Monthly Archives: January 2024

Oaks of Righteousness


They may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. —Isaiah 61:3

Oaks were the main trees of Israel’s natural groves and forests. The three species which grow there have in common their strong and hard wood and all attain a great height and reach a very old age. The Hebrew name, allon, even means strong. So it is no wonder then that Isaiah uses the imagery of oak trees to symbolize those who are strong in the Lord.

Besides being strong, oak trees also rise up to the sky. Oak trees branch out to provide shade for those who need shelter from danger. And oak trees expand with a new ring of growth each year.

In much the same way, people who are oaks of righteousness are drawn closer to heaven through the Holy Spirit. Oaks of righteousness protect others from the evils of this world by the power of God. And oaks of righteousness continue to mature in their faith in Christ through prayer and Scripture reading in order to grow stronger in him year after year.

Who are some oaks of righteousness that you know who are like this? How can you become more and more like an oak of righteousness at this time in your life? People are watching us more than we think, and it is time for us to show the world, as in Isaiah’s day, that the glory of the Lord is within us through the death of Christ on the tree of the cross.

Unsearchable Riches


This grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things. Ephesians 3:8-9

Some blessings are beyond our knowing or understanding, and that is what jumps out for me in these verses from Ephesians 3. Only by God’s grace are we able to comprehend at all the richness of forgiveness, faith and everlasting life which Christ lavishes upon us mere humans with our finite minds.

That’s why witnessing can be so daunting for us sometimes. We are expressing to others what is naturally and initially inexpressible: unconditional love and salvation from a God who has known us forever and will know us forever. What comes forth from our mouths is by our own admission not from us, but from God. Yet we are the vessels that carry this treasure of Good News to the people around us.

Don’t be afraid of what you don’t fully understand. Don’t let the riches of Christ go unseen, unheard, unsearched for or explored. That is how we continue to expand the kingdom and grow within ourselves as his faithful people.



As those in band know, embouchure is the use of the lips, facial muscles, tongue, and teeth in playing a wind instrument. The word comes from the French root “bouche,” meaning “mouth.” Good embouchure allows for a better sound, a wider range of notes and less strain on the muscles.

How wind instrumentalists move their mouths directly affects the quality of music that comes out. I find this fascinating. Wind instrumentalists I have talked to about this say that after awhile correct embouchure becomes almost second nature. They come to know exactly what is needed to create a certain note without thinking too much about it.

Whether we know it or not, we are capable of a kind of Christian embouchure, a way of moving our mouths to elicit the beautiful sounds of the Gospel to a listening audience. We may not know exactly how we do it, but the Holy Spirit gives us the words to say in the proper way and at the right time to bring about the best result in the hearts of minds of others to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

We don’t need to be experts in Christian embouchure by any means, but we simply need to allow our mouths to utter the joyful noises of the Good News of our Savior, who came to earth to teach, preach, heal and even sacrifice himself for us. His mouth moved in such a way from the cross to utter, “It is finished!” At his ascension, his mouth opened to declare, “Peace be with you” and “I am with you always” to his disciples.

With trumpet sounds, Jesus will return to take us home to be with him in heaven, where we will open our mouths and sing with all the saints the glory of his name. Sing a song of praise in preparation for that day today. Play your praise on an instrument, if you know how.



Today we honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and we remember these stirring words from his “I Have a Dream” speech, spoken on August 28, 1963: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Dr. King is envisioning a time when freedom will ring out for all people. It is a vision we continue to strive for as a nation, as a people and as individuals.

But as Christians we know that we are already free, spiritually speaking. As Jesus tells us, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Because of the truth of God’s love for us in Jesus, we are free to love, free to forgive, free to live by Christ’s example every day of our lives. Let our freedom in Christ bring harmony to all.



Several days into the New Year, without fail, gyms, rec centers and fitness classes are filled with people. Exercise is #1 on almost every person’s New Year’s resolutions list. And all establishments that cater to exercise reap the benefits, at least at this time of year.

Then in a few months, the number of visitors and attendees will begin to trail off, like clock work. We are a fickle people and a people who don‘t keep up with their promises on things like this that take extra work and more pain and added time to our days.

Thank God that he is not like that with us. He commits to us and sticks with us and continues to exercise his role in our lives from day to day and year to year. He will never get tired or weary of us. He will not back out of a relationship with us because it is painful or more work or takes a lot of time. He loves us regardless of how we look or what we have done. He loves us because we belong to him and we are his own. Our membership in his family will never run out.

Truly Wise

wise men

Coming 12 days after Christmas, Epiphany is the official day in the church year when we celebrate the arrival of the Wise Men to the place where Jesus was. We call them Wise Men because that is how the Bible defines them. It is assumed that they are called wise because they presumably studied astronomy and knew of the location and movements of a star that was quite unusual and that was related to the birth of a king.

But the Wise Men proved to be very wise on their trip as well. They went to Herod‘s palace to get information from Scripture about a newborn king. They listened to what the Scriptures said and went to the town of Bethlehem. After they saw Jesus, the Wise Men, prompted by a dream, were wise in not returning to King Herod, who did not have good things in mind for Jesus.

The Wise Men were most wise of all when they met Jesus face to face. They bowed before him. They worshiped him. They gave him extravagant gifts that told the world that this was a very special King.

What can we learn from these Wise Men? It is wise for us, too, to go to Scripture for answers. It is wise to know and honor the right King, Jesus. And it is wise to give our King Jesus the very best of our gifts of precious time, special talents and treasured possessions. Be like the Wise Men in every way you can today.