Symbolic Inner Values Human Man Adorable

Eternal Value

One day, shortly after my wife and I married, I opened the door to my small print shop, looked out on the traffic whizzing by, and prayed something like this: “Father, I need to do something that has eternal value.” I was tired of working hard to make things with immediate value but didn’t seem to have eternal value; the Holy Spirit was calling me to launch out into deeper waters.

Jesus Provides Opportunities

As Christians, we always have feelings tugging at us to stay on the shore and enjoy watching ships sail over the horizon. It’s safe on the shore, and we don’t know what perils those ships will face when we can no longer see them. Our feelings tell us to stay, but our Lord Jesus said, “Go.” (Matthew 28:19)

It has been nearly forty years since I prayed that prayer. I can testify that God answered it. Today, I was reminded of how Jesus provides opportunities that have eternal value for each of His own.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Younger, Stronger, Deeper

Therefore, no matter what you as a believer are challenged by in your physical body or the things of this world, take heart; today, your spirit is being renewed. Your spirit is younger, stronger, and deeper than ever before.

Today, you know more deeply, pray more meaningfully, and walk more closely with Jesus your Lord and your Friend. And the troubles that demand your attention they produce for you “a glory” that will never diminish; they have eternal value.

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Binding Contract Contract Secure Agreement Binding

Beware of a Pernicious Promise

Promises are a powerful tool. They can be used as a form of motivation and they are often seen as an expression of love. However, promises can also be harmful, especially when we make them without thinking about their consequences.

The problem is that we often make promises without thinking about the consequences. We may say “yes” to something because it’s easy or because someone is pressuring us to do it. It’s important that we think carefully about our promises before making them so that we don’t end up regretting them later on.

8 At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!” 9 Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. 10 So John was beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother.

Matthew 14:8–11

Promises Aren’t Forgotten

It is so easy to make a promise. It’s like buying a car with no payments for three months. It’s so much fun until that first payment comes due. All too often, we will make a promise, and then afterward, we forget the promise or find it to be a heavy burden that Jesus never expected to place on us.

Have you ever attended your local church when a missionary spoke? He or she likely asked the congregation to pray for them and God’s work through them. They may have asked for a show of hands from everyone that committed to pray for them. Guess what? God still remembers that promise and still expects us to honor that prayer.

I’m not picking on anyone. Many years ago, a young man in our church had enlisted in the army. For his last Sunday before heading to boot camp, our pastor asked the church to pray for him and then asked for a show of hands for people that would continue to hold this young man up in prayer. I raised my hand; it was the right thing to do.

I prayed for him for several months, and then my promise slipped into my archive, where I keep my prayers for people and their needs. But God didn’t let me off the hook. Even today, the Holy Spirit will prod me to pray for this young (well, middle-aged) man. God never forgets.

Pernicious Promises

When looking back to the Old Testament, we find that God holds us to whatever promise we make. When God was teaching the Israelites in the desert, He said they were never to make a covenant (promise) with false gods or the people who worshipped them. (Exodus 23:32)

Sadly, they trusted their wisdom instead of asking for God’s wisdom. So, the Israelites were tricked into making a vow to a tribe that purposely misled them. It was a pernicious promise because it was harmful in a gradual, subtle way. Still, God required the Israelites to keep that vow. (Joshua 9:3) When the Israelites became angry at the leaders because they chose to honor their vow, here’s what they said:

19 But all the leaders said to all the congregation, “We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we may not touch them.

Joshua 9:19

Be Sure When You Promise

So, you see, God doesn’t let us off the hook if we make a silly promise. Instead, He holds us to it. I once watched my pastor eat lunch on the roof of our church! He promised us that he’d eat his lunch on the roof if we broke the attendance record. We did, so he did.

Be careful when you speak; our tongue can get us in all kinds of trouble!

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a pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

Between My Ears

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you.
 – Deuteronomy 5:13–14

Among other things, the Sabbath rest is God’s way to let families see God’s miracles each week. If we attempt to circumvent the Sabbath, we cheat ourselves. God has promised to “make up the difference” when we observe the Sabbath.

We cheat ourselves because if fail to prepare for the Sabbath and then work that should have been done steals our rest. But any extra work we try to sneak in stops God from His Sabbath miracles. If we’re going to do the work, then there is no reason for God to help. But if we observe the Sabbath, we will discover His miracles given to us to rest.

Six days you shall labor. Your work schedule may not allow Saturday or Sunday to be your Sabbath but pray for wisdom, ask for your Sabbath. God will make a way for you to keep one out of seven days set aside for your rest and to meditate upon the Lord.

During this time of gatherings to celebrate the birth of Jesus, let’s not fail to keep His commands. Keep your Sabbath; it was made for you, not you for it! (Mark 2:27)

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Between My Ears

A pic full of rocks with a question mark painted on one of them

This is where I add notes and thoughts as I study the Bible. Please feel free to comment.

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Matthew 5:33-37

There are two kinds of oaths, one that is a promise and one that makes some kind of assertion – like asserting you didn’t steal your neighbor’s hammer. A covenant is a promissory oath.

“The Old Testament is full of oaths and vows, but an oath and a vow are not the same. An oath imposes an obligation upon the one making the oath. A vow is by definition a conditional promise. That is, IF Jacob returns home safely, IF Israel is victorious over the Canaanites, IF Jephthah defeats the Ammonites, then they will respond with some predetermined action to complete the bargain.

Torah Class

We can easily mistake what Jesus said in Matthew 5:33-37 as a warning to never make an oath, but in this passage, Jesus is warning against idolatry. We know this because the Apostle Paul makes an oath in Romans 1:9: “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you” and Hebrews 6:17 states, “So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath

Oh, God takes an oath very seriously. An oath is irrevocable1. Next time I’ll write about vows.

1 – In the Old Testament, for a man, an oath is irrevocable. There are certain specific conditions when a girl or wife can be released from an oath.

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Tefillin Tallit Judaism Bale Siddur Prayer

Better Promises

who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 3:6

God has blessed us to live by a new covenant (a.k.a. New Testament). An amazing gift within this new covenant is that instead of tying God’s word to our foreheads with Tefillin (Phylacteries, reminders of God’s law), and wearing the kippah (head covering), and wearing the tallit prayer shawl, and the gartel belt (a symbol of “girding one’s loins with strength”) during prayer services, we live by the Spirit of God within us.

Much More Excellent

God gave these reminders to the Jewish Children of God (Hosea 1:10), as a blessing to help His chosen people remember the letter of the Law. From my understanding, it’s okay for Jewish Christians to continue to wear these devices, but they have been replaced by a better covenant:

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.

Hebrews 8:6

And what would be one of those better promises? One is the gift of God living inside us. God living in us is better than reminders of God being worn on us.

He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. John 14:17 NLT

God in Us

And Jesus fulfilled this promise on the day of Pentecost and at the house of Cornelius:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4
* While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. Acts 10:44–45

This is just one of the better promises that the New Testament is built on. So, through this better promise, as we live each day, we remain in continual communication with God – Pray without ceasing. I’d call that Good News.

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Weak Hands and Feeble Knees

Just in case you didn’t get the memo, growing old may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. I used to hold the hymn book for my wife, but no longer. I always knelt for morning prayer, but that’s no longer the norm. Aging brings on weak hands and feeble knees. Let me hasten to add that I have no complaints, and I am thankful for this season of my life.

100 Miles Away

Chapter 35 of Isaiah contains amazingly clear statements about the work of Jesus. There’s also compression of time in this chapter. Often what God’s prophets see is what is similar to what we see when we see the Rocky Mountains. They look close, yet they are 100 miles away. Still, we find great comfort in the passage of Scripture found in Isaiah 35:3-4. 

Isaiah 35:3-4 (ESV)

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Claim These Words

These words of the prophet may correctly be connected with Hezekiah’s speech in 2 Chronicles 32:7, and may also telescope to the earthly ministry of Jesus. Nevertheless, these words of God go beyond those two historical events; these words apply to all reconciled through the blood of Christ to God. You can claim these, quote these back to God, take refuge in their promise, and be at peace for surely Almighty God hears you.

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Stadium Seating

Reserved Seating

If you popped out as a doer when you were born, then one of the most challenging things anyone can ask of you is to stop and sit down. 

Doers need to be busy; if we aren’t, then we get grumpy. As we age the need to “do” doesn’t change, but our bodies start letting us down. Our heart says “yes,” but our body can’t cash that check. It’s no wonder that many older adults are cantankerous.

Well, God loves everyone, including doers. But doers have to submit to the same process that God requires for all His children. Here’s what God expects: 

Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV), But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 

Our Seating

Hmm. It seems that God has handled all the details, hired the staff, and prepared a place for each believer. Paraphrasing Jamieson-Fausset-Brown: “As believers, we already have reserved seats with Jesus in heaven. In our spirits, we are already seated.”

To be seated is to be in a resting position. New Christians don’t start off standing. Paul writes of us standing at the end of Ephesians. Also, new believers don’t start off walking. Paul urges all of us in Ephesians, chapter four, to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called.

Surprisingly, the first thing new believers do is sit down; to be at rest. To receive the peace that can only come from Jesus (John 14:27). Once we have Christ’s peace then we can walk in faith. And, with His peace in us, we can stand against the enemy of God when he comes against us.

Because of God’s rich mercy and great love, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, and Savior, every believer has a reserved seat in heaven. I must admit that I look forward to finding mine.

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Just One of Those Days

Have you ever had a day where it seemed that you and the universe were out of sync with each other? From the very moment you got out of bed you could tell that it was going to be one of those days.

Your best intentions were met with disaster, confusion or fruitlessness. You got dressed and on the way out of the door you saw a stain or a snag so you ran back and changed your clothes. As you tie your shoes a shoestring breaks. And that’s the way your whole day goes. Why? 

Well, I don’t know why. But I have lived it and it’s not fun. So the next time you and the universe aren’t getting along pray out loud 2 Corinthians 9:8 [1]. Even better, memorize this verse so you’ve got it with you when your phone’s battery is dead.

To get you started, let’s all say this together and replace the word “you” with the word “me” or “I”!

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)

[1] This is only for people that have been reborn through Jesus Christ. 

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My grandpa was a carpenter for the North East Oklahoma railroad. Their inside joke was that they worked for NEO (any old) railroad.

Since he was a carpenter he had carpenter stuff in his garage. I once found a bucket full of rusty old nails in there. They were probably new when he put them there. But when I found them he had been retired for quite awhile and any time he had he spent fishing so the nails no doubt stayed in that bucket until he passed and someone else cleaned out his garage.

Nails forged from iron will remain iron for as long as this world exists, if they are protected. But exposure to corrosive elements and iron transforms into rust which is corrupted iron; iron which has no strength and cannot be used for the nail’s intended purpose.  

Evil Can’t Exist Without Good

Evil can be compared to rust on an iron nail. Just as iron rust can’t exist without iron so the corruption of evil can’t exist without good. We find in Genesis 1:31 (ESV), “God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good….“. Only when God’s good came could evil come forth and cause corruption.

As I mentioned previously, a rusty iron has no strength. Similarly, evil in a person steals their moral strength, making them weak and unable to do what is right. Also, a rusty nail can’t be used for its designed purpose. So, too, a person corrupted by evil is unable to fulfill God’s purpose for them. 

No Fear of Rust

Yes, corruption is active all around us but as Christians we are as protected iron for we have this promise in Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV): “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Jesus has immersed us in grace and peace, sealing us with the Holy Spirit. While we live in this corrosive world we need not be afraid of its rust.

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Trouble - City bus t-bones police car

Sudden Trouble

“Why?” That is often the first question we ask when trouble invades our lives. Most of us feel that we have enough stress to deal with in our daily lives. There isn’t enough room in our day for a new problem. Even if that’s true, there will be times in our lives when we are blindsided by a problem so devastating that all our other problems seem trivial.

Some problem we can see off in the distance; so we have some warning. It might be an aging parent, the pending sale of the company you work for, a noise in your car that wasn’t there before. We all deal with similar problems, and some can be crushing. Still, we had time to pray and prepare.

The trouble that comes suddenly is nothing like what I just wrote. A sudden, heart-rending crisis is like being T-boned by another car in an intersection. That happened to me, and I see many similarities to a vehicular accident and other kinds of sudden troubles.

My Car was T-boned

While on my daily commute, I was less than a mile from work. The light changed to green; I started through the intersection, and with zero time to react, a car blew through their red light and hit me full speed. In an instant life went from “just another day” to sudden trouble.

Sudden trouble doesn’t limit itself to auto accidents. We can receive bad news from a doctor, the sudden loss of income, troubles that affect children or loved ones. We may be doing fine and then get a phone call telling us our identity was stolen.

The problem with sudden problems is that they can easily knock us off the path on which God has us. Internally, we feel like our feet have been kicked out from under us. We may be mad at God, questioning our past decisions, frozen by fear, tempted to run away or hunker down. All of these and more are common responses to sudden trouble, but none of these is a surprise to our Lord and Savior.

So, when sudden trouble knocks down your door, remember Psalm 94:18-19 (ESV):

18 When I thought, “My foot slips,”
    your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
19 When the cares of my heart are many,
    your consolations cheer my soul.

Give sudden trouble to Jesus. Our victory can be found within the action of our faith in God.

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