Another Word…by Gus Keiser

June 26, 2017

Leave your foolish ways behind, and begin to live; learn how to be wise.

                                                                                                Proverbs 9:6

 As I’ve grown older, I find that decision making has become more of a challenge. Now logically, one would think that the older one gets, with the amount of wisdom they’ve accumulated over the years, one should be able to apply that acquired knowledge to make decision making much easier…but, for me at least, that hasn’t been the case.  I feel that part of my problem is that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also become more impulsive…another process that seems out of sync with one’s development, since we tend to equate impulsivity with the younger and in-a-hurry generation.  But the one thing about my condition that I think I share with other questioning decision makers of all ages is that tendency to ask, after just having made a decision (especially if it turns out to be a bad one) is “If only…”

Those two words, “If only” have a way of popping up a lot in our conversations with others, especially those close to us, a family member or a good friend. And when they do, it’s clear that the person who voiced them is living in this sea of regrets over the decision they just made.  “If only I’d said no to that adulterous opportunity.”  “If only I’d said no to that “get rich quick scheme”.  “If only I hadn’t allowed myself to become so much in debt.”  “ If only I’d married a Christian.”  “If only I hadn’t lied.”

So, how does one escape this poor decision making process? How does one avoid the “if only’s”?  First of all, we aren’t going to be able to all the time.  There are still going to be those moments of impulsivity, those moments when we become too overwhelmed by circumstances or just too busy to do the right thing.  But there is at least one step we can take (that is, if we’re willing to make the time to take it) that is guaranteed to be of help…and that is, talk to God…hit the knees and pray.  I know, this advice sounds a bit “churchy,” but I’m guessing far too few people actually take the time to do it, or even think about doing it.  But, do think about it for a moment.  When we’re faced with some life-altering decision, how many of us really take the time to drop to our knees, look up to God, and say, “God, I need your help with this. I can’t do this one on my own.  God, I need your supernatural wisdom.  I need Your help”?

 I’m convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that nothing would make God happier that to be invited to come alongside us and give us his wisdom as we struggle with our decision. In the book of James, the writer offers us this: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”  In these words, James tells us that when we make any decision, large or small, the best place to get final input is from God, “the Great Decider”.

While it still remains a good idea to seek the advice of a trusted friend when we’re faced with some huge decision, I would encourage you to first seek the wisdom of the wisest and most trustworthy friend any of us have: God. Go to God first.  Talk to him.  There’s no reason for any of us to wallow in the mire of “If only”.  God’s always going to be there and he’s always going to listen…and he stands ready to generously impart is wisdom.  So take the time to stop, think, pray, and then decide.  It won’t help you to avoid that occasional bad decision and the “If only” that follows, but it will go a long way in making life’s decisions a bit easier to handle…I promise you.

Wise and Wonderful God… help me to always bank on your wisdom as I face the tiny and tremendous decisions of my life. Guide my mind and my tongue so that I’m more inclined to engage my brain before my mouth.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

March 6, 2017

Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

                                                                                                                                    Luke 6:25

This world is filled with all sorts of characters…different people with different views, temperaments, attitudes, and personalities. Some of these folks can be easy-going, flexible, and upbeat, while others can be cantankerous, argumentative, and uncooperative.  Okay, time out here for a minute as I digress.  What a fun word…”Cantankerous”…don’t you think?  It’s not a word I find myself using very often, but it’s a word full of letters that basically just mean crabby and cranky.  Cantankerous. CANTANKEROUS!! Anyway, I’m a lover of words, and my appreciation to you for allowing me this brief moment of digression.

Who are the people you hang out with? I’m sure that most of try to hang out with those who display a positive and upbeat attitude.  Given the chance, most of us would choose to surround ourselves with people who inspire us, motivate us and encourage us.  Given the chance, we’d pick friends who view the glass of life as half-full rather than half-empty.  Few if any of us would purposely seek out someone grumpy or cantankerous, would we?

My apologies if I’d shared the following story with you before, but I want to use it again to illustrate a point.

There was this family with twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was in their physical appearance. Otherwise, if one felt it was too hot, the other felt it was too cold.  If one complained that the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up.

 These two were opposites in every way. One was the eternal optimist, the other a doom and gloom pessimist.  So, just to see what would happen, on their birthday; their dad loaded the pessimist’s room with every imaginable toy and game.  The optimist’s room he loaded with horse manure.

 Later that night, the father passed by the pessimist’s room and found him sitting in the midst of all the toys, crying bitterly.

 “Why are you crying?” the father asked.

 “Because my friends will be jealous, and I’ll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff. I’m going constantly need batteries, and some of these toys are going to get broken.”

 He then walked past the optimist’s room and found the boy dancing for joy in the manure pile.

 “What are you so happy about?” he asked.

 “I know there’s got to be a pony in this pile somewhere!”

Smiling much, are you? What a perfect example of half-full verses half-empty!

Now let me do two things, One is to ask you a question: What if you woke up this morning and ONLY had the things and people in your life that you thanked God for yesterday…the traffic light that finally turned green, a winning scratch-off ticket, or the promotion you waited so long for? Who would you share your joy with?

Now the other thing I want to share…a poem…FULL OR EMPTY?

How full or empty would our world be, if we only had the things we thanked God for on bended knee?

Would we have a home, some food, or money? How about a job, some clothes, or our Honey?

Could we see with our eyes and speak with our lips? Could we walk with our legs and dance with our hips?

Would our children be there to tuck in at night? Would the sun wake us up with new morning light?

How full or empty would our world be, if we had only the things we thanked God for on bended knee?

Would we have friends and family to call on the phone? How about some ice cream on a cone?

Could we turn on the A/C or heater at whim? Could we hit the gym or sing a hymn?

Would our parents be there to spend some time? Would we find that lucky penny, dollar, or dime?

Would there be hugs, kisses, and love? What about chances to thank God above?

Would there be stars in the sky for wishes? How about mouths to feed and all those dishes?

I ask again, so you can reflect and think. Ponder on this the next time you blink.

How full or empty would your world be, If you had only the things you thanked God for on bended knee?

Full or empty? We choose.  Half-full or half empty? We still choose.

Let’s choose to look for the pony! I’m in! Are you?

 Lord, if you truly are with us at all times, how can we be anything but half-full optimists? Amen.

 

 

 

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

February 27, 2017

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave; never will I forsake you.

                                                                                                                                 Hebrews 13:5

While I don’t necessarily agree with some of his theological views; I do appreciate the writing style of Max Lucado and have a number of his books, including one titled When Christ Comes.  From that book comes the following story, a story about a parent’s unconditional love.  Part of that love centers around those closing words from the verse from Hebrews above…Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” As parents, we can only pray that ours is that unconditional type of love, a love that will transcend any and all negative things our children may do or become involved with.  But even that degree of love pales in comparison to the depth, breadth, and integrity of God’s love and compassion for us.  Lucado describes that kind of love in his story about a father, a son, tragedy and triumph, writing…

The 1989 Armenian earthquake needed only four minutes to flatten the nation and kill thirty thousand people. Moments after the deadly tremor ceased, a father raced to an elementary school to save his son.  When he arrived, he saw that the building had been leveled.  Looking at the mass stones and rubble, he remembered a promise he made to his child: “No matter what happens, I’ll always be there for you.”  Driven by his own promise, he found the area closest to his son’s room and began to pull back the rocks.  Other parents came and began sobbing for their children.  “It’s too late,” they told the man, “You know they are dead.  You can’t help.”  Even a police officer urged him to give up.

 But the father refused. For eight hours, then sixteen, then thirty-two…for thirty-six hours he dug.  His hands were raw and his energy gone, but he refused to quit.  Finally, after thirty-eight wrenching hours, he pulled back a boulder and heard his son’s voice.  He called his boy’s name, “Arman! Arman!”  And a voice answered him, “Dad, it’s me!”  Then the boy added these priceless words, “I told the other kids not to worry.  I told them if you were alive, you’d save me, and when you saved me, they’d be saved too. Because you promised me, “No matter what happens, I’ll always be there for you.”

Can you imagine God, our heavenly Father possessing this kind of passion for us, his children? Of course you can, because that’s who God is.  Take a few minutes to go back and look at that verse from Hebrews.  Let the author’s words sink in about what it means for your life…to realize that God has promised us that he’s never going to leave or forsake us, even when our problems mount and our struggles seem to be more unbearable that we could ever imagine.  God’s got our back!  That’s for certain!

In the musical, Camelot, the late Robert Goulet sang of his unending love, a love that would last through all the seasons of the year, a song that ended with this promise to his beloved…

Oh, no! not in springtime! Summer, winter, or fall!

 No, never could I leave you at all!

And that’s the measure of God’s endless love for his children, a love that promises… No, never could I leave you at all!

 What a friend we have in Jesus, a friend that will never leave us. Lord, what comfort we can feel in that promise.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

February 6, 2017

For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

                                                                                                                       2 Corinthians 6:16

 I don’t know about you, but every time I hear or read that statement from Second Corinthians, I find myself feeling more than a little overwhelmed. To think that the great God, the Creator of all there is, would choose to live in the lives of his children.  Scripture tells us we are “God’s temple, the home of the living God”.  God isn’t one to just make the occasional visit, to “check in” every now and then just to see how we’re doing.  Oh no, not God.  At our invitation he comes into our lives to reside.  As he said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them.”

This great and Almighty God loves us as no other earthly person in this life can. He’s there for us, ready to supply our every need.  He walks with us as our Guide, Helper, and Comforter.  He’s there with us all the time, to encourage us along the way.  He lives our lives with us, sharing our problems, our pains and our triumphs.  He is our God through his Son Jesus Christ, and we are his people.

There once was an old woman who lived in one of the almshouses in England. Someone once asked her, “Has the Queen ever visited here?”  “Yes,” was the old woman’s reply.  “Her Majesty comes to see me.”  “And does the King of kings visit you here?”  “No,” the old woman replied, “He doesn’t visit here, he lives here.”

Try to keep that thought in mind as you go about your busy day today. God lives in your life.  He wants nothing more than to be your constant companion while providing his best for you.  Have you allowed him to be at home in every part of your life…or are you still keeping some of the doors locked?

Lord, not so many weeks ago we sang these words…”cast out our sins and enter in, be born in us today.” Is there room in our hearts and in our lives for you?  There should be…after all, haven’t you promised us a place in your heavenly kingdom?  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

January 23, 2017

 

There are friends who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

                                                                                                                     Proverbs 18:24

 I received an email this week from my best friend from high school. He and I have kept in constant touch since he doubly surprised me with an email several years ago.  It was a double surprise because we had not seen or been in contact with each other in almost thirty years, and I was also surprised because I never thought of him as becoming some tech savvy person.  Now we send and receive emails at least once a month, talk on the phone several times through the year, and get together for lunch every October when I make my annual cider run back to Central Pennsylvania.

Now, while my next few thoughts may seem to have nothing in common with the paragraph about my old high school friend, hang with me for a paragraph or two.

One of God’s creatures that has always fascinated me is the spider. I’m fascinated by their species variety, their various behaviors, and the sheer beauty that some of them possess.  One species of spider native to various areas of the United States and also throughout the world is the crab spider.  It’s one of the more unusual of the arachnid grouping.  Unlike most other spiders, they don’t rely on a spun web to trap their prey.  Instead, they hide in flowers and wait for a honeybee, beetle or butterfly to come by searching for nectar.  Then they pounce, grabbing the insect with their powerful forelegs, and biting it.  With some varieties of this spider their powerful venom does the rest.

But insects are not this spider’s sole diet. The male of some species of crab spiders also sip on nectar and eat pollen.  Think about that fact for a minute.  Both the crab spider and the honeybee drink the same nectar.  From that liquid, the honeybee makes honey.  The crab spider produces poison.  Same liquid ingestion with two very different results.

The same is true of people. All of us breathe air and drink water.  We share some of the same experiences, but what we do with them, or what we “produce,” can be dramatically different.

There are those of us eager to gain wisdom. We people apply what we learn to our everyday lives, including our relationships.  When we see others going through difficult times, we offer practical help.  We offer prayers, send notes of support, visit, and share in the struggle.  We’re very careful our their words, offering only truth and encouragement.  Like the bee, we produce honey.

And then there’s the “crab spider” crew who think they already know everything they need to know. They don’t even bother to seek God’s wisdom.  They live their lives consumed with their own desires, not really caring what happens to anyone else.  Sometimes they will initiate a conversation and seem friendly, but all they’re really doing is gleaning tidbits of gossip to spread around and looking for things to criticize… all for the purpose of causing immeasurable harm.  These “crab spiders” produce poison.

These honeybees and crab spiders can be found everywhere…in schools, at the office, in our families, and, yes, even in our churches.

While growing up, I remember my mother’s sage, old advice about making friends; Take time to observe the behavior of others before building friendships. Sometimes the people who greet you first are not always the ones who will make trustworthy friends.  So always be polite, but watch carefully how people treat one another before establishing a friendship.  Carefully avoid the so-called friends who destroy each other.  It’s Proverbs that reminds us to seek true friends who will stick closer than a brother.

I was never lucky enough to have a biological brother, but I am blessed to call my friend “brother,“ both in life and in Christ.

So be careful to avoid the crab spiders as you seek out the honeybees in this life.

Lord, what a friend we have in you. Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

January 9, 2017

God has made everything beautiful for its own time, He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

                                                                                                                         Ecclesiastes 3:11

 Standing in the kitchen this morning, preparing breakfast, I paused for a moment to look out the window at our dogwood tree. Surprisingly, given the fact that quite a few years ago it lost two rather large branches during a particularly harsh winter, it has grown much larger than I ever thought it would, providing our patio with some very welcomed shade in the summer.  But the damage from those lost limbs has caused it to bloom and flower at a slightly different time than the ones my neighbor has across the street.  Thus, when his trees are in full bloom, ours sports nothing but green leaves with only the faintest hint of budding.  Right now it lies dormant with nary a leaf to be seen and snow covering the branches, but in another six months, there it will be with its abundance of green, as I wait anxiously (and somewhat impatiently) for it to produce its white flowers.  Until that happens, I suppose I’ll have to be content to enjoy the beauty across the street.

It’s all a matter of timing…God’s timing. The verse I listed above is part of a rather familiar passage from Ecclesiastes reminding us that “For everything there is a season”…God’s season with God’s own timing.  Everything that takes place in this life happens in God’s perfect time.  Solomon communicated this beautifully in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes.  Not only does he say there is a season, or time, for “every activity under heaven,” he ends his thoughts with this striking statement… “God has made everything beautiful for its own time”. What may look wrong, out of sync, or just plain ugly to us is merely God’s unfinished work.  They are his plans yet to be completed, and in his own time.  God has the ability to bring beauty out of everything…in its perfect time, which only he alone determines.  As King Solomon says, “we can’t see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end”. The amazing work of God is far beyond our comprehension.  So that leaves our role to be one of waiting patiently, trusting that he can and will make everything beautiful…even the messes of our own lives.

On this very cold January day, with all things covered by a mantle of white, most of what we enjoy as beauty in spring and summer now looks dead. But those “dead things” are merely asleep, awaiting God’s perfect timing, ready to grow and to bring new life and splendor once again to God’s magnificent creation.

So we wait, patiently, which is often the highest form of doing God’s will.

Lord, Solomon reminds us that there is a time and a season for everything…your time and your season. God teach us to wait for that time and that season, with patience and great anticipation.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

December 19, 2016

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

                                                                                                                               1 John 4: 8-10

 A group of four to eight year old Sunday school students were asked by their teacher…”What does love mean?” As usually happens with children, their answers are often sprinkled with wisdom.  It was young Bobby who responded…”Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.  Bobby is truly a child wise beyond his years.

The love of God expresses itself in innumerable and immeasurable ways. God is love, the only true and pure essence of it.  Without question, the clearest expression of his love took place when he sent his Son to earth to be our redeemer.  This Christmas, I would urge you to take the time to love as God first loved you: sacrificially, humbly, faithfully and joyfully.  And as young Bobby said, as you gather with your friends and family this holiday, take time to push aside the hustle and the bustle of the season to listen just bit closer.  For the greatest gift ever given wasn’t one that showed up wrapped in fancy paper with a big bow under a beautifully lighted and decorated tree.  It was the one that breathed its first breath in a bed of straw in a barn full of animals.  For it was as the angels pronounced to that group of lowly shepherds…”I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior…yes, the Messiah, the Lord…has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

 Most of us are familiar with First Corinthians 13, Paul’s “love chapter. Some time ago, I came across a Christmas rendition of that chapter.  As I share it with you here, hopefully it will provide a bit of insight into how we can love as God loves, especially at Christmastime.

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just a decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the tree with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on my love for Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.

My prayer for all of you this Christmas is that the gift of God’s love will be the one that outlasts all the others and that it will bring for you in the coming year his peace, his power and his presence for each of your days.

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

October 10, 2016

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

                                                                                    Psalm 118:24

 At the end of this week I’m going to make my annual fall cider run. Each year I make the three-hour plus trek back to a small fruit market west of Gettysburg to load up on the best cider I’ve ever tasted.  Ellie and I first came across this place when we lived in Gettysburg back in the 1970’s and I’ve been making the trip back that way every year since.  Just several years ago the trip took on an even more significant meaning when I received an email from my best friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen in more than thirty-five years.  Ever since that time we have gotten together for lunch somewhere in the area to share what’s been going on in our lives and to just enjoy each other’s company.  This week, hopefully, two more of our good friends will be joining us for this time together.

It seems like only yesterday when the two of us began looking ahead to this time together this year. We started seriously talking about it when I had to go back for a funeral for one of my aunts in July and we were able to meet over dinner.  Then, October seemed still like a long time away, but here it is.  How quickly this year has passed.  Time has this way of sneaking by us, doesn’t it, and not just the current year, but our life in general?  For instance, this past August I turned seventy.  How did that happen?!  Sometimes it becomes hard for us to gain an accurate perspective on time, either because of our busyness or because we simply refuse to acknowledge its passing or our aging.

But it doesn’t matter whether we’re young or old, whether time seems to fly by or drag on, we need to realize that life is fleeting.  Let’s face it, our desire is to live a long healthy life, but not all of us are granted that experience.  I know that’s my desire, but about a year and a half ago I received this wake-up call via a serious and life-threatening health issue that reminded me just how fleeting and uncertain life can be.  As Christians, all we can be assured of is that… “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” All we have for sure is this day and this moment.  There are no guarantees for a long life.  So, we owe it to ourselves and to the one who has created us to live every day to its fullest!… to God’s glory.  Each day of our lives is a gift that we need to treasure.

Now if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably wasted more than your fair share of days planning for or dreaming about the future. Some days, we’re so busy trying to get to our future that we fail to show up for today.  Don’t misunderstand me here, there’s nothing wrong with planning and dreaming.  After all, where would we be without planners and dreamers?  But we need also to be careful that we don’t abuse this gift of life in the process of forfeiting  today’s experiences as we frantically hurtle ourselves toward tomorrow.  God wants and needs our presence with him at this time and in this place.  God has created this day so that we can know, experience, and love him right here, right now, and so that we can use our lives to serve others.  So, however you may choose to go about it, you need to know, to experience and to love as you make the most of this day that God has made for you.

I once heard someone make the comment, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.” You know, the funny thing about that statement is that every time I’m with my friend, I can pretty much depend upon those words being part of what he shares with me…those, and his other go-to observation about life…”We have fun”.  I’m not sure just how accurate that ninety percent figure is, but what I do know is that saying has always rung true to me.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, time is fleeting.  So today, why not show up for life…for “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

 God, you grant us one day at a time. Help us to use this day to your glory and to offer our praise and thanksgiving to you.  Amen.

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

August 29, 2016

And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man… And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did prosper in his hands.

                                                                                                                             Genesis 39: 2-3

 You may not be aware of its existence, but there is a rather dangerous doctrine that has infiltrated God’s church, brought about by a terrible misunderstanding of our Lord’s teaching. It’s called prosperity theology or the prosperity gospel.  It had its origins in the 1950’s but has grown in popularity in recent years partly due to economic issues that have been plaguing our society for quite a few years.  One of its biggest proponents has been the Rev. (?) Joel Osteen, through his mega church and TV ministry out of Houston, Texas.  This false teaching or belief is practiced by some Christians who believe that financial blessing and physical well-being is always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations will increase their material wealth.  Based on traditional interpretations of the Bible in Judaism, it is less of belief in Christianity.  Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans, but only if humans have faith in God, then he will deliver.  This doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it’s God’s will for his people to be happy.  This atonement (reconciliation with God) is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which followers of this gospel view as curses to be broken only by faith.  They believe that this can be achieved through donations of money, visualization and positive confession.

We live in a world where prosperity has become the yardstick by which we often measure a person’s success. Usually we think of prosperity in terms of money or other material possessions (the more you’ve got, the more prosperous you are).  But in the passage above we read about a man who was prosperous, but in a different sense.

Joseph was the pampered son of a wealthy family. Angry at his perceived arrogance, his brothers sold him into slavery, where he finally ended up in Egypt, serving Potiphar’s house.  But in this story we also read that he was personally prosperous… prosperous because God was with him…”And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man… The Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand… He experienced the “prosperity of God’s presence.”

 God had a genuine interest in Joseph, so he watched over him and cared for him. And even though he may have been homesick and lonely, God remained with him, closer to him than any member of his family had ever been.  So, instead of pitying himself and feeling sorry for himself, Joseph remained cheerful and in such a way that those who were around him were readily aware of God’s presence in his life.  I’m certain that there had to have been times when Joseph experienced discouragement, defeat, depression and bitterness.  But even during those times his life reflected the strength of his faith.  It wasn’t until later, however, that Joseph was able to look back on his experiences and was able to say to his brothers, “But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God made it all good.” Through it all, Joseph was able to experience God in all his circumstances.

While God doesn’t promise we will always prosper in all circumstances, what he does promise is that he will always be with us. So, while we may not always experience “prosperity,” we can always experience the “prosperity of God’s presence with us, because, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us… “…for he has said, I will never leave you, or forsake you.

 Lord, may the greatest riches we ever possess be those of your love, mercy and forgiveness. Amen.

 

Another Word…by Gus Keiser

May 2, 2016

 

The Lord your God… will take delight in you with gladness…he will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

                                                                                                                         Zephaniah 3:17

 

I’m not a big praise song person. While I understand why many churches make them a part of their worship; I find them to be too repetitive and lacking a solid message.  For me, and many people benefit from this, they are nothing more than “feel good” songs.  There is one however, that proclaims a very fundamental but powerful message.  Perhaps you’ve heard it or even sung it.  It’s based on the words of Philippians 4:4…

 

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!

Rejoice, rejoice, and again I say rejoice!

Rejoice, rejoice, and again I say rejoice!

 

We hear a lot about rejoicing in the Lord, finding our joy in him, and being glad in his presence. And the very presence of God gives a lot with which to be delighted.  But doesn’t it seem rather odd to hear that God delights in us?  Hearing such words should carry our joy to a whole new level.  Think about it… our God and Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, the One worthy of more praise than we could ever give, that sovereign ruler smiles and sings over us. I don’t know about you, but I find that hard at times to comprehend.

 

We go about our lives busying ourselves with responsibilities and immediate cares, interrupted from time to time by that realization of God’s love as it sort of steals over us at unexpected moments… a brush of peace, a sigh of contentment, a whispered sentiment that our inner heart recognizes as its source…the Holy Spirit. It is these moments that bring relief to our scattered selves because we know that it’s God reminding us of his ever-present love.

 

But in addition to sharing his love, God is also letting us know that he is smiling on us. His smile not only shows love, but it also shows that in this world of dubious and shaky relationships, someone honestly likes us.  God by his very nature is love; but we too often conjure up this mixed-up view of him that paints him in a haze of frowns and angry-browed expressions toward us.

 

How unfair can we be to assume that he prefers grumpy instead of joyful toward his children? How many parents do you know who wear a chronic frown for their precious child who messes up every now and then but who earnestly wants to please their mom and dad?  God loves to smile on us as he helps us to grow.  Our behavior may not always earn a smile from him, but our identity as his children always does.  Some wise person once said…”God’s smile sets the flowers in bloom, the sun to shine, and his children at peace. How true, how true, how true

 

So, as God calms your soul for yet another day, let your mind adopt a new picture of him…as your heavenly Lord who smiles on you…his delight.

 

Lord, the thought of your smile makes us want to live more fully for you. May we bring that smile to your face more often.  Thanks for delighting in us.  Amen.