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.

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.

ONE STOP AND IT’S ALL DONE!

When we were in Bar Nunn, Wyoming, right near the RV park, there was a sign that I thought was hysterical.

Car truck dog wash sign

In my mind, I was envisioning the long conveyor belt pulling the car, then pulling a truck followed by a dog, all of them going in tandem through the sprayer with the soap squirting all over, then the brushes or perhaps strips of material swinging around lathering up the soap.  Of course, then there is the rinse which is followed by the fans to dry off the car, the truck and the dog! 

I started to laugh, with my mind going to a mental picture of our two MinPin canine daughters going through the dog wash. 

Cuddles and Snickers near us while moving down highway in RV
Cuddles and Snickers resting between the seats in the RV on our trip out West.

Of course, the dog wash was not actually a mechanical thing, rather it was a room with a tub and faucet for cleaning the little darlings!   The mental image, however, stayed with me and brought a chuckle even when they were sitting on my lap sound asleep.

One stop cleaning for car, truck and beast.

Often we want to multi-task, that is, getting more than one thing done at a time.  This is especially true in our modern society with all the technical advantages that former generations did not have and could not even imagine.  

You can be walking, talking on the phone and looking up the Google map of where you are going all at the same time.  We drive the car while eating the fast food on our way to an appointment while an associate is telling us detailed information we need to know before getting to the meeting. 

Multitasking, dividing our attention between multiple things is a common sight in the modern society in which we live.

While you can accomplish much with multitasking, there is at least one thing that you cannot accomplish with that technique.  You cannot commune with the Almighty God while you are doing numerous other things.

In the Holy Bible, the book of Matthew, we read the following account between a lawyer and Jesus:

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law.” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.””

Matthew 22:35-40 ESV

Loving God with all your heart, soul and mind … that doesn’t sound like multitasking to me.  That sounds like we are to meditate on God, on Who He is, on His commandments, on His Word in Scripture … we are to think about God and not squeeze Him into our schedule right after dusting and just behind laundry. 

The Psalmist talks about meditation repeatedly in the Psalter.  Consider these verses:

“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Psalm 77:12 ESV

“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.”

Psalm 119:15 ESV

Beloved, the Almighty God has given us His Son as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.  He who was sinless died a horrible death and suffered the wrath that the Holy God has for sin, our sin.  He took our blame so that we could received His righteousness, through faith in His amazing work.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.”

Psalm 29:2 ESV

The vision of God and the recognition that we are to worship Him properly always brings a realization of our sin.  See what Isaiah says when he saw the vision of God:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!””

Isaiah 6:1-5 ESV

Isaiah clearly was not considering multitasking when he acknowledged his sin after recognizing the holiness of God.  God is holy and He deserves, no He properly demands, wholehearted worship.  He is the Creator and we are the miniscule creations, but He loved us enough to send Christ to pay the price for our sin.  So, while we may be weaklings when compared to the omnipotent God, we are His pride and joy as His children when we come to Him through faith in His Son.

So, multitasking is fine for some things, but the worship of God deserves our full attention as we seek to know Him better and as we give Him the honor and worship due His Holy Name.

The place for the car wash, truck wash, and dog wash pales when we remember that the Christian is washed in the blood of the Lamb, and that washing does not wear off and does not have to be repeated over and over.  Further, it is a washing that is unique to each and every one of us, and it makes us God’s children for all time.

Meditate on all that the Almighty God has done for you.  Meditate on the work of Jesus Christ as He suffered abandonment by the Father because God could not look on His Son who was covered in humanity’s sin.  Meditate on the work of the Holy Spirit as He quickens our hearts so we can exercise faith in Christ and then He teaches us what we need to know about who God wants us to be – people who are transformed into the image of His Beloved Son.

Praise His Holy Name!

HONEYSUCKLE – a fragrance that lingers!

Honeysuckle – the fragrance lingers in the air and fills the yard with sweetness!  We have a honeysuckle bush and several honeysuckle vines that climb some of the trees in the woods in our backyard.

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Honeysuckle tree that is bordering the woods in our back yard.

The scientific name for honeysuckles is caprifoliaceae.  The bush is large, upright and grows to 15 to 20 feet in height.  

The flowers change from white to yellow and it has red berries in the fall.  In late autumn, leaves typically remain green and attached well after the leaves of our native trees and shrubs have fallen.

Honeysuckle - close up
Honeysuckle blooms proliferate throughout the tree.

While seeing the blooms in the tree is beautiful, the thing that I love most about the honeysuckle is the fragrance.  Scientific reports state that the honeysuckle bush flowers in May through June and that the flowers are “fragrant, in clusters from the leaf axils, tubular, 1 inch long, slender, distinctly 2-lipped, with the upper lip having 4 lobes, the lower lip with 1 lobe.” 

That’s all well and good, but it does not, in my humble opinion, give enough print to the luscious fragrance of the honeysuckle bush.  It fills the air on a summer evening.  You can sense the fragrance even when you can’t see the flowers, you just know it is there … you can tell because you are familiar with the scent.

God has always been interested in fragrances both in His worship and in the lives of His people.

In the book of Exodus, we read this regarding the tabernacle in the wilderness:

“”You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood.” … “And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it,””

Exodus 30:1, 7 ESV

The Lord God also gave numerous instructions as to how to make the incense, when to burn it, etc.  In short, God’s dwelling was to be a place of fragrant beauty.  It is no surprise, then, that God’s creation is a place of myriad fragrances, and honeysuckle happens to be one that is pervasive in our yard during the summer!

The Psalmist says:

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;  you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;”

Psalm 45:6-8 ESV

Paul tells the Ephesian Church that they were to walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us:

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:2 ESV

Christ was described as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God, on our behalf, in payment for our sins so we could avoid the wrath of God because of our sinfulness.

In response to Christ’s incredible gift of love for us, we are to give to others, to enable others to see the Lord Jesus Christ in us, and to assist our brothers and sisters in the Lord as they walk their journey of faith.  Our works for others are not payment for our salvation, rather they are gifts of love in thanksgiving for what God has done for us, in other words, they are a sweet, fragrant offering to our God.

Paul said it this way:

“I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.”

Philippians 4:18 ESV

You see, we are not to hoard our blessings, but we are to give to others just as the Lord gave to us.  When we do, our actions become a fragrant offering to God.  Consider the words in Revelation regarding the prayers of those who have gone before us:

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.”

Revelation 8:3-4 ESV

Matthew Henry speaks of these verses and admonishes us as follows:

It is very probable that this other angel is the Lord Jesus, the high priest of the church, who is here described in his sacerdotal [priestly] office, having a golden censer and much incense, a fulness of merit in his own glorious person, and this incense he was to offer up, with the prayers of all the saints. … The prayers of the saints come up before God in a cloud of incense; no prayer, thus recommended, was ever denied audience or acceptance.

So, as Christians, we are to walk in love as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  We are to give to others both in terms of material help as well as with prayers, and these offerings will rise as a fragrant sacrifice to God.

We should give off the pleasing fragrance of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that fragrance should permeate the air around us so that, even if people don’t hear us say anything, they will know that we are Christians.

Enjoy the wonderful fragrance of honeysuckle, and let it remind you of the fragrance that we should give to those around us as we share the pleasing fragrance of love that our Lord Jesus Christ has given to us.

Father, I pray that I would live my life as a fragrant offering that is pleasing to you.  I pray that my prayers would be presented to you through the wonderful work of Jesus as my intercessor and mediator, and that they, too, would be a fragrant offering that is pleasing to you.

EVERYONE BELIEVES IN SOMETHING!

An old joke told by my husband goes something like this:

After a long discussion about serious matters confronting our country and our businesses, one man asked another “What do you believe?”  The response was “I believe I’ll have another cup of coffee.”

While the humor is superficial, the real question hangs in the air like Spanish moss hangs from tree limbs – what do you believe?  Or, more pointedly, what do you believe about God?  This is the question, the only question, that is of eternal significance.  Do you believe that because you are a good person God will certainly accept you into His heaven?  Do you believe that your money and fame will be, on balance, more than your evil, selfish deeds on earth?  Do you even believe that there is a future or do you think that life on this earth is all there is?  What if you are wrong?  What then?

What you believe in is of critical import – it is a matter of eternal consequence.

One thing that is certain  is that you can trust the Holy Bible to be true.  What it says is true because it contains the Word of God, the Creator and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, regarding the need for a Savior, the Bible says this:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

John 3:16. 

Cross
Consider the cross, a reminder of the glorious gift provided to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

While there are many additional concepts involved in God’s salvation for His people, the Scripture of the Holy Bible encapsulates them concisely and definitively in the John 3:16.  Christians can argue about the finer points, the details and the doctrine, but ultimately, eternal life comes down to believing in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

But salvation does not come just from believing that Jesus existed … even the devils believed that.  Rather, Paul expresses the belief required as:

“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 10:9

In our church, we recite The Apostles’ Creed each week.  

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic* church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

*Catholic means “universal”.

It is appropriate for us to remind ourselves of that which we believe because what we believe about Jesus Christ determines our ultimate destiny.  Why do we need Jesus as a Savior?  See Romans 3:23.

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” 

Unfortunately, we cannot save ourselves from the consequences of our rebellious sin. 

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,”

Colossians 2:13

Paul said that we are “dead” ro God because of our trespasses and sins,  and we know that a dead person cannot do anything to bring himself back to life.  Rather, God has to intervene to raise that person from death to life in Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 

Ephesians 2:8-9

If you receive Him as your Savior through grace alone, as you believe in His atoning death on the cross and His resurrection and ascension into heaven, if you confess your sins and repent, Scripture says that you will be saved.  Your position in Heaven for eternity is guaranteed and you will be a new creation in Christ.

Think about the Apostles’ Creed and each of its elements.  Do you believe this?  Does it make a difference in your life?  Pray that you will be more aware of how your beliefs determine your actions, because they do.

Here is a song entitled “I Believe” sung by the Bar J Wranglers from their album entitled For God and Country.  I pray that you would be encouraged by its beautiful message.

 

Father, I thank You for Your grace that was extended to me by Christ’s death for me on the cross of Calvary.  I thank You for the mercy and forgiveness you granted to me and I praise Your holy name for the gift of salvation.  I pray that these words would challenge those who may not know You, and I pray that Your Holy Spirit would touch their hearts and bring them to You.

 

 

GIVE TILL IT HURTS?

In the days of my childhood, i recall the minister preaching about giving our money, time and talents to the Lord and His Church.  One of the phrases that he repeated was that we were to give to the Lord “until it hurts”. 

I suspect that the scripture he was using for this thought was Jesus’ comparison of the rich men giving to the temple treasury with that of the widow.   Read Luke 21:1-4. In short, the rich were giving out of their abundance while the widow, in her poverty, gave all that she had.  Giving to the Lord did not “hurt” the rich men but it cost the poor widow everything.  

But, does scripture require us to hurt when we give to the Lord?  I don’t think so.

In 1 Chronicles 29 we read of the freewill offerings that the Israelites provided to the house of God.  The figures of their gifts that we find recorded for us to consider are truly staggering.  In verse 7 we read that they gave 5,000 talents and 10,000 darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze and 100,000 talents of iron.

I am not an accountant nor am I a math whiz, but research tells me that these figures equate to approximately 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze and 3,750 tons of iron.  (See the New Living Translation for these figures)  And this does not even consider the precious stones that were given to the treasury of the house of the Lord.  

When God created our world, He did not skimp.  He did not say “they are going to sin and cause heartache for me so I’ll give them a dump to live in, that’s all they deserve!  They are going to mess up my creation anyway, so they don’t deserve to have my beauty around them.” 

That’s not the way of our God. He created a beautiful world full of abundance and reflective of His glory even though it is now marred by man’s sin.  

IMG_20180626_1342546_rewind
Snow-capped Grand Tetons 
Ocean verticle sun going down
Sunset over the ocean.
frozen-head-state-park-trees-forming-arch-2
Frozen Head State Park, Morgan County, Tennessee.
Yosemite 2011 WRM 095 Overlook of Kings Canyon National Park (C)
King’s Canyon National Park Overlook, California
Waimea Canyon Kauai mountains
Waimea Canyon, Kauai, Hawaii

David said it this way:

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.  He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

Psalm 33:6-8 

God displayed His incredible beauty, power, majesty and glory through His creation which He provided to us.  We should stand in awe of our God, because He is the Almighty, the one true God.  Of course, God’s display of His beauty in our world does not even begin to encompass what God has provided us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  God’s steadfast love, mercy and grace is abundantly evident in Christ’s atoning death on the cross.  

God gave us His Son to satisfy the judgment of death that sin brought to us.  Praise God that Jesus rose from the dead and now intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  There is nothing that we can do to earn salvation.  We are sinful creatures and have no good within us.  Even our best is equivalent to filthy rags in God’s eyes.  So we have no ability to bridge the gap between sinful man and a holy God.  Through Christ’s death and resurrection, He provides us with His righteousness. 

This righteousness is a gift from God. We can do nothing to earn it.  But, what is it worth?  What would you pay for it if you could do so?  In thankfulness, give God your life, your plans, your dreams, your abundance.  Love Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and then love your neighbor as yourself.  Obedience to God is the sacrifice that He desires.   

Of all people, we as Christians should be honoring the Lord daily, giving thanks to Him for this great gift of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, and glorifying God by obeying His word.  Give until it hurts?  No.  Give to Him in praise and thanksgiving, with joy and gladness.   

Going back to 1 Chronicles and the gifts that the people gave to the house of the Lord, what I find beautiful is not the amount or weight of their gifts, but the fact that they rejoiced in their giving.   Here is the record in 1 Chronicles 29:9-13:

Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.  Therefore David blessed the LORD in the presence of all the assembly. And David said: “Blessed are you, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever.  Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.  Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.””

Be like the Israelites of old. They they didn’t grouse about how poor they were!  They rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD.  

When was the last time you rejoiced in your giving?  When was the last time you gave with a whole heart offering your resources, time and energies freely to the Lord?   When was the last time you rejoiced in being of service to the King of King, the Lord of Lords, and the Redeemer of your soul? 

Give until you hurt?  No.  Give until your giving reflects your thanks to the Lord for all that He has done for you through Christ as well as on a day-to-day basis. 

20180628_142647
Eruption of White Cone Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

Give willingly and freely.  Give obediently and rejoice in the Lord.  Let your thanks erupt into giving from a full heart devoted to our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I praise Your name for the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord and my Redeemer.  Forgive me when my giving has been skimpy and unfeeling, when I cared more for what I wanted to do with my money than what I could give to You in thanksgiving for all that You have given me.  May I rejoice in Your steadfast love and may that find expression through joyful giving with a thankful heart.  

HOW GREAT THOU ART!

We had the privilege to go on an extended vacation last summer.  We traveled throughout the western United States  and visited many of our national parks. 

The sights and sounds were incredible.  Often, the primary sound we heard was silence, as the beauty of the national park was mesmerizing in itself … words were impossible to describe the beauty and we just drank in the view.

IMG_20180626_1342546_rewind

The Grand Tetons were magnificent in their snow-topped heights, and sprawling majesty.

20180707_141941

The colors and pillars (called “Hoodoos”) of Bryce Canyon became etched in our minds as we considered the beauty and majesty of God’s handiwork.

Monarch Pass in Colorado, at an elevation of 11,312 feet, was windy, cold and dizzying when viewing the mountaintops that surrounded the parking lot at the summit.

11 colorado 2 monarch pass 1 continental divide

Descending form the parking area, the mountains were up close and personal.  Visages of raw power, strength and rugged beauty. 

descending from monarch pass

We were praising God throughout our trip as we saw glorious, sculpted rock pillars in numerous variations of colors and shapes, and prevalent even along the highways.  We praised our God for the beauty of the mountains and for the wondrous provision of water, lakes, rivers, ponds and fountains throughout the hills and byways. 

The hymn “How Great Thou Art” does a good job of summarizing our reaction and wonder as we got a view of God’s creation that was different than we usually experience in East Tennessee. 

HOW GREAT THOU ART

[Verse 1]

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

[Refrain]
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

[Verse 2]
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze

[Refrain]

[Verse 3]
And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin.

[Refrain]

[Verse 4]
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

[Refrain]

Of course, the hymn does not describe merely the creation that God has provided to us, it goes on to describe the glories of salvation that God has given when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Creation tells us that God exists.  Salvation tells us the magnitude of God’s love for His people in that He sent Christ to pay for our sin.  Praise is the our rightful response for both His creation and His gift of salvation.

The Book of Psalms in the Bible is the hymnbook of the Israelites, and it is full of exhortation to praise the Lord.  Here are just some of the verses that admonish us to praise Him:

“Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:” 

Psalm 102:18

Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 106:1

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD!”

Psalm 113:1

Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!  For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

Psalm 117:1-2

The book of Psalms ends with this same exhortation that applies to everyone:

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!”

Psalm 150:6

Oh, that I would remember how great our God is even during the humdrum activities of life that so often seem to be frustrating and irritating.  When we consider all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ, His Son, we should be shouting our praise and love for Him from the housetops, in everything that we do and in all the ways we serve others. 

Praising the Lord is a matter of the heart.  We can have a settled heart and mind because we can praise the Lord through whatever comes our way.  Praise Him when good things happen, certainly.  That’s not hard!  But, praising Him when adversity may arise is difficult.  We know that pain will be present in our lives; difficulties will present themselves at unexpected and usually inconvenient times; heartache will interrupt our lives when malevolent activities cause grief and loss. 

Beloved, no matter what we may have to endure, nothing will take us out of the Hand of our God, the Almighty God who uses even these hard times to transform us into the image of His Son.  This is why we can praise the Lord even as we are in tears.

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!”

Psalm 112:1

Praise the Lord.  I am challenging myself to make praise my “default position” before God.  Care to join me in this challenge? 

 

Father, I praise Your Name for the wonder and glory of salvation through Christ our Lord.  I praise You Name when I see the creation that You have placed before me, and when I think of Your steadfast love and mercy.  Enable me to praise You even more each day, and may I make praise my “default position” before You!