Jumping to Conclusions

brown leather wallet and us dollar banknote

John was driving home late one night when he picked up a hitchhiker.  As they rode along, he began to be suspicious of his passenger.  John checked to see if his wallet was safe in the pocket of his coat that was on the seat between them, but it wasn’t there!  So he slammed on the brakes, ordered the hitchhiker out, and said, “Hand over the wallet immediately!”  The frightened hitchhiker handed over a billfold, and John drove off.  When he arrived home, he started to tell his wife about the experience, but she interrupted him, saying, “Before I forget, John, do you know that you left your wallet at home this morning?”

Let’s be careful not to form our opinions about others until we have all the facts.  Instead, we should first take an honest look at ourselves.  Many unkind words have been spoken and many relationships have been hurt because someone was too quick to judge another person.  How important it is not to jump to conclusions!

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?  Luke 6:41

 

— from Our Daily Bread, the Collector’s Edition

More Than Reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic

You may recall that many followers of Jesus called him “Rabbi.” In essence, the word means teacher. Clearly the word describes the brilliant Nazarene who was constantly teaching his listeners about God and God’s expectations of humans.

In a secular society, it is of paramount importance that the teachings of Christ be proclaimed and affirmed wherever possible. In the early days of our country, it was customary for public schools to teach reading, writing and arithmetic as well as Christian principles. Subjects being taught were presented in a setting of morality, religion and character development.

The reading book compiled by William H. McGuffey in 1836 focused on such themes as self-denial, temperance, obedience, and warned against laziness, profanity, stealing and vanity.

In our time, however, when it is difficult to focus on God and spiritual matters in public schools, our churches and families have a great responsibility. Sunday school attendance, not only for children but for adults as well, must be of primary importance. Prayer, as well as discussion of social issues from a Christian point of view, must be practiced in the home and church. We must learn and teach about Christ.

“Learn from me,” Jesus said. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29 NRSV). Where shall we learn of him or from him if not in our churches and homes?

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

perfect church

 

A Look at Beauty

Remember kaleidoscopes — those tubes you hold up to your eye and point toward the light to see colorful shapes? When the far end of the optical instrument is turned, fragments of material inside an “object cell” shift and mirrors set at angles reflect light through the pieces, forming ever-changing patterns. A multi-hued flower might become sunlight through a round stained-glass window or fireworks on a clear night.

kaleidoscopes

Various materials can be placed in the cell — tiny figures, twisted bits of metal, lace, viscous liquid — but often broken bits of glass are used, to beautiful effect! In fact, David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope in 1817, named it after the Greek word kalos, for “beauty.”

Everyone feels broken, twisted or shattered at times. But when God’s perfect light shines in and through us, reflecting among the fragments of our imperfect lives, we, too, become beautiful. Out of our sinfulness and brokenness shines the beauty of compassion, kindness, perseverance, hope, love — delightful patterns to brighten this hurting world.

Labors of Love

two men holding two gray metal tools

Thomas Merton, an American monk, writer and social activist, said, “It is in the ordinary duties and labors of life that the Christian can and should develop his spiritual union with God.” As the United States observes Labor Day, may we find meaning not simply in marking summer’s end but in celebrating the ways nearly all “duties and labors of life” can empower ministry and faith.

Whether as a dentist, parent, artist, teacher, mechanic, gardener, city councilor, farmer, day laborer, attorney or anything else, a Christian can begin each workday or shift by praying for opportunities to serve whoever they’ll encounter. We also can pray for and seek ways to grow in “spiritual union with God”: cultivating spiritual fruits; actively loving God and neighbor; seeing Jesus in the vulnerable; practicing humility, gratitude and praise.

In Labor Day, may we find inspiration to make all our labors loving and faithful!

Weighed Down

sky earth space working

Many people dream of having the “right stuff” to fly to space. Recently, 18,300 people applied for just 12 astronaut spots at NASA! Fanfare over the moon landing’s 50th anniversary is sure to spark even more interest.

Leaving behind earthly troubles and floating in zero gravity must be amazing, right? Not, it turns out, for one’s body. Weightlessness takes a heavy physical toll in space. Without resistance, muscles waste away and bones weaken. Bodily systems we take for granted are disrupted, causing disorientation. To counteract these effects, astronauts wear resistance suits while exercising. Ironically, after escaping Earth’s gravity, they must replace it.

Similarly, we long for trouble-free days and pray for an end to earthly burdens, not recognizing that exertion, whether physical or spiritual, builds strength. “He who knows no hardships will know no hardihood,” said Harry Emerson Fosdick. “He who faces no calamity will need no courage. … The characteristics in human nature which we love best grow in a soil with a strong mixture of troubles.”

Every weighty challenge is a reason to “rejoice … knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4, ESV).

—Stephanie Martin

Harmful Hopping

orange and black frog
Photo by Thierry Fillieul on Pexels.com

A church is an imperfect mix of imperfect believers, so it’s easy for members to find faults or feel disappointed. That, in turn, may tempt us to shop around.

C.S. Lewis addresses that in The Screwtape Letters. “If a man can’t be cured of churchgoing,” Screwtape advises his demon protégé, “the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.” How Satan must hate when Christians maintain long-term commitment to one church!

The urge to church-hop harms congregations as well as believers. “Spiritual depth isn’t fostered by satiating your sense of felt needs,” writes James Emery White. “It’s receiving a balanced diet of teaching and challenge, investing in service and mission, living in community and diversity that you probably would not select for yourself.”