FINDING GOD AS A HEAVENLY FATHER

Sunday Chronicles  # 334 — January 29, 2023
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen'” (Mt. 6:9-13; see also Luke 11:1-4).

Recently I re-read the story of how a wealthy, well-educated woman in an Asian nation found God as her Heavenly Father. In her growing-up years her father, a government official, always took time for her. But after her parents died and her husband divorced her, she felt very much alone even though she had extended family. She returned to a country estate handed down from ancestors and spent much time reclaiming the landscape with flowers. While reading a religious book, she saw a mention of Jesus and became curious to know more about Him.
Secretly acquiring a Bible, she began reading it. That night she dreamed she was having supper with a Man she knew was Jesus.  In her dream, He visited with her in her home for two days. As she continued reading the Bible, other dreams followed. Then when talking with a Christian doctor, she said, “I must find God, but I’m confused about your faith. Christians seem to make God so personal.”  The doctor replied, “Why don’t you pray to the God you are searching for?”  Then she leaned closer and he said, “Talk to Him as if He were your father.”
Even though many fathers in this culture favored their sons, this woman’s father had always welcomed her to come to his office and had been very attentive to her. When the Christian doctor told her to talk to God as she would talk to her father, she understood.  As she came closer to her Heavenly Father, she helped others find Him. Eventually it was necessary for her to leave her home country and come to the United States where she shared her spiritual journey in many places.
A news report recently stated that one in three children are growing up in a household without a father present. Also, Friday’s News-Leader (January 27, 2023) has a lengthy article about the Missouri legislative body considering restrictions on “drag” shows. These shows and other media productions introduce young people to the idea that they can choose whether to be male or female. Genesis 1:27 tells us that God created Adam and Eve as male and female. Gender is entirely in God’s control, and misuse of it brings judgment from God.  Some parts of our cities are following the sins that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 13:10).
It’s time for people who know our Heavenly Father to enter our prayer closets and plead for Him to send another Spiritual Awakening to our nation. You may think, “But I’m just one.  I can’t do much.” Remember the great victories that our Heavenly Father gave to prophets such as Elijah and Elisha. Perhaps those of us who are older have been spared “for such a time as this,” since we’ve experienced God’s great love and power in our lives. Join me in seeking the help of our Heavenly Father who loves us!
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Personal Notes: A wintry day in Springfield, MO, with heavy clouds sometimes spitting a mix of snow or ice. This type of weather, with daily highs around or below freezing, is predicted to last until Wednesday of this week when the high gets above freezing to about 38 or 40.  Spring will certainly be welcome when it arrives!
Needless to say, I have not been outside since before Thanksgiving, but have promised my caregiver that I will ride my motorized chair out and sit in the sun as soon the weather moderates and the sun shines. In the meantime, I look forward to getting mail, and it’s a sad day when there isn’t any. Thanks to those who have so faithfully sent cards and encouraging notes. I pray God’s blessings for you. The winter weather has ramped up the arthritis pain, and your prayers are much appreciated. I send you peace and joy from a loving Heavenly Father.  jwb

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CHOOSING JOY

Sunday Chronicles # 333 January 22, 2023

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2, 3).
These verses are the introduction to the book of James in the New Testament. At the time of its writing, at least three men with the name of James were active in the Jerusalem church: James the son of Zedebee, James the son of Alphaeus, and James, our Lord’s brother, whom most scholars accept as the author of the book of James in our Bibles. He was influential among the Jews and was an early leader of the Jerusalem Church of the Apostolic Age. Traditionally, it is believed he was martyred in AD 62 or 69; stoned to death by the Pharisees on order of High Priest Ananus ben Ananus.
Choosing joy in the midst of difficult situations takes an act of will and the help of the Holy Spirit. I spend my days confined to a motorized chair. It isn’t easy doing housework and some cooking while sitting in the chair, but without it, I couldn’t do as much. So I can complain about having to use the chair, or I can give thanks for its assistance. I can focus on what I can do and find joy in living or I can complain because I can’t walk or stand.  Some days I can choose joy easily; other days it’s harder.
I’ve remembered a formula for choosing joy in living that helps me.  Here it is: Put Jesus first, others second, and yourself last.  JESUS; Others; You  –JOY!
After I’ve had morning prayers and Bible reading, I CHOOSE to talk  to Jesus.  Then I think of what I can do to give joy to others:  I can CHOOSE to write a note, send an e-mail, of perhaps make a short phone call.  Receiving a card in the mail can bless me for days as I keep it on my desk, reread it, and pray for the person who sent it
JESUS; OTHERS!  Now it’s time to focus on what I can do to choose joy; I often work word puzzles, read,  or attempt to clean up my desk (not much headway there… I need a secretary!) Jesus; Others; You—JOY!
Am I perfect at doing this? No, I’m not, but when the clouds of despair sweep over me, I get my devotional book and start over.  The more I try to bring joy to others, the more my joy increases! Minnie Pearl, of Grand Ole Opry fame, often greeted her audience by saying, “I’m just so proud to be here! Just so glad you could come!” When I put Jesus first and others second, I choose JOY. It doesn’t change my physical situation, but it makes me glad in the face of whatever difficulty I face.  

IF JESUS GOES WITH ME

It may be in the valley, where countless dangers hide;
It may be in the sunshine that I, in peace, abide;
But this one thing I know—if it be dark or fair,
If Jesus is with me, I’ll go anywhere!

But if it be my portion to bear my cross at home,
While others bear their burdens beyond the billow’s foam,
I’ll prove my faith in Him—confess His judgments fair,
If Jesus stays with me, I’ll stay anywhere!

It is not mine to question the judgment of my Lord,
It is but mine to follow the leadings of His Word;
But if to go or stay, or whether here or there,
I’ll be, with my Savior, content anywhere!

Charles A. Miles, 1908 (Public Domain)


Personal Notes:  A gloomy gray sky is spitting cold rain in Springfield, MO, today. Some sun is predicted for Monday, but the rest of the week is expected to be cloudy with temps in the thirties. It seems that even the birds are hiding from the cold. Perhaps it’s a good week to focus on cleaning closets at home and spreading cheer to friends and neighbors.
Thank you for your prayers for my continuing health concerns. I do daily exercises trying to keep my body functioning. I also pray for many of you as you cross into the mountains of aging. With this writing, I send you JOY.  Peace, JWB

JESUS SAID, “LET THE CHILDREN COME”

Sunday Chronicles # 332 January 15, 2023


“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them “ (Mark 10:13-15, NIV).

Having spent a major part of my life teaching children and young people, it thrills me that Jesus considered sharing time and love with children an important part of His ministry. Sometimes when adults look at a situation as hopeless, children have a different view.

Following is a true story about Helen Roseveare, who served 20 years as a missionary doctor in Zaire, Africa, before computers and instant communication were available.  The story has been printed in various publications and is now on the internet.

One night Helen worked to help a mother in labor. She did all she could, but the woman died, leaving her premature baby and a devastated two-year-old daughter behind. Keeping the baby alive would be difficult. They had no incubator, no electricity, no special feeding facilities, and nights were often chilly. All they had were blankets and an old hot water bottle. But when they went to fill the hot water bottle, it broke! There were no drugstores anywhere nearby and nothing they could do. All they could do was put the baby near the fire as safely as possible, and sleep between the baby and the door to help block the drafts.

The next day, as she did most days, Helen went to the orphanage to pray with the children. Before praying, she told them about the problem with the baby and the little girl who lost their mother. During the prayer time, a ten-year-old girl named Ruth said an audacious prayer: “Please, God,” she prayed, “send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby’ll be dead, so please send it this afternoon… And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?”

Helen was shocked. Deep down, she did not believe that God could do that. Sure, He can do anything. But this? There were too many problems. The only way this could happen is if someone sent them a hot water bottle. Helen had been working in Africa for nearly four years and had never received a package from home. And even if they did send a package, who would think to send a hot water bottle to the equator?”

But that afternoon, while she was teaching in a nurse’s training school, Helen received a message that there was a car at her front door. When Helen finally arrived at her house, the car was gone, but a large box was sitting on the verandah. Tears welled up in her eyes. Could it be?

She sent for the orphanage children to come and see what was in the package. Together, they carefully opened the box. On top were brightly-colored knit jerseys for the children. Then, knitted bandages for the leprosy patients. Her hope began to fade.

Then, she reached into the box and felt it: a brand-new hot water bottle! Helen cried. She did not ask God because she did not truly believe He could do it. Ruth, who was with the children watching, cried out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!” She rummaged through the bottom of the box, and her eyes lit up as she pulled out a beautiful little doll. She never doubted.

The package had been sent five months earlier by Helen’s former Sunday school class. The leader obeyed a prompting from God to include a hot water bottle, and one of the girls put in a doll for an African child. This all happened five months before the audacious prayer of a ten-year-old girl to receive it that day.(1)

Perhaps Jesus welcomed the children because they often have more faith than adults.  We focus on the reasons God can’t or won’t do what we are asking. The child believes! When our son Jon was in the second grade, the children’s leader where we attended church started a contest in Bible reading, offering a prize for the child who read the most chapters.  Jon could not yet read well enough to read from the Bible, so he asked the leader if we read the chapters to him, and he “listened real good” could they count. The leader agreed to Jon’s plan. Jon told me he was going to get the prize. I tried to tell him that children who could read for themselves had a better chance of winning, but Jon was undeterred.
For the length of the contest, Jon carried a New Testament and constantly begged some of us to read to him. I tried again to tell him he could not compete with the older children, but he was sure he would get the prize. On the Sunday the prize was to be awarded, I dreaded going to pick Jon up after church. I was sure one of the older children had won, and I wondered how I could comfort him.  But when I got to the children’s area, there was Jon grinning from ear to ear and showing off the prize! I felt as if Jesus was saying to me “O ye of little faith!”  
“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.18:2-4, KJV).
This week, let’s ask our Heavenly Father to help us achieve childlike faith! Peace, jwb

[1] John Van Diest, Do You Believe in Miracles? (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2012), 43-45.

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Personal Notes: A near-perfect winter day in Springfield, MO, with wispy white clouds against a blue background and temps in the mid 50s.  I’m hoping the sun will melt the remaining snow on my car. It sits in an area where it doesn’t get much sun.
Thanks for your prayers and the cards with notes that you send. I continue to struggle with knees that sometimes fold up without warning, so can only try to walk with my walker when I have braces on them. May each of you be blessed for your kindness to me. Peace, jwb

“They will know we are Christians by our love….”


Sunday Chronicles # 331, January 8, 2023
Hebrews 10:24-25

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

Recently I have noticed reports of declining church attendance in the U.S. It started before COVID, which accelerated the downward trend. Now it continues, especially among youth. I was raised in church, and I never missed services until I became physically unable to go. Now I watch Maranatha chapel services on TV. I see people shaking hands, greeting each other with smiles or hugs. How I wish I could be there!
The church is to be God’s witness in the world. Every Christian needs to be part of a church. I’ve heard lots of excuses from people who had stopped attending services. Some said church people were not friendly to them, and they did not feel welcome. Services were too long or the music too loud. Yet these same people attended sports events that were louder and longer than church services.
One of the reasons for the church is to spread the news about God’s love…how He loved us sinners so much He sent His only Son to be our Savior. One of the founding principles of churches is to evangelize those who haven’t heard that God loves them.
It’s a big job and none of us can do it alone. Yet together we can make a dent in the darkness of sin, if we minister in love. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, …. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Missionaries go to many areas to tell people who have not heard about Jesus’ love, and the success of their efforts often depends on the prayers of people at home. They cannot do the job without the work of the Holy Spirit. Years ago I read a story about a workman trying to do a big job alone. Here is his report:

Dear Sir:
I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In block number three of the accident claim form I wrote “trying to do the job alone” as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain that statement more fully. I trust the following details will be sufficient.
I am a bricklayer by trade. On the date of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work I discovered that I had about 500 pounds of brick left over. Rather than carrying the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which was attached to the side of the building at the sixth-floor level.
Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out, and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 500 pounds of bricks. You will note in block number 22 of the claim form that my weight is 150 pounds.
Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded up the side of the building at a very rapid speed. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down. This explains my fractured skull and collarbone. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley.
By this time, I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of my pain. At approximately the same time however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel then weighed approximately 50 pounds.
I refer you again to the information in block number 11 regarding my weight. As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles and the lacerations of my legs and lower body. This second encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of bricks, and fortunately, only three vertebrae were cracked.
I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the bricks in pain, unable to stand, and watching the empty barrel six stories above me, I again lost my presence of mind, and let go of the rope. The empty barrel weighed more than the rope so it came down upon me and broke both of my legs. I hope I have furnished information sufficient to explain why “trying to do the job alone” was the stated cause of the accident. (Author Unknown)
This poor guy ended up with serious problems because he needed help he didn’t have. Every Christian needs to be in a church where help and love are freely exchanged. If that would happen, their love would help change our world.
“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:16-17).

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Personal Notes:  A sunny winter day with temps in the mid-50s in Springfield, MO, today. There are still cases of flu and some of COVID here in Maranatha Village. I think the winter weather is wearing on all of us. To help my breathing, I use oxygen some each day.
Thanks to all who sent cards or greetings during Christmas. I enjoyed hearing from each person who wrote. Your prayers are also much appreciated. May God bless and keep you in His tender care. Peace, jwb

LIFE AT BECKETT MOUNTAIN: Calves, Pigs, and a Woman’s Prayer

Time: 1937-1938 Place: Beckett Mountain, AR

Sunday Chronicles #330 January 1, 2023

Some of my readers have said they liked the stories from my childhood, so I’m telling another one.

After being called to preach when he was 17, Dad put off responding to full-time ministry. He felt he had to farm to feed his wife and their first daughter, and help his widowed mother. He held home prayer meetings, and preached revivals near home, but he believed that if he didn’t farm, his family would starve. Finally, God made it clear that he could wait no longer. (Sunday Chronicles “When God Says ‘Now.’ See link at end.). They left California, and came back to Nuyaka, Oklahoma, where a small group of Pentecostal believers were meeting in an upstairs room over a lodge building. Our family spent the next two years building a tabernacle-style church and establishing a congregation. Then Dad took a church in a community near Rosebud, AR. We moved there in the spring of 1937.

During much of 1937, my dad and the men of the Beckett Mountain church worked to improve the church building. They put in flooring and ceiling and made benches. When that work was finished, my dad began to dream and talk about building a parsonage. The share-cropper’s cabin we were living in was little more than a shed. During the winter it was impossible to keep warm.

Across the road from the church was a lot that used to have an old house. The house had burned; only the well and a cellar remained. By faith, Dad saw a new parsonage there. He drew up simple plans for a basic 4-room house: an eat-in kitchen, a living room, and two bedrooms with closets. Like most other homes in the community, the house would have electricity, but no plumbing.

Some of the men who had helped work on the church building were now busy with their crops. Also, the question of financing loomed large. They didn’t feel the church could pay for material to build a parsonage.

Early in the spring, Agnes Stokes came to visit the church from the Arkansas District of the Assemblies of God. I think she came to train Sunday school teachers, but it turned out that she did much more! At an all-day prayer meeting, she led in prayer about the parsonage.

She began her prayer by telling God about the need, then as the Spirit of God moved in her heart, she continued praying something like this: “God, it’s true that these people don’t have much money, but they have pigs, calves, and chickens. They have hay and corn and other produce you have blessed them with. Now, Lord, help them sell some of these things and supply this need for a house for this pastor and his family.” The longer she prayed, the happier she got. By faith, she rejoiced over the parsonage that would be built and thanked God for what He was going to do.

As she prayed, the Holy Spirit brought conviction to those who had been reluctant to give. At the end of the service several people committed to selling something and giving the proceeds toward the new parsonage. One man, a fairly new believer, was impressed that he should give two calves that he was fattening up to sell, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that. Instead he promised to sell a pig. No one knew about his struggle until the next day. He came to our house early, and my dad went outside to talk with him. He told my dad that when he went to his barn that morning the two heifers were dead.

“Brother Wells,” he said, “you don’t have to tell me why those calves died. They were perfectly healthy yesterday, and they’re dead today because God wanted me to give them but I wouldn’t.” By now he was weeping. “But I’ll make it right,” he said. “I’ll sell something else and give God as much as those heifers would have brought!”

He kept his word, and his example inspired others. The new parsonage was built, and we moved in even before it was finished. God blessed that man; during a revival a few weeks later, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I remember the night it happened.

The service had been long as Pentecostal services often were! I had been asleep, but as the altar service was ending, Mama got me awake to go home. Some people had already left. The man who had been reluctant to sell his heifers was seeking the Baptism each night. He was a quiet man and people in the community said if he ever got “those tongues,” they would believe that the Baptism in the Spirit was real.

On this night he had been kneeling at one end of the altar; as the service was closing, he got up and sat on the altar, looking discouraged. My dad was standing near him. Dad said, “Before we leave, let’s all raise our hands and praise the Lord one more time.”

As people raised their hands in praise, the Holy Spirit power fell. Some shouted, some wept, and soon this man was worshipping God in another language! The news spread outside into the churchyard and down the road to those leaving. One woman ran back, flung open the side door of the church near the altar, yelling “I WANT TO SEE! I WANT TO SEE!” She saw, but she still didn’t believe.

Sister Stokes’ prayer, this man seeking to obey God, and my dad’s steadfast faithfulness all played a role in building a new parsonage and bringing a spirit of revival to the church. Each week, people were being saved, healed, and baptized in the Holy Spirit.

God always honors faithfulness and obedience to His plans. May you find new ways in this New Year to be faithful to God in word and deed.

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Personal  Notes: In Springfield, MO, today we have a weak sun trying to break through a layer of  gray clouds.  Temps are in the 50s…not bad for January 1. Our family of six celebrated  Christmas Friday  (Dec. 30) with a carry-out meal of barbecue, French fries, and fried okra. A pie, made by Melinda, was dessert.  To quote some notable, “A good time was had by all!”
Today starts 2023 and a week of prayer in many churches. Maranatha Chapel will be open for prayer from 12 -1 p.m. each day this week. I can’t be there in person, but will be praying at home. Our nation needs another “Great Awakening” when individual Christians renew their passion for prayer and evangelism.
Thanks for your prayers. Please continue to pray for increased blood circulation in my legs/feet. I appreciate your prayers very, very much. Medical people seem to think my circulation cannot be restored, but “with God all things are possible,” if we believe.  Thanks, too, for the Christmas greetings. Your cards and notes brighten lonely days….Peace, jwb

The First Couple of Christmas: Zachariah and Elizabeth

Sunday Chronicles #329, December 25, 2022

“Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us” (Luke 1:78).

The four hundred years between the last of the Old Testament prophets and the birth of Jesus constituted a dark period in Jewish history. Caught between the waning power of the Greek empire and the rising strength of Rome, the Jewish nation experienced almost constant upheaval. Revolts, uprisings, and betrayal by corrupt religious leaders destroyed the faith of many ordinary people. But God, as always, had a remnant of faithful people. They obeyed His commandments and kept alive the hope for a coming Messiah. Using these people, God activated His plan to send His Son Jesus to Light the world’s darkness.

The first participants to appear in the pre-dawn glow of this coming Sunrise are an elderly couple – a country priest, Zachariah, and his wife Elizabeth. Luke tells us they were “…both upright and devout, blamelessly observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.” They had devoted their lives to serving God under the Old Testament law, yet a cloud hung over them. Luke continues: “But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were well on in years.” (Luke 1:6-7).

Childless! The blessing they most desired had been denied. Besides the pain of their own longing for a child, they experienced the censure of the culture: in the biblical world, being childless was considered a judgment from God. At their age, all hope for a child was gone.

Yet in their distress, they had not turned to bitterness but remained dedicated and faithful to God. Twice each year, Zachariah served a week in the Temple at Jerusalem. As God’s plan for the coming Sunrise unfolded, Zachariah was chosen, through a system of drawing lots, to offer incense in the Holy of Holies. This was a great honor for any priest, but even more so for one from the hill country of Judea.

As the hour of the evening sacrifice approached, worshipers were praying in the outer court. Zachariah purified himself and entered the Holy of Holies. Standing alone before the golden altar of incense, he proceeded with his duties. Soon the sweet smell of incense ascended to God along with the prayers of His people. No doubt, included with their personal requests, many were praying for the coming of the Messiah.

Suddenly, in that sacred atmosphere, Zachariah was no longer alone. An angel stood on the right side of the altar. Stricken with fear, Zachariah waited. The angel sought to reassure him: “Do not be afraid … your prayer has been heard.” Then he gave Zachariah astonishing news: “Your wife Elizabeth will bear a son and you shall name him John” (Luke 1:13-14).

The angel had more to tell Zachariah: “Your heart will thrill with joy and many will be glad that he was born; for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord” (Luke 1:14-15). As the angel’s message continued, Zachariah realized this son would be the one prophesied by Isaiah to “prepare the way of the Lord” — the coming Messiah!

The Messiah was coming! Four hundred years of prophetic silence had ended. Zachariah had longed to see this Sunrise, but now that he and his wife were to have a part in it, he struggled to believe. “How can I know that this is true?” he asked. “I am an old man myself, and my wife is getting on in years” (Luke 1:18).

The angel’s answer was swift: “I am Gabriel; I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. Because you do not believe what I have said…you shall be unable to speak a word until the day that it happens. But be sure that everything that I have told you will come true at the proper time” (Luke 1:19-20).

Gabriel! Sent from the presence of God to an elderly country priest! Gabriel’s previous appearance in Scripture was some five hundred years earlier when he brought a message to Daniel, a Jewish captive in exile who had become a high-ranking and greatly valued adviser to kings of the Babylonian empire.

Back home, Zachariah had so much to tell Elizabeth, but he could not speak. The penalty for his lack of belief must have been torture. But when Elizabeth conceived, their excitement increased. Elizabeth rejoiced saying, “The Lord has done this for me… he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among people” (Luke 1:25).

The coming Sunrise would bring Jesus, the Light of the world, to be born into humanity’s plight. His followers reflect the light He brings into the darkness of our world.

To dispel the darkness, He uses anyone who will let His light shine through them. Age doesn’t matter. No one is too old or too young to reflect His light. Samuel first responded to God as a child. David was a young man, possibly a teen. Moses was 80 years old when God called him to lead Israel.

It isn’t important where His followers live. God used Daniel in the world’s greatest city of his time; David first heard from God as a shepherd boy; Zachariah was from the hill country.

God uses people of great faith, and He uses those who must pray, “Lord, help my unbelief.” Daniel exhibited strong faith; Zachariah struggled to believe.

Education or lack thereof isn’t a deciding factor. Paul and Moses both had superior schooling; Peter and John had less formal training. Yet God used them all.

God uses anyone who will let His light shine through them. He wants to use you! Will you let Him?

(Scripture quotations are from Luke, Chapter 1, in various translations of the Bible: The Message, J. B. Phillips New Testament, New English Bible, and New International Version.)

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Personal notes: A slight warm-up in Springfield, MO, today.  Noon temp is 20 degrees with sun. Thank God our electricity has remained on during this cold time.

Our six-member family Christmas has been delayed; flu-like sicknesses and difficult travel conditions made a change in plans. Perhaps we can get together and  celebrate next week-end. Until then, keep us in your prayers.

I have been blessed by your Christmas greetings, especially the beautiful cards I have received. They make my day much brighter. I am usually alone about 20 hours out of each 24, so I have time to pray for you and thank God for your kindness to me. May Christmas blessings be your companions in the New Year. Peace, jwb

CHRISTMAS ALWAYS COMES BECAUSE OF LOVE

Sunday Chronicles #328, Dec. 18, 2022

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.
And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone
can have a whole and lasting life. (John 3:16, The Message)

Our family returned to Nuyaka, OK, from Beckett Mountain, AR, in fall 1938. My sister went to work in Okmulgee; Dad, Mama, and I moved into a house my parents bought in Nuyaka with the help of Mr. Whitman. Dad and the church people grew a cotton crop to pay off the loan on the church building. During the week, Dad worked for the Nuyaka schools, driving a bus or doing janitorial work.

That fall while my Dad was splitting wood, his ax slipped and cut through his leather high-topped shoe. It made a deep gash on his right foot. No medical care was available and my parents bound up the wound themselves. They treated it with home remedies such as kerosene, salt, scraped Irish potato, or a piece of salt pork to draw out the poison. Since Dad was unable to work while his foot was healing, he lost a month’s pay from the school. This put financial stress on my parents.

My Dad was the fun maker in our home, and with his fretting about his foot and missing work, we had a dreary fall. Mama got a few days’ work now and then, picking cotton or helping with fall canning and butchering. How I loved it when she came home with fresh meat to fry for supper! I knew that in the morning there’d be more meat along with biscuits and gravy.

I was old enough to know my parents were struggling to make the house payment and the electric bill. They had to buy gas for the car and some food. The church people shared what they had with us—corn meal, milk, dry beans, potatoes, or salt-cured fat bacon. Money was scarce in our whole community.

Mama was worried because I had outgrown my winter coat. Someone had given us a camel tan coat that had several burned places on the front. Mama took the coat to a local woman who was good at sewing. She managed to take the good parts of the coat and make a coat for me. For payment, Mama quilted a quilt for her.

My Dad was concerned about preparing something for the church people for Christmas. He wanted to have a bag for each person with an apple, orange, and a few pieces of hard candy. I too was concerned, wondering if we would have any Christmas.

A woman in the church who had business dealings with several merchants in Okmulgee asked them for donations of fruit and candy for the church treats. She was able to get enough for our church and to a help a few very needy Nuyaka families.

Since I was growing taller, new clothes for me were a necessity. Short dresses on the preacher’s daughter were cause for scandal. Salt and flour came in white cloth sacks. Mama washed and bleached them to remove the lettering; she used these to make my underclothes, which she embroidered as though she were working with the finest material.

Where clothes were concerned, Mama and I had one big difference. Because I was blond and fair, Mama chose light colors for my dresses. My “best dress” at that time was pale green. Others were lavender or blue. Some had a small print of some sort. Mama didn’t think bright colors such as orange or purple and big flowered or checked prnts, were “suitable.” Mama usually had three dresses made for me in the spring and three in the fall. She chose a simple style with no big buttons or collars. I looked at other girls with bright colored dresses elaborately decorated with cheap lace and big ruffles; I wanted dresses like that. I don’t know if I expressed this desire to some of my playmates in the hearing of their mothers, but possibly I did. Of course,  their dresses were made from feed sacks; that was the material most available to country people.

Mama was very resourceful, and I knew she would have something for Christmas, but I also knew it would have to be something that didn’t take money. What I didn’t know was that the ladies of the church were preparing a surprise for me. On the Sunday morning before Christmas, the Christmas treats were given out. If anything was said about gifts for us, I didn’t hear it.

In those days, churches didn’t dismiss services at Christmas; few people in our community planned any holiday travel. Most didn’t have a car and going very far in a wagon in winter can be miserable and result in chest colds or pneumonia. Church services went on as usual; in fact, some people who didn’t attend any other time came at Christmas.

When we went back to church that Sunday night, several packages wrapped in white paper (the kind merchants used to wrap purchases) and tied with big red crepe paper bows were sitting on the platform. Perhaps we had some sort of Christmas program. I sat and stared at the packages, trying to imagine what might be in them. Finally one of the church ladies presented the packages to us. The largest was for me. I was excited beyond measure.

When I opened the package (being careful not to damage the paper or the bow, so they could be reused) I found five or six new dresses. They were made from feed sack material with large flowers in bright pink, orange, and purple. Some were a combination of several pieces of material in different patterns. Huge collars were simply adorned with cotton lace; others had pockets trimmed with big buttons and rickrack. Most had sashes at the waist to tie in a big bow and deep ruffles on the bottom of full skirts. I was sure I would become a princess now that I had these dresses in vibrant colors.

In the following weeks I must have behaved somewhat like a peacock. I had never in my life had such an array of bright clothing. Some of the ruffles hid an extra hem that could be let down as I grew. This extended the life of the dresses until well into the next summer. In the end Mama won; by the time the dresses were worn out, I was tired of their gaudy colors and more than ready to return to Mama’s choices.

I have no memory what the packages for my parents contained. Possibly a shirt or tie for my Dad and a piece of dress material for Mama. On Christmas morning, a large doll sat in my little rocking chair. Mama had borrowed it from a cousin who had outgrown playing with dolls. My sister came home and brought a bag of  groceries and some gifts—a puzzle of the United States for me and a coloring book.

Christmas 1939 came to a world where the Great Depression had cast a pall over America. In Europe, Hitler’s armies were starting the atrocities of World War II. But in Nuyaka, church people used what they had to make Christmas special for a little girl, her parents, and the congregation in the Great Depression. They did it out of love.
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Personal Notes: Electrical outages lasting 4 to 6 hours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday made those days difficult. I’m not sure if there is still more electrical work to be done. I got my apartment warm before an outage started, and the warmth lasted until near the end.  

The hardest part was having no electricity for microwave or stove to warm food, and trying to keep my motorized chair charged. I spent extra time praying for believers in nations where they suffer much worse problems. 

The cold has settled in, and weather people predict a week of low temps with several chances for snow. Hopefully, we will have no more power outages.

Thank you for your prayers for me; I could feel them.

I pray God will give you a blessed time with your family during this Christmas. Show love to each other and forgive past hurts. Remember, Christmas always comes because of love…first, by God loving us and sending a Savior to show us how to live in love with each other, even those who can be hard for us to love. Read 1 Corinthians 13 and note that the greatest gift is love!

May that love light your way this season and into the coming year.

WATCH FOR THE LIGHT — Part 6

Sunday Chronicles # 327

PASSING THE LIGHT TO A NEW GENERATION

Sometime in 1912, an evangelist from Kansas came walking into a rural community in Northern Arkansas. While studying at Bethel Bible College, in Topeka, he had received the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in a language unknown to the person speaking. This evangelist who came to Arkansas, whose name has been lost to memory, secured permission to hold services in a local schoolhouse.

At that time my father was 17 years old. He attended the revival, received Jesus as his Savior, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and called to preach. His mother was a widow and needed her sons to do plowing. My dad began preaching as he plowed. As people passed by along the road, some hiding in bushes at the edge of the field to hear what the Holy Spirit was saying through him.

Later my father traveled (by foot or on horseback) in that area with A.E. Humbard (father of Rex) and assisted Brother Humbard in holding revival meetings in school houses or brush arbors. In early 1914, my dad was able to attend a training program at Malvern, Ark., where E.N. Bell was lead pastor. Both Humbard and Bell had seminary educations, but after they received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, their original church affiliations no longer wanted them. Their teaching greatly benefited my dad, whose formal education had stopped at about 5th grade. They taught him much about proper interpretation of the Bible. My dad continued to study all his life, taking reading courses for ministers and attending seminars when he could.

Illustration by Jim Padgett

In the New Testament, we find examples of the Apostle Paul and his helpers operating in much the same way to train church leaders. Paul, along with Barnabas and Silas, took the gospel message to Lystra, a city in central Anatolia which is now part of Turkey. Somewhere in that region Paul found a young man named Timothy whose mother was Jewish but whose father was Greek. Because of his mixed heritage, Timothy would not have been accepted by the Jewish hierarchy in Jerusalem. However, Paul recognized Timothy’s faith, 2 Timothy 1:5, NASB: “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelled in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.”

In their years of working together in ministry, Timothy became very dear to Paul. Second Timothy ends with Paul back in a Roman prison awaiting his death. He had left Timothy at Ephesus but now he writes: “Make every effort to come before winter” (2 Timothy 4:21).

Another young man whom Paul helped train for ministry and leadership in the churches was Titus. He had been left on the island of Crete to help organize the churches there. In Titus 1:4, Paul addresses Titus as “my true son in a common faith.” In the remainder of his letter, Paul instructs Titus on matters related to leadership and proper organization.

Preparing young people to “carry the light” should be a major concern for older believers. To be effective, it must be done with love and a sincere desire to see the young person be an successful “Light Carrier.” This week encourage those who will come after you in ministry.

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Personal Notes: Greetings from Springfield, MO, on a dreary day with gray clouds overhead and an occasional sprinkle of rain. But we know that above the clouds, the sun is still shining. I’ve had several visitors this week to make my dreary days much brighter. My body is growing weaker, in spite of my doing exercises and some walking with my walker each day. Arthritis is gaining on me, but I’m still in the battle. Pray with me that I can stay here in this apartment through the winter. Maranatha residents continue to have cases of COVID and flu, along with the problems that come with old age. So far, I’ve had only age-related issues. Please keep me in your prayers, as I do you.Your cards and e-mails are a special blessing. May our loving Lord return joy to you for your kindness to me. Peace, jwb

WATCH FOR THE LIGHT — Part 5

Sunday Chronicles #326 Dec. 4, 2022

The Light Shines in Ethiopia
Scripture basis: Acts 8:26-40.

(Note: the Ethiopia mentioned in this article is not the same as today’s Ethiopia located in Africa. Ethiopia in this Scripture seems to be located along the Red Sea in Egypt.)

Philip (known as the Evangelist) lived in Caesarea, a major city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea about 55 miles north of Jerusalem. God sent an angel who told him to go south on the desert road from Jerusalem toward Egypt and the Red Sea. Philip obeyed and God directed him to a man riding in a chariot and reading. The man reading was an Ethiopian, the treasurer for Queen Candace of Ethiopia. He was a Jewish convert and had traveled many miles to come to Jerusalem to worship God in the Jewish temple. Now he was returning home.

When Philip came near, he heard the man reading from Isaiah 53:7-8:

“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.”

Philip asked the Ethiopian if he understood what he was reading, and he replied that he did not. Philip then told him about Jesus who had come, suffered, was crucified and rose to life before going back to Heaven.

The Ethiopian immediately accepted the news about Jesus as the Messiah and when they came to a pool of water, he asked to be baptized. Philip baptized him, and when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught up Philip and he was later found at Azotus, many miles away (the Old Testament Ashdod). The Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing.

As I studied this story, I wondered how this Ethiopian man had become a servant of Jehovah God. His home was several days’ journey from Jerusalem. Evidently he had never heard of Jesus until God sent Philip. As I dug deeper into the limited source material available, I concluded that perhaps stories about the God of heaven whom the Jews worshipped had been carried back to that part of the world by the queen of Sheba after her visit to Solomon (1 Kings 10:1-13).

The exact location of Sheba is debatable. Two threads of history link the Queen of Sheba to different places. On the other hand, Ethiopian records assert that the Queen of Sheba ruled the Axumite Empire, situated in southern Egypt. This seems the most likely to me.

The Queen of Sheba traveled to Jerusalem during the reign of King Solomon as she had “heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, and came to test Solomon with hard questions” (1 Kings 10:1). As God had granted Solomon the gift of wisdom (1 Kings 3:5–12), “nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her” (1 Kings 10:3). After seeing Solomon’s palace and the service of his people, the Queen of Sheba declared how impressed she was with Solomon’s answers, hospitality, and the reputation that preceded him. The story ends with an exchange of resources and the Queen of Sheba returning “with her retinue to her own country” (1 Kings 10:13).

Why does this story about Philip the Evangelist and the Ethiopian matter to us? It shows us to what extremes God will go to touch the life of an individual. Philip got a message from an angel, a ride through the clouds, and the joy of pointing someone to Jesus. The Ethiopian heard the story of Jesus for the first time, opened his heart to the message, and “went on his way rejoicing” because the Light had come to him. This week ask God to bring at least one person to you who needs to know about Jesus’ love! Perhaps you’ll get a ride through the clouds, too, even if your feet are still on the ground! To me, there’s no greater joy than seeing Jesus change a person’s life from destruction to glory! Peace, jwb

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Personal Notes: Gray clouds cover the skies in Springfield, MO, on this first Sunday in December. I listened to Maranatha Chapel service this morning and Chaplain Oberg emphasized that Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate this month, is the Prince of Peace. With increased gun violence, runaway drug abuse among our youth, soaring prices on most things we use, and racial relations often tense, how much we need the peace of God in our lives to share with others. This week ask God to give you peace and help you share it with others.

Thanks for your prayers for my intestinal problems; they are improving. Please continue to pray for my knees; I wear braces on them because they are bone-on-bone and give way without notice. I know God can create new padding between the bones if He chooses, but until then, please pray I don’t have any more falls.

Sending love and prayers to each of you….jwb

WATCH FOR THE LIGHT, Part 4

The LIGHT Shines into the Greek/Roman World

Sunday Chronicles #325 November 27, 2022

Thirty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection in Jerusalem, before any of the written gospels existed, the LIGHT was reaching out across the Greek/Roman world.

The Apostle Paul introduces us in Romans 16:1-2 to one of the carriers of that light: a businesswoman named Phoebe.

Phoebe’s home was in the eastern port city of Cenchreae, eight miles from Corinth, where Paul likely spent the winter of A.D. 56-57 in the home of Gaius, one of his converts. That winter he wrote, among other things, a letter to the church at Rome. As soon as spring weather allowed sea travel, Paul planned to take a ship to Jerusalem to deliver an offering from the Gentile churches to the suffering church in Jerusalem. Phoebe was planning a trip to Rome on some sort of business. She carried the letter Paul had written to the leaders of the church in Rome.

The gospel had been preached in Cenchreae, possibly by Paul or one of his converts, and a church established there–a church where Phoebe was a leader.

Phoebe was a Gentile who had accepted Jesus as Savior. For a non-Jewish woman to denounce her gods (her name comes from myths about their god Apollos) and believe in Jesus, a Jew whom the Romans had killed in Jerusalem, over 1,000 miles from her home, must have taken a huge amount of courage. Less than 30 years after Jesus’ death, Phoebe was a devout Christian! The written gospels were not yet circulating.

The word Paul used when he stated that Phoebe “is a servant of the church in Cenchreae,” is the Greek word “diakonos,” translated “servant” here in some Bible versions. Paul used this word 22 times in the New Testament books attributed to him. He describes himself, Apollos, Timothy, Tychicus, and Epaphras with this term. These men were all full-fledged pastors, teachers, and evangelists.

Perhaps Phoebe had carried the gospel to her own city and opened a church there! Paul said her work blessed not only him but “many.” She must have been well-known and respected in her hometown. Fortunate is the church that have such women among their leaders.

It seemed that Phoebe would be traveling to Rome alone, so I’m assuming she may have been a widow. Paul asked the Roman church to receive and welcome Phoebe “in the Lord.” When traveling, early Christians depended on the hospitality of those of like faith. Phoebe would probably stay in the home of a Roman believer, whether Jew or Gentile.

We do not know why Phoebe was traveling to Rome, whether it was some need of the church she led, or personal business. The extreme persecution of Christians was still about six years in the future, but Nero was already emperor. His mother had poisoned her husband Claudius so Nero could have the throne. Forces that would come against the infant church were gathering. Perhaps Paul, better than anyone else, saw the need for Christians to bind together in love and assist each other.

So in the spring of A.D. 57, Phoebe, a Gentile woman, a leader in the church at Cenchreae, noted for the help she had given others, even the great Apostle Paul, started on her journey to Rome. She carried with her a letter of introduction to Paul’s friends and fellow believers there. The written words in her keeping were the first great theological document of the Christian faith. We have them in our Bibles as “The Epistle to the Romans.”

Note that Phoebe, unknown except for these two verses in Romans 16:1-2, was from a small town. Whatever difficulties she may have encountered on her trip to Rome, she faithfully delivered Paul’s letter to the Roman church. It isn’t always folks from big cities or prominent people whom God uses. In our nation today we see ominous signs of gathering spiritual darkness. It’s our turn to live in a God-honoring way so that our children/grandchildren in generations to come will carry the Light forward and be courageous in the battle for “one nation, under God.”

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Personal Notes: A gloomy day with mid-forties temps in Springfield, MO, this last Sunday in November. Gray clouds hang low, and light rain falls intermittently.  I listened to Maranatha Chapel service on Channel 81.1 this morning; thankful that technology makes this possible!
My body continues to break down; arthritis in major joints make any type of movement difficult and painful. This week I had intestinal problems, but thanks to friends’ prayers, they are improving. Please keep praying that they won’t return! I’m doing all I can to keep active, but I realize that I’m losing the battle. My hope is in heaven!  Peace, jwb