Another Word…by Gus Keiser

August 14, 2017

 

Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us.  Only then will we be saved.

                                                                                                                                       Psalm 80:3 

 Penn DoT has been threatening for weeks with signs regarding planned work to my primary access route to work. And this week the work’s finally begun and the restrictions have started.  As to how long the work is going to take and just how long the reduced lanes or total closures will exist is anybody’s guess.  What I do know is that…after the original “Oh Great” exclamations cease, I’m going to be forced to find some alternate way of getting to work without having to add on too much extra travel time.

But then again, detours do have there up sides sometimes. Over the years I’ve encountered numerous detours, both in my cross-country travels and in trying to get around locally.  Most of the time, I find myself grumbling and complaining as I travel these “other roads” while usually not paying attention to the “new” surroundings.  Sometimes these alternate routes include roads in the area that I’ve maybe been on once or twice over the years, roads not all that familiar to me.  However, after an incident that occurred several years ago; I’ve become a bit more conscious as I travel these detours.  It was during one of those grumbling, mumbling moments, as I came around a bend in a road, that I was treated to one of the more fantastic fall vistas I’d ever experienced.  There was this small stand of trees that was just exploding with some of the more brilliant color I’ve ever seen.  I actually ended up pulling over to take in its beauty for a few minutes before moving on.

It wasn’t until I was down the road a ways, when it hit me that, given the hurried and less-than-happy state I was in, God had provided that detour so I could once again appreciate the beauty of his creation. Its beauty lifted my spirits, got me out of my “blue-funk” mood, and sent me on my way more determined than I’d been previously to enjoy the rest of my day.

But wait; doesn’t it seem as if God might be just a bit too busy to take the time to create something as insignificant as a detour? Doesn’t he have far better and far more important things to do?  Well, God does have the time (after all, all time is his time, isn’t it?) and even detours are a necessary part of his grand plan for our lives.  He did it to the Israelites and he does it for us.  As they were on their journey to the Promised Land, their story tells us that “God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter… God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.

 As we know, it was there, at the Red Sea, that one of God’s greatest displays of power took place, the parting of the waters so the fleeing Israelites could pass through on dry ground and escape their pursuers. There’s no question that this was one of God’s planned detours.

But oh, how incredibly impatient human beings we are. We want our minute-by-minute plans uninterrupted.  But then there’s God who factors into our lives, and he often wants us to slow down and to open our eyes to his many wonders.

It’s in the forty-first chapter of Isaiah, that the prophet recounts God’s wonders of nature, and he follows that with these words: “…so that the people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”

 I don’t know if you may have to travel that same road I take to work, or if you in your travels may encounter some other detour, but the next time you do, immediately pray to discern God’s leading. And then open your eyes as you watch and wait to see if God may be working in some unexpected way.  You may just end up being in store for blessings you never anticipated.

Lord, open my eyes that I may see all of the blessings you share with me. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

August 7, 2017

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.

                                                                                                           Psalm 30:4

 I want to share a true story with you; one told to me by a leader from North Carolina I met quite a number of years ago at a national youth leader’s conference.

A church group (not his) from New Bern, North Carolina had traveled to the Caribbean on a mission trip. As part of the week’s experience, their host took them to a leper colony on the island of Tobago… proof that cruise ships and exotic getaways are only a small part of what life is like on these tropical “paradises”. 

While there, they held a worship service in the campus chapel. As you can imagine, the sight of emaciated lepers filing into their seats on the bare pews bore deeply into the mind and heart of each visitor to this unfamiliar scene.

 But no memory left its mark like this one: when the visiting pastor asked if anyone in the crowd had a favorite hymn they’d like to sing, a lone patient seated awkwardly on the back row, facing away from the front, turned her body slowly and with great effort in the pastor’s direction.

 “Body” would perhaps be a generous description of what remained of hers. Her face had no nose, no lips…just bare teeth askew within a chalky skull.  And yet, raising her bony nub of an arm to see if she might be called on to make a request, she appealed with croaky voice, “Could we sing Count Your Many Blessings?”

 Leave it to a grotesquely deformed leper to remind us that grateful people are characterized by thankful words, while ungrateful people are given to murmuring and complaining.

 There are those among us who do very little other than to grumble at why God put thorns on roses. But, thank the Lord, there are others who notice, with awe and wonder, that God has put roses among the thorns.  May we still sing our old familiar songs, hopefully to include Count Your Many Blessings, even when overwhelmed by ever-present difficulties.

Lord, help us to count our many blessings, blessings that have come from your hands and your heart. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

July 31, 2017

 

Now the Lord said to Abraham, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”

                                                                                                                                 Genesis 12:1

This year it was the U.S. Navy Blue Angels. In previous years it’s been them, or the Canadian Air Force Snowbirds, or the ever-popular U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds who have fascinated the Westmoreland County Airshow spectators with their close maneuvers, aerial acrobatics and precision flying.

I’ve seen the Thunderbirds three times over the years we’ve lived here in Western Pennsylvania, but have never actually attended the air show. The first time was quite a number of years ago while I was doing some preparatory work for a confirmation camp program.  That day I’m not sure I was even cognizant of the fact the air show was that weekend.  After having gone over to the camp which is about thirty or so miles east of Greensburg, I stopped at St Vincent College on the way back to check out for the first time, Steeler training camp.  While I was standing by the field watching them, the Thunderbirds suddenly appeared overhead, doing a practice performance before the airshow the next day.  The other two times I witnessed them was after I learned about these practice runs that took place mid-afternoon on the Friday before the actual show.  One time I took Sunshine over to watch and the next time it was Jordan, who decided he was going to skip his last day of high school to make the journey.

While watching these close-order maneuvers (with the wingtips at times not more than inches apart), it fascinating me to watch the maneuverability and the capability of these F-16 fighter jets. The F-16 was developed to act as a support weapons system for some of the Air Force’s larger and more expensive fighter aircraft.  They’re able to fly at top speeds of 1300 mph at a ceiling of 50,000 feet, which they are able to reach in about 60 seconds.

And whether it’s in one of their shows or as a combat plane, the F-16 needs one vital element to be effective: a pilot who is complete control. Despite its whiz-bang technology, without a pilot in complete control an airborne F-16 would either fly uselessly in a straight line or spiral out of control.  Either way, a devastating crash is inevitable.

In the same way, if we possess every gift imaginable but don’t allow God to guide us in using those gifts, we as well will be useless. Or even worse, we might spiral out of control, with our lives crashing.  As the ultimate “Pilot” of your life (I guess that means that the “God is my co-pilot” bumper stickers are meaningless), God can do amazing things with us, his own “F-16’s”.

For instance, let’s suppose Abraham had decided to set out on his own way instead of taking the journey God had set before him. What if he had decided to pack up bag and baggage and go it alone?  His journey could well have turned into a meaningless and purposeless disaster.  But he didn’t go it alone; instead he chose to listen to and follow God’s lead.  He chose to let God be the “Pilot”.  And by doing so, Abraham experience God’s blessings…and the rewards were greater than he could have ever imagined.

God’s blessings and God’s piloting will provide the same results for us. When we begin a relationship with him, he calls us to leave behind what’s been comfortable and familiar for us and to set out on a journey filled with wonder, blessings, and his promise of a new life.  It’s on that journey to obedience that we’ll leave behind old habits, old attitudes, old sins, and old ways of thinking.

How about letting God be the Pilot of your life. Allow him to guide you, offering you not only a full and satisfying journey through life but a home for all eternity.  Just like the F-16 pilot, God’s ready and willing to take over the controls of all your potential, placing it in his skillful hands so he can use it to fulfill his ultimate mission.

Lord, take over the controls of our lives as you fly to whatever missions you have for our lives, to the moon, and beyond all existing universes where we’ll ultimately land in your heavenly home.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

July 24, 2017

But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent,

                                                                                                                         2 Corinthians 11:3

One of the things I always looked forward to at the end of a worship service was the opportunity to greet people at the door as they were leaving church. While the visits were usually of short duration, it did provide time to gain a snippet of information about what may have been going on in their lives over the past week.  Most of the time, in response to my greeting and my question of “How are you doing;” the response would be the perfunctory “Fine” or “Doing okay”.  But I do remember one person one Sunday morning responding with the words, “Status quo.”

Status quo. Isn’t that the type of life that most of us would like to live? It’s the one we’re drawn toward.  But let’s face it, you and I both know that life is rarely a walk in the park, where the skies are never cloudy, where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and it never rains on our parade.  Granted, status quo appears easier.  It’s the kind of life that doesn’t take courage, risk or passion to live.  It’s the lifestyle where we become comfortable with our small, selfish agendas and don’t want anything to upset our apple carts.  Status quo seems safe.

But there’s a problem with that sort of lifestyle. When you settle for living status quo, your salt begins to lose its flavor and your light begins to dim, and then there comes that gnawing feeling within you that’s telling you that you want something more.  Why?  It’s because you’ve probably settled for something less than what God desires for you.  Jesus didn’t live and die so that we could live status quo.  He came to give us life to the max.  Real life doesn’t begin until we reject the lie that status quo is safe and choose a life of devotion to Christ.

Devotion to Jesus makes people come alive inside. Devotion to Jesus shatters that status quo mindset.  Devotion to Jesus causes people to become real change agents in this world.  Devotion to Jesus is the salt that enhances and preserves our world, and it’s the light that illuminates the darkened corners.  Devotion to Jesus creates peace and joy in your heart and provides contentment in the midst of a crazy economy and a lousy job market.  Devotion to Jesus is the foundation to build your life upon.

We all wish for a strong foundation for our lives. Jesus describes that strong foundation this way: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.”

One of the things you’ve got to love about God is that he gives us choices. Yet, the choice is pretty clear: Devotion to Jesus leads to real life built on a solid foundation.  Ignore God and all you’ll end up doing is settling for status quo, placing your life in peril, and facing the danger of collapse.

So, ditch the “quo” and grab the “go”, and go out and live a life filled with the all the excitement God can provide and all the joys of that relationship with your Creator.

God, connect us to that excitement-filled life and not one of ho-hum status quo. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

July 18, 2017

“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.

                                                                                                                                   Matthew 5:33

 We’ve all heard them and we’ve all been mystified by them. The “them” I’m referring to are those songs with lyrics that often times get misquoted and miss-sung.  Probably the classic example is Credence  Clearwater’s song, “Bad Moon on the Rise.  What a personal financial boon it would be if someone would agree to give us a nickel for each time someone sang, “There’s a bathroom on the right” instead of the actual words to the title.

There’s a song I heard again the other day with certain portions of lyrics that I’ve never been able to understand. The song is by Seals and Croft and it’s “I Really Want to See You Tonight”.  There are two lines in that song that I’ve never been able to understand.  The first is: “I’m not talkin’ ‘bout…?  The other is “I won’t ask for…?”  Well, I finally decided it was time to end my frustration so I logged on to the trusty Internet and went lyric exploring.  What I discovered was that the mystery word in the first of those two lines turned out to be “movin’ in”.  The second mystery word was “promises,” which made the line read: “I won’t ask for promises, so you don’t have to lie.”  So finally I was able to fill in some information that previously I didn’t have and the message in the song actually made sense.

Sometimes (way too often) we come across Bible passages like the one above and immediately we realize that there’s some info out there somewhere that we don’t have. In the second line of the verse above, Jesus instructs his listeners: “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” I don’t know about you, but I know I don’t know enough about this “vow making” thing as it applies to the culture of Jesus’ time.  Just how important was a person’s vow back then?

We can read in other parts of scripture just how important vows were when they were made to God. Take Hannah for instance: she begged, pleaded and prayed to God for a child.  In faithfulness to God for answering her fervent prayers; upon the birth of her son, Hannah promised God that she would dedicate the child’s life and service to God…which she did.  There’s another “promise” passage from the book of Acts regarding seriousness of the Nazirite vows (actually, it first comes up in the story of Samson) of shaving one’s head and purification rights.  But I think the classic Old Testament example, especially since it turns out horribly wrong for him, is that of Jephthah’s vow that he makes to God in Judges 11, that he will offer as a burnt offering to God once he returns from a successful fight, whatever greets him upon his return (only to have it be his daughter).  Each one of these seems to be some exceptional case, so why is Jesus reaching back to these vow-making situations?

His purpose is to help the people of his day (and us) understand the importance of one’s vow to God, something that we too often take too lightly. Jesus wants them and us to understand the reality that promise making and promise keeping are essential for getting along with others (and God) and that promise breaking can serve as a death knell to the human community.

Did you ever do this as a child…sure you did, we all did. As children, we readily learned that if we’d embellish our promises with some word of sincerity, it would prove that we really, really meant it.  You remember all the clever phases, don’t you?  “Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” “I pinkie promise.”  And then there’s the classic… “I swear on a stack of Bibles.” We were convinced that such phrases added to our promise would more than likely get us what we wanted.  Doesn’t it seem like this is what Jesus is going after here?  Vow making is nothing more than a way of manipulating God or others into doing what we want.

But with his words to the people, Jesus is telling them to keep things simple. Let our answers be a simple “yes” or “no”.  And then we need to follow through with our promise.  We need to do what it is we said we were going to do.  We should never use our promises to manipulate others.  We need to live lives of integrity and trustworthiness…the glue that binds relationships together.

God, we’ve learned all too well just how much words matter. Our promises matter as well.  Guide us in our dealings with others so that we might prove to be trustworthy people.  And, Lord, protect us from those who would attempt to manipulate us by promising what they can’t deliver or by appealing to our basest instincts and desires.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

July 10, 2017

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

                                                                                                                        Matthew 5: 10-12

 DANGER! DANGER!  DANGER!

 That’s the warning that should precede this passage from Matthew’s gospel. This is, without question, a dangerous passage.  The reason for the warning is that it’s far easier to misunderstand and misuse this teaching from our Lord than to take it to heart as is the intent of this word of encouragement.

The key word here is “persecute”, and the possibility of abusing it. Within the Christian community there are those strident voices that are quick to point out instances where they see “the Christian faith under attack”.  They range from those who are concerned over the color of Starbuck’s coffee cups, to selling a wedding cake to a gay couple, to what health insurance covers, to how astronomy and archeology are taught in schools; all voices that claim they are being “persecuted for their faith.”

I’d like to let those folks in on a little secret here…These “things” ain’t persecution.

Real persecution is what happens when you’re a Christian in some remote corner of the world where, every day, you risk being killed for your faith. Where your faith means you forfeit opportunities for education or advancing in your job…that’s real persecution.  And these kinds of things happen to Christians, every day.  But to these truly persecuted Christians come these hope-filled words from Jesus…”Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

 In a similar vein, just because you believe that people “revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you” doesn’t mean that you’re right and their wrong.  It’s those next words from Jesus’ mouth that matter… “falsely on my account.” The word “humility” needs to be given some consideration here.  Humility means that, should we come across people who treat us in this way; we need to take a moment to wonder whether or not they just may have a point.

It’s become a cliché in our world because it’s true…life’s hard and nowhere in anything he has said does Jesus promise that he’s going to make life easy for those who surrender their lives to his will and who rest on his promises.

There’s a long line of people who have been rejected and abused because of their singular focus on what it means to live in God’s will in the face of a world bent on “doing its own thing,” and Jesus is standing right there at the head of the line. In this “very dangerous passage,” Jesus welcomes us into that long line with the promise that the built in reward in all of this isn’t going to be earthly success or popularity, but instead the simple promise of God’s constant presence in  our lives, putting us in very good company.

Loving God, keep us ever mindful of just what it means for us, on a daily basis, to stand up for what we believe to be true, loving, helpful, and just…even in the face of the harshest criticism, rejection, or cruelty. And Lord, guard us against thinking ourselves victims by giving us the humility to recognize where we might be wrong.  In the name of your loving Son… Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

July 3, 2017

But may all who seek you rejoice and be happy in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!”

                                                                                                                                     Psalm 40:16

 Happiness is, happiness is, happiness is, different things to different people

That’s what happiness is.

 To the preacher, it’s a prayer, prayer, prayer. To the Beatles, it’s a yeah, yeah, yeah.

To the golfer, it’s a whole in one. To the father, it’s a brand new son.

 To the beatnik, it’s a beard, beard, beard. To a monster, something weird, weird, weird.

To a night owl, it’s a good day’s sleep. To the Yankees (Pirates), it’s a four-game sweep.

 On the desert, it’s a drink, drink, drink. To a show girl, it’s a mink, mink, mink.

To the banker, lots and lots of dough. To the racer, it’s a GTO.

 To a sailor, it’s the sea, sea, sea. To my mother, why it’s me, me, me.

To the birdies, it’s the sky above. But, to my mind, it’s the one I love

 Happiness is, happiness is, happiness is, different things to different people;

That’s what happiness is.

 My apologies for some of the obviously dated references in the above song lyrics, but I’m sure you get the gist of their message. The things that make us happy are as varied as the people that experience them.

HAPPY…the very word itself conjures up idyllic image, doesn’t it? Images like a toddler in overalls, splashing through puddles during a rain storm.  Or a bright-eyed cheerleader who’s just been thrown into the air with her arms waving over her head when the home team scores a touchdown.  Or the excited looks on a prom couple as they relish the glow of their big night together.  Happy sounds like fireworks on the Fourth and smells like toasted marshmallows, or the sound of someone cannonballing into a swimming pool on a hot day.  But what happiness doesn’t seem like is an appropriate consistent state for Christ followers, does it?  It just seems wrong.  Wildly, sadly, distorted-by-religious-Phareisees-far-to-long…wrong!

But it’s not wrong for we who profess to be Christ’s followers, for the Bible contains nearly forty references to happy in the Old Testament, and almost fifty in the New Testament.  Contrary to what many of us have been taught or assumed, as Christ followers, we aren’t called to jettison our happiness like spiritual floaties as we learn to swim in the deep waters of intimacy with God.  Instead, God literally calls us to be happy.

Let me share with you some liberating truth about God being happy with us…it’s not up to us! God doesn’t expect us to work harder to make it to some elusive “I deserve to be happy” club.  There’s no way we can instigate or impel divine happiness, nor can we lose or lessen divine happiness.  God’s joy is self-generated and sustained with and through his Holy Spirit and his Son.  So when we place our trust in Jesus and receive the indwelling of God’s Spirit, we automatically become heirs of his divine delight.  We’re grafted, so to speak, chosen to be the apples of God’s eye and beneficiaries of his joy and good pleasure.

That’s what true happiness is!

God, help us to laugh more, to rejoice more, and to bask in the glow of your presence… and, above all…to just be happy in this life! Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

June 19, 2017

A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good.  If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.

                                                                                                                               Matthew 12:33

Our family knows a couple who are now living out west who have been friends of ours for almost thirty years.  We recently received a card and letter from them, updating us on their lives and extending birthday wishes to Ellie.  They split their time between a house in Utah for part of the year and a house in Nevada for the remainder of the time.  One of the activities the husband is involved in as a volunteer is to provide transportation from Boulder, Nevada to Las Vegas for senior citizens who have medical appointments there.  By taking them there and then bringing them back, I guess he violates the city’s advertising axiom of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

But for so many others, that phrase has become both a patterned lifestyle and also a convenient excuse for justifying less-than-appropriate or less-than- accepted behavior.  The idea behind the slogan is that when people go to Vegas, they get a license to do the things they wouldn’t normally do, to act like they would never act, and to sin in a way they wouldn’t normally sin (seems to me that there’s really something wrong when a person can justify “normal” sinning, don’t you think?).  It’s like, “so what if you cheat on your wife?”  It’s Vegas!  “So what if you’re irresponsible with your money?”  This is Vegas!  “So what if you…?”

As Christians, we are called to be Christians…not just some of the time, but all of the time.  Jesus calls us to be Christ-like in all our actions, not just in some of our actions.  When we invoke the “Vegas thing” to justify some seedy behavior, we do what is called “compartmentalizing our faith”.  In doing so, we do a good job at being good little Christians at church on Sunday morning, but come Monday (or even as soon as being in the parking lot on the way out of church) all bets are off.  We spend that obligatory hour on Sunday morning “filling up” on Christianity, responding as perfect Christians, but come Monday when a co-worker is late with a project, or someone at home creates a problem, or even when someone cuts us off in traffic…the evil thoughts take over and start plucking away at any good fruit that may have been produced the day before.

We read in the Bible that we can be recognized by the fruit we produce in our lives.  As I was putting the garbage out for pick up just a while ago, I noticed in the top of one of the bags a hand of bananas that had gotten pretty gross looking.  As I was carrying the bag past the microwave cart, I happened to glance down at the ones I’d purchased just the other day and they were much more appealing (honest, no pun intended).  Our lives can be compared to those bananas.  While I love bananas; I certainly wouldn’t want to eat one from that bunch that had made it to the garbage.  Others notice our life and the way we conduct it.  If our lives are riddled with sin or hidden behind the old “Vegas” deception, they will choose not to trust us or associate with us.  No one wants to taste bad fruit.  Instead, we need to be leading the kind of life that produces good fruit…God’s best fruit…the fruits of the Spirit…love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  That’s the challenge of living a life consistent with the Christian faith, one that Jesus expects us to live and display 24/7.  The challenge, my dear brothers and sisters in the faith, in being a Christian is doing it not just when everyone is looking, but also when no one is looking…so that what happens in the name of God, stays with God.

Lord, make me an instrument to share your faith, but make me one that is constantly in tune with your will and your Word. A

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

June 12, 2017

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.                                                                                                                               Matthew 5:16

Quite a few years ago, a good friend of mine and his wife went on this winter backpacking trip in the Colorado Rockies. About a day or so into their hike, they hiked six miles, stopping at a hut that wasn’t accessible by car or any other form of motorized transportation.  They’d carried in enough supplies to last then for several days.  After having spent the night in the hut, early the next morning, with temperatures hovering around zero degrees Fahrenheit, they set out on one of the more arduous legs of their journey.  About three miles into the hike, my friend, huffing and puffing, exclaimed to his wife, “You know it’s a lot easier to get fatter than to stay in shape!”  He was obviously struggling to get up the mountain, most of the time being at least a quarter of a mile behind his, in much better shape, wife.

His statement can also apply to our spiritual lives. I had a pastor friend who liked to refer to such an “out of shape faith” as “spiritual obesity”.  As churchgoers, far too many of us are content to sit in the pews as we wait for God to serve the faith to us.  We sit back and take in all we want to take in; a dish of Sunday morning, sprinkled with a women’s retreat, and possibly topped with a Bible study.  And so it is that we eat, feed and grow, but often without outflow from us to others.  And each one of us is probably as gluttonous as the next person.

Fortunately, my good friend realized the error of his “out of shape” ways, spending the next year after his difficult hike, getting back into better shape. He changed some of his habits, exercised more and declared he’d never be the trailing one up the mountain again.  The following year the two of them set out on a hiking adventure into the Big Horn Mountains in eastern Wyoming and he had no problem maintaining pace with his wife.

That’s the end result of getting into physical shape; but what does getting into spiritual shape look like? It can mean things like feeding the homeless, giving to the poor, assisting a neighbor even when it’s inconvenient, spreading the love of God in every action, or simply serving in any of a number of other ways in our church or the community.  It also means, like a daily physical exercise regimen, taking some dedicated quiet time out of each day to talk with God, to listen for his words of guidance and direction, and availing ourselves of his Word.  That spiritual exercise program is going to be different for each one of us, but for all of us one thing is sure: living out the Christian faith is an active faith.  So it’s time to shine your light and the light of God’s glorious gospel into a dark and foreboding world!  Lace up your shoes and let’s get moving!

We’re in shape and read for action Lord! Let’s go!  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

June 5, 2017

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

                                                                                                                                   Mark 4: 35-41

 Not too many of us living in this area have had to experience the awesome power of either a hurricane or a tornado. When I was about eight years old, I was able to watch the fury and the destructive power of a hurricane from my front door. It was October 15, 1954 when the outward edge of what then was an unclassified category 4 hurricane struck our little central Pennsylvania town of Columbia. I recall sitting with my grandfather and my mother (my dad was at work) watching through our front storm door as winds close to one hundred miles per hour and rain that was so heavy you could hardly see across the street lashed our area. I particularly recall watching those winds completely uproot an old, very large weeping willow tree in the woods across the street, laying it on its side. The major brunt of the storm lasted for almost an hour before things calmed down. During that time, I’m not sure how many emergency vehicles drove up and down our street. Fortunately, very little property damage occurred in our neighborhood so clean up the next day was fairly easy. But it’s an experience that, to this day, stays firmly planted in my mind.

For most of us, the only images we’ve seen of such powerful storms are those shown on TV. We’ve seen the sadness and the destruction that has taken place in other areas of our country and around the world, often with the thoughts in our own minds: “I feel terrible for those poor people, but, thank goodness it wasn’t me.”

Today, thanks to incredible advancements in science, we know much more about these storms, and are able to be better prepared for then when they strike. But can you imagine in prescientific times how people must have thought that this was God’s way of showing his anger and displeasure for bad things that they had done?   Psalm 107 gives us some indication of what their reaction might have been, where the psalmist writes: “They cried to the Lord in their distress; he hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled.” I’ve encountered Christians even today who will light a blessed candle and pray to God even when a thunderstorm threatens, and that’s not such a silly or bad thing to do. Prayer during any time of anxiety is a good thing because it gives us strength and something solid to hang on to, knowing that God is with us.

As I mentioned earlier, in biblical times the threatening forces of nature were automatically attributed to God and they became the customary imagery used to describe any manifestation of God’s power (the events that took place on Mount Sinai would be a good example). Scripture records many of these displays, often with God speaking out in the midst of them. At times, our lives today can be like one of those storms. We can find ourselves loosing hope as we stand on the precipice of giving up. We can, at times, feel like those poor disciples must have felt as their lives were threatened by that violent storm at sea. Catastrophic illnesses, the loss of a job, the breakup of a marriage, the threats of war, and the uncertainties of the economy can all batter and beat upon our lives, upsetting the tranquility and the security of it. But while we’re doing whatever we can to solve our own problems, we should never forget to pray with both the faith and the assuredness of God’s presence.

And once that storm is quelled, we don’t have to wonder as the disciples did, “Who can this be that the wind and the sea obey him?” Instead, we can rejoice and be glad that the God who created those winds and those waves also has to power to simply say to them, “Quiet! Be still!

Lord, bring quiet to our lives as you still the storms of adversity that rage against us. Amen.