HOLY – WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH ME?

As a child, I remember singing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” with great gusto in my home church with my mother and father standing by my side. 

Then, as I got older in my faith walk with the Lord, I sang the hymn with less gusto and more meaning as I pondered each of the words while singing them.

Some places just evoke a feeling of sacredness, of being a special place where we feel close to God.     Consider the Canterbury Cathedral, where worship services to God have been conducted for over 1400 years!

Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

Or, consider Bryce Canyon where we see the majesty and jaw-dropping creativity of our Sovereign God.  The beauty and sheer magnitude of the canyon evokes a feeling of gratitude to God for the beauty of His creation.

Bryce Canyon 1
Bryce Canyon with its “hoodoos” – spires standing up over the base of the canyon!

Or, consider Yellowstone National Park with its geysers and pools of water that exceed the boiling point, spewing steam and sulfur continually from their fissures.

Yellowstone 083
Yellowstone National Park. The pavement in the parking lot gave way under the pressure of the geyser beneath.  

These things tell us that God is different than we are … that He is far greater than our finite minds can comprehend. 

We say God is holy, that we have the Holy Bible, that Jesus foretold of the coming of the Holy Spirit, and we know that are to be holy but: “What is ‘holy’?” 

The Hebrew word for “holy” as found in Strong’s concordance is Strong’s Number H6944 which matches the Hebrew  קֹדֶשׁ  English transliteration “godesh”.  This word occurs 519 times in 382 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the NASB

The word signifies apartness, sacredness, separateness and it is used in relation to God, places and things.  There is a “set-apartness” for that which is holy.  In reading Leviticus we see how the tabernacle and all its furnishings and utensils were “consecrated to God”, another way of saying they were set apart for God’s use, specifically for use in their worship of Him.  The clothing that the priests wore was consecrated for when they were performing their priestly duties.  They were set apart for use in the worship and service of God, taken out of the ordinary and set apart for God.

We remember that when Moses was in the wilderness and saw the burning bush, he walked over to it and, when he approached the bush, God spoke and told him to remove his sandals because the ground where he was standing was holy ground.  Before the bush started burning the ground around it was just regular ground, like all the rest of the wilderness.  But God’s presence, His use of the bush to get Moses’ attention, set the bush and surrounding ground apart from the rest: it became holy. His sandals that were covered in the dust of the ordinary had to be removed because they were contaminating the ground that had become holy.

God directed Moses to tell the people that they were to be holy because He, their God, is holy.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 19:1-2

God elaborates upon His relationship with His people in the next chapter:

You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.

Leviticus 20:26

God set apart His people for His own purposes, that they should be His and that they should follow no other god.  He separated them from all the peoples on the earth and they are His.  They are a holy people – not because of their own abilities or value. 

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8

God’s people are His because He has chosen them and He is faithful to fulfill all the promises that He made to the patriarchs of old. 

In the New Testament, Peter tells the Christians that they are God’s children and that they are to be “holy” in their conduct!

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:14-16

We know, of course, that we cannot be holy on our own – we need the Holy Spirit to bring us the holiness that we need so we can show God’s holiness to the world.  We are sinful creatures and cannot be “holy” in our own right.   Because God is holy, we are to be holy as His children.  Holiness is to be a family trait!

So, what does this have to do with me, or with you?  We need to remember that, as Christians, we have dual citizenship – we are citizens of the place on earth where God has put us for His purposes, and we are citizens of God’s kingdom. As much as we are involved with the workings of our homes, cities, governments, schools, etc., these take second place when we think about our ultimate, eternal citizenship. 

God’s world is a beautiful, magnificent creation that reflects His glory daily.  But Scripture tells us that this world will pass away, but God’s Kingdom will never pass away.

Jesus said that our focus should not be on this world, but rather on heaven.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matthew 6:19-20

Be holy because God is holy.  Think of the words of the hymn as  you listen to it being sung on the album Hymns for All Saints: Adoration, Praise and Comfort, by Columbia Publishing House.

Father, I know that I cannot be holy other than by Your grace and mercy through the power granted to me by the Holy Spirit.  Enable me to grow in holiness so that others may see You reflected in my life.

IS IT REAL OR ARTIFICIAL?

When I was a child, we always had real Christmas trees.  Since I lived in Chicago, we did not have forests or woods to run to so that we could chop down our tree; rather, we purchased them from tree lots in neighborhoods.  Tying the tree to the top of the car, we drove home with just the right tree, then having to cut the tree down because it was almost always too tall for the room.

aRTIFICIAL SILVER CHRISTMAS TREE

My Great Aunt and Great Uncle, however, purchased an artificial tree … it was quite costly because it was the new trend.  It was silver and came with a multicolored light wheel that turned so that the tree was any of a number of colors, including, of course, silver.  The silver tree is still sold today, as I found this picture of one for sale this week.

Now, there was no way that anyone could have been fooled into thinking that the silver tree was a real tree.  Of course, there are no totally silver metal trees in the wild!  My mother thought that the silver tree was absurd; while I thought it was unique and rather cool.  But even as a young child I knew it was not a real tree!

20181224_113350

Now, in our own home, we have an artificial Christmas tree (actually two artificial trees).  It is much easier to decorate and its cost is amortized over numerous years, making it a much more fixed-income friendly tree than a real tree would be.  And, the artificial trees of today look much more like the real thing than did those of yesteryear, at least as long as you don’t get too close to inspect the “needles” or the “tree’s” branches. 

From a distance it looks like the real thing, but it is not.

The same thing can be said about our spiritual lives, our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and our Savior.  People can look good,  do nice things and can even say the right words, but their relationship with the Lord may not be the real thing … they may be an imposter, a silver tree among the green.

This is not a new phenomenon – in the Old Testament God warns about people who seem like they are believers but who, in fact, worship false gods.  Consider these words:

But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway,

Jeremiah 18:15

For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.

Zechariah 10:2

Jesus spoke of false prophets, warning the people to beware of them.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 7:15

The Apostle Paul issued the same warning that Christ gave:

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

2 Corinthians 11:12-15

The Apostle Peter also gave a warning about false prophets and those who preach heresies rather than the true gospel.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

2 Peter 2:1-3

Finally, the Apostle John also warned against false prophets who teach heresies, admonishing the people to test what people are saying to be sure that they are teaching God’s word and not a distorted message.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1

This Christmas time be vigilant, Christian.  Test what you are hearing.  Read the Scripture and pray for wisdom and understanding.  Don’t fall prey to false teachers whose heresies sound rather like the gospel but are actually false teachings that distort and dilute the power of the Gospel of Christ. 

Don’t be fooled by artificial trees that look real, but are not!

Father, I pray that I would have wisdom to separate the truth from the falsehood; that the Holy Spirit would help me avoid the pit of heresy; that I would be granted pastors and teachers who love Your Word and who preach the truth without apology, and that I would take that truth and live it out before others, to honor and glorify You, my Lord. my Redeemer and my King.

EXPECTATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 1:26-27

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

Paul said this about Jesus:

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

Colossians 1:15

In the Book of Romans we read:

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

Romans 8:28-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Micah 6:8

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

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

Blessings as you walk with the Lord this day.

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

The Addometer

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

Addometer
Have you ever used one of these?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:6-8

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

“the word of our God will stand forever.”

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

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

Isaiah 55:10-11

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

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

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

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

The Gateway

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

the Gateway Arch rises up behind the new glass entrance
Gateway Arch National Park. Photo courtesy of StudioBrookes.

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

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

gateway arch 1
Picture taken while I was visiting the arch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 14:6

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

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

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

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

Romans 5:8

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

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

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

Romans 6:9

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

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

Romans 10:9-10

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

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

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

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

A COMPASSIONATE HEART

When your children were young, did they ever have an accident that resulted in a broken bone, or perhaps a burn or a sprain?  Often the injury is the result of some foolishness on the child’s part.  Perhaps the child is doing something that he/she knows they should not do, or perhaps he/she is taking a shortcut through an area that is dangerous, or perhaps he/she decides to try flying! 

But, the cause is not relevant to the pain in the parent’s heart!  When your child is injured, that hurt, while not physical, brings such pain to your heart that it is as if you had sustained the injury too.

Child's cast
Child’s cast for his broken leg.

When dealing with the immediate aftermath of the injury, the focus is necessarily on getting help, treating the wound, stemming the tears and insuring no further harm is experienced.  And, while this is going on, compassion is enabling us to handle things that we never dreamed we could.

Compassion – sympathy, empathy, commiseration, feeling, pity, tenderness.  This is just one of the emotions we feel when someone we love is injured.  Compassion frequently expresses itself in an anguished cry on behalf of the one who is, or will be, experiencing pain.

Jesus is known for His compassion as is evidenced in the Gospels, for example, when He fed the 5,000 people who came to remote locations to hear Him teach. 

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

Mark 6:34 NIV

Jesus’ compassion expressed itself by an anguished cry in the book of Luke, when He was on His way to Jerusalem, the city in which He would stand trial and be crucified.  As He was on the road to the city, Jesus said:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Luke 13:34

The compassion of our God is evidenced throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments.  Consider Moses’ discourse to the Israelites as he recounted what happened during the wilderness years.  In Deuteronomy 5:27 Moses reminds the people of their promise to do all that God said, and then he tells them what God said to him in response to the people’s promise:

“’Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken.  Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!  Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.'”

Deuteronomy 5:27-31

God chose His people and loves them as a Father.  In verse 29, you can almost hear the anguish when God said, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always”.  God’s compassionate heart screamed the desire that His people would be loyal and devoted to His worship and that they would obey His commands.   He wanted it to “go well with them and with their descendants forever” and such would be the case if they were obedient, if they would make good on their promise of that day!  But He also knew that this would not happen!

Punishment is forgotten when the injury occurs.  Fix the injury, then consider  the punishment.  In Israel’s case, their punishment was wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and, later in their history, captivity and removal to Babylon, all because of disobedience.

How like the Old Testament folk we are.  We read Scripture and say that we will do what it says.  But, like our New Year’s Resolutions, slowly but surely, we forget about the words of Scripture as the things of everyday life push it out of our minds and schedules.  We want to do what God says, but we just can’t seem to pull it off.

It is for this reason that Jesus Christ was born, lived a perfect life of obedience to God’s commands, had no sin in Himself, but took our sin on Himself, that we might have life through belief in His Name.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20:30-31

When we commit our hearts to Jesus, when we fall at the cross and acknowledge Him as our Lord and Master, then we will receive forgiveness of our sin and the Spirit can infuse us with the nature that Jesus Christ had.  We will still sin, surely, because we are a sinful people.  But there is forgiveness and restoration through the cross of Christ upon our confession and repentance. 

Then we can express compassion that is not self-centered or self-aggrandizing.  Rather, our compassion will be a characteristic of our loving Father, of our Savior Jesus Christ, and from the Holy Spirit Who will give it to us as we seek to do the Father’s will in our world.

Blessings to you today as you serve our God and Savior.

Father, I pray that I would exhibit Your compassion to those that I meet.  May my heart break for the things that break Your heart, Lord Jesus, and may I express my compassion through the power of the Holy Spirit in words, thoughts and deeds that glorify Your Name.

UNDERLYING POWER

Recently I saw a Facebook post saying something like:

“Watch out for people who are always bragging about what they can do, a lion never has to tell me that he is a lion.”

Of course, the thrust of the comment is that the lion does not have to advertise that it has power — its power is evident and well-known to others.  Unlike the lion, however, often the people who are doing the bragging will be embellishing and exaggerating their status whereas people who actually have abilities or who have had accomplishments do not have to brag.     

While in Yellowstone National Park recently, we were privileged enough to see a family of buffalo strolling down the road and into some trees.  They were minding their own business, walking as a unit without being a threat to anyone and seemingly not aware of our presence.  There were three adult buffalo and three young ones.

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This baby buffalo is not particularly threatening.  We saw him walking through some trees with two of his siblings and three adult buffalo.

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Now, these two buffalo present a different picture than the baby did.  They are not threatening as they are laying in the grass but staring at us while standing seemed to be potentially threatening.  Especially when the National Park Ranger told us that adult buffalo weigh about 2,000 pounds.  Combine that weight with an ability to run at 30 miles per hour, and you have a considerable threat both to man and vehicle.

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Like the lion, the buffalo does not have to brag about its abilities.  It can be calm and in control, and it can also be terrifyingly fast if it needs to defend itself or its family.  In short, they are animals of great strength and speed – animals with underlying power that we as humans simply don’t have ourselves.  We may be able to drive our car faster than the buffalo can run, but if the buffalo impacts the vehicle, it is probably going to be damaged beyond repair.

The lion and the buffalo have underlying power within themselves.

So, does the Christian.  I don’t mean that we can run fast – anyone who knows me realizes that running at all is not likely going to happen.   And I don’t necessarily mean that we have physical strength, although some people I know are incredibly strong.

What I do mean is that ALL Christians have underlying power within them, specifically the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus Christ so that we are enabled to be witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ wherever we are.  Jesus said:

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

John 15:26-27

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Again, after His resurrection, Jesus said:

“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

We know that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and that same day they preached the gospel of Jesus Christ boldly.  Fishermen and tax collectors who were cowering in fear after Jesus’s death were transformed on that day into evangelists who virtually blanketed the known world with the good news of faith in Christ.

They didn’t brag about their achievements.  They gave the glory for what they were doing to Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit, praising God for the good works that they were seeing all in the name of the Lord.  They were Christians who were powered by the Holy Spirit.

So are we.  We have the same Holy Spirit, the same Lord Jesus Christ, the same God and Father Almighty.  They are our brothers and sisters just as much as the Christians we see in church.   We too have the Holy Spirit, and as part of the unchanging infinite triune God, the Holy Spirit is no different now than he was 2000 years ago. 

Underlying power.  Do I take advantage of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life?  Do I call upon His power to enable me to do the work that Christ has called me to do?   Do I use that power for spreading the gospel?  Do I boldly tell others of Jesus Christ or do I shrink back in fear of what they will say, or think?

What about you?  How would you answer these questions?

Father, I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to witness to others of Your marvelous gift of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  I pray that you would embolden me to witness of my Lord without fear and that Your Spirit would put the words in my mouth that will accomplish Your Work in those to whom I speak and in me as I do Your will.

Who are you and where do you live?

People are diverse, unique, different.  Take for example, where we live.

As we were driving on our vacation this summer, we went through the City of Chicago.  The traffic going down the highways going into the city were crowded with trucks, cars, vans, busses.  Not to mention the train that ran to various parts of the city with terminals in between the highway lanes.

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Then, when the highway signs were somewhat out-of-the-way, the skyline came into view!

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Thousands upon thousands of people live within the scope of that picture.  They live in high-rise apartment buildings which have incredible views of the city beneath and Lake Michigan along the shoreline, some of the views going almost to the Wisconsin state line!  However, some live in much less splendor, along the railroad tracks and in dilapidated buildings in the center of town.  And of course, there are shops, businesses, banks and all sorts of eateries spread throughout the city.

This kind of congestion is not for everyone, however.  One of the places we visited was Bar Nunn, Wyoming.

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The campground was rustic and the people were super friendly.  The view of the community from the campground was beautiful with its backdrop of mountain terrain.

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The first night we were there, the clouds provided a beautiful ending to a glorious day.

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In contrast to the “majesty” of Chicago, the little post office next to the campground in Bar Nunn provided a different perspective as it gave the whole community postal services, and we, as sojourners, appreciated its presence since we could purchase stamps and use the handy mailbox to send post cards to the family back home.

We all don’t live in the same type dwellings, in the same area of the country or in the same climate.  But, almost all of us are often asked the same questions, no matter where we are:  “Who are you, and where do you live?” 

Our answer frequently is to respond with the name our parents provided to us and then to give our place of permanent residence.  And these are appropriate responses as they give some fundamental information about us to the person we have just met.  From there, we can continue the conversation and a friendship might result, or we can walk away after conducting the transaction with the individual without any further personal information being exchanged.

That is not the whole answer to those questions for the Christian.

Jesus said:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:1-6

Jesus clearly said that the one who believes in Him, through faith alone, will spend eternity with Him in heaven.  Indeed, belief in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way that we can enter heaven and come to God.  In fact, Jesus also tells us to put our treasure in heaven since there the treasure is secure for all eternity, rather than having it on earth where it can be easily destroyed.  Read Matthew 6:19-20.

Paul said it this way:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,”

Ephesians 2:19-20

In other words, the Christian has dual citizenship – we are citizens on this planet, living in the country, province or state, city or hamlet in which we reside.  But we are also citizens of heaven where we will live eternally with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, along with all our brothers and sisters who have been adopted into the family of God through faith in Christ.

So, how do we answer the question propounded above … “where do you live?”  We might want to go into an explanation of our dual citizenship, or we might just want to give our address and let our Christian walk do the rest of the talking for us.  Either way, let the Lord guide you as you witness for Him in our world.

Father, forgive me when I have been too timid to express my conviction that Jesus Christ made it possible for me to be Your child.  I cannot express my gratitude and thankfulness for such gracious mercy extended to me, an undeserving sinner who was saved by grace!  May I always be ready to tell others of Your gift of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  Help me, I pray.

TIME AND THE TALE

We recently returned from a trip out west and we visited a number of the U. S. National Parks.  They all made indelible impressions upon us with their grandeur, their diversity, their colors, and their spectacular beauty.

One example of this is Bryce Canyon outside of Richfield, Utah.  At an elevation of 8,000 feet, it is a riveting place of fascinating geological formations, which are called “hoodoos”. 

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The “hoodoos” are spires that reach way above the canyon floor.  At first glance, they appear as if they are giant orange-flavored snow cones. 

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Some of the spires seem to be huge apartment buildings, even with balconies overlooking the terrain and with green trees growing on the “roof penthouse”.

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Around the bend, toward the edge of the canyon, there were more spires, albeit somewhat shorter and they did not seem to be as carved as the other spires.  We were advised that this area was the “new” portion of the canyon.  In future years, these will be as incredible as the “hoodoos” that we had just seen, and they likely will be reduced to rubble.

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As we stood looking at the new section, I pondered what storms these youngsters would have to endure in the future, what temperature extremes would come their way, if they would stand sentry over their aging counterparts.   And I thought of the stories that the mature “hoodoos” would tell them if they were able to do so. 

But, the reality is that all of this came in the millennia that created the canyon as we see it today and it was captured, in a nanosecond, by a digital camera.  The details of the canyon’s creation, the carving of the individual “hoodoos” and the struggle of the trees to find a place to grow are not part of the story told by the canyon in our pictures. 

In short, the canyon’s history was condensed into a split-second picture of serene beauty.

Often on our trip, the high desert terrain gave me a visual impression of what I supposed the people of God might have experienced in the wilderness.  We know that the people of God were in the wilderness for 40 years, but Scripture only tells us of what happened in the first two years of their wandering and then the narrative skips to the end when they arrive at the Promised Land.

Matthew Henry says this of the missing years:

The thirty-eight years, which after this they were away in the wilderness, were not the subject of the sacred history, for little to nothing is recorded of that which happened to them from the second year to the fortieth.  After they came out of Egypt, their time was perfectly trifled away, and was not worthy to be the subject of a history, but only of a tale that is told, for it was only to pass away time like telling stories, that they spend those years in the wilderness, all that while they were in the consuming, and another generation was in the rising.  The spending of our years is like the telling of a tale.  A past when it is past is like a tale when it is told.  Some of our years are as a pleasant story, others as a tragical one: most mixed, but all short and transient, that which was long in the doing may be told in a short time.

Psalm 90:9 says:

For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

We know from personal experience that we can tell the tale of events in mere moments when the actual event took months or even years.  While we think we will live a long time, the reality is that in cosmic terms, our life is fleeting and, when it comes to an end, it is like a sigh.  Even the canyons of our national parks change with the years. 

But there is something that is, indeed, eternal and not fleeting.  Jesus said:

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Matthew 24:35

Praise the Lord for His Word, the Holy Bible.  Praise the Lord for His steadfast love and mercy.  Praise the Lord for His wondrous works.  Praise the Lord!

Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your love and Your sacrificial death on the cross to pay for the sins of Your people.  Thank You for Your Word and for preserving it so that we could learn of You and trust in Your Name for our salvation.