Pastor's Blog

Our Work Reflects God's Nature

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15

 

In this series of articles, we are looking at the nature and value of work. The Christian view of work comes from the Bible. Surprisingly the idea of work appears very early in the Bible. In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam work to do. He was to care for the garden and to name the animals. And Genesis specifically says that God put Adam in the garden for the purpose of this work. Chapter 2, verse 15 says that God put Adam in the Garden to “work the garden and take care of it.” This could not be much plainer and appears in the second chapter in the Bible. 

 

There is no indication that this work was particularly difficult in the Garden and this is significant. Before the fall, that is, before Adam sinned, work was not a chore, but a wonderful endeavor in which Adam sensed God’s presence and pleasure. 

 

But it was not just Adam who worked in the Garden. What is much more important is that God worked. What was God’s work? It was the work of creation. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God said, “Let the waters swarm with living creatures,” and it was so. The Bible does not give the indication that creation was hard for God. That is an amazing but very important part of how Genesis, chapters 1 and 2 are written. The work of creation did not exhaust God. It did not give him a headache. Or frustrate him. In fact God’s power is such that he simply said the word, he spoke, and what did not exist came into existence. This is not to say that creation is not complex and sophisticated. It is, in the extreme. But that creation is the result of God’s command, is in the Bible, simply a statement of the immense power and greatness of God. 

 

The term work is specifically used to describe God’s acts of creation. At the end of creation, it says that God rested from all his labors on the seventh day. He rested from all the “work” he had done. This is found in Genesis, chapter 2, verse 2. Theologians generally do not consider that this day of rest was primarily for God’s sake as if he was exhausted after making everything. Rather it was primarily to set a pattern for humans that they should not work all the time. Six days you may work but then take a day off from work for rest, for family, and for worship. 

 

What then is the purpose of the Sabbath? Jesus would say, in Mark 2:27, that man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man. The Sabbath is a gift from God. It means that we do not have to work all the time. We should take some time for rest and refreshing. Family and worship are important priorities, as well as work. 

 

This week be sure your life has balance in relation to work. Do not work so hard that other important priorities suffer. One day, each week is to be set aside to renew our mind, energy, family, and faith. On the other hand, be sure to work honestly and diligently. Do your best at whatever is your work. Doing so reflects God's nature and honors God who gave us this gift. 

 

With Warm Regards, 

 

Bob Bohler

 

Is Work a Gift or a Curse?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” Colossians 3:23, 24 (NIV)

 

I want to start a series of articles on the nature of work. Most people in the western world take work for granted. We assume it to be a moral good or at least an inevitable necessity. For example, it is a terrible economic indicator when the unemployment rate is high. That means lots of people are not working. That we think unemployment bad however comes from the belief that work is good and that people ought to be working. But is it a good? Where does this idea come from? If we were independently wealthy, would we work nevertheless? 

 

To the question of whether work has always been considered a moral good or not, we do not have to look hard to realize that it has not. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote about his mentor Socrates. Plato’s style was to write about some conversation Socrates had with the young nobles in Greece in his day. Socrates would get into one of these conversations about virtue or the moral life when he was in someone’s house, or having drinks, or at a festival, or taking a walk, or at the gymnasium. One of the places you don’t see these conversations taking place however is at their workplaces. This is because most of them did not work. They were among the wealthy and leisured class. Their servants took care of their house and property. The servants’ work provided their income and sustenance. And one of the things you see in the writings of Plato is that this was never understood to be a moral ill. It was assumed that servants worked but, if you could help it, you did not work. 

 

Not working gave you the chance to be a philosopher, in Plato’s view, which was good. In ancient Greek culture, there was really no reason to work, if you did not have to. There was no moral benefit in it. In fact it was a distasteful thing that belonged to servants, not to philosophers. This same attitude was prevalent in many early non-Christian societies. To be fair, Plato thought his work to be the work of philosophy, which certainly is a kind of work. Aristotle certainly “worked” at his exploration of things, if you consider all the writings he produced. Socrates was not born into the leisured class and did have a profession. He was a stone mason by trade. He spent most of time in philosophy however, a fact about which his wife complained often. She wanted him to do something that would actually support the family. He was simply not that interested in doing so but found philosophy much more interesting. Though Socrates must have received some money for his teaching, he often noted that he was poor, which was a sign for him of his integrity. He did not teach philosophy for the money, but in quest for the truth. 

 

If many in the ancient world had a disdainful or at least confused view of work, from where does our Western view of work come? It comes from Christianity. Christianity believes that work is a good gift from God. It is not something to be avoided or disdained. It is not part of God’s curse on humankind. In fact, we see that God gave Adam work to do in the garden. He was to tend the garden and name the animals. That God gave Adam this work to do before the Fall, is the indication that work is God’s good gift, not part of the curse. 

 

In the next weeks, we will explore the biblical view of work. Today we make the point that work is God’s gift to us. It enables us to do good, make the world a better place, and use our gifts. Paul instructs that we should do our work with all our hearts, as to God and for his glory. Whether we are in school, working at a profession, or retired, let’s see if we can follow this instruction this week.

 

With Warm Regards, 

 

Bob Bohler

 

Where Is Your Mission Field?

“So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” Galatians 6:10

 

Where is your mission field? Every Christian is called to be engaged in ministry. We are all called to the use of our spiritual gifts? We should all do good with our lives. But where is our mission field? 

 

The 5thcentury theologian Augustine said that God has given us each a mission field. It is right where we are. Since God has already put people in our sphere of reach and influence, these are the people to whom God wants us to reach out. We do not need to look for foreign and exotic ways to serve God; God intends us to serve him right where we are. 

 

This makes sense. What better plan could God have established. Since Christians are spread throughout the world, nation, and community, each one should influence those around him or her. If each person will do good right where they are, then a great deal of good will get done. 

 

This gives the gospel credibility. The gospel is not best proclaimed to people through strangers. Rather it is best proclaimed by those who are known and trusted. Those we are most likely to reach are those who love and trust us. We have the greatest credibility with them. These are the people to whom we have the most opportunity to do good. 

 

That God seems to have envisioned this plan also gives everyone an opportunity. No one can say that they are excluded from ministry. No one should think they are sitting on the bench, never getting into the game. In fact, the opportunities are abundant around us. They are more than we can seize. Everyone has ample opportunities to do good in the name of Christ. 

 

So where is your mission field? It starts in your family. How might you do good to them, nurturing them in their faith? It then moves to your friends. Who among them needs encouragement? Who needs support? What can you do to make someone’s life better? It then moves to your workplace. How can you be a help to others? How can you make your company prosper? How can you represent God well by how you act? Our mission field finally moves out to our community, nation, and world. 

 

Paul says that “whenever we have an opportunity, we should do good.” As it turns out, the opportunities are all around us. Why not try to do one good thing every day? Reach out to someone. Say an encouraging word? Make someone’s life better? Jesus went around doing good in his ministry. He has left us with the ministry of doing as he did and given us plenty of opportunities to do so. Make sure you do something good every day!

 

With Warm Regards, 

 

Bob Bohler

 

 

 

Blessed Is The Nation Whose God Is The Lord

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Psalm 33:12

 

American is a land flowing with milk and honey. It is estimated that the United States has $45 trillion in natural resources. It has over 13% of the world’s coal. It has huge resources of timber. It has sizeable deposits of natural gas, oil, gold, and copper. America has vast farmlands, plentiful water resources, a pleasant climate, and safe harbors. In addition, the United States has high worker productivity and a strong industrial base. 

 

The United States has geographical advantages. It is not bordered by enemies, such as the nation of Israel is. While the issue of immigration is an important one, Mexico is not an enemy state. Those who cross the border illegally do so primarily for economic advantage, not warfare. The border between the United States and Canada is the longest demilitarized border in the world. That the United States borders both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans gives it access to shipping lanes. The oceans also serve as a natural defense.  It’s access to both oceans gives it the opportunity to control them both militarily. The United States is physically and literally the economic center of the world.

 

The United States is the largest economy in the world. It’s Gross Domestic Product is about 20 trillion dollars. Second is the European Union at 17 trillion. China’s GDP is 12 trillion. Canada’s is 1.6 trillion. Mexico’s is 1.1 trillion. The United States has the world’s most influential financial market, the New York Stock Exchange being the largest in terms of market capitalization. The U.S. has the largest consumer market in the world, with household consumption expenditure being five times larger than Japan. 

 

Median household income in the United States is about $60,000 per year. Russia is twice as large as the United States and has twice the potential natural resources, but its median income is under $10,000 per year. Brazil’s is $8,800. China’s is $8,200. Cuba’s is $6,500. India’s is $1,600. Afghanistan’s is $600.  

 

What is the secret to America’s prosperity? It is, in part, a land flowing with natural resources. It is also a capitalist and democratic system that allows economic freedom. This freedom creates the incentive and ability for people to use their God-given talents to create, innovate, and produce. The Protestant work ethic reminds us that work is a good gift from God and that we are put here on earth to be productive. In addition, Christianity has given us a moral framework that has created an honest, compassionate culture that seeks to do good in our nation and in the world. 

 

We should remember the words of the psalm. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” For all these things our greatest strength is our faith in God. It is ultimately God’s blessing that we need more than anything else. With it we will be strong. Without it even this great nation will fall into decay. Let us therefore always remember to pray for our nation, so that we will be godly, good, and pleasing in God’s sight. 

 

With Warm Regards, 

 

Bob Bohler

Fathers and Sons

“And Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

 

One of the ways Christianity has influenced society for the better is the impact it has had on the family. In ancient Roman society, the society into which Christianity first came, the father was supreme. The oldest male in the family had great power. This included power, not only over his sons and daughters, but their children as well. This was power over their property and legal affairs. A father even had the power to put a member of his family to death, though this was rarely exercised. Herod the Great did exercise this power and had three of his own sons executed. While this power of the father engendered respect, it also created fear. 

 

Christian Europe continued this emphasis on the power and rights of the father, but things changed when immigrants came to the America. They broke from many traditions in order to more fully integrate Christianity into the life of society.When 19thcentury French political scientist Alex De Tocqueville, came to America to study its democratic experiment, he noted the difference in the relations between fathers and sons. He said (as quoted by Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi, in “The Book that Made Your World”), “When children are very young, the father does, without opposition, exercise the domestic dictatorship which his son’s weakness makes necessary and which is justified by both his weakness and his unquestionable superiority. But as soon as the young American begins to approach a man’s estate, the reins of filial obedience are daily slackened. Master of his thought, he soon becomes responsible for his own behavior. In America there is in truth no adolescence. At the close of boyhood he is a man and begins to trace out his own path…” 

 

De Tocqueville continued – “In European and Asian aristocracies, society is, in truth, only concerned with the father. It only controls the sons through the father; it rules him and he rules them. Hence the father has not only his natural right. He is given a political right to command…He is heard with deference, he is addressed always with respect, and the affection felt for him is ever mingled with fear…The father-son relationship is always correct, ceremonious, rigid, and cold, so that natural warmth of heart can hardly be felt through the words…But among democratic nations, every word a son addresses to his father has a tang of freedom, familiarity, and tenderness all at once.” 

 

Christianity has been a great boon to the family. It reminds fathers that their role is not to dominate by the exercise of their power, but to lead by their example, exercise kindness and goodwill, and to raise their children in the “training and instruction of the Lord.” 

 

It is a great privilege to be a parent. On Father’s Day, we recognize and thank our fathers. We also give thanks to the One whose example leads us, our Father in heaven. He is the perfect example of both strength and compassion. May we all follow his example! 

 

With Warm Regards, 

 

Bob Bohler

 

 

Who Does Jesus Choose?

“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9

 

Jesus was the one who chose the twelve apostles. We might wonder at his choices. Most of them came from very common backgrounds. Four were fishermen and two sets were brothers, Peter and Andrew, and James and John. One, names Simon, is called a “zealot.” This probably means that he was part of a group dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Roman occupation. There were many such groups and Jesus chose an apostle from among one of them. Perhaps the most interesting choice of apostles was Matthew the tax collector.

 

The Romans had controlled the land of Israel beginning in 63 B.C. when Pompeii besieged and conquered Jerusalem. Their conquest came at the end of a period of Jewish independence under the Maccabean dynasty. To once again be under the thumb of a foreign power was a difficult pill for the Jews to swallow. Anyone who collaborated with the Romans was considered a traitor to the nation. Someone who would agree to help them collect the onerous tax from the people had obviously lost all care about their public reputation. Such a person was Matthew, whom Jesus called while sitting one day at the tax collector’s booth.

 

Many Jewish observers must have thought that Jesus chose his disciples from the dregs of society. If he had chosen someone of royal blood, or in the line of Herod, or from among the Pharisees, it would have given the group more credibility. Jesus obviously did not care about that kind of respectability. He did not feel the need to seek the approval of others. Jesus had sufficient respectability in himself. He had enough honor in himself to give respect to any he would call to follow him. It was no diminishing of his honor that he would call someone like Matthew to be among his closest followers.

 

Jesus also condescends to us in our calling. We might also wonder that, like Matthew, he would choose to call us. Who are we that we deserve his attention? Who are we that he should pick us out from the masses? Yet he sees us sitting our desk, lost in our sinfulness, and looks us in the face. “Follow me.” That Christ would include us among his disciples is grace indeed. That he would give us the honor of being associated with him is a marvelous gift.

 

With Warm Regards,

Bob Bohler

What Is An Acceptable Offering To God?

“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s.” Hebrews 11:4

 

What is an acceptable sacrifice before God? If we do the right thing but with the wrong motive, or a sour attitude, is that good enough? Not according to the Bible. An acceptable sacrifice is the right thing done with the right attitude.

 

In the Old Testament, all sacrifices had to be unblemished. The prophet Malachi condemned the people for not offering God their best. “When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not wrong? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not wrong? Try presenting that to your governor; will he be pleased with you or show you favor?” (Malachi 1:8) The point of requiring unblemished animals was that God deserved the people’s best.

 

We make many offerings to God. We come to worship; we serve the church in some way; we reach out to the needy; we gather for study; we give our tithes; we try to do the right thing. The question is, what is our attitude? It is possible to do the right thing with the wrong attitude.

 

Moses is a good example. At the end of Moses’ life the Bible gives this evaluation of him. “Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12) Moses was about as close to God as anyone has ever been.

 

Yet Moses was not able to enter the Promised Land because he failed in his attitude. On one occasion, when the people were in need of water, God told him to speak to the rock that water might flow from it. Instead Moses berated the people and struck the rock in anger. Water flowed from the rock, but God was displeased. Moses did not keep a close watch on his attitude and it cost him dearly. His story is a warning to us.

 

Jesus instructs us to, “Beware, keep alert.” (Mark 13:33) This is an instruction about attitude. If we are to present God acceptable offerings, we should seek to do the right thing for the right reason and with the right attitude.

 

Sometimes we do the right thing from a sense of duty. We know it needs to be done but we would rather not. These are the moments in which we need to heed Jesus’ words. Pay attention to our attitudes and seek to give God our best. It is not hard to serve God when it’s easy. It is more noble and praiseworthy to serve God with a good heart, when we are tired, when it costs us something, and when the service is difficult.

 

The difference between Abel’s acceptable sacrifice and Cain’s rejected one was certainly attitude. Hebrews says that it was Abel’s faith that made his offering acceptable. Let’s work this week to do the right thing with a good heart, and thus give our best to God.

 

With Warm Regards,

 

Bob Bohler

The Important of the Resurrection

John Calvin said that the resurrection is the “chief article of our faith.” He meant that it was the cornerstone of our belief, the centerpiece of our proclamation, and the ultimate hope around which we gather. Since John Calvin is the father of Reformed theology, every Presbyterian ought to have read something from John Calvin. There is no better place to turn than his words about the resurrection, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

 

"Next comes the resurrection from the dead. Without this what we have said so far would be incomplete. For since only weakness appears in the cross, death, and burial of Christ, faith must leap over all these things to attain its full strength. We have in his death the complete fulfillment of salvation, for through it we are reconciled to God, his righteous judgment is satisfied, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid in full. Nevertheless, we are said to 'have been born anew to a living hope' not through his death but 'through his resurrection.' For as he, in rising again, came forth victor over death, so the victory of our faith over death lies in his resurrection alone. Paul's words better express its nature: 'He was put to death for our sins, and raised for our justification.' This is as if he had said: 'Sin was taken away by his death; righteousness was revived and restored by his resurrection.' For how could he by dying have freed us from death if he had himself succumbed to death? How could he have acquired victory for us if he had failed in the struggle? Therefore, we divide the substance of our salvation between Christ's death and resurrection as follows: through his death, sin was wiped out and death extinguished; through his resurrection, righteousness was restored and life raised up, so that-thanks to his resurrection-his death manifested its power and efficacy in us. Wherefore, Paul states that 'Christ was declared the Son of God . . . in the resurrection itself,' because then at last he displayed his heavenly power, which is both the clear mirror of his divinity and the firm support of our faith."

 

"Further, as we explained above that the mortification of our flesh depends upon participation in his cross, so we must understand that we obtain a corresponding benefit from his resurrection. The apostle says: 'We were engrafted in the likeness of his death, so that sharing in his resurrection we might walk in newness of life.' Hence, in another passage, from the fact that we have died with Christ he derives proof that we must mortify our members that are upon the earth. So he also infers from our rising up with Christ that we must seek those things above, not those on the earth. By these words we are not only invited through the example of the risen Christ to strive after newness of life; but we are taught that we are reborn into righteousness through his power."

 

In this Easter season, may the cross and resurrection will you with forgiveness, hope, and new life.

 

Sincerely,

 

Bob Bohler

What Is Natural Law (and why is it important)?

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20

 

What is natural law? Natural law is the idea that there are certain truths that are “self-evident.” The Declaration of Independence asserts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Are there then some things that are plain and understood by all? Are there some truths that do not need to be proven by reason? The Bible certainly teaches that there are. Paul says that God’s eternal power and divine nature are seen by all, through the things God has made.

 

Martin Luther said that the best statement of natural law was the Ten Commandments. These outline our obvious and self-evident duty toward God and others. The first four commandments outline our duty to God: 1) There is a God who should be worshipped; 2) We must not make gods out of things that are not God; 3) God’s name must be honored; 4) We must set aside regular time to worship God. Are these self-evident? The Bible teaches that these are the duties humans owe to God. There is no escaping these duties, no matter what any person or society might say.

 

The second set of commandments outline our duty to others: 5) Honor your father and mother; 6) Do not kill; 7) Do not commit adultery; 8) Do not steal; 9) Do not lie; 10) Do not covet. Are these self-evident? They are. They seem to be “natural” and appropriate ways to keep healthy relationships with others and not infringe on the rights of others. To transgress any of these prohibitions is an obvious wrong.

 

The United States is a country ruled by laws. That we are ruled by laws means that all are subject to them. There are not laws for some but not others. This creates a fair society in which all people are treated equally. It protects us from the tendency of those in power to treat some more “fairly” than others.

 

But who determines the law? The best determination of right and wrong does not come simply from human ideas. It comes from God. When we transgress those obvious and natural laws God has set up, we do harm to our society and come under the judgment of a righteous God.

 

There are some truths that are self-evident, right, and good. This is what the Bible teaches. That certain societies may depart from them does not make them any less true.

 

With Warm Regards,

 

Bob Bohler

 

Why The World Needs Christianity

The recent tragedy in Charleston, reminds us why our world needs Christianity. The Christian faith offers a simple solution to such needless violence. It is the fifth commandment, which says, “You shall not kill.”

 

Our secular culture has sought to remove Christian values from the public discourse. But it is these values that help us maintain a stable society. The fifth commandment recognizes that we share a common humanity. It is God’s way of saying, “The gift of life comes from me. You do not have the right to take my gift from another person. Do not do it!” No matter how angry we might be, or what greater purpose we think it might serve, God forbids an individual from taking the life of another. How many tragedies could be averted if people followed this one commandment.

 

The laws of the state provide some disincentive against crimes. People who commit murder ought to understand that it is highly likely they will be caught. The punishment will be severe, either life in prison or the death penalty. But civil laws are apparently an insufficient deterrent.  What do we need? Even stiffer penalties?

 

One answer is that we need a moral law that transcends even civil laws. If we want a moral society, there must be a greater motivation than the fear of criminal prosecution. Christianity offers one. It is life in relation to God and lived for the love of God.

 

Our society removes Christianity from its public consciousness at a cost. Christianity provides motivation for moral behavior. In fact many of our racial problems could be solved if people simply observed the golden rule of Jesus: “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.” This simple rule provides a pattern for human relationships that solves most problems. Why would we not want to promote such virtues?

 

There are many reasons people do not like Christianity. Christians should recognize however, that their voice is needed. Whether others like it or not, Christians are still the “salt of the earth!”

 

Robert Bohler, Jr. 

Remember and Rejoice

“…so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 16:3

 

“Rejoice before the Lord your God…” Deuteronomy 16:11

 

Two words contain important ideas for the life of faith. They are “remember” and “rejoice.” Two of the great Old Testament festivals in the Jewish calendar year centered around these words.

 

The great festival of the Jewish year was the Passover. The key idea in this festival was to remember. The people gathered in Jerusalem, ate a lamb that had been sacrificed, and retold the story of their exodus from Egypt. It served to help people remember this significant event in their nation’s history. How long were people to remember it? All the days of their lives! As long as they lived, they were never to forget what great thing God had done for them.

 

We also have a ceremony today that reminds us of our deliverance, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It helps us remember what God did for us in Christ. And how long should we remember this? All the days of our lives. There should never be a time when we forget. Therefore God has given us the sacrament to help Christians, thoughout history, not forget.

 

Remembering was not the only part of God’s plan for the nation’s life in the Old Testament. They were also to rejoice and give thanks for what God had done. There was a ceremony for this also. It was the Feast of Weeks that began 50 days after the Passover. It began on the day of Pentecost. The people gathered, brought their first fruits, and celebrated with their family and friends. They gave thanks for the harvest and enjoyed the fruits of it. They remembered God’s bounties.

 

We too need to rejoice and give thanks. Paul reminds the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). The message of Easter reminds us that there is great reason to celebrate and rejoice! God has done great things for us. That Pentecost marks the beginnings of the church reinforces this message. God has blessed us remarkably. We ought to always give thanks.

 

Our life of faith should be one of remembering and rejoicing. If we only remember but never rejoice, we may become an “unhappy” Christian. If we rejoice but never remember, we chance losing the basis for our joy and being emotionally blown about by various circumstances. Remembering and rejoicing are both important parts of our lives of faith. Which of these do you need to do better?

 

With Warm Regards,

 

Bob Bohler

An Old Testament Example of Christ

“Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.” Genesis 50:20

There is often some character flaw in people in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. Abraham and Isaac lied. Jacob was deceitful. Moses got angry and misused his position. Jephthah was foolish. Samson made bad relationship choices. David was lustful. Solomon’s faith wavered. And so on.

 

There are a few people in the Old Testament who do not have a character flaw, at least as revealed in scripture. One of those is Joseph in the book of Genesis. It has been remarked that Joseph’s life parallels the life of Christ in a number of ways. In this sense he serves as a “type” of Christ, a symbol that foreshadowed Christ.

 

Think about the similarities. Like Christ, both were the beloved of their father. Joseph was a shepherd, Christ the Good Shepherd. Both were foretold to be rulers. The brothers of both were jealous of them. Joseph was sent to his brothers, Jesus to God’s people. When he was in danger, Reuben wanted to rescue Joseph but could not; Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but did not. Both were betrayed by those close to them and sold for a price. Both went to Egypt. Both were falsely accused, Joseph by Potiphar’s wife, Jesus while on trial before the Sanhedrin. Each was condemned with two others – Joseph with the Butler and Baker, Jesus with the two thieves. Of those condemned with them one lived and the other died. Joseph’s brothers did not recognize Jesus; neither did the Jewish people recognize Jesus. Both Joseph and Jesus were raised to power. All knees bowed to Joseph; all knees will bow to Jesus. The evil others intended was meant for good by God. Joseph and Jesus forgave those who meant them harm. Both Joseph and Jesus saved their people. Joseph does not have his sins mentioned in the Bible; Jesus was truly sinless.

 

 It is interesting that Joseph’s story conforms so closely to the life of Christ. He is the reminder that our lives too, in whatever imperfect ways, are also to conform to Christ’s. How are we doing in conforming our attitudes, thoughts, and actions to Christ?

 

 With Warm Regards,

 

 Bob Bohler

 

 

A Prayer After Celebrating The Lord's Supper on Super Bowl Sunday (when the Souper Bowl offering was collected to feed the hungry in our community)

O Gracious Lord and our God, we give you thanks and praise this day. You are the living and true God. You are the everlasting king. Your anger endures for a moment but your mercy is for a lifetime. You punish the wicked but extend mercy to a thousand generations of those who love you and keep your commandments.

 

This day O God, we lift our hearts to you in praise for this sacrament in which we have shared. We thank you for the gift of worship together, for all the joys of Christian fellowship, for the faith that comes as your gift, and for the Holy Spirit who brings your presence close. 

 

We pray for the needy today. As we have gathered around this table, as we go to a bountiful luncheon after church, we particularly pray for those today who are hungry. In a world where 66 million school age children in the developing world attend school hungry, in a community where 83% of children in Clarke County receive a free or reduced lunch, and 46% of them live below the poverty line - 

 

We ask your help and grace, that we might be part of the solution to our world’s needs: that governments around the world might care more for their people than their own luxury, that the lazy would be inspired, the unskilled trained, and the wounded healed. 

 

We pray that we in this country might find the right balance between what government does and what is each individual's responsibility, so that all people might be able to earn their way, be willing to work hard to make their lives and their families better, and so be grateful to you for the opportunities they have. 

 

In this great country in which we live, may opportunities abound, may freedom reign, and may your people experience your blessings, of good things, but especially of faith, hope, and charity. We thank you for your grace. We ask you to heal the sick so they might praise your name.

 

Hear these our prayers, we ask. We pray them in Christ's name. Amen. 

God Is Watching

 

“You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans.” Exodus 22:25-27

 

 Where is our moral standard? What determines right or wrong? We live in a world for which the answer to these questions is blurred. Because it has lost its fear of God, there is no clear standard for what is good. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

 From the very beginnings of their life together, the people of Israel knew who determined right from wrong; it was God. When the people met with God at Mount Sinai, God began to give them laws for their life. These were laws to govern their relationships, their actions, their courts, and their worship. When we read these laws today, it is amazing the wisdom found there. Though given to a people who lived in a very different time period, they ring with truth, goodness, and mercy.

 There is one foundational principle that comes through clearly in the laws of the Old Testament; God is watching! God is watching what people do. Those think they can “get away with” evil are badly mistaken. God watches and dispenses his own justice, even when society does not. God knows when people misuse the poor, do injustice to one another, cheat their neighbor, take advantage of the weak. God has his ways of returning our evil onto our own heads.

We would do well to remember this today. God’s eyes rove throughout the earth. He sees what we do and judges our thoughts, words, and actions. While God will certainly dispense justice in the Final Judgment, he has ordered the world so that we “reap what we sow” in this life also.

It is why we ought to always turn our hearts toward God. Augustine, writing of his own experience of God, said, “You pierced my heart with your word and I fell in love with you.” It is always good to be falling more deeply in love with God.

Here is a way to keep our selves oriented toward God every day.

·      Start every day with God; say a prayer and turn yourself toward God before you ever get out of bed.

·      Commit yourself to God throughout the day: your work; your relationships; and your heart.

·      Close the day with prayer: review your day; confess your sins; give thanks for God’s goodness. Each day let us stay close to God. Our loving God watches us in order to do us good.

 

With Warm Regards,

Bob Bohler

 

The Value of Faithfulness

“So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us – one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” Acts 1:21, 22

 

There is great value in faithfulness. When the disciples decided to replace Judas, after Christ’s ascension, they looked for people who had been faithful. That was the first requirement. The replacement for Judas had to be someone who had been with them from the beginning and remained faithful to Jesus through this time. It is interesting that the primary criterion did not seem to be leadership skills, charismatic gifts, or strength of personality. They looked for someone who had been loyal and committed.  

 

Faithfulness is an important character trait. It enables us to apply ourselves to particular goals. The Christian theologian Augustine put it this way: “By faithfulness we are collected and wound up into unity within ourselves, whereas we had been scattered abroad in multiplicity.” To be faithful is to commit ourselves to worthy goals, then follow through. This character trait not only helps us accomplish things in the world, it gives our lives focus and us gather our energies into meaningful pursuits.

 

Faithfulness may seem boring. Perhaps we would rather shine brightly, even if we burn out quickly. Perhaps we want the excitement of great adventures. Some people are “adrenaline junkies” who seek one high after another. In comparison, simply being faithful may not hold much appeal.

 

But faithfulness does not need to be boring. When we patiently fulfill our responsibilities, we lay a deep foundation for our lives. And even simple tasks can be full of joy. When we use our gifts, it brings satisfaction to our spirits. If we are ever going to accomplish anything significant, it will require concentrated attention over a period of time.

 

Helen Keller once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” We can all do something. It may seem small. But because it is small does not make it unimportant. Let us do what we can and be faithful. There is great value in doing so!

 

With Warm Regards,

 

Bob Bohler

Jesus Came To Serve

“For I have set before you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” John 13:15

 

The surprising thing about Jesus is not only that he came to earth; it is that he came to serve. One might imagine that God would come to earth in some form or another. The unexpected thing however, is that he came to serve those whom he had created.

 

The life and ministry of Jesus was certainly one of service. It began with the incarnation itself. For God to be born of a human mother, become a human baby, suffer the indignities of childhood, and live among a human family is an act of humility. Why would the God of the universe, not bound by space or time, choose to limit himself in such a way? Only a motive of deep love could explain such an act of self-limitation.

 

When Jesus began his public ministry, he continued a life of service. He did not demand luxury or a seat of political power. He did not ask people to attend to his needs or await his desires. Jesus ministered to others with kindness, patience, and humility. He did not act as someone who was being forced into service. He was not secretly resentful of the path he had to walk. Instead he embraced the will of his heavenly Father and gave himself fully to humanity out of love. And in order to give the disciples a poignant image to remember, Jesus washed their feet and commanded them to do the same for others. In the same way that Jesus had loved them, they were to love one another.

 

It is daunting to consider following in the footsteps of Jesus. His example is so high that we may assume we cannot come close to it. He set a perfect example for us of human existence lived to its fullest. He also showed us a perfect standard for service. But Jesus would not have commanded us to love others if it were impossible. Though we will often miss the mark, we have a set of parameters for our lives. Everything we do is to be done with love.

 

It is human nature to want others to serve us. We get our feelings hurt when we are not noticed, acknowledged, and appreciated. We enjoy when others put out effort to meet our needs. We often find our thoughts wrapped up in our own problems and wishes. But Christ calls us to a radically different approach. We are to love others and show it through our service to them.

 

It all starts with God, of course. The more we experience the love of God for us, the more we can love others. The more we recognize what Christ has done for us, the more willing we are to emulate him.

 

With Warm Regards,

Bob Bohler

 

Does God Give Us Signs?

“When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat and they were frightened.” John 6:19

 

The story of Jesus walking on the water is a familiar one. We might however ask an obvious question. Why did Jesus perform this miracle? Jesus seemed very careful not to do miracles just to “show off.” Instead of walking across the water in the middle of the night, Jesus might have waited until the next day and caught the next boat. But he did not. He walked across the water to the disciples, to their amazement!

 

God sometimes gives us signs of his presence and care. These often come unexpectedly. Something happens that encourages us. A friend gives us needed advice. We see some evidence of God’s presence. Circumstances work out in just the right way. We experience God’s help in some way. These signs are meant to be encouragement to us along our way. They are small reminders of God’s presence.

 

We need to have a balance between being aware of them on one hand and overly dependent on them on the other. Most major decisions do not need to be made because we receive a sign. The interpretation of events is subjective and sometimes we see signs because we want them. We read into events the meaning we are hoping for. Rather than living our lives by signs, we should seek wisdom to know how to direct our lives according to God’s word and will.

 

But we also ought to be aware of God’s presence in our daily path. We believe God is at work in the world. God’s Spirit is present and active. We ought to sense God with us, see evidence of his work, and live in the flow of God’s grace and Spirit. When God gives us little signs of his presence, it is to encourage us to know that he is near and with us.

 

In the Old Testament, God sent a prophet to encourage king Asa. The prophet said, “The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.” II Chronicles 15:2, 7 We should also take these words to heart. They are a sign to us that we too will find God if we seek him. We should work diligently for the Lord. Our work too will be rewarded.

 

With Warm Regards,

 

Bob Bohler

What Do You Think About?

“I will meditate on your precepts, and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” Psalm 119:15, 16

 

What do you think about? What preoccupies your mind? What is the first thing you think about when you wake up in morning? What is the last thing you think about before you fall asleep? What do you spend time worrying about?

 

Our minds control our emotions. What we think about determines our mood, our attitude, our perspectives, our will. We cannot do anything without thinking about it. If then we could control what is in our minds, we could guide our lives into the way of peace. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

 

Down through the centuries people have wrestled with how to keep their minds focused on God. John Calvin said that one ought to pray: when one arose; before work; before and after each meal; and before bed. 17th century monk Brother Lawrence tried to “practice the presence of God” by keeping himself conscious of God even in the most menial activities. Various religious orders recite the complete book of Psalms each week in order to bring the prayer book of the church into their minds. The Apostle Paul said that he tried to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).

 

One classic way to bring God’s peace to our minds is to go to sleep with a prayer or verse of scripture in our minds. There is always something to pray about. If nothing else we all need to say, “Thank you.” To end our conscious day with prayer to God is a ancient practice used by the saints through the centuries.

 

The Bible also gives us many resources for meditation. One easy method is to find a verse of scripture to hold in our mind as we go to sleep. The best verses are short promises that bring us comfort. If we wake up in the middle of the night, we can continue our meditation on the verse until we fall back to sleep.

 

One can flip through the psalms and find many good verses to use in meditation. For example: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God” (42:1). Or, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (46:7). Or, “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth” (54:2). Or, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good” (107:1).

 

If we want peace of mind, we should seek to fill our mind with God’s words and our prayers.

 

With Warm Regards,

 

Bob Bohler

Everyone Has A Gift

“Well done, good and trustworthy servant.” Matthew 25:23

 

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 is the great New Testament illustration about using our gifts. The New Testament consistently encourages us to use what we have been given in the service of God. This includes talents, in the typical usage of the word. But it includes also our resources, our energies, our gifts, and our time (perhaps our most precious commodity today). 

 

Scientists say we only use a fraction of our brain’s capacity. I suspect this is true of our abilities too. It may very well be that much of what we have been given lies dormant, waiting to be used in the service of God. Every person has two areas in which they should serve. One is in the area of their giftedness. I Peter 4:10, says “As each one has received a gift, let them minister it to one another, as good stewards of the grace of God.” Everybody is a “10” in something. Our areas of giftedness are an indication of the ways God has designed us to serve. 

 

The second area we are each called to serve in is wherever there is a need. It does not take special gifts to have a servant’s heart. With a servant’s heart, we are all to do the things that are needed for the work of the kingdom. The parable of the talents has a great warning for those who do not use their gifts or misuse them. Therefore, let us not “bury” our talents in the soil. Let us invest them. That is the reason they have been given to us. 

 

With Warm Regards,

Bob Bohler

The Poor Matter

“They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.” Galatians 2:10

 

The apostle Paul was an interesting person. He was a member of the strictest Jewish group, the Pharisees. He marked himself as an “up and comer,” in their ranks by his aggressive stance toward Christians. But when he found himself confronted by the living Christ, he channeled that energy into his ministry toward the Gentiles. When we think of Paul, we usually think of his success at starting new churches and the writings from his hand in the New Testament. We think of his sacrificial devotional to the work God gave him to do.

 

 In Galatians we find an interesting and little noticed aspect of Paul’s focus. He was especially interested in helping the poor.

 

 The Bible has a number of things to say about the poor. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us (Matthew 26:11). The book of Proverbs considers the situation of the poor and says things like: “Those who mock the poor insult their Maker (17:5),” “Happy are those who give to the poor (14:21),” “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord (19:17).” And Jesus said, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven (Luke 6:20).”

 

 Christians often make one of two mistakes. We think that true Christianity is all about salvation of the heart and we ignore social needs. Or we focus on the social needs of others to the neglect of personal faith in Jesus Christ. But the Bible commends balance and we see it in the life of Paul. Though his heart was fueled by a passion to start new churches and proclaim the gospel, he also felt real compassion for the poor.

 

 Why should we help the poor? Because every person is a child of God. Every person has been created by God and is loved by God. Even people who have made bad choices are loved by God. And some who are poor, especially the young, suffer from the cycle of generational poverty that is not their fault. Just as the commandment that we should not kill, is a recognition of our common humanity, so it is with the instruction to reach out to the poor. God does not allow us to turn away from those in need, for they are like us, creatures made in God’s image and loved by him.

 

 As Paul was, so we should be eager to help the poor. To reach out to those in need is not the whole gospel, but it is a part of it. It is a part of the gospel and the life of faith that we cannot neglect.

 

 With Warm Regards,

 

 Bob Bohler