Bitterness Into Sweetness

13-6 Miners Beach River 2


And when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter[1]; therefore it was named Marah. So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. (Exodus 15:23-25)

Moses had just led the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea that God parted for them.  All the women had taken up timbrels[2] and followed Miriam[3] dancing and celebrating, exalting God for rescuing them from the Army of the Pharaoh. From there, Moses began to lead the newly freed nation into the wilderness.

They had wandered only three days, but it was three days without water. They found water at Marah, but it was too bitter to drink. So, the people began to get restless and “grumbled[4]” to Moses. This is only the beginning of the grumbling, a theme that would continue throughout the years wandering in the wilderness. Even after God did miraculous things, like part the Red Sea and rescue them from certain capture and calamity, the people were quick to fall back to the habit of complaining.

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Not By the Will of Man

Sun Thru the Woods


But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

Although we have the choice to receive God, those who receive God do not grasp on to something that they have uniquely divined. We cannot boast in receiving God. Gaining knowledge of God and becoming a child of God has more do to with God than us.

When people claim that Christians are exclusive and boast of a righteousness and holiness that is exclusive, bigoted and intolerant (to put it in modern terms), they do not understand what they are saying. God presents Himself to us, and we either receive Him or not. It is not our choice (not by the will of the flesh or of the will of man).

The righteousness does not come from us. God extends the right to us to become His children. Continue reading

Let Your Light Shine Before Men

2015-10 Heather Russell Fall Photo


In the Sermon on the Mount (where Jesus spoke to His disciples, not the crowds that also followed Him) a couple of the subjects that Jesus addressed seem contradictory at first blush. They both relate on the surface to the way we act in public, before other people. He said, on the one hand:

You are the light[1] of the world…. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see[2] your good[3] works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14, 16)

Jesus, on the other hand, gave the following negative instruction:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1);

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The Narrow Gate

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / photostocker
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / photostocker

“Enter by the narrow[1] gate. For the gate[2] is wide and the way is easy[3] that leads to destruction[4], and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow[5] and the way is hard[6] that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

The tendencies of the self work within us and the forces of the world in which we live press upon us to move us along the broad and wide way. This way is easy and feels familiar. It is the milieu into which we are born and operates according to the customary and usual ways of our culture and society. Continue reading

Following After Jesus

Jesus Whipped by Harvey K


“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny[i] himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

There is no statement anywhere in the whole of the Bible any more fundamental or important than these words Jesus spoke immediately after He spoke of His own future suffering. All of the Law and Prophets speak of Jesus. (John 5:31) Jesus was approaching the nadir of the purpose for which He, God stripped of His glory, became man. As the disciples rebuked Jesus about talking about future suffering, Jesus spoke these words.

As Jesus looked forward to His own suffering, He looked back to His disciples and said, “If you would follow Me, you must be all in.” Continue reading

Treasures in Heaven

Goonies Treasure Map by Scott Howard

Do not store up[i] for yourselves treasures[ii] on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)

I have been saying this a lot lately, and I have been trying to be more heavenly minded.

When you think about it, our lives are not only fragile but momentary. My life could end at virtually any time, and if I live to be 100, it will be over when it is over. Continue reading

Deliver Us From Evil

Lewes_Guy_Fawkes_Night_Celebrations_(2)_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1570186


“Deliver[i] us from evil[ii]” (Matt. 6:13)

Jesus taught us how to pray, acknowledging God, Our Father who is in heaven, and praying that Gods’s kingdom come, and for God’s will to be done. Jesus instructed us to pray that His will be done on earth as it is heaven. And then, Jesus gets to where we live, instructing to pray that God give us our daily bread, which means more than food, for forgiveness of our sins and and for deliverance from evil.

This is how the prayer Jesus taught us to pray aptly ends. Aptly because God’s end goal is deliverance of His children from evil, and not just deliverance from evil, but deliverance to God and His purpose.

Literally, this phrase in the original text means “draw us to Yourself (our Deliverer) and, thereby, deliver us from the pain and misery of evil”. God does not simply seek to deliver us from our troubles caused by the sin that entangles us: He delivers us to Himself for His divine purpose. Continue reading

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

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“And do not lead[i][ii] us into temptation[iii]….” (Matt. 6:13) is one of the things Jesus taught to us to pray to the Father. Does that mean that God might lead us into temptation (if we did not pray for Him not to)? Clearly not!

We must always be careful when reading Scripture to put a verse in context. Every verse should be read in harmony with the rest of Scripture. The Greek word translated “temptation” here can mean either temptations or tests (or trials), and the meaning of it in a particular passage must be derived from the context. It can mean sufferings that test or try or allurements that tempt us into evil. “Of these the former is the dominant meaning in the language of the New Testament, and is that of which we must think here.Continue reading

As We Forgive Those

15636643813_df011ec118_z“… as we[i] also have forgiven[ii] our debtors[iii].” (Mt. 6:12) The forgiveness I may ask for, receive and experience from God is directly related to my forgiveness of those who “owe me” (or who I think owe me). The emphasis in this verse is on us (me)!

Whatever your theology is in regard to the sovereignty of God and grace, it is hard to ignore Scripture when it emphasizes something we must do. We dare not ignore it! This is one place where the emphasis is on us, and, therefore, we really need to pay close attention. Continue reading