Fall has finally arrived. The leaves have started changing colors, the grass is beginning to start its winter nap, and the squirrels are gathering food in frenzy as they prepare for the upcoming cold. Yes, it’s about time!
Growing up, I thought the leaves changed colors because of the cooler weather, but that is not the case. As the days grow shorter, there is less light. The shortened days cause less photosynthesis in the leaves, thereby triggering a change in color from healthy green to oranges, reds, and yellows. All of this because of less light.
We as humans begin our change for the season as well. No doubt the sweaters and sweatshirts that were packed away last Spring have been unpacked and organized ready for the cooler temperatures. Our favorite sweatpants and sweatshirt now hang ready to provide warmth and comfort once again. Even the colors of our fall clothes sometimes mimic those we see in nature with deep reds, brownish yellows, and blacks. Yes, it’s about time.
The events we see unfolding around us with the changing season may cause us to contemplate about other events as we think back to the summer and look forward to a cold winter. We might debate about the lateness of Fall and how Summer hung on a little too long. We might have noticed the time in the evening that was light only a few months ago is now dark and the stars are visible. All these changes and more are orchestrated by the Master Builder, the Creator of all things!
In Ecclesiastes, scripture tells us there is a time for every matter under Heaven – a season for everything. The comparative list is long. We see a time for being born and a time to die. Also, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. There is even a time to be silent and a time to speak. These contrasts seem to bookend a time, or a season in our lives. We can even say some of these are light dependent, or more specific “Light” dependent.
The Light of Christ is a power thing. The more we have Him in our lives, the more His light shines through us. And with more light, just like the leaves of a tree, we stay full of life and shine in the presence of the Son. But the less we hang around in the “Light”, the darker we become. We lose our connection to the Vine and we wither and may fall away from the source of our strength.
We may like the change of the season, or we may not. We must admit it is time. This week let’s continue to reflect the light of Jesus in a dark world that needs a little brightness! Remember, it only takes the light from a single candle to drive out darkness. Yes, its about time we drove darkness out by carrying the light of Christ everywhere we go!
A common phrase we hear in many sports circles is “strive for perfection.” The goal is to execute the perfect play, or to have the perfect golf swing, or to make a perfect basketball free throw every time. Perfection can be, and sometimes is the only level of performance we accept. But if it’s carried to extremes, we develop a “perfection obsession.”
There is nothing wrong with setting excellence as a goal. But are excellence and perfection synonymous? Excellence defined is “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” Nothing in the definition indicates excellence is error free! So why do we associate the two together? And what damage to our society is being done by doing so?
Go to any little league baseball game anywhere during the summer and you’ll see the ugliness of perfection, or the insistence of it. Parents are yelling at their child through the chain-link fence because they’ve missed a grounder or a fly ball! And heaven help the umpire who makes a call that could have gone in favor of either team! Soccer games are no different. Physical altercations are commonplace at these venues, much to the amazement of the children on the field.
One more example of unachievable expectations manifested in human behavior can be seen at public forums. In all levels of our government, federal, state, and local levels, people can be seen applauding and jeering when a presenter, or even a public official’s character is attacked! While this situation is unfortunate for all involved, the loss of emotional control prevents the most simple logical decisions from being accomplished.
While we shake our heads at what we see in our society today concerning perfection, don’t think for a moment we have cornered the market in modern times. As long as humans are involved, excellence will be the victim of the perfection attitude.
An example of someone always taking the lead in actions, words, and thought is Simon Peter. He was called Cephas as well as Peter by Jesus, both translated as “Rock.” Rocks can be hard, solid, and larger ones can be difficult to move. This describes Peter’s personality, but not his actions. He was the one who stepped out of the boat and walked to Jesus on the water. But he let his emotions gain control and fear caused him to sink. He along with two other disciples saw Jesus transfigured on top of Mount Hermon, and immediately Peter took the lead on building shelters…..until the voice of God came from a cloud! Then Peter’s humanity kicked in and he fell to the ground hiding his face in fear.
It was fear that caused Peter to sink in the water. It was fear that caused him to fall face down on Mount Hermon. And it was fear that caused him to deny Jesus three times the night Jesus was arrested and tried. In spite of all of his humanness and shortcomings, Jesus still saw a strength in Peter. Before His ascension, Jesus restored Peter even after all his failures to His Lord.
Humanity was created in perfection. Adam and Eve let their humanness get in the way and they fell short of their intended perfection. But just like Jesus restored Peter, God will restore us every time we fall short. He knows we are human. And if you think of it this way, God has forgiven our sins through His Son, and therefore we are seen as perfect in the sight of our Heavenly Father.
Let’s not let our humanness get in the way of our worship to the one person who sees us in the perfection of His creation, nor loving our neighbors as we love ourselves!
Numbers mean different things to different people. You have statisticians who use
numbers to describe properties of a group of people, whether it is behaviors, medical conditions,
or in this day voting preferences. Entire companies and corporations have been established for
the sole purpose of gathering numbers (data) and using them for predictive purposes. But be
wary, statisticians can make numbers say what they desire. Numbers do not lie, but the use of
them can be questionable.
Numbers are sometimes called a language all their own. If you don’t agree, try to read a
statistical or algebraic formula without knowing the language! Trying to read an algebraic
sentence can be as daunting as trying to read a foreign language which is written in characters,
such as Chinese or Japanese. Without being educated or fluent in this type of language, you will
be hard pressed to understand it.
Numbers however are also called a universal language. Hold up one finger in a foreign
market and point to a fruit, and you’ll get “one” of what is receiving your pointing. Two means
a pair of something and so on. The use of numbers has been in existence since creation to
delineate time, quantity, and measurements.
God created the heavens and the earth, and then created man and woman – two. God did
all this in six days and rested on the seventh. In the days of Noah, it rained forty days and forty
nights. Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a whale, or a fish. Jesus referenced this
same number when He told His disciples He would spend three days and three nights in the heart
of the earth (See Matthew 12:40). God uses numbers throughout His Holy Word to help us
understand significance in His kingdom. Even though God uses these numbers, He would rather
we pay closer attention to events.
During creation, was a day really twenty four hours long? Did it really rain for forty
days? Did Jonah really spend three days and three nights in the belly of a fish? God wants us to
look at the significance of the events and not dwell on the finite numbers our human brains
understand. Thank God creation happened. The Great Flood happened for a purpose. Jonah’s
mind was changed and once being deposited on the beach, He decided to follow God’s
instructions (and it only took 3 days to do it in a very convincing way!!).
God is event driven. But there is one number that is very important to God, and that
number is ONE. That is the number of steps it takes to return to Him. No matter how far we
stray from Him, He says He is always with us. The journey of one step is ours to take, not His.
Let us remember, the journey to God or back to God is only one step in length. All we
must do is turn toward the destination and take that one step. Therefore, the number one can be
the most rewarding and life-giving numbers we’ve ever known.
Remember, one step is all it takes to receive ever-lasting life, and can be the most
lifesaving and life-giving number you’ll ever know!!!
In today’s society, we are driven by titles. The military is very strict on titles, having everyone called by their rank and then their last name, e.g. First Sergeant Walker, or Chief Walker. But sometimes titles can be very misleading. As an example, a person we are all familiar with, the school head janitor can be called “Director of Refuse Relocation.” While this is a little amusing, here are a few titles that actually exist: “Wizard of Light Bulb Moments” (Marketing Manager), “Beverage Dissemination Officer” (Bartender), and finally “Genius” (Sales Associate at Apple), which isn’t far from the truth for us technically-challenged adults!!
Professionals in the workplace have nameplates on their desk, placards on their office door, and business cards with their names on them and of course, their title. We define ourselves by what we do, especially by titles. We’ve become accustomed to hearing a person’s title and making an immediate judgement, thinking we know the person.
Years ago, a politician I was engaging with became a little short on patience while discussing a statute. He said, “Do you know who I am?” In reality he should have said, “Do you know what I am?” I responded (gently) to his question, “Sir, I know what you are, but I do not know who you are.” He was taken aback and asked what I meant by my response. I quickly smoothed his ruffled feathers by telling him I knew what he was, but I didn’t know WHO he was! I knew nothing about his character or his person, only what his career path was. Face it, it’s easy to identify each other by our titles. But they only define what we are, not who we are.
The Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus for the purpose of strengthening the believers in their Christian faith. To remind them who they were, Paul wrote “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
God has a plan for His creation from the first moment of His creation until, well, for eternity. Paul is reminding the people in Ephesus they were created by God’s wonderful craftsmanship to carry out His plan, which is good works through His Son. This is who we are. God continues to have a plan, and created us to carry out the workings of that plan.
If someone wants to define what you are, first and foremost you are the result of the Master Craftsman; the same Craftsman who created the entire universe and all that is in it. We are a product of God. And remember, Christ Jesus defines who we are by His sacrifice. We are His workers, bought by His blood, for a life in eternity with our Heavenly Father! Therefore, be strong knowing who, and whose we are!
Growing up my grandmother and mother both told me “don’t point fingers!” It was hard to understand at an early age just exactly what they were trying to teach me. And no, I didn’t learn after the first warning!! Many times, my hand was slapped when I continued to point because I didn’t heed the teaching point, no pun intended.
As I grew, I realized pointing a finger toward another was an outward sign of disrespect and in some cases aggression. A finger “poked” to the chest on the playground was just a way to either silence a classmate or to invoke a physical response. Regardless of the reason for the “poking”, it made both individuals appear less respectful to others.
In our world today there is a lot of finger pointing. We can open the paper or watch the news broadcast and hear about one country blaming another for violating their coastline or their airspace. Tensions then escalate and the verbal finger pointing turns to physical finger pointing, and the whole world hopes the finger pointing doesn’t turn into a “finger poking.” We all hold our breath in hopes cooler heads will prevail, whether between the two countries or with the help of a third party.
We seem to have a lot of finger pointing in our nation’s Capitol these days, both verbal and physical. One side of the aisle points an accusatory finger at the other, and it even occurs between the different branches of our government. Whether it is to draw attention away from one’s own actions, or to bring attention to another’s actions, the same disrespectful behavior initiates the controversial rhetoric – a finger point! If my grandmother was alive today, she would be doing a lot of hand slapping!!!
Finger pointing is not new to our times nor our society. In Chapter 3 of Acts, Peter and John stand before a gathering of people in a place called Solomon’s Colonnade, a place not far from the temple, and a place where Jews and Gentile alike could gather together. Peter had just healed a man who was born lame. The lame man was a beggar, and expected money but Peter and John had none. Peter told the man to stand up and walk in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, to which the man did. His leaping and praising caused quite a stir inside the temple. This didn’t set well with the religious establishment of the day.
Peter and John moved from the temple to the Colonnade, where he was able to address Jew and Gentile alike. Peter begins to speak boldly to everyone, and it appears he places blame for the crucifixion on the Jewish people – but that’s not the case. Peter calls them “friends” and acknowledges their actions were out of an ignorance of the prophets and Jesus’ own teaching. He called all to come together, repent, and turn to God.
Peter’s message is still very true today. We need to stop the finger pointing in every aspect of our lives, and find ways to call each other “friend”, repent of our disrespectful ways, and let the presence of God guide our actions toward one another and in our worship to Him!