Neighbor: being immediately adjoining or relatively near
Thought for the Day: The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. John 1:14 The Message
There probably aren’t too many individuals in the world today that haven’t heard or remember seeing episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers, it is noted, “began each episode by changing into one of his trademark cardigan sweaters while singing the show’s theme song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” He then addressed the topic of the day and in the process taught children how to get along with others, feel good about themselves, and cope with their fears.” Having an undergraduate degree in musical composition, Fred Rogers earned a divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained by the United Presbyterian Church.
Rogers worked first for NBC in New York and then for the public television station WQED in Pittsburgh. In 1954 he began what became a seven-year run of writing, producing, and serving as puppeteer for The Children’s Corner; 30 segments of the show were broadcast on NBC in 1955–56. He then made his on-camera debut in 1963 on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Mister Rogers and in 1966 returned to WQED, where the show became Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The rest is history with his programming.
Besides producing, writing the scripts, and serving as host, he wrote about 200 songs (including the theme song) for the program, some 1,000 episodes of which were broadcast between 1968 and 2001. The last original episode was taped in December 2000 and broadcast the following August; following the September 11th attacks in 2001, however, Rogers once again appeared on camera to record public service announcements aimed at informing parents how they could help their children cope with the events.
Fred Rogers was a gentle soul. His love for children and helping them cope with life’s various situations was his ultimate goal. Within all of his programs, songs, and his famous sweaters, Mr. Rogers loved the Lord and it permeated in everything he accomplished. He never preached, but you could feel the teachings of Jesus integrate every lesson and story Mr. Rogers and his family of companions told to the neighborhood audience. You actually felt a part of this neighborhood and wanted to live next door to Mister Rogers. Who wouldn’t desire the peaceful, calm attitude and loving nature of this man?
Why would I give so much attention to Fred Rogers in this devotional? Because Fred was a man whose nature reflected the attributes of our Lord; his calm demeanor, his loving nature, his concern for others and his emphasis on how we should treat one another mirrored the teachings of Jesus.
When I read the above scripture from The Message I couldn’t help but reflect on the one human being most of us saw, listen to, upheld with the greatest of respect and would have loved living next door. Then I began to wonder how we would respond if Jesus moved in next door? As he began demonstrating love toward others by doing kind acts of mercy, teaching lessons on how we should treat one another in a calm respectful manner, would he receive our utmost respect? I would assume we would. But Jesus, although doing wondrous acts of kindness and healing, had those who disagreed with him and ultimately falsely accused him.
Mister Rogers also was not treated respectfully by everyone. In fact, there are some who poked fun of his loving ways, soft voice and lessons that reflected goodness. But those of us who loved Mister Rogers openly and willingly received the valuable lessons he taught. Hopefully we continue to live as if this kind, gentle man was in our neighborhood. There aren’t many individuals like Mister Rogers openly proclaiming teachings regarding the sanctity of life and doing for others as we would want them to do for us being broadcast nationwide.
But there is One, Jesus Christ, who continually urges and nudges us to spread humble and gentle acts of kindness, not originated by Mister Rogers, but paid forward by him. Read through the pages of Jesus’ messages and within each one you will hear the voice of our neighbor, Mister Rogers. I'm assuming he used the same manual.
May we also pay those lessons forward.
Father, thank you for the life and work of Fred Rogers. I can only imagine the experiences and sights he is seeing in his eternal home prepared by You. May we follow the example he set here in the City of Pittsburgh and beyond by our actions, words of encouragement, and love freely given through our Lord. In whose name, I pray…Amen!
Let Go: to stop holding or gripping (something or someone)
Thought for the Day: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Ever been a runner or jogger? Once upon a time long, long ago, I jogged. It was part of my daily routine to stay in shape and maintain my ice cream habit! Each time I tied up those sneakers and began to run I would often ask myself what in the world are you doing? But by mile 3 or so, the endorphins would kick in resulting in that euphoric feeling that comes from hitting the pavement and sweating. But if questioned on how much extra baggage would a runner strap on before beginning their quota, the answer would probably be none. Why? Because extra weight bogs down a runner. This visual picture from Hebrews serves as a reminder of those jogging days adding a valuable lesson; we have spectators watching as we lace up and jog!
Hebrews continues “… let us also lay aside every weight” What does that mean? Simply stated, we are in the race of life. Whether you are a jogger now or a has been like me, we continue (maybe at a slower pace, but vital participants in God’s eyes!) moving forward. I don’t know any jogger who would enter a race carrying extra clothing, water bottles or protein bars. In order to be a worthy contributor bringing glory to our Lord, believers need to lay aside all extra weight that will bog down your ability to thrive in the race.
The “sin which clings so closely” is whatever stands between you and God. Webster defines sin with these descriptions:
• an offense against religious or moral law
• an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible
• an often serious shortcoming
• transgression of the law of God
• a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God
If you are a non-believer you probably just took a deep breath. You are now assuming the majority of these definitions, as well as this entire devotional, does not apply to you. After all, Christians are the ones concerned about an offense against religious or moral law, a transgression of the law of God, and estrangement from God. These facts have nothing to do with you. You are a good person, living a good life, doing good things for others!
. However, the Bible does state in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Believer and non-believer stand side-by-side, maybe in different lanes, but in the same race and we’re lined up at the same starting point. We are all sinners looking for victory, peace, contentment and the answers to life.
Call out to Jesus and ask him to answer the questions that are probably popping left and right into your mind right now. Jesus supplies endurance to the finish line; He brings hydration (living water), he brings protein (the Bread of Life) and he lifts through forgiveness all sin (extra baggage) ever committed. Not only will Jesus erase our baggage of sin, doubt and confusion as we learn to trust and obey in him, but he will carry us when we become weary and worn all the way to the finish line.
My friend let go of whatever it is that is holding you hostage to a belief that Jesus Christ cannot possibly be the Messiah. He is. Pray and ask him to show you. He’s not hiding, he’s in full view and he’s waiting for you.
Thank you Jesus for each day and the ability you give, regardless of our age, to endure the race of life set out before us. May we live each day as it is our last and never disappoint others as they examine, study, or scrutinize our lives. We pray we will be worthy. In Your Name, I pray, Amen!
Transform: to change in composition or structure; to change the outward form or appearance of; to change in character or condition, convert
Thought for the Day: Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
When my son was a youngster he enjoyed immensely playing with transformers. Although the transformer would begin as a truck, in a matter of seconds Nicholas would manipulate the parts of that truck and a superhero would appear ready to defend the greater good! Of course, as with all toy makers, you can’t have superheroes without bad guys, so the companies began making transformers that turned into evil forces. I shouldn’t be surprised because when I was a kid cowboys were the rage, and the color of hats was an immediate sign of good versus evil. That sign quickly informed audiences of ulterior motives lying underneath those hats.
Lessons on good and evil Jesus taught on numerous occasions except for one difference, in a world of good and evil everyone deserves mercy and grace; but be very careful. When witnessing or living out your belief in the Lord do not conform to the ways of the world. Although that sounds like beware of the color of hat someone is wearing, Jesus is reminding his followers it’s not always a sudden conformation to the ways of the world. It’s more a desensitizing process. You might think you are following the right people to the right places, when actually you have been desensitized to the warning signs and are lethargically following.
It is very easy to become like the frog who gradually heats up in a pot of water. Often that frog doesn’t realize the water is getting hotter and eventually will boil taking his life because he has become too complacent to jump out before it’s too late.
Remember when the word “damn” was used at the end of the movie Gone With The Wind? It was an astounding jolt to moviegoers. Why was that language being used on a screen for countless people to hear? Was it a surprise because people never heard this word before? Probably not. The jolt factor had to do with the surfacing of the terminology out in the open which has led to its commonality. In fact, now a common four letter word I won’t even pen in this devotional is being used as a daily part of our language. No one cares to hear it, but people aren’t shocked by its usage. Where did it begin? I recently read that after going through months of negotiation with the censorship board who considered the word damn to be a serious profanity, the line was incorporated into the movie, Gone With The Wind, and in 1939 the transformation of acceptable language began. Fast forward to 2021, eighty-two years later, and many frogs have been found dead in the water.
Jesus desires that we all become stellar witnesses and carry his message of hope, fulfillment, blessings and eternal salvation to unbelievers. However, he was very well aware that conformity to the mindset of the world is a real threat to the believer. How can we transform our minds to sift through what we are being told as truth and hold onto the plumbline that God has provided for us; the lifeline that leads to eternal life?
According to scripture, keep centered in the Word of God by reading and studying what is offered, have conversational prayer each day and stand unashamedly on the foundational truth that Jesus Christ is resurrected from the grave. The scripture from Romans tells us to test and approve what God’s will is for our lives. Is what you believe and live for every day, what you teach your children and defend as justice and truth in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you truly comfortable with what you believe to be the absolute truth, and are you willing to hang on to belief when breath leaves your body leading the way for your children to follow?
One last comment. When my husband and I visited two different cities and walked through well-known places frequented by countless individuals, we felt this overwhelming sense that we were not supposed to be there. It was a heaviness that the only way I can express it, there must have been forces of evil in these places. What was it that gave us this feeling to vacant the area and never return? The Holy Spirit of God who was planted within us when we gave our hearts and lives to Jesus and believed his is the Son of God, protected us and revealed to us this is not the place for you.
I’m not a special person, folks, I am a child of God and a believer in His son, Jesus Christ. I pray we will be aware of drifting away from the truth of God’s plan for our lives. Conformity to this world might surface in false teaching that sounds correct, advertising that is self-promoting or big government that wants control. But you, Lord, are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Wake us up before it’s eternally too late.
Thank you, Father, for transforming my mind each and every day. May I never fail you. Amen.
Control: to have power over, rule, to exercise restraining or directing influence over, regulate
Thought for the Day:
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. II Timothy 1:7
A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Psalm 25:28
Control, now that’s a word for you. Everything I read, view and experience in the world today deals with someone or something that wants, needs or is trying to gain CONTROL. It appears by definition from Webster control can be viewed from two perspectives; a person can have it and implement it as a power tool or said person can possess it and restrain from using this component for the greater good.
As a writer often you need to be totally transparent (a word I’ve heard used often in today’s current events) in my own life and experiences, so here goes. I’m a southern girl and everyone that has ever come in contact with me will know that fact within a couple of minutes. I can introduce myself and when asked where I’m from, I will promptly answer, “I currently live in Pittsburgh, but I’m a native of Virginia.” Boom. No doubt where this girl originated!
After hubby and I got married and had lived in Idaho Falls for almost two years, we were transferred to Pittsburgh's home office for DOE, my husband's employer. After initially meeting and dating in Virginia, I falsely assumed we would, after a few transfers here and there, end up in my beautiful home state and raise a family. Unfortunately, it didn't happen the way I planned. Due to hubby’s rise on the career ladder, we discovered Virginia wasn’t even an option. Control over the situation? Didn’t have any. Prayers to God? Didn’t seem to work towards a change of address. My mindset? My way or the highway and God needed to get onboard.
May I mention playing tug of war with God isn’t a great tool to implement to get your way. I consequently went into a depth of depression that wasn’t on my agenda. I needed assistance mentally to back into the game of life and realize God had a different plan than the one I had carved out. That entire experience still tugs at my heart and makes me sad. But the point to highlight, I did not have control over this issue. As I entered what was referred to as Talk Therapy, after several sessions the therapist revealed I possessed a fear surrounding control. Evidently it had been part of my mindset for years. The feeling of a lack of control led to anxiety attacks I was experiencing because who wants to feel unable to be in control of any situation? My dire need to move my family's location revealed my desire for total control over the state in which we would raise our family. Was my desire wrong? No, but there were others involved with this decision. I had built my control and desire as the central factor in the issue.
But through therapy and my faith in the Lord, I learned that He, God, is in total control. The power I possess is to restrain from the feeling I have control over God. As I submit my inability to control everything that happens in life, He will guide and direct my steps each and every day. Control is a misnomer and those that think they possess it will either lose it or use it unwisely because control is a misleading term. Control it seems today is getting one’s own way and using that influence to dominate or manipulate others . Truthfully, it takes more control to wield restraint than to contrive techniques of domination. We need to give it all to God because He's the only one in control!
Lord, protect our hearts and minds as Satan tries daily to persuade individuals that contentment comes through complete control over others’ opinions and thought processes. We realize that You, God, allow our paths to travel in directions we never saw coming because there are valuable lessons to be learned along the way. Fill us with contentment and restraint knowing Your Will is for us to live victoriously as we travel towards our eternal home. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Label: a descriptive or identifying word or phrase
Thought for the Day: "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Matthew 16:15 (NIV)
Labels…we use them every day. For many, labeling pertains to food. If we have allergies or reactions to particular types of ingredients it’s imperative for those components to be identified. The same importance is given to medications and washing solutions for clothing. These few factors are only the tip of a very large iceberg when describing the importance of accurate labeling. However, there is another type of labeling that occurs frequently… identifying a person or group with descriptive words or phrases.
In years past, I can remember riding the school bus and hearing the kids in the back of the bus (a prominent place to sit acquired by age) would be whispering and saying, “Yeah, she’s a good little Christian girl.” Of course, that’s certainly not the worse label to pin on a child. In fact, it’s an admirable label; however, when kids on a bus ostracize you and say that phrase in a sing-song manner, it’s hurtful. I dare say, this behavior has lingered on school buses and will continue to persist because we are born with a carnal, sinful, self-serving outside covering.
But I have learned throughout the years while carrying scars of nastiness, labels can be used to strengthen or crush a person’s resolve. I’d like to believe I’ve been strengthened. Those unfortunate incidences helped me to be more apt to listen to children who have been treated unkindly by peer labeling; mothers who are distraught over labels placed on them for being “outside the home” full time workers, and those who are being labeled unfairly due to political affiliations or the color of their skin.
Jesus was in ministry for only three years, but he was not exempt from labeling. Scribes and Pharisees began wrapping Jesus in lies, labeling him as a false teacher because their way of life was being threatened. They feared, as powerful influences in their synagogues, people would no longer respect their rulings and self-imposed laws because the truth of God’s love was melting cold hearts and changing lives. But the labeling Jesus never denied? Being the Son of God and one with the Father. There are innumerable attributes of our Lord and each one, regardless if you call them labels, are tried, true and will stand forever.
The question Jesus posed to his disciple, Peter, was simple and direct, “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” And that reply? Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” That “label” that will never change and regardless of what labels might be imposed upon me personally, the most precious one I wear is being called “A Child of the Living, True God.”
Father, thank you for allowing us to understand that labels can be used for good. Assist our hearts and minds to never place unkind or undeserved labels on others knowing when we do we are disregarding those Jesus came to seek and to save. His goal during his earthly ministry was to teach us to love one another and to love as you loved us, sending Jesus to be the supreme perfect sacrificial Lamb whose blood cleanses every sin we could ever commit. Thank you, Lord! Amen!
Thought for the Day: “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” Proverbs 18:10
I simply cannot imagine being in the presence of a tsunami. Although a tsunami can be captured or illustrated for teaching purposes, to actually watch its occurrence and survive would leave lasting impressions. I have read and listened to several individuals who are survivors of the tsunami that occurred in Thailand on December 26, 2004. Their testimonies of that event has changed their lives forever. One woman lost her husband, two sons and her parents; another woman lost her boyfriend while another individual lost his girlfriend. These three are a very small sampling of the loss that occurred that morning in Thailand.
Can anyone detect when a tsunami will occur saving hundreds, possibly thousands of lives? “Seismologists are geoscientists who study earthquakes and related phenomena, including the effects of explosions and the formation of tsunamis. These professionals gather data about shifts in the earth's crust through the use of seismographs and other instruments…their research has been instrumental in the development of such advances as tsunami warning systems.” (Referenced from Study.com.)
It’s appears to us, as mere humans, we need an explanation to the whys of life. We want answers and when we gather data that is understandable, we’re satisfied. However, when rationalizations are not available, we tend to doubt the legitimacy of the subject matter. After all, can’t science elucidate and defend all questions seen and unseen?
Mr. Webster defines science in this manner: Science is:
• the knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths, or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method
• such knowledge or such a system of knowledge concerned with the physical world and its phenomena : natural science
• a system or method reconciling practical ends with scientific laws
It appeared a bit strange to me (a very non-scientific individual) that in order to define science, the terminology of science is needed to illuminate its verity. Who defines the “general truths”, the “system of knowledge” or the “method reconciling practical ends” other than the method, the laws and natural science itself?
By this point of reading, you might be asking yourself, where are you going with this? Tsunamis are occurrences of nature and there are scientific reasonings for their manifestations. Correct. But there will be occasions throughout our lifetime of events for which we will have no justification able to satisfy our human intellect. Are these phenomena invalid?
For instance, faith. There are situations encountered in this human condition that need faith. Do you have faith that wind exists? Of course. Why? Science. Science outlines through studies and curriculums exactly what wind is and how it happens, but can you see the wind? You can feel the wind, view wind’s effect on the world around us, but because you may not actually see the wind, does the concept of wind become null and void?
There are numerous faith based manifestations for which you will not be able to see, only feel and believe through the workings of the Holy Spirit. All these miraculous accomplishments were performed by the hand of Almighty God and penned into an historical book entitled the Bible. The Bible has two parts, the Old and New Testaments that adhere to two Covenants, the Old Covenant written in the Old Testament and the New Covenant written about God’s Son, Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The Old Covenant is based on the law and the prophets with a theme surrounding the protection of God’s chosen, Israel. The New Covenant is based on salvation delivered in person by Jesus Christ exemplifying the theme Jesus came for all people, and focuses on mercy and the free gift of eternal life through belief in the resurrection of God’s Son.
There is much history and descriptive writings in the Bible. Historical movements and events of God’s chosen, Israel, is found cover to cover in the Old Testament upheld by the Old Covenant. The New Covenant, covered with the sacrificial blood of the perfect Lamb of God, is described from cover to cover by eye-witnesses that walked with Jesus on the face of this earth.
If you dig deep enough and study Biblical history thoroughly you will discover science does not contradict God’s Word. God created science. Why would He create a mode of study that opposes His very existence and that of His Son? Science was created to walk hand-in-hand with God’s handiwork. Have a little faith.
Thank you God for science and for those whose study of this subject has revealed how we can better protect ourselves from tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis. You are a great and awesome mighty God and may we always give You the allegiance due your Name. Amen!
Rescue: to free from confinement, danger, or evil : save; deliver
Thought for the Day: In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; Incline Your ear to me and save me. Psalm 71:2
When I see the word rescue my mind automatically goes to those who work for the fire departments and the tremendous life saving measures they employ when called to extinguish a fire. Many times, people are trapped and need to be rescued and firefighters immediately go into action to save them. Or the police departments, when someone is held hostage, they instantly go towards the problem to aid in delivering the captive. I can’t help but remember years ago when 18-month-old Jessica McClure, nicknamed “Baby Jessica,” fell into a well in Midland, Texas, on Oct. 14, 1987. She had been trapped in a dogleg in the shaft 22 feet below the surface. After emergency responders in the city known for oil drilling dropped a microphone into the well and heard her voice, drilling began. The entire town came out to work together until she was set free.
In today’s society we hear the term rescue also associated with animals. Animals that have been mistreated are rescued and put up for adoption. The advertisements are numerous with the faces and conditions from which these animals were liberated. Bottom line, the definition of rescue is a term surrounded with positivity. To rescue is to free someone or something from confinement, danger or evil, just as Webster determined in their dictionaries.
But what about the Biblical view of rescue as written in Psalm 71:2? Most individuals would comment from what do they need rescued? What deliverance needs to be enacted? What saving measures? Okay, let’s go back to the firefighter. It’s a raging fire and you are caught inside. Breathing is becoming difficult; the smoke is burning your eyes and you simply can’t find a window or door. The firefighter calls out to find your location, and you respond as best you can with a weakened voice. All of a sudden you see a hand reaching through the smoke and though disoriented, you grab onto his hand for dear life. The firefighter lifts you into his arms because your entire body is spent and carries you out into the open…fresh air, medical personnel and the ability to fill your lungs with life giving oxygen. I would not hesitate to comment this is one time in your life you will never forget, and this firefighter will always hold a very special place in your heart for saving and delivering you from death.
Dear reader, this is exactly what Christ Jesus did for you. Bear with me as I use this analogy to bring about an extremely important point. As humans, we find ourselves in a raging worldly fire that is burning out of control. It began as a spark of doubt concerning the Lord Jesus as God’s Son and Satan got a foothold into your mind. Satan hates anything that has to do with Jesus Christ and has convinced you although a man by the name of Jesus did live on this earth, he died because he was spreading lies about being the Son of God. He was crucified, died and was buried. End of story.
But Jesus isn’t dead. Jesus conquered death as he spent three days in the tomb making sure there would be no doubt breath had left his body and he would be declared dead by doubters. However, at the conclusion of those three days the massive stone placed at the tomb’s entrance rolled away and Jesus walked out of that grave giving victory over eternal death. Of course, if you disregard the entire New Testament, including the testimonies of those, 500 in number, that saw him following his resurrection, it probably will not sway your erroneous opinion.
However, my belief and the belief of countless Christian followers of the Lord Jesus Christ can be inserted into this fire analogy. Those who need rescuing are caught in a “fire” of worldly opinions, thoughts and unbelief regarding Jesus, God’s Son. That unbelief will eventually have such a hold on your heart that you will begin to block out this truth. First, it will be in small doses and eventually become habitual; no prayer, no reading of the Bible, no thanking God for life or food, no attending community worship until all efforts to include Christ in your life will be replaced with worldly activities, reading materials, and the self-reasoning that you don’t need God at all.
But the day will come as you get to a point of not being able to breathe in God’s goodness or you lose total focus on God’s mercy, He will call out to you extending His hand of deliverance and rescue. All it takes is for you to respond and take His hand because He continually listens to hear your voice. He will lift you in His arms regardless of how you got into that burning house of self-doubt and disbelief and bring you into the light of His love and deliverance. Any chains you felt will be broken. The greatest part of this analogy? Like the firefighter that saves an individual from a burning house, no repayment is necessary. You know why? Because Jesus paid it all when he stretched out his hands and took any punishment we could ever face. All he asks us to do is to pay it forward!
Jesus Christ is our rescuer; everyone…anytime…anywhere…
Thank you, Lord, for providing our payment in full for sin when you suffered, died and was buried on the cross…what a rejoicing in heaven occurred when you walked out of that grave! Amen!
Judith "Cookie" White is the founder of The Sounding Board Ministry. She is the author of two devotional books which are available on this site.