Written by Janet Mueller - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Photo credit: Kathryn Kircher
You and I are walking on a cloudless, summer night along a quiet lakeshore and look up to see a crescent moon. “Oh, look at the full moon!” I exclaim.
You correct me (or just think I’m crazy). “No, that’s a crescent moon, silly!”
I counter, “No, the moon is always full! It’s just our earth’s perception of the moon at this time that makes it APPEAR crescent.”
“Oooo, aren’t you the wise one!” you tease as we continue our moonlit walk.
Have you ever considered that God, the Creator of the moon, is always “full”? It’s just our perception of Him from where we’re standing that makes Him appear less than that. We would be wise to learn His true nature and character so that when we only see part of Him—which is most of the time—we would understand who He really is. The Scriptures tell us God is like this: He is love. He is good—there is no malice or ill will in Him towards us. He is faithful. He is true. He is kind. He is unchanging. He is our Father. And in His fullness, He has many other attributes.
Every day, we need to recalibrate our thoughts to this understanding because our experiences in this world may lie to us and tell us otherwise…that sometimes, He is malicious. Sometimes, He is capricious. Or sometimes, He misleads us. If this were true, then He would be a “crescent God” so to speak, not really full of goodness and light, and we wouldn’t trust Him.
To complicate matters, we were born into a war here on earth, and there is someone who really IS full of evil. He was cast out of heaven along with many others, and his major work on earth is to lie about God’s true nature and character. He sends his minions to try to get us to believe these distortions. He is the devil, the father of all lies. But once we know the truth about God and understand that His Son, Jesus Christ, is the exact representation of the Father, we can begin to trust that He is always “full”… not just in good times when we see His fullness but in hard times as well.
“Wow, I never thought of it that way,” you whisper as we round the bend towards home.
“For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 NIV).
“But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. (Hebrews 1:2,3a Berean Study Bible).
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
For the entirety of my lifetime, which has encompassed seven decades, the observations of my life are that the women in the family are usually given responsibility for the nurture, care, and direction of the children. But, according to God’s word, this is only partially true. For sure, women are uniquely made for the nurture of the children, but God has assigned responsibility for the training and character development of children to the men. Sadly, many men have rejected such responsibility, leaving it and most every other part of their child’s development to others. This is an escalating and compounding problem as most of us are, have been, or will be fathers of fathers. If the issues of the world are to be resolved, it must start with fathers taking the responsibility God gave them from the beginning: to be trainers and encouragers of men and women of faith. Let’s examine just a few of the literally dozens of scriptures speaking to or about fathers, beginning with a selection from the Book of Proverbs, which is the wisdom of God.
Prov. 22:6; “(Fathers) Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Prov. 23:22-24; “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice.”
Prov. 1:8; “My son, hear the instruction of your father; and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head and chains (of gold) about you neck.”
Prov. 17:6; “Your children’s children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.”
Perhaps the most quoted scripture concerning fathers comes from the Ten Commandments, “Honor your father and your mother; that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12) St. Paul quoted this commandment in Ephesians 6: 1-4 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with a promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
This states that there are rewards for honoring our parents and implies consequences when we don’t. Now, it is true, that some children do not have a loving father near them. Either by circumstances or choice, the father is absent. But children learn more from observation and experience than they do from instruction. And most children, particularly young men, want to be like their fathers. If their natural father cannot or will not be an active part in their lives, they will find a father figure and follow him. And there can be no father better than one who will lead his children to the knowledge of God, the Father of us all.
Matthew 7:9-11; “What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask of Him!”
If your child should ask you, “Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?” Tell them, “Come to church with me, and honor your Father, as it is commanded of you. The rewards are heavenly.”
Written and Illustrated by Rhonda Bailey
Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Read: John 20:13-23 The Passion Translation
Awakened by the gentle stirrings of wind and light chasing away the darkness, Mary solemnly rose, washed her hands and face, and then gathered the necessary items. Covering her head, she began the trek to the tomb with sorrowful steps and heavy-hearted silence. As she walked along, she recalled the state of her soul before He called her by name and the transformation she had experienced as one of His followers. These memories only heightened the sense of immense loss.
Upon arriving, she was met with sights beyond any logical explanation. The stone had been rolled aside, and the tomb was empty. Except for the linens that had three days earlier covered the body of the one who had rescued and redeemed her, the one she believed was the Holy Messiah, The Son of God.
She stood in stunned confusion as a bright light burst forth, seemingly composed of thousands of diamonds that illuminated the tomb and then transformed into two angels, cloaked in white and continuing to sparkle from the brilliant light emanating from within. Falling to her knees in reverence, she began absorbing that all He had taught her was undeniably true. One of the angels asked, “Why do you look for the Living One in a tomb? He is not here, for He has risen, just as He told you.”
The words reverberated through her, revealing a new layer of truth. Mary began to understand that He had been preparing her all along for this moment. The angels motioned for her to arise and gestured toward the entrance. Astonished, she stood up, regained her balance, and stared at the scene before her. In obedience, she exited through the opening and into the golden glow of early morning. After taking a few steps, Mary returned her gaze to the tomb, but it was once again filled only with darkness.
As she looked through her tears, she walked carefully, trying to make sense of all that had occurred. From behind her, a man’s voice startled her saying, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” When she turned to answer, the sunlight blinded her, and she could only see the silhouette of a man whom she assumed was the gardener. Without hesitation, she pleaded, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” He took a step closer to her and spoke her name. Her heart skipped a beat for she knew this distinctive voice. It was the same one that had called her into wholeness and welcomed her as a follower and a friend. She nervously uttered, “Rabbi?”
Then upon seeing Him more clearly, Mary dropped to her knees, clutched His ankles, and kissed the wounds on His feet. Overwhelmed, she began releasing tears of intense joy and relief. Jesus rested His hand upon her head. She was instantly filled with His peace, and her senses were restored through His love. As she rose to her feet, He instructed her to go and without fear, tell the others. She did not want to leave Him, but she trusted His reassurance. She turned and began running, her excitement growing with each footfall.
Upon reaching her destination, she knocked frantically on the locked door, crying out repeatedly, “Let me in! Let me in!” Peter, recognizing her voice, paused in his grief to open it. Practically knocking him over as she entered, she spilled out her story. They were mesmerized by the words and yet unable to comprehend the meaning. She kept exclaiming, “It’s true! It’s true! He has risen! Indeed, He lives!!! I have seen Him with my own eyes and heard Him speak with my own ears!”
Peter made sense of the news first. He jumped to his feet and ran out the door with everyone else following quickly at his heels. Although John reached the tomb first, Peter was the first to go in. Indeed, they found it empty, except for the linen that had wrapped the body of Jesus. Confused, he slowly turned and was walking away when the others caught up. Peter sat down across from the tomb as the others took turns peering inside to see only the folded linen and empty space. Upon joining him, they paused in silent amazement, struck with awe and wonder, a swirling mixture of miracles and confusion.
They did not linger long at the tomb, fearing false accusations by the authorities should they be discovered in the vicinity. Peter cautioned them to remain silent as they went back to the upper room, even convincing them to split up and travel separately, so as not to attract any unwanted attention. Captivated by their own thoughts and trying to conceal their emotions, they carefully traversed through the city’s streets. One by one, they returned to where they had all gathered so many times to listen to Jesus and discuss His teachings.
The fireplace housed only a few burning coals, the doors and shutters were closed, so they remained in darkness for about an hour. The womb-like atmosphere seemed to add comfort to their thoughts. Thaddeus was the first to break the silence with an audible shiver as he stirred the embers and added some wood. Others then began lighting lamps, and the women moved amongst them, gathering items to prepare a meal.
Suddenly, they all began talking at once, echoing each other’s concerns and sharing their thoughts. The confusion continued to intensify, so the women began recruiting the men to help in the preparations, and this helped to calm the chaos. By the time the meal was prepared, order was once again restored, and they gathered around the table to give thanks. They sat together for a very long time eating and drinking, continuing to share their ideas and organize their understanding, desperate to make sense of all that had transpired.
Without a sound, Jesus appeared before them and said, “Peace to you!” Instantly, they calmed. “Just as the Father has sent me, I am now sending you.” Then taking a deep breath, He blew on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. I send you to preach the forgiveness of sins, and people’s sins will be forgiven.”
And so it began... Indeed!
Written by Peggy Lundy and Illustrated by Deana Harvey
Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
"For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 KJV).
Have you ever felt like a fish out of water? Have you ever been thrown out of the familiar into the unknown and unexpected all the while trying to survive in an alien and hostile environment? Maybe it happened when your job was suddenly terminated or school became a nightmare of isolation and competition or the promise of a loving relationship turned into bitter betrayal. These events can leave us feeling disoriented, overwhelmed, and gasping for breath. You may be wondering, “What just happened? What have I gotten myself into? Should I have just stayed in bed today?” And you realize you really do feel like a fish out of water.
Big changes always bring feelings of apprehension and self-doubt. We are out of our element and struggling to survive. We must learn and grow as we experience new and difficult things in unfamiliar situations—or we stagnate and die. That’s just the way life is for humans on planet Earth.
However, as the redeemed, blood-bought children of the Most High God, we have another reality available to us. We can choose to be a fish out of water, dying of suffocation, flopping around going nowhere, or we can immerse ourselves in our Creator. He becomes the ocean in which we live. Then, everything we encounter in life comes to us through Him. Every crosscurrent, every shipwreck, every hungry shark, and every enticingly shiny hook can be successfully navigated because we are in Him, and He is in us.
Traditionally, this choice has been known as living either the carnal Christian life or the sanctified life. We choose between the appetites and addictions of the flesh and the world, or we live with our minds set according to the Holy Spirit. The former leads to frustration and death; whereas the latter leads to life and peace. I encourage you to choose life. Choose to live in the ocean of Him.
Father, we confess we have chosen life in the world over life in You. Today and every day give us the grace to choose a life of peace and joy found only in the Holy Spirit.
For further study: Romans 8:5-17.