Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely , whatever is of good report, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, ponder on these things. - Philippians 4:8

Saturday, December 28, 2013


     Christmas was over, and for the most part, Bill Peterson thought everything had gone quite well. With that behind him, he thought he should start thinking about what came next. That is what he was doing when Stella came stomping down the stairs. “Resolution #27” Bill thought to himself, “Make it so Stella can't stomp down the stairs.”

      “What are you doing?” snapped, “Writing Christmas thank yous?” “Resolution # 28 remember to write Christmas thank yous before summer is over.” Bill thought to himself and then turning to Stella, he said “You know what time of the year it is.” “Oh, yeah.” Stella replied, “It's that time of year when you sit down and make a list of New Year resolutions.”

      “So, have you started yours? Bill asked. “Yeah.” Stella answered, “I've started mine. Do you want to hear it?” “Sure” Bill said, “What do you have on your list?” “Well,” Stella said, “The first thing on my list is to make sure I always get even with Harold.” “What!?” Bill gasped. “The second thing on my list” Stella continued, “Is to torture Harold at every opportunity.”

      “Hold it right there young lady.” Bill interrupted her, “That is not the way we are to treat people, not even Harold.” “Who said Harold was a person.” Stella started to argue. “Not only is he a person, he’s your brother.” Bill reminded Stella, “Well, I don’t care.” Stella said, “He deserves it. He never hesitates to make my life miserable so I’m going to make his twice as miserable.”

      “Does than mean you plan to be twice as bad as him?” Bill asked “Nobody can be that bad.” Stella snorted. “Well,” Bill said, “If you treat Harold like you are planning to, you’ll have to become just like him.” “I never thought of that.” Stella sighed. “Besides,” Bill added, “I thought Harold has decided to change.” “If you believe that...” Stalla scoffed, “I have some lake front property to sell you in the desert.”

     “You don’t believe Harold will change do you?” Bill asked. “Never in a million years.” Stella said, “He will always be the same. Rotten to the core.” “This time he said he was going to let Jesus change him” Bill said sticking up for Harold. “Yeah, right” Stella scoffed again, “Tell me another one.” “Well, “ Bill went on, “How many bad things has Harold done since the sleigh ride?”

     “A hundred!” Stella said with confidence. “Well,” Bill Bill said, “What are they?” “Well, uh, uh, uh,”Stella stuttered, “I don’t know but he had to have done something wrong.” “I thought you just said he did a hundred things wrong.” Bill questioned, “Did you see him do a hundred things wrong?” “Well, he's Harold!” Stella snapped “He had to have done something wrong.”

     “Sounds like you need to make some change.” Bill said. “You know.” Stella snapped, “I don’t have to stand here and listen to all this talk of Harold changing. I’m leaving,” and then back up the stairs Stella stomped mumbling under her breath, “I don't need to change. I'm already perfect.”

      And Saul approved of his murder. That very day the church in Jerusalem began to suffer cruel persecution. All the believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria. Some devout men buried Stephen, mourning for him with loud cries. But Saul tried to destroy the church; going from house to house, he dragged out the believers, both men and women, and threw them into jail. Acts 8:1-3 (TEV)

     Can God change a person? We nay think of Saul the persecutor but we think more often of Paul the persecuted. They are one in the same but what happened? Let's look at his story.

      But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." And all who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?" But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.
Acts 9:1-31 (ESV)

     There is a little more to the story if you want to read it all but you can get the point, Saul changed but the people didn't believe it. He changed because God can change a person.
  • Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, (ESV)
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (ESV)
  • Titus 3:5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, (ESV)
     Change can happen, it can happen for Harold, it could happen for Stella, and it can happen for us if we are willing to let Him.

      Here's Something To Ponder
  • Are you willing to let Jesus change you?
  • Are you willing to accept the change Jesus makes in others?

Saturday, December 21, 2013


     Trying to do some last minute Christmas shopping, Daisy Smith wandered through the mall. After hours of walking sh sat down for a bite to eat in the courtyard As it turned out, the table she sat at was right next to a group of girls from church and she couldn't help over hearing several them talking about the sleigh ride that had been held at the McDonald's farm.

      “Speaking of last night.” Daisy heard Tracy McDonald say, “I think I received the biggest surprise of my life.” “Hi Tracy.” Daisy said wanting to get in on the conversation, “Did I hear you say you received the biggest surprise of your life last night?” “I think we all did.” one of the other girls piped in.

      “Did it have something to do with the sleigh ride last night?” Daisy asked. “Yes and no.” Tracy answered. “So,” Daisy said, “What was the surprise then?” “Harold!” The girls all yelled out at once. “I should have known.” Daisy said shaking here head. “What did he do this time? No, Let me guess, Harold did something to the horses.”

      “No,” Tracy shook here head. “He covered the seats with super glue?” Daisy asked next. “He did that last year.” Tracy said. “Then what kind of trouble did he get into this year?” Daisy wanted to know. “Actually,” Tracy replied, “He didn’t do anything wrong.” “I can see why that would be a big surprise.” Daisy said a bit surprised her self, “Was he sick or something?”

     “I'm not sure.” Tracy said, “But I do know he wasn’t acting his normal self.” “Did he say why he was acting different?” Daisy asked. “He said it had something to doing with Christmas and giving Jesus the unperfect gift.” one of the other girls answered, it was Bernadette. “The unperfect git?” Daisy questioned, Don't you mean the perfect gift?”

     “Yeah,” Tracy went on to explain, “He said he wanted to give Jesus the perfect gift but Barney’s list didn’t have anything good on it. So, Harold decided to give the unperfect gift.” “Well,” Daisy said wanting to know, “What was the unperfect gift that he gave?” “Himself!” The girls all said in unison. “Harold gave himself.”

     “What?!” Daisy shouted out in surprise. “That's right.” Tracy said, “He decided to give himself to Jesus. And he wasn’t going to try to be good on his own anymore.” “Since when did Harold ever try to be good?” Daisy injected, “Do you think he was serious?” “I doubt it.” Stella sneered. “I sure hope so.' Tracy added, “But I wouldn't hold my breath. But then, he was well behaved last night. Makes you wonder.” “Wonder indeed.” Daisy said and then got up to do some more shopping.

     It's that time of year when we think about gifts both giving and getting. It's that time of year when we should also be thinking of the greatest gift and the greatest gift giver. James 1:17 says Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (ESV) Of all the gifts that God has given, the greatest gift He gave was His Son. John 3:16 says For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)

     Too many times this greatest of gifts is rejected and even attacked but not always. No, I'm not going to look at the Wise men and their giving of gifts but a couple of men, who like Harold, gave themselves to God.
  • The first was an Ethiopian - Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot." So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. … Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?" And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. Acts 8:26-38 (ESV) He was reading scripture but couldn't understand it. Philip was sent to explain. He gave himself to God.
  • The second was A Jailer - The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Acts 16:22-33 (ESV) He put Paul and Silas in Jail but they kept singing. He tried to kill himself when he thought they had escaped. He heard good new and gave himself to God
     We are told:
  • For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (ESV)
  • For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)
  • And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15 (ESV)
  • For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV)
     Here's Something To Ponder
  • What kind of gifts has God given you?
  • What have you given God?

Saturday, December 14, 2013


     It was less than two weeks till Christmas and it seemed like everyone in Daisy's Sunday School class was bubbling with excitement, well almost everyone. As Daisy glanced around the room, she noticed Barney sitting off in a corner by himself staring at a blank sheet of paper. “Everything okay< Barney? She asked walking over to him.

     “Yeah,” Barney said with a sigh, “I'm just working on a list.” “Isn't it getting a little late to be making a Christmas list now?” Daisy asked. “I finished mine two weeks ago and I'm almost done with it.” “Oh,” Barney sighed, “I'm done with my Christmas list too. This is a different list I'm making and I'm finding it very hard to make.”

     “I didn't know making lists were hard.” Daisy said hoping to get Barney to let her in on his list. “I didn't think so either.” Barney told her, “But this list is no ordinary list.” “Is there any way I can help?” Daisy asked. “There might be.” Barney said as he perked up, “Harold asked me to make a list of all the good things he has done.”

     When Daisy heard what Barney's list was he was trying to make, she started sputtering and coughing. “A list of all the good thing’s Harold has done?” She said, “That's more like impossible.” “That's what I'm discovering.” Barney said in agreement. “Maybe the kids here can help.” Daisy said and then called out but all she got was a bunch of blank stares like she was nuts.

     “I already tried that.” Barney said. “I got the same results. “Well,” Daisy said, “Maybe I can come up with one. How about the time... No I guess that won't work. How about... No that won't work either. There's got to be something good that Harold has done.” “I thought so too.” Barney said. “But I have been having a very hard time. As you can see, my list is empty.”

     “How long have you been working on the list?” Daisy asked. “About a week.” Barney replied. “Did Harold say why he wanted the list?” Daisy asked. “He figured he could use it to get on God’s side.” Barney replied, “He was sure God wouldn’t want him the way he was so he wants to try and impress God with a list of all the good things he has done.”

     “Oh, bother.” Daisy said in disbelief, “That's never going to work.” “I know.” Barney said, “I can't think of anything to put on the list.” “Even if you could fill the list with a hundred things,” Daisy said in return, “It still wouldn’t work. You can't get on God's good side like that.” “Try telling Harold that.” Barney sighed.

     “I have an idea.” Daisy said, “Why don’t you remind him of the right way to get on God’s good side, Jesus.” “Why didn’t I think of that.” Barney said as he wrote JESUS on his list in big letters.” I think I can do that.”

     In Genesis 2:8-9 we read that the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made 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, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (ESV) - Imagine being in God's garden planted just for you.... and then imagine if you will - Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD 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. (ESV) How much better could it have been?

     It didn't last – they ate of the tree - Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever" therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24 (ESV)

     Man was kicked out of the garden and forced to stay out. Many have tried to get back but unsuccessfully.. God needed to provide away. He told Satan (the serpent) I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15 (ESV)

     So, how did God make a way? Let's go to the Christmas story.

      In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)

      Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Matthew 1:18-21 (ESV)

  • As the Scriptures say, "No one is good— not even one. Romans 3:10 (NLT)
  • Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (ESV)
  • I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 (ESV)
      Here's Something To Ponder
  • Do you ever feel like Harold – That you need to get on God's good side?
  • Are willing to accept God's way for salvation?

Saturday, December 7, 2013


     “How can one family go through so many eggs so quickly” John McDondald thought too himself as he prepared to drop off another six dozen eggs at the Peterson house. “Most family's go through only 1 or two dozen eggs a week but this is the third time this week.” After ringing the door bell, John waited patiently for what seemed like ten minutes before a young lad answered the door.

      “Hi, Harold” John said as the door opened, “I have some more eggs for you. “Oh, great!” Harold exclaimed, “I need all I can get for my huge egg omelet I'm making.” “A huge omelet?” John said a little puzzled. “Why do you need a huge omelet?” “Well,” Harold said, “Remember that dragon you told me about in the book of Revelation? Well, I read about it.”

     “Oh” John said, “So, how are you going to defeat him?” “I'm not.” Harold responded, “I have decided he is to big for me.” “I thought you might.” John said with a grin, “Nobody can.” “As a result.” Harold when on to say, “I have made a decision to try and get on his good side.” “What?!” John exclaimed in horror when he heard that.

     “There’s no way in the world I could ever beat him, so I am going to try and get on his good side.” Harold went on to explain, “So I'm making him a huge egg omelet. I heard dragons like them.” “Harold,” John said shaking his head, “He doesn't have a good side. Not only that, but in the end, he will be destroyed along with all of his followers.”

     “I thought I read that in the story.” Harold said bowing his head. “I guess that leaves you with just one choice.” John said. “What's that?” Harold asked, “Get on the winning side.” John said. “You mean God's side?” Harold asked “That would be impossible.” “No it's not.” John assured him. “It is for me.” Harold responded, “There is no way in the world God would ever want me.”

     “What makes you think that?” John asked. “Because I’m no good.” Harold claimed “And even when I try to be good I still cause all kinds of problems. Remember last year when I cleaned my room?My Mom ended up in the hospital, the doctor went into shock and Stella became mean.”

     “Sounds like one of the dragons tricks.” John said, “He is a master at deception. Even better than you, Harold.” “So,” Harold said in wonderment, “What kind of trick is he playing?” “Just making you think God wouldn’t want you.” John answered, “Well, I still don’t see how God could want me.” Harold protested.

     “He loves you.” John said. “I suppose He does.” Harold said in agreement, “But He must be an awfully big God to love me.” “He sure is.” John said with a big smile, Now, what do you want me to do with all of these eggs?” “Hmmmm.” Harold said thinking, “Maybe I'll save them for Easter, that's only a about four months away.”

      And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Acts 8:1b (ESV)

     And there arose on that Day .... Six chapters earlier the church had begun with an awesome start – over 3000 – but there were those who didn't want the church to grow and would fight against it no matter what – Saul was one of those men. We read of Saul...
  • Acts 8:3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (ESV)
  • Acts 9:1-2 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. (ESV)
  • Acts 26:9-11 "I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities. (ESV)
     All this and yet we read that God, that Jesus Christ wanted him. Acts 26:12-18 - In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles— to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' (ESV)

     Maybe, just maybe, there are times when you feel like Harold Peterson, you feel that God wouldn't want you, that you've been too “bad.” When that happens, remember Saul / Paul and remember these verses.
  • 1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (ESV) Paul didn't think you could be worse than himself.
  • Luke 2:8-10 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. (ESV) It is the time of year when we remember that Jesus came for all people.
  • 1 Timothy 2:3-4 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (ESV) God's desire is for you to be saved. We are reminded of this in the familiar verse - John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)
     Here's Something To Ponder
  • Do you fully embrace God's desire for you?
  • Do you desire God?