More Than Simply “Thank you”

Thanksgiving 2019 is over, but as the weekend nears its end and December begins, I’ll carry with me the words of the Lord from scripture that were impressed upon me this week. As Thanksgiving day approached and as I began to think about its meaning, and as I thought about that first Thanksgiving feast shared by the English colonists and the Wampanoags almost 400 years ago in 1621, the simplicity of the holiday came into focus. Thankfulness — an important, but very simple act. The realization that blessings and provisions from God abound around each of us every day. The understanding that even though we may work hard to provide for ourselves and our families for our basic needs, those needs are ultimately met by God. Every blessing we possess and enjoy is a gift from God. 🎵 Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. 🎵

But how can we, and should we, show thankfulness to God for His many blessings? That question led me to narrow down to a few basic directives given in the scriptures. Thankfulness is not just in saying the 2 simple words “thank you,” but it’s in living out a life of thankfulness each and every day. It’s in being sincerely grateful to God for His bountiful blessings, not just on this holiday, but every day that He gives us breath. If the realization occurs that our greatest blessing is God Himself, the desire to express sincere thankfulness naturally follows. Sincere thankfulness requires action. For this Thanksgiving week, I chose a simple biblical directive on which to reflect for each day of the week.

Sunday: Worship God.  

[WORSHIP = an act of reverence or homage]

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! (Psalm 95:6)

Monday: Serve God.  

[SERVE = to work for, to labor in behalf of] 

Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you. (1 Samuel 12:24)

Tuesday: Obey God.   

[OBEY = to comply with, to follow commands of, to submit to authority of] 

You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. (Deuteronomy 13:4)

Wednesday: Love God.

[PHILOTHEIA = love for God….associated with worship and devotion towards God]

And he [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. (Matthew 22: 37-38)

Thursday: Thank God.

[THANK = to express gratitude to]

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. (Psalm 9:1)

Friday: Praise God.

[PRAISE = to extol in words or song; to magnify; to glorify on account of perfections or excellent works]

Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. (Hebrews 13:15)

Saturday: Follow God.

[FOLLOW = act according to the lead or example of]

You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. (Deuteronomy 13:4)

HOPE NUGGET:

🎵 Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning. Give me oil in my lamp, I pray. 🎵

Not by Might, Not by Power

Fellow believers in Christ, does it seem like you’re getting nowhere when trying to make a difference in the Kingdom of God? Is it harder and harder to remain a Christian and to stand for righteousness in a society whose moral compass is disintegrating farther and farther away from the principles of God’s word? Are you discouraged by dwindling numbers in your church congregation? Do you feel like walking away and starting new somewhere else or do you feel like throwing in the towel altogether? 

It could be that you are right where God wants you to be. Have you considered that His desire is for you to be completely dependent upon Him? Perhaps you need to know that it’s not by your might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord that moves mountains (Zechariah 4:6). Zerubbabel was given the task of leading the first group of the return of Jewish people to Jerusalem after their exile to Babylon. After the return, he was appointed governor and oversaw the Temple construction. It had been about 70 years since Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed. Zerubbabel and the people faced their fair share of challenges and disappointments, but the Temple was completed and dedicated with much rejoicing. Even though Zerubbabel’s temple was smaller in size than Solomon’s, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” said the Lord (Haggai 2:9).

The church fellowship I attend in a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania has diminished in size over the years. Our congregation has faced challenges and disappointments that we never would have expected. In our place of worship where services were attended in recent years by 100-plus worshippers, the average attendance has dropped into the 20s. It can be quite discouraging, especially for those of us still there who had experienced the times of numerous activities and successful outreaches with more than enough enthusiastic volunteers. The church prospered and grew and it seemed as though God’s blessing was upon it.

Grace Fellowship Church of Everson….come visit us!

Despite the low numbers and despite the many changes that have occurred in a relatively short period of time, our small church is mighty. We are mighty in our faith and in our commitment and service to God. Within the past few weeks alone, we have shown love and compassion not only to those within our congregation, but to many outside of our church and in our community. God reminded me of some of those specific ways in which He is working in and through our fellowship of believers: *supporting members of our congregation at the passing of a family member by donating funds in memory of their loved one to an organization which makes and gives wigs to cancer patients free of charge, *visiting with an elderly congregant who is hospitalized, *donating to keep our community’s Christmas lights up and running (THE MOST BEAUTIFUL Christmas lights of any small town in the USA!), *paying the heating bill of neighbors in town (strangers to us) who were in need, *purchasing items for 20 gift bags to be given to Pediatric ICU patients in a nearby hospital this Christmas, *donating to a fundraising campaign for our local library, *having a prayer walk to pray for specific homes in our community, *participating in a pro-life community event. And besides holding weekly worship services, Sunday School classes and prayer meetings, we minister each Wednesday evening to boys and girls who attend our Awana children’s program!

Besides all of that, there’s much more that we’re involved with on a regular basis, such as supporting missionaries in the U.S. and abroad and monthly layette donations to a local crisis pregnancy center. We have not allowed our size to discourage or to dissuade us from being the hands and feet of God. He has remained faithful to us and continues to give us the strength and the hope we need to be His servants and to be used as He chooses. Maybe you’re in a similar situation or maybe even in a larger congregation that needs encouragement because you think you’re too small to make a difference. That’s just not true. If you are faithfully following Christ in obedience, staying true to the word of God, and seeking Him in prayer to use you and to use your particular body of believers, He’ll take care of the rest. Let Him have His way. Remember that it’s not by your might or power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.

Our small community in Everson Pennsylvania has the most wonderful display of Christmas lights! Grace Fellowship Church members help to hang the lights each year and help to keep the lights burning with our donations.

HOPE NUGGET: And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. [Galatians 6:9]

The Authentic Church

You can revoke our tax exempt status. You can attempt to silence us. You can try to pressure us into rejecting long-held and orthodox teachings of Christianity which are woven throughout the Bible. You can try to force our doors to be closed. But The True Church, God’s Church, will never be stopped; it will never be quieted. Why? Because God can’t be stopped. He will preserve His Church and He will preserve His word until HE declares that the end has come.

Around the world and throughout history, many attempts have been made at shutting down Christianity, but to no avail. Currently in China, there has been a severe crackdown on Christianity by the Chinese government. The police have confiscated Bibles, Christian schools and a seminary have been shut down, hundreds of house churches have been closed, and pastors have been detained and threatened with imprisonments. Some Christians have gone into hiding. The government has even gone so far as to rewrite the Bible, saying that they will establish a “correct understanding” with their new state translation. It’s an all-out war against Christianity. History has repeatedly shown that when The Church faces persecution, growth occurs. The official figures from the Chinese government state that there are about 44 million Christians in the country. According to Freedom House, a U.S. human rights group, this number is closer to 100 million if those belonging to “underground” or “house churches” are included. Despite the severe crackdown, the number of Christian converts is increasing.

Have you ever heard of King Jehoiakim? His story can be found in the Bible, in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah. God had commanded the prophet Jeremiah to write down the words that He gave to him on a scroll. When Jehudi, Jeremiah’s scribe, read the words from the scroll to King Jehoiakim, the King used his knife and began cutting off pieces from the scroll and throwing them into the fire. Eventually the entire scroll was consumed in the fire. It didn’t end well for King Jehoiakim who ultimately faced judgment from God… “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity” [Jeremiah 36:30-31]. As for the lost scroll and the words of God? They were re-written by Jeremiah’s scribe at the command of God and were preserved. 

At a recent event in the United States, this question was asked of a Democratic presidential candidate: “Do you think religious institutions, like colleges, churches, charities…should they lose their tax exempt status should they oppose same-sex marriage?” His answer was stunning, yet was not a real surprise to those who have been paying attention to the cultural shift: “Yes.” Is this what the citizens of the United States of America want for our country? Will it be okay with our population if the First Amendment is trampled upon? Do the citizens know and understand the words of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?  [Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances].

The authentic church will not surrender to the demands of the government when those demands are in direct conflict with the teachings of the Bible. The authentic church will not be silenced in sharing the truth of the Gospel of Christ. The authentic church will remain obedient to the commands of Christ even if it becomes difficult. Even if it is financially difficult. Even if broken relationships result. Even if hard times come, like they have in China for followers of Christ. The true and authentic church of Jesus Christ will remain, without compromise, in obedience and in steadfast service to Him.

HOPE NUGGET: 

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. [1 Corinthians 15:58]

An Incredible Act of Love and Forgiveness

An exceptional example of Christian love and forgiveness is being shared across the internet. Many who have shared it also most likely grieve the loss of an innocent man, Botham Jean, shot down while sitting in his own apartment. A terrible and tragic and unnecessary death, one which should never have happened, one which the family and friends of the young man and the shooter now must spend the rest of their lives living with grief, suffering, regret, and guilt.

Brandt Jean hugging the killer of his brother
Video of Brandt Jean offering forgiveness: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NkoE_GQsbNA

Most anyone who has read the story or seen the video of Brandt Jean, the young man who now lives without his beloved brother, is in awe of the words that he spoke to his brother’s killer and of his request to hug her in the courtroom. It’s impossible to watch without becoming emotional and without wondering if you would respond as he did had you been in his shoes. Instead of taking from this the outcome of an incredible act of selflessness, forgiveness and love, there is a minority of those who instead must tweet their “just a word for the white people” or who write their “Dear white people” letter.

In the “just a word for the white people” tweet, it was said that “If you didn’t share about Botham Jean’s murder and weren’t willing to say #BlackLivesMatter, save us in tweeting out the hug.” In the “Dear white people” letter, it was said “I will judge the way so many of us in the white community are so quick to applaud black people for forgiving white murderers.” In both of these instances, the writers take it upon themselves to assign motives to the folks who have shared the courtroom video and story.

I say this INSTEAD: perhaps, just perhaps, we “white people” applaud ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, A GODLY MAN, for extending amazing grace, love and forgiveness to one who most likely doesn’t deserve it. We applaud him, NOT because of skin color, BUT because of our admiration for him. Admiration given because we doubt we could do likewise in the same situation. I take issue with both of the assumptions made, but if it makes the writer of the letter to white people feel better by making those assertions, fine. Most of the rest of us will go on admiring and respecting Brandt Jean, regardless of the color of his skin.

As amazing as the act of love and forgiveness shown by Mr. Jean was, a much more amazing act of love was shown by Jesus Christ. The sinless Son of God willingly laid down His life for the world. Christ – a completely, sinless and innocent man – willingly dying for sinners, for the unrighteous, for those filled with evil, for the God-haters [read Romans 1]. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us [Romans 5:7-8]. But that’s exactly what He did. But why? For Love. He did it out of Love.

HOPE NUGGET: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life [John 3:16].

In the Beginning, God.

Our family enjoys homemade foods and prepares them as much as possible. We like growing our own organic vegetables and fruits, picking wild berries, and preserving canned and frozen foods for later use. We feel blessed to have our own little garden paradise. A while back, I became interested in making homemade apple cider. We started out by purchasing a small tabletop fruit press. It worked well, but was good for just making small amounts at a time. It became obvious that we needed a bigger press to handle the amount of cider we wanted to process. Fortunately, my husband is somewhat of a “jack of all trades.” He often jokingly adds “and master of none,” but that’s what a man of humility says. Anyway, plans were found online to build a larger fruit press and the wood, tools, and metal parts were purchased. After a lot of hard work and time on Scott’s part, we ended up with a masterpiece! The result was a beautiful homemade fruit press which we now use in the fall to prepare fresh apple cider!

In the biblical account of creation, the Garden of Eden is first mentioned in Genesis 2:8. In the verses prior, we read of the creation of the heavens and earth, light, plants, animals and man. God Himself planted a garden paradise; it was perfect, unlike the lovely, but imperfect garden growing in our yard. In His garden, God caused to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, along with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9).

God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17). It was there in the Garden of Eden where God created woman out of one of the ribs of Adam. Sadly, in this beautiful garden which God marvelously created, man (and woman) failed. Creation became marred by sin. Through the freewill given to man by God, the choice to sin was made. With that choice came consequences – consequences which would forever affect all of mankind.

HOPE NUGGET: 
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…..For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ [Romans 5: 12, 17].

To Christian Supporters of Tax-Payer Funded Abortions and Abortion Rights…

Every single one of the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates supports the current policy of abortion on demand. Additionally, each of those ten also believes that all tax-paying Americans should fully fund abortions in the U.S. and around the world. One would think that taxpayers, including liberals, conservatives, non-religious, (and especially Christ-followers) would join together in opposing such propositions. Instead, when conservative Christians state our opposition to this type of use of (what I actually believe to be misuse of) tax dollars, we are accused (even by liberal-leaning Christians) of being one-issue voters who are “cherry-pickers” when it comes to being pro-life. We are accused of loving the death penalty, endless wars, putting kids in cages, etc. HUH?????

I won’t take the bait when it comes to equating abortion with immigrant children being detained at the border. Do I though think that the border situation is worthy of discussion? Yes, of course. Do I know that current border practices have occurred under and been accepted by both liberal and conservative administrations? Yes. Even if we agree that changes should be made at the border to improve conditions for the children and adults entering there, and even if we don’t agree on the death penalty or war or government-funded contraception or minimum wage, or other social issues, does that mean that we cannot agree that hard-earned tax dollars should not be used to fund abortions in America and around the world? 

Lila Rose, founder and President of Live Action

When pro-lifers assert that abortion is the killing of innocent human life and that the government should have laws against it and that the practice of abortion should not be funded by tax dollars, questions like these are fired back at us: “Have you adopted any children? If you’re really pro-life, shouldn’t you support all proposed government programs which pay for every need of the children of single mothers? Why is it that you only care about babies before birth, but not after they’re born? Why are you in favor of enforcing U.S. immigration and border laws?

In spite of all of the pro-choice arguments I’ve heard, my personal experience and ministry involvement over the years have shown me that conservative Christians have, more often than not, been the most generous and most consistent pro-life individuals of any. They donate their time and resources to support local food banks, youth shelters, juvenile detention centers, prisoners, families of prisoners, pregnancy support centers, children’s hospitals, needy families, and a host of other local needs in the community. Not only do they care for the needs of women and children and families locally, but they do so throughout the state, across the country, and abroad. The argument that pro-lifers stop caring for children after they’re born is complete and utter nonsense and a lie which can be easily debunked. I have been witness to the exact opposite on more occasions than I can remember.

The pro-choice movement, on the contrary, devalues life and dehumanizes the individual, thereby making it very dangerous. It is not a movement rooted in the best interests of women, and certainly not of children. When pro-choice activists oppose laws which require a pregnant woman to have the option of viewing a sonogram before her abortion or when they’ve opposed having adoption resources available at abortion clinics, it is obvious that the pro-choice movement is wicked.  It is a movement of death. It is impossible for Christians to consistently follow Christian teachings while supporting abortion rights. To claim to do so is making a very serious moral and scriptural error.

Live Action is a pro-life advocacy movement whose mission is to end abortion by leading the culture to embrace the rights and dignity of every person. Recently, Live Action produced an extremely informative and interesting video series in which Pro-Life Replies are given to Pro-Choice Arguments. Please watch this very worthwhile series….

Live Action video series: Pro-Life replies given to Pro-Choice arguments

HOPE NUGGET: Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself [Isaiah 44:24].

The God of the Broken-Hearted

Have you ever had the experience of being close to someone whose heart has been broken? It can be an extremely helpless feeling. No matter what words you prepare and rehearse, you know that there’s nothing you can do to take away the pain. It’s a difficult place to be for the one who is on the outside looking in. It feels as though your heart is breaking too, breaking for the one who is suffering through a tragedy or loss or painful trial. It’s not always possible to be physically present with the one who is hurting. Sometimes distance stands in the way of giving a hug or putting your arm around a shoulder or crying together.

God, what should I do? What can I say? How can I be supportive? How can I help to ease the pain? I talk to God a lot, pretty much throughout the entire day. When I ask a question, I try to listen for the answer and I believe that He’s given me answers many times. Those answers haven’t always come in ways that are expected. Sometimes the answer comes in that still small voice. Sometimes, it’s through a scripture passage. Sometimes it’s through another person. Yesterday it was through music. It came when flipping through YouTube videos on my iPad while cleaning up after dinner.

“Say something that says something …. sometimes the greatest way to say something is to say nothing at all.” The answer came in the form of a duet by Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake. Song lyrics can be interpreted in whatever way the listener chooses. I knew what those lyrics meant for me at that moment. They meant that the greatest way to help ease the pain in this situation was to say nothing at all. They meant that “He [God] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). They meant that my role was to love by simply sharing scripture passages. They meant that what was needed for the brokenhearted was not to hear from me, but from God. But God. The God of the Broken-Hearted. 

HOPE NUGGETS:

*The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

*Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

Camouflaged (2)

Camouflage is an adaptation that is used as a survival technique in the animal kingdom. It is a way for animals and even for humans to blend in with their environment. When my husband served in the Army during Desert Shield / Desert Storm, he was provided with desert camouflage uniforms known as the Six-Color Desert Pattern or sometimes referred to as Chocolate Chip Camouflage. The purpose of wearing the pattern of light tan, pale green and two-tone brown with black and white spots was to blend in with the desert sands of Saudi Arabia. The black and white spots were designed to mimic the appearance of pebbles and their shadows. Wearing a uniform of those desert colors was a way of being undetected by the enemy which helped to provide safety for the service members.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (June 1991)

Through some research, I found that animal camouflage is also referred to as cryptic coloration. Small animals such as lizards, snakes, insects and frogs blend in with their environment by using this unique adaptation to avoid becoming prey. These animals are often the same color as the leaves or twigs around them and some of the insects are even able to look like the twigs or leaves. They use camouflage to mask their location, identity and movement. One of the most beautiful and interesting animals to use camouflage is the Eastern Screech Owl. This little owl has the ability to hide in plain sight in tree holes with its feathers camouflaged to match tree bark. The camouflage is used as a means to protect its home and to capture unsuspecting prey which venture close.

Eastern Screech Owl

In my previous blog post, I wrote about the command of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to Christians to let their lights shine before the world. I wrote about the green bean patch in our garden and about how the green beans were so well hidden in the bushes. I wrote about how sin causes us to blend in with the world rather than standing out and being separate as representatives of Christ. Since that last blog post, I returned to our garden to gather more beans from our little patch. This time while picking, a few beans fell from the plants to the ground below, becoming lost beneath the thick bushes. It made me think of the dangers of blending in, of having the idea that no harm will come by having partnership with the world. It’s a frightening thought…lostness. Yet, by looking at the lifestyles of many who proclaim Christ, it appears that the possibility of lostness does not occur to some. It seems that they believe they can look and act just like the world without detrimental consequences. It is really a very dangerous place to be. Christians are certainly in the world, but by no means are meant to be of the world. Instead of adding more and more layers of camouflage, why not be obedient to God and clothe ourselves in the righteousness of Christ? It is in Him where safety is found.

HOPE NUGGETS:

*I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness [Isaiah 61:10a]

*Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.  [1 John 2:15-17]

Taming The Tongue

A few years ago, a Christian leader who I was associated with, posted a facebook comment about Bruce Jenner which was meant to be humorous, but which I saw as childish, unnecessary and unbecoming of any Christian, let alone by one serving in an influential leadership position. I wanted to voice my opposition, but stayed quiet and responded by simply using the dislike button. Later, I noticed a meme, which I assumed to be a further attempt at humor, shared as a reply to that initial post by a Christian friend of that leader. The meme was insulting and derogatory with images of Bruce Jenner as an Olympian and Bruce as Caitlyn on Wheaties cereal boxes. This time, I hoped that because the meme was a bit outrageous, that my associate would delete his post or at least the meme. It didn’t happen. I waited. Nothing. Days later, still there for the world to see. I finally disliked the meme and wrote something like “Christians don’t help matters by posting comments like these.” 😥 The meme was eventually deleted, but the initial post made by the Christian leader who I was associated with, remained.

Recently, a young adult Christian friend and I were having a facebook chat. She pointed out that a number of times she has seen those who proclaim Christ agreeing with or sharing the photos or memes of “Facebook took this photo of Melania down – share our beautiful First Lady” (We’ve all seen them). While that’s not bad in itself, what IS bad is what’s often being implied and by what can be seen in the comments added … “FINALLY, we have a beautiful and classy lady in the White House again!” And “Finally, she is so much more beautiful than Michelle or should I say MICHAEL” and “Yes God bless her. She is so classy, not GROSS like Michelle the Monkey!” 

If you participate in this kind of horrible nonsense, shame on you. It’s wrong. It’s not Christlike! I will tell you that I don’t believe that Bruce Jenner is a woman, but a man who is in need of psychological help. I will tell you that I am more of a conservative than liberal in political ideology and policies. I will also tell you that I don’t believe it’s appropriate or helpful to spread hateful or ugly memes or comments about Jenner or to compare the looks of Melania and Michelle, by insulting one or the other. I will also tell you that I believe they are both beautiful and attractive women. 

The insults and lies come flying from all directions, from all political persuasions, from left and right and are wrong no matter who makes them. Christian friends, we must control our words. We must consider how our words will affect others. We must ask ourselves if our words will be a blessing or a hindrance to others. We must speak words of truth and guard what comes out of our mouths and off of our keyboards and from our pens. We must allow God’s word to be our source of guidance for our words and actions. We must obtain wisdom for our behavior through prayer and through the reading of the scriptures. 

HOPE NUGGETS:




CHRISTIANS, THE WORLD IS WATCHING…AND LISTENING…(So is Jesus)… A few words of warning from the Bible: ~~~“Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3). ~~~“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6). ~~~“I tell you, on the day of judgment, people will give account for every careless word they speak” -Jesus- (Matthew 12:36).

Stirring up a Hornet’s Nest

My first time picking blackberries with my granddaughters ended with an experience that I’ll never forget. The sun was bright in the hot afternoon last Saturday here in southwestern Pennsylvania. We were prepared with our supply of sunscreen, water bottles, bicycles, wagon and berry buckets and headed out onto the trail. 

We had previously scouted out some good patches of berries near one of the trail’s access points which we knew would be easy to reach while pulling the wagon with little girls. With plans to host a family birthday party picnic the next day, our goal was to pick 3 quarts of berries which we’d use to prepare a special and refreshing fruit drink that our family enjoys. 

For each 12 ounce can of Sprite or 7UP, add 1/2 cup of blackberry mixture & ice

We arrived at our spot and stepped off the trail down into the weeds and brush where the berry bushes were growing. With 4 adults picking, it shouldn’t take long for us to gather the needed amount of berries. We had finished picking in the first patch and had moved on to the second. Fortunately, the girls had already tired by this point, so were back up on the bike trail with their mom and uncle and away from the berry bushes. Their dad (my son) and I were pushing on to finish gathering the remaining berries from this final patch of the day.

In order to reach the berries which are farther back on the bushes, it’s necessary to step blindly into the weeds and brush, not fully knowing what’s beneath. After years of berry picking, we’re used to dealing with sometimes difficult conditions and often come away with various bug bites and scratches from the sharp thorns. This time though would be different than usual. I took one step, then another, then another until I felt the first stinging pain on my elbow. I thought that it must have been one big mean fly to hurt so much and swatted at it while telling my son that I had just gotten bit.

Meanwhile, whatever had just bit me, was now buzzing and circling at my face and zooming in over and over. Before I knew it, there were more “flies,” which I would soon realize were hornets. They were swarming now and aggressively attacking, and as I was instinctively backing away from them and getting more stings, I heard the voice of my son telling me to get out of there and to start running. If it wasn’t for him being closeby and swatting the bees away from my back and legs and arms, I would have likely ended up with more stings than the five I received.

Just some interesting information about the differences (**steroids)

It was a pretty painful experience. One which I’d never had before that day. Three days later, I was still feeling the pain and effects of the stings. In the hours that followed, I thought of how sin operates in our lives. How we take one step in towards it, not realizing what’s below our feet or what’s ahead in the next move we make. How with each step forward, we gain confidence when nothing bad occurs. It seems safe enough. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the stings begin, one after the other, ferocious and painful, until we succumb to them or run from them, sometimes needing the hand of a friend to pull us away or to fight for us.

Years ago, while teaching a middle school Sunday School class, one of the kids shared a saying with me that I’ve never forgotten: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” The biblical definition for sin is: rebellion against God or transgression of the law of God. Sin hurts. It is painful. It has consequences, sometimes terrible consequences. Don’t stay in it. Run from it. As fast as you can. Turn to God in repentance. He is waiting for you.

HOPE NUGGET: O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath! For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me. My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off. Those who seek my life lay their snares; those who seek my hurt speak of ruin and meditate treachery all day long. But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth. I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes. But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. For I said, “Only let them not rejoice over me, who boast against me when my foot slips!” For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me. I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. But my foes are vigorous, they are mighty, and many are those who hate me wrongfully. Those who render me evil for good accuse me because I follow after good. Do not forsake me, O Lord! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! [Psalm 38]