Watching and Shading

Sunday_Psalm 121_5_Watchful Shade

What a comfort to know the Lord is watching over us at all times, providing everything we need!
 
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The Eraser

1 John 3_17_18_The Eraser

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18)

It’s a pretty straightforward equation really.  The love of God in us = loving action toward those in need.  However, the amount of need in the world is so great we may not know where to start.  Or knowing we’ll never eliminate all the need, it’s tempting to not even try.  After all, Jesus Himself said the poor would always be with us (Mark 14:7).

As I read John’s words above a new thought hit me.  What if caring for the poor is not about erasing all the poverty in the world, but erasing all the greed within us?  What typically prevents me from helping others is not being unaware of their needs, or the knowledge that poverty will continue despite my efforts.  No, what keeps me from helping others is my selfishness – plain and simple.

Selfishness strangles generosity, and generosity is necessary to demonstrate God’s love.  So why not choose one project geared toward meeting the real needs of others and invest yourself in that cause?  You won’t wipe out all poverty around you, but you just might wipe out all greed within you.  And the love of Christ will shine through you like never before! –Dave

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The Fall and The Call

Genesis 3_9_The Fall and The Call

Genesis 3 tells the story commonly known as “The Fall of man.”  Most of us learned it as very young children.  For Eve, the story involves being visited and deceived by the devil.  Satan craftily twisted the words of God and tricked Eve into eating the only fruit which God had forbidden (vv. 1-6).

Adam however walked into the mess with his eyes wide open.  He saw what was going on and fully understood that God had said “no” to what Eve handed him to eat (1 Timothy 2:14).  So the devil tricked Eve as to where God’s line was, but Adam saw the line and chose to step over it anyway!  In the end, both were wrong, and both felt shame which caused them to cover themselves and hide from God.

Like I said, we’re familiar with the account.  But do you realize what happened afterwards?  No sooner had Adam and Eve strategically positioned those fig leaves then we read:

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

Do you see it?  IMMEDIATELY after man’s fall came God’s call!  They had no sooner begun hiding than God began seeking.  God’s plan of seeking and saving lost, broken, fallen mankind began in the Garden, and continues today.  God could have snuffed Adam and Eve out and started over – but He didn’t.  Where sin first entered the picture, grace was on the scene as well.  Their lives would become different and more difficult as a result of their sin, but God made a way for life to continue.

Friends, God’s call to sinful men continues.  Have you answered Him?  Or are you still hiding?  –Dave

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Search and Rescue

Ezekiel 34_4_Search and Rescue Mission

You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. (Ezekiel 34:4)

God intended it as a reprimand for the leaders of Israel who had failed to fulfill their duties.  Yet it indirectly gives us a broad overview of what God expects of His church and those within it.

Time won’t allow us to look at each role in depth, but this single verse highlights many of the things which constitute a healthy, God-approved church.  In short, a church should be a source of strength and healing for its members.  By definition then, a church has to be a place where the weak, sick, and injured (spiritually, emotionally, or physically) are welcomed.  The church is NOT only for those who have already become strong and healthy – it’s equally for those in need of strength and healing!

Secondly, a healthy, well-balanced congregation is one that also has its eyes on those who have either strayed from the faith, or never found faith in the first place.  Does that mean every church is to be evangelical?  I believe it does.  In fact, according to God’s Word, “evangelical church” and “evangelical Christian” are completely redundant phrases.  Every member of every church should be on their own private search and rescue mission.

Searching for the lost and strengthening the found.  That’s God’s expectation for His church.  Are you fulfilling it?  Are you in need of it? –Dave

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A Helper

Genesis 2_18_A Helper

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

It’s a truth I’d somehow missed, and it could revolutionize many homes.  From childhood we learned that Eve was created to be a “helper suitable” for Adam (Genesis 2:18).  However, misunderstanding “helper” can wreak havoc.  Sadly, some have used this verse to suggest that women are in some way inferior or subservient to men.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth!

First, it should be noted that out of ALL God’s creation, the only thing He said was “not good” was that Adam was alone.  It was the man who originally needed a helpmate, not woman!  But more importantly, we need to understand what “helper” actually means.  The Hebrew word (ezer) means “a help” or “helper.”  But that doesn’t add anything to our understanding does it?

However the way this word is used outside the Adam/Eve creation story brings incredible insight.  Ezer is used 19 additional times in the Old Testament.  In 16 of those, it describes Almighty God as the Helper!  (The other three describe the assistance of a military force).

These helpers were mighty and powerful!  They were not servants of the ones being helped, but rescuers and providers.  Likewise, woman is not man’s servant or a genie at his beckon call.  She is the unique compliment God knew men needed.  Devoted.  Reliable.  Sensitive.  Caring.  Nurturing.  But not less valuable, and not subservient.

About the creation of woman, Matthew Henry once stated:  “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam.  Not from his head to top him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him.  But out of his side to be equal with him; under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.”

Lord, thank you that in your perfect wisdom, You created them; male and female – exactly as You knew each needed.  May we always treat one another accordingly!

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Covenant or Contract?

Genesis 2_24_Covenant or Contract

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

When a minister performs a wedding, he’ll frequently refer to the couple entering into “the covenant of marriage.”  Yet many people treat marriage more like a contract than a covenant.

At its heart, a covenant is based upon a promise.  In marriage, the husband promises to “hold fast” to his wife, forsaking all others in doing so.  In return, the wife makes the same promise.  “Hold fast” comes from a Hebrew word which means “to cling, cleave, or keep close.”  It was used to describe the way skin clung to bone, the way a tongue sticks to the roof of a mouth due to thirst, or the way a fish’s scales interlocked with one another.  That’s man’s covenant to his wife, and her covenant to him.

A contract, on the other hand, is much different than a covenant.  In a contract, both parties agree to many terms.  Instead of promise language, a contract is filled with terms of performance.  As long as one party performs according to the terms of the agreement, the other party reciprocates.  It’s payment for services rendered; but that payment stops the moment the service falls below the set standards.

Sadly, far too many marriages quickly fall from covenants to contracts, from promises to performance.  And when the performance is perceived to fall below the expectation, one party soon becomes unhappy and looks for a way out.  The initial “contract” will be broken and a new one entered into in hopes of better service.

Take some time today and evaluate your marriage.  Is it more of a contract or a covenant?  Any changes you need to make? –Dave

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Laugh or Cry

Proverb 17_22_It's Laugh or Cry

“Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.”  (Dr. Suess)

As a small child I remember driving away from my grandparent’s home in Colorado Springs.  As we pulled away, Dad’s mom would stand on the front steps wave goodbye, and wipe a tear from her eye.

I never understood that as a boy, but I get it now.  The Colorado grandparents were the ones we didn’t see very frequently, making our visits cherished treasures for them.  So when the time came to pack up and head out, it was very bittersweet.

If my timing is right, most of you will read this sometime during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season.  Hopefully, most of you will enjoy extended visits with friends, family, and loved ones during this time.  However those gatherings end, giving way to our usual routines.  For some, those goodbyes are just downright painful.

So what do we do when the gatherings become only memories?  Suess’ words above provide the two obvious choices.  We can focus on our sadness that the events are now over.  Or we can smile that the gatherings occurred at all!

Paul reminds us of the same choice when he says, “…if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).  What we choose to focus on will either cheer us up or weigh us down.  As Proverbs reminds us, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (17:22).

A cheerful heart or a crushed spirit. Tears or a smile.  It all depends what we choose to focus upon.  Choose wisely – and smile! –Dave

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