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.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

February 5, 2018

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”          

                                                                                 Mark 6:38

 A new bakery has just opened not far from our house, one that I pass every time I journey to the west end of town. The counter is set up, the display cases are all in place; but there’s just one problem, there’s nothing in them, or anything on the shelves.  Right now, the only product that ends up there are things people have ordered and that has been shipped there from their Pittsburgh location to be picked up at the new store.  Ovens and other baking machinery have been put into place, along with the promise that they will soon be a fully operational, retail location.  But for now, there’s no bread to be had, so it’s a good thing Jesus didn’t send them there to look for bread.

This is a really fascinating story involving Jesus and his disciples…oh, and a few thousand others. The disciples had just returned from being sent out to do and teach all they had seen Jesus do and teach.  They were filled with excitement and couldn’t wait to tell Jesus all about what they’d just done and experienced.  Jesus, however, had something else in mind, taking his disciples away via boat to find some much-needed rest.  Yet, before they could even step off the boat, they were surrounded a by a large crowd hungry for Jesus who met them on the shore.  Jesus, filled with compassion for the people, began to teach, sharing with them the mysteries of his Father’s kingdom.

For an entire day he taught them, but the disciples, sensing the day drawing to a close, approached Jesus. Since it was getting late, they asked him, “What should we do about food for all these people?” Seems like a reasonable request, doesn’t it?  Yet, rather than give his disciples an answer, Jesus moves the conversation to a whole new level.

Instead of miraculously producing some amazing spread, he turns toward the disciples, uttering what is perhaps one of my favorite lines from Scripture…”You give then something to eat.” And so he leaves standing there twelve very confused people.  So they respond with the only thing left to say, “That would take almost a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

 Do you get the sense here that, for Jesus, there’s something far larger than just finding enough food to feed this large, expectant crowd? So Jesus decides to turn the tables on his disciples: “What are you going to do about it?”

 I’m sure the vernacular of the time had them phrase their response a bit differently, but their shocked response was more than likely something to the effect of…”Are you kidding, Lord? Do you even know what you’re asking of us?”

 Now Jesus has the disciples just where he wants them. While the disciples have eyes to see the need, they’re blind to the solution…a solution that was closer than they ever imagined.  And so Jesus looks into those confused faces and asks another question: “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”

Go get ‘em Brilliant Jesus! He answers their question with one of his own, with a question that will lead them to see for themselves the very solution they seek, but only if they have eyes to see it.  You see, the problem wasn’t that the disciples missed the need.  Oh no, they saw the need.  The problem was that it never dawned on them that they might actually have a role in its solution.  So what we have going on here is nothing shy of a miracle.  In the end, well over five thousand people were fed with five loaves and two fishes, all gathered together and distributed by a dozen skeptical disciples…a group to which we to this day belong.

How often and how easy it is for us to see the needs around us…only for us to then cry out to God…”Where are you? If you’re such a loving God, then why are you allowing these people to go hungry, or to hurt, or to die?”  Like the disciples, we see the need, but are blinded to the fact that we might actually have the key to the solution, or to understand that God may well be inviting us to be part of that solution.

God’s always there, always at work, so that means that there are no God-forsaken solutions, only situations that have been forsaken by us…his followers. God’s answering the question we ask with one of his own…”I’m right here; where are you?”

 Do we have eyes to see the needs? Do we hear his invitation?  How many loaves do you have?  Go and see!

Lord, open the eyes of your people; that we might see the solution that’s directly in front of us or that lies within us. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

January 29, 2018

So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”  Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans,  and have prevailed.”                                                                                                                                                                                                              Genesis 32: 27-28

 I suppose we could classify God as a “picker,” someone who likes to take broken, the rusted, the discarded and worn out things to repurpose them and make them useful again, only in our case, those broken things are people like you and me.

Let’s take Jacob as a good example. As a young man, Jacob had received a blessing from God, but he hadn’t been able to embrace it because he was always trying to control and manage life on his own terms. It wasn’t until he found himself in an impossible situation at the river Jabbok, wrestling with the angel of God, a day away from facing the approaching army of his estranged brother, Esau, that he was able to experience the blessing that for so long had eluded him.

I’ve often wondered if, during his hard, hard hopeless struggle, if Jacob might have experienced some sort of flashback to a moment many years earlier, when his blind, elderly father, Isaac, had said to him, “Who are you, my son?” “I am Esau,” Jacob had responded deceitfully, trying to steal Esau’s blessing by raw self-will and effort. But the situation he found himself in this time was a whole different ballgame with a whole different set of characters. This time he was dominated by One infinitely stronger, causing him to respond to a similar question with an answer that reflected a heart and will that had finally been subdued by grace.

“What is your name?”

“Jacob.”

There would be no pretending this time, no posturing, no conniving, no self-justifying. This time it would be nothing but the bare, naked truth: “I am Jacob, the schemer, the deceiver, the manipulator. That’s who I really am.” And the moment he admitted the truth, God gave him a new name…Israel…meaning, “prince with God,” representative of a new character. But in the process of conceding his defeat, Jacob won his ultimate victory. With his own natural strength now broken down (and with the reminder of a limp that would stay with him from that day forward), God would now clothed him with spiritual power. God “picked” this broken vessel out of the trash, repurposed it, renamed it, empowered it, and made it useful once again.

You also can become a useful vessel in God’s hands. All you need to do is to call on him, let him take you and empower you so that his blessing and power can flow through you, taking you from broken to beautiful.

Take us, mold us, fill us, and use us for your purpose and your will, Loving Lord. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

January 22, 2018

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

                                                                                                                        Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

 Have you ever heard this phrase used around the church: “We are better together”? What a fantastic slogan.  But even more than just a slogan, “better together” means that when other people are in our lives, we’ll thrive.  Better together is not only a great idea, it’s biblical.

“Better together” also means that God has created us and calls us into relationships with others. Not only has he summoned us into a personal relationship with himself, but he also invites us to have significant relationships with others.  Apart from entering into those kinds of deep, real relationships, there’s no way we’re going to be able to live the lives of abundance that God has intended for us.  But when we do have real, connecting relationships in our lives, we can.  “Know and be known; love and be loved; celebrate and be celebrated; and serve and be served”…that’s God’s invitation to us today, and it should be what we as Christians should want for ourselves.

Real and meaningful relationships should promote friendships, and when I think of friendships, three images come to mind:

Friendship is sometimes like a lump of unformed clay. It sort of just sits there like this gray glob of muck.  It’s undeveloped; not really good for much…but it does have potential.  It’s just going to take some work to shape it.

Friendship is sometimes like a lump of clay that’s being formed. Time and intention have to be put into its formation.  Maybe it’s developing the shape of a bowl or an urn or a mug.  The friendship is nice, it could be functional, but it’s not yet all it’s intended to be.

But friendship can also be like this beautiful vase. Here, that clay that started out as that gray glob has been formed and put through the fire.  When it’s drawn from that kiln, it’s complete.  It’s functional, and it’s all it’s meant to be.  It’s a thing of beauty.

God’s intention for friendships is to let them become all they can be.

It’s these types of relationships that are always within our grasp. God brings them our way, and then invites our cooperation in their forming.  So, if you’ve been holding back for whatever reason, possibly drowning in some pool of isolation, there is good news my fellow Christian…you can change!  But don’t wait.  Find someone.  Connect.  Cultivate.  And then commit to cherish that new-found friendship.  Seize the day!  Because, remember…we’re always better together…both with each other…and with God!!

Lord, draw us together in friendship with you and with others. Amen