Monday, October 22, 2007

Verse for the Week

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. ~ James 1:26-2

Tomorrow is the feast day for St. James of Jerusalem, Apostle and brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. I thought it fitting that we ponder one of the many gems found in his short epistle (letter). James has instituted a religious test, but not for government office. Instead, James' test is for seeing if our religion is pure or worthless. The rest of the epistle deals with practical Christian living as well, so if you are in need of a refresher course, just consult James this week. He'll help you out.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Verse for the Week

... if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. ~ Romans 10:9-10

In late July I received a call from a man named Bill, a retiree who had moved to the area four years earlier. Some time before, Bill had been diagnosed with advanced, untreatable prostate cancer which had now spread to his bones. He was waiting to die. He wanted someone to come and visit with him. I took another man from our church and we went. A few days later he called back and wanted someone to talk with him about being saved. I went back and we read several scriptures together, including the one above. Bill prayed according to the scriptures and was saved. He told me he was no longer afraid to die. He attended church a few times, but was soon too weak and in too much pain to leave home. He wanted to be baptized so the pastor and I made arrangements to baptize him at home. A few weeks later he was moved into hospice care and then died on Saturday, October 6, and was buried the following Tuesday.

Why do I recount Bill's final days? As a reminder to myself and you of what we have in common with him. First, we are going to die. Bill had more knowledge of when he was going to die than we do, but we share with him the terminal illness of mortality that brings us all down in time. Second, we are in need of a Savior. Bill came to learn that his own efforts would not be sufficient, he needed someone to save him for he could not save himself. Whether we are cognizant of the reality or not, we cannot be our own savior. These two things all people hold in common, mortality and neediness.

But Bill's story has a third thing which some may not hold in common with him. Faith. Bill placed his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior and received grace.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Verse for the Week

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble. ~ Daniel 4:37

Ol' King Neb had to learn a hard lesson. Though he had been warned in a dream that he would be brought low, he didn't listen or change his arrogant ways. While standing on the roof of his palace he looked out and asked, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?" The rhetorical question had hardly been uttered when a voice from heaven declared "The kingdom has departed from you".

Neb lost his mind and lived like an ox, eating grass and sleeping out in the open. It took some time, but Neb eventually regained his right mind. How? When he finally lifted his eyes to heaven and knew that Heaven rules.

God values humility. He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. And everyone will acknowledge His rule, in this life or the next. Jesus told his disciples, "Whoever who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." We don't want to be found exalting ourselves on the Day of the Lord, when he returns to judge the earth. Let us listen to Neb and learn from his mistake and humble ourselves now.