SOLID FOOD

We enjoy eating in various restaurants, as our widening girth exhibits.  We travel in a recreational vehicle (RV) for long trips, and we eat “at home” in the RV dining room or outside on the patio.  Occasionally, however, we like to try the local cuisine in a restaurant.

In Wisconsin, for example, we ate at Bullhead’s Restaurant.  Bill had pork ribs and sausage and all its trimmings. 

Pork sausage food
Pork dinner at Bullhead’s Restaurant

I had broasted chicken.

Broasted chicken food
Broasted chicken at Bullhnead’s Restaurant

The meals were delicious and, in fact, the second night we were at that campground, we went to Bullhead’s again and repeated our order from the prior day!

The point, however, is that these meals were solid food. We are adults, way past the age of infancy.  Infants could not enjoy these meals because infants cannot eat solid food.

In Hebrews 5:12-14, the writer of Hebrews chastises the people because they were acting as infants in the Lord, needing milk because they were incapable of eating solid food.

You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Milk is good, I like it and have it often with my breakfast.  But solid food is sooooo much better than just milk. 

How does the writer of Hebrews identify the mature Christian, the one who can, and does, eat solid food?

It is the person who has trained his/her powers of discernment to distinguish good from evil. 

And how did they train their ability to be discerning? 

          By constant practice.

We all start this life as infants who can feed only on milk.  We graduate to infant oatmeal and other cereals and then to baby food.  After the infant’s teeth arrive, some solid food is given. 

As Christians, we are born into the family of God as infants who need milk to survive.  But the Christian life is not determined by calendar age.  Someone in their teens may have been a Christian longer and studied the Word more than an individual who came to faith in Christ in their 70s. 

In short, maturity in the Christian is determined by the ability of the individual to eat solid food.  The ability to develop and repeatedly practice his/her discernment so that he/she can tell what is good and what is evil.  The ability to discern when a teaching is leading them away from the straight and narrow road.  The mature Christians do their best to present themselves to God as workers who have “no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”  2 Timothy 2:15   

Beloved, don’t be a Christian who is stuck “dining on milk alone”.  Read the Scripture, listen to sound teaching, study the Bible and develop a discerning spirit so that you can identify when teaching is leading you astray. 

In the Christian classic Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan presents a picture of a man named Christian and his journey from being Graceless to his entrance in the Celestial City.  At one point, Christian is walking the road called Salvation.  It is described like this:

Now I saw in my dream that the highway up which Christian was to travel was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation.  Up this way, therefore, Christian did run, but not without great difficulty because of the load on his back.

This picture is described in the writing of the prophet Isaiah where God says;

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: “We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks.

Isaiah 26:1

Further along in Isaiah’s prophesy he says this:

And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

Isaiah 35:8

Jesus spoke of the way of salvation, characterizing it as having a narrow gate that is hard to find but which leads to life eternal.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14

Beloved, develop a discerning spirit that can show you right from wrong.  Don’t walk along the wide road to destruction – follow the straight road of salvation that leads to eternal life.  Don’t be satisfied with milk.  Become mature Christians who can feast on the Word of God, who study so that they will know their God and Savior through the power of the Holy Spirit, and who stay on the narrow road.  It will be hard, but nothing worthwhile is easy!

Blessings to you as you walk along the Way.

Father, thank You for Scripture that tells us how to grow and mature into Christians who are discerning and who refuse to leave the narrow road in favor of the easier one.  I pray that I would have the dedication and purpose to be steadfast in my walk with my Lord.

DAILY PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING

The Holy Spirit has been impressing upon me the privilege of praising the Lord and giving thanks to the Father, not just when something good (in our way of thinking) happens, but regularly, multiple times per day.  It has been said that gratitude should be our modus operandi. 

When we went to the western United States, we found ourselves praising God multiple times per day as we saw His beautiful creation spread out before us.

USED Half dome (C)
Yosemite National Park

The natural beauty of Yosemite National Park prompted us to praise Him and give thanks to Him for the glory of His creation.  Half-Dome standing like a sentry over the mountains and valleys reminded us of the Lord’s watchfulness over His people, and of His omnipotence.  The sure and certain knowledge that He is in control and His purposes will not be thwarted by anything that man can conjure up!

Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska
Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska

The Landscape Rainbow that became visible as we were driving to Seward, Alaska reminded us of God’s unfailing promises. We saw this rainbow the day after I had surgery to repair my broken ankle, a sure-fire way to cut vacation travel short!  But the Lord was with us even in those difficult days thousands of miles from home, when He sent numerous people to minister to us, helping us get through the trial of no place to stay, of surgery, etc.   His people surrounded us, even in the hospital corridor.  The rainbow was a visual reminder that He had not lost track of us, and He would not do so, ever!  And, in response, we uttered a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to Him for sending this beautiful reminder of His presence.

Praise and thanksgiving should be ever present in the life of a Christian, even when things are not what we expected, when they are difficult and painful, when they are overwhelming and frustrating.  Praise and thanksgiving are appropriate at all these times because God is teaching us to be more like His Son, our Lord and Savior.

Paul said:

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Ephesians 5:4

The writer of Hebrews said this about praise to God:

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Hebrews 13:15

This is not just a New Testament command – it is referenced multiple times in the Old Testament as well.

David referenced praise and thanksgiving numerous times in his writings, and here is one of them:

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Psalm 100:4

In fact, the Israelites were told to practice daily praise and thanksgiving.  With regard to the obligations of the priests, we read in 1 Chronicles 23:30:

“And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the LORD, and likewise at evening,”

The command is to begin and end the day with praise and thanks to the Lord God.  Notice, God didn’t say that this was required on those days that were easy, or when they were encamped and not fighting anyone, or that they were exempted from this requirement when it was too hot!  Every morning and every evening — come rain or shine, home hard times or easy ones, come plague or famine, come ease or comfort.  Praise and thanksgiving were to be their standard daily.

Do we do this? 

Every day or ever? 

Even on those days that are so frustrating and maddening that we want to scream? 

Even when the children are fighting and we can’t hear ourselves think? 

Even when our spouse has done something that infuriates us? 

Praise and thanksgiving when illness hits or an unexpected death occurs?

Yes, we should!  Daily praise and thanksgiving.  At times it is difficult but calling on the Name of the Lord and giving Him praise and thanksgiving for His presence and comfort, for His guidance and leading, always is music to our Lord’s ears.  It is glorifying to God the Father and it is evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives.  I’m not saying that we will understand the reason behind what happens to us, that is God’s area of expertise!  I am saying that the Christian’s response to these things should be humble acknowledgement that we are hurt and that we don’t understand why this bad thing occurred; but, we have confidence in God and His wisdom and we praise His name and give thanksgiving to Him for his faithfulness and His abiding presence with us that gives comfort and peace even in difficult circumstances. 

What a difference daily, moment by moment, praise and thanksgiving would make in our lives!  Glorifying God, giving Him praise and thanksgiving, even at your deepest hour will bring peace and comfort, even when nothing is going right and everything is going wrong. 

Father, forgive us for failing to give You praise and thanksgiving on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.  Enable us to see even difficult days of suffering and loss as times to give You praise as You execute Your purposes for us and for the world.  Give us strength and wisdom as we live our lives and lead us to give You the praise and thanksgiving that You rightfully deserve, every moment of every day. 

CLEAN SLATE!

I believe that I have commented, at least once in this site, that we live in a heavily wooded area, and we have LEAVES to rake up in the fall.  Actually, we pull a leaf vacuum behind our lawn tractor and it shreds the leaves into little pieces which we then take to the street for the city to pick up.

The leaves in the front yard are handled that way.  The leaves in the backyard, however, are mulched in the same way but they are put into the woods in the back yard rather than trucking them down to the street.

Shredded Leaves down at the street

This year was somewhat unique because virtually all of the leaves hanging from the trees fell before the pickup date.  Also, we had very little rain so the leaves were not wet making their removal less difficult. The result was this huge pile of shredded leaves.

In short, this year we had a bumper crop of leaves, a condition which is testified to by the size of the pile along the street.

Yard without leavesThis year, therefore, was also unique insofar as I resulted in a situation seldom seen by us — a “leaf-free” yard.

(Please, if you are a horticulturalist, don’t inspect the yard too closely!  It is, in many areas, also a “grass-free” zone!  That’s probably fodder for a future post!)

The point of the story is a simple one – the ability to have all of the leaves removed from the yard provides us with an opportunity to have a clean slate in the front yard.  Now, we can do what is needed to improve the grass quality, to plant flowers for the spring, to do many things that the plethora of leaves prevented us from doing in the past.

This new year also provides us with a clean slate.  A new year and a new decade – 2020.  If the Lord wills, we will have 365 days ahead of us to do things differently than we have done before.  I’m not necessarily talking about making resolutions –those things are extremely fragile and I usually break them within the first couple of weeks of the new year.

I’m talking about making new habits that will bring spiritual growth, that will increase our love for our Lord and Savior.  We can use this new year to check on our heart … so, how is yours?

Lisa Allen in her devotion 4 Habits of a Healthy Heart, dated September 15, 2014, suggests these habits that will produce a healthy heart:

  1. We should develop a heart for God.
  2. We should develop heart to heart relationships with other Christians.
  3. We should open the eyes of our heart as we go through our day.
  4. We should appreciate the uniqueness of our heart.

First, when we develop a heart for God, we will make time to read His Word daily.  I’m not talking about reading the single verse in the Upper Room and then ignoring scripture the rest of the day.  I’m talking about spending time with God and meditating on the truths found in His Word.  This will give us godly wisdom and will prepare us to meet the hazards and challenges of daily life.  David said:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

David says scripture is a light for us. But, it spreads no light if our Bible is only on our nightstand or shut up on a shelf without being read!

Second, we should develop heart to heart relationships with others in the Christian community.  We can develop this when we worship with people weekly, when we fellowship with them in small group Bible studies or Sunday School, when we eat together at the communion table or at a potluck meal.  We read in Acts 2:42:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

At our church, every other month we have a specific women’s ministry event, such as a game night, craft event, a church-wide picnic, spring and fall retreats and a Christmas brunch.  Participation in these activities enable women to meet each other in an informal, fun way so that we can develop healthy relationships that can encourage our spiritual growth.  We can’t pray for other’s needs if we don’t know them!  Be sure not to get so busy that you don’t have time to worship with others, to fellowship with others and to pray for others!

Third, allow God to open the eyes of your heart to see others as God sees them.  When we spend time with God each day, we begin to see others through God’s eyes.  We will notice their gifts and talents, their passions and their fears.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

We can encourage others as they develop their gifts and their strengths.  This will allow us to reach out to the world, and not limit our interaction with the Christians we see in church on Sunday!

Fourth, recognize that you are a unique creation by God.  Just as there are no two identical snowflakes, there is no one else just like you.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. … 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. … 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:1-5, 13, 16

God knows you intimately because He created you with a unique heart, mind and soul. You are a creation by God with skills and abilities that you should put to use in God’s kingdom work.  Yes, nurture your marriage and care for the family, but also take time to invest in activities that reflect your own passion and ability.  If you are a leader, volunteer to lead a Sunday School class or Bible study.  If you want to learn to do something, take a course at a nearby school or take a class on-line.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

Don’t forget that a necessary component of having a healthy heart for the Lord is to find ways to express your own gifts.  God created you for His purposes and He gave you the abilities to do His work through His Holy Spirit.  Be God’s hands and feet in this world by ministering as Jesus did. Take your focus off of yourself and your problems by redirecting your focus to serving others!

Make 2020 a new year with a clean slate and work toward developing a healthy heart.  The clutter of the old year and its leaves have been removed … the new year is here with a clean slate on which you need to put your imprint.  Make it one that glorifies our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Father, I pray that I would take this time to develop a heart for You by reading Your Word faithfully, not out of a sense of obligation but out of love for Your Word.  I pray that I would take this year and fellowship with other Christians so that I can encourage them and receive strength from them as well.  I pray that I would see others as You see them, people who are lost in sin and need a Savior, and I pray that I would introduce them to Jesus through the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for making me a unique individual, with gifts and talents granted by You for use in Your kingdom.  May I use whatever gifts you have given me so that Your name will be glorified throughout the world.

Don’t you do it!

We have two miniature pincher dogs in our home, Cuddles and Snickers, and they are frequently subject of posts on this blog site because of their continued antics.

On guard through the window
Two MinPins dutifully standing guard at the window!

We love them and think of them as our canine children.  And, like our human children and grandchildren, they push the limits at times and we have to say “don’t you do it!”

This morning was an example of what happens in our home at mealtime.  When we eat at the dining room table, the dogs, also known as “the girls”, are to be in their “place”. That is to say, they are to be sitting or laying down on the living room sofa until we finish our meal.  Then, we say: “You’re through,” and they come bounding off the sofa for their good girl treats.

This morning, Snickers didn’t want to wait for the magic words; rather, she was impatient and jumped down off the sofa.  She does this softly, anticipating that I would not notice and I probably would not except for one thing. 

My place at the table faces the sofa.  So, I can see her every movement.  The routine is this:  she jumps down, I say “Uh, uh, don’t you do it,” she trots in a loop around the coffee table, and jumps back up on the sofa.  She may remain there until we say the magic words that lead to the jump off the sofa and the treat, or she may not.  If not, I can see her and I repeat my admonition “Uh, uh, don’t you do it”.

This morning, when I said those words, I thought of God’s Word.  God instructs us how to live and how to behave in our world, in accordance with His desires for us to be obedient children, but there are many times that He has to say (in essence): “Uh, uh, don’t you do it!:. 

In Genesis 2:16-17, God gave this admonition:

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.”

Can’t you just hear:  “Don’t you do it.”  We know that God’s command was summarily ignored after the serpent successfully tempted Adam and Eve to sin.  Genesis chapter 3.

In Exodus we read of the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:3-,5, 7, 13-17, and we see that they are a series of admonishments from God that are to be followed and most have “you shall not:” appended to them. 

3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them…  7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain… 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet … anything that is your neighbor’s.”

God is clearly telling us “Don’t you do it!” 

The prophet Jeremiah spoke these words from the Lord God warning that the people had not obeyed His words and punishment would be the result:

“But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’  But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.  From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day.  Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.  So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.  And you shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.’”

Jeremiah 7:23-28

There are consequences to disobeying God’s commands.  Rest assured, you may not see the consequence immediately after your disobedience, but it will eventually catch up with you, either in this life or the next.  Judgment will come, it will be swift, and its result will be non-negotiable. 

Just as I see the “girls’” movements on the sofa, God sees us every moment of every day.  He is omniscient and omnipresent.  We can’t fool God; He knows our heart’s motive and what we re going to say even before we day it. Psalm 139. 

“Uh, uh, don’t do it!” is a warning for us to heed. Sometimes the warning comes when we are reading God’s Word.  Sometimes He speaks to us in that still small voice that is our Shepherd’s trustworthy voice. Indeed, Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and follow Him. John 10:27.  Sometimes it is our conscience telling us to avoid that misstep, that sin, that trap.  Sometimes the warning comes in the form of godly advice from a Christian brother or sister, pastor or elder. 

God issues the warning and desires that we should heed it.  Obedience brings rich rewards, and the discipline of obedience is worthy of our continued effort to grow in maturity as we seek to be transformed into the image of our Lord and Savior.  Make obedience a priority in this new year!

Father, I thank You that we receive warnings when we are about to go astray against your commandment. Train my ear to hear Your warnings so that I do not go against Your will. Good Shepherd, l pray that I would have me the strength and will to be an obedient sheep.

REFLECTING TREES!

This Christmas we have placed our big Christmas tree on the porch rather than in front of the picture window in the living room.  There were several reasons for this switch, the primary one being that no one was around to move the sofa onto the porch! 

Christmas tree on porch from yard
The view of the tree on the porch while standing in the back yard.

 

But there was a beautiful surprise when we looked at the completed tree on the porch.  It was reflected in the windows around the porch. 

 

There was only one tree, but the reflection made it appear as if there were multiple trees, all identical and all lit up, shining out into the yard.

Christ tree on porch with reflections
Reflections seen in the windows.

This prompted a number of thoughts as I observed this surprise reflection.  The tree was put up to celebrate Christmas, the coming of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  He was born of a virgin, placed in a manger in Bethlehem and the star identified the place where He was laying.  The angels announced His birth with vast chorus of joyful singing in the heavens, as they looked in amazement at this small child who was Lord of all.

Christmas is a celebration of miracles, the miracle of the virgin birth, the miracle of the Son of God coming to a sinful world and proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel to those around Him by performing miracles of healing and declaring that the person’s sin had been removed, something the religious leaders could not stomach! 

The miracles continued as He was crucified on the cross, taking the punishment that sinful men deserved so that He could give His people relief from their sin debt to God and eternal life with Him and the believers who form the Body of Christ from all nations, tribes and tongues.

This Babe was way more than a little baby.  This Babe was the King of Kings and Lord of Lord who had legions of angels at His disposal and yet He deigned to live and walk in this sin-filled world so that He could redeem His people from their sin. 

What does this have to do with the tree on the porch? 

I suggest that it is not so much the tree itself as the reflection that is occupying my mind today.  The Body of Christ should be the reflection of Jesus Christ.  We are not yet sanctified (big word for being sin-free), but we are working on living our lives as Jesus did, trusting God for forgiveness and confessing our sin when we err, knowing that He is faithful and Just to forgive us those sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9)

Jesus said that our light should shine among men:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Paul said this about our light in the dark world:

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:6.

Paul also said that we should shine as lights in the world:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Philippians 2:14-15

The challenge, therefore, is for us to be lights this Christmas season and every day that God gives us to live on this planet.  We should reflect Jesus Christ to the world around us.  We should multiple our light as we go about our daily business, loving others, doing good to those who are in need, spreading the gospel in word and deed, and giving spiritual refreshment to those we meet.

So, the question is:  are you on the porch, reflecting light to others, or are you in the corner of the room?  Are you in the picture window so people can see your light, or are you hiding your light in a closet, or under a basket?  When you walk down the street, are you reflecting the light of your Lord, or not?  Only you can answer, and only you can decide to let your light shine for Jesus!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2020.  Blessings to you as you shine your light to those you come in contact with today and throughout the new year.

Father, I pray that I would reflect my love for Jesus as I go through my life.  I pray that I would not hide my witness but that it would blaze and be clear light to draw others to Your Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

TEACH ME!

Have you ever heard those words?  “Teach me”, says the young child who wants to do a new and exciting task, perhaps tying his shoes.  Here’s a note that one of the grandchildren wrote to his Mom – you can feel the excitement as he passed this milestone of childhood.

Milestone - can tie his own shoes

“Teach me”, says the adolescent who desperately wants to learn to drive the family car.

“Teach me”, says the college student when learning in a career path, hoping to find his/her way in the world after graduation.

Taylor school

“Teach me”, says the new employee who is faced with something that is both daunting and exciting.

“Teach me”, says the newly wed wife to her husband, when she is trying to make his favorite meal that his mother made for him all the time.

“Teach me”, says the husband who wants to know how to help and comfort his wife as they learn to be man and wife.

“Teach me”, says the older woman to her grandchild when she is faced with a smart phone and doesn’t know how to use it.

We often say those words, and usually they stem from a significant desire to learn, or possibly from a need to do something unfamiliar.

There are things that we need to learn in our everyday lives but there are also things that we should be learning about our spiritual life, specifically about our God, His Son and His Holy Spirit.   Indeed, our hearts should cry “Teach me!” to the Lord so we will know what God desires.

1 “Now this is the commandment–the statutes and the rules–that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, … 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Deuteronomy 6:1, 7   

Note that we are not to just learn God’s commandments for ourselves but we are to teach them to others, specifically to our children.  The command is not just for when we are in “school” but when we sit in the house, when we walk along the way, when we are traveling in the car, when se are seated around the table, when we lie down and when we rise.  God’s Word should be on our lips throughout the day, not just a few designated times in the week!

David repeats “Teach me” in numerous psalms.  Here are just a few examples;

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:4-5

29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! … 66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. … 135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.

Psalm 119:29, 66, 135

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Psalm 51:6

So, what does God teach us?  His paths, His truth, His salvation, His law, His good judgment, His statutes, and His wisdom, just to name a few things!

The New Testament does not ignore teaching.  Rather, Paul says this – teach people what I have taught you so that they can teach others the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

2 Timothy 2:2

We don’t “go it alone” when we teach others, rather Jesus has given us His Holy Spirit to guide and teach us as we live our lives in Him.  See John 14:26 for this great promise:

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

At the end of time, Scripture tells us that all will know God and will serve Him.  We read in Jeremiah the following:

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Jeremiah 31:34  

What a blessing!  Can you imagine this? At some point in the future, we won’t need to teach others of the Lord Jesus, all will know Him.  Praise His Holy Name!

“Teach me” should be our heart cry every morning and every evening.  Then, when some difficulty arises, don’t be surprised.  God is answering your prayer and is teaching you something that you need to learn as you grow in the likeness of His Son.   Until the time Jeremiah foretells, let us continue to ask God to teach us so that we will become the image of our Savior, Redeemer, Lord, Jesus Christ.

Father, help me to grow in the likeness of Jesus.  Help me reflect His nature and His love to those around me.  Enable me to see what needs to be done and then give me the ability and wisdom to accomplish the task You have laid before me.  In dark times, help me to remember that all things are in Your Hand and that trials are lessons masked in difficulty, sometimes painful, but always working good for me and for others.

EATING – LIVE TO EAT OR EAT TO LIVE?

I have heard it said that some people “live to eat” and others “eat to live”.    We have two dogs who represent these two concepts.

Cuddles loves to eat – in fact the trainer who worked with us when the girls were brought home from the animal shelter said, and I quote: “I have never seen a dog that was so food-centric as Cuddles!”  If you want her to do anything, you need to give her a treat, preferably before AND after her obedience.

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Cuddles, in the foreground, LOVES to eat; Snickers, in the background, is pickier!

In this picture of the two of them “sitting pretty”, Cuddles is in the foreground and you can see that she has to sit with her rear legs spread apart to keep her balance. 

On the other hand,  Snickers, despite her candy-bar-name, eats her food but she is not hankering for a treat every time we turn around.  You can see that her rear legs are at right angles to her body.  She does not have to sit “side-saddle” like her younger sister does.

In short, the difference between the girls is that Cuddles lives to eat and Snickers eats to live.

Since both my husband and I are overweight, I am not going to point to us as examples of this concept.  Rather, I want to think about what we consume from Scripture.  Do we eat to live, that is only eat from Scripture a sufficient amount to gain our fire insurance from hell, or do we live to eat, that is feast on the truths of Scripture and come again and again to the Word for more food for our spiritual souls’ growth and development?

The Bible talks about eating in many places.  In the very first book of the Bible God tells Adam that he can eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden, except for one.  (Genesis 2:16-17)  After their disobedience, Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden and they had to work for their food ever after.

In Exodus we read of the meal of unleavened bread and bitter herbs which preceded the visitation from the angel of death.  After the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and God sent manna and then quail for them to eat.

David puts God’s provision like this:

Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven.  Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance.  He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind;  he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings.  And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.

Psalm 78:23-29

The New Testament talks of food as well. For example, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding feast. (John 2)  Jesus fed thousands as He taught them along the seaside. (Mark 8.)

In 1 Corinthians 6 we find Paul’s instruction regarding eating the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of His death for our sins.  Some call this feast Communion and others Eucharist, but the essence is that we are celebrating the marvelous work of our Lord and His sacrifice for us.

Paul has strong words for the people in the Corinthian church.  He wrote:

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,  for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

The writer of Hebrews expresses this same idea in this way:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. 

Hebrews 5:12-14

We know from our own experience that babies take milk and then, at some point in their infancy, they move up to some diluted cereal such as infant oatmeal.  Then comes soft food and, upon reaching childhood, they can eat regular food, starting with soft meats and them ultimately moving up to steak! Meat comes with maturity. 

What does this solid food look like?  Paul tells us, it is the food in Scripture that we read with our power of discernment trained by constant practice, to do what?  To distinguish good from evil. 

Do you know when the preacher’s doctrine is faulty?  You know it when you have read the Scripture, studied and have discernment from constant exposure to the Word of God.  Then you can tell good teaching from the faulty teaching.

So, beloved, when it comes to spiritual food, are you satisfied with milk?  Or, do you long for solid food, for the meat not just the milk?   Do you read the Word of God for yourself?  Do you study with others so that you can practice your discerning powers and so identify both the good and the bad.  Do you ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thinking and open your eyes and your mind to the truths and riches that are found in the Word of God?

From a spiritual perspective, the question is:  Are you Snickers or Cuddles?  Do you eat to live, or do you live to eat.  Oh, that we would be spiritually overweight with the rich meat of Scripture.

Father, forgive me when I have been satisfied to skim the surface of Your Word, when I have been lazy and have not studied Your Word to uncover the truths and precepts that You want me to have.  Enable me to feast on the meat of Your Word through Your Holy Spirit, I pray.

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.

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. 

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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.

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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.