Archive for May, 2021

The Beatitudes Part 7: Let’s Wage Peace

Note: This post is part seven in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.

LET’S WAGE PEACE
MATTHEW 5:9
“BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, 
FOR THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF GOD.”

Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, said “My peace I give unto you…”  To be a peacemaker is to be a Christ emulator.  Peacemakers bridge estranged relations.  Christ’s primary mission in coming was to bridge the greatest gulf of estrangement.  Note, “There is one mediator between God and man…”

Tolstoy, the Russian sage, said: “Man is meant for happiness and this happiness is in him.” Happiness is often spoken of as coming into our lives.  It actually comes out of our lives.

Peacemakers are happy people.  Christ promised they would be “Blessed…”  Happiness is a by-product of a job well done.

Many people seem to be in a living hell because they do not have the peace Christ promised. A young man said, “I made myself a god and my god let me down.”  Such persons lack personal happiness because they lack personal peace and therefore cannot live as peacemakers. To be a peacemaker one must be at peace.  Right relationship precedes right result.

In the 200 plus year history of America there has never been a generation that did not know war; never a generation that had only peace.

Peace has been described as “that glorious, brief moment in history when everyone stops to reload.”

Those who work for right relationships show they are in the right relation with Christ.  Have you ever seen a miracle?  Oh, yes you have.  Have you ever taken a seed the size of a sharp pencil point and buried it under soil thousands of times its weight?  Give it the right soil, light, water, and nutrients and watch what happens.  That little seed will respond against the odds.

Every spring hopeful people bury little seeds to struggle against the odds.  Every spring, hopes struggle against the odds and emerge to bloom.

James, the son of Mary and Joseph wrote:  “Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness.”  (James 3:18 LB)  The peace principle prevails against odds as does the seed.

Personal peace comes by establishing a right relationship with the Prince of Peace.  Heaven is waging peace with you.

Kipling said:  “We are like islands and we shout to each other across seas of misunderstanding.  Like ancient Athens, Queen of the Sea, we need to send out our ships to all regions.  The vessels of peace sail well.  It is a heavenly breeze that propels them.”

The Beatitudes Part 6: Needed – A Pure Heart

Note: This post is part six in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.

NEEDED – A PURE HEART
MATTHEW 5:8
“BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART, FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD.”

On a mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee Jesus shared with His followers what we call the Beatitudes. Notice, they are the “Be” attitudes, not the “do” attitudes. In this series, we will explore other verses, but now let’s focus on “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

The word translated “pure” was used, meaning free from soil or stain, free from hypocrisy or a double standard, morally free from stain and shame. We must avoid the tyranny of a self divided. 

The pure in heart are without hypocrisy; without a secret motive.  Christ often appealed for us to examine our motives. 

There are three temptations regarding impure motives:
The temptation 1) to shine, 2) to whine, and 3) to recline.

On the breastplate of the High Priest was an item known as the Thummim.  It signified integrity.  The High Priest could not enter the Holy of Holies to stand before God and seek His will unless He was wearing it, signifying his purity of heart–his integrity.  As he wore it over his heart, so our hearts must be pure if we are to approach God.

The Greek word translated heart, kardia, in the time of Jesus was the term used as a synonym for the total person.  

The term “see” meant to know and experience God. To have a pure heart is to better experience God. Furthermore, to see means to commune with and explore.

In Bible times monarchs were constantly in danger.  Only one person could go in to see the king without being invited and undergoing a security check.  The prime minister was chosen because of his friendship and loyalty to the king.  It was known he always had the king’s interest in heart.  Thus, he had instant access when he desired it.  The spiritually pure in heart have access to the throne of God in prayer.

This Beatitude teaches us that a person who has only the welfare of God, that is a pure heart, can enter His presence at any time in prayer.

“Every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:3)

Check out your heart, that is, do you have only God’s welfare in heart and best interest in mind. That gives you a pure heart, affording you a good prayer life.

The Beatitudes Part 5: Mercy Sought, Mercy Found

Note: This post is part five in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.

MERCY SOUGHT, MERCY FOUND
MATTHEW 5:7
“BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL, FOR THEY SHALL OBTAIN MERCY.”

Jesus Christ whispered in the ear of the young emerging church and the world overheard Him speak of being “Blessed…”  These eight sayings are called Beatitudes, meaning beautiful attitudes.  The first four deal with initial attitudes.  The last four with the productivity of a life evidencing these attitudes.

Blessed is His promise.  It is a happiness, not dependent on circumstances, but character based on Christ’s teaching.

Eudaemonics is the science of happiness.  The definition implies there are certain scientific principles involved in happiness.  Laws of chemistry and math are fixed.  Their inflexibility has been demonstrated for years.  Likewise, the Beatitudes and their result are just as inflexibly fixed.  Protest and pretense won’t keep 2+2 from equaling 4.  Resistance and refutation won’t change the result of the Beatitudes.  Jeremiah 31:33 teaches us that God’s laws governing conduct and consequent happiness are fixed in hearts.

The Beatitudes are based on the presupposition that the world does not owe you happiness, nor can it grant it.  Only God can.  Compliance with His guidelines enables us to enjoy it.

If you are waiting for conditions around you to produce happiness, don’t hold your breath.  Latin for happiness, “fortuous,” is based on our fortune.  Christ’s kind of happiness is not dependent upon fortune, but fact and their faithful employment.

Marcus Aurelius said that “very little is needed to make a happy life.  It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”  Therefore, think Christ-like thoughts.

To be merciful is to manifest compassion in action.  It is a word referring to going through something with another.  It speaks of entering into another’s problems with understanding and acceptance.  True mercy is genuine compassion.

Jesus spoke of right, not rights.  Mercy is an emotion that leads to action.  It unites us with the Father.  “Be ye tenderhearted, merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

Don’t think this means that if you show mercy to others they will show mercy to you.  They may or may not.  God is the subject of the last part of this verse.  He always shows mercy to the merciful.

Muscle, not mercy is admired. Might, not right, is applauded. To refuse to show mercy is to break down the bridge which we must all sooner or later cross. James wrote: “He shall have judgment without mercy who shows no mercy.” (James 2:13)

The song “At Calvary” has these words:  
“Mercy there was great, and grace was free,
Pardon there was multiplied to me. 
There my burdened soul found liberty–at Calvary.”

Because of this, go show mercy.

The Beatitudes Part 4: Are You Hungry and Thirsty?

Note: This post is part four in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.

ARE YOU HUNGRY AND THIRSTY?
MATTHEW 5:6
“BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST AFTER 
RIGHTEOUSNESS, FOR THEY SHALL BE FILLED.”

Jesus Christ spoke the language of the common people but He gave it an uncommon application.

The Greeks had the word “makarios.”  They used it to describe the blissful state of their gods.  The Athenians used it to describe the living conditions of the very wealthy who were thought to have no cares.  Jesus brought it down to earth and shared the secret of how such a state can be achieved by anyone regardless of their station or rank in life.

The root word from which we get our word beatitudes is the Latin “beatus,” which means blessed or happy.  The happiness of which Christ spoke is not a happy passing moment of merriment but a state of wellbeing involving an internal joyousness.

Spiritually our feelings, emotions, and sentiments are not determined by what happens around us as much as by our attitude.  You are no person’s marionette unless you allow yourself to be.

Jesus knew this, and He spoke of happiness as being given birth from within.  This is a beatitude related to ambition.  It speaks of a strong desire.

To hunger is to avidly desire something.  It signifies a need for nourishment.  A desire, fed by a painful lack, that God’s will be done.  Athletes hunger to win.

To thirst is a yearning, a passionate desire for spiritual good.  The present tense of the participle is used meaning a constant and habitual state.

Jesus chose two basic appetites to dramatize our desires.  David described his desire for the Lord as being like a little deer who is thirsty for water.

Every person has an appetite.  To fill our appetite with improper substance is to defeat our potential happiness.

The Prophet Jeremiah described the perverted spiritual thirst of his day by speaking of leaky cisterns.  A cistern is a water container.  Jeremiah said, “My people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

Our unsatisfiable appetite must be for righteousness, present tense, continuous action. 

Happy is the person whose most intense desire is to enter into a right relationship with God.  Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden.

A person who is righteous desires to see the cause of righteousness vindicated.  Our entire being should be fuel for His fire.

Righteousness, translates the Greek “dikaiosune” which means “to be right with God.” Only when you have a craving ambition above all else to be right with God will you be happy.

“I have been reading the Beatitudes,” Lincoln said to a friend, “And can at least claim one of the blessings therein unfolded.  It is the blessing pronounced upon those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

How is your appetite?

The Beatitudes Part 3: Enjoy Your Inheritance

Note: This post is part three in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.

ENJOY YOUR INHERITANCE 
MATTHEW 5:5
“BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, 
FOR THEY SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.”

A person is not meek because he can’t help himself, but because he is confident in eternal resources.

The Hebrew word for meek “anaw” depicts a malleable person, one who out of love is open to divine guidance, submitted to authority.

The Greek word for meek “praus” was used to describe a horse who was reined and can be led.

It was also used of Roman soldiers who were under the control of their superior officers. They were described by this term indicating they were under control of their commander.

When used relating to a Christian, it means they are under the control of Jesus.

The promise is they shall be blessed.  Adjusted and stable are the persons who bring their drives under the control of Jesus.  Blessedness lies in character.

Reality reveals that not everyone is going to have an abundance of physical goods.  Therefore, we must either find a different basis for happiness or have a lot of unhappy people.  Attitude is the arena in which the battle for happiness is won or lost.

Meek means to calm that which is irritated or excited and bring it under control.  It enables one to avoid a hot head or cold feet by maintaining a warm heart for Christ.  It refers to mastery by the Master.

To be meek is to be under Jesus’ control, to be teachable, coachable, responsive to His rules.

It is not an encouragement to cowering conduct. “Moses was very meek, above all the men which were the face of the Earth.” (Numbers 12:3) 

Jesus was “meek and lowly of heart.” (Matthew 11:28-30)  Yet, He clashed with the Pharisees until the sparks flew. 

Such persons inherit the earth. The word translated “inherit” means to enjoy.  If persons possess certain legal rights, they enjoy them.  To inherit the earth is to possess it.  To possess it is to enjoy it.  In light of this the spiritually meek are wealthy. I own: Jekyll Island, the Montana mountains, Marshes in Louisiana, the craggy coast of Oregon…. My inheritance has made me wealthy.

What one inherits represents the work of another.  What the Christian inherits is what is Christ’s.  When you have Christ in your heart, you have what is Christ’s. 

The meek, that is, persons who are Jesus-tamed, are Jesus-tempered and have the ability to enjoy their inheritance, the earth. Enjoy your inheritance today.

The Beatitudes Part 2: How Mourning Can Become a Blessing

Note: This post is part two in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.

HOW MOURNING CAN BECOME A BLESSING
MATTHEW 5: 4
“BLESSED ARE THEY THAT MOURN, 
FOR THEY SHALL BE COMFORTED.”  

Jesus Christ had the capacity of distilling an ocean of fact into a drop of truth.  He revolutionized the world’s ideals.  He inverted His society’s concepts.  He who was sharing these truths was the living embodiment of them.

Jesus Christ was a living incarnation of His teachings.  The Beatitudes are a pocket-sized biography of Christ.

The Greek word for mourning, pentheo, means a grief that consumes the whole person.  Christ is a spiritual seismograph, sensing the needs of His subjects.  He knew mourning was inescapable.  His intent is to give it meaning and purpose. God takes no pleasure in our pain.  He will take a part.

Mourning is sober judgment.  It prompts people to weigh values.  It reveals one’s true character. The blackest of velvet is used to display the rarest of diamonds.  This speaks of those who have not realized and acknowledged their spiritual poverty. Sorrow in life is inevitable. What we sorrow over is what matters. This sorrow, mourning, is over our former spiritual arrogance and reluctance to acknowledge our spiritual poverty.

Mourning is a corrective of a condition.  It is essential to recovery from an adverse condition. Godly sorrow results in repentance. To mourn is natural.  It is not optional.  Our response is optional.  Sorrow with a purging purpose is profitable.  It is mourning with a meaning.  It can bring godly repentance. That is why it is a blessing.

The word “comforted” comes from two parts: “com” meaning together with and “fort” meaning strength. Christ shares His strength and together with Him we become strong.

If mourning over sin brings us to this conclusion commissioned by Emperor Fredrick III by the faculty of Heidelberg University, the oldest university in Europe, to write a statement of faith in 1562

The Heidelberg Catechism:
“Question:  What is your only comfort in life and death?
Answer:  That I, with body and soul, both in life and death am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserved me that without the will of my Heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.”

Pause now and talk with the Lord about your own core of values.

The Beatitudes Part 1: Exalted Happiness

Note: This post is part one in a series of eight posts on the Beatitudes.

TO BE HAPPY IS TO BE POOR IN SPIRIT
MATTHEW 5:3
“BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT,
FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.”

Jesus Christ in love has charted the way to happiness for you. On the scenic slopes overlooking The Sea of Galilee, He spoke eight utterances that form milestones on the road to happiness.  Obedience to them brings happiness.

The pursuit of happiness for many people ends in a freakish traffic jam.  Motors keep accelerating, but nobody can move.  This has caused many to forget their pursuit of happiness and wrap themselves in a cocoon of cynicism.

This in no way speaks of financial poverty being a virtue. It is poverty in spirit that is the intent. 

This kind of happiness differs in kind from ours by definition.  Our’s is dependent on happenstance, that is, conditions and circumstances.  The happiness of which Christ spoke is independent of circumstances. 

The Greek word “Ptocho,” translated poor, describes a beggar who lives off the alms of another.  He is speaking of the poor in spirit not the poor-spirited, not dejection, self-pity, those without backbone or “stuffin.”

As the physically poor are dependent on others so we who are poor in spirit have come to the realization that we are personally spiritually bankrupt and dependent.

The good news is preceded by the bad news. That is only when a person realizes they are lost, poor in spirit, and need the good news are they open to the gospel.

Not to admit poverty of spirit is self-deception. Abject poverty of spirit results in reliance on Christ for resources.

The poor in spirit consider themselves stewards not collectors.  They are to use what they receive to the glory of God not for their own greed.  Substance is theirs with which to serve not to save.  

To be poor in spirit involves: humility, submission, gratitude, contentment.

I pity the poor, for they think riches would answer all their needs.

I pity the rich, for they know riches won’t meet our needs.

I rejoice with those who know and experience the truth of which Christ spoke and who are truly poor in spirit but rich in the faith.

(A) Avoid comparisons.
(B) Realize your weaknesses.   
(C) Hedge against pride

The poor in spirit avoid the pitfall of pride.

“God resists the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.”  (James 4:6)

The poor in spirit realize themselves to be conductors of praise on its way to the supreme source, Christ.

There has never been a supremely happy egotist. The cavernous capacity of a narcissist for recognition is like a bottomless pit. The consuming lust for self-elevating flattery depletes one’s friends.

The result is blessedness.  Blessed translates the word “macaria.” The Island of Cyprus was once called Macaria because it was alleged to be able to produce and provide all that man could require or desire.

The poor (ptochos) are beggars of God who can make them blessed (macaria).  He can give to the poor in spirit all that they require and desire. That is true happiness.

Spiritual poverty is the beginning of spiritual nobility.

Three Basic Desires

ABC-TV had a documentary featuring John Stossel on “Happiness.” It involved extensive research. Their interviews of persons in Third World countries was interesting. When asked how happy they were, they most often answered indicating they had never thought about it. In America we think about it. It seems we have a constant monitor on our “happiness pulse.” We need to avoid going around asking ourselves, “Am I happy?”

One conclusion reached by that secular program was that persons who had a practical Christian faith tended to be happier than those who do not. The reason is they have a sense of commitment and purpose that adds to happiness. Such persons have a sense that their life is in control because of their faith in God.

That is part of what Christ was talking about when He said, “I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

With Him in control there is a sense of well being resulting in happiness. This stability results when we realize: “Our efficiency turns out to be our deficiency without His sufficiency.”

Psychologists say human beings have three basic desires: acceptance, approval, and appreciation.

Scripture teaches us we are created in the likeness of God. That means He has three basic desires: acceptance, approval, and appreciation. How do you score?

Faith can carry us when all else fails. Even under extenuating circumstances it prevails. Historical examples of this are our predecessors who were persecuted for their faith. Indicative of those tortured for their faith was Polycarp, leader of the church in Smyrna, at the end of the first century. His state appointed tormentor said to him: “Say, ‘Away with the atheist,’ (Jesus) swear by the godhead of Caesar, and blaspheme Christ.”

He replied, “Eighty-and-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” 

His executioner asked him how his head was resisting. He replied, “It matters not how the head rests, what matters is how is the heart.”

He had his values right, do you?

Some seem to have this mind-set regarding work.

There are 365 days in a year:
A workday is only 1/3 of a day, eight hours, that is 122 days a year.
There are fifty-two Sundays a year; so that leaves 70 work days.
There are fifty-two Saturdays a year; so that leaves 18 work days.
You get two weeks, 14 days of vacation; so that leaves 4 work days.
The average worker takes 3 days sick leave; that leaves one work day a year.

Contrast that by approaching every task with a mind-set of doing it – – – as to the Lord.

Three Desirable Life Objectives

Early on a warm summer eve a young boy knelt on the edge of a dusty Mississippi road. Looking up at the moonlit sky, he prayed a simple, but significant prayer: “Dear God, please give me a self to live with, a work to live for, and a faith to live by.”

For over 75 years he has had the good fortune of living the answer to that prayer. Those are three meaningful components, but actually listed in the reverse order. Faith influences the other two.

Faith is confidence in God to help you perform His will in your life. When Moses tried to do the job himself, he failed. He couldn’t keep a dead Egyptian soldier buried. When he let God in on the action, he saw the entire Egyptian army buried.

Faith is the bridge across which we walk between anxiety, frustration, and fear on one side; to peace of mind, joy, and assurance on the other.

We all, even the greatest skeptic, live by faith. We have confidence the brakes on our car will work when we depress the pedal, and there is no way to prove it in advance. We have faith the food at the fast food place is okay, and there is no way we can test it in advance. We live by faith. It is the object of it, Jesus, that makes life worthwhile.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:7)

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17)

“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The second part of that prayer related to a work for which to live. We often put emphasis on the day of rest in the creation narrative, and minimize the six days of work. Even the Creator labored six days before resting. There is dignity in work. When well done, it gives proper pride.

The third request was for a self with which to live. This is often a byproduct of a faith by which to live, and a work for which to live. When a person has a sense of pleasing God by the exercise of faith, and man by constructive work well done, there can be peace of mind. 

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Romans 5:1-2)

I, that boy on the dusty road, attest to these truths.

The Profile of a Plodder

“Plodder” is a euphemism for one who perseveres. It is their will, often in the absence of skill, that emboldens and enables them to achieve. They are driven by an inflamed desire to break down barriers, overcome obstacles, and do the impossible.

Today is an ideal time to resolve to become a plodder. You won’t regret it.

Robert Louis Stevenson observed: “Worthwhile people don’t just happen, they aren’t just born. They are born with the ability to become worthwhile. It is your job to discover and develop the man or woman you ought to be.”

Plodders see the security in playing it safe.

They smell the sulfur from side-track snare pits.

They hear the hollow laughter of mockers who stopped short.

They feel the fear of potential failure.

They are touched by the agony of defeat —- and still they persevere. 

Moses is a classic example of an Old Testament plodder. He never would have led his people on their way to the Promised Land had he not been a plodder.

Paul is a classic example of a New Testament plodder. He never would have endured the Roman prisons and survived to write much of the New Testament.

William Carey is a matchless example of extra-biblical plodders. From his trade as a humble shoe maker he emerged as a scholar and linguist who started the modern missions movement. He lived by his motto:

EXPECT GREAT THINGS FROM GOD;
ATTEMPT GREAT THINGS FOR GOD.

He concluded: “I can plod …. To this I owe everything.”

Now, you can write your own plodder autobiography. Perhaps it could be entitled “How I Overcame Me.” This work is intended for those weary pilgrims who are contemplating giving up. This appeal: “don’t, plod on —- with me.”

Strengthen Your Spiritual Core

Core training is the in thing. There are specific exercises for our Obliques, Abdominals, and even Intercostals. Intercostals! Only heard of them recently. They are small chest muscles that help our breathing. All together they help form the area around and above our belt line. The well being of not only the abdomen but the rest of the body is dependent upon them.

They are illustrative of our spiritual core values. Like muscles need exercise so do our spiritual core values, that is what we believe. You exercise them by demonstrating them in society. Like muscles they become stronger by being exercised.

Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person. Core values can help to affirm what is right from wrong. Those values we hold which form the foundation on which we make decisions and reflexively respond to issues in life.

To build our spiritual core our loving Lord allows us to be exposed to pressure and stress. By such, our true core of beliefs become internally strengthened.

Jesus taught on core values often. A modern translation of Matthew 7:24 makes this clear: “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life…. They are foundational words, words to build a life on.”

If you don’t know your core values, then you don’t have a basis by which to make decisions that will determine the very direction and destiny of your life.

Consider taking a bit of time within the next few days and list issues and state what you really believe about them. Include a Bible perspective on each. Take your time and write them out. Put them in a safe place and expand on them often.

Modern media influences our values. Counter it by programming your mind on God’s word. Remember, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

The best time to make a decision is before you have to so that when an incident arises you don’t have to make a decision under pressure. Having already made a decision regarding such an incident, all you have to do is employ the decision made in advance.

Now having read this Post, make a decision about what you are going to do about it. Strengthen your core.

Whatever You Do, Do It Heartily

There is a legendary D-1 football coach whose name will remain anonymous. He had an athlete who was an outspoken Christian. The young man had grown up in our church and was known for his faith. He was sleeping in, cutting class, and goofing off in practice. The coach called him into his office. On the coach’s desk was a Bible. After a brief opening chat, the coach pushed the Bible across his desk right in front of the athlete and said, “Show me one place in that book where it gives you the right to cut class, slack off in practice, and not be and do your best at whatever you do.” There was no self-excusing response.

The athlete got the message, reacted positively, became regular in class, and all out in practice. His grades improved dramatically, and he went on to be an All American that year. It was truly a remarkable turnaround. 

All Christians are under this mandate: “… whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23) No room to goof allowed there.

Christians are to work “heartily.” The Greek phrase ek psyches, means “from the soul.” This implies the ideas of enthusiasm and passion. 

You do not need to be in full-time ministry to work for the Lord. It is not so much what you do; it is who you do it for! If we keep focused on the truth that we are working for the Lord, then even menial tasks seem important.

Many people hate their jobs. They long for 5:00 PM or Friday afternoon. They think of work as something they must do in order to get paid so they can afford the house, the car, the tuition, the groceries, and the vacation they desperately want. Work, for so many is nothing more than a necessary evil. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Christians who received this exhortation originally were slaves. By keeping their minds on the Lord, not their slave master, they found meaning. The same works for us. Focus on your spiritual Master, not your boss.

Then you realize, you are not working for Walmart, (or whoever) you are working for the Lord at Walmart. Even if you are no longer in the workforce, do all as to the Lord.

“Whatever you do,” no matter what, do it in a manner pleasing to the Lord.

As a conclusion consider this modern translation and application.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

He offers a great retirement plan.

Your Own Poolside Healing

In the Bible the Pool of Bethesda is described as having five porticoes—a puzzling feature suggesting an unusual five-sided pool, which most scholars dismissed as an unhistorical literary creation. Yet when this site was excavated, it revealed a rectangular pool 300 by 150 feet with two basins separated by a wall—thus a five-sided pool—and each side had a portico. (John 5:2-18)

As an aside the great Naval hospital in Maryland is named, Bethesda Hospital, which means “House of Mercy.”

So why a pool with two basins? The archaeological evidence shows that the southern basin had broad steps with landings, indicating that it was indeed a mikveh, a pool for ritual cleansing. The northern basin provided a reservoir, or otzer, to continually replenish and refresh the mikveh with fresh water flowing south through the dam between them. Jerusalem’s pilgrims would flock to the Bethesda Pool and Siloam Pool to purify themselves in these public mikva’ot and, at times, to seek healing.

Scripture indicates that Jesus performed most of His miracles and did most of His teaching around these mikveh.

About 50 years ago almost all of our health problems resulted from diseases, while today about 80% of them are related to our lifestyle choices.

Jesus asked the cripple at the pool an interesting question, “Do you want to be healed?” A lifestyle change can result in the healing of many of our problems. 

Do you want to be healed is another way of asking do you want a different set of problems? Well people also have problems. The cripple got healed but his new life resulted in a confrontation with Pharisees who were angry over him being healed on the Sabbath. Then he had to be concerned about a job and paying taxes.

Today those who may seem to be worry free have problems. He can deal with smaller needs as well as the bigger ones.

Tom Hansel used to love climbing mountains until his climbing accident.

He has lived with excruciating pain ever since. His church family prayed long and hard for his healing. He still lives in pain, but in one of his books entitled “You Gotta Keep Dancin’” he writes, “I had prayed hundreds, if not thousands of times for the Lord to heal me – and finally he did heal me. He healed me of the need to be healed, and gave me his peace inside the pain. Joy is mine today – joy mingled with still ever constant pain – joy in the gladness of being alive. Daily challenges often leave me less than the best, but then something new emerges to surprise me: Hope – deeper and more enduring than ever before. Faith – not enough to move mountains, but enough to get me through this moment and the next. And love.”

There are all sorts of healing. Do you want to be healed? How in your life does that question apply?

Finish Strong

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”                    -Philippians 2:12 

Note carefully it says “work out” not “for.” This passage does not mean to work in order to earn, merit, or deserve your salvation.

This is clearly taught in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourself: it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”

The Greek verb for “work out,” KATERGAZESTHAI, always has the idea of carrying to a logical conclusion.

Nearby the Dematiaceae Chapel in Florence, Italy is the Academy of Art. Florence is the location of one of Michelangelo’s most magnificent works, David. As a sculptor he produced such great works as Moses, the Pieta, and David. His highly acclaimed work is incomparable.

A large chamber in the Academy building houses what are known as Michelangelo’s slaves. They are incomplete works of art that were in progress at the time of his death.

He always started with a piece of stone which yielded to his will as his skilled hands freed from it the intended work of art. Until the moment of completion each was always an incomplete work of art in progress. These incomplete works are called “slaves” because they have not yet been completely freed from the stone.

One is of a man whose upper torso and head are complete. The lower part is still the block of unhewn stone.  It appears as though the man is standing in stone. In another the lower extremities of the body are complete and the unfinished block of stone rests on the person’s shoulders. It is as though he is struggling to free himself from the stone.

These incomplete works lack the quality of the completed works principally because they are unfinished. Do they mirror your life?

To carry your salvation to its logical conclusion God is willing to help. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2: 13).

“It is God who works in you both to will and to do…”  The same Greek word is translated as “works” and “to do.” It is ENERGEIN.  In it we can hear our word for energy. This word is only used in the New Testament as a reference to the action of God. It is effective action because it is the action of God. His actions for you are not for you to remain half-finished. Carry your salvation to its logical conclusion.

Seeing the End From the Beginning

Scripture speaks of God as creating the heavens and earth. The Greek word for “created” is (bara) meaning to create out of nothing, not to reform.

Of the other end of creation Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will by no means pass away” (Luke 21:33).

The “first heaven and the first earth” are said to have “passed away.” The Greek phraseology gives room for two possibilities. One is that the heavens and earth are swept away into non-existence, nothingness, annihilation. In light of other texts this is the proper application. 

In reference to the “first” earth it means the planet earth. The reference is to this spheroid that measures 24,902 miles around its waist, the equator, this globe that travels 18.5 miles per second in its 595,000,000 mile journey around the sun.

When and how this passing occurs are spoken of by Peter:
“Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?”  (II  Peter 3:11-12).

From the dawn of creation God has had in store the means of achieving this renovation. Now, that is advance planning. The planet earth has an outer shell or crust about twenty miles thick. Inside this is a zone called “the mantle zone” which is about 1,800 miles thick. Underneath this is a zone called the “outer core,” which is about 1,360 miles thick. It is made of molten fluids. Occasionally some of this rises to the surface and forms volcanoes. By design from the beginning God has had in store the means of renovating the earth. 

“But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men”  (II Peter 3:7).

Jesus made this promise to His followers, “I am with you to the end of the world.” There are three Greek words that can be translated “to the end of the world.”

GE is one. It is a reference to the ground, this terrestrial globe. We hear this root word in such words as geology and geography or geophysics. 

KOSMOS is a second Greek word that can be translated as earth. It means “adornment” or “embellishment.” Looking at God’s beautifully created world the Greeks began to call it the KOSMOS, the adorned and embellished. Our word cosmetics comes from the word KOSMOS. 

AION is the third Greek word translated “world.” It means an indefinite period of time. It was used to refer to an era or an order of things.  This is the word used by Jesus when He said, “I am with you to the end of the world,” meaning “to the consummation of the ages,” the end of time and history.

He who planned all that and arranged for it to happen has a plan for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Being with you to the end of the ages means He is with you today. Acknowledge it and interpret your present condition in light of it. Rejoice and be glad.

Its About Time

“In the beginning was the Word…” is how the opening verse of the gospel of John begins in most translations. That is a correct translation of the Greek text which literally means, “Before time began to begin was the Word…”

When creation is considered we most often think of material objects. However, this verse confirms time itself was part of creation. Time began at a particular point. Before that point, bewildering as it is, there was no time.

The Revelation teaches us there will come a point when “time shall be no more.” We are living in a parentheses between eternity past and eternity future.

Each new year brings us 8,756 hours. Of these the average person will spend 2,920 hours sleeping. That leaves 5,836 hours which provide ….

A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;

A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones; 
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;

A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;

A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace. -Ecclesiastes 3:2-8

Note nestled among those is “a time to die.”

Then when time runs out for you, there is eternity awaiting. You will then give an account as to how you have used your time. (How about today?) Make certain that in time you have prepared for where you will spend eternity by having at a point in time put your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you have done so, reflect on it and rejoice. If you have never done so, do it right now. Immediately note the date and time, and record it rejoicing it is recorded in eternity.

If you have done it before, live like it, confident in, and obedient to the loving Lord.

Take Refuge in the Lord

A stabilizing verse is found right in the middle of the Bible. As a matter of fact, it is Psalm 118:8, long considered by some as the middle verse of the Bible: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:8) Every verse in this chapter mentions God.

“Man” as used here is a reference to human instincts, our conscience. God, not our human conscience, should be the final arbiter in decision making. Therefore, a well indoctrinated conscience is an aid in making right-minded decisions. A conscience that does not have such a basis is more subject to making wrong decisions.

Therefore to make better decisions become better versed in Scripture.  It should be our desire “to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16).

Taking “refuge in the Lord” means to let God through His word and by His Spirit guide you in decision making. Unbiblically informed people today are saying everything about America is wrong and we are going to change it or burn it down.

Not all of our Founding Fathers were Christians, but they were well informed on the Bible. Most of them had been educated by ministers. The foundation of America was forged by people whose conscience was guided by the Bible. They took refuge in the Lord. The rioters today are being guided by their unbiblically informed conscience.

It is therefore incumbent on us to hide His word in our heart that we be guided in all we do.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Take courage in your refuge all you who are dispirited.

Who, Me Worry?

Do you ever spend time worrying about some future event? Whatever the experience is, you engage in a big time worrying session playing, “what if.”

Have you ever thought about it, worry is simply negative thought, nothing more. Worry is the only sin we brag about. “I worried so much I couldn’t sleep,” or “I worried so much I couldn’t eat.”

Our beloved Lord has said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” We muse, will it really be? Think about it, hasn’t it always been?

In the Medieval Era one of the Reformers was condemned to be burned alive at the stake. The night before his execution screams were heard coming from his cell. He was trying to see if he could stand the pain leading to his death. To do this he was sticking his finger in the flame of a candle. Each time he put his finger in the flame, he withdrew it in pain. The next day as he stood tied to the stake with the flames rising around him he was heard singing a hymn. 

God’s grace was sufficient at the stake, though it wasn’t the night before. What made the difference? At the stake he needed God’s grace and had it, the night before he didn’t need it and didn’t have it, but was imposing on God’s grace.

The promise is “My grace is sufficient for you.” That is not future or past tense, it is perpetual present tense. It is not sufficient before needed, but every time when needed. Let that dispel your worry, knowing when needed His grace is sufficient. Now frame your thoughts in that light and confidently think positively.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  II Corinthians 12:9

When Paul initially received that promise, he had been appealing to God to take away his thorn in the flesh. By God’s grace he learned:

Affliction is most often a time of great spiritual growth.

Apathy is a spiritual virus that overtakes us and consumes us.

Therefore, may we say with Paul, “I gladly glory in my affliction.” It is possible to transition from griping to glorying only if II Corinthians 12:9 is applied. Remember who said, “My grace is sufficient.” If you need a reminder, it was the God of all grace who loves you, who desires, and designs good for you.

Evaluate Your Love for Jesus

Chinese Christians have been ordered to renounce their faith in Jesus and worship President Xi Jinping. What does that mean? It is known Xi is not divine. What then does it mean to worship him? They know he cannot function as our God, that is, perform supernaturally, to do for them what the Christian God alone can do for His people.

To worship him means to give their supreme loyalty to him. To regard his decisions as right, and worthy of compliance, to adore him, and venerate him. It means to comply with his rules, commandments.

For the Christians it is a one way street. Xi can never do for them what the Christian God can for His people.

For the Christians it means they are to hold Xi in the same regard Christians are to hold their God, to be in awe of him. To worship means to sincerely be motivated by love from within for Xi, to submit to his authority and power. Praise is an integral part of worship. Likewise obedience is fundamental in worship.

The Chinese Christians have been ordered to love Xi more than they do Jesus.

Are you beginning to get the picture? Consider those traits expected by Xi. Then take note that they are the same traits we are to show our God.

A lawyer asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment. This was not a new question, the scribes had been debating it for centuries. They had documented 613 commands in God’s Law—248 positive; 365 negative.

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.‘” Matthew 22:37

HEART. In ancient times before medicine was advanced it was believed by many that thoughts originated in the heart and were carried by the blood to the brain where it became conscious. So we are to love God with all of our thoughts “whole heartedly.” From the heart “flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

SOUL. We are to love Him with all our soul. This is a reference to our human nature. We are to love God with our passions, hunger, perceptions, and interest.

Our very nature should be to love Him.  We are also to love Him with how we talk, and what we do with our hands, and how we utilize our talents, and how we react to challenges. Our entire being is to be a display of our love for God.

MIND. We are to love Him with all of our mind. It is estimated the average person thinks over 50,000 thoughts and accomplishes hundreds of tasks every day. How many of your thoughts a day please Him?

With these thoughts as a background, stop now and evaluate how you love the Lord and engage in a new current commitment to Him.

The Colosseum

Much of our vocabulary has its roots in Greek and Latin of the New Testament era. Examples: “arena” is Latin for sand; “circle” is Latin for circus; and “podium” is Latin for a place of honor. 

Paul was writing to young Timothy from Rome, from within sight of the construction of the Colosseum and the existing Circus Maximus. The Circus Maximus in the time of Caesar seated 150,000. In the time of Titus 250,000; in the 4th Century, 385,000.

These places saw much blood shed. At one feat 600 bears and 800 lions died. During the 120 days of dedication of the Colosseum 12,000 beasts and many humans were killed. Here many of our ancestors in the faith died.

Come inside the Colosseum for a moment. Beneath the main floor are cages for 2,000 wild beasts. At one end of the arena is a large arched entrance. It is the “Porta Sanavivaria,” Latin for the “Door of the Living.”  

The choicest location in the seats was reserved for Caesar. It was called the Podium. He was considered by the Romans to be their God. As the gladiators entered the Porta Sanavivaria they chanted “Ave, Caesar, Morituri Salutant” = “Hail to Thee, O Caesar; those about to die greet thee.” How could they enter with such joyful delight knowing many of them would die? Because they believed they were offering their life for their god, Caesar.

When a person was dismembered, wounded or killed, slaves dressed like the goddess of the underworld, used large hooks to grab them in the chest and drag them through the Door of Libertina, the “Goddess of Corpses.”

This was the environment in which the roots of Christianity grew.

When you are called on to take a stand for Jesus in an alien environment remember the examples of your spiritual ancestors. This is a good moment to pause and declare your devotion to our Lord who died for us.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1

Count Your…

Some mornings I wake up and feel like praying, “Dear God, I don’t feel like you’re within a country mile of me.” Perhaps even during the day you feel that way. It may be you ate pickles and peanut butter on your cookies, and you just don’t feel good. Or it may simply be the ionic concentration in the atmosphere is off that has you “out of sorts.”

It is then that you need to remember that feelings are fickle, but facts are fixed, and pray, “Dear God, I don’t feel like you are here with me, BUT I know you are, therefore let’s you and me go get ’em.” That reality is based on the promises of God.

There are various kinds of promises in the Bible.

Some are to specific persons or groups at a given time only.

Some are directed to particular people, but the concept is relevant to all of us.

Some are applicable to all people for all time.

It is inappropriate to apply the first of these to us. We should be aware the second kind of these is not directed to us, but the principle is relevant to us. The third one is ours to enjoy fully. With that in mind, enjoy such promises daily.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV  It was directed to a certain people, but the principle applies to us.

Here are a couple that are germane in every life.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 ESV

“… he will not forsake his saints.” Psalm 37:28

Armed with such truth… go get ‘em.

Change

Change can be instant or a process. When needed, it is a joy to see the positive result. A concerned distraught grandmother came to my office seeking help. When asked how I could be of help she began to weep as she told me her story.

Her daughter would not let her have any contact with her children. When asked why, she said her daughter said she was so negative and complained so much that she did not want her children to be around such a person.

My enquiry as to whether she wanted to change was met with an immediate affirmation. Then our interchange began.

I assured her the negative person who entered my office could leave it a positive and joyous one through Jesus Christ. We then discussed this text:

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” I John 5:14, 15

I was careful to call her attention to the phrase “according to His will,” and not just anything. I asked if she thought it was God’s will for His children to express the joy of their salvation. Assuring me she did, we then engaged in a time of prayer which on her behalf involved contrition, confession, cleansing, and commitment. Only after these steps was a request made to become a positive, optimistic, and joyous child of God.

I saw her a month later and she was radiant in telling me she was so changed her daughter asked her to stay with her children a day each week.

Not all transformation is that instantaneous, but hers was. God is in the life changing business. Talk to Him about your life, and any changes needing to be made. Then take the steps that lady did. You, too, can become a new you.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

Be an Original You

In 1964, a group of scientists studied the schooling instinct of fish as to what makes them swim in shoals. Painstakingly they removed from one fish the portion of the brain they believed controlled its social instinct. Did he play hooky from school? He tried, but amazingly all the other fish followed this witless-wonder around! It is hard, even for people, to break the conformity instinct. It is everywhere. We speak of …

We are born original and die a copy. Who we copy determines our destiny. That is why it is so important that we believe so strongly in Jesus Christ that we resolve to conform in Him, and not the world. No matter how ugly your sin may be He will forgive you. Even if you feel terribly unworthy and sinful, Jesus is willing to forgive you and await you in heaven.

Why not be yourself with a new self that is alive in Jesus Christ, a new, fresh, and excitingly different you? If you have done this rejoice! If not, break with the pack now and …

“Don’t copy the fashions and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will see from your own experiences how His way really satisfies you!”  Romans 12:2

Play Ball!

There was an old baseball coach at Pepperdine University named John Scolinos who when he addressed an audience of baseball coaches had a standard size home plate hung around his neck. He began by asking in succession if there were any Little League, Babe Ruth, high school, college, Minor League, and finally Major League coaches present. Pausing between each, he asked what was the size of your home plate. Reservedly, thinking it was a trick question, each slowly answered, “17 inches.”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES,” he confirmed.

Then he questioned, “What do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?”

Someone shouted, “They send him to Pocatello!”

Coach Scolinos remarked, “They don’t say, ‘That is OK. If you can’t hit a seventeen inch target we will make it eighteen or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you will have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.’”

Then he asked, “What do we do if the best player consistently shows up late for practice? Or, when the rules forbid facial hair and he shows up unshaven? Do we change the rules for him?”

Next he drove home his point noting that is the problem in our country. “We have changed the rules in government, in marriage, in church, and in education.” 

Regarding each of these disciplines, he made his point as he did in this way regarding government: “Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate! We see our country falling into a dark abyss and we just watch.”

(Author’s Note: I want to interject that though this is true in general, there are some very good leaders who serve us well.)

In a discipline dear to me there have been dramatic changes of standards.

There is a new theological school of thought going around in some churches known as Liberation Theology. Proponents say the church has alienated society by holding standards no longer acceptable by the world. The church must change to be more acceptable by the world. It must become more compatible with the world.

You fill in the blanks noting where standards have been changed by the church.

Historically the objective has been to love the world, but not the things of the world and endeavor to lead the world to upgrade its standards. That is now being reversed in the name of popularity.

Scolinos made his final point. “If we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standard, if we are unwilling and unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools & churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to…”

At that point he turns over the home plate he has around his neck to show the reverse side. Showing it to be black he warns, “We have dark days ahead!” Then this appeal, to keep “Your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.”  Use the Bible as your ruler.

Time Out

Traveling in Switzerland I saw one of those large ornate clocks with animated figures. It was striking! (Get it? Clock striking?) The words inscribed on it were even more so:

“When as a child I laughed and wept,
Time crept.
When as a youth, I dreamed and talked,
Time walked.
When I became a full grown man,
Time ran.
When older still I grew,
Time flew.
Soon I shall find in traveling on,
Time gone.”

The author is unknown, but the truth expressed isn’t. Each of us is in one of those groups.

Don’t rush by today to get to tomorrow. Don’t spoil today by pulling tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine. Likewise don’t be like a peacock whose glory is behind it.

You have never lived this day before. There will be no instant replay, no rerun. Live it up in such a way you won’t long to live it down.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
Proverbs 27:1 NIV

While relating to time it is a good time to acknowledge it is running out on each of us.

Settle the issue of where you will spend eternity by giving your life to Jesus Christ and asking His forgiveness, and acknowledging your willful commitment to Him as your Savior.

If you have already done so, renew your devotion to Him today.

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 
I John 2:17 NIV

Up and at ‘Um Able Ant!

“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” Proverbs  6:6-8

The ant is an industrious creature. Small in size, but wise in its ability to optimize its time, skills and resources. Here are some important characteristics of the ants.

1. DILIGENCE: Ants are never lazy! Neither are they poor or hungry! Their efforts, and hard work sustains them! The same diligence will result in you being blessed physically, spiritually and financially!

2. DETERMINATION: “Get ‘er done” must have originally been an ant byword. They need no captain, they are self starters. They seem to manifest an attitude of: If not me, who? If not here, where? If not now, when?

3. DISCERNMENT: They store their food during seasons of plenty, so that they will have adequate amounts in times of scarcity. 

4. DEDICATION: Teamwork and unity are apparent. Ants accomplish more by working together than by working alone. Often a number of them will be seen moving an object much too heavy to be moved alone.

5. DEVOTION: They are all out for the Ant Kingdom. We too should live an all out life for the Kingdom of God. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Matthew 6:33 

Pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as in Heaven.”

There Are Things You Can See When You “Just Can’t See”

With World War II looming on the horizon King George VI of England included these words in his Christmas broadcast to the nation:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
“That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

May that inspire you as it did England in their dark hour. Bolstered by that wisdom Sir Winston Churchill challenged his countrymen with his immortal lines which have been distorted from this actual presentation: “never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.”

Tenacity of will reaches its zenith in this text: “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”  II Corinthians 4:16 – 18 Got it? Let that text be your spiritual night goggles.

When “we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen,” that is a good time to “…put your hand in the hand of God.”

For a person of faith the weight on you is not to be compared with the strength within you.

Adversities Can Become Advantages

Have you had those times when you could say, “I just can’t see…,” meaning I can’t understand what to do, or say? In that hour things happen that we can’t understand. Then we must exercise faith in what is unseen. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

It is then we can relate to Isaiah 50:10, “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”

Instant replay, “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.”

Play that over and over on the soundtrack of your mind until you can repeat it in your sleep — or in your hours of sleepless agony.

Our sovereign Creator, the Lord God, made a choice to give human beings a free will. With that came another choice. A paraphrase of a statement by Augustine says it well: “God thought it better to bring good out of bad than not let the bad exist.”

God is not out to bring about bad things for us, but to bring the good out of the bad things that happen to us.

Consider that in light of Isaiah’s comment regarding walking in the dark where there is no light, some things can only be seen in the dark. For example, the darker the night the brighter the stars. The more difficult our circumstances the more precious is our Lord.  It is when we can’t see we must “trust in the name of the Lord, and rely on … God.”

Then our adversities become our advantages.

Creation: Light

(It takes a complicated answer for a complex issue. This explains how God created light before He created the sun and moon.)

How can the Bible concept of their being light before the sun was created be reconciled?

That antinome has puzzled me as it has many. Therefore, I researched over thirty sources and reached the following conclusion.

On the first day of creation it is said, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light.’” Genesis 1:3

On the fourth day of creation it is noted, “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament… Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night…’” Genesis 1:14 & 16

Is there a conflict in these passages? How could there be light before the sun and moon?

There is no conflict.

Genesis 1:3 translates the Hebrew word “owr,” anglicized as “light,” a word for luminescent energy. When we think of light we think of the optical light we see. However, there are many unseen forms of light. 

Spectrum indicates the rate at which light oscillates at a standard frequency per second. Various frequencies are known as Hertz, KHz, MHz, GHz, THz. Each is used for a different purpose.

The “frequency” of the electromagnetic wave determines the form of waves. Examples are, radio waves have a low frequency with the peaks being far apart. Microwaves are next followed by infrared light. Next is the visible spectrum. The human eye can only see light with 430-790 THz frequency, called the visible spectrum. Following in order dependent on their frequency are ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays.

Exahertz (EHz), the gamma ray portion, goes all the way to infinity. Though not visible to the human eye these are all forms of light. Visible light is also scored on this scale. Above the visible portion of light are Gamma Rays, Ultraviolet Rays, and X-Rays.

This poses the question, can light be transformed into matter? The answer has experimentally been proven to be yes. 

Visible light as well as all other forms of electromagnetic radiation like X-rays, radio waves, and microwaves are carried by photons. 

All electromagnetic waves are the reference in Genesis 1:3. Both visible and invisible forms are in reality “light.” 

Scripture notes, “For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and earth, visible and invisible….” The first was light which possesses both qualities. 

In 1934, two American physicists, Gregory Breit and John A. Wheeler, theorized that if one could make two protons collide, the collision would produce two positron-electron pairs— and thus convert light into matter. 

Science has now progressed to the point where two experiments, one by the Imperial College of London and one by Stanford’s linear collider, have proven light has been converted into matter. 

Therefore, it is logical that light was created first. From it He created all matter including the sun and moon.

Dr. George F. Smoot III, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, conducted an experiment for the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) that resulted in the measurement “of the black body form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.” He spoke of the finding as showing the first light of creation. Of it he said, “it was like looking at the face of God.” If it was not the radiance of God it was radiance from God.

God is the Luminary from which comes luminescence. 

Genesis 1:14 describes the subsequent creation of the sun and moon which became future sources of light.

Jesus Only – Powderville

There is a sign along a state highway that reads: 

“Powderville, Montana – Population 1:  
Mayor, Joe Hodge – Sheriff, Joe Hodge – Fire Chief, Joe Hodge.”
Drive carefully, the life you save may be — Joe Hodge.”  

So, in our world Jesus should be everything to us.

The essential thing “in heaven and earth is … that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and always has resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” -Nietzsche

That “something” is really someone, and that someone is everything to us: Jesus Christ.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 ESV

Hope

The Greek word translated “hope” literally means “a triumphant rejoicing confidence,” or “a happy certainty.” In Christ we have the happy certainty that God is at work in our tribulation.

The old Saxon word for hope combined two word meanings: “desire plus expectation.”  To hope is to have desire plus expectation.

The surest way to keep hope alive is found in the most commonly used word in the world. It is used in many languages. It is the Hebrew word “amen.” It is the word for “belief.” By concluding our prayers with it, we are affirming, “Lord, I believe.” Therein is hope.

The ancient word “amen” was used to signify a covenant commitment in which you agree with God. 

To be most effective this hope must be Christo-centric. Timothy expresses this in four all-inclusive words: “Christ Jesus our hope….” (I Timothy 1:1).

Piety Among the Masses

We can learn a thing one of two ways. One, intellectually and the other experientially. We can learn from the conduct of others intellectually by studying what they did and the result thereof. Or, we can engage in their conduct hoping for a better result. For a culture to change and a new culture emerge an old one has to die. Most often it decays from within or is killed.

For generations Israel was basically a stable culture. Then a leader emerged who changed it dramatically. Historian Flavius Josephus gave this description of the change: 

“Herod went still farther departing from the native customs, and through foreign practices he gradually corrupted the ancient way of life, which had hitherto been inviolable. As a result of this we suffered considerable harm at a later time as well, because those things were neglected which had formerly induced piety in the masses.”

Herod used “foreign practices” that “corrupted” formerly “inviolable” practices and the people “suffered” at a “later time.”

He used the tactic of providing for his base what they wanted by taxing the wealthy. What he provided was entertainment. He started the athletic contests in Caesarea to rival the Olympic and Corinthian games. To accomplish this he built large stadiums in Jerusalem and the new city he developed and named for Caesar called Caesarea Maritima (Caesarea by the Sea).

It took a while for the people to realize as Josephus wrote, “… it seemed a further impiety to change their established ways for foreign practices.”

Oops! Too late. Capitulation to Herod’s Roman mentality compromised the customs as well as the conscience of the country.

Neglect and abandonment of virtuous foundational practices on which the culture was built resulted in deferred suffering.

Deferred payment is on what modern America has been built. A pay later mentality only postpones the result. It is the principle now being employed to garner support of a part of society at the expense of the future.

Replacing the free enterprise with socialism, a good work ethic with an entitlement mentality, abandoning known standards for a belief there are no absolutes, and giving preference to a foreign religion while restricting the foundational faith of the country will inevitably result in deferred suffering.

Let the games begin!

Current leaders prefer not to use the word “war” as related to our present conflict. It is a word that needs to be used regarding our current “cultural war.” To lose this war would mean losing our birthright of freedom and with it our blessed way of life paid for by the blood of our predecessors and current courageous countrymen and women.

We must not like ancient Israel neglect those things “which had formerly induced piety in the masses.”