“To be or not to be, that is the question…” William Shakespeare, Hamlet
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” J.R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

There are many notable lines in classic books but I can’t recall ever meditating on them for long periods of time. Though gifted writers all, the persons who penned the sentences etched in readers’ memories are all human beings and their written words probably don’t reach the status of ‘life-changing.’

We know human beings wrote the Bible too, but there is a unique quality to Scripture that sets words in a different category. How can a person read the same passage over and over and gain fresh insight previously undiscovered? Why do believers constantly go to Scripture for sustenance? How can unbelievers be convicted and radically changed by encounters with God’s Word?

God’s Word cannot be disconnected from the Father, Son, and Spirit. The apostle Paul wrote: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)

Led by the Spirit, the apostle John calls Jesus ‘the Word’ in his writings: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) And “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God.” (Revelation 19:13)

The Word of God is supernatural: “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates to dividing soul and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)

No one handled Scripture as well as Jesus, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us “rightly divide the Word of truth.” Many during His days on earth knew the words but missed the Message. “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” (John 6:39-40) Jesus knew that He is the main Message of Scripture.

Jesus also knew the power of His Father’s written Word. Three times in the wilderness He resisted the devil with: “It is written…” followed by enemy-defeating Scripture. (see Luke 4:1-13) Surely Jesus aims for us to use the same Sword of the Spirit as we stand against the one who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

I’m a proud Grandpa when I hear our four grandchildren quote memory verses their parents have helped them memorize. David wrote: “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11) My prayer for my grandchildren, my children, my wife, myself, and all of us is to allow the Holy Spirit to bring Scripture to life in the way the Father intends and to let us experience the ‘life-changing’ Message of Christ, the One who loves us and died for us — Jesus, the Word of God.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

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joyful thanks

If the apostle Paul visited us during Thanksgiving, he might encourage us to praise God for two gifts we sometimes overlook. He prayed and wrote so believers would grasp what it means to have an INHERITANCE and to have SALVATION. Paul must have believed that the more these blessings were understood, the more we would live courageous, generous, and grateful lives.

Be thankful for an INHERITANCE.

Give “joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:13) .

“When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)

Be thankful for SALVATION.

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:1-9)

Happy Thanksgiving!

“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:15-19

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img_2941Despite the majestic basilicas, impressive cathedrals, and rich history of the nation, less than 1% of the 47.5 million people of Spain claim to have a true relationship with Christ. Young people do, however, find Jesus in the 25 Christian camps throughout the country. Since L’Arcada has been in existence nearly thirty years, children of campers who came to the Lord quite a while ago are now attending the same camp their parents did

Dave and Cindy Bintz, missionary friends we visited in 2019, speak about the transformation that takes place as a young person puts faith in our Savior. At the end of a summer, most leave camp and return to a town where there are few, if any, followers of Jesus. L’Arcada has a strategic plan to stay in touch, disciple new Christians, and help them find churches, but the lack of fellowship is a real challenge.

Dave and Cindy witness the fruit of the Holy Spirit as the young people return to summer camp as workers or campers. “Sometimes, we will stand outside the kitchen door and listen to the teenagers sing praises to Jesus as they wash the dishes. They are so happy to be in fellowship with others who also have experienced the life Jesus gives. We often cry for joy.”

This must be the joy Paul experienced as he thought about and prayed for the churches he and others planted throughout the world. He once wrote to the Colossians:

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people — the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world — just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.” (Colossians 1:3-6)

God gives the gift of His Spirit to those who receive Jesus as Lord. “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…”(Ephesians 1:13) The gospel brings life, change, and fruit. We can thank God for His Spirit; we can pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the world; and we can ask Him to use us to spread His kingdom.

“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14

(photo by C messier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

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giving thanks

keightleyThe child of God cannot wait until official holidays to thank our Father in heaven for His incredible blessings of love and mercy. We recently celebrated Keightley’s second birthday. She is so sweet and unique. Everyone calls me Opa as a Grandpa, but a month ago Keightley started calling me Opie. I told Kinsey her daughter has permission to call me anything she’d like.

Taylor’s volleyball team ended up with the state runner-up trophy this year after an incredible season. Saturday, as I watched his girls battle a strong Holy Innocents’ team, I could not help but remember a thought I had last year as Hebron won the state championship: “Wouldn’t it be great if Taylor’s youngest sister Karlyn could have the opportunity to coach while teaching school?” I shared this thought with others and it became a matter of prayer.

As you know, Karlyn was hired at GAC to fill a late opening at the very end of the summer. She loves her students and is doing a great job. After school started she was asked to help with the JV volleyball team. Now, I’ve been asked to coach a sixth and seventh grade girls’ basketball team and the varsity coach asked Karlyn to be her dad’s assistant. What a joy! (If you want to see some excellent basketball, I can probably arrange some tickets…)

bintzThis past weekend Dave and Cindy Bintz visited our home. Dave was a coach and athletic director in Florida for 37 years before God called him and Cindy to the mission field. Susan and I visited them in the Catalunya region of Northern Spain in the summer of 2019. Camp L’Arcada (which means ‘The Archway’) was established in 1991 and the Bintzes have run the athletic section of the Christian camp for the past six years.

Less than 1% of the citizens of Spain know Jesus as Savior and Lord. Familiar with the tragic episodes of abuse in their nation’s history, generations have rejected or simply ignored all religion. Young people love sports in Spain and Christians from Europe and America have used athletics as an avenue to present the gospel. Only after trust is built and relationships are established does there seem to be a chance to effectively share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ. There are 25 Christian camps throughout Spain and it is estimated that 80% of all who come to Christ in the whole country find Jesus in these settings.

Susan and I witnessed the beautiful way Dave and Cindy serve God. Though living in a culture very different from ours, they love people and pray for all to come to know the Father who created them and gave His only Son for them. The Bintzes work hard, believing the gospel has the power to overcome all the strategies of Satan, whose aim is to keep everyone in darkness.

The apostle Paul had this same hope. Once he saw the light and surrendered his life to the King, he wanted all people everywhere to understand and experience a righteousness that could never be gained by human effort. Everyone, Jew and Gentile, has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but through Jesus a way has been made for any person to be saved. Paul declared the power is the gospel. He, as have multitudes in the centuries to follow, shamelessly made every effort to proclaim the ‘good news’ to the world. Let’s give thanks for the gospel.

“Now brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve.” I Corinthians 15:1-5

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God to bring salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17

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The Bible says when Jesus returns the archangel will give a loud shout and God’s trumpet will sound. (see I Thessalonians 4:16). When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, there were shouts of ‘Hosanna’ and the religious leaders asked Jesus to silence the shouts of children. Jesus pointed them to Scripture.

The crowds that went ahead of Him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”…

The blind and the lame came to Him at the temple and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things He did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked Him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants You, Lord, called forth Your praise’?” (Matthew 21:9-16)

God must like shouting about His Son. Twenty-five years ago Martin Smith, lead singer for the British band Delirious?, wrote a song encouraging us to do our part:

Men of faith rise up and sing
Of the great and glorious King
You are strong when you feel weak
In your brokenness complete

Shout to the North and the South
Sing to the East and the West
Jesus is Savior to all
Lord of heaven and earth

Rise up women of the truth
Stand and sing to broken hearts
Who can know the healing power
Of our awesome King of love

Rise up Church with broken wings
Fill this place with songs again
Of our God who reigns on high
By His grace again we’ll fly

Shout to the North and the South
Sing to the East and the West
Jesus is Savior to all
Lord of heaven and earth

“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.”
Psalm 95:1

“Shout To The North” ©1995 Curious? Music UK/PRS

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