There is another sign on the highways that we have no difficulty following, because we know that an accident will surely occur if we disobey its warning.
No matter what your language may be, when you see the arrow going in a certain direction, you understand that such direction is the only correct one.
In the Bible, Jesus tells His disciples that He will be leaving them very soon. John chapter 14 details this conversation between Jesus and his closest friends:
“”Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
How many ways are there to God the Father? Just one – belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as the One-Way sign points to the correct direction to be followed on the highway to avoid disaster or death in an accident, Scripture details the one way to avoid disaster and eternal death. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross for our salvation. He said it clearly – “I am THE way”. He did not say “I am A way” as if there were more than one option.
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Signs – they are helpful, instructive, humorous, and some remind us of eternal consequences.
I pray that if you have not sought the Lord, please do so now. Scripture has told us everything that we need to obtain eternal life. Now is the day of salvation. Now is the time to go the right direction on that narrow road to salvation.
Father, I pray that those who read this missive would be touched by Your Spirit. If they are already believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, may their faith be renewed, and their spirit be encouraged by these words. If the reader is not already a believer in our Lord, I pray that Your Spirit would quicken their heart and that they would realize their need for the Savior.
When we visited our daughter in Texas, she took us on a tour of some of the missions and monuments erected in and about San Antonio. It was fascinating to look at these sites and to think about the people who lived at the time they were built.
Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo was known as the “Queen of the Missions” that were built in the San Antonio area.
The priests’ rooms were built down an exterior corridor along the side of the mission.
The priests’ rooms along the corridor at the mission.
The mission was like most Spanish missions, it was not primarily a place of worship. Rather, the mission was the focal point of activity for those living in the area. It provided safety within its walls, when many of the people lived in much less secure homes. It provided social interaction and communication among neighbors who loved long distances apart. It provided a community of people who lived together and, then, who worshiped together at this place.
Mission San José has been restored and it illustrates how all the missions might have looked over 250 years ago. The grounds are beautiful and induce a sense of tranquility even though, when the mission was in use, it was bustling with activity, people and produce.
The missionaries who established the Mission San José worked on behalf of their Lord and Savior in bringing Christ to the people who had not heard of Him before.
While we may not erect buildings such as the Mission San José, we do have an obligation, as believers in Jesus Christ, to tell others of His sacrificial death and of their need for a Savior.
Jesus told us to spread the gospel in Matthew 28:19 when He said:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
This was repeated in Acts 1:8 when Jesus told the disciples:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The Apostles then and the Christian believers since then have been under Jesus’ commission to be witnesses of His gospel in our home city, in surrounding areas, and to the end of the earth. That is what missionary work is – first at home, then in local areas (home missions) and then around the world (foreign missions).
Paul understood the obligation to preach the gospel to all he encountered when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:16:
For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
Paul saying “Woe to me”? He understood the mandate to reach others with the Word of God. His conviction was so strong, that he stated this warning. We would do well to take heed to these words.
It has been said that if we do not tell others of their sin and of their need of the Savior, we do not have a right concept of heaven and hell. If we truly believed that the unrepentant person would spend eternity in suffering in hell, we would be on the street corner grabbing any and all who would stop in our effort to avoid having even one person in that horrible place.
Missions – it may be a beautiful stone structure in which God is proclaimed and the Christian life is lived out as a testimony of the power of the gospel.
Missions – it may be speaking to people in a foreign country about God and about His Son to a people who have never heard of a God of love and grace.
Missions – it may be living a Christian life in witness to God’s grace before your coworkers and being ready to speak to them of sin and punishment, of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death, of grace and unspeakable joy in the Lord Jesus.
Missions – it may be teaching your children or grandchildren of God’s love and of Jesus’ death on the cross, leading them to learn of Him and praying that the Spirit would work on their behalf to seal them as Christians.
The following poem was taken from a tract published by Christian Laymen’s Tract League many years ago, as it was found in my Uncle’s well-worn Bible:
Speak out for Jesus
You talk about your business, your bonds and stocks and gold;
And in all worldly matters you are so brave and bold.
But why are you so silent about salvation’s plan?
Why don’t you speak for Jesus, and speak out like a man?
You talk about the weather, and the crops of corn and wheat;
You speak of friends and neighbors that pass along the street;
You call yourself a Christian, and like the Gospel plan –
Then why not speak for Jesus, and speak out like a man?
Are you ashamed of Jesus and the story of the cross,
That you lower His pure banner and let it suffer loss?
Have you forgot His suffering? Did He die for you in vain?
If not, then live and speak for Jesus, and speak out like a man.
Here is a musical offering that I pray will be a blessing to you. Ms. Robin Kochis is singing “How Beautiful” from the album Great is Thy Faithfulness. How beautiful are the feet of those that bring the message of Jesus Christ to a lost soul seeking relief from sin that only Jesus can bring.
May each of us, both men and women, bear His message wherever we go without being ashamed to raise His name!
Lord, forgive me when I have failed to speak your name to others. Forgive me when I have kept your gift of salvation to myself and have not shared with others the joy and comfort of an intimate relationship with the Creator God who we can now call Father because of your sacrifice. I praise You, my Lord and Savior. Give me the wisdom, strength and courage to speak your name to others today.
In channel surfing one evening, we stumbled across Animal Planet’s program “Too Cute, Puppies.” There also is such a program for kittens and likely for other critters, but being the ultimate “dog persons” we focused on the puppies. The program episode follows 3 or 4 breeds of dogs from the birth of a litter through the first 3 or 4 months of life, narrating the various experiences of newborn pups when they open their eyes, try to walk, roll over the step from the house into the yard, experience grass and leaves for the first time, etc. The puppies roll, stumble, trip and fall over each other. They investigate their world and sometimes get stuck, the film capturing their little legs and feet pummeling the air as they try to get back into the house!
In short it is an entertaining, but cogent, reminder that real growth is risky. It does not come easily. We know this to be true from our own experiences. For example, I say that I want to be svelte, but those tight muscles and appropriate curves come only after long hours of exercise and disciplined eating, which for me would be a fiery trial to be sure!
Children need to run and play to develop strong muscles and bones.
However, in this day of electronic gadgets to entertain them, it sometimes requires a firm hand to get them outside for proper development and growth.
Sometimes the challenge can be a bit daunting, but perseverance will pay of with plenty of fun and a sense of accomplishment.
But, even as we stress going outside, we know that such adventure and learning does not come without bumps, bruises and sometimes even broken bones … unpleasant by any definition! Indeed, as adults, we can fall and break bones even when we are not running or jumping … for example, I fell in Alaska when those stairs just popped up out of nowhere!
What is true for our physical development is also true for our spiritual development. When we look at our own history, we often can see that real spiritual growth came during dark times and difficulties, not when everything was hunky‐dory. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we learned valuable lessons and we gained insights and blessings even during the difficult times that we endured. Indeed, the fall in Alaska proved enriching to our spiritual lives as we watched, first-hand, the provision that the Lord made and as the Church ministered to us in ways that we cannot begin to explain.
The Apostle Peter says it like this in his first letter in Scripture:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV
James, the brother of Jesus, says it this way:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
James 1:2-3 ESV
The King James Version translation of verse 3 says “knowing that the trying of your faith produces patience.”
Our daughter worked at a Christian camp in New Mexico one summer, teaching repelling off mountains. She sent this picture of her “office”.
She related to me one of the devotional thoughts that she gave her campers after they spent the day above the tree line on the top of the mountain with beautiful views of the surrounding area below. Her thoughts are given here, not verbatim but in general concept.
If we stand on top of a mountain, above the tree line, the vista stretches out below us, and it is beautiful. Usually, we remember that “mountain top experience” for a long time. But a careful look around reveals that, actually, there is virtually no significant growth up there. The rarified air might be crisp and clear, but it does not support growth.
Looking down toward the valley below, we can see trees, bushes, perhaps a hodgepodge of things, maybe just a blur of green. No matter what we see from the top of the mountain, the truth is that growth occurs in the valley amongst the difficulties and challenges that daily life brings.
It is important for us to have a mountain-top experience every once in a while. We need time when we hear the Lord speak to us, when we know His presence in a very real way, and when we can receive energy, direction and new resolve to do His work in our world. But, our Lord does not want us to spend all our time there.
How do I know? Because He did not remain on the mountain-top. Remember Jesus’ transfiguration?
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.
Mark 9:2-4 ESV
And after this discussion with Moses and Elijah, the Father spoke from heaven saying:
“This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
Mark 9:7 ESV
Jesus was on the mountaintop with a transfigured visage along with Moses and Elijah. The Law and the Prophets were giving him strength, encouragement, support and resolve to face the persecution, cross, rejection and pain that was fast approaching. His Father again confirmed His love for Jesus.
It was a highlight moment for Jesus and for the three disciples who accompanied Him. In fact, Peter wanted to build tents for them at the top of the mountain, thinking that they would be there awhile. Mark 9:5.
But, Jesus knew that He had to come down from the mountain so that He could do the work that the Father had entrusted to Him. He had to face the cross and defeat Satan and sin so that those He called to Himself could be cleansed by His righteousness that would cover their sin and filth. Jesus knew that if He was not this sacrifice, His people would have no hope of joining Him with the Father in heaven for eternity.
He had a job to do. No tents necessary, Peter, we’re doing back down to the world.
That time on the mountain was important for Jesus. The time on the cross was important for us, and Jesus was totally aware of both these realities.
I am convinced that no experience the Lord sends or allows in your life is a wasted experience. You may not see the connection between the experience and where you are going, but God does. That class you struggled with in school … may well be the subject that you will use in your ministry years later. That relationship which resulted in rejection and abandonment … may well be the event that will unleash strength in you so that you can undertake ministries that you would never have dreamed of before.
If you were privileged to have had a “mountain-top” experience in your life, cherish it and recall it when you encounter difficulties. It is a gift that the Lord gives to you in preparation for what will be coming ahead. But, don’t bemoan the fact that you have to come down from the mountain. Praise the Lord for both the mountain-top experience and for the valley with its difficulties as they strengthen you when you are drawn nearer to the Lord.
The top of the mountain is pretty – but real growth occurs in the valley!
Father, you for those times you granted a “mountain-top” experience. Thank you too for being with me in the valley during the times that I experienced hardship and pain. Even when I cried under the load, you were there aiding and caring for me, with your Spirit interceding when I could not do so. I praise your name, Father. Enable me to love you with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength.
I received an email from a friend that told the story of a grandson talking to his grandmother about current events. The grandson asked his grandmother what she thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and just things in general. In reply, the grandmother thought about what was different when she was a girl of about the same age as her grandson.
The list was extensive, but here are some of the things she listed for him …
I was born before:
space walk or space station
FM radios or tape decks
Videos, CDs or DVDs
The email story went on with many more examples of the differences and then she asked her grandson – “How old do you think I am?”
From my perspective, she was not very old! She was born in 1952 … I would have been 4 years old when she was born!
The email was humorous when reading it but profound in its message … changes have come to us so rapidly that we have not been able to really adjust to one set of conditions before new situations are presented to us. Take the iPhone for example; phones are hardly used for phoning someone anymore; they are computers, cameras, calculators, internet browsers, maps, and games and new generations of them are issued before we know how to use the one we have!
Or consider the family. Rarely do you find entire families in the same city or state. There are many families with children and grandchildren hundreds or even thousands of miles away from grandparents, a situation that was rare 60 years ago. Each of the pictures in this post reflect just some of the locations where our children and family members have lived.
As I was thinking about this email and the changes that have developed in such a short time, I looked through a box that my husband brought to the house after he cleaned out a storage room. When I opened it, there were a number of things that had been retained for no specific (or good) reason. But then I saw a large envelope and, when I peered inside, I saw numerous letters and cards that had been to me sent as an encouragement during a spiritual retreat 20 years ago.
I opened and read several but had to stop when tears made it too hard to read the handwriting. Reading words of encouragement written so long ago by loved ones and dear friends, many of whom are now with our Lord, blessed my heart and soul more than I had anticipated, and surely more than they could ever have expected. A loving gesture of writing and sending a note, that was discovered anew 20 years later, still had the power to evoke strong emotion and thankfulness to our Lord for the blessing of the friendship and thankfulness to them for taking the time to send the note in the first place.
Then I thought about how I communicate with others, today. The family is spread out over hundreds of miles. We send an e-card for birthdays, anniversaries, and general greetings. It is a reminder that we are thinking about them on their special day, and we may even type in a personal note, but that’s it. What about notes to family members, encouraging them and letting them know that, even from a distance, we love them and are thinking of and praying for them. That too is most likely an email.
Communication is easier today than it has ever been. But it is temporal and evaporates at the end of the day.
In Bible days, there was no email or e-card to alert people that David had instructions for the troops. No, he sent a letter. See 2 Samuel 11. The King of Syria sent a letter to the King of Israel along with gold, silver and clothing when he wanted the man of God to heal his servant Naaman. See 2 Kings 5. When Nehemiah was rebuilding Jerusalem, he received numerous letters from his adversary, Sanballat. Nehemiah 6. Handwritten letters allowed communicating with those who were not with you physically.
This was true, also, in the New Testament. In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas were sent to Antioch with a letter from the church leaders admonishing the people to listen to those being sent to them.
Paul often wrote a letter to one church and then directed that it be read by the other churches in the area also. The letter to the Colossians is an example of this:
And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
Letters were read and cherished by the people in the church and then sent on to the next church so that all were instructed, admonished, encouraged and strengthened by the Apostle’s words.
Moses commanded the people, when they left Egypt and the feast of unleavened bread was instituted:
You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.”
We are commanded, numerous times in Scripture, to instruct our children in the ways of the Lord and to tell them of how the Lord has guided and strengthened us during our lives.
Given this migration away from family togetherness, how do we communicate our faith to the children and grandchildren?
One way that we, in the 21st century, can communicate our faith with our children is by letters. It is easy to send texts and emails, and we can even Skype and see them, but perhaps, at times, we should return to the communication of Scripture and send some letters. Letters can be read, and reread, years or decades from now, after we are no longer able to communicate with anyone. Perhaps we should send
Letters that tell of the Lord’s wondrous love for us.
Letters that describe the Lord’s guidance and strength during a hard time.
Letters of instruction and encouragement in the Lord, that say “It is because of what the LORD did for me when ….”.
Letters that witness to our love for Him and of our love for the recipient of the note.
May my life be an open letter of love for my Savior, and may I communicate that love to those within my sphere of influence in a way that is beautiful and pleasing to my Savior and in a way that will last, perhaps even beyond my own self!
Lord, give me wisdom as I try to communicate my love for You and my love for my children, parents, grandchildren, friends … help me to create a witness that will last and encourage those reading it to renew their focus on You, as You alone are to be glorified.