Saturday, January 03, 2009

Choose wisely

Today’s Reading: John 18:34-35(NIV)

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

Good morning!

Accepting responsibility for the choices we make is a mark of maturity. Recognizing that the greatest human thought is merely human comes from something outside oneself. Pilate asks a question and Jesus answers it with another question. I had an evangelism professor who once told me that the greatest teaching method is to answer one question with another. Great philosophers throughout history must have believed it to be true, as they made their human attempts to address the holy mysteries of life and death and life after death. How unfortunate that some believe human thought is far superior to the Word of God. Were their thoughts novel or divinely inspired?

A good question deserves a solid, well-thought out answer. Sometimes we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Take Pilate, for instance. He had been given the power to judge right from wrong and exercise Roman law based upon his findings of fact. This allowed him to wield a lot of power over the people placed under his authority and care. Have you ever felt in a brief, fleeting moment, that you had complete control over your own life and just maybe, the lives of the ones in your family? Some folks have learned to walk life’s road rather comfortably in the rut they’ve dug around their feet. We’ve become creatures of habit and complacency, unwilling to venture outside the walls of our safe shells for fear that we may have to change direction, lifestyle, or our behaviors and attitudes. We can easily become self-righteous in our own little world, judging others as if we have been given a God-given right to do so. Did Pilate know who Jesus really was? Did he even care?

Suppose Jesus is standing before you today. He is on trial in your heart, and you must make a decision whether to believe that He is the Son of God and Savior of the world, or a very intelligent, well-studied rabbi, who seems to have been given a great spiritual gift mix. The choice you make today will bear consequences not only for the one standing before you on trial; it will affect you and your family for the rest of your lives.

What will you choose to do with Jesus of Nazareth?

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Rhetorical question

Today’s Reading: John 18:33(NIV)

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Good morning!

While walking through the Climatron® at the Missouri Botanical Gardens yesterday, I stopped to admire the Marantaceae plants. Its beautiful ground cover and foliage originates from the arrowroot family of flowering plants. Colorful, variegated leaves in shades of green, white and pink grow along the jungle floor. As the sunlight peeked through the dense brush, Marantaceae leaves stretch toward the light, looking somewhat like two hands folded in prayer. This is why this species is more commonly known as “prayer plants.” I watched in amazement as streams of sunlight fell across the jungle floor, and how the prayer plant foliage seemed to reach up toward the heavens in honor of the master creator. If a simple plant can acknowledge and honor the Lord Almighty, then why can’t we?

The Gardens are beautiful in every season, and I could not think of a more appropriate place to begin the New Year. It was very cold outside, and our stroll through the Japanese Gardens became a brisk, fast-paced walk. We especially enjoyed playing “I Spy” inside the Gardenland Express, the holiday Flower and Train Show. Joshua and Emily took turns finding the various puzzle pieces that matched the train displays. Just watching all the trains circle the perimeter of the complex made me long to go home and pull out our old train set in the basement and put it up again. It has been years since Jeff and I put the trains together at Christmastime. A lot of work and ingenuity went into the creation of this magical mountain holiday. It is an impressive piece of art, to say the least.

Sometimes it is hard to understand how we can see such beauty all around us and not recognize and acknowledge the creator of it all. I think Pilate must have known who Jesus was, but he was unwilling to admit it. Thinking he could simply trap Jesus with his words, Pilate asked one simple question, “Are you the king of the Jews?” God’s Word has a way capturing us right where we are. God's Word has the power beyond all human thought, to pierce even the hardest of hearts. It is like a beautiful prayer plant that rises up to the light of the Son, paying homage to the Lord, the giver of life. It cannot be quenched or denied its rightful place within the universe.

We often speak rhetorical questions, knowing the answer before we ask. Take some time soon to visit the garden of prayer in 2009. The year is young and the foliage is beautiful in every season. May you know and recognize God for who He is and whose you are in Him. Have a happy New Year in the Lord.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Surprised!

Today’s Reading: John 18:32(NIV)

32 This happened so that the words of Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled.

Matthew 20:17-19(NIV)

17 Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, 18 “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn Him to death 19 and will turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day He will be raised to life!”

Good morning!

By now, the disciples should not have been surprised by the events of this day. After all, Jesus had told them what would happen long before they reached the city’s gates. We human types have a tendency to try to ignore the things that we do not wish to hear or accept. We pretend it isn’t true, and in our pretending somehow believe we have control to alter the course of mankind. Yet, deep down inside, we know that God’s Word will one day be fulfilled. Why is it hard to accept?

Isn’t it ironic how the people who lauded Jesus in a ticker-tape parade into the city gates of Jerusalem just five days ago are now posturing for his conviction and execution? People tend to listen to the most popular thoughts of the moment, and jump on that bandwagon, without fully seeing the bigger picture. There is no better example of this than in a political campaign. Popular and favored candidates, hopefully with lots of financial resources and backing, place their names on a party ticket and public ballot. Depending upon their political platform and charisma, the people determine who will rise to the top of the popular vote. This candidate may or may not be the best choice for election or re-election; yet, public opinion can and will swing the pendulum based upon the moment. One can only hope and pray that the elected will live up to the many hopes and aspirations of those who voted them into office. If they don’t succeed according to the public opinion, they can expect to be crucified in the next election year. And the unbridled truth is this: when one election ends, another campaign begins.

The people were campaigning for the Savior’s death. It had been foretold 585 years earlier, just after the walls of the temple had been rebuilt in Jerusalem. It was predicted even before crucifixion had been invented or implemented as a means of execution. The Messiah would come to die to save the world from itself. He would become the perfect sacrificial lamb, a sin offering for the whole of humanity. Why were the people so surprised when they saw the prophecy fulfilled before their very eyes? Why does this fulfillment of prophecy surprise us today?

May the Lord Jesus Christ be surprisingly real to you today as we celebrate the dawning of a brand new year.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2008, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Risky business

Today’s Reading: John 18:31(NIV)

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” “But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected.

Good morning!

Pilate was in a sticky situation, and he knew it. Deep down inside, Pilate did not believe that Jesus was guilty of any crime that would certainly warrant his death. He may have even wondered whether it was possible that this man was truly the Son of God. He wanted nothing to do his sentencing and he tried to find several ways out.

One day, each and every one of us will have to deal with Jesus. We’re going to have to decide for ourselves who He is and what we will do with him. Place yourself in Pilate’s shoes for just a moment, and try to think like a Roman politician.

Jesus was obviously a pawn held captive within a political power play. Pilate had listened to the constant ridicule of Christ from the religious leaders in Jerusalem. He knew they wanted this man executed. And it was common to execute non-Roman citizens by crucifixion. Still, Pilate wanted some sort of concrete evidence before he sentenced a man to death. He tried to find some wiggle room to get out of making this final decision. Pilate tried to place judgment back in the hands of the Jews. He said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” No wonder the Jews pushed Pilate for a judgment. The law would not allow the Jews to execute Christ.

What would you do if you were Pilate? How could you have kept Christ alive while keeping peace with the crowd? Could you have rendered a verdict contrary to the thoughts and opinions of your political peers, knowing they would probably turn on you if you crossed them? Would you choose to risk your own life, your family’s safety, and even your political future, to save an innocent man from being murdered? Jesus was no ordinary man, and Pilate knew it. This one decision would impact the rest of his life.

When we decide who Jesus is, and whether to accept or reject Him as Lord of all, that choice will affect every aspect of our lives; today, tomorrow and forever more. What will you choose to do with Jesus? Who is He to you?

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2008, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Impromptu wedding

Today’s Reading: I Corinthians 13:4-5(NIV)

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Good morning!

They stood on the parsonage steps together, knocking on the front door. It was mid-afternoon on Thursday, November 30, 1944. Clayton and Doris stood with their marriage license in hand, hoping the pastor was home. In a simple ceremony conducted at the parson’s house, they exchanged wedding vows and made a lifelong commitment to each other. Doris told me that during the wedding ceremony, the children arrived home from school and she remembered how they came running through the house, totally unaware of what was happening in their own living room. Meeting only a few months ago, this was their impromptu wedding, a tender moment shared by two people totally in love and committed to one another.

I’ve often wondered about the wedding story as told by my mother and father-in-law. For them, this ceremony was personal, and they wanted to keep it between themselves. Of course, there was a war going on at the time, and planning for and holding a wedding ceremony on an appointed date and time was risky business, at best. Their simple ceremony has stood the test of time, as they recently celebrated their sixty-fourth anniversary.

I’ve lived in a church parsonage now for thirty-one years. I had not personally experienced an impromptu wedding until this past weekend. Of all the ceremonies I’ve attended, this wedding will stay in my heart forever. Their wedding date had been selected; and the bride and groom were trying to move into a home they’ve rented, while finishing last minute details for the celebration. The party, the people, and the planning became some sort of untamable beast for them, and the bride suddenly realized this was much more than what she and her fiancĂ© had ever wanted. Overwhelmed by it all, she felt they had somehow lost sight of the reason why they were getting married in the first place. The parsonage phone rang during a nasty afternoon thunderstorm. We met the couple at church that evening. The bride and groom’s parents were there to witness this simple ceremony. They said their vows at the foot of the cross, in the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree. The wind whipped around the eaves of the sanctuary as the thunderstorm continued to pound the roof. Two hearts made their lifelong commitment to one another. Most mothers would never dream of allowing their children to marry without having some sort of celebratory party; yet, I will cherish this precious memory in my heart for the rest of my life.

I think that sometimes we lose sight of what love really is. In our revelry, we tend to forget the meaning behind the moment. Take Christmas, for instance. It is the celebration of Christ’s birth; yet, we have commercialized it so with our own holiday traditions, parties, and presents. We’ve placed lots of hopes and expectations of what the day should actually be, and often, we miss the reason for the season.

Love came to earth, born in a stable bare, on a cold and windy night, to a world unaware. Christ came for one purpose and one purpose alone: to save us from our sin; to free us from living our days in total separation from the One who formed us with His own hand. Where is love? You will find Him waiting for you at the foot of the cross.


Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2008, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.