Another Word…by Gus Keiser

December 11, 2017

Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!

                                                                                                                               Matthew 18:7

 It seems as if everywhere we turn these days we’re confronted by some type of bad news…massive fires in California destroying people’s lives, the continued threat of war with North Korea, one person of notoriety after another either facing claims of sexual harassment or losing their position of prominence because of it, the continued rise in opiod-related deaths or addiction. It seems as if the bad news is never-ending.

In the eighteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel we read much about sin. Sin is that which shatters relationship between us and God, us and one another, and us and the creation around us.  Sin is disobedience and disconnection.  It is selfishness and self-centeredness.  Sin is what results when we act as if we’re the center of the universe, thinking everything revolves around us, and that we’re the sole arbitrators of our own behaviors.

One way of thinking about sin is to compare it to something like an incurable disease and its symptoms. Sin as a disease is a sign of brokenness of all creation, that sense of separateness and alienation that plagues us.  The deepest sense of sin is what is often referred to as original sin, sin which reaches down to the very roots of a person.  The great philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard referred to it as our “sickness unto death.”  He argued that we experience sin as despair and that it is an unavoidable aspect of our human existence.  As we are reminded in Romans…”…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In this we are victims of sin, members of a fallen humanity.

But in addition to being sin’s victims, we are also sin’s perpetrators. This is sin as symptoms of that deeper reality.  We may never be able to cure the disease of sin, but God has granted us the freedom to limit and battle its symptoms.  Despair might drive a hungry person toward the desire to steal from a grocery store, but that person still possesses the freedom to fight that temptation and to seek food by some legal means.

Jesus, in his words to us, uses the term “stumbling blocks”. These are the things in life that quite literally can trip us up, that can knock us off the path of obedience, of doing the next right thing.  When we sin, Jesus isn’t going to just let us off the hook.  He understands our tendency to justify ourselves, minimize our sin, hide behind such phrases as “but everybody’d doing it” or “I just couldn’t help myself.”  And Jesus is rightly concerned that we not intentionally do things to others in order to merely elevate ourselves.

Whether we care to realize it or not, all of this is quite serious when it comes to our day-to-day lives. In the Old Testament, the penalty for some of these sins was to have one’s hands cut off or one’s eyes plucked out; but Jesus doesn’t actually expect us to do that…but his words amplify the dangers of not paying attention to where we go, what we do, and what we see.

As I mentioned earlier, the news today is full of people suffering the consequences of their sins. The words of Luke 8:17 should keep coming back to us… “For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light” (as many of these high-priced entertainers and politicians are now finding out).  Lies, deceptions, sexual harassment, corruption…these are all symptoms of the deepest realities of sin.  Jesus wants us to realize just how serious this stuff is.  It poisons the wells of our lives.

Gracious Lord…from the cross you spoke these words, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do”. Such words are vivid reminders of your grace and mercy.  They are also signs of how deeply you know us.  Sometimes our sins are so deeply imbedded in us that we don’t realize what we’re doing.  Far more often, we know but we do it anyway.  Forgive us for embracing stumbling blocks in our lives.  Heal us from the pain over that which we have stumbled.  And light the paths so that we walk with integrity, humility, and care. Amen. 

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

December 5, 2017

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

                                                                                                                           Romans 5: 3-4

             In this world of acronyms and “short-for’s”, I came across one that somewhat baffled me. Do you know what the letters CIP stand for?  I didn’t, though through a little Internet snooping, I found out they are the first letters for a somewhat rare disease called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain.  This medical condition renders its victims unable to feel pain.  At first, this might seem like a blessing (for instance, think back when you’ve had to deal with a severe headache or a toothache).  Just imagine…no pain, no hurting, no suffering.  And yet the absence of pain can inevitably spiral into more harm than good.  Without a sense of pain, an individual becomes unaware of a wound that is in need of attention.  They become ignorant of impending danger that could scald their skin, pierce their flesh, or even sever a limb.  There may be too heavy a pressure, too scalding a heat source, too freezing the cold temperature, but because that person can’t feel the pain, they ignore it, thus running the real risk of severe, continuing and permanent damage to their body.

And although we may not like pain, we need it.  It has the capability of helping us, blessing us, and taking us to the point of desperation and need (and therefore to pivotal moments of prayer and rescue) that we would never experience if left to our own comfortable and avoidance-seeking routines.

Without the painful emptiness of a barren womb, for example, Hannah may have never called out to God from her distress and her, as the writer of First Samuel describes it, “bitterness of soul”, and may have never received God’s miraculous answer to her fervent prayers that resulted in Samuel’s birth, one of the greatest leaders in all of Israel’s history.  Without the pain of a heart frayed by the loss of his family, health, and livelihood, Job might never have cried out to the Lord, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you.” Without the weeping, wailing, and anguish experience by the prophet Jeremiah, he might never have known of that “balm in Gilead.”

One who knew well the pain that this world can inflict was the first martyr for Christ, Stephen.  His body, snapping like a twig under the pelting of rocks being thrown by his accusers; “gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God.” Paul and Silas, shackled to the walls of a Roman jail, with their backs freshly bruised from being beaten for their faith, discovered what the true joy of “praying and singing hymns of praise to God” is all about.  It was only through their pain that they could come to know the depths of true worship.

The same is true of the pain that is actually one of God’s mysterious blessings that our hearts instinctively avoid while we strive for endless happiness and comfort.  This pain compels us to more accurately assess the wisdom or foolishness of many of our life choices.  It forces us to seek refuge in God that we might otherwise think is unnecessary.  It becomes a teacher exposing us to lessons that only one with the capacity to feel hurt could understand.  Pain, ironically, it the key to being spared what might turn out to be even greater discomfort.  Because when we feel it, we make those beneficial, needful adjustments to our lives.

So perhaps this would be a good day to thank our loving heavenly Father for blessing us with the gift of pain.  Only heaven knows where we’d be without it.

Lord of Love…through the pains of this life; help us to better understand the blessings of your divine love and mercy. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

November 27, 2017

Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will be also.

                                                                                    Matthew 6:21

 So, how did you make out last Friday? Did you “shop ‘til you dropped”?  I always tell myself, especially after a rather “lengthy” experience at Kohl’s several years ago to make a personal purchase on Black Friday, that I will never get caught up in that madness again.  And I must say I’ve been pretty good about sticking to what I said.  So I didn’t think anything about it this past Friday when I set out late morning to do my usual minor grocery shopping venture.  And all went well with the one extra stop I had to make at Home Depot (in and out of there in short order).  My next stop was to purchase cat food at Pet Smart.  I walked in as I usually do, grabbed a small basket and started back the aisle toward the food, when I began to realize that there was this horrendously long line that snaked from four open registers to the back of the store looped around and back up toward the registers again; at which point I decided that the cats would just have to make do with the food they had at home for a day or two.  So from there it was off to Sam’s, Walmart and home (which actually didn’t take me that long).

It was several years ago that I came across an online article about Black Friday shopping that referred to the “splendor” of a shopping mall this way: a pastor was so moved by the retail magnificence around him in the mall that he felt he had to quote Scripture…”Jesus said, I came that you may have life and have that life abundantly.” And just what do you think serves as a proper definition of “abundance”?  What surrounded him?

If that, in fact, is our definition of “abundance”, then we should be greatly troubled. If all that abundance means to us is our easy access to consumer goods and not our relationship to Jesus Christ, then I would propose that we might want to reexamine our priorities for this life.  Does the abundant life mean that Jesus came to earth to merely help us to “shop ‘til we drop”?  I don’t think so.  Why not try telling that to the millions of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who would regard themselves blessed if they are able to eat even one meal today; not to mention the millions in our own country who are simply trying to make ends meet.

Jesus came to give us life to the full, but the abundant life he’s referring to is spiritual in nature. It’s that life where God infuses us with his Holy Spirit, molds us into the image of Christ and overflows to others who observe and can be influenced and blessed.

So, now that we’ve officially entered another “shop ‘til you drop” season while trying to deal with the rush of Christmas; we need to be careful that we don’t confuse material blessings as a form of spiritual status. For we who are followers of Christ, any prosperity we experience should always be seen as a means to an end…not the end in and of itself.  Let’s be careful not to make a mistake here, God expects us to use everything we have for his honor and glory.  It was Jesus who told the people of his day, “Much is required from those to whom much is given.”

 Shopping is an integral part of our Christmas preparation process, and, if done with the right spirit and mindset, can be a fun and rewarding experience. So, as you venture out to do your holiday shopping, why not take a moment to thank God for his many, many blessings.  And while you’re at it, be sure to guard yourself against an attitude that focuses on getting more for yourself, as opposed to using your material blessings to serve and bless others.

Lord, help us to keep our priorities straight, our patience at the ready, our lists manageable, and our hearts ever-focused on you. Amen.

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 30, 2017

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and burden is light.

                                                                                                                             Matthew 11:28-30

 Whenever we hear the name Herod the Great mentioned, we immediately associate him with Jesus’ birth. But Herod was also the great builder of the ancient world, as he left his footprints all over Israel.  The sheer size and grandeur of his structures were second to none.

It was he who remodeled the great Jerusalem temple, and along with ten thousand men, built the retaining walls around the Temple Mount, which took ten years of construction. Just one of the stones on the second course of the wall’s foundation was sixty-four feet long, eight feet high, and twelve feet deep.  It must have taken many hernias of “free” labor to get into place.  Capable of encompassing four football fields, the Temple Mount still remains the largest man-made platform in the world.

Another of Herod’s construction projects was Herodian, his summer palace, fortress, monument, burial ground and district capital. Upper Herodian contained water cisterns, tunnels and hidden apertures to prevent against sneak attacks.  Lower Herodian had a large pool in the center of a garden surrounded by pillars.

Herod also built Masada, a sprawling palace with numerous fortifications on a high plateau overlooking the Dead Sea.

And then there was the deep water harbor city of Caesarea, a “planned city” of crisscrossing roads, a Roman temple, amphitheater, hippodrome, markets, residential quarters, aqueducts, piers and giant warehouses.

Interestingly, the majority of the structures Herod built served as fortifications, primarily due to the fact that, even though he was Herod the “Great,” he was also a very selfish, insecure, cruel, and paranoid person, established by the fact that he had numerous members of his family murdered and various rabbis to secure his leadership role in his kingdom. It was all just about him!

And then there was Jesus…who also left a footprint, but over the entire world. He didn’t own a home where he could rest his head.  It was with total peace and contentment that he chose to do his Father’s will.  With all power at his fingertips, he willingly gave up his own life.  By sending his Son to earth to die, God stooped down to become a servant for us.

Lord, help us not to follow the world’s visible and ostentatious ways of building a kingdom. Instead, remind us that the kingdom of God is inside us, as we choose to obey Christ’s example of a meek and pure heart.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

October 23, 2017

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”                                                                                                                                                                                          John 14:8-10

 About two months ago, I finished an interesting little book by renowned astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. For the most part, I was able to understand what he was saying, even with so much technical jargon. But I will admit that there were certain entries and references in his writing that caused me to ask, “What on earth (or in some cases, beyond this earth) is he talking about”? The same thing happens to me on occasion if I’m listening to some politician or read some report on the Internet about a particular political issue when I’ll find myself asking that same question: “What on earth is he (or she) talking about?”

 I think there are also those times in our lives as Christians when we hear or read the words of Jesus and have that same collective thought…”What on earth is he talking about”? But if you think you’re alone in asking that question, have heart, because there are many others asking the same thing, just as the people did in his day. Take the disciples for instance. Even they must have had similar thoughts, especially when they listened to him tell his parables…”Now exactly where is he going with this one?”

 In the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus makes the astounding claim, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is making a very profound statement here. “This God you worship, who’s far off, has come very near… in fact, nearer than you would have ever imagined. If you want to know what he’s like, then watch me”. In essence, Jesus was putting God on display.

 That’s the way this whole Christian thing takes place. If you want to know what God is like, watch Jesus. Do you want to see how God would love or show compassion? Then watch how Jesus does it. To see Jesus is to see God in action. In Jesus, the invisible God is made visible.

 Now this whole “watch Jesus” process has some interesting ramifications for us. If Jesus was putting God on display and we are called to live as Jesus did, then in a truly mysterious way, we’re also putting God on display for this world to see… at home, at work, at school, wherever. Wherever we go… in all that we do… the question remains: are we putting God on display for the world to see? If people were to watch us (and they do) would they gain a better sense of who God is?

 What if in watching us and describing how we live, people actually would be describing God without ever knowing it? Wouldn’t that be truly amazing? Perhaps it might even change the world.

 Lord, mold us and shape us into your image, that through us, the world can truly come to know you. 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.