IMITATION

Have you ever tried to imitate someone?

When we were in England eight years ago, we went to London so the Beatles fans in the family could see Abbey Road.  Then, in typical tourist style, the four men in the family walked across the street, in an apparent attempt to imitate the album cover!

Abbey road

When I look at the picture, I have to smile seeing the totally serious faces of the participants!

In June 2018 I used this same picture in a blog entitled “Who do you imitate?”.  Apparently the Lord wants me to reinforce this thought in the blog site!  Please refer to that blog for additional thoughts on our duty of imitation.

The Greek definition of the word “imitate” relates to one who mimics or who is an actor.  In Vine’s Expository Dictionary, it is noted that the verb “imitate” is always used in exhortations and always in the continuous tense, suggesting a constant habit of practice.

So, do you make it a habit of imitating those Christians who have provided us examples of Christlike actions?  Think about these exhortations:

WE SHOULD IMITATE THE CONDUCT OF MISSIONARIES

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you,  nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.  It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

2 Thessalonians 3:7-9

WE SHOULD IMITATE THE FAITH OF SPIRITUAL GUIDES

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7

WE SHOULD IMITATE THAT WHICH IS GOOD

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

3 John 1:11

God is good, and we should imitate this characteristic of our Heavenly Father.  God’s goodness is shown in His benevolence toward us, His creatures.  In like manner, we should reflect His goodness.  How?  We should imitate His goodness in our benevolence to others.  This may look different for each of us as we relate to others in our own unique manner, but it should have the same fundamental characteristic – the actions should be for the benefit of the other person without regard to whether they thank us, like us or even know that we did anything for them.  Our benevolence is based in God and in our transformation into the likeness of Christ.

Recall when Christ healed the 10 lepers.  The story is found in Luke’s gospel.

And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance  and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice;  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:12-19

Ten were healed of the dreaded disease leprosy.  Ten men went from having to stand outside the city, without family or friends, covering their mouth and crying “Unclean, Unclean”.  Ten men went from having no interaction with society to being welcomed home, in the community and at the synagogue.  But, only one came back to thank Him.

Scripture says that all ten of the men were healed as they were walking to the synagogue.  There is no indication that their healing was reversed when they failed to give thanks.

One said thank you to our Lord.

We, too, are diseased.  Oh, not with leprosy but with a disease just as deadly and putrid – sin.  Oh that we would have a realistic understanding of how grievous our sin is to God, how God will not look at sinful creatures.  He sent His Son to take our sin upon Himself so that we could come to God and become His children, children who God can look upon because what He sees, instead of our sin, is the righteousness of Jesus Christ that has been given to us through the blood of Christ.

May we imitate that one man who turned back, praising God with a loud voice;  and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.   May we recognize our sin and thank God through Christ Jesus for wiping it away, for cleansing us, now and forever.  Once we are cleansed from our sin, may we imitate our God and Father Who lavishes His benevolence on us.  When we give to others, when we help others, when we do for others without their knowledge, we are imitating our Father.  Praise His Holy Name.

Father, so often we minimize our sin, saying it was just a ”white lie” or “not as bad as murder” when there is no gradation of “sin”.  Disobedience to Your Word is sin, no matter how we may want to characterize it.  Thank You for sending Your Son to be our atoning sacrifice that paid for the consequences of our sin.  Thank You for calling us to Yourself through the Holy Spirit, and enabling us to imitate Your benevolence to those You place in our world.

EXPECTATIONS

Expectations.  We all have them.  Sometimes they are met and we rejoice.  However, many times we are disappointed when the expectation is not met, completely ignored, or disregarded.  Then, we are emotionally distraught because we feel abandoned, cheated or unfulfilled.

When we went out west on vacation, I had certain expectations, and all of them were met and exceeded.  The scenery was jaw-dropping.  The people were incredibly friendly.  The events we had lined up to do surpassed their claims.  We had doubts about one expectation, however.

We went through several National Parks where the brochures said there would be a plethora of wild animals for us to see, and we saw NONE.  Even in areas that had flashing “Watch for Bison” signs, no bison, chipmunks or squirrels were in sight. At one point, I suggested to Bill that we purchase a statue of a bison, put in way out in a field, and then the next day we could drive by and take a picture …

The last day in Yellowstone National Park we did see bison, and lots of them. Then we saw a bison family that walked along with us through the woods.

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Bison family walking
Bison family walking through trees in Yellowstone National Park.

I was ecstatic – my expectation for seeing bison out west was fulfilled.  Then, when we went to Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park, we saw hundreds of them.

Hayden Valley bison herd
Part of one of the herds of bison in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

But, the best was yet to come … as we were leaving the Park, we saw “our” family of bison, relaxing and laying in the grass alongside the roadway.

Bison family relaxing
“Our” family of bison, resting along the roadside as we were leaving the National Park.

What a joy.  My expectation for seeing bison was, truly, surpassed when we saw these beasts relaxing, although the “daddy” was surely standing guard and would not have hesitated to attack if we had posed any threat.

We have expectations about a great many things, not just wild animals on vacation.  When they are met we are happy, and when they are ignored we are saddened and disappointed.

Scripture says that we are made in God’s image.

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:26-27

We know, of course, that at some point after creation, sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s instruction.  So, while we no longer walk with God in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8), we still were made in the image of God and the Christian will bear God’s image through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul said this about Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”

Colossians 1:15

In the Book of Romans we read:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.”

Romans 8:28-30

So, what does God expect of those who bear His image in the world? My husband created this listing of expectations for his Sunday School Class.  I present them here for your consideration, and with his approval:

God expects a  man to FEAR HIM AND OBEY HIM.  Ecclesiastes 12:13

God expects a  man to PLACE HIS TRUST IN HIM.  Psalm 3:5

God expects a  man to LOVE HIM.  1 John 4:19

God expects a  man to BE OBEDIENT TO HIS WILL.  Revelation 22:14

God expects a  man to DESIRE HIM.  Psalm 27:4

God expects a  man’s EXCLUSIVE DEVOTION.  Matthew 4:10

God expects a  man’s PRAISE AND DEVOTION.  Psalm 100:4

God expects a  man to WORSHIP HIM.  John 4:21-24

God expects a  man to be HIS SERVANT.  Romans 6:16-18, 22

God expects a  man’s PRAYERS TO BE ADDRESSED TO HIM.  Matthew 6:9

In short, God has told us exactly what He expects from us:

He has told you, O man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

So, how do you stack up against what God expects from you?  Thankfully, our God is loving and merciful, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance before Him.  (2 Peter 3:9)  So, if you are disappointing God in His expectations, repent and turn to Him for support and strength to do that which He desires.

Expectations can be met through prayer, devotion and dedication to seek the face of the Lord in all things.  As you do these things, you will find that you experience joy and peace that had bypassed you previously.  Love God and follow His commandments and you will experience the abundant life that Jesus promised to you.

Blessings as you walk with the Lord this day.

Father, forgive me when I have missed your expectations of my life and service to You.  Help me to look to You in all things and to praise You with a heart of gratitude.  I praise Your Holy Name, through Jesus Christ my Lord.

The Planets

We had the opportunity to listen to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra recently.  The program included Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy, On the Beautiful Blue Danube by Johan Strauss, Jr.,  These Worlds in Us by Missy Mazzoli, and The Planets, Suite for Large Orchestra, Opus 32 by Gustav Holst.

Each piece was masterfully performed and it was a pleasure to hear them performed live.

The work that is subject of this blog, however, is The Planets.  The composer characterized the orchestral work as “mood pictures” in which each separate movement represented a planet in the solar system. (Notably, he did not include Earth.)  This composition was created in 1916, so there were only seven planets, excluding the Earth, that had been identified and were the subject of Holst’s work..

Along with the music, the Symphony presented a montage of video showing each of the planets in space.  Viewing the video, one became acutely aware of the difference between each of the planets and our Earth.  All were beautiful in their own right.  The rings of Saturn were gorgeous while the rings of Uranus were not quite as complex. While beautiful, none of them had any visible evidence of life.  No trees, no flowers, no animals, no oceans, no clouds.  Just barren rock.

earth-from-space-dscovr
Earth as seen from space.

In contrast, on this planet that is the third from the Sun, we have life in all its fullness.  Beautiful trees, incredible variety of flowers, animals that range from minute little gnats to enormous elephants and apes, fish that swim in the oceans that live so deep man cannot go there apart from specialized submersibles.  Evidence that God created creatures for His glory and beauty is found when, at the bottom of the deepest oceans where no light is found, the camera lights come on and fish are seen displaying a panoply of colors.  God’s enjoyment of His creation is profound, and man can only taste a bit of that joy here and now.

Scripture tells us that God created all things.  Genesis 1:1 states without equivocation:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Matthew Henry says of this verse that:

this world was, in the beginning of time, created by a Being of infinite wisdom and power, who was Himself before all time and all worlds.

The Apostle Paul says:

“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

Ephesians 3:8-9

Paul was more clear on this point when he wrote to the Colossians:

“He [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Colossians 1:15-17

For the Christian, these words are comforting and clear.  The Old Testament says that God created all things and, in the New Testament, we find that Jesus Christ is the Person who performed that creative work.  We are also told that this creation was created by Him and for Him, and that He holds everything together.

The Biblical creation story is certainly not popular in our 21st century culture.  Big Bang and Evolution are more tantalizing today than a mere statement that by the Word of God creation came about.  But, popular or not, this is the Word of God and it is the authoritative source for my faith and its practice.

I believe the video showing the barrenness of the other planets in our solar system is evidence of the grace of our God in giving us this Earth to live on.  Not too close and not too far from the Sun.  My husband said that Earth’s placement  is called the “Goldilocks Zone” … it’s just right!

Praise God for His marvelous works.  Thank you Lord for giving us this beautiful planet on which to live, and for giving us life itself.

Father, forgive us when we act like we created anything!  Forgive us when we take Your creation for granted.  Forgive us when we disrespect our world and when we take actions that harm the environment.  Thank you for giving us such a beautiful world in which to live, all because of Your glorious grace, mercy and love.

BLOWING YOUR TOP!

We have been watching one of The Great Courses on Pompeii.  It is a fascinating look at the society that formed in the Bay of Naples centuries before the time of Christ.  The predominant physical structure of the area is Mount Vesuvius.   The lecturer said that today, the volcano is about 3,000 feet high.  Prior to its eruption in A. D. 79, the volcano was in excess of 7,000 feet high.  The effect of the volcano blowing its top was a sudden cataclysmic pouring of lava, volcanic ash and pumice throughout the region.  Notably, Pompeii was buried in 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice.   That is blowing your top in a big way!

When we were in Yellowstone National Park, we observed a number of geysers including one call the White Dome Geyser.  It was clear why it was called that – it was a white dome that looked like the top of an ice cream cone. 

20180628_143017
White Dome Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

It would erupt at different times each day with a spray that went high into the air.  Although it is the result of volcanic activity deep underground, clearly the White Dome Geyser is on the scale of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.  It is much more controlled, still venting, but not destroying.

20180628_142656

Fortunately, few of us ever experience a Mt. Vesuvius explosion.  But, on a personal level, blowing your top can take a variety of forms.  Usually there is loud, sometimes abusive, language accompanied by throwing things, slamming doors, or breaking items that are in our way … in short, there is dynamic activity that potentially destroys something, or someone, in the process of relieving our pent-up anger.  Then, when all is done, there is a, perhaps, strained quiet, but after the outburst at least it is quiet.  The outburst is over – now it is time to assess the damage. 

Scripture talks about blowing your top … not in those words, but the meaning is abundantly clear.  Take these Old Testament references for example:

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.”

Proverbs 14:29  

“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

Proverbs 15:18  

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”

Proverbs 19:11  

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,”

Proverbs 22:24  

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

Psalm 37:8  

This theme is continued in the New Testament by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians:

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”

Ephesians 4:26.  This verse states that it is alright to become angry; but we must not let it fester so that you become enraged, and out of control so that you then are guilty of sin.  

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Ephesians 4:31  

Jesus Christ showed us what should cause our anger:

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.””

Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus was angry when His Father’s house was subject to desecration, when people were being cheated and when people could not pray there.

Scripture tells us that God can become angry, very angry indeed!  But His is a righteous anger when His creation has become so sinful that He cannot tolerate to even look upon it.

Consider the flood which wiped out all people, animals and plants, except for Noah, his family, and the animals secreted in the ark. (Genesis 6 and 7)  Consider Sodom and Gomorrah where God said He would spare the cities if He could find 10 righteous people in them.  When He could not identify even that few righteous ones, the cities were destroyed by fire from heaven. (Genesis 18 and 19)

David recognized that God could become angry. 

Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?”

Psalm 90:11  

David also recognized that God was merciful and slow to anger.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 86:15  

If we are honest, our anger is usually triggered by a feeling of personal hurt, by a sense of being ignored or cast aside.  Our own agenda has been violated, our desires have been dashed, our wants have been slighted.  We feel that others have taken advantage of us to our detriment and to their benefit, and we are angry.  In short, our anger is usually self-centered.  We are focused on I/Me/Mine.

As Christians, we are called to be like our Father and to follow the example of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  James, the half-brother of Jesus said we should live like this:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;  for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

James 1:19-20  

We are called to keep our anger under control.  Note the list that includes anger and the list that includes self-control in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of GodBut the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

Galatians 519-:24

Don’t blow your top.  When the acid of anger wells up in your heart, quench it with the fruit of the Spirit.  Remember that you did not deserve to be saved from your sins – it was an unmerited gift from God.  Because of that gift, you should give others undeserved love as well.  Remember, Paul gave this instruction, from Deuteronomy 32:39, to the Christian:

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.””

Romans 12:19 

For the Christian, there really is no need to blow his/her top!

Father, forgive me when I have become angry with others, when I have vented my anger in an ungodly manner rather than seeking the other person’s good.  Help me to remember the Holy Spirit is my strength and guide and may I grow in self-control today, and throughout my life.

CONTRAST AND COMPARISON

We have had occasion to consider the beauty and brevity of life recently.  It is something that no one wants to ponder for long, it is too sobering; but, it is an inevitable fact of life.  We are born, we live, and we will experience physical death.

English field
Idyllic English fields that symbolize the Garden to me

We read of creation in the very first book of the Holy Bible.  God created man to live a life that was fulfilling — he had work to do and food for nourishment.  Man was not created to sit and do nothing, he was to work the Garden of Eden and keep it. 

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26

However, there was one test in the Garden for Adam and Eve … God asked for obedience.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:15-17

They could eat of any tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they could not eat.  God said if they disobeyed, they would die.

Of course, we know what happened.  Chapter 3 begins with the serpent testing Adam and Eve by twisting the words of God and telling them that they should not believe God’s threat of death, rather they should believe the serpent’s words that they would not die and the fruit was good to eat.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 

Genesis 3:6-8

They disobeyed, and there it was – death arrived, sin entered the world, and a gradual disintegration of creation began.

Physical death was not the only result of their disobedience.  Prior to eating the fruit, Adam and Eve enjoyed a close relationship with God, something that we cannot comprehend in our fallen condition.  God walked in the Garden in the cool of the day and He communed with His creation.  After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve heard God walking in the cool of the day and they hid themselves because they, then, knew that they were naked and they were ashamed. 

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”  And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”  He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?””

Genesis 3: 9-11

I love this passage – if you have had children, or been around children, you will undoubtedly relate to this picture.  You see the child hiding under the blanket or in a corner but you call “Where are you?” anyway.  You know where they are, but they don’t know that!  Then the conversation continues as you determine if there is something amiss or if they are simply playing hide and seek.

Our Creator God did not need to call Adam and Eve to find out where they were.  He is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent … He knew exactly where they were.  And He knew exactly what they had done.  He wanted them to admit to it.

Spiritual death, separation from God, occurred when they disobeyed the Creator and nothing Adam and Eve could do would change that.  Praise God that He did not leave us without hope, however.

In the first recorded shedding of blood in the Garden, we read that God did not leave His children hiding behind fig leaves.  Rather, He made clothes for them.

“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

Genesis 3:21

Then, on a hill called Calvary, blood was again shed, this time it was the precious blood of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son.  His blood was not shed because of any sin that He had committed; rather, He shed His blood on the cross of Calvary as the atonement for the sin that Adam and Eve committed and for the sin that you and I have committed.  This was done so that we could be reunited with God through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We would escape eternal death by faith in Jesus’ atoning work on our behalf.  We have eternal life with God through Christ our Lord.

End of the Road
The end of the road sign in Denali National Park.

We all come to the end of the road when death stares us in the face.  The reality is that this will happen to each one of us; but physical death is not the end.  Our soul will live eternally and the end of the road leads to only two destinations, Heaven or Hell. 

Just as God clothed Adam and Eve in the Garden after their sin, God will cloth us in the righteousness of Christ if we have faith in Jesus as our Savior and if we trust in Him as Lord of our life.  Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

Christ shed His blood for His children … come to Him in faith and repent of your sin, claim Him as your Savior, and the end of the road here will open the door to an eternity in Heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that these words would have full effect and that You would send Your Spirit to quicken hearts dead from sin so that faith can bear fruit in the lives of Your children.

The Addometer

I was cleaning out a cabinet drawer when I came across an interesting item. 

Addometer
Have you ever used one of these?

It is about 11 inches long and has a series of 8 dials with holes around each dial and numbers on the dial face corresponding to the holes.  A stylus is provided so that you can put its tip in the hole for the number you want to use, and then turn the dial to “enter” the figure you want added, or subtracted as the case may be.

Addometer 3
The Addometer – The portable adding machine for home or office!

The item is named the “Addometer” and the directions are written on the top of the item itself:

[1]  To add, use large figures – turn to right.  [2] to subtract, use small numbers – turn to left.

The box identifies the Addometer as “the portable adding machine for home and office”.

While it is true that the Addometer does, indeed, add and subtract by the use of the built in stylus, its use today is overwhelmed by the ease of doing calculations on a wide variety of devices, including but not limited to the cell phone!

I suspect our Addometer is doomed for the dump unless we can find a museum that needs to have a portable adding machine! The point, however, is that, although it was state-of-the-art when designed, the Addometer is no longer useful in the modern world.

Unfortunately, some place the Holy Bible in the same category as the Addometer … something that was useful once but which has no relevance to today’s world.  In their arrogance, the “Influencers” assert that we have grown past the Holy Bible; thus, its rules and guidelines are simply not necessary now.   In fact, those who hold the Bible in their hearts as the Word of the Almighty God are categorized as antiquated, as deluded and as uninformed to the light of today’s culture.

Beware of this kind of thinking.  It reeks of brimstone and is a delusion that has been used by Satan for millennia.  Satan tempted Adam and Eve when he said “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”   Of course, God had said that they could eat from every tree in the garden, except for one.  Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and the concept that Scripture is no longer relevant to our modern culture is a lie that people have swallowed — hook, line, and sinker.

Scripture, itself, tells the real story about its relevance to us, even in 2019:

“A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.””

Isaiah 40:6-8

Here the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah is told by God to cry to the people and tell them that they are like grass in the field.  Their pride and arrogance should be dissipated and they should humble themselves before the Almighty God because they are like grass and when God’s breath blows on them they will perish.  This is in direct contrast to the permanence of the very Word that God speaks.

“the word of our God will stand forever.”

Then we read further in the book Isaiah wrote, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as he transmitted God’s message to the people of Israel, the following text about God’s Word:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:10-11

Here, Almighty God is telling the people that the effectiveness of His Word is unaffected by the people’s reaction to it.  We have no control over the rain or snow. It comes and the earth uses it to grow and bring forth food for us to eat.  Absent that rain and snow, we would not have water that is so necessary for our survival.  And that water is given to us by God, without our involvement in its delivery to us.

In like manner, God’s Word is His, and we have nothing to do with its delivery to us.  Rather, His Word will accomplish all that He purposes for it and His Word will succeed in each task for which it is intended.  We, in our extreme arrogance and conceit, have nothing to do with whether it succeeds or not … indeed, we are incapable of stopping the purposes of God.  He is omnipotent and, quite simply, we are not.  What He says will happen will, indeed, happen.

So, don’t place the Bible, the Holy Word of God, in the same category as the Addometer.  While the modern culture seems to be ignoring the precepts found in the Bible, rest assured that the culture’s digression away from the Scripture in no way mitigates or minimizes the truth of the Word of God.  Man may choose to ignore the directives and teachings of Scripture, but he does so at his eternal peril, because God’s Word remains forever — whereas we are grass!

Father, forgive us for our human conceit and arrogance, when we believe that we can replace You with our own creations, or when we consign Your Word to the corner of insignificance.  Thank You for loving us so completely that You provided the Holy Scriptures to shine a light on our path, and thank You for preserving it through the millennia so that we can have the benefit of its presence in our lives, today.

Niagara Falls

This summer our vacation trip was to the northeastern area of the United States.  Our first stop was at Niagara Falls. 

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Niagara Falls, NY, with the iconic Maid of the Mist boat on the Niagara River 

I had heard about the Falls all my life and had visited there when in elementary school.  However, Bill had never been to the Falls, so we decided to correct that situation and visit them this year. 

 

 

The sound of the water rushing past as if it was in a headlong race straight toward the jagged cliff was deafening.  The spray as the water fell to the River below was beautiful to see.  It was wonderful to be there.  We did not get on the Maid of the Mist, which would have taken us underneath the Falls, but we watched as it rocked along the rapids and soaked the passengers who were decked out in yellow slickers. 

The next day we crossed the bridge that went over the American border to Canada and, after clearing the entry process, we found ourselves in Ontario, Canada.  
 

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The American Falls viewed from Ontario, Canada.

The Canadian side of the Falls is horseshoe-shaped, and it was beautiful as well.

 

 

I don’t mean this to be a travelogue on Niagara Falls; others can do a much better job of that than I can.  But I cannot ignore the importance of water to our land, indeed to our very lives. 

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well when she came to draw water at midday, rather than in the cool of the day as the other women would do.  In discussing the need for water, we read: 

“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 

John 4:13-14 

Again, Jesus said in John 7:38: 

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”” 

As I was watching the water falls on both the American and Canadian side of the border, I thought of Jesus’ words.  The water in the Niagara River surely gives life to those who drink from it, but it is not living water.  Jesus gives to each of His children the water of life that flows out of his heart in abundance.   It is as if each of us has a Niagara Falls within our hearts, enabling us to do Jesus’ work in our fallen world through His Spirit and His strength.  

Niagara Falls — beautiful to see, fun to be near, and illustrative of the abundance that Jesus can make available to each of us, if we yield our hearts and lives to Him and His service.

Father, I thank You for giving us the opportunity to see Niagara Falls.  I pray that I would follow your Word and allow the Holy Spirit to create in me living water that would enable me to do the work that Jesus desires me to do as I live my life for Him throughout my days.

WE’VE GOT WHAT?

Some time ago we noticed some dirt on the baseboard of the guest room in our home.  It is a room that had gone through multiple iterations of use, from a suite for our daughter and her family, to a bedroom for us after surgery, to a guest room for visiting clergy and friends.  Since our children have moved back home and have established homes of their own, we no longer have need of the guest room for housing their families so it is not put to frequent use.

Therefore, we did not pay much attention to the “dirt” on the baseboard in the corner of the room.  We went into the room recently and discovered that the “dirt” seemed to have become more pervasive and we became a bit concerned about the cause.

The answer to the title question is “We’ve got mold!”  It has not intruded into the entire room, just one corner, but it did a real good job of invading that area.  We have now had the corner stripped of the dry wall by the mold remediator, and we can see the damage that it caused.  Now the mold has been killed and the area sealed off until we can get a contractor to repair the damage.

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Ceiling in the corner of the room showing mold damage

As I was looking at the damage, while trying to settle my stomach from how ugly it was, the Lord struck me with the realization that my hatred of the mold and what it did to the house is miniscule when compared to His holy hatred of sin. 

The room looked fine when you looked at the wall.  Yes, there was some discoloration at the baseboard, but no one looks at that!  Put something in front of it and you don’t even know it is there!

The room looked presentable.  It was fine.  It was even quite pretty with the curtains and lovely furniture, with knickknacks on the shelves and a broad window showing off the rose bushes outside. 

But when the sheet rock was taken down, what a horrible scene embraced the eyes!  At the lower corner of the room, you could see the outside through the vinyl siding on the exterior wall of the room.  The only thing between the room and the outside was the thin vinyl siding.

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The lower corner exposed pure sunlight through the siding.

On the outside, we can look presentable, maybe even pretty or handsome as we go to church, pay our tithe, sing in the choir, and do all the things that we are supposed to do.  But if we harbor sin in our hearts, if we are quarrelsome and spiteful, if we covet or lie, if we murder the reputation of others through gossip or slander, or if we abuse the marital bed through adultery, we present anything but a pretty picture when the veneer is taken away.

Jesus spoke of this situation in the Gospel of Matthew:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Matthew 23:27-28

The Pharisees and scribes were holy men before the people, but they were lawless sinners before God, the One who could read their hearts and minds like an open book. 

It is humbling to realize that God knows your thoughts, your minds, your actions, your motives … your everything.  While the mold hid behind the drywall, it fooled us but it was still there, working its damage. Likewise, God is not deceived by outward appearances.

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”

2 Chronicles 16:9  These words were said to Asa, King of Judah, after he had sinned by consulting with a medium about an upcoming battle, rather than relying on God.  This was in direct violation of God’s command.  There are negative consequences to violating God’s laws.

David understood the ability of the Lord to see our actions:

“The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.”

Psalm 34:15   Fortunately, there also are consequences to obeying God’s command, and these consequences lead to righteousness and a relationship with the Almighty God.

The writer of Proverbs, too, understood the all-encompassing knowledge of God, not just actions but motives and reasons, unspoken words and thoughts:

“For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths.”

Proverbs 5:21

God’s omniscient knowledge of us is repeated in the New Testament by the half-brother of Jesus who said:

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.””

1 Peter 3:12

Believer, don’t harbor sin in your heart.  Confess your sin and repent of your actions.  You will be restored and the blot will be taken away … new boards will be erected and the new sheet rock will be unblemished.

Such is not the future of the wicked, however.   In the verses immediately after Proverbs 5:21 quoted above, we read:

“The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.  He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” – Proverbs 5:22-23

The remedy for sin in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. 

“But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:8-9

Don’t let the mold of sin ensnare you.  Confess your sin and repent, claim the Lord Jesus as your Savior, and you will be saved.

“The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever!”

Psalm 22:26

Lord, I pray that the mold of sin, eating away at the fiber of our beings, will be purged by the blood of the Lamb, that sin would be eliminated from our lives and that Jesus would replace that rotten wood with clean firm resolve through the Holy Spirit working in our lives on a moment by moment basis.  Forgive us for our sin and cleanse us from all iniquity. In Christ’s holy name, I pray.

The Gateway

St. Louis, Missouri, boasts the Gateway Arch which stands at the Mississippi River as a testament to the pioneering spirit of the people approaching the eve expanding West.

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Gateway Arch National Park. Photo courtesy of StudioBrookes.

Founded by the National Park Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a transcontinental United States, the Gateway Arch National Park (formerly known as the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial”) stretches from the Old Courthouse to the steps overlooking the Mississippi River. In between, the Gateway Arch rises high, a bold monument to the pioneering spirit.

Today, the Gateway Arch celebrates the diverse people who shaped the region and the country. The dreamer, Thomas Jefferson, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, doubling the size of the United States. The explorers, Lewis & Clark, and their Shoshone guide Sacagawea, scouted the new territory and mapped a route to the Pacific Ocean. The challengers, Dred and Harriet Scott filed suit at the Old Courthouse for their freedom from slavery, and St. Louis suffragette Virginia Minor sued for women’s right to vote. The Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed the stainless-steel monument that honors them all.

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Picture taken while I was visiting the arch.

The graceful arch is based on the catenary curve, that is the shape made by a free-hanging chain when held at both ends. When speaking of his design, Saarinen said, “The arch symbolized the gateway to the West, the national expansion, and whatnot.”

A view of the Gateway Arch reveals over 43,000 tons of concrete and steel that arc 63 stories high into the Midwest sky. Since its completion in 1965, the tram ride in the monument has taken millions of visitors on the trip to the top to enjoy stunning views stretching up to 30 miles to the east and west.

Much more information about the arch is available at the National Park Service website. (www.nps.gov/jeff/index.htm)

The Gateway Arch, of course, is not the only way to the West. It is certainly a wonderful monument to those who made the trek through difficult terrain with less than ideal circumstances and comforts.  But, today, there are many ways to get to the West from the East, in addition to going through the Gateway Arch.

Such is not the case in a matter of significantly more import than physical travel.  I am speaking of our ultimate destination for eternity. 

We know that we are finite creatures, born in space and time, and that we were created from dust and, given enough time, we will return to dust after our death. 

In Scripture, the Holy Bible, Jesus says that He is the gateway to heaven.  That is, that no one can come to the Father Almighty, God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, except through Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

Unfortunately, today there are many who assert that there are a variety of “ways” to get to heaven or to please God.  However, Jesus’ words do not equivocate.  There is no quibbling.  There is no suggestion that any other “way” is possible or effective if we want to go to heaven where the Father resides.  Jesus simply and clearly said that He is the only way to the Father.

Good works are not sufficient.  Giving money is not sufficient.  Being hopeful that the balance will tip in your favor is not sufficient.  Nothing is sufficient because everything other than what Christ did on the cross is based on our own abilities.  The problem is that we are all sinners and we are dead in our sins.  We can do nothing to aid ourselves or to move ourselves toward heaven.  We are dead.

If a person is dead, he cannot do anything for himself.  If he is to have life, an outside force must operate to give him life again.  He can’t summon up the strength to get life, he is dead.

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Praise God.  He loved us even though we were sinners, we had been disobedient to His law.  While we were sinners, before we could do anything to assist in our salvation, Christ died for us.  He accomplished all that was necessary to pay for our sin.

Jesus Christ, however, rose from the dead.  He conquered death and sin. 

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

Romans 6:9

Because He died and rose again, He is capable to rescue us from our sins, and He will do so if we have faith in Him.

“because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

If is for this reason that Jesus could tell His disciples, that He was THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life … there is none other

There are many gateways to the Western part of the United States, but there is only one way to heaven, no matter where you live or who you are. 

The Way is Jesus. He is the way to eternal life. Come to Him if you have not already done so and claim Him as your Savior and Lord of your life.   If you have already come to Him, praise His name. Thank Him for the life that He has given you, now and forever more.

Father, we praise your name for the love that was expressed to us through Christ’s life and death, and for your mighty power in raising Him from the dead so that we could claim Him as our Savior and Lord.   Thank you Father, thank you Lord Jesus, and thank you Holy Spirit for quickening our hearts and bringing us to yourself.