LEGEND OR FACT?

When we visited England, one of the places we enjoyed seeing is the Uffington White Horse, a highly stylized prehistoric white chalk hill figure, measuring 360 feet long.  It has been said that the White Horse has been guarded as “a masterpiece of minimalist art” for over 3,000 years, as it dates from the late Bronze Age, sometime between 1380 and 550 BCE.

white horse from road long cropped
The Uffington White Horse from the road.

 This is a closer picture of the white horse figure. 

white horse close up

When standing on top of the mountain, this is what part of the figure looks like. 

white horse from atop mountain

Nearby are ice-cut terraces known as the “Giant’s Stair”.  Speculation is that these terraces at the bottom of this valley are the result of medieval farming.  The valley below the horse is known as the Manger and legend says that the horse grazes there at night.

White horse farming terraces

(The pictures were taken by us on our visit to England.  Much more information about the White Horse was accessed 10/17/17 and can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffington_White_Horse .)

Numerous legends surround the White Horse and adjacent fields, and that prompted thoughts about legend viz-a-viz fact.  A legend can be generally defined as a story that has come down from the past, especially a story that is regarded as historical although not verifiable.

While there are legends in every culture, there is one story that is worldwide and which is most assuredly fact rather than legend – the story of God’s involvement with people on this earth as found in the text of the Holy Bible.  Indeed, neither the Old or New Testaments are either fiction or legend, rather they are the words of God as they were recorded by real people and as they have been preserved through the millennium by God’s hand.  Indeed, the Biblical text is self-authenticating; for example, the Old Testament is the record of God’s calling His people and of their history, prophets, priests and kings.  The New Testament contains the witness of that which the writers personally saw and heard.  It is a record of eyewitnesses testifying to the truth of their writing. 

I know that some have said that the Ten Commandments are only Ten Suggestions or perhaps Ten Good Ideas.  But, I beg to differ.  The Ten Commandments are, indeed, God’s Law given to Moses for a rule of life for God’s people. 

In fact, Jesus understood that the Ten Commandments were not legend or irrelevant fiction.  He taught about them and even broadened their application.  For example, consider what Jesus said about the Sixth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:13, His words recorded in Matthew 5:21-22:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

The Seventh Commandment as found in Exodus 20:14 was also referenced by Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Legends are fun to hear and the stories are entertaining to read.  But Scripture is not legend or fiction: it is a serious book to be read and studied.  The Holy Bible contains the very words of the Holy God, and they are as true today as when they were written and spoken thousands of years ago.

The real question, then, is what will you do with the Holy Bible? 

If the Holy God has given us His Word as a guide for living our lives, don’t you think we should read it? 

“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”

James 4:17 New Living Translation

And if we read it, should we not take its words into our minds and hearts, thereby allowing God’s Spirit to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord?

Father, let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14  May I love and read Your, and I ask that Your Holy Spirit would quicken my heart and let those words take root so that my actions conform with Your instructions.

 

THE HORSE – A VISION OF MAJESTIC STRENGTH

We were visiting in Tampa recently when we were invited to have lunch at a restaurant named Ulele.  It is in the old waterworks building so it has a charm that modern buildings just cannot replicate.

Ulele - Tampa 4

Inside the restaurant, there is a magnificent bronze statue of a stallion created by Victor Delfin, that is the focal point of the décor.

Ulele - Tampa 14

Standing closer to the figure you get a sense of its size and musculature.

The Laughing Horse by Victor Delfin at Ulele in Tampa Florida
“The Laughing Horse” by Victor Delfin.  The artist was skilled in his representation of this magnificent animal.

Scripture contains many references to horses.  One that I dearly love is found in the book of Job where God is responding to the demand for answers that Job propounded to Him:

Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?  Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying.  He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons.  He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword.  Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin.  With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet.  When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.”

Job 39:19-25 ESV

This description of the horse grips me with awe for the strength, courage and resilience of this mighty animal.  But we are warned in Proverbs to give credit where credit is due:

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”

Proverbs 21:31 ESV

When we have battled a temptation and won, we must not boast in the victory – rather, we give God the glory for the victory because He enabled us to be victorious. 

Further, we read in Psalm 147 that while God created both the horse and man, their strength does not bring God delight:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”  

Psalm 147:10-11 ESV

Just think of the privilege we have — we can bring pleasure to the Creator of the universe!  When we reverence the Lord, when we cling to His steadfast love, it is in those times that we bring the Lord pleasure!  The prophet Micah reminded the people that God has told them what He required:

“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 ESV

These same commands apply to us today.  These things bring our God pleasure!

One of the final references to the horse in Scripture is in the last book of the Bible, Revelation where we read:

“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”

Revelation 19:11 ESV

Our Lord will be victorious.  He will come in righteousness as the perfect Judge of the world He came to save but which rejected Him.  For the Christian, the white horse is a welcome sign; for the non-believer it bespeaks of judgment and rejection. 

So, do you trust in the horse or in the One who created the horse and who will ultimately return on a white horse in judgment at the end of time?

Father, I praise Your name for sending Jesus Christ to be our atoning sacrifice on the cross.  Thank You, Lord and Savior, for Your obedience and willingness to come to save us from our sin.  Thank You, Holy Spirit, for quickening the hearts of Your children so that we can believe on the name of the Lord and be saved.

A PART OF THE WHOLE

 

Have you ever felt that you were getting nowhere in your service for our Lord?  I have felt that I was working hard, doing what I believed that I had been called to do, but there did not seem to be any fruit for that labor.

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped one

The reality is, however, that we don’t have to comprehend the full impact of our labors.  That is not what the Lord has for us to know at this time.  Paul said it like this:

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped two

There are times when we look at others and it seems their Christian walk is easier, more fruitful, just better than our own.  Such comparison often results in discouragement; or, conversely, it may result in the sin of pride as we consider ourselves to be on the winning side of that comparison.

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped three

I love it when Paul uses an understandable analogy to illustrate a spiritual lesson.  He talks about our physical bodies in 1 Corinthians 12:

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. … But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

1 Corinthians 12:14, 18-20 ESV

This is true – we are all more than one eyelash or one toe.  We have many parts that make up our physical bodies.  And some of the parts, organs for example, don’t even get a passing thought unless disease strikes.

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped five

Then Paul gets to his point – the body of Christ. 

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” 

1 Corinthians 12:27-28 

Just as our bodies have different parts with different functions, so the body of Christ has different parts with different roles assigned to each Christian. 

The glorious thought, and that which thrills my soul, is what Paul expressed to the believers in the church at Ephesus:

“There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Ephesians 4:4-6 

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped four

No matter what role we have or how insignificant our role appears to us, God sees the whole picture and He has decreed that there is one body, the Church, which is unified in our Lord and in God the Father through the Holy Spirit. 

I have not gone crazy — the pictures inserted in the post have meaning.  They don’t look like much individually, do they?  In fact, for some of them you can’t even tell what you are looking at!  But, put them together … 

Oregon picture perfect mountains

and you will see a beautiful picture of the snow-capped mountains in Oregon.

Beloved, lift your eyes and look to the Savior.  Let the Spirit show you your role in the body of Christ.  Whatever it is, do your work to the glory of God and for the furtherance of His kingdom.  God will use you to create the glorious picture that He has decreed for you from the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4-6, Matthew 25:34.

Father, thank You for Your Spirit who guides and instructs in the way we are to live and in the work that we are to do for the kingdom of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

PUSHMI-PULLYU – INDECISON IS HARMFUL– part two

This is part two of a revision and repost of an April 2016 post about a trip to Nashville, Tennessee and a visit to the Lane Motor Museum.


Indecision – A breeding ground for inaction and for doubts about God’s sovereignty, your salvation, and a host of other questions that Satan will interject so that your devotion to your Lord will be diverted or, perhaps even, diminished!

This firemen’s vehicle from Cogolin, France seems to be the perfect visual representation of indecision!

Used Lane Motor Museum double car inside.jpg
Close up view of the two front ends of the Firemen’s vehicle, Cogolin, France.

No matter how it got to Nashville, it seems to me to be a classic representation of indecision.

Previously we looked at James, the brother of Jesus and the author of the book of James in Scripture, when he spoke of indecision and its difficulties.  Specifically, He said:

 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:5-8.

The King James Version of this scripture uses the term “wavereth” rather than the term “doubting” in verse 6.   Looking up the meaning of this word in Strong’s Lexicon, you find that one definition given for G1252, diakrinō, the Greek word translated “doubting” in the ESV and “wavereth” in the KJV is “to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt”.

Being at variance with yourself seems to be the quintessential description of indecision!

The reality of indecision, however, is not the point. Rather, James is warning that those who are “at variance with” themselves must not suppose that they “will receive anything from the Lord” in answer to her prayers.

The consequence of indecision is that the Lord will not be responsive to the prayer that is subject of doubt.

Of course, we also must remember that prayers must be made in alignment with God’s will for answers to be received. I am confident that Paul did not doubt when he prayed to be relieved from his physical infirmity. But he did not get the relief that he desired.  Rather, God told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

The fact is that fervent, unwavering prayer raised to God’s throne does not equate to the instant resolution that we may envision. Pain is real, but grace is overwhelming and eternal. I have learned that when I am weak, then I am strong because it is God working through me, and that makes all the difference!

Don’t be double minded – be single minded. Have your mind focused on the Trinity: on God, on Jesus Christ, and on His Holy Spirit. Look to the Lord’s way for your life and you will be blessed, even through unexpected answers to your prayers.

Father, forgive me, I pray, when I have prayed while doubting that an answer would come. You are sovereign and I desire to yield to Your guidance and authority in all things. Strengthen me in this, I pray.

PUSHMI-PULLYU – INDECISON IS HARMFUL– part one

This is a revision and repost of an April 2016 post about a trip to Nashville, Tennessee and a visit to the Lane Motor Museum.


Have you ever wondered, considered, fretted, worried, and then wondered again about taking some course of action?   What should I do? Where should I go? Should I change jobs or retire? What medical procedure would be the best? What should I order in a restaurant that I won’t be wearing around my hips 5 years from now? (Okay, that last one is a bit of a stretch, I concede!)

Indecision – this is the breeding ground for inaction and it is breeding ground for doubts about God’s sovereignty, your salvation, and a host of other questions that Satan will interject so that your devotion to your Lord will be diverted or, perhaps even, diminished!

When we stopped at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, we saw a vehicle that seemed to me to be a visual representation of indecision!

USED Lane Motor Museum double car
Firemen’s vehicle, Cogolin, France.

My first thought when I saw this vehicle was “This is a pushmi-pullyu!!”

Pushmi-Pullyu was a fictional character from The Story of Doctor Dolittle, written by Hugh Loftling in the 1920s.  The pushmi-pullyu (pronounced “push-me—pull-you”) was a “gazelle-unicorn cross” which had a head at each end of its body.

Pushmi-Pullyu-Story-of-Doctor-Dolittle

[Image and information about the book was obtained on April 25, 2016, from http://www.bing.com/images and from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Story_of_Doctor_Dolittle.]

Although the pushmi-pullyu was fictional, the vehicle in front of me at the museum was not!

I am told, although I am no French expert to be sure, that “Sapeurs-Pompiers” is French for firemen.  Cogolin is a small city in south east France in the French region Provence-Alpes-Cot d’Azur. The town has about 11000 people.   So, this vehicle, with its two steering wheels, two front tires, two front windshields … two working front ends was, apparently, at least at one point in time, a fire vehicle for the town of Cogolin, France.

How it came to be at the Lane Motor Museum in Tennessee is unknown to me, but I can attest that it was there!  But, its travel to Tennessee is irrelevant; it seems to me to be a classic representation of the “pushmi-pullyu” conflict that is also known as “indecision”.

James, the brother of Jesus and the author of the book of James in Scripture, speaks of indecision and its difficulties.

 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:5-8.

Don’t be a pushmi-pullyu!  Don’t be double minded – be single minded. Have your mind focused on the Trinity: on God, on Jesus Christ, and on His Holy Spirit. Look to the Lord’s way for your life and you will be blessed, even through unexpected answers to your prayers.

Father, forgive me, I pray, when I have prayed while doubting that an answer would come. Forgive me when I have simply failed to yield control of my life to You, in all things.  Strengthen me in this, I pray.

 

 

IMITATION – the way of learning the Way

We all know that children learn by imitating their caregivers, whether it be parents, grandparents, day care workers, or anyone else who provides care and input into their lives.  Indeed, they even imitate what they see and hear on television, a sobering thought to be sure!

JDD playing keyboard

When our grandson was young, he would play the keyboard as if he was playing the piano, something he had seen me do.  Then, too, he would imitate his Papa by using the computer in the home-office, keyboarding with the abandon only a young child can muster!

At the office (C)

But, children need to be discriminating in selecting who they imitate. I recall my Mother’s admonition about imitating people “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?”  In short, we must learn who deserves the high honor of our imitation. 

This is as true in our Christian life as it is in our physical life. We are not to imitate someone who preaches something other than the Gospel of Christ as found in Scripture.  The Apostle John warns:

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good.

3 John 1:11a ESV

So who are we to imitate?  First and foremost: Jesus. 

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

John 13:14-15 ESV.  Another time Jesus spoke of imitation related to loving each other:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12 ESV

Even Jesus’ command that the disciples were to love each other was based on imitating how Jesus had loved them.

In addition to Jesus, Paul says this to the believers in Philippi:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.

Philippians 3:17 ESV. 

Just think, Paul’s life was so controlled by the Spirit of God that he could safely encourage the believers in the churches to imitate himself, further telling them that they should only follow those who live by the example that he set for them. 

In urging prayer for the leaders in the church, the writer of the book of Hebrews says:

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 ESV

Look at the life that the leader is living; look at the witness, at their honesty, at their integrity, at their fidelity to the Word of God.  Look at the entirety of their way of life and then, and only then, imitate their faith.

G. K. Beale said:

Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world.  As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values.

G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), p. 175.

Some questions to ruminate upon:

  • Are you imitating someone who is guiding and uplifting you in your Christian pilgrimage through this world?
  • Are they deserving of your imitation, and if so, are you praying that they remain strong in their faith and witness to you and to others? Are you encouraging them in their walk with the Lord?
  • What would happen if someone were to imitate you? Would they grow in their understanding of the Christian walk?
  • Can you say, like Paul, “join in imitating me”? If you cannot say this, what do you need to do to realign your life with Scripture so that you can be the witness that deserves to be imitated by those less mature in the faith?

Father, we know that children learn and imitate us even when we are unaware that they are doing so.  I pray that I would be someone whose life would lead children and adults alike into a life with the Lord Jesus and that I would be a consistent witness for Him.

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE HEAT?

I came out onto our porch the other day and noticed the candles that had been removed from the dining room table.  I knew it was warm on the porch, with the summer heat way and all, but I did not expect to see what I saw! 

Candles on porch

One was standing tall, as it had done for many weeks earlier, and the other, well it was bent over, so far that its wick was facing the tabletop.

What would cause the difference in the reaction to the heat on the porch?  One seemed to fold under the heat while the seemed to be untouched by it.

I am not a scientist (as my high school science teachers would readily confirm) but I suspect that one was exposed to more light from the outside while the other had more access to the cooler air from the house.  But, my purpose is not to discuss the scientific melting point of wax candles; rather it is to consider why one Christian can be so unnerved by difficulties while another seems to glide through problems without any apparent negative reaction to them.  

In the twentieth chapter of the second book of Chronicles, we read about Jahaziel’s encouragement to Israel before a battle:

And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’”

2 Chronicles 20:14-15 ESV.  (I encourage you to read the whole chapter.)

Moses told the same thing to the people of Israel:

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. – Exodus 14:13 ESV

candle standing tallDid you see that?  When we are facing the heat from others because of our stand for the Lord, because of our faith in Christ Jesus, because of our unwavering belief in the truth of the Holy Bible, the Lord says that the battle is His, not ours.  This does not mean that we can ignore the fight, and it is not a guarantee that we will have an easy time of it.  Rather, it means that we will not do battle alone.  He will be with us in the fight; He will strengthen us for the battle; He will encourage us; and we can be assured that the outcome is in His control.  We are to trust and not be afraid.  Stand up straight for Him, even when the heat seems unbearable.

Paul in the letter to the Ephesians says:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:12-13 ESV. 

After this exhortation, Paul identifies the armor that God has provided to us in His grace:  the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:13-17.

The Christian who can stand tall in the heat of the cosmic battle between God and Satan is the one who relies on the Word of God, who has his armor on, and who trusts God that we are to stand firm in our faith, no matter what.

Candle folded overJesus, in the parable about the soils, describes this person who cannot withstand the heat:

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

Luke 8:13 ESV

The person who tries to fight the battle in his own strength is the one who, when the heat intensifies, succumbs and folds, the light of his witness is gone and he is incapable of doing what he was created to do.

Stand in the strength of God Almighty.  He is totally sovereign and His purposes will prevail.  Our God is the Creator of the universe and He holds all things, including each and every one of His children, in His hands.  This is the God who is telling you to stand firm.  Obey Him — be strong, and just watch and see what God will do for you today.

Father, forgive me when I have been overcome by the heat of struggle and when I have failed to rely on Your strength.  Give me the grace to trust You as difficulties come and enable me to stand tall, with my witness shining bright even through darkness and testing.  Grant me Your power through the indwelling Holy Spirit, through Christ my Lord.

 

SIGNS AND DIRECTIONS

 When we were in England, we saw several “roundabouts” which delineated the proper route to take at, what we in the United States would call, an intersection.

Road signs in England with two roundabouts
Road sign in England showing connected Roundabouts.

It is important to follow the signs, and this one was one of the more clear-cut signs that we encountered. 

Society sets out these signs to dictate to us how to travel, how to negotiate from one place to another, how to get us where we want to go via the safest route available. 

It is clear that the land planners have concluded that it is appropriate for the proper flow of traffic that vehicles on the highway move in one direction on that part of the road, the vehicles exiting where appropriate to continue with their trip.  While some people may find it offensive to have their direction of travel dictated by “the government”, there can be no real opposition to the concept that the direction of travel at that spot on the highway must conform to the roundabout’s directive or there will be serious mishaps with property damage and potential loss of life. 

Steven Wright, the erudite American scientist and humorist described travel in this way:

“When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.”

While this is certainly true on the highway, his statement could also be speaking of a wider application, such as a consideration of whether your positions and opinions are in the mainstream or in opposition to society.

In thinking about the Christian life, I would submit that Mr. Wright’s comment is spot on.  If we are following the crowd, if we are following the dictates of the culture, if we are joining in with society’s standards, values and positions, everything might be coming our way, but we are in the wrong lane – we are not on the road to righteousness, and we are not on the path of a life with Christ that leads to eternal life. 

Rather than following the crowd, the Christian would do well to remember what God says in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In other words, as Christians we must not presuppose that our culture’s standards, ethics, values and morals are those of the Almighty God.  He is above our finite world and His ways are very different than ours. 

Mark Twain expressed this thought:

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority it’s time to pause and reflect.”

Jesus talked about the majority position and its popularity when He said:

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

Matthew 7:13-14.

The fact that our ways are not those of God is highlighted by Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus provides a glimpse into what God blesses, and illustrates that God’s ways are counter-cultural to be sure.  Here are just a few of the Beatitudes as found in Matthew 5, and I am using the Amplified Bible for this quotation:

Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever] [Luke 6:20-23]. 

Blessed [forgiven, refreshed by God’s grace] are those who mourn [over their sins and repent], for they shall be comforted [when the burden of sin is lifted]. [Isaiah 61:2]    

Blessed [inwardly peaceful, spiritually secure, worthy of respect] are the meek (or humble, gentle) [the kind-hearted, the sweet-spirited, the self-controlled], for they shall inherit the earth. [Psalm 37:11] 

Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they shall be [completely] satisfied.

Matthew 5:3-6.

So, what direction are you going?  What path are you following? 

Be counter—cultural.  Follow Jesus.  Take the roundabout that leads to the narrow path, and you will be blessed.  Jesus said it, so you can believe it.

Father, help me to follow You as I live in this world.  May my walk reflect Your ways even if that means it runs totally counter to society’s mandate.  May I have the strength and will to follow You, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

ARE YOU WILLING TO BE A PICKLE FOR OUR LORD?

I have been learning about canning, most of which has been done since I retired from my law practice.  It has been great fun to prepare food, process it and then enjoy it later on down the road.  I don’t have shelves and shelves of “canned food” but I am enjoying getting into the swing of home preserving food by canning.

However, I really had no idea how much work and thought went into the preparation and preservation of food, and my poor husband had no idea how many times I would hand him a spoonful of something and ask for a taste test!

I have been doing jams, apple butter, relishes, etc., but I ventured into something new last week, I prepared pickles.  I read up on several recipes that sounded good and selected “Pickled Yellow Squash” and “Sweet and Spicy Zucchini Pickles”.  Both recipes had rave reviews and they were not the ordinary cuke dill pickles that neither of us favored.

When we tasted the finished product, I was glad that I decided to make them.

Pickles
The summer squash was sliced in the round while the zucchini was sliced in ribbons, to lay flat on sandwiches.

I found it interesting that both of the squashes were of mild flavor on their own but then, after being subjected to vinegar, spices and sugar, their taste exploded.  However, they were not ready to be preserved at that point – we had to subject them to heat, both by boiling them in the vinegar solution and then by placing them in hot jars and putting the sealed jars in a water bath canner for the specified processing time.

What began as soft-flavored veggies that would spoil within days turned into pickles that were both tangy and sweet and which offered a great-tasting condiment that would last for a year (unless eaten first, of course!).   While we don’t personally care for dill/sour pickles, even those are the result of the mild-flavored cucumber going through the pickling process, with the resulting explosion of flavor and crunch!

As Christians, we will have times of testing, times when we may feel that we are in the crucible with a boiling tempest swirling around us, and sometimes it even involves people or circumstances that produce a pungent odor to our senses.  We should not be surprised when these difficulties or challenges come.

Testing and trials are guaranteed if we are children of God.  In the Old Testament, we know that God used such trial to humble His people and to test them.  See, for example, Deuteronomy 8:12 where we read:

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble youtesting you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

 In Luke 8:13 we find Jesus’ parable of the soils and He describes the seed that falls on the rocky soil as follows:

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

Then we find this incredible, counter-cultural, admonition in the Book of James:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness

James 1:2-3

The Christian life is not one of ease and one that is free of hardship or persecution.  Rather, we are to meet difficulties with joy because we know that the process we are experiencing is working toward our transformation into having the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,

2 Corinthians 2:14-15

So, be a pickle for our Lord.  Expect the pickling process to be difficult, to be hot, to be smelly and sometimes downright unpleasant, but know also that you are being transformed into a fragrant aroma for our Lord, and your preservation will continue throughout this life and into all eternity. 

Father, thank You for your Word and for the promise that You are with us during testing and trials, during difficulties and persecution, and that nothing will be done that is outside Your control, and further that nothing will operate in any way other than for our good through Your providence and Your will.