Another Word…by Gus Keiser

November 20, 2017

As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.

                                                                                                                                   Jonah 2:7

We read or hear about all that’s taking place in our world today, the uncertainties of our economy, the continued threat of some nuclear confrontation with North Korea, mass shootings, the death of a young police officer who was only doing his job, an environment in grave peril; and is it any wonder that we harbor feelings of hopelessness?

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the story of Jonah. What’s there not to love about a “big fish story”?  After all, how many fishermen reading this haven’t, at one time or another in some church setting, discussed the mystery surrounding a fish large enough to swallow a grown man?

In the scripture passage I’ve provided above, Jonah is in the belly of a large fish. He’s been there for three days and three nights.  Of course there are those who would argue about whether or not it was a literal fish, or if it was really three days and three nights, or even if this story is fact or merely some allegory.  But if we waste our time stumbling around such inconsequential arguments, we run the risk of trivializing the larger lesson this passage has to offer.  Let’s make another read of this passage: “As my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.” It’s words make us wonder why it took Jonah so long to realize his desperation and his need for God.  Just how long does one have to be fish food before seeking a little help?  I don’t know about you, but if this had been me in Jonah’s place, I would have called out to God immediately…or would I?

Maybe not. Somehow, I think, much like Jonah, my pride would have kicked in.  You know, that pride which screams, “I can do it myself.  I don’t need anybody’s help.  After all, I’m the one who got myself into this mess, and I’m the one who’s going to get me out if it.  I don’t need anybody else’s help, least of all, God’s!”  Why, oh why is it that instead of immediately turning to God when things in our life get messed up or we find ourselves in some perilous situation, we decide instead to turn to a neighbor, a friend or some family member…or even to some California-based psychic hotline?  What are they going to do for us that the incredible power of God can’t do?  Why, oh why are we so reluctant in times of trouble to trust the Living God of the Universe…the One who knows us, loves us, and is always there for us, willing to help us?  Oh, that ugly monster pride!

One of my favorite books of Scripture has got to be Proverbs, that one filled with the Wisdom of Solomon. In that book are numerous verses relating to pride, but it’s this one from chapter eleven that sums up pride and its impact on our lives in a nutshell: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” While sharing our lives and our concerns with those who love is can be beneficial, when we truly find ourselves in deep “doo doo,” God should never become our “last resort”.  It’s in the first book of Peter that we’re encouraged to: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

 Even though it took him three days to do so; once Jonah returned his thoughts to God, his prayers were answered. It was then that “…the Lord ordered the fish to spit up Jonah on the beach, and it did.” It’s never too late to call out to God and ask for his help.  Maybe you’re going through some “Jonah moment” in your life as you’re reading this.  It’s dark all around you, your head is swirling in confusion, and your life is beginning to smell like three-day-old fish food.  If so, it’s time to turn your thoughts over to God.  Seek his help and let God direct that “fish” to spit you out, back into the light of his presence!

God, just as the world has swallowed us; help us to swallow our pride so we can turn all our problems and concerns over to you, the source of our hope, our strength, and our salvation. Amen.

 

 

 

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

November 13, 2017

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.

                                                                                                                       Philippians 2: 14-16

It took place while two women were waiting in the serving line at a wedding reception. The one turned to the other and remarked, “It’s in our nature to critique, isn’t it?”  The statement stopped the conversation in mid-sentence as the other women just stood there not quite knowing what to say.  Their conversation seemed benign enough as they discussed how the serving line could move a little more smoothly, had it been placed in a better location.  It was merely one person’s observation, so the women thought; however, the gentle and well-meaning reprimand managed to catch the critiquing women’s attention.

In our human quest for excellence, we’ve managed to identify the areas with what we perceive as having the greatest weakness in our world and are quick with solutions as to how to improve upon them. It’s true in the workplace, in the halls of academia, in the sporting arena, the fine arts and…even in the church.  Excellence is our goal and some of us have managed to hone this to a fine art while striving diligently to reach it.  Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with striving for excellence, but in our quest of it, we too often confuse critique with criticism.  Webster makes this differentiation: to critique someone or something is to offer a critical analysis or overview. It looks at the whole picture, encompassing strengths, weaknesses, purpose and other effectiveness.  Criticism, on the other hand, is the act of making a judgment, or to find fault.

Paul, when writing to the church in Philippi, urged his readers to do everything without complaining or arguing. Was he seeking to keep the peace so that everyone would get along?  No!  His purpose was much higher.  Check out his reasoning: “…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”

 This whole issue of the difference between critique and criticism is a bit touchy. Paul admonishes us to stop complaining so that we can become blameless and pure.  Wow!  What a great concept!  We can choose to be critical…complaining and looking just like the crooked and depraved generation in which we live…or we can choose to stop arguing or complaining and shine like the stars in the universe while holding out the word of life.  The choice seems simple enough, doesn’t it?  But in reality, it’s not all that easy.  It takes a lot of self-discipline and self-evaluation to keep critiquing from becoming complaining, but it’s something we can do!  Today, why not make it your goal to stay away from complaining while lifting up the lives of those around you as fellow children of God!

Lord of Love; guard our minds and our tongues as we strive to treat others with the same respect and love with which you treat us. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

November 6, 2017

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Jesus Christ has forgiven you.

                                                                                                                           Ephesians 4: 31-32

 It was either late in the spring or early this past summer that I was able to obtain from a co-worker who had just moved into a new house, some rather large, but one-person manageable, granite landscaping stones. I remember how much of a job it was to load about fifteen or so of these boulders into the car and then have to unload then in the back of our property where they sat until late this past Saturday afternoon.  I picked then up in anticipation of creating an above ground wishing well in our lower yard opposite a planter area I created two summers ago.  I finally started on the well project last weekend, creating the walkway to the well, putting in the vertical posts to support the roof and stacking three old tires that will eventually be painted and disguised to create the well itself.  After having done some painting of the uprights and a few other unrelated, but necessary projects in the yard; I decided to call it quits for the afternoon.  But about an hour later, I had this urge to move the rocks to the area near where I’m building the well so that I can figure out which ones will go where when I begin to stack then around the well.  I have a four-wheel hand truck that I planned to use to move them, but it still meant that I’d have to hand load and unload them and also pull the loaded hand truck through the yard, which I did over a period of about a half hour or so.  The one problem with that process was that I’d forgotten just how heavy some of those rocks were, so by the time I was done, I was incredibly tired and sore.

It was while I was moving those heavy rocks Saturday that I found myself thinking about Paul’s words above. I thought: “If a grudge was something physical, it would be a lot like these rocks. It would be burdensome, tiring and pain producing!”  Grudges can be very similar to carrying a bunch of rocks because they’re heavy and weigh a person down.

Interestingly, we have, through our English language, developed some pretty fascinating words related to grudges. We often talk about grudges much the same way we talk about babies.  For example, we can hold a grudge.  We can carry a grudge.  We can put it on our shoulder and bear a grudge.  And we even talk at times of how we can nurse a grudge.

Think about that last statement for instance: when you nurse something, you feed it to keep it alive, which, in turn, makes it grow. You can feed that grudge with hostile thoughts, angry feelings, distorted perceptions, and harmful intentions, and if you do, that grudge is going to grow.  Besides all that, the real tragic thing about grudges is that people will walk around and carry them for days, weeks, and even lifetimes.  And although they weigh us down and are joyless, we still can’t wait to get up in the morning so that we can once again carry that grudge throughout our day.

Now for a dose of truth-telling: grudges don’t add to your life! They strip you of joy.  They take away your potential of turning into a more loving, kind, gracious and merciful person.  You won’t become the kind of person you want to be as long as you insist upon carrying around grudges.  God knows that, too!  That’s why the Bible is very clear about the type of relational virus that a grudge is.  It infects you, then spreads throughout your entire life.  That’s why God is always telling us to “let it go”.  Don’t you think it’s about time to trade in those grudges and replace them with Christ’s life-giving love?  Right now, why not take a little time to just stop and reflect on all the ways God showers you with his love.  It’s time to you lay down your grudges and make it your goal to pass along God’s love to others instead.

God, please, no more bitterness or anger within us toward others. Instead fill our hearts with your love, your mercy and your forgiveness.  Thanks, God.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

October 9, 2017

I will give, in my house and within my walls, a moment and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

                                                                                                                               Isaiah 56:5

It’s been a bad hurricane season thus far. At least three tropical storms have given birth to some monster hurricanes that have brought death and massive destruction to Texas, Florida and surrounding states, and Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean.  Each one was regarded with a measure of apprehension and fear by those living in their paths.  Each of these storms spent vast amounts of time out over the open waters of the Atlantic, Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico, building strength before unleashing their power on land, bringing death and destruction. One of the most devastating and intense storm of the three was Irma, whose path brought her in contact with several Caribbean islands before releasing her category four fury on all of Florida, along with Georgia, areas of Tennessee and several states along the Atlantic coast, causing massive destruction and flooding.  The National Weather Service kept a close eye on her, issuing evacuation orders for many in her path.

Irma’s winds reached unprecedented sustained speeds of close to 185 miles per hour. And while the winds alone were enough to strike fear into the hearts of city dwellers in her path; the winds were not the sole devastating factor.   Along with her violent winds, came torrential rains and storm surges.  Eighteen to twenty-five foot waves and higher pummeled and inundated many cities, knocking out power and making travel and communications virtually impossible for many for up to several weeks.  With her awesome display of power, the people in Irma’s path needed little or no coaxing to get out of her way.

But there’s another “storm” approaching, and it has nothing to do with the remaining time left in this year’s hurricane season. It’s a storm about which we’ve been given more than ample warning.  All other natural or man-made disasters will pale in comparison to it…war zones, earthquakes, and tornadoes included.  It’s not going to be some local, regional, or even national event…it’s the storm sin and of the devil’s power.  God warns us about its impending murderous and destructive power when he warns us in Matthew’s gospel that “Heaven and Earth will pass away.”

 One of the saving factors associated with Irma was the abundance of designated safe shelters provided for people during the storm and, subsequently, for refugees following the storm. God assures us of a place where we can go, a place of safety from this approaching storm.  As with manmade shelters, God provides for the residents of this shelter with abundant provisions through the salvation of his Son, Jesus Christ.  It is in this shelter of his loving arms that we will receive deliverance and security for all time and eternity.

Lord, when the storms of this life buffet and batter us; may we find in the shelter of your loving arms, peace, hope, love and security. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

September 25, 2017

You say, “I am allowed to do anything”…but not everything is good for you.

                                                                                                1 Corinthians 6:12

 About this same time every year there is designated on the “Calendar of Offbeat Celebrations” a week called “Banned Books Week”. The overall theme for this celebration is “Celebrating the Freedom to Read”.  According to the American Library Association, one of the co-sponsors of the annual event, Banned Books Week “celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

During “Banned Books Week”, librarians, teachers, and booksellers highlight books that have been challenged in the past in libraries and schools. Many of the banned titles are a part of school curricula but have been questioned by parents or community individuals concerned that their contents may be inappropriate for their children.

In the fifth chapter of his letter to the Galatians, Paul reminds the believers there of the freedom that they had been called to live through Jesus Christ. He reminded them that they had been set free from the rules and regulations of the old Mosaic Law.  But at the same time, he warned them to not use that freedom as an excuse to indulge their “sinful nature”.  In his first letter, Peter echoes that same warning, reminding you and me that even though we’re free under God’s love and guidance, we are still to be slaves to God, and that we are not to use our freedom as “an excuse to do evil”.

In today’s world, we continue to hear and to watch people exercise the freedoms granted them through documents such as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We hear the voices and witness the many and varied demonstrations expressing the needs of multitudes of groups and causes, each seeking their own freedoms.  But freedom brings with it great responsibilities, especially in the spiritual realm.  If we don’t voluntarily submit to God’s limits and restrictions, we’ll end up becoming enslaved to our sinful nature once again.  That freedom that has been granted to us as children of God can also be lost if we don’t make wise choices.  Even though we’re free from the law and legalism, it very much matters how we live our lives.  Everything we do and say, and read, should line up with God’s guidelines.  That’s the only freedom truly worth celebrating.

Lord, you have given us the freedom to make choices for our lives. Loving God, now guide us by your wisdom that we might make the choices that are both pleasing to you and those that will enrich your kingdom here on earth.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

September 18, 2017

“…therefore the Lord sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

                                                                                                                               Genesis 3: 23-24

As I was reading the story this morning of Adam and Eve’s sinning by eating the forbidden fruit, I found it interesting how this account connected to two of the three books I’m currently reading. One of them is Bruce Feiler’s book entitled The First Love Story – Adam, Eve, and Us, an in-depth study of the story about God’s creation of humankind.  The other book is John Bunyan’s Journey To Hell.  Most people are familiar with Bunyan’s most famous work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, but this look at a fallen individual and his turn away from God is a rather fascinating read.  It’s the account of a young boy who is raised in a strict Christian home but who at a young age and because of his deplorable behavior and total disdain for anything “God” is placed in the hands of a master as an apprentice, the master also being a devout Christian.  His continuing misbehavior (sinning) and disrespect has him transferred to a second master, one whose anti-Christian attitude only further degrades the boys behavior to the point where he, as an adult, is referred to by the two men having an ongoing conversation about this individual as Mr. Badman.  Interspersed with numerous scripture references and insights by the two men (Mr. Wiseman and Mr. Attentive), it presents an interesting picture of the decline and ultimate placement of a person in Hell after the decision to separate himself from God.

The decision to act in direct opposition to what a person knows to be both right and godly is something that can occur on a multitude of levels. For instance, if a person is trying hard to lose weight but consistently binges on ice cream and pizza, they are going to face disappointment.  If and individual commits a crime, the crime victim will suffer and the perpetrator risks jail time.  Should a husband or wife make the choice to enter into an extramarital affair, the marriage will be damaged…sometimes beyond repair…and any children that are a part of that family will suffer the consequences.

What do these three scenarios have in common? Every one of these accounts, as well as countless other failure-filled stories, can trace its origin back to the book of Genesis and the sinful behavior of Adam and Eve.  In the opening verses above, we see the results of the failure to follow a direct command from God and its devastating aftermath for those involved.  We see the repercussions of this disobedience reflected in the news that meets our eyes and ears daily…and, if we’re honest, reflected in our own darkened hearts as well.

But God’s banishing them from the garden, as we know, isn’t the way the story began nor was it God’s original intention. At first, Adam and Eve were sure of God’s instructions.  There was no doubt in either of their minds.  The two of them knew exactly what God expected of them because they received their marching orders directly from their Creator.  Still, all it took was a simple challenge (Did God really say…?) from the serpent to shake Eve’s confidence to the core.  Once she questioned what she knew to be true, she became vulnerable to Satan’s temptation.  When she and Adam then chose to act in violation to God’s direct command, sin invaded what had been an unimaginably idyllic paradise.

From a spiritual standpoint, what are you sure of beyond the shadow of a doubt? What do you know to be true?  From where does your certainty come?  These are some extremely important questions to answer because we face daily testing that is capable of undermining God’s marching orders for us.  And to make matters worse, there are going to be those who may question your mental stability…”How can an educated person believe in intelligent design when there’s so much evidence to support evolution?” And there may be others who will accuse you of being narrow-minded…”How can you say Jesus is the only way to God?” And there are going to be a few who will try to appeal to your sense of freedom…”Doesn’t this God of yours want you to have any fun?” Finally, there are those who may try to attack your source of trust…”The Bible is full of inconsistencies, and you’re choosing to base your life on this book?”

So, just how prepared are you for the assaults that are most certainly going to come your way? Have you got a tight grip on God’s truth?  How are God’s truths going to impact your actions, from the time you set your feet on the floor in the morning to the time you go to bed that night?  Mr. Badman or Mr. Wiseman…which will you be?

Lord, hold on tightly to us as you guide us by your wisdom, power and grace. Amen.   

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

September 11, 2017

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

                                                                                                                        Jeremiah29: 11-14

As the pastor sat as his desk first thing in the morning, he clicked on his computer and opened his email to find the following message:

“I feel condemned no matter what I do. From what I’ve seen, it seems so much easier for others to allow Jesus to change their lives than it is for me. I have no appeal for anything in life as it is. I feel that if God really loved me, the least he could do is end my life. I’m not expecting a response. I do expect you to fail me just as I feel God already has.”

 Here is a person who feels shut out by God. How about you?  Have you ever felt abandoned by God?  Does it sometimes feel to you as if all the breaks in this life go against you?  Do you have that desire to feel close to God, but feel as if your prayers are doing nothing but bouncing off the ceiling?

As human beings, feelings are important to us and play a significant role in our lives. But sometimes our feelings, while very powerful, don’t actually reflect the realities of life.  Sometimes feelings can be completely wrong!  God’s salvation is more than a feeling.  It’s based upon our relationship with God.  In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote: “If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Notice that this verse doesn’t say anything about your feelings rather, “…if you believe…you will be saved.” Also, in this letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” And later he tells the Christians there that “nothing can separate them from the love of God.”

 If you’ve ever felt this sense of abandonment by God, know that you’re not the only one. In fact, most Christians experience this feeling somewhere along the line.  But as those opening verses above remind us, God is always present and his love for us is never going to change.  He loves us just the way we are…imperfect and in need.  Each of us is a unique creation.  According to Paul’s words from Ephesians, “we are God’s workmanship.” God’s love for us is unconditional, unchanging and unending.  So, if we’re willing, God will actually use these dark moments, these “times of feeling abandoned” to help us refine and build our faith.  Today, remember that God is with you… even if conditions make that hard to believe.  So choose to live by faith and not by sight.

Lord, help us to always trust in your presence and your power. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

September 5, 2017

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

                                                                                    Luke 6:46

It had been a long and difficult week for Mike, both at work and at home. He and Becky had been at odds over finances and some necessary remodeling work at the house, something, because of long work hours, he had little if any time to do.  At work, all he was feeling was pressure to complete a project by what seemed to him to be an impossible deadline.  So between the demands of both his wife and his boss, all Mike wanted to do was simply escape, if only for an afternoon to do what always brought him relief from stress, and that was to sit by a quiet stream with his fishing pole in the water… hoping that nothing would bite.

So, against his wife’s urgings, he threw his fishing gear in the back of his pick-up and backed out of the driveway, determined to head for his favorite, off the beaten track, secret fishing hole. When he reached the winding dirt road that led to his favorite spot, he turned off and proceeded down the road.  But his drive came to a sudden screeching halt as he rounded the last bend, only to discover there in front of his truck’s bumper, lying in the middle of the road, was a woman lying on a blanket, working on her suntan.

Taken by surprise, but also relieved that his truck had stopped without running the woman over, he waited until the dust cleared, got out of his truck, and approached the woman.

Mike (fairly calm given the situation): “What are you doing?”

Women (startled and angry): “What does it look like I’m doing?”

Mike: “You’re lying in the middle of the road.”

Woman: “So?!”

Mike: “I don’t think it’s a great idea to lie in the middle of the road. I could have run over you!”

Woman: “{Bleep} you. I’m not moving!”

Mike: (sarcastically) “Okay. Have a nice day!”

Mike got back in his truck, obviously frustrated, backed down the road a bit, parked his truck, got out and walked the rest of the way to the pond. And as he walked he thought, “Sure there are certainly times when people ought to take a stand for their own rights, regardless of the consequences.”  But this didn’t seem to qualify as a very great example, for either one of them.  For him, it was a moment of stubbornness and will, and while the woman wouldn’t back down, Mike did.

The whole experience caused Mike to reflect on the other things that had been happening in his life lately. It also caused him to think about when he knew God was asking him things of him, and how he, in effect, told God the same thing he’d just been told, “I’m not moving!”  And aren’t we at times just like Mike and that woman?  We want all the good things God has for our lives, but we want our life to be easy at the same time.  Like those two, when our lives become uncomfortable and too difficult for us to obey God, too often, we also become stubborn.

In one way or another, we all have these stubborn moments with God. There’s not a one of us who is immune from them.  So the question then becomes, how can we minimize the times when we won’t budge?  I don’t know that there’s a complete answer to that question.  I guess, as Christians, what we need to do is simply say “yes” to God, whatever the circumstances, and whatever God is asking of us…something we already know, but also knowing that it’s going to be a struggle to carry out his command.

That long journey toward consistently saying yes to God can only be experienced by taking small steps. Perhaps that first small step is in the realization that taking the easy road in life rarely takes us where we want to go, nor does it lead us to becoming the person God wants to make us into.  Obedience to God is rarely easy, but whatever pain it may bring, we also reap the benefits of having been molded into that more complete image of Christ.

So, today, take a few of those small steps, especially when your first response to God becomes, “{Bleep} you, God. I’m not moving!”  Instead, get up off the road, pick up your blanket and walk toward the one who gave his life for you.

Sorry about the stubbornness and disobedience God. Can we get on with life together, you and me?  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

August 28, 2017

 

When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.  Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

                                                                                                                                     Exodus 16:15

 Time to do some thinking back…to kid times. When you were a kid, did you ever find yourself thinking about or dreaming about your future?  If you were like most kids, there were those times when just sort of daydreamed about what would happen to you as the years would pass by and you’d grow older.  What would school be like?  Where would you end up going to college?  What would you ultimately do for a living?  Would you find the person of your dreams, get married and have children?

Sounds like the typical thing a child would do, doesn’t it? But that dream world process you find out doesn’t end when you finally reach adulthood, for there is more dreaming to do.  Single people wonder whether there’s a spouse out there for them somewhere.  As parents, you dream about what your child(ren) are going to grow up to be.  You wonder if your children will have children of their own and just how your grandchildren will turn out.  Young adults wonder about their eventual career paths, and as retirement age draws ever closer, you prepare for or, in some cases, worry about how you’ll financially make it through retirement.

But then, isn’t that human nature…that desire to look ahead with wonder? Let’s face it, don’t we all allow those dreams of the future to interrupt the drudgery of our work-a-day world, and to make all that drudgery all worthwhile?  For many of us, it’s that anticipation of future events that gets us up in the morning and that helps us focus on our plans for tomorrow.  It’s what separates us from our best friend, the dog.

In some ways, we aren’t any different than the Israelites in the verse from Exodus above. There, in the middle of nowhere, they were faced with an uncertain future and an immediate need for food and water.  So they began to do what most of us would do when faced with such a situation, they grumbled and complained.  And the majority of their complaints centered around the fact that, while they may have labored hard during their years of slavery, at least in Egypt they always had plenty to eat and drink.  But now here they were, out in the desert, and they and their children were hungry and thirsty.  As I said, put yourself in their place, and try and look at this dilemma from their perspective.  Chances are you’d have few pointed questions and words for Moses as well.

Fortunately for them they were being watched over by a God who wasn’t deaf. He was quick to respond to their needs by providing for them.  You’ve been to Sunday school, so you know the story.  Each morning, flakes of bread (manna) appeared on the ground around their campsite.  And in the evening the ground around them was covered with quail.  But these gifts from God came with a caveat… They weren’t allowed to hoard what they gathered and they weren’t allowed to store it up for later.  Moses instructed them to gather up only what they would need for the day…no more, no less.  This was a tough rule to follow when all they could think about was their current condition and what they would have with which to feed their hungry children.

The question then arises: why would God limit what they could gather? Why not allow them to eat all they wanted?  God did it to teach them the importance of something we all need to learn… that we are to sustain a relationship with God only in the present.

Our past is nothing more than the story of how we’ve gotten to where we are, and dwelling on those past memories are only going to lead us to stagnation and dissatisfaction. We can’t find God by worrying or by dreaming about the future either, because that’s just going to lead us to want to control whatever lies ahead.

Without question, all of us have concerns and hopes and dreams for our futures. But this story is here to remind us that we need to live out our relationship with God only in the here and now.  God longs for us to trust him every hour and every minute of the day.

Another Word….by Gus Keiser

August 21, 2017

In everything do to others as you would have then do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

                                                                                                                       Matthew 7:12

 There it is in black and white, the sound advice of what we’ve come to call The Golden Rule. It has to be one of Jesus’ most famous teachings, right next to “Love one another as I have loved you.” It’s a teaching that’s echoed in every religious tradition, and in every culture.  It’s short, sweet, simple, and to the point.  It invites us to a life of altruism…doing the right thing by and for others because, simply, it’s the right thing to do.  But it continues to be under assault in today’s culture.

Someone once modified its words to fit his own particular situation when he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you…only do it first”! And then there’s this crass challenge that is echoed throughout our modern, selfish society… “The Golden Rule means that those with the most gold make the rules,” and, for the most part, that’s true.  A high percentage of those serving in public office are quite wealthy.  Perhaps it’s because wealth has given them the means and the time to do all it takes to run and serve.  We can only hope that they’re driven by a vision for the common good.  However, in some cases, these wealthy folk find themselves caught up in a self-perpetuating system of self-advancement and class protection.

A more subtle, yet quietly pervasive, assault on this idea of Jesus comes cloaked in the writings and philosophy of the early twentieth century philosopher, Ayn Rand. In one of her philosophical writings she argues that the kind of altruistic behavior demanded by the Golden Rule is the problem, not the solution, for many of the ills which befall us.  She writes: The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves.  The relationship produces nothing but mutual corruption.  It is impossible in concept.  The nearest approach to it in reality…the man who lives to serve others…is the slave.  If physical slavery is repulsive, how much more repulsive is the concept of servility of the spirit?  The conquered slave has a vestige of honor.  He has the merit of having resisted and of considering his condition evil.  But the man who enslaves himself voluntarily in the name of love is the basest of creatures.  He degrades the dignity of man, and he degrades the conception of love.  But that is the essence of altruism.”

Rand’s vision of rugged individualism, every person out for themselves, flies squarely in the face of the words of Jesus. Her philosophy undergirds a way of seeing the world that divides people into “makers” and “takers”, sees those who benefit from public subsidies as “parasites”, and opposes anything that would limit the freedom of people to live out of anything but their own rational self-interest.

Jesus followed his summary of the teachings of faith…”Do unto others as you would have then do unto you”…with a metaphor of divergent gates…a narrow, hard way, and a broad, easy way.  It is very clear that his intention is to help us see that the Jesus way of being is the hard, narrow way.  The hard way is the best way…but it’s probably not going to get too many folks elected.

Understanding God… thank you for your words which challenge us in our selfishness and complacency. Thank you for guiding our lives of compassion and self-giving as we attempt to follow in your footsteps.  Yours is a hard path and yet, trusting in you, that we will be able to do those hard things.  Amen.