Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Blow The Trumpet

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

March 1st is Ash Wednesday, the start of the approximately 40 day period of repentance prior to Easter.  Of the several Scripture selections from the lectionary for Ash Wednesday, I selected this one from the Book of Joel.

As this portion of Scripture opens, the Prophet Joel brings a strong message from Yahweh to the people.  This message is so important that Joel says in verse 1, the trumpets need to be sounded out.  Trumpets were sounded for special occasions, such as holy days, or, as in this case, to sound a warning.  His message here was a warning from God to His people.  They were to stop everything and listen up.  When God speaks, especially with a warning message, we need to take special notice, listen, and then obey what He says.

What is this important message that merited the blowing of the trumpets?  Verses 12-17 give the answer to that.  For centuries the nation of Judah had waffled back and forth from worshipping Yahweh, the true God, and worshipping false gods.  The people also had frequently strayed away from God’s laws.  “Blow the trumpet”, God says in verse 12.  “Turn to Me with all of your heart.”

A key phrase is “with all of your heart”.  As God continues to speak, He tells the people, in verse 13, that they need true repentance, not just an outward show.  Many people liked to make a big show of pretend piety, such as tearing their clothes, which was a common show of sorrow in ancient times.  God said that this meant nothing to Him if there was no true repentance in the heart.

If His people have a true change of heart, truly returning to Him, God promises He will forgive and show mercy, as shown in verse 14.  Blow those trumpets again, verse 15, calling for both a personal and corporate repentance and fasting.  If our repentance is true, then God will honor those outward signs, such as fasting, and forgive them.  If they would not truly turn to Him, there would be judgment.  Throughout this short Book of Joel, he speaks of judgment that God was bringing on the people.

This is still a timely warning for us today.  How is our heart?  Is our piety just an outward show, to give others an impression that we are “such good Christians”, but our heart has not really been touched by, or turned to, God?  God is not impressed by giving up chocolate, favorite TV shows, or ice cream during Lent if there is no true repentance.  Repentance is going from one direction, away from God, and then making a 180 degree turn around, and then start heading His way.  This is what God is calling for us to do, not just public “play-acting”.

Let the ashes this Ash Wednesday be a real, true sign of turning our hearts to God.  That is what He wants - our heart.  As the saying goes, our actions speak louder than our words.  Let both be truly turned to Him, as He sounds the trumpet for us today.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Holy And Awesome Name Of God

Psalm 99

This Psalm from the lectionary reading of this past Sunday is one of the less familiar Psalms.  This Psalm proclaims the majesty, glory, and power of the Lord God.

Right from verse 1 we read “The Lord reigns”.  Not man, not some political leader, but God almighty, Yahweh.  He is the one in control, not us.  We need to be sufficiently in awe and respect of Him as the verse continues,  “Let the people tremble”.  He is seated on His throne between cherubim.  Cherubs are not the cute, fat little “baby angels” that people often picture.  They are a type of powerful angelic being, and they surround God’s throne.  God is exalted above all nations, verse 2 continues.  Various countries may scoff at Him, and mock Him now, but He is high over them all.

Verse 3 was one verse that really jumped out at me.  God’s Name is holy.  It is sacred and set apart.  It is not a Name or word that should be lightly, or flippantly,  thrown around.  Christians should all definitely agree that His Name should not be used in cursing.  I believe that even in general conversation, His Name should illicit holy awe, honor, worship and respect.  So many today seem to think only of God as a buddy, and seem to almost have forgotten that He is all-holy and the almighty God, and His Name is to be held in complete respect.  Most people don’t like to hear their name spoken ill of.  All the more the Name of God is to be revered and not spoken ill of.  If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are His children and He is our Father.  We should live lives worthy and respectful of the Name we carry.

In verse 6 we see that men of the past have called out in prayer to the Lord God, and to His holy Name.  God honored their prayers, and answered them.  That is true today, as well.  All through the ages, from Bible days, through the centuries, up through to today, men and women of the Lord can call on Him, and He will hear and answer.

God is a great, loving, and forgiving God, as said in verse 8.  That is a sure and precious promise, that if we confess our sins, He will forgive.  But sometimes He must also dole out some discipline, just like a human father does.  Most human fathers, if they are kind and loving, will forgive the misdeeds of their children.  But sometimes there must be discipline too, if merited.  The same is true with the Lord, as His Word says here and in Hebrews 12:4-11.

Verse 9 closes the Psalm with another call for us to exalt and worship Him.  He is holy and worthy of all of our adoration.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Forty Days On The Mountain With God

Exodus 24:12-18

In this brief passage from Exodus we see Moses. Just prior to this passage, Moses had received the 10 Commandments.  Now the Lord God is summoning him to climb to the summit of Mt. Sinai to receive further laws, and particularly instructions for the building of the Tabernacle, its furnishings and contents.  The Tabernacle was particularly important because this was where the Glory of the Lord would dwell among His people.  It was such a holy and sacred place that no one could approach it except the High Priest, and him only once a year on the Day of Atonement.

Throughout the Bible we never see a physical description of God Himself.  More often we read of His surroundings - the glory of His throne and majesty, or the thunderings and lightning that often surround Him, or as is here in verses 16-17, clouds and a consuming fire.  The other gods, such as the Greek and Roman gods, all looked like humans, though generally quite handsome, but there is no such description of the one, true God.  When reading such scenes as is here, the holy awesomeness and fear of His great majesty become very apparent.  It makes one compelled to fall on your knees, bowing down in humble worship.  No walking up to Him with a high-five, and a “Yo, God!”

Being on this mountain top at this moment would have been special, but also fear-inspiring, with the clouds and fire descending and surrounding it.  This wasn’t just a typical volcano, though that would have been a fearful thing, as well.  I don’t picture typical clouds, either, as if it was just another cloudy day in the mountains.  These were the clouds that surrounded the majesty of the God of the Universe, Creator of all.  It was into this that God called Moses to ascend and remain for the next 40 days and nights.

The number 40 in the Bible often has special significance.  It rained 40 days at the time of Noah and the Ark.  Moses was here with God for 40 days.  The people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.  The spies searched out the land of Canaan for 40 days.  Jonah preached to Nineveh for 40 days.  Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days.  And after His resurrection, Jesus gave His final teachings to the disciples for 40 days before His Ascension.  40 days or years often symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation.  This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, which in many church denominations starts the period of Lent, 40 days prior to Easter.  Let us, like Moses did in our passage today, draw closer to God and learn from Him during this time of Lent.  Like the disciples did following His resurrection, let us stay close to Him and see what He might be saying, and wishing to teach us.

Friday, February 24, 2017


Matthew 5:38-48

Today we wrap up the 5th chapter of Matthew.  These final verses of the chapter are perhaps some of the most difficult to put into practice.  How can we love our enemies, forgive them, or do good to those who ill-treat us?  Yet Jesus asks us to do just that.

I have to ask myself how do I treat those who ill-treat us?  There are two different types of people who would fall into that category.  First are those who treat us badly, but it is impersonal, meaning they didn’t specifically target us - like a driver who cuts us off, a store clerk who is rude, or the person who makes a nasty comment on the bus.  How do we treat them?  Do we respond in kind?  Do we make snide comments to myself about them, out of their hearing?  We are to bless them, not curse them, turn that other cheek.  One way is to not demand our rights behind the wheel or in line in the store.  We can give them up freely, and actually show in our lives what Jesus would do.  I should give justice and mercy freely, rather than always wanting to receive it from others.

The second group is the people who very specifically did something against us.  Someone who we know personally, who does something that they know would hurt us.  How do we respond to them?  The hatred can simmer for years, and then given an opportunity, flare out.  Or it can turn inward to become depression or bitterness.

In both cases Jesus says our behavior should be different from what the rest of the world is.  We are to respond in love and forgiveness.  Staying angry, bitter, and full of hatred reminds me of the story someone told me once, that it is like a person who is full of anger and bitterness against another, so he makes a potion of poison for that person, and then instead of giving it to them, they drink it themselves.  It can only hurt ourselves.

We may say to ourselves, “How can I love and forgive them?  You don’t know what terrible thing they did!” However, carrying unforgiveness of this sort is like carrying around a heavy burden. Think of that deed they did to you as a thick, heavy, long chain wrapped around you.  Do you want to carry that around your whole life?  No.  Then release yourself of it.  Cancel that sin-debt they did against you.  They may never ask forgiveness, but cancel that debt anyway, and release yourself from the burden.  Don’t let the anger hold any power or rule in your life anymore.  That doesn’t mean that what they did was okay, or to ever let them have another chance to hurt you or someone else again.  We need to forgive, and love them in the Name of Jesus.  Another way that helps us to forgive is to pray for the person who hurt us.  It is hard to remain in anger and hatred if we are honestly praying for someone.

Remember how much Jesus forgave us.  They may not deserve forgiveness, but neither do we.  We are to forgive if we want forgiveness for ourselves.  How can we do this?  We can’t on our own.  But through the power of the Holy Spirit, who indwells us as believers, we can do this.  Loving our enemies and doing good to those who mistreat us is not an easy task, but it will free us from the terrible burdens anger, hatred and bitterness bring on us.  And it will show the love of Jesus to a lost and hurting world, giving that light of witness to them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Building On A Sure Foundation

I Corinthians 3:10-23

Many years ago, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I worked for a major architectural firm in the large city I live in.  One thing I did was type up their specifications.  I learned that a good foundation is very important and crucial to the structural soundness of the whole building.  A faulty or weak foundation will compromise the building’s integrity.

Foundations are important, both in actual buildings and in our spiritual life.  As Paul says at the end of verse 10, it is important what type of foundation we lay down.  And what type of foundation should that be?  Paul gives that answer in verse 11.  The only sure and true foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Not Buddha, not Mohammed, and not any pagan gods.  Neither can the foundation be a combination of Jesus and any of them.  Those foundations will not bring you a good, strong, safe building for your soul.  Neither will a foundation based on some human philosophy or worldview, nor one based on business success or financial gain.  Accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, and Him alone, is the only sure foundation for one’s life.

Once you have your foundation set, then you need to build on that.  No architect just lays a foundation and then says he’s done.  A while ago my son and I watched a documentary about the Great Depression and Dust Bowl in the southern plains states.  One anecdote told of a man who was building a house.  Due to the Depression he ran out of money after the foundation was laid, and all he could do was throw a roof over the basement.  He and his family lived in that basement.  However, we don’t want to merely be basement dwellers. We need to build on our foundation, by growing in our faith and advancing the cause of the Lord and His Kingdom.

What are we doing for the Lord?  What is the motive and heart attitude behind what we do?  Verse 12 says we can build with gold, silver, and gemstones.  That would be a beautiful building for Jesus.  Or, it could be wood, hay or stubble.  Whatever we try to build for Jesus will be tried or tested by fire on the day of judgment when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.  What did we do for Him?  What were our motives and heart’s desire?  Was it for man’s praise, or God’s?  Did we even do anything for Him, or did we only live for ourselves?  Sadly there are some Christians who do absolutely nothing after they get saved.  Are we living in the basement, like that man in the southern plains during the Depression?

There are rewards for believers, most of which are handed out in heaven, verses 14-15.  Some of us look at others with their land, nice houses, cars, etc., and wish the Lord might bless us like that.  We feel that since we are serving God, we should have more blessings.  Remember, God never forgets what we’ve done for Him.  There will be a reward for good and faithful service.  Keep building on your foundation with gold, rubies and emeralds!

Monday, February 20, 2017

The One Constant Throughout Our Years

Psalm 71

With modern medicine, better and healthier food, and good exercise, people frequently live longer, healthier lives.  As we get older and into old age, many of us will face a whole new set of circumstances and fears.  Our children have grown up and moved out, and for some, their spouse may have passed away, leaving them alone.  Life-long friends pass away one by one.  Many face health concerns which they never had when younger, and grow weaker and frailer.  

Society sometimes seems to have cast the elderly aside.  Jobs frequently let older employees go with mandatory retirement.  Social Security doesn't cover the expenses.  Madison Avenue seems only interested in the young, with the exception of selling geriatric health aids to the “old folks”.  In all of this, the elderly might wonder if God has forgotten them as well.

This Psalm, written by someone in their old age, can give us reassurance that He has not, nor will ever forget us as we approach the end of our life.  Verses 5 - 6, and 17 tell of how the psalmist has long trusted in God and has a relationship with Him.  He can praise God, who had been with him since the moment of his birth, and prays that He will not throw him off in old age, verse 9.

As the writer is advancing into old age, he seeks to continue to serve the Lord.  One thing he knows that he can do for Him is to tell the younger generation all that he has learned of the Lord, and His power, wonders and works, verse 18.  The psalmist feels that this is his purpose for the remainder of his life.  For however long he remains alive he wants to speak of the Lord’s righteousness and salvation to all, especially the young, verses 14-15.

From the cradle to the grave, God is with us.  We must, in turn, give Him praise throughout all of our days, and witness to others what He has done for us in our life.  For those who are young, determine to serve the Lord with all of your youth, strength, and vitality.  Before you know it, time will fly by.  When I was younger I never thought of the day when my hair would be gray and my body wouldn’t move around as swiftly as it did before.  For those where that day has come, realize that God is still right there with you as He has always been.  We can be a witness to Him of His faithfulness to us through all of our trials, our good days and difficult ones.  We can yet praise Him more and more.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Be Holy

Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18

As we start the 7th Sunday after Epiphany, the Old Testament reading is from the Book of Leviticus.  Right at the start of this passage, in verse 2, we have God’s command for us to “be holy”.  This command is specifically repeated in the New Testament in two places, in Ephesians 1:4, and again in I Peter 1:16.

Holiness? How can I possibly be holy like God?  I can’t, in my own strength and power.  Only through Christ, and allowing Him and the Holy Spirit to live in us and through us are we able. Although none of us will be able to live perfectly sin-free lives, through the cleansing blood of Christ, all of our sins are washed clean, and we become sin-free in the eyes of God.

The remainder of this passage discusses several ways where our lives can show holiness, or being set apart and sanctified for God.  Verse 12 tells us to honor the Name of the Lord God, repeating the 3rd commandment.  This not only encompasses a prohibition against using God’s Name in cursing, but also attaching it to any speech that would dishonor Him.

The rest of the verses, 9-11, and 13-18, show various ways of how we should treat others.  Verses 9-10 relate to how the Lord wants us to treat the poor in a godly, generous way.  God is deeply concerned with the poor, as is evident throughout Scripture.  Verse 14 shows that He is also very concerned for people with disabilities.  He cares about them, and as His children, we are, too, not ever taking advantage of them.

I would like to look at verses 16-17.  God does not want us to slander our fellow brethren, or to be talebearers or gossips.  A little harmless gossip - what’s so bad about that?  The fact is, it is never harmless.  Gossip tears down another person’s reputation.  As Christians we should be building up our brothers and sisters, not tearing them down.  Doing that is actually helping the devil, who loves to see a Christian’s reputation in tatters.  If a fellow believer is caught in the clutches of some obvious sin, we should do what we can to help them back on the right path, but without tearing them down.  Some people enjoy putting others down, thinking that somehow that will raise themselves up.  In truth it destroys people.

In all we do, we need to aim and strive for maintaining holiness in our life.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Keeping Your Mind Under Control

Matthew 5:21-27

Today’s Scripture passage is the Gospel reading from this past Sunday’s lectionary.  Let’s take a look at this passage.  My guess is that there are not too many of us who have killed anyone.  How about adultery?  Most of us would like to say that we’ve kept these two “big” commandments.  That doesn't get us off the hook so easily and quickly, though.  The self-righteous Pharisees were pretty proud of themselves, feeling they were in the clear on this.  Jesus, though, told the disciples and those listening to the Sermon on the Mount something that sure shocked them and the Pharisees, and ought to make us take an inventory of ourselves, as well.

How angry have we ever gotten at someone else?  An in-law, a co-worker, another driver or neighbor?  Sometimes people can do something to us that is very mean, hurtful, and even damaging to our character.  Maybe someone has committed a crime against us.  We can easily get angry and filled with hate.  If we have anger and hatred against these people, God says that is the same as murder.  We’ve killed them in our heart.  When we have gotten into strong anger, we often lash out with our mouths.  Don’t destroy others with our words.  Word’s bring life or death.

It’s the same with adultery.  Though actual cheating may not have taken place, so many men, and now-a-days, women, too, have woven many a lust-filled fantasy about people they have known or seen of the opposite sex.  How many people, sadly including Christians, view pornography on the internet and their smartphones.  Many women indulged their fantasies by reading the pornographic novel “50 Shades of Grey”.  The Lord Jesus says that lustful thoughts is the same as adultery.  They have cheated in their mind.

We are what we think of and allow our thoughts dwell on.  Thoughts preceed deeds.  They tell who we really are.  See Proverbs 23:7.  So how are our thoughts?  Does anger at others, for whatever supposedly justified reason, simmer in our mind?  The longer we let that happen, we are soon easily wishing them dead.   Lustful thoughts and fantasies can easily cross the line over into actual deeds.  Even if they don’t, dwelling on such thoughts can only corrode one’s marriage.  The Lord has plainly said either of these types of thoughts are the same as action.

Verses 23 - 26 speak of holding grudges, which are closely related to holding anger and hatred in our hearts.  Someone may have mistreated us, and perhaps they have realized it and ask our forgiveness, but we hang on to that hurt, and refuse to forgive.  Jesus said that forgiveness is so important that before we even come to worship, we should go to that person if possible, and take care of that.  Forgiveness and releasing grudges are just that important to Him.

None of these are easy - forgiving, gaining control of anger and hate, or getting deliverance and victory over carnal lust.  We can, though, through the power of the Holy Spirit, which we have living within us if we are believers.  Call upon Him to gain this victory.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Acting Our Spiritual Age

I Corinthians 3:1-9

Parents love to see their children grow and develop.  If they fail to see them pass developmental milestones at the appropriate age, they might worry.  If there aren’t any legitimate developmental problems to be concerned about, no one wants to see someone acting like a child when they are older, even into adult years.  There is nothing more ridiculous or annoying than an adult who occasionally carries on like an immature child.  Can you imagine, then, how God feels when He sees believers acting immature, or who will not move on to reach their spiritual developmental milestones?

Paul was encountering this with the believers in Corinth.  It seems that the Corinthians were getting into a snit over several things.  One was that they were dividing up into camps over which church leader was the best.  Was Paul the best, who had come and brought the Gospel to them, leading many to Christ and establishing the church community there?  Or was Apollos better, who became their first pastor?

Paul chastised them for this childish behavior.  Using the analogy of a child advancing from a milk diet as an infant, to a meat one as they grew older, Paul said that the Corinthian Church was so immature he couldn’t feed them “spiritual meat”, or more advanced teachings.  They could only handle “spiritual milk”, or the more basic teachings.  The infighting among themselves must have been strong enough for word of it to have reached Paul’s notice in Ephesus, (in modern-day Turkey) where he was preaching the Gospel at the time.

Paul then goes on to explain, in verses 5 - 9, that he, Apollos, Peter, and all of us even today, are all servants of the Lord.  There should be no exalting of personalities.  The Lord had given Paul and Apollos each a different job to do for Him.  Paul was to plant - preach the Gospel and lead people to Christ.  Apollos was to water - pastor the church Paul started.  Each was a separate job, and each was equally important.  But most importantly, it was God, the work of the Holy Spirit, who brings the increase, not people.

How are we and our fellow Christians?  Do we have petty squabbles among ourselves?  Have we put our favorite Christian leaders, TV preachers or radio programs, Christian authors, on pedestals, where only Jesus should be?  Let’s act our spiritual age, and advance beyond the baby bottle to pureed food, and on to spiritual steak.

I pray that you have enjoyed and benefited from these Bible meditations that I have written for this blog.   I hope you will prayerfully consider donating as the Lord might lead you.  This blog is not run through a large ministry with a wide funding base.  I am an individual with limited financial resources.  Thank you and God bless.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Cleansing Word of God

Psalm 119:1-16

Psalm 119 is both the longest Psalm and the longest chapter in the Bible.  Today, though, we are only looking at the first 16 verses.  The writer who penned this Psalm truly loved God’s Word.  In just about every verse he speaks of His Word, how important it is, what a joy it is, and our need to follow it.  He uses several different words to describe the Word of God, such as law, testimonies, commandments, precepts, etc., but they all refer to the Word of God.

Let’s focus on verses 9 - 11 today.  Though verse 9 talks of a young man, it can refer to anyone - the young, older, or elderly, male or female.  That’s you and me, regardless of our age or gender.  It is so easy for anyone to get off the right path and make a mess of their life.  It’s so easy to fall into the muck and mire, so to speak, of sin.  If we could look at what sin does to our lives through spiritual lenses, we would see how filthy it makes us.  So how do we get clean?  As verse 9 says, we take heed of God’s Word.  Taking heed means to watch and obey.  When we drive we are to “heed” the traffic signs, to obey them.  It’s the same with the Bible.  We need to heed it.

The first thing to heed is the need to accept salvation in Jesus Christ alone.  As the old hymn says, “Are you washed in the Blood of the Lamb?”  Then, by heeding the Word of God, we can continue to keep our way clean from the stain of sin.  We may, and do, occasionally stumble and fall, but His Word will cleanse us again.

Verse 11 instructs us to hide His Word in our heart.  The more we do that, we can keep from falling into the muck of sin.  Hiding implies not just a casual, occasional reading, but daily reading, meditating, and even memorizing of God’s Word.  It’s there in our heart, we know it, and we love it.  That is the way to keep our way clean.

Finally, one quick look at verse 14.  If you won a big lottery today, inherited a windfall, or found some long-forgotten trunk of treasure in your attic, would you be rejoicing?  We all probably would.  The Psalmist here said he rejoiced in God’s Word equally as much as if he had all those riches.  The Bible should be that precious to us, even more so.  Riches are deceiving, and they don’t last.  Often riches can bring trouble and grief, but God’s Word never will.  May we all develop such a love for it that we rejoice every time we open its pages.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

What Choices Will You Make?

Sirach 15:11-20

Today is the 6th Sunday after Epiphany.  The Old Testament reading for this Sunday is from the Apocryphal Book of Sirach, also sometimes called Ecclesiasticus.  The author, Sirach, was a philosopher who deeply loved God, His Word, and the Temple.  He wrote this book around 200 BC.  Even though it is from the Apocrypha, we can always glean some wisdom from followers of the Lord.

This reading deals with man’s free will.  Verses 15 - 17 clearly show that God has given us free will to choose what path we turn onto in our life.  These choices can, and do, affect  us for the rest of our life, and frequently for all eternity.

In verse 15 we see that we choose whether to obey God and His Word or not to.  Our choice in this definitely affects both our life here, and our final destination, our life in eternity.  God gave us His Word, but He has given us a free will whether or not to follow that Word.  It is our choice whether to obey Him.

Verse 16 says that we stretch out our hand to choose between fire or water, and take one.  We can choose between something that can possibly hurt us, or something that can help us.  We can’t blame God for our bad choices.  We can’t blame anyone else for our choices.  Our free will can lead us to things that harm us, or things that help us.

Then in verse 17 we have the choice between life and death.  Will what we choose from day to day bring life or bring death?  This not only has to do with any violence we can bring to others or our own life, but also the whole spirit of our life.  Does our choice bring a positive spirit to ourself and others, or a negative one?  Then, also, there is the free will choice between life and death for the unborn.  They aren’t allowed to make the choice to life, but we choose one or the other for them.

We have the free will to choose spiritual life for ourselves, or spiritual death.  God does not force us to accept Him.  We must choose for ourselves whether to accept the Lord Jesus as our personal Savior and thus have eternal life, or to reject Him and have eternal death.

What is our choice?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Being The Salt Of The Earth

Matthew 5:13-20

The Gospel reading from this past Sunday continues Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount.  I will focus this meditation on the first verse from our reading, verse 13.  As my family can attest, I like my salt!  Many meals will get a shake or two from “my” salt shaker.  Jesus has told His followers they are to be the salt of the earth.  What exactly did He mean by that?  To get an understanding, we need to look at what salt does, and how it helps us in life.

Before refrigeration, salt was one way to preserve food, particularly meat and fish.  Without using salt, meat very quickly started to rot.  One summer, several years ago, I found out in a smelly way how quickly meat can rot.  Somehow a package of meat, I believe luncheon meat, had fallen out of our grocery bags in my trunk, and went unnoticed.  Within a few short days of sitting in the hot trunk of my car, this started to stink, and it didn’t take me too long to find and toss that rotting meat.  Salt was then a means to keep meats safe to eat for longer periods of time, rather than having to eat it immediately after killing the animal.

Another thing that salt did in Jesus’ day, and still does today, is act as flavoring.  Most recipes call for a small amount of salt.  Without salt being added, the food is bland and flavorless.  Salt can also beneficial to health.  It was used in the days of ancient Greece and Rome to help in healing wounds, and today doctors use saline solutions and salt water for healing.

So how are we to “be” salt?  Our Christian conduct and influence can bring the flavor of Jesus to the life of the lost.  Our Christian testimony and lifestyle can have a preserving influence to the corruption of world society so fallen in sin.  Just look around - what do we see on the news?  Besides the murder toll, there are stories that make one cringe - child abuse, sex slavery of young girls, pornography, kidnapping and torture.  TV shows and movies have gone downhill with what is considered acceptable.  What would have shocked people several years ago is now not given a second thought.  Sin corrupts just like that rotting meat.

As Christians, we are to be a preservative to society.  We shouldn’t just sit back, shrugging our shoulders, saying nothing can be done.  Our speech, our conduct, should be both a preservative and a flavoring for the world to “taste” and see Jesus in and through us.

When we season something with salt, how do we do it?  Do we pour it on the food?  No, that would ruin the food.  We lightly sprinkle the salt on.  In the same way, we shouldn’t usually go to a lost person, grab him by the shoulders, and blast them with Bible verses.  Sprinkling lightly but consistently with the Gospel is a much more effective way to be that salt.  If we are not being that preservative and flavoring to a lost world, then Jesus says we, like impure salt, are good for nothing but to be cast out.  That doesn’t mean a loss of salvation, as one can never lose their salvation.  It does mean, though, that we are not doing what God wants us to be doing, and that is being both a preservative and flavoring to a lost world.  Let’s be that good strong salt to the lost in our neighborhoods.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Wisdom of Men, or the Power of God?

I Corinthians 2:1-11

This meditation looks at the New Testament reading from the Book of Common Prayer Lectionary for this past Sunday.  It continues looking at the first letter of St. Paul to the Christians in the Greek city of Corinth.

Although many of the apostles were fishermen, and would not have had much if any higher education beyond the synagogue education most boys of the era were given, the Apostle Paul was a very well educated man.  In addition to the traditional synagogue education, Paul studied for many years under Gamaliel, one of the greatest Pharisees and member of the Sanhedrin of the time.

If he wished, Paul could have preached any number of high-brow, intellectual and scholarly sermons.  He knew his Scriptures and theology extensively.  When Paul came to town to preach to the lost, though, he didn’t preach any messages like that.  Verse 2 of this passage, which is what I want to focus on, told us exactly what type of message Paul preached.  As he said in this verse, he preached only a message of salvation, of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

There are TV preachers today who preach anything but that.  They’ll preach messages about how God wants you to become rich, or preach all sorts of “feel good” sermons, but nothing of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  That was the message Paul believed was important, not one of fluff, or one that was so deep theologically it left one’s brain in knots, but spoke nothing of salvation through the Blood of Jesus.  He didn’t preach scholarly sermons to impress his listeners with his education.  The salvation of souls was the only thing important to Paul, not the length of his resume and of his references.

How many preachers today can say that?  Today, most of the intellectual elite associate preaching a salvation message with uneducated backwoods preachers. Instead, they preach politically correct sermons saying that everyone goes to heaven or a feel-good message, lacking any true substance.   The message of the cross, to them, is nonsense.  The Blood of Jesus is rarely mentioned any more today.  All hymns that mention the Blood have been eliminated from churches.  This is a message that the world looks on as nonsense.  The fact that God would come to earth as Jesus Christ and die a brutal, cruel death on the cross of all of our sins is ludicrous in the eyes of the lost.  An intellectual, scholarly sermon that tickles their brain is what they want to hear.  What will that do for their souls, for eternity, though?  Paul knew that only preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified is important for eternity.

If we met a starving man, and knew where he could get food, we would want to direct him there, not give him fancy recipes.  If someone had cancer, we would want to give him the healing medicine, not explain how all the chemicals work with each other.  Hundreds of thousands of people are dying each day without Christ, and go spend eternity in hell.  We need to do as Paul did, and tell them of a Savior who loved them and died on the cross for them, not all sorts of fancy words of worldly wisdom.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Insights From Psalm 27

This Psalm was both the first Psalm and the first full chapter of the Bible I memorized, many years ago.  Psalm 27 is filled with so many good verses, packed with so much comfort and blessings.  Throughout this Psalm, King David tells of the Lord’s protection.  Life in the 21st century has become fearful to so many people, with terrorist attacks, crime in neighborhoods that were once safe, and all sorts of activity to cause fear.

Such fear is nothing new.  For many years David lived in fear of his life at the hands of King Saul.  He was constantly kept on the run for fear of being killed.  Rather than allowing fear to paralyze him, David put his faith and trust in God.  Psalm 27 is one of many that he wrote, explaining how God had, and would continue to protect him, so he need never fear.

There are three verses I would like to highlight.  The first is verse 4.  Here we read that a big wish of King David’s was to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.  He didn’t wish that his throne would be kept free from his enemies, for more territory to rule, or millions of dollars.  He wants more of God.  David is not content to seek after God once a week for a few hours.  He wants to be with God all the time, to live with Him, not just an occasional visit.  Can we say that about ourselves?  Is God only a part of our life an hour or so Sunday mornings, maybe a few minutes of Bible every few days?  David wanted to move right in with Him.

Verse 10 has always had a special significance to me.  There are so many people who have had violent and/or abusive childhoods.  They grew up without the love and care that one’s parents should give their child.  They had only fear and pain, or maybe only put-downs and ridicule.  I don’t think this verse would only apply to parents.  I think it could also mean anyone where a close relationship exists that should have trust and love, such as a husband or wife, or a close friend.  If they turn their back on you and betray you, abuse you, or forsake you, it can be a deep and devastating blow.  The wounds and pain of a parent/spouse/child betrayal can last years, even a lifetime.

We don’t know much about King David’s childhood.  There is one brief mention of Jesse, his father, in I Samuel 16, when the prophet Samuel comes to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king.  Jesse leaves David in the fields tending the sheep, thinking that he’s a no-account, not worth being there, and doesn’t allow him to come until Samuel insists.  That hints at a possible lack of a good, loving relationship.  The fact that David penned verse 10 shows that there may have been wounds from his parents that ran deep.  David did not wallow in them.  He turned to the Lord and allowed Him to lift him up.  When parents or a spouse have hurt and betrayed us, let the Lord God pick us up.

Finally, there is verse 14, and King David’s admonition to “wait on the Lord”.  That has been one of the hardest things for me to learn to do.  Like many people today, I want everything now, right away, including from God.  What do we want immediately?  A job, healing, a house, a baby, salvation of a loved one, any number of things we pray for.  But it has to be now or we get impatient, sometimes even lose faith.  God’s timing usually isn’t ours, but it is always perfect, and He is never too late.  David waited quite a few years before he finally ascended the throne that God had promised him.  We need to wait on the Lord, and never run ahead of Him.  Doing that can bring bad results.  Wait on the Lord.

I hope that your reading of Psalm 27, possibly several times over, will show why this is such a beloved Psalm by many.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Praising the Lord in the Darkest Days

Habakkuk 3:2-6, 17-19

Habakkuk was a prophet in the southern Kingdom of Judah during the mid-600’s BC.  The Lord God had shown him the future of the Jewish people coming in the next few decades.  The people of Judah had consistently turned away from Yahweh, and turned to other foreign gods, who were false gods.  Because of this unfaithfulness to Him and His Word, destruction was to come upon the nation.  This had been revealed to Habakkuk, and he naturally was mourning for his countrymen.  He pleads to God for mercy in verse 2.  He knows that God’s judgment and wrath is just and right, but he still pleads for mercy.

Verses 17 thru 19 are some of my favorite in Scripture.  In verse 17 Habakkuk describes a complete economic collapse.  Judah was primarily an agrarian country, as most countries were at this time.  He describes the failing of their crops, such as figs, olives and grape orchards, which were their primary crops.  Their sheep and cattle herds would also perish.  Their whole economy would crumble.  People would lose everything.  No money in the banks.  Nothing.

Our country experienced that in the 1930’s.  Many people today have faced that personally in their own lives.  What is our response when faced with an overwhelming crisis like this?  Panic, fear, shaking of our fist at God and cursing Him, losing all faith?  Habakkuk’s response was to continue to praise the Lord, as verse 18 describes.  This isn’t always easy.  He knew, though, that God is the source of our survival, not our bank account.  Not our job, whether in the fields, or the shop, or business office.  In my own life I have been going through a very difficult financial time, being unemployed for quite awhile.  I know the feeling of verse 17.  I want to follow Habakkuk’s lead, though, and continue to praise the Lord and trust in Him.

About 2 miles from my house is a large zoo.  There they have one exhibit that has man-made rocky crags where several mountain goats live.  It is interesting to watch them leap and bound up and down the artificial mountain, never stumbling or falling.  God says in verse 19 that we will be like those mountain goats and deer, and that we will not stumble or fall.  He will lead us to those special high places with tender grass, mountain flowers, and cold, clear mountain streams.

Many people are afraid during these tense times in our country and around the world.  “What’s going to happen?”, people cry, wringing their hands.  If we are saved children of God we can be like those deer and mountain goats.  The people of Judah were facing the destruction of their country and deportation.  In mine and many other families we face no job, empty bank accounts.  But like Habakkuk, we can continue to praise the Lord and find our joy in Him.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Look at Three of the Beatitudes

In today’s reading here in the Gospel of Matthew we have one of the most well-known passages of Scripture - the Beatitudes, which leads off the next three chapters which contain the Sermon on the Mount.  There are eight “blesseds” contained in this passage.  With space and time constraints I will discuss only three of them.

The first Beatitude I am discussing is the first one, Poor in Spirit, in verse 3.  Being poor in spirit is having an attitude of total humility before the Lord.  For many people this doesn't come easily.  So many today have strong wills and are proud.  Younger generations have been raised in an atmosphere of catering to boosting self-esteem, and being told they are special, no matter what.  Many business climates reward the arrogant and those who show no hesitance to climb on others to get ahead.  This is the opposite of humility and having a servant’s heart and attitude, which those who are filled with the Spirit will display.

When we are poor in spirit we see our need of a Savior.  Pride says that we don’t need any help, we can do everything ourselves, including earning our way into heaven.  The prideful say that all of their works are exceptionally good, so there is no need for Jesus.  Those who are poor in spirit see that without Jesus, they have nothing, and are lost and hopeless, not self-sufficient like the proud.

The second Beatitude I wish to discuss is that of Mercy, the fifth one, in verse 7.  When I was younger, I was more strong in my judgment of others.  That is often a failure of younger people.  As we get older, though, hopefully we start to see how often we need mercy from God.  I have learned that if I want mercy for myself, which I surely do, I must show mercy to others.  When we’re showing the same mercy as God does, we forgive those who have wronged us, whether they deserve it or not, or even ask for it.  How much mercy do I want for myself?  Just a little?  Or do I want abundant mercy?  Since I want the latter, I need to dispense abundant mercy to others.  Not sparingly, but abundantly.

The last Beatitude I will discuss is the sixth one, in verse 8, that of being Pure in Heart.  If we want our hearts to be pure, they need to be kept separate from anything that would taint them.  All it takes is the smallest of particles in food or an ointment to corrupt it, and the same is true in our lives.  To keep our hearts pure we need to keep all stain of sin far away, just like one would keep any contaminants away from food or medication.  This would include what we watch on TV, our entertainment, or what we listen to.  When our hearts are pure, free from any deliberate sin, we will see God and have more of His presence in us, shining forth from us for others to better see Him, too.

If we have asked the Lord Jesus into our heart to make Him our personal Savior, His Holy Spirit lives in our hearts.  If we allow Him to direct our life, then slowly but surely all of the Beatitudes should be showing forth in our lives.  As I read them I look at my own life and take inventory to see where I stand.  How about you?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Message of the Cross

I Corinthians 1:18 - 31

How does the world look at Christians who believe the Bible is the Word of God?  The “Message of the Cross” - the fact that God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity, to die for our sins, is not a popular message with the world, especially today.  They look at that as foolishness.

The Apostle Paul went throughout the Mediterranean preaching the Gospel.  Often he met opposition, both from the Jews and from Gentiles who rejected the saving Message of the Cross.

The Jews rejected the message of Jesus and His saving death on that cross.  Verse 23 says that this message was a stumbling block to them.  The Jews were waiting for their Messiah, but they were looking for a conquering king.  The Jews had been under the rule of other nations for over 500 years.  At the time of Jesus they were looking for someone to free them from Roman rule.  They wanted a strong, powerful, victorious hero.  Jesus was meek and peaceful.  He preached loving your enemy and forgiveness to others, not the type of thing they wanted to hear.  He did not assiduously follow their traditions.  He then died on the cross, in their mind as a blasphemer.  The Jews could not, and would not, accept Him as their Savior, especially not after He died on the cross.  That was a stumbling block for them.

The Greeks, on the other hand, looked on the Message of the Cross as foolishness.  How could a “savior” died on a cross, which was a humiliating execution method for criminals, not for a God.  A God who would die for people was foolishness for them.

We see both of these reactions today.  The Jewish people continue to reject the Messiah.  The cross and salvation through His death is still a stumbling block to them.  Today so many look at the Bible and the Message of the Cross as foolishness.  They call it foolish because many do not believe any salvation is even necessary.  “What are we being saved from?  God loves everybody, and no one is going to hell.  There isn’t even a hell, anyway.  If you believe the Bible you are a fool!”

What the world has called foolishness, and laughs and scoffs at, is exactly how God chose to save mankind.   We have two choices to make:  We can go along with the world, accept their “wisdom”, being afraid to be called a “fool” by them.  Or we can be called a “fool” and accept God’s wisdom and salvation by faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross.  Choose either the world’s “wisdom”, which in reality is foolishness, or God’s “foolishness”, which in reality is wisdom.  Make your choice wisely!