In An Instant

I have both a relatively strong work ethic and moral conscience and I feel it can lead me to trying to do things to save myself.   To feel the more I do for God, the more God will love me which secures my salvation.  I know this is faulty theology, but admittedly I do wrongly ascribe to this at times if I am honest.

The following passage, Isaiah 30: 15, is in the context of a rebuke, but I found peace in this when I came across it today:

“This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: In repentance and rest is your salvation in quietness and trust is your strength”

Thank you Lord!  My reaction to this was peace, rest and reassurance.  But then I turned to frustration because of my lack of being able to fully escape my “works” mentality.

Then the Lord again blessed me with words which unbridled his endless peace, grace, and love to me with these words in versus 19-22:

             People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”

God’s word is alive and active and personal.  In reading this passage, the realities of my sinfulness were exposed in the “bread of adversity”. Then I found peace in his “rest”.  But this resulted in guilt for my original sinfulness which birthed frustration with myself.  Then the Lord gave me peace again in versus 19-22.  All this in an instant.

I just wanted to thank and praise God for his personal nature.  For knowing me and the human experience so well and continually bringing us back to him.  His patience and love is so amazing and endless.  His word so real and relevant. 

You Go to God on His Terms Not Yours

A captivating testimony is told in 2 Kings 5 about “Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. It is obvious we are talking about a man who was held in the highest stature and esteemed by his countrymen all the way up to the King.  Naaman was a very forceful, powerful man, but he had an enormous problem.  Along the way, he had contracted leprosy, a slow, painful disease that disfigured and rotted your body.  It was gross and without cure. 

A young, captured woman from Israel who was responsible to personally serve Naaman’s wife relayed a message to him about a man of God in Samaria who could heal him.  He had no other resolution in sight and was willing to try anything.  So, with great pomp and notoriety carrying great riches for the man who could cure his disease, Naaman headed to Samaria to meet Elisha, the Prophet of the Hebrew God.  Even the King of Israel heard that he was coming into his country and was terrified. 

At the end of his long, hot journey, Naaman was not received at all as he expected, and man was he angry!  Elisha, described in scripture simply as “the man of God”, did not even welcome him personally.  “Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.’ 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’”  Naaman, full of pride, described his expectations and refused to be humiliated by bathing in this dirty, small, out of the way Jordan River when there were much larger, mightier rivers back home.  He turned to go back home.

Then, some gutsy “servants went to him and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!’”  Servants exhorted this proud, arrogant leader to get off his “high horse”, humble himself and do what the prophet said, “Wash and be cleansed.” 

“So, Naaman went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.”  Not only was he healed, he remarkably had skin like a young boy!

“Naaman and all his attendants went back to (Elisha). He stood before him and said, Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.’ The prophet answered, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.’ And even though Naaman urged him, he refused. ‘If you will not,’ said Naaman, ‘please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.’

Naaman, the man of highest human stature, had to learn what all of us have had to learn.  You don’t go to our God in pride and human accomplishments.  This means nothing to our God.  We have all learned that we must “Humble ourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift us up(1 Peter 5:6).  “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24).

You go to God on His terms not yours!

Daily Newscast or God’s Word

Many of us sit daily for hours in front of our televisions spellbound with our emotions set on full alert watching our national news feed.  The primary driver of these newscasts are ratings and we are daily taken on a journey from one riveting catastrophe to another.  In 8th century BC, the prophet Isaiah admonishes so accurately that you would think that he was editorializing a newscast this very morning, “Do not call conspiracy  everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread. He will be a holy place.”  (Isaiah 8:12-14)He challenges us to get off the daily treadmill of fear and dread that dominates our current world globally and fear God alone.  “He is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread. He will be a holy place.”  

Psalm 118:6-8 challenges and instructs us, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.”  The almighty Lord is with us so do not be afraid.  Why fear men?  Then, the Psalmist wisely and powerfully instructs us, “take refuge in the Lord (rather) than to trust in humans.”  

The word “refuge” is a strong, encouraging, securing word.  Synonyms are shelter, protection, safety, sanctuary, security, safe house, safe harbor.  Rather than burying yourself under the cares of the world, learn to trust in the Lord and allow Him to envelope you with his love, grace, mercy, strength, and might.  The following verses will help you take refuge in God:

  • 1 John 4:4, “The one in us is greater than the one in the world”
  • John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
  • Proverbs 3:5&6, “Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Do not allow yourself to get caught up with the fear of man or the trepidation in this world.  Take comfort and refuge in our God not being consumed by daily newscasts nor the fear of man.“Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts(1 Peter 3:14&15).  Fear God not man.

Toenails ooo

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I recently had to go to a podiatrist for a follow-up to get some new inserts for my shoes. As I sat there waiting for the Doc to come in, I notice the picture above on the wall. Now … I am NOT a foot guy! My time as a medic in the Air Force cured me of that when I had to run the “blister clinic” for the college ROTC students who were visiting our base. But, as I looked at the drawings of the various conditions, injuries, etc., I noticed that some of them depicted the toenail! I thought about, other than picking your nose or scratching a mosquito bite, what is the toenail (or fingernail) there for? God made us and everything about us for a purpose! Psalm 139:13 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” The very next verse (14) tells us, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.”.

A quick search on the internet for the use of fingernails and you can see a lot of answers from an evolutionary standpoint. These include scratching, picking things up and one that says we don’t need toenails at all anymore!!! Going back to the picture though, one thing I noticed is how small the point or end of the bone is on each of the toes and the nail is positioned directly over that fragile part of each digit! I have dropped things on or stubbed my toes a lot in my 50+ years and can’t imagine what damage would have been done if that little piece of keratin, which is the same protein that makes up your skin, hair, and fingernails, were not at the end of my toes!!!

God says in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Toenails and all!!! I guess when I really get down to it and past all of the silliness of it all … it comes down for me to … if God made them that way, they are there for a reason and we still need them. In Luke 12:7 says that even “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Brother, God loves you! He loves you enough to have knitted you in your mother’s womb, to know the number of hairs you have and to give you toenails! Don’t take anything he has blessed you with for granted! Seek Him in all your ways! And praise and glorify his name in all the earth!!!

I’m a “Mind My Own Business” Christian

“As Jesus was on his way (to heal the daughter of a synagogue ruler), the crowds almost crushed him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.  Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”   

What an amazing story told in Luke 8:42-49!  Jesus was being crushed on all sides by a crowd.  He was trying His best to maneuver through a mob heading towards his destination to heal the daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leader.  He was being pressed upon when one sick, very weak woman “touched” Him.  Everyone else was pushing and shoving to see the show of this man healing people. They wanted a “front row” seat so that they could broadcast to others and brag about their experience. However, there was one humble woman who had been sick for 12 years and had spent all of her money on medicinal help without success.  She was financially bankrupt desperately needing help and “came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.”  This lady alone in the crowd realized this man was God, her potential savior and by faith was healed.  Jesus immediately stopped the crowd until He located her.  She sheepishly confessed that she was the one who had “touched” Him.  Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” 

The story to Jesus was not the crowd but this one woman.  She had softly, personally “touched” Him.  Now, it was important for her to profess that to Him.  She wanted to leave unnoticed but to Jesus it was important for her to confess her saving faith to Him even in the midst of this madness in front of others.  He created a private moment for her to tell Him what she had done and was saved.

This is the same for all of us.  In the middle of our hectic world, Jesus wants each of us daily to slow down and confess who He is privately and publicly.  He does not want us to hide in the crowd and privately go about our own world.  He desires and demands us to confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9&10).

As you surmise from above, there is no such thing as “a mind ‘my own business’ Christian.”  If you are a Christ-follower, you have been bought with the price of His own blood to confess your allegiance to Him daily and wherever you are to confess the gospel to others in the name of Jesus.  Maybe your confession will draw others to “touch” Jesus.

To Gaze Upon His Beauty

Paintings and our mental depictions of God vary.  At times he looks like Moses coming off the mountain giving us giving us rules to live by.  At times he is portrayed as the soft daddy cuddling his arms around us as his children loving and forgiving us.  Maybe we see him as a wise prophet, “the man upstairs” orchestrating events around the world. 

I remember the first time I drove into the Yosemite Valley.  I parked my car, got out and just stared.  It was so grand, majestic, and beautiful I could not comprehend it, I could not absorb it.  That night the sky was an absolute black background filled with countless stars.  You could actually see a dense line that made up the Milky Way Galaxy.  It was absolutely immense and beautiful.  My mind could not comprehend what my eyes were taking in.

Psalm 27:4 reads:

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

In the 8th verse it says: “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” 

I have no idea what it will be like to seek the face of God, to “gaze on the beauty of the Lord.” Can you imagine seeing God’s face?  Or gazing upon his beauty?  I don’t think our finite minds can even get close to this.

No matter what our views of the God are, how we see him, one feature to not miss is his beauty.  We can’t limit him to our human definitions or perceptions.  One theologian aptly said: “we can’t comprehend God, we can only apprehend him”.  His beauty and face will be something to gaze at for an eternity.  I suppose it will take that long to come close to absorbing it!

“We’ve Been Through a Lot Together”

When asked “Do you have any close friends and why are they close?”, you often hear the following descriptions.  “We have been through a lot together”, or “I can tell them anything.”  We have only a small number of close friends who are treasured. 

I look at the desire of God and see that He wants to be close to us.  Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) states, Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” God continues to knock at the door of our hearts desiring to be welcomed with the purpose of getting to know each other intimately. 

John 15:7 is a very intimate verse, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  Synonyms of the word “abide” are dwell, stay, hang out, and live.  If you invite our Lord into your heart and abide with Him, you get to know and understand Him and what He is saying.  Once you grasp His words, you can “ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”  Why? Because, you honor His words which are the desire of His heart.

During tough times, you wonder why James states in 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”  Here is the reason why.  During life’s trials, you have needs that force you to cry out to God.  To get through the trials, you learn new things about Jesus, walking with Him, understanding His Word, and with His power, you work through and out of your problems.  Never forget the one constant with friends, “We have been through a lot together.”  It is the same regarding our relationship with Jesus.

Jesus actually calls us friends.  Good friends talk about everything.  Look at John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”  He has told us everything.

Now, it’s our turn. He’s constantly knocking with the desire to be welcomed.  It’s awesome to enjoy God not only as Lord but as a friend.

Are You the 1 or Among the 9?

The current COVID-19 pandemic gives us a sensitivity to an intensely painful disease often contracted during the times of Christ.  Leprosy is a lethal, excruciating disease with no cure. This horrible illness begins with blotches on the skin, which turn to lumps, eventually growing so large that the person is disfigured beyond recognition.  During the latter stages, the fingers and toes literally fall off.  Ultimately, the person’s life ends in a coma and death…ugly, painful stuff! 

These sufferers were quarantined in leper colonies and forbidden by law to approach others no closer than 50 yards.  They were considered unclean by the Jews and had to shout “unclean” if approached by someone.  Psychologically, the victims felt ashamed and defiled by their society. 

With the above background in mind, let’s look at Luke 17: 11-19, 11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Even though they were socially defiled and ashamed, 10 lepers recognized Jesus shouting for Him to have mercy on them.  These men most assuredly had heard about Jesus and His healing capabilities.  He was their one chance to get healed!  Don’t you know that they were screaming at the top of their lungs?!  Jesus saw and told them, “Go show yourselves to the priests” who officially verified once someone had healed of leprosy.  Even though the lepers had yet to be healed, they headed toward the nearest synagogue expecting to be declared whole and healed by the priests.  A really cool statement was made as they followed the directions of Jesus, “And as they went, they were cleansed.”  They took steps of faith which led to wholeness.  I wonder how many of us would be healed of our spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical infirmities if we simply took steps of faith as directed by Jesus.

Then, the plot thickens in this story.  Only 1 of the 10 goes back to Jesus and, of all the possibilities, is a Samaritan, an outcast to the Jews.  He “comes back, praising God in a loud voice. He throws himself at Jesus’ feet and thanks him. Jesus then asks where the other 9 are who are now healed.  I can tell you where.  They have excitedly hurried home choosing not to take the time to go see Jesus confessing their thanksgiving and praise. Jesus tells the Samaritan, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”  Jesus is not only talking about physical health but spiritual, eternal wholeness. 

Only 1 of the 10 has a thankful heart. How about you, are you like the 1 who remembers Jesus or among the 9 who don’t?  1 Thessalonians 5:18 directs us to give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 

Empty Calories … Empty Words

Yesterday, rickevatt who devotes himself to this blog several times each week, referenced some verses in Matthew 12 and verse 36 really caught my attention. It says,  But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” I truly do not know how many times or in how many interpretations of the Bible I have read that in, but for some reason it really resonated with me yesterday. God is good that way!!!

I have been involved in sports, health, nutrition, etc., for the better part of my life and to be honest (TBH to be hip like the youngsters) … most of the time I have not been successful. When I was in the military, I worked for a doctor who was very fit and knowledgeable about this stuff; his wife was an incredible athlete and his sister was a smoke jumper! Someone in the office once offered him a piece of candy or something and I remember like yesterday him saying, “I don’t eat empty calories.” It struck me then and although I have remembered that now for 30+ years, I still struggle not to eat empty calories. Yesterday, all of this was brought back to me with the above verse and I realized how eating empty calories (calories with no nutritional value) is so like speaking empty words … words with no emotional or spiritual value. I was going to go into how calories require heat to deal with them and calories in vs calories out, blah, blah, blah, but I think most are aware of that. But … how many times a day do we consider the empty words we speak! Oh Jesus … if I could go back and not say so many of the hurtful things I have said in my life!!!

So … what are “non-empty words” or words that are full of life??? In a limited search and study, it really seems that most words can be or are empty … without action put with them. In James 1:22, the Word tells us, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

I leave you with some other verses that address this and pray that we can DO what the Lord says and speak only those words that are FULL not empty! Blessings!!!

1 Cor 13:1-3:  If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Ezekiel 33:31:  My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.

1 John 3:18:  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Why Do I Say What I Say?

How often have you said something that you wished never was said?  Man, I would pay hundreds of dollars to have some of my spoken words back. If you are like me, there are a number of relationships that have been impacted and damaged by your words.  I have hurt my wife, my kids, even my sweet grandkids, family, dear friends, and people who would have been friends if not for my hurtful, insensitive words.  Perhaps, you can identify with me.  Have you ever said something that was cruel, unkind, malicious, or offensive?

Jesus made some staggering comments about the origin of words in Matthew 12:34-37, 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” In this biblical passage:

  • It becomes obvious that the condition of my heart determines the goodness of my words.  Verse 34 states, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  Then, verse 35 emphasizes this by stating, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. If I speak acidic, hurtful, insensitive words, it is because my heart needs repair.  Spoken words are an accurate acid test of the condition of my heart.
  • Jesus throws a verbal punch that is flooring in verses 36 and 37, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”  OUCH! Your words are eternally impacting. 

Proverbs 4:23&24 describes what’s required from each of us, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. 24 Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.”  It is essential for each of us to guard our heart.  How do we do that?  Proverbs 4:20-22 tells us how, My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”  Marinate your heart with God’s Word. His Word becomes a healing scalpel that makes you whole.  Once this is done, your words become a blessing to God and others.