FAMILIES

I am an only child.  Therefore, my family is quite small … my Father, Mother and me and my dog Tippy.  (The picture was taken before we obtained Tippy!)   While I have several cousins, we probably couldn’t fill up a large SUV! 

We have some friends in our church who have 10 grandchildren, all in one family.  The eldest granddaughter recently married a man who also was from a family of 10 children, and they are already expecting their first child.  I simply cannot comprehend that large a family!

Families are complex entities, subject at any moment to be loving and forgiving and then turning on a dime to be condemning and hateful.  Since I don’t have any siblings, I can’t emphasize with those who have struggles with their siblings.  I certainly know that such difficulties exist, however.

One thing I do understand — the church family.  The people my parents worshipped with at the time I was born prayed for me, as I weighed only 3 pounds 10 ounces, not a survivable weight in the 1940s.  But my Father called the church and they prayed for both me and my Mother.

I contracted polio and required experimental back surgery when I was 9, a surgery that required being in a body cast for a year.  The church family surrounded me with love, prayers and well-wishes, their helping gestures were too numerous for me to comprehend.

Years later, when I was a single parent attending law school, a different church family came to my rescue on numerous occasions as they took care of my young children, brought food, and prayed for me, among other things.

Now my children have children of their own and my husband and I enjoy the marvels of a loving family as we gather to celebrate various occasions, such as my husband’s birthday yesterday. 

But our nuclear family is not the only family the Christian has — the obligation to participate in the church family’s health and safety looms large as we remember Jesus’s admonition to care for each other.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 13:34

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:34-36

The Apostle Paul, writing in the book of Romans, said this about our love for each other:

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Romans 12:10

In John’s first epistle, he reiterated the place that love should have in our lives.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 

1 John 4:7

The church family – it is much like our earthly families.  There are those we love to get together with and there are some we would more than likely shy away from.   Some folks are easy to get along with and others are more difficult.  Then there are those who are beset with dementia, and other mental disorders, and they often are unaware of the difficulties that they create on a daily basis.

But, we are called to love and care for them. 

Why? 

Because we are just as unlovely as the other folks in the church family.

Why?

Because God loves us and gave His Son for us. 

Why? 

Jesus commanded us to love each other.

Showing kindness and mercy is hard when we are pressed about with other things that call for our attention.  Showing love is hard when the person to whom it is extended does not want it or will not remember it moments later.   But that is exactly what Jesus commands that we do.  Further, it is what He did when He died on the cross for us.  He gave us love when we did not deserve it and when we didn’t even know it existed. 

Praise His holy name for all the wondrous works that He has blessed us with on a moment-by-moment basis!

Even if your family is not exactly as you would have wanted, love them.  Show Christ’s love to them.   And extend that same love to those who are in your church family.  We are called to do so.  Don’t ignore a command of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Follow Him and He will give you the grace and patience, the wisdom and courage to undertake the task, even if it is difficult.  After all, He promises that He will be with you all the way!

Lord, there are often times when I don’t think I can do it.  Help me to remember that my family and my church family both need my care and concern for them.  They may need food and clothing, a ride to the doctor or an appointment for a haircut.  Help me to be sensitive to their needs as we go through the days waiting for Your return.

Joy in difficult times

Have you ever done something simply because it felt good?
During the cold months, we have an example of this everyday with our little Snickers, a miniature pincher (although I think there was a chihuahua mixed in there somewhere). We have coats for both Snickers and Cuddles and they wear them outside, and sometimes inside, when the temperature dips.

Cuddles likes the coat but when she comes inside, she immediately runs to a chair and walks back and forth until she opens the Velcro fastener. Then she tries to get it off with the result that she often has an “off the shoulder” look as she seeks our help in relieving her of the cumbersome coat.

Snickers does not object to the coat like her sister … she tolerates it without complaint, walking around the house with it on until the time when we realize that she doesn’t need it on, and we take it off of her.

Then, her actions become the humorous event of the evening! In short, she drags her back legs along the floor, then flips onto her back and twists for a while, then she does a circle crawl … always the same thing and always prompting a chuckle from us.

So, what makes you happy so that you do your own version of the happy dance?

During this year as we have experienced COVID-19, there has not been much to make us happy … lockdowns, illnesses, deaths, shortages of food and supplies, and the list goes on. Birthdays not celebrated, deaths not memorialized, anniversaries celebrated in front of the television … promises of future good things, of course, but we are still in the here and now.

Praise the Lord that God is in the here and now with us. He understands the pain of illness and ultimate loss. Remember Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb as described in John 11:1-45. He understands the sorrow when a child is ill as described in Mark 5:22 when Jairus came to plead on his daughter’s behalf. He understands when we are tempted; Matthew 4:1 records when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Hebrews 2:18 says that because Jesus was tempted, he is able to help us when we are tempted.

Beloved, even in these difficult times that are lasting longer than we ever expected, there is reason to be joyful. The Lord is with us, comforting and encouraging us. We are not alone during these difficult days. Be joyful. Psalms exhorts us to be joyful on numerous occasions … see Psalm 95:1 for an example. Proverbs 17:22 says that a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Be joyful. Consider Snickers and her joy at being out of her coat. Now that is something that might bring a smile to your face, even in difficult times.

Lord, enable us to find joy even in hard times. Give us grace to be joyful and grant that we would praise You at all times, even when things are hard!

EVIDENCE FOR EARLY CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION, S.J. THOMASON

There is actually a substantial amount of historical evidence available that confirms that life was not easy for the early Christians. I ran across this article authored by SJ Thomason that summarizes some of that evidence. I am going to copy a paragraph from it and then provide the direct link to the article. Her article also includes facts on Christianity as a religion, the historicity of the Bible, archaeology and some rebuttals to skeptics.  Quite an informative article. It is well-written and presents an excellent summary of Christ’s ministry, His life and the lives of the early Christians as they suffered horrific persecution. Hope you enjoy Ms Thomason’s article as much as I did.
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Life was not easy for early Christians. In the New Testament, numerous reports by authors such as Luke and Paul document early Christian persecution. Acts 7: 54-60 documents the stoning of Stephen, while Acts 12:2 documents the way Herod Agrippa put James, the brother of John, to death by the sword. Paul was also stoned, beaten, jailed, which he documented in his New Testament books. His beheading by Nero was documented by Origen, Tertullian, and Dionysius of Corinth (Habermas & Licona, 2004). The martyrdom of Jesus’ half- brother James was documented by Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria (Habermas & Licona, 2004). Peter was crucified upside down, as confirmed by Eusebius, the first church historian, in his book “Ecclesiastical History” and also by Dionysius of Corinth, Tertullian, and Origen.

To read the rest of this excellent article, please click on the direct like below:
https://christian-apologist.com/2019/07/23/nothing-is-impossible-with-god-the-triumph-of-christianity/

Blessings to you as you walk with Christ through perilous times.

Father, Thank You for granting us the ability to see that the early Church was, indeed, under such suffering and hardship that it is difficult for us to comprehend. Let us not forget that that same suffering is still going on today in many parts of our world. Lord, protect Your Church. You have promised that the “gates of hell” shall not overcome Your Church. Please comfort and strengthen those who are enduring persecution even now. Strengthen each one of Your Children so that we may be witnesses to the lost world around us, witnesses of Your love and compassion, of Your life and ministry, of Your resurrection and future return to claim Your Church.

LOST IN SPLENDOR

LOST IN SPLENDOR

Have you ever …

Gotten lost in …

The splendor of nature?

Bryce Canyon in Utah was one such place for us.  It was beautiful and the hoo-dos were intricately made from rain, wind and ice.  They were not carved by water!  We stood at the canyon rim and we were breathless in its beauty and expanse.

Another place that took our breath away was Yellowstone National Park in Montana. 

The stunning terrain …

The smoking pits with water way past the boiling point …

Geysers like the White Dome geyser that spewed hot water high into the air …  

And Old Faithful geyser that is so predictable its eruption can be timed to the minute.

We live in a chaotic world where people have a difficult time getting along, where people murder and maim those who hold philosophies different than theirs, and where wars and rumors of war disrupt life for millions of people on a daily basis.

But, when we look at nature, we see God’s magnificent handiwork and His power, even in this fallen and sinful world. 

David said this about God’s creation in the Psalms:

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

Psalm 8:1

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.

Psalm 90:11

The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.

Psalm 97:6

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

Psalm 103:11

Paul, in the letter to the Romans, says this about God:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

Beloved, look around and see the glory of God.  It is evident in the beauty of nature.  God’s glory is shown in His creative work, even today.  The beauty of flowers and trees, of birds and animals, the beauty of a newborn baby.  Yes, sin has entered the world and it is not the glorious creation God intended, but evidence of God’s power and nature still exist, even in this fallen world.

Take time to open your eyes and behold the beauty of God’s creation.  Then, praise Him for His wondrous works to the children of men.

If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your savior, seek out a Christian who can tell you about the Lord and help you come to saving faith in the Savior who gave His life for His people.  Then you will be able to rejoice and view the world in a new light, an everlasting light through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer.

Father, thank You for the glorious creation You provided for us.  I pray that whose who don’t know You would seek out someone who could guide them in their walk with Jesus.  I ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Doggie Nose Smudges

If you follow The Ruminant Scribe regularly, you are probably tired of hearing about our two miniature pinschers, Cuddles and Snickers.  Their antics are legendary, well, not legendary but to us they are terribly funny! 

At times other than during the Christmas season, we have a sofa that is in the living room under the picture window.  The “girls” love to sit on the top of the sofa and look out the window, scanning the street for anyone who would dare walk in front of the house.  Indeed, one of the things we love is coming up the drive and into the carport while we see their faces watching for us from the back of the sofa. Of course, they are barking little dogs.  Thus, they sit on their perch and bark like banshees when someone walks along the road, only to be quiet when the person is out of their view.  

While we are eating in the dining room, we have this view of them!  It is humorous because they are always in the same relative position.  Cuddles on the left and Snickers on the right.

The last couple of days, however, we have had rain and extreme fog.  So much so that we could not even see the house across the street, and the canine banter was severely hampered (praise the Lord)!  They still watched outside but they couldn’t see anything!

This morning, however, the girls were, again, sitting on the sofa while we were having breakfast and the sun was shining outside.  All at once I saw it.

!!!! Doggie Nose Smudges !!!!

Their nose marks were all across the front window.  As long as the fog and clouds were around, I did not notice them.  But when the sun hit the window, the smudges were clearly in view.

That started me thinking. 

When we are not walking in the Lord’s will, when we have intentionally failed to help others, when we ignored the cries of the widow, or when we have stubbornly refused to share our funds with those less fortunate than we, we are tempted to think that God is not paying attention.  Or, perhaps we think that God does not see what we are doing.  Or, perhaps we think we are immune to such actions because we pay our money to the church!

But, when the light of His Word shines in our heart’s window, we see clearly and it is not a pretty picture.  We see the ugly, sinful smudges we have made on the window of our heart, and we need to repent and confess our sin. 

Jesus said:

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.

Matthew 22:37-39

Do we do this?  Do we honor God and love Him with all our heart, mind and soul?  Do we love our neighbor as ourselves?  What would our life look like if we obeyed these two commandments?

Regarding the ten Commandments, do we follow them?  I dare say that most of us have not committed adultery or murdered anyone.  But what about worshipping anything other than God?  Have we made money, fame, family, status, profession, … more important than God?  Have we become our own idol, putting ourselves in the place of God?  All these idols can supplant the place appropriately reserved for God, the Father Almighty.

Or consider coveting.  That is not a term that is in high use and demand these days, and probably for an amazingly simple reason – it is not something we want to be condemned for.  We lust after other people, we crave attention, we covet the possessions others have that we do not.  Coveting is something that is so common in our society that we don’t recognize it, but it is pervasive and it is sin.

What about the Sabbath day?   I remember when the blue laws prohibited the sale of anything on Sunday; not so now. Everything can be sold on Sunday. Or what about taking the name of the Lord in vain? I remember when there were certain words that were banned from music and television, not so now.  Anything goes, even to the point where many of us blush and change channels because of the language, sex and violence portrayed.

Does the Christian have to follow these “old” laws?  I answer that question with a question – Does the character of God change from age to age? 

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:20

For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

Psalm 90:4

 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8

Perhaps we need to refocus and remember that the Old Testament is the basis for the New Testament.  We may be in the post-resurrection period of time, but what God detests in the Old Testament He still detests today.  His character does not change. 

I hasten to add that we are in the season of grace because of the salvation we have been given through Christ’s death on the cross.  Forgiveness for sins is available to us in a way that the Old Testament folks could not imagine.  But, sin is still sin and we must confess it and repent.

Jesus said:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27

Be guided by the Good Shepherd and follow Him all your days.  Confess where we have gone astray, ask for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, and redirect your attention to what God says in both the Testaments of the Bible. 

Ask God to cleanse the smudges from your heart and rejoice again in the clear, clean joy of God’s salvation. 

Father, I pray that You would forgive me when I have disobeyed Your commands.  Increase my love for You Lord and guide me all my days.

Daniel’s prayer for wisdom

In reading our way through the Bible, we have come to the Book of Daniel.  It has always been a favorite of mine; the stories are so full of the details of Daniel’s life as an exile from the Holy Land while he lived in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar.  Scripture tells that Daniel and his three friends were elevated to positions of authority after God gave them learning and skill in literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding of visions and dreams.  Indeed, after their year of preparation, the king questioned them in every matter of wisdom and understanding, and the king found them “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.” Daniel 1:20. 

Nebuchadnezzar II reigned as king over the Babyloian Empire from 605-562 B.C. This picture is from the Christian Courier, Article entitled “Nebuchadnezzar and Archaeology” by Wayne Jackson 2020.

In the next chapter we find the king asking that the wise men of the kingdom interpret a dream that he had.  In fact, the “king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams.”  Daniel 2:2.   The king became incensed because none of the wise men could state the dream, let alone its interpretation, and it was a troubling dream indeed.  At this point, the king ordered that all the wise men be destroyed! Daniel 2:12.

Since Daniel and his friends were considered to be wise men, although they were not consulted by the king about this dream or interpretation, the king’s captain came to take Daniel away.  Daniel asked what the problem was and the captain explained the situation.  Then Daniel went to the king and asked that the king would appoint him a time so that he could provide the king’s interpretation and the wise men would be spared.

Daniel went to his home and told his three friends about the problem, and the four of them entreated wisdom from the Lord.  The mystery was revealed by God to Daniel in a vision in the night.

Ultimately, Daniel went in before the king who asked: “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”  Notably, Daniel did not say that he could do this.  Rather, Daniel said:

“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.” 

Daniel 2:26-28

After Daniel detailed the dream and then gave the interpretation, the king had his response: 

“Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 

Daniel 2:47

In response to God’s revelation to Daniel, the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts; and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 

For the purpose of this blog, however, the point of the story is not so much that Daniel interpreted the dream and then was promoted and all the foreign wise men were saved from certain death.  Rather, it was what Daniel prayed after receiving the mystery from God, before going back before the king with the interpretation.

Unlike something that I would do, Daniel did not run to his friends and shout “I know the secret”.  “We will be saved because of what I tell the king.”  Or perhaps “I am so glad that God told me what the king wants to know.  I bet this will bring on a nice promotion, and maybe even some perks!

No, after receiving the answer, this is what Daniel said:  

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.  He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding, for He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.  To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.

Daniel 2:20-23

How often do we thank God for answers to prayer? 

When we pray, do we expect God to answer?  When He gives us an answer, are we surprised?

Do we recognize God is the source of wisdom or have we bought into the culture’s line that we can answer our questions by ourself, without any “outside” intervention? 

Do we really believe that God will hear and answer our prayers? 

Daniel did.  He and his 3 friends prayed for wisdom so that he could answer the king’s demand and so that they would not be destroyed along with all the other wise men of the kingdom.  There was no doubt in Daniel’s mind – God would answer his prayer and grant him the wisdom to know both the king’s dream and its interpretation. 

Indeed, even the wise men said that no one except the gods could do what the king was asking.  But their gods did not respond; how could they?  They were stone, iron, bronze, wood.  They were work of craftsmen who made the idols and then bowed down to them.  

Daniel’s God, however, is not made of wood or stone.  He is the Creator of all things.  He is the Almighty God, the One who is omniscient, who knows all things; He is omnipresent, everywhere at the same time; He is omnipotent, all powerful.  There is absolutely nothing that He cannot do if He desires to do it. 

Beloved, God is the same today as He was in Daniel’s day and as He will be at the end of time.  God does not change; He is Holy and He is eternal.  And there is an additional benefit to praying to God in our day – our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is sitting at the right hand of God and He is interceding for us on our behalf.  We have an advocate, and He is our Lord. 

What does that mean to you?  It means that you can pray to God with full faith and confidence that He will hear your prayer and will answer you according to His will for you.  Our Lord and Savior is sitting with God and the Holy Spirit will guide you as you pray.  You have the entire Trinity at your disposal when you pray!

Be like Daniel and ascribe to God the praise that should go to Him.  Or give thanks and praise to Him beforeyou get the answer.  What a blessing you will receive when you do that!

Father, forgive me when I have considered prayer to You as a burden, or something that I just didn’t want to do.  Forgive me when I have prayed without any expectation that You would answer.  Forgive me when I pray for things that are transitory or temporal.  May I pray in recognition of my own frailty, sin and unworthiness as I approach Your presence, knowing that I can approach Your throne with confidence through faith in my Lord Jesus Christ.

Job and Revelation

We have been reading the book of Job along with Revelation as we complete our reading of the Bible in one year.

In Job 19, we read the beautiful words of Job, spoken while he was writhing in pain with boils all over his body, after his children were all killed and his fortunes destroyed overnight.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.   And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

Job 19:25-27

What absolute confidence Job exhibited!  After all the hardship that came to him at the hand of Satan, Job still was confident that he would see God because his Redeemer lives. 

In these days of unrest, of uncertainty, of confusion and of fear, we too can have the confidence of Job.  We, too, know that our Redeemer lives.  We celebrate Christmas as the birth of our Redeemer in a manger in Bethlehem.  But that child did not remain a little baby.  He grew into a man who showed us the face of God, the personality of God, the love of God and the compassion of God.  He lived a sinless life that we could not possibly live and He died the death that our sin required.  Because of His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead, we are saved from the wrath of God because of our sin.  When we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, come to Christ and cling to Him as our Redeemer through faith in Him, we can truly say that we “know that our Redeemer lives”. 

The book of Revelation is full of prophesy and description of wondrous and terrifying events that will occur at the end of time.  It is certainly a difficult book to read and understand and there is much disagreement about what the various images portend, but the power, glory and holiness of God is written throughout its text.  In chapter 15 we read these words: 

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Revelation 15:3-4

The resurrection of Jesus Christ put an end to the supremacy of death for those who believe, through faith, in Jesus as their Redeemer.  No longer is death the end; physical death occurs because we are mortal and our bodies succumb to various illnesses.  During the worldwide pandemic, death from COVID 19 has occurred all too frequently. Great and amazing are the works of our God.

But, praise the Lord physical death is not the end for the Christian.  No, as Job said we will see the Lord in our physical bodies.  The resurrection of the Lord gave proof to Job’s statement – many people saw the resurrected Jesus. 

Beloved, don’t let the activities of this world torment you.  If you believe in Jesus as your Redeemer, Savior, and if you have faith that He is the Son of God, you will see Job in Heaven and you, too, can say I know that my Redeemer lives!

Here is Amanda Powell with the APOLLO’S FIRE | The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra singing “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah. Let the beauty of Job’s words comfort your heart and soul as you remember that Jesus is alive today and that He is interceding for you before God.  Praise His holy name!

Father, thank You for the Bible and for the wonderful words of the ancient book of Job.  Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Redeemer and for raising Him from the dead as the guarantee that we, too, will see Him in our flesh.  Father, You are the Almighty God and we give You praise and thanks for Your wondrous works.

BALANCED ROCK

When we were out west, we saw several rocks that were named “Balanced Rock”.

There is Balanced Rock in the Garden of the Gods, Denver, Colorado.

There is Balanced Rock in Estes Park, Colorado, a very different rock than in the Garden of the Gods.

Then there is Balanced Rock in Arches National Park, outside of Moab, Utah.

This is a close-up of the rock holding Balanced Rock up … fairly tenuous except for the fact that it is all rock!

While not exactly a balanced rock, I found this rock formation interesting – a boot or shoe perhaps for a giant!  This also was in Canyonlands National Park, also outside Moab, Utah.

Then there is the Balanced Rock in the Colorado National Monument. Balanced Rock Colorado National Monument

There are a myriad of incredible rock formations around the Balanced Rock in the National Monument. 

In Southern Idaho there is Balanced Rock which is stunning as it sits atop a ledge, looking somewhat like a question mark in the sky!

Each one of these “rocks” was named Balanced Rock.  And, indeed, they were perched up on top of other rocks as if they were balanced.  Of course, we know that time, water, erosion have all played a part in sculpting the rocks so that it appears they are balanced on top of the pile.  And it may well be that, in a few centuries, these rocks will tumble down into a pile of rubble.  Then, there will be some other rock that will be “balanced,” I suspect.

As we begin the year 2021, I thought we should consider balance and its source.

We can undertake numerous activities in 2021 and still not be balanced.  We can do all sorts of wondrous things, see all sorts of sights, and encounter many people who will enrich our lives with their presence, their stories and their witness.  But will we be balanced?

What gives us our balance?

I suggest that it is not the pile of rocks on which we rely – fame, riches, family, even church activities.  I suggest that we achieve balance in the way that David said:

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Psalm 95:1

As Moses was approaching his death and as he commissioned Joshua to take his place as leader of the Israelite people, he said this about God:

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.   May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb.  For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God!  The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”

Deuteronomy 32:1-4

In 2 Samuel, David utters his last words to the people he ruled for so long:

Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel:  “The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me; his word is on my tongue.  The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God,  he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

2 Samuel 23:1-4

Isaiah provides a warning to us – the Israelites had forgotten God and there would be resulting hardship and punishment:

For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain.

Isaiah 17:10-11

Jesus used the rock as illustration in one of His parables:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”

Matthew 7:24-25

Beloved, Jesus is the Rock of our salvation.  It is He who lived a sinless life but died on the cross for our sins.  It is He who suffered the penalty that was due for us to endure.  It is He who was resurrected from the dead after three days, and it is He who lives today in Heaven where He intercedes on behalf of His people, those who believe in Him through faith.

In Psalm 94, David says this of God:

But the LORD has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge.

Psalm 94:22

I pray that you would make it your prayer for 2021 that you would lodge in the stronghold of the Lord.  That God would be the rock in which you take refuge. 

Don’t become unbalanced.  Read the Bible, study the Word of God.  Pray to the Lord and give Him your allegiance. 

The Rock on which you stand is not unbalanced, it is secure and will hold you through all kinds of difficulties.  The Rock on which you take refuge is the Almighty God, who is your heavenly Father and who loves you through His Son, our Savior and Redeemer.

Father, I thank You for sending Your Son to be our Savior and Redeemer.  I praise Your Name for quickening my heart and for placing me in the Rock so that I have no fear with You as my stronghold.   

Bless the Lord O my soul!

When we speak of God, often we seem to think of Him as the “good guy in heaven” but we don’t seem to think about who it is that we worship.  Oh yes, we call upon Him when there is trouble or when something doesn’t go our way, but we don’t recognize His hand in the blessings that we receive.

It is rather like the children at Christmas time.  We know their lists of toys that they just have to have this year, primarily because the advertisements tell us that they want these things.  When one or two of the “must have” toys are presented, after a perfunctory “oh yes!”, they settle back into the whining that comes from materialism. 

When we receive blessings from God, too often we think that we, somehow, are responsible for the receipt of those blessings.  Our financial status gives us our home and food.  Our educational status provides the work that brings riches to our account.  We take credit and forget that God is the Person who is responsible for all good things that come to us.

David knew this, and he expressed the goodness of God like this in Psalm 103:

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,  who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,  who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psaalm 103:1-5

I dare say that on an average, normal day, we don’t think about God forgiving our iniquity or redeeming our life from the pit.  I expect we do seek healing from Him if the need arises, but the rest is nowhere near the radar of our life.  It should be!  Forgiveness, healing, redemption, steadfast love and mercy … these things are worth so much more than presents around the tree.  These are the things that count eternally.  Oh that we would have an eternal perspective on our life, not a temporal one.

David continues:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

Psalm 103:11-13

God is shown by David as a loving Father, a Father who shows compassion to His children.  A Father who has steadfast love for His children and who removes our transgressions, not because we are worthy of such action and not because we could do anything to remove them by our own actions, but because of His Son’s sacrifice on our behalf.

Again, David continues:

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,  to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

Psalm 103:17-18

Steadfast love – do we really know what that looks like?  In our culture, where divorce is so incredibly easy to obtain, simply by saying there are “irreconcilable differences”, where is steadfast love exhibited?  It is not on any of the television programs that I have seen.  It is not paraded in social media.

Steadfast love is shown by God to His children.  It is from everlasting to everlasting.  It is not transient or illusory.  It is not here today and gone tomorrow. It will not be extinguished because of something that we do. It is steady, like a rock, it is not going to go away simply because life got a bit messy and illness interfered with our plans.

Look around.  Bill and I have been married 34 years.  A number of couples in our church have been married in excess of 60 years and some are well into the upper 70-year range.  As long and meritorious as that is, it is just a tiny little amount when viewed from an eternal perspective.

David continues:

Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!  Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psalm 103:20-22

I believe that we would be included in the last group mentioned – all His works in all places of His dominion. 

Beloved, don’t relegate God, the Creator, the Sustainer, the Author of our salvation, and the Lover of your soul to the top shelf of the closet.  Don’t neglect Him this year.  God, through His Word, the Bible, is calling you to bless the Lord. 

Blessing God and declaring His wondrous works toward us is something that should come naturally to the Christian.  We have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who took our place on the cross so that we could be with Him in heaven, forever.  Praising God should be something that we do with heartfelt gratitude for God’s mercy and love to us. 

Beloved, praise the Lord.  You will receive a blessing when you do, and you will want to continue to do it all day long!   Say it with David:

Bless the LORD O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

Psalm 103:1

Father, forgive me when I have been too caught up on events and situations in my own life and I fail to Bless You as You deserve.  Forgive me when I attribute good things to actions that I have taken rather than recognizing that those things have come because of Your providence toward me.  Forgive me when I respond to illness with griping and complaining, rather than blessing Your name even for illness, knowing that Your will for me will prevail. Enable me to remember David’s pronouncement:  “Bless the LORD O my soul!”