THE SNEAKY WAY OF SIN

We all like to do things that we enjoy.  Just watch children playing together with their Playdoh.

Grandchildren at table playing (C)

 Or watch children playing in the sprinkler during the hot summer sun!

playing in sprinkler

When the children get a bit older, what could be more fun than a multi-generational game of backyard football.  No refs and no goalposts, but fun nonetheless!

USED family playing football (C)

None of these things are sinful, in and of themselves.  But sin has an insidious way of breaking into our daily routine even when what we are doing is innocuous.  Indeed, even good things can become sinful if it results in disobedience to that which we know God wants us to do.

The other evening, we had finished supper, cleaned up the dishes, and descended the stairs to the family room where we watched television.  We had been discussing, that very day, about how we needed to rethink our meals and eating habits because we need to lose weight for any number of health-related reasons. 

Following our normal course, at 9:00 we had ice cream bars, low calorie bars so in our minds they are ok to have, especially since we had no dessert for dinner. So far, so good.

But then the program we were watching focused on a family in various humorous, although troubling, life situations.  At the end of their day, the teenaged children came into the kitchen and found the Dad sitting at the table, looking haggard.  He had something in front of him that was not really identifiable for the audience.

The television Dad looked up at the children and said: “want some cheese toast?”

At that the program ended, and at the same moment, my husband and I looked at each other and simultaneously said “Cheese Toast!” 

Within moments we had retrieved the toaster oven from over the freezer and were siding bread onto the rack while the cheese was being unwrapped and made ready for melting.

Cheese toast is certainly not sinful.  But, what struck me most was how quickly our dedication to the proposition that we should lose weight fell by the boards when we heard the words “cheese toast” even though it was 11:15 p.m. 

Not a word was uttered in support of dietary restraint.  We bounded up the stairs as quickly as we could, toting the toaster oven to the kitchen and grabbing the bread and cheese almost in one smooth, coordinated, motion. 

When sin beckons me, do I really run toward it like we ran to cheese toast?  What if Satan puts something else in front of me so as to tempt me to leave the Lord that I love … will I run to it as fast as I did to cheese toast?

Our culture has done a great job of inoculating us from the actions of Satan.  We think of him as a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork, certainly nothing that we would be inclined to follow!  But that is not how Scripture talks of him.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

I have not been in the wilds of Africa to see a lion up close and personal however I  did see a lion in the zoo!  But, when the lion prowls around, I believe that it sneaks up on its prey, saving the roaring for after the kill.

In speaking of the false teachers who were misleading the Corinthian church, Paul says this about Satan:

“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 11:13-15

Of course, Satan’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the Church and all that Christ accomplished through His death on the cross.

“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you–I, Paul, again and again–but Satan hindered us.”

1 Thessalonians 2:17-18

The good news is that Satan is not the victor – He has been defeated by our Lord and Savior Who is more than capable of holding on to us as His people.  Indeed, James put it this way:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

James 4:7

If we resist Satan, he will flee because he understands that the only way we have the power to resist him is through Christ, and our Savior’s power far exceeds that of Satan any day of the week.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

With that benediction I end this post.  Blessings to you, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord.  Take heart – cheese toast does not win the day.  We can meet the adversary and sin has no controlling hold on us anymore.  We are still sinners, yes.  But now, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we don’t have to yield to sin – we can resist it through the poser of our Lord and Savior.

Father, I praise Your Name for the gift of salvation through belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I praise Your Name that I am no longer a slave to sin and that through Christ’s power I can resist Satan and claim life with Christ for eternity.  Thank You Lord.

The Speck and the Log

One of the television shows that I have watched, even in reruns during the many years after initial airing of the episodes, is The Andy Griffith Show.  The characters are memorable and the stories all had strong character-building messages.  If you are not familiar with the characters, Andy was the sheriff of Mayberry, a small fictional town in North Carolina, USA, and Barney was his deputy sheriff.  Barney was a man with a good heart, but he had the ability to routinely put his foot in his mouth, and he often made situations far worse because of his misguided actions and his insistence on strict interpretation of the law. 

In an episode entitled “Citizen’s Arrest”, Barney and Gomer, the town’s gas station attendant, came into conflict over a traffic ticket, notwithstanding the fact that they were best friends.  

Barney wrote Gomer a traffic ticket for making an unauthorized U-turn in downtown Mayberry.  After issuing the citation, Barney returned to the squad car and, immediately, made the same U-turn that earned Gomer a ticket.  Gomer stood in the middle of the street and yelled “citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest” resulting in a crowd surrounding him with Gomer shouting that Barney should receive the same fine as imposed on him. 

To defuse the situation and avoid further harsh words, Andy suggested that Barney simply write himself a ticket, pay the $5 fine and get along with his life.  After much cajoling by Andy, Barney wrote the ticket but then announced that he would not pay the $5 fine. Instead he would take the alternative punishment of 5 days in the jail cell, which happened to be in the same room as the Sheriff’s office.

Barney’s problem was that he could not see his own wrongdoing when he was so focused on Gomer’s infraction.

How often we are in the same situation.  Something is alright for me to do but I will criticize you for doing the same thing.  It is human nature, we want to be better than others; even if it means that we ignore our own errors, which often are the more egregious. 

Jesus told a parable about judging others in Matthew 7:1-5.  The parable is likely one that you have heard before.

Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:1-5

Interestingly, there are various words for what is in the eye of the accuser: specifically, it is called a beam, a plank, a board, and a log.  Whatever translation you may be using, the truth is the same.  Before advising someone of their own misbehavior, the speck, the accuser must take note of and remove the beam/plank/board/log from their own life.

The parable teaches us how to conduct ourselves with reference to our perceived faults of others.  The story was spoken to the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus encountered during His ministry.  But the lesson taught applies to us as well – to those who are rigid and severe, who condemn people around them and who are proud and conceited in justifying their own actions.

Jesus cautions us against judging others.  We are to judge ourselves, our own acts, but we must not judge others.  And, we must not speak evil of others.

“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. “

James 4:11

We must not judge the hearts of others, nor their intentions – that is God’s prerogative. 

“If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.”

Psalm 44:20-21

Only God knows what is in the heart of man.  Remember, the thieves on the cross were suffering the same punishment as our Lord Jesus Christ.  While on the cross, one received Jesus through faith in Him and the other rejected Him.  God knows who His children are, and He knows when any person will be brought into His family.  We do not have such knowledge.

Why follow Jesus command not to judge?  So that we will not be judged.  In other words, if we presume to judge others, we may expect to be ourselves judged. If we are modest and charitable in our censures of others, and decline judging them, and judge ourselves rather, we shall not be judged.  As God will forgive those that forgive their brothers, the merciful shall find mercy.  Our refusal to judge others is an evidence of humility, charity and deference to God and shall be noted and rewarded by God accordingly.  Romans 14:10

Don’t focus on correcting someone over a small fault while you have a big fault that you are ignoring.  Have you ever noticed that it is common for those who are most sinful themselves, and least sensitive to it, to be the most forward and free in judging and censuring others?

For example, read 2 Samuel 12:1-7 and see the story of the prophet of God, Nathan, confronting King David over his sin with Bathsheba.  David “burned with anger” at the man in Nathan’s story who had taken another man’s little lamb.  It was then that Nathan pointed his finger at the King and said: “You are the man!”. 

Jesus said the right way to interact with others is for me to take the beam out of my eye first.  I must repent and correct my sin first and then I can help my brother or sister. 

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Luke 6:37

This is a short part of the episode described above.  To see the entire sequence of events, you can view the longer 5 minute segment of the television show by clicking on the top left box, after this 20 second segment is completed.  Note that viewing the longer segment will take you out of The Ruminant Scribe website.

Father, I pray that I would have the wisdom to see the log in my own eye rather than focusing on the speck in my neighbor’s eye.  Heal me and let me lead a life that is in conformance with the commands of my Lord and Savior, in the Name of Jesus I pray.

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.

 

VISTAS, TIME AND THE NEW YEAR

Mountains – Oceans.  Some people love the ocean more than they do mountains.  I admit that I like to look at the ocean on occasion, but I love mountains!  Specifically, I love my mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina.  What I truly enjoy is getting to an overlook or valley and then marveling at the vista splayed out around me.

smoky-mountains-vista
Great Smoky Mountains – vista from Cades Cove, Tennessee

I hasten to add that I am an equal opportunity mountain lover.  We have been privileged to see a number of mountains in our country, and I have loved every minute of it!

colorado-shelf-road-and-vista
Colorado “shelf road” and mountain vista.

When I stand looking out at the grandeur of the mountains and contemplate the forces that created them, my soul sings to the Creator God, my heavenly Father, in praise and worship.

used-half-dome-c
Yosemite National Park, Half Dome and surrounding vista.

What does this have to do with the new year?  A great deal. 

We are temporal, mortal, and our days are limited.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

Psalm 103:15-16

In fact, the Bible affirmatively states that all we have is this moment, and even it is a gift from God.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, says it like this:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”– yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

James 4:13-16

He advises us that we are not to think that we will be here on this earth forever, rather we are to make plans according to the will of our Father.  So, it is good for us to look back at the vista of 2016 and see how we did on that directive.  Use the beginning of this new year to consider the condition of our relationship with our God so we can more effectively grow in 2017.

  • When were we close to God;
  • When did we do His will;
  • When did we say “I will” when He prompted us to say something to an individual;
  • When did we learn from His Word;
  • When did we testify to others of His great mercy and grace,
  • Now, you add your own points to consider, as each of us will have different things to ponder.

The year 2016 is in the record books.  It is over and there is nothing we can do to change what was said, done, or experienced.  The stuff we planned to do, but didn’t, will not get done in 2016, it is over.  The relationships we intended to nurture, but didn’t, will not be stronger today because of anything we did in 2016, it is over.

dar-library-clock-c
Clock in the DAR Library, Washington, D.C.

As Scripture points out, the only time we have is today.  We don’t even have any guarantee that we will see much of 2017 other than the moment we are in right now.

So, take the time to consider your life.  Renew your dedication to focus on the Lord God Almighty rather than on the temporal things of this world.  Those things that you were going to do in 2016 but then neglected — now is the time to get them accomplished.  

Write the letter, send the card, make the phone call, give the hug, encourage the fainthearted, reach out to those who are hurting.  

Whatever you need to do, do it in the name of our Lord and Savior.  Don’t wait until 2018 — now is the time to do that which our God has asked us to do.

Remember how the Lord blessed and protected you in 2016, how He secured your salvation through Christ our Lord, and how the Holy Spirit worked in your life during the year, and praise Him for it.

Then, as you look ahead to 2017, praise Him for what He is going to do in and through you as you rely on His strength, power, wisdom and love.

The great hymn “How Great Thou Art” details much and can provide a springboard for your praise to our God.  Here is the hymn sung on the Concordia Publishing House album Hymns for all Saints, Adoration, Praise, Comfort.  Daily, let your heart and soul sing out in praise to our gracious heavenly Father. You might even want to add your voice to that song!

 

Father, thank You for being with us throughout our life as You lead and guide Your children in Your will.  Thank You for sending Your Son to be our Redeemer and thank You for providing Your Spirit to indwell and empower us we grow into the likeness of Your Son.  As we look to the new year, may we always remember that You are the only living Almighty God and may we sing praises to You in all that we do.

THERE IS ALWAYS TIME, RIGHT?

We measure time all the time. Here, Bill is using a lawn sun dial which we came across at Blenheim Palace in England. The pointer (human) stands on the right spot for the month and day, and then you extend your arm straight up revealing the time. He was doing this shortly after 1:00 p.m. and the shadow on the ground is just clearing the 1 o’clock dial. That is one way to tell time! No electricity or battery backup needed – of course it must be sunny! [Apparently there was no need to tell time at night! J ]

 

Human sundial at Blenheim Palace (C)
Blenheim Palace lawn sundial — telling time without electricity or batteries!

 

For us, however, we feel that time is of critical importance, whether day or night. We react to events, plans and situations as they come our way, and we constantly run out of time to do all that we have on our calendars or that we want to accomplish. But unless it is our birthday, we rarely think about the amount of time we have already lived ‐‐ or, more to the point, the length of time we have left to live.

 

Just this morning we read in our local newspaper about a 39 year old businessman who died in a skiing accident in Colorado.  I have no idea if this gentleman was  believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  While I don’t know if he was a Christian, I feel certain that he did not know that yesterday would be his last on this earth. He did not know that all the dreams and plans that he was working on would be stopped on a dime when he drew his last breath. He did not know that his life would be cut short, or that he would not celebrate his 40th birthday, or that there was no more time allotted to him, here.

 

Over and over in Scripture, writers tell us of the short life span we humans have, warning us that there is no guarantee of one more second, let alone one more day, week, year, decade! An example of this theme is seen in Psalm 39:4-5 where King David writes:

 

Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. [NIV]

 

This theme is repeated in the New Testament teachings of Jesus in a parable recorded at Luke 12:16-21:

“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” [NIV]

 

This theme is again repeated in James 1:11 where James speaks of the man who goes about his business unaware that his life soon will end:

 

For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.  [NIV]

 

James continues to say in chapter 4:13-14:

 

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” [NIV]

 

 

Big Ben (C)
Big Ben in London — the quintessential example of a powerful clock!

 

Scripture repeatedly warns us not to assume that we will be here tomorrow, in other words,  we are told that our life’s end may come when we least expect it.

 

Our Sovereign God has all this in His power. For this reason, we should focus on seeking the Kingdom of God rather than seeking worldly things. Matthew 6:28-34.

 

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2:

 

“Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he [God] says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” [Quoting Isaiah 49:8] Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” [NIV]

 

I saw a series of television advertisements, most likely by a pharmaceutical company but I don’t recall which one, that say that you will not get an invitation or a bulletin warning that tomorrow you will have a fatal heart attack.   Whether or not you use their medicine, the point is one worth consideration because it has eternal consequences.

 

In our human arrogance we think that there is always time to seek salvation.  I’ll do it later.  There is always time, right?

 

While there are many questions for which I have no answer, I do know the answer to this one. No!

 

One of these days time will run out and there is absolutely no way that you or I know when that day will come. The Apostle Paul was right – act now, while there is still time. Today is the day of salvation!

 

Father, we pray for the family of the young man who died in the skiing accident yesterday.  We pray that he was a believer in Jesus Christ and that our Lord will be near and provide comfort to the grieving family. We also pray for those reading this post, that if they do not know the wondrous love of the Lord Jesus, that they would look to your Word and that your Spirit would touch their hearts so that saving grace would be made real to them this day. And, Father, we pray that you would remind each of us, daily, that our time is limited, and that we should make the most of each day you grant to us for the furtherance of your Kingdom, to your honor, glory and praise.