Saturday, July 7
I’m intrigued by analogies. We use them constantly in every day language. They are so much a part of our lives that we don’t realize what it would be without them. It would be interesting to read the newspaper or a novel, crossing out all analogies to see what was left. I think you would be surprised. I checked out the epistle of James and counted 19 analogies in those five chapters. And that doesn’t count the numerous similes, metaphors, and other picturesque language. Jesus used a lot of figures of speech, too, mainly parables. The use of figurative language is important within a single language group. It’s more important when two languages are involved. But it’s absolutely crucial when it comes to God communicating with man. The main problem is that we live in a material world so have little understanding of the celestial “world.” Communicating with Russians or Germans is far easier than communicating with spiritual beings. With this understanding, it’s not hard to figure out why the Bible is loaded with analogies and other figures of speech. God gets across spiritual truth by relating it to things that we experience in our finite world. But I think there’s a second reason for figurative language. They catch our attention. It’s like telling a story rather than citing facts. Jesus’ parables were like that. People immediately could identify the issue at hand. So God gets our attention and then gives us a crucial message. Try reading through Jamesn see what catches your attention. You will find it impossible not to get the message. What you do with it is another thing. God did his bit; you have to do yours.
Friday, July 6
Rom. 8:22 is a very interesting verse and triggers a few of related issues . “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” This is poetic language is called “personification.” Some Bible scholars relate this analogy to God’s cursing the ground in Gen. 3:17-19. God cursed Satan and Eve, too, but this one was directed at Adam. “Cursed is the ground. . . . It will produce thorns and thistles for you.” So we have weeds, bugs of all sorts, diseases, and erratic climate problems. Then there’s rocky soil and clay soil, and leached out soil, so fertilizers are needed. Obviously, God’s judgment on Adam is still in effect. That’s part of the “groaning” of Rom. 8:22. The verse says “the whole creation groans.” That includes the human race, and the entire animal world. In the beginning man was in total control of animals. Not after Adam’s sin. God directed them to rebel against man just as man rebelled against God. So don’t blame the animals. I look forward to the time when the groaning comes to an end. No more weeds, no more aphids, moles, flies, and mosquitoes—and the leopard and the goat lying down together. Isaiah 11:6. It will happen; God says so.
Thursday, July 5
Hardly a day goes by without something in the media about global warming. A lot of people are really rabid about it. They, and most of our news providers see a disaster coming and are pushing governments to get serious about solving the problem. There are also nay-sayers who see global warming as a periodic climate change that is natural and nothing to worry about. Since it’s not really an issue, those people are perhaps less rabid, but both groups get riled up about it, often ending in rather nasty public confrontations. Then there’s a multitude of people in the middle, trying to know which view is right. I admit to being in that middle group, so hope I don’t ruffle any feathers here. All this is to make the point that there is a far greater issue in our world. Call it global warning. There’s a cosmic fight going on in the celestial world. Sin has been a crucial issue throughout history, but as the Bible says, it will be far more intense in the last days. We’re in the last days. “Rabid” Christians are warning people throughout the world of the impending doom as God brings this human race to an end. The gospel is going out as never before in history. There are millions of people heeding the warning, but the nay-sayers are still a huge majority. God is patient, not willing that any perish, but he is also a righteous judge and judgment is soon to come. In my mind all this makes global warming irrelevant.
Wednesday, July 4
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Since this is the first amendment, it must have been very important to our founding fathers. In our generation, laws have been passed in violation of this prohibition, and the interpretation of it has been bent out of shape. I realize that when a specific case arises, there are often elements that make it difficult to apply. But because our country has moved away from evangelical Christianity, the government minimizes the principle of religious liberty. Christian businesses and judges are targeted and become victims because the amendment is not enforced. Our Supreme Court is more concerned about pleasing the American majority than following the Constitution. The government should be concerned for the will of the people, but it should do so within the limits of the Constitution. Why have a Constitution if it’s not followed? On this day that we celebrate freedom from government oppression, we need to take a good look at our origins and recognize the values espoused by our founding fathers. Christians are no longer in the majority. Trying to turn things around by political means might be impossible. But our God is a God of the impossible. We need to voice our convictions, but more importantly, we need to pray. God is not fazed by seemingly insurmountable problems. He is worthy of our trust. But he may have plans that vary from ours. The Bible makes it clear that things will get worse in the end times. So our prayers should include praying that God’s will be done. How about setting aside some special time for prayer today? Slogan of the day: “Christians unite!”—in prayer.
Monday, July 2
We all can look back and pick out a few turning points in our lives. I had several critical turning points that altered my life. Some were deliberate decisions that I made after considerable thought and prayer, but some things were thrust on me and out of my control. We are not always prepared for major changes in life, an untimely death for example. This quotation caught my attention. “The trouble with reaching a crossroad in life is the lack of signposts.” I would add that warning signs are often lacking, too. This may apply more to teenagers than any other age group. Those years are fraught with critical crossroads and teenagers are not always mature enough to make right choices. Good parents do their best to inform, direct, advise, warn, and encourage, but too often teenagers are not ready for that; they are wrestling with taking control of their own lives. But failure to heed the warning signs can lead to disaster. I don’t think I need to give examples. You can plug in your own. Young people also face a multitude of deliberately misleading signs. Satan is in the sign business, too. Broken homes, drugs, and bad role models don’t give young people much of a chance. Under the best of conditions, a teenagers life is loaded with life changing crossroads. What’s happening in today’s world is tragic. We may have a lack of warning signs, but teenagers need to see the signs, too.
Sunday, July 1
If you’re a few decades old and grew up in a Christian home, you might remember the old Gospel song “Stepping in the Light.” As a kid, I really liked this song, mainly for the tune, probably. The tune and some of the words have stayed with me throughout my life. The words didn’t mean a whole lot to me until much later. The idea of the song is that when we stay close to the Lord, our pathway in life is clearly illuminated. We don’t know the way, but he does. Following him keeps us on track, and keeps us safe and secure. And since he is our role model, we gradually become more like him. It’s a beautiful picture of the sanctification process. I especially like the refrain:
How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Stepping in the light, stepping in the light,
How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Led in paths of light.
The song implies that we have a choice—to walk in the light or to remain in darkness. James tells us in James 4:17 that if we know to do good and don’t do it, we sin. That’s choosing to walk in darkness and all those benefits are gone. Being led by light turns to groping in the dark. Security becomes peril. Beautiful becomes ugly. Delight becomes disappointment.
Saturday, June 30
James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” It’s easy to misinterpret this statement—not because it’s poorly expressed, but because we tend to make too much of the word “Consider.” People sometimes think of this as having to feel joy. That’s true in one sense and not true in another sense. It’s like Paul’s admonitions in Rom. 6 about counting our sin nature dead. God declared it to be dead, which puts us in a position to receive divine power to become righteous. So is it with counting it all joy when trials come. We don’t need to jump for joy when trials come, but we need to accept them as a work of grace, God’s way to make us more like Christ. Understanding that brings joy and results in spiritual stability, or “perseverance” as James puts it. It’s real, not mental gymnastics or “mind over matter.” It’s God’s power at our disposal. We can choose to use it or not use it. That’s why both Paul and James make it an admonition rather than an automatic finished reality. So if we accept the fact that God is working in us for our own good, we can follow the admonition and be truly joyous—happy that God is doing a work in us. That’s “considering it all joy.” But if we miss the point and resort to a “pity party,” we won’t have any joy at all. In either case, it doesn’t mean that we enjoy persecution. Trials are real and there is suffering involved. Take notice, too, that trials test our faith. A right response—you pass the test. It’s probably evident that all this is God’s way of making us fit vessels for representing him well in this world. We can bear fruit or be barren. So following God’s admonition here brings joy, confidence, peace, and fruitfulness. But probably more important, it pleases God. And that’s good reason to follow James’ admonition.