving, blessing, encouraging, lending, and mending that which is broken…we leave this lasting legacy for the next generation.  When we model generosity, we instill in the next generation that generosity is a value to be embraced.  As we allow ourselves to be a blessing to others, our children will see this value and will more readily embrace it as their own.  Thus by expressing this life of generosity we will ensure that the cycle of blessing will be perpetuated.

In a society that far too often is absorbed in self-advancement, self-promotion, and even self-blessing…what kind of legacy will we be leaving for the next generation? Will it be one that is saturated in self, or one that sees the blessing of others as central to the message of God?

Lord, as we have been so richly blessed by you, so may we, by the power of your Holy Spirit, be a blessing to others. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

March 5, 2018

And he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

                                                                                                                                 Matthew 18:3

 As I’m sitting here at the computer, I’m hearing the sounds of the day care kids wafting up the steps and into the den. Ellie’s been doing this work for so many years that, at times on the weekend, it almost sounds strange not to hear the children’s voices echoing through the house.  Children are a delight…well most of the time anyway.  There are those days when crocodile tears emerge, and contentiousness among them overtakes the sounds of play.  But children are and always will be a special part of God’s creation.

As I hear their joyous voices in play in the living room, it’s causing my mind to resurrect a scene that took place many years ago in a Sunday school class on a Sunday morning. It was between worship services, and I was making my rounds checking in on the various classes when I happened to stop by the door of a room where a teacher was working with a group of four and five year olds.  Trying to infuse some enthusiasm into the group, she was leading a cheer.  “Give me a J”, cheered the teacher, to which the children yelled, “J”.  “Give me and E,” encouraged the teacher, and the children responded, “E”.  Next the teacher cheered, “Give me an S,” and the children responded in kind, “S”.  With each letter their voices became louder, as the teacher led them through the final two letters, “U” and “S”.  Then together they spelled out the word,                 “J-E-S-U-S!”  With the excitement having reached a fever pitch, the teacher shouted, “What does it spell?”  And then there was this strange extended pause, until one child finally said, “I don’t know.  I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself at the innocence of her response…at least at first.

Kids can be like that. They are quick to believe what you tell them, celebrate the joys of discovery and become excited when given new ideas and experiences.  That’s the joy of a childlike faith.  But then as I was walking away it occurred to me, unfortunately, somewhere in that gulf between childhood and adulthood, a drastic change takes place.  Expectations, pains, failures and disappointments have their way of entering the picture and that once joyous innocence of childhood becomes marred.  Faith slowly gives way to cynicism, and those little hearts that were once open and filled to overflowing with love and zeal become closed, cold and empty.

The above verse from Matthew’s gospel expresses Jesus wish for his followers to return to that childlike faith. Quite a number of years ago I lost a good friend and a giant in the world of youth ministry, Mike Yaconelli.  In his book, Dangerous Wonders,  Mike wrote the following: “This voice of our childhood is the voice of wonder and amazement, the voice of God, which has always been speaking to us, even before we were born.” Mike then goes on to describe what happens when things change.  “One sad day, we are aware of an absence. We can no longer hear the God-voice, and we are left with only silence…not a quiet silence, but a roaring silence.”

Yaconelli suggested the reason we stopped hearing God’s voice wasn’t because we wanted to stop hearing it, but that we allowed our lives to become louder. I still contend and am convinced that children possess this innate ability to hear that voice of God and its clarity that makes it easy for them to believe.  But as we “mature” to adulthood, other noises enter the scene, muffling that once-clear sound of God’s voice.  So now we’re forced to go through life spending every waking minute “clearing the air” in order to return to that simple clarity of our childhood.

In that message from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus invites us to come to him as little children, eager to be with him, to simply enjoy his presence. Today, why not take some time to remember the simple pleasures of childhood.  Laugh out loud, sing real loud, lighten your step a little and remember who’s waiting to share this time with you.

Lord, make us like children again. Infuse us with joy as you fill us with your love and mercy.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

February 26, 2018

Set an example for other followers by what you say and do, as well as by your love, faith, and purity.    

                                                                                                                       1 Timothy 4:12

 The recent tornado that struck Uniontown was, without question, one of more unexpected happenings to hit this area in some time. The clean-up and rebuilding process for so many families and individuals there will require both their patience and persistence and our prayers.

Every time I read or hear about a tornado striking somewhere, my mind immediately resurrects the movie, “Twister”, probably one of the most viewed of all the natural disaster movies. And while it has plenty of thrilling scenes, there is still that one scene as the storm chaser crew is caught up in a storm, during which the debris is flying all around them including a cow.  And every time I happen to see or think about that scene my mind also resurrects one of those online articles that you read and then ask yourself, “Did something like this really happen?”

That article told of a situation that supposedly took place on a section of Texas highway several years ago. Apparently a cattle carrier traveling on an interstate highway experienced trouble when the back gate of the trailer that was loaded with fifteen or twenty cows came open, unbeknown to the driver.  Well, for lack of a better way of putting it, cows flew out.  As you know, cows can’t fly, unless they’re in a tornado movie, so accidents ensued.  Several cars hit some of the cows.  Police arrived and began to do what they could to control the accident scene.  But while in the process of doing this, another truck approached on the interstate.  It sped by, nearly hitting a patrolman.  Two police vehicles immediately began pursuit of the speeding truck.  The truck quickly pulled off to the side of the highway and two men jumped out and began running.  The police vehicles also pulled over, the officers got out of their cruisers, and began pursuing the men on foot.  Eventually the two were caught.  Unfortunately, the officers had pulled their patrol cars off into some tall grass, which, thanks to a hot exhaust system, ignited a fire, engulfing the two squad cars in flames, completely destroying them…all because of some cows that aren’t supposed to be able to fly.

Moral of the story: When cows fly, bad things happen.  When cows fly, consequences are set into motion.  This story makes me think about those times when I’ve looked back on a day, feeling as if maybe my self has sent some cows flying.  Obviously I’ve never actually flung a cow, and neither have you.  But there have been those times in the lives of all of us when our words and our actions have unleashed all sorts of unintended consequences.

Let me give you one simple example: In a weak moment, we’ve all said unkind words about someone else in the presence of others and that, in turn, encouraged those people to do the same. Our slip of the tongue simply revealed the frustration of the moment, not any long-standing issues.  But, it was those unkind words that somehow made their way back to the person they were spoken about.  Talk about unintended consequences.  Before long it was raining cows!  Relationships were damaged and work was going to need to be done to restore those relationships, if possible.

The Scriptures tell us that we have a responsibility to keep a close watch over our lives regarding how we think, speak, and act. That cow story should serve as a cautionary tale for all of us.  And the moral of that little tale is advice we need to really take to heart.  When cows fly, unintended consequences result in bad things happening.  So today, (and every day) let’s do our best, with God’s help, to keep the cows where they belong.

Lord, give us both the wisdom and the self- control to always speak kindly of others and to lift up their lives in your name. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

February 19, 2018

And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

                                                                                                                             Isaiah 32: 17-18  

 Is the name Willard Wigan familiar to you? I would suspect not, unless you’re a real art connoisseur.  Wigan is a British sculptor who works in a very unique medium.  His very intricate carvings are usually only visible under a microscope.  I came across a video about him as I was watching some overnight TV at work.  He was born in England in the 1950’s and his early schooling was a trying experience because of dyslexia.  After a rather tumultuous upbringing, he ended up in jail for some petty crimes, and while there, began to refine his art skills, doing carvings on very miniscule objects, further honing his skills after his release to the point of being able to carve incredible and intricate works on grains of sand and granules of sugar.  His works, so tiny, have often been displayed on the head of a pin or in the eye of a needle.

Wigan’s amazing craftsmanship serves as a reminder that even the smallest of things can make a stunning impact…little things like our homes. In the grand scheme of this massive and heavily populated world, our homes may seem tiny and insignificant.  And yet they possess the power to make a very loud statement about the gospel we believe and the God we serve.

Our homes matter. Whether we’re married or single, whether we live in some palatial mansion or a prison cell, whether we live in an impoverished neighborhood or some luxury community…God is able to transform any place we live into a “miniature masterpiece” that points people to his amazing artistry.

While we may never think of him in such terms, God is the ultimate Homemaker. We are his children, and as such, he’s told us that he is right now preparing a place for us in his heavenly kingdom, where we will live forever with him.  In the meantime, our homes here on earth can provide a foretaste of that heavenly home.  God wants your home and mine to reflect his heart and his grace.  He wants our homes to be a place where the reality and the presence of Christ can be felt, a place where the atmosphere is one of authentic love, kindness, and truth; a place where both those who live there and those who visit encounter the God of creation, love and family.           

So today, take a good look at your home. Beyond its possibly in-need-of-repair status, what does it communicate?  How well does it express the hospitable, gracious heart of God?

Loving God… give of your enabling grace to our homes. May your grace and love shine through our dwelling places and through the hearts of all who reside there.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

February 12, 2018

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.

                                                                                                            Deuteronomy 5:12

 I’ve always had this fascination with the Chinese language…not so much the spoken, but the written. Theirs is a strange alphabet because the characters used in writing it don’t stand for individual letters as does our English alphabet.  I’ve been told that they are not only incredibly beautiful, but they are also extremely difficult to understand and learn.  Each of the alphabet’s characters corresponds to a spoken syllable with a basic meaning.  However, there are many words within the language that combine two or more characters to express an idea that is different from the original words used to create it.  Let me give you an example.  The Chinese character for the word “busy” is written by combining the characters for “heart” and “dead”.  When you think about it, there’s really some appropriateness to that combining.  Whenever we allow ourselves to become overly busy, we are really laying the foundation for a lifeless heart.

Want a real challenge? Find someone in your life who isn’t busy.  Busyness (and it’s becoming an ever-increasing issue in today’s world) has become a part of current culture.  In today’s world, it almost seems that the busier you are, the more applause and affirmation you receive.  Yet there’s a lot we can learn from the ancient Chinese character (word).  There’s really nothing inherently bad about work, projects, or commitments.  However, when we start to allow ourselves to become overly busy…even though our intentions may be good… there are some important things (not to mention people) that we tend to neglect.

The Sabbath day…there’s a reason God made it a part of creation process…a day to be set aside and kept holy. In the passage I cited above God goes on to explain his purpose for commanding that day when he tells the people…”Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work…you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident aliens in your towns, so that your make and female slaves may rest as well as you.”  Through this commandment, I believe what God is calling his people to do is to find a healthy balance for their lives.  When we let busyness take control of our lives, we are living a life on the verge of disaster…whether it comes to us, our spouse or our children.  In a backhanded sort of way, it’s our way of telling God that we don’t trust him and that we’re notsure he’s always going to provide for us.

That having been said, perhaps it’s time we begin to make a personal effort in our life to carve out some definite time to rest and to observe the Sabbath. To do means that we’ll need to turn off our cell phones, turn off our TV, and any other electronic devices.  After having done so, then we need to take some time by ourselves or with our family to take a walk, go on a picnic, or simply watch a sunset.  The important thing here in whatever form of relaxation we choose is for us to relax, refresh, and renew our soul.  To do so may just prevent us from experiencing a premature “dead heart,” and instead create within us a heart filled with life and with the presence of our Creator.

Create within us, loving God, not only a clean heart, but a heart that continues to grow in its love for you…a heart that is alive, vibrant, and ready to serve you in thought, word, and deed. Amen.