TIME – WHO CAN COMPREHEND IT?

My husband and I had occasion to talk about time the other day.  Specifically, we were speaking about how it seems like something that happened one year ago seems as though it happened yesterday and, at the same time, seems as though it happened many years ago.  We know the date of the occurrence, and we know the current date, but time seems to both telescope into the distant past as well as coming down to the microscope of yesterday.

I suspect you have had those same feelings.

Dover cliffs
The white cliffs at Dover, England.

When we were in England about 8 years ago, we saw the white cliffs at Dover, England, something that my Dad talked about seeing during the war.  They were beautiful, and it was an experience that I treasured having.  It seems that it was yesterday when we were walking on that path; but it also seems as though we were there at least 20 years ago because of the multitude of experiences that we have had since then.

How can our concept of time be so fluid when, in fact, time is one of the most measured and constant things we have in our world.  Every year has 365 days in it (except for leap year, then it is 366), every day has 24 hours in it, every hour has 60 minutes.  We know this … yet sometimes it seems the days go by slowly and other times it seems the time flies past us.

We know from the account of creation that God created all things, including the establishment of time for our universe. 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”

Genesis 1:1-5

That is how we still speak of time – the morning and the evening is one day. 

Although God created time, God is not bound by it.  Indeed, God is eternal.  Not only will God exist undiminished everlastingly into the future, but He has existed identically throughout the infinite past.

God told Moses His Name in Exodus 3:14:  “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  No beginning and no end.  God IS.   

Jesus, as one part of the Trinity, is God and is, like the Father, eternal, with no beginning and no end.  In Hebrews 13:8 we read:  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

But that is not all that speaks to us about time.  Scripture also says this:

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

2 Peter 3:8

We are finite creatures, not like the infinite eternal God.  But I wonder if God gives us a taste of what is like when we seem to have the same event in the recent past as well as in the long past.  It would seem that this might be the case given Peters words in his second epistle. 

There is much that I don’t know.  But, I do know this – God is my powerful, infinite, personal, awesome God, and He is far beyond the limits of time.  He knows the past and He knows the future, both for the universe in a cosmic sense and yet for me personally, even though I am no more than a humble creature that is less than a miniscule dot on the planet.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. 

Father, I thank You for the gift of life, the gift of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit.  You know the future that has been planned for me, and I am secure and confident in Your hands.

WHO DO YOU IMITATE?

Although he lived long before anyone reading this post was born, Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) rendered a quotation that many of us know today.  He was an English cleric who was also a writer and collector.  His book, including collections of comments and short essays were wildly popular in their day.  One of his most famous quotes which is still in use today is: “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery”.

Imitation.  Children imitate their parents/caregivers all the time.  We were taking care of a young girl while her mother took some night classes at a nearby school.  She was looking at a Golden Book that we had in the house when she began “reading” to us, as her nursery school teacher would do.  She held the book in her hands and looked at the pages, then turned the book facing us and said “Blah, blah, blah, I don’t want to hear about it!”  After saying this, she turned the page and looked at the next two pages, again flipping the book to face us and repeat the same sing-song-phrase. 

Clearly, this young girl was not actually “reading” the printed word, but she was repeating what she regularly heard at home, complete with the intonation that comes from frustration or anger.  Imitation. 

Even if we are adults, don’t think that our days of imitation are over.  We still imitate others. 

When we were in England a number of years ago, we went to Abbey Road in London.  Since some in our family were alive when the Beatles walked across that road, we had to do so as well.  This is our impression of the Beatles’ classic album cover.

Abbey road

It was a great deal of fun to imitate that walk, although it did not bring us any fame, just some honks by irritated drivers!

On a much more serious note, imitation can take on eternal consequences.  For example, we are to imitate the good that other Christians do in their lives.

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

3 John 1:11

Most of all, we are to imitate the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.  After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them to imitate His actions.

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:15

He also said:

“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

Eternal consequences, you may ask?  What if I don’t want to imitate Jesus?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15

“If you … [then] you…”  The opposite of this, of course, is that if we do not keep His commandments, then we do not actually love Him even if our lips try to say otherwise.

The writer of Hebrews said that we are to imitate the faith of our leaders who faithfully brought the Word of God to us.

“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

Paul put it this way:

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16

Two questions, thus, come to mind.

  1. Are you obeying Christ’s commandments? Do you love others and serve them in His name?  If not, why not?  Do you really know Jesus Christ as your Savior or are you playing Christian, rather like playing a part in a play? 
  2. Is your life, your witness, your love for the Lord such that you could say the same thing that Paul said? “I urge you to imitate me.”  Is your way of life revealing the strength of faith you have in Jesus Christ?  If not, why not?  If so, can others find Jesus Christ by imitating you?

Imitation.  So easy that a child can do it.  So hard that many will run from its demands.  So much a blessing that it provides grace and abundant living in the here and now, as well as forever more.

Father, I pray that I would be a witness for Your Son, Jesus Christ and that Your Spirit would strengthen me as I seek to imitate Him and His love for others.  Enable me to live so that others can imitate me and grow stronger in their faith and in their devotion to my 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.

NOW THAT I HAVE HELD HIM.

We know the Christmas story; we see it reenacted in the children’s Christmas pageant every year.  Mary and Joseph travel from their home to Bethlehem where there is no room in any inn and Mary’s baby, the Son of God, is born in a manger.

Angels in Epiphany Pageant
The angels brought the news to the shepherds.

The angels announced the Baby’s birth to the shepherds in the fields.  Then the shepherds went to where the Babe was and they saw Him.  Their response was to tell everyone what they had heard and seen. 

Shepherds in pageant

While the magi usually are included in the children’s Christmas pageant, because children love to dress up like kings, Scripture does not support seeing them at the manger.  They came to see the King some time later, but that time discrepancy is alright for our pageant purposes.

When the pageant is over, we praise God that the “story” is true and that our Savior was, indeed, born of a virgin and that He came to save His people from their sin.

But there is another event that occurred when Jesus was just a baby that we seldom read or hear about during the Christmas celebration.  In short, it is about Simeon and Anna who recognized Jesus as The Christ, the Savior, the Messiah.  Luke’s description of Simeon’s response to the Babe is found in Luke 2:

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’”

Luke 2:25-32

Simeon was waiting.  He was watching.  He was ready to see the Savior.  He was told that he would not die until he saw the Lord’s Christ, and he was waiting. 

Jesus promised that He would come again and receive His people to Himself.  He was born as a baby for the specific purpose of dying on the cross as our atoning sacrifice.  He was raised from the dead and now is in heaven where He intercedes to God the Father on behalf of His people.

Are we waiting?  Are we watching?  Are we ready for Jesus’ return?  It is a promise as securely written in the book of the Father as the news was for Simeon that he would see the Savior before he died. 

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

Numbers 23:19

Simeon understood – the prophesy said that there would be a Savior and he believed and waited.  Are we waiting?

While it is not a traditional Christmas carol that we sing every year, here is Michael Card singing Simeon’s song “Now That I Have Held Him In My Arms”.   It is a beautiful rendition of the song and I suggest that it will speak to your heart as you prepare for the celebration of the Advent of our Lord.

Here are the lyrics if you want to read them as you listen to the song.

That old man in the temple
Waiting in the court
Waiting for the answer to a promise
And all at once he sees them
In the morning sunshine
A couple come and carry in a baby

Now that I’ve held Him in my arms
My life can come to an end
Let Your servant now depart in peace
Cause I’ve seen Your salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel

Mary and the baby come
And in her hand five shekels
The price to redeem her baby boy
The baby softly cooing
Nestled in her arms
Simeon takes the boy and starts to sing

Now that I’ve held Him in my arms 
My life can come to an end 
Let Your servant now depart in peace 
‘Cause I’ve seen Your salvation 
He’s the Light of the Gentiles 
And the glory of His people, Israel

Now’s the time to take Him in your arms
Your life will never come to an end
He’s the only way that you’ll find peace
He’ll give you salvation cause
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel

Father, thank You for people who are skilled in writing and performing music and movies so that we can ponder and meditate on Your Word.   Your Word is alive and speaks to us, and I pray that I will take time to meditate on it daily, even when all the Christmas activities close in on me – enable me to make YOU the priority this season, and all year long.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU.

We hear that cry everywhere we go.  “Merry Christmas to you!? At least we hear it unless the speaker doesn’t want to acknowledge Christmas in which case it is “Happy Holidays”.  That seems to cover the waterfront of celebrations at this time of year. 

Then we also hear the phrase “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”.  We see it on greeting cards, plaques, china, even coffee mugs at Cracker Barrel. 

I certainly agree that Jesus came to earth as a baby born to a Virgin, although whether it was December 25 is somewhat in doubt.  I am glad that the phrase at least indicates that we are celebrating Christmas because our Savior came, and if it encourages people to think about our Lord’s birth then I am glad for it.

But is He really the reason for the season?  In a blog post by Jill McIlreavy on her website Mustard Seed Blog entitled “Jesus is NOT the Reason for the Season” she argues that the phrase is theologically wrong – WE are the reason for the season.  [You can find her blog at https://mustardseedblogs.com and I encourage you to read her post that gives her thoughts about this phrase.]

You see, Jesus did not leave His home in heaven because He wanted to visit our planet, or because He wanted to take a “road trip” or because He wanted to see how the “other half” lived! 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8

He left glory to come to this earth in humiliation: born of woman, in a cattle shed, with no clothing other than rags.  The manger became a king-sized bed as it was where the King of Kings was laid.

king-size-bed
The manger that provided a place to sleep for our Savior was, on that day, a bed for the King.

Think about it – the One who was coexistent with God the Father from all eternity, even before the world was created and before His plan for mankind was put in place, the Creator of the world and everything in it had absolutely nothing upon His birth.  The One who could call legions of angels to do His bidding had nothing but a mother and stepfather as the Babe was surrounded by farm animals.

Why would He do such a thing?  Why would He suffer such indignities as these?  He was despised by those in power from the moment He arrived.  Then after three years of declaring His message, He was rejected by the very people He came to save.  He was betrayed and belittled; He was mocked and beaten; He was crucified.  He voluntarily died a death so horrible that only one of His followers remained with Him.  Why would He do that?

Because God loved YOU and ME.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17

He came so that WE could come to God in repentance and humility, so that WE could hear the Holy Spirit tugging at our hearts and pointing us to Him, so that WE could receive forgiveness of our sins. He knew what awaited Him on earth … He willingly went through agony because of God’s love for us!

He came because of us  – WE are the reason for the season.

Father,  I thank You and praise Your holy name for sending Your Son from heaven and for His obedience in coming to this planet to live a sinless life that we could not live and for dying a death that we deserved but which He did not, all so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have a life here and forevermore with Him in heaven. 

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.

 

WHERE IS YOUR SECURITY – IN MONEY OR IN GOD?

In every home there must be time set aside to handle the financial matters of the family. It might be weekly, monthly … whatever fits for the individual situation. While there are at times not many “finances” to manage, there always seems to be an unending supply of bills to pay. 

No matter what our station in life may be, we must deal with money because we use it to pay for the goods and services our lives depend upon. 

But, what is it that we really rely upon for security in our life? 

Jesus spoke about money on many occasions.  For example, in Matthew 6:24, Jesus said:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Paul gave additional admonition regarding money to the young pastor Timothy when he admonished:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

1 Timothy 6:10 ESV

We must be careful not to let money become our master, to prevent money from taking the place in our heart that rightfully belongs to God.  God is deserving of our love and adoration, and He alone is the One to whom we should be devoted.

When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to testify of His words in nearby villages, He told them to take only a staff, implicitly telling them that God would provide that which they needed along this trip.  This occasion is recorded in  the book of Mark, chapter 6.

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in their belts–but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.”

Mark 6:7-9 ESV

The result of their journey is reported in verses 12 and 13 of this chapter:

So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”

No report is made that they lacked what they needed.  Rather, God supplied their needs and they were able to do Jesus’ work throughout the land. 

Remember that Scripture says that God has unlimited resources with which to help His people.  God said:

“For every beast of the forest [is] mine, [and] the cattle upon a thousand hills.”

Psalm 50:10 KJV

Cows grazing in pasture along highway in Virginia cropped
Cows seen grazing in field along a Virginia highway.

Recall, also, that God sent manna to the Israelite people in the wilderness when there was no grocery in which to buy bread.  He sent quail for meat when nothing but desert surrounded them.  God has His ways to provide for His children.

The writer of the book of Hebrews admonishes:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.“”

Hebrews 13:5 ESV

It is not sinful to plan and work toward a strong financial position for your family.  Money itself is not evil.  But, we must remember that God gives us everything, even the health and wisdom to work, and the talents to be used in our life work.  Indeed, He has even given us the gift of life itself.  All things are from Him. 

With this in mind, we are to be content with what God has given us.  Even when we are in desperate financial straits, God has promised that He is with us and His children would not be forsaken.   This is the definition of true security.

Father, forgive me when I have let my sense of security come from the bank account or pension plan; forgive me when money has become my security blanket.  I pray that I would rely on You alone for my security, as You alone are capable and dependable, and You alone love me with an everlasting love, through Your Son and my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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.

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM? – Part One

At some point in each person’s life, the issue of who we believe Jesus Christ to be will be of paramount importance.  It is as true in 2017 as it was at the time Jesus was on earth. 

Cemetery monument to Watchfield village soldiers who died in WW I
Cemetery monument to village soldiers of Watchfield, England, who died in World War I

The issue was brought front and center during His ministry when Jesus directly asked it of His disciples:

“And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” And they told him, ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’  And he asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ.’”

Mark 8:27-29 ESV

Keep in mind, Jesus is God – so He already knew what the general population said about His identity, and He knew what the disciples thought as well.  But, He wanted to give them the opportunity to think about it and to develop their answer to the question because it would shape their ministry in the future.

Peter’s response “You are the Christ” is the most affirming and exact statement of Jesus’ identity that Peter could possibly have given.  Jesus was, indeed, the Messiah then, and He still is.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the pastor at Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England, addressed the issue of who Jesus is on January 7th, 1872 when he delivered a sermon entitled “The Glorious Master and the Swooning Disciple.”  His sermon began with the following words:

Low thoughts of the Lord Jesus Christ are exceedingly mischievous to believers. If you sink your estimate of Him you shift everything else in the same proportion.  

He who thinks lightly of the Savior thinks so much the less of the evil of sin; and, consequently, he becomes callous as to the past, careless as to the present, and venturesome as to the future. He thinks little of the punishment due to sin, because he has small notions of the atonement made for sin. Christian activity for right is also abated; as well as holy horror of wrong.  

He who thinks lightly of the Lord Jesus renders to Him but small service; he does not estimate the Redeemer’s love at a rate high enough to stir his soul to ardor; if he does not count the blood wherewith he was redeemed an unholy thing, yet he thinks it a small matter, not at all sufficient to claim from him life-long service. Gratitude is weak when favors are undervalued. He serves little who loves little, and he loves little who has no sense of having been greatly beloved.  

The man who thinks lightly of Christ also has but poor comfort as to his own security.  With a little Savior I am still in danger, but if He be the mighty God, able to save unto the uttermost, then am I safe in His protecting hand, and my consolations are rich and abounding. In these, and a thousand other ways, an unworthy estimate of our Lord will prove most solemnly injurious. The Lord deliver us from this evil.

In short, if you have low esteem for the Lord, your concept of sin will be minimal, the extent of your service will be lessened, and your security in salvation will be diminished.   

So, if Jesus were standing before you, how would YOU answer the question:

“Who do YOU say that I am?”

 

Father, I praise Your holy name as I consider the mighty work that You did in sending Your Son to be my Savior and Lord.  I pray that Your Word will be fruitful in our world today, as it was so many years ago.