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


 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.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

May 29, 2017

[Jesus said] “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, if won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.

                                                                                                                             Matthew7: 24-27

With the approach of summer; I’ve been seeing a lot of ads on TV inviting people to come to this coastal state or that shore point for a marvelous vacation. Some of those ads have shown small children playing in the sand with their shovels and buckets building sandcastles, something that most of us who’ve had that beach experience have done.

While watching one of those commercials, I found my mind taking a nostalgic venture back to my childhood. I suppose I must have been ten or eleven when my parents decided to take a trip to Atlantic City (pre-casino of course) where we actually stayed in a hotel right off the boardwalk, a luxury my parents rarely indulged in.  Somewhere I have some pictures of this skinny kid in a striped shirt and swimming trunks playing in the sand while my parents sat on the beach watching.  It was my first venture into the Atlantic and I recall the water was cold.  But the day was hot and the cold at first on my feet felt refreshing.  As the afternoon wore on, I became bolder, and before long was standing in the tide up to my knees.

Naturally, since I felt confident handling the power of the waves as they slapped against my legs; I allowed myself to feel a little too confident and was suddenly slapped by a wave that was up to my face, one that knocked me off my feet, rolling me around under the surface for a few seconds. The sight of my going under caused my dad to come running to my rescue and as he was about to pull me up out of the water; I stood up on my own, laughing and spitting out my first terrible taste of saltwater.

One of the other first-time experiences for me that happened when the wave knocked me over was the feeling of the retreating wave pulling the sand out from beneath my feet. That same wave and subsequent rolling across the sand also left sand in my trunks, a very uncomfortable feeling.  But shortly thereafter I managed to let the water wash the sand out from inside my trunks and was back to exploring this new environment.  But from the whole experience, I did learn a very valuable lesson…Sand and waves are a very dangerous combination.

When you stand on sand and the waves return to the ocean, you can feel the ground beneath your feet being pulled away. If you stand in the same spot for a long time, you can become stuck; and the waves keep pounding and you keep sinking further and further into the wet sand as it grips your legs.  Another risk is that you could be knocked over by a large wave, as was I, but be carried out to sea by the retreating water.  Very simply, when you’re standing on shifting sand instead of solid ground, it’s easy to lose your footing as you risk being carried away, possibly even to the point of losing your life.

This brief parable spoken by Jesus from Matthew seven vividly shows the difference between those who base their lives on his teaching and those who choose to ignore it. Those people who don’t heed Jesus’ words will see their houses (lives) collapse “with a mighty crash” at the first sign of a storm.  Only those who have Jesus for a firm foundation will stand firm and weather whatever storm may pound their lives.

I’m sure none of us wants to stand on the ever-shifting sands of the world’s philosophies or man-made religions. I don’t know about you, but that seashore experience from my past has taught me the importance of standing on the solid teachings and promises of God through Jesus Christ who lived, died, arose and is coming again

Lord, as the words to a staid old hymn of the church say…”My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.  On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

May 22, 2017

For what man knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends? For the deliberation of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.  For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.  And scarce do we guess the things on earth  and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out?  Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high?

                                                                                                                                 Wisdom 9:13-17

Having looked at the scripture reference for the above passage; I’m sure there are more than a few of you now scratching your heads and asking yourself, “Where is the book of Wisdom in my Bible…and you would be right to do so, because it isn’t contained in the canonized scriptures that are used by Protestant churches.   This book is one of group of books that are part of the canonized books of wisdom used by the Roman Catholic Church, and are known as the Deuterocanonical Books, that also include Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Job, and Sirach.

 Now that we have that bit of biblical education established…

Haven’t we all had those times in our lives, especially during our formative years, when we thought we knew it all, or at least somewhat more than our adult educators? With a certain sense of smugness about us, we formed these ready-made answers for all our problems and couldn’t understand why these supposed “smart” adults couldn’t see things as we did.  This presumptuous attitude is part of the maturation process a lot of young people go through.  When they’re younger; as adults, we somewhat accept it, but later in life find it loathsome in adults whom we feel should have outgrown it by then.

Wisdom, insight, or sound judgment, whichever you choose to call it, is a precious possession. During all ages of human history, tribes and nations have had their sages, philosophers, and friends of wisdom.  But they represent and espouse human wisdom, and such wisdom as adults, is not always adequately the same as pure truth.  Many sages of the past have narrowed their observations by working with their intellect alone.  The results of this somewhat narrowed approach: forms of rationalism which left very little room for things transcendent or godly.

In the Bible we find a type of wisdom which has its origins deep into both heart and intellect. It’s a type of wisdom that is often intuitive of one’s total person.  Moreover, true Biblical wisdom is special gift from God.  That’s why we pay so close attention to it.  In the passage from the book of Wisdom I cited above, the wise man referred to observes how complicated the problems of this life can be and how difficult it can be at times to find answers; and so we pray for guidance and ask for advice, and since God possesses such awesome power, he imparts his wisdom through our fellow human beings.

Now let me ask you this question: What is your priority of values? Hopefully, as wise and mature Christians, we possess this sound judgment about what is more or less important in life, blending human insight with God-inspired wisdom, thereby allowing God to send his Holy Spirit from on high…his Spirit of wisdom for our lives.

So, no, we don’t, nor will we ever know it all. But, as Christians, we do know and trust God and his wisdom for our lives…and that should be sufficient.

God, we who profess and boast of being wise are often the most foolish. Lord, fill us with your wisdom, your truth and your sense of discernment that by knowing you, we might know the difference.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

May 15, 2017

“Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work…Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.”

                                                                                                               Deuteronomy 5: 12, 13, 15

By the time you read this, you will, more than likely, either be starting your work week or be well into it, so thoughts of the weekend to come won’t be too active in your mind. But, ah, the weekend…that time when we “take off”.  We take off from the work we do to make a living.  That’s a fact I think we can all agree upon.  But I’m willing to bet that not all of us will agree on the question: “What do we take off for?”  The weekend for most of us spells “freedom;” but there are two sides to freedom…freedom from and freedom for.  They’re two sides to the same coin, but they are far from the same.  Come the weekend, we should be glad to be free for more time with those we love, not excluding God.  However, this entails a love which is very much alive, making togetherness a happy and much-sought after event.

If that love is nothing more than some stale experience, we will look to escape that togetherness by using some of the various excuses available: an extra job (for more income), meeting a business friend or client, just getting away “for a while” (how long?), or “veggy-ing” out before the television. But our freedom, our escape doesn’t end with becoming an isolate from our family; we also manage to come up with a range of excuses to exercise our freedom from God on the weekends as well.  These excuses for not being together with God (Sunday worship) become very simple since God doesn’t ask any questions.  Rather, it’s love which determines our do’s and don’ts, including those of our weekends.  So let me pose that question one more time: “What do you take off for this weekend?”

Right now, take a few minutes to go back and re-read the above passage from Deuteronomy. In doing so, take notice to the fact that the author (Moses, possibly) mentions two elements concerning the Sabbath (which means roughly, “to leave off”): abstinence from work and “remembrance”.  Abstinence from work should allow for ample time to “remember”.  At the time that God ordained it; the Sabbath was seen as a grateful response to the exodus from bondage and slavery in Egypt.  Initially, Christians from Jewish background continued to observe the Sabbath and celebrated the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day (the day of his resurrection).  Later, when even more Gentiles joined the church, the Lord’s Day (Sunday) became the Christian day of worship.

Freedom from work should give us opportunity for “remembrance,” for the memorial of our exodus from evil through Christ’s death and resurrection and celebrate through the bread and wine, his body and blood. Partaking of this “memorial of our redemption” should be an integral part of a Christian’s Sunday, and a way of honoring God’s Commandment to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”, and not just a day of freedom to do as we choose.

God, guide our decisions in this life; that we always choose to place you first in whatever we do. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

May 8, 2017

“This Jesus is “the stone rejected by you the builders which has become the cornerstone.” There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved.”

There’s a 1962 song recorded by Don and Juan that begins with the lyrics, “What’s your name, is it Mary or Sue?” The importance of a name…  During the years that I was teaching confirmation studies; when we were discussing the commandment about taking the Lord’s name in vain, one of the questions I posed to the class was “Where would you like to see your name appear?”  We talked about situations such as an Honor Society posting, as part of a winning sports team, or as the recipient of some school or community award.  But we also talked about places such as police blotter or on an obituary page.

What’s in a name? Not a whole lot as seems to be the case in our modern-day culture.  Whether your name is Mary or Sue or Jones or Johnson, it doesn’t say very much if anything about you.  Now nicknames are another matter.  They can say a lot of very descriptive things about you.  In some other cultures, (i.e. Japanese and Chinese) name-giving is still a significant part of the life-giving process.  The same was true of Biblical culture, in which one’s name reflected a person’s function in the universe.

In the account of the creation in Genesis, God gives names to all his creatures and he instructs Adam to give names to all the animals in the Garden of Eden. Later on in Scripture we come across some pretty descriptive names, names that must have been well thought out before they were chosen.  In First Samuel, chapter 25 (verse 25) we find the name, Nabal, which means “fool”, and he was one.  He directed an evil tongue and lack of hospitality to ten of King David’s men when they came to him in peace.  And then there was Rachel who named her child Benoni (which meant, son of my right).  In the culture, the name signified the person.  That’s why also that the name of their divinity is significant for this culture as well.  The Babylonians for example had fifty names for their chief god, Marduk.

God revealed his name to the Hebrews, “I AM”, through Moses. Later, in the gospel of John, Jesus reveals God to the people, calling him Father.  Jesus own name means “Yahweh is salvation”.  God, who became Emmanuel (God with us) in Jesus, fulfills his promise made to Joshua that he would be with them as a savior.

The Christian faith can never sever itself from the name of Jesus. It was this name of Jesus that conveyed to the early church salvation to its people.  Each of us has been saved in the name of Jesus.  Through his name, we’ve been saved from ourselves and from the crippling sickness of selfishness, sin and pride.  And we should expect no salvation from any other source in this world.

From time to time I’ll come across one of those “Jesus Saves” bumper stickers on a car. I know they’re not for everyone and there are those who would prefer not to have one on their car, but it’s the idea that is meaningful.  So, as ones who have been saved by Christ; we need to be eternally grateful, remembering that the salvation found in the name of Jesus Christ will be in process until we end up in our place in eternity.

Lord, it was St. Peter who reminded the people of his day (and us) that you are the cornerstone of our life, that you are our hope and our salvation, and that these cannot be found in any other name on earth. Thank you Lord, for your love and your sacrifice in your name.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

May 1, 2017

And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”  And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”

                                                                                                                        Matthew 8: 25-26

I’m sure the name, Billy Tyne, means nothing to you, and it probably shouldn’t. He was a down-on-his-luck captain of a sword fishing boat who set out with his crew in October of 1991, for that elusive one last big catch.  However, when a unique confluence of weather conditions combined in the North Atlantic to form what meteorologists later called “The Perfect Storm,” (any George Clooney fans out there?) Tyne and the rest of his crew of the Andrea Gail perished.

I remember reading at one point in life that according to locals, the weather over the Sea of Galilee in Israel can be equally as unpredictable. Apparently squalls can rise up at a moment’s notice, hitting with such fury that fishermen in the area must be quick on their feet and ready for anything.  We know that at least four of Jesus’ disciples made their living as fishermen…Peter, Andrew, James and John.  We would have to think that they were well aware of Galilee’s infamous storms.  Yet, here they all were, out in a ship in the middle of the sea, with Jesus sound asleep in the ship’s bow, when a violent storm suddenly arose.  But this storm was so intense that even these seasoned sailors began to panic.  Quickly they awakened Jesus from his sleep, pleading with him.  “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”  It’s hard to imagine a storm so severe that even these “men of the seas” were cowering in fear.

But leave it to Jesus to be as cool as a cucumber, at least when it came to the storm. But before calmly quieting the storm, he turned to his disciples and addressed them with a bit of rebuke…”You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” As the disciples faced the greatest storm the Sea of Galilee had ever thrown at them, Jesus expected them to trust him first.  And only then did he calm the storm (another thing that further unnerved them).

Life is kind of like that angry, unpredictable sea at times, isn’t it? At times, and for no apparent reason, it rises up against us when we least expect it.  A dark spot shows up on an X-ray.  A pink slip lands on our desk or with our time card at work.  A quarterly report reveals a serious downturn in the company’s revenue…and suddenly our deepest fears rise to the surface.  The winds of change begin to swirl.  Torrents of fear-induced rain begin to soak our spirits, and our lives begin to be tossed about uncontrollably.  And we’re left with no recourse but to look to the sky and plead, “Lord, save us!”

And as the noise of the howling wind and pounding rain attack our eardrums, suddenly, in the midst of all the fury, a voice is heard saying, “Don’t be afraid. Trust in me first.”

Stand ready. That “perfect storm” of life is bound to arise.  The next time it does, bringing those unexpected trials and tumult into your life and the fear and uncertainty begins to well up within you; remember what Jesus asks of you… trust him first, no matter how overwhelming that storm may appear.

Lord, when the storms of life are raging all around, stand by us. Amen.