Some people like to tie a string on their finger to remind themselves of something. Some put it on their “to do list”, others ask their smart phone to remind them. In Moses day, it was about putting “tassels” on their garments. “You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes” (Numbers 15:39 NIV).
Wearing a garment with tassels was to remind you that you needed to remember God’s ways and follow after them, instead of following the “lusts” of your heart. Every sin starts in me. I can’t blame it on someone else. I can’t blame it on the “thing” that tempts me. I can only blame myself. James tells us that each of us is tempted because of the lusts that are in our own heart (James 1:14). Lusts lead to sin, and sin leads to death.
The lesson of the tassels is to remember to deal with the heart. How do I cultivate my heart? I find it helpful to read the Bible every day. Each time I read through the Bible, I’m either learning new stuff, or remembering old stuff that I’ve forgotten. I give myself the opportunity to deal with my heart. I also find that it is important to pray about those things for which I am particularly vulnerable. Every day I ask God for certain things that I know I need in order to cultivate my heart correctly. What’s important for you to remember? Remember to deal with your heart.
When you love someone for who they are and not for what they will do for you, you tend to make an effort to find out the kinds of things that put a smile on their face. If your wife likes chocolates, you probably bought her a box for Valentine’s Day. If your husband likes football, I would imagine that you’ve either learned to love it too, or you have at least learned to sit with him a bit as he groans (or cheers) over each play. So let me ask you a question: Have you ever wondered what puts a smile on God’s face?
Jesus told a story. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (Luke 15:4–7)
Jesus liked to hang around “sinners”, not because He enjoyed their sin, but in hopes of encouraging them to “repent”. The Greek word for “repent” means literally “a change of mind”. Jesus came to change my mind about God and my behavior. When one of us “repents”, there is great joy in heaven, and you can bet that God is smiling. Do you care for the things that God cares for?
In one of his more interesting duties, an Old Testament priest looked more like a doctor than a pastor. And if the priest sees that the scab has indeed spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean. It is leprosy. (Leviticus 13:8)
A priest had the responsibility of learning to diagnose certain diseases. Even though the priest couldn’t heal the person, he could recognize a problem and isolate the person to keep the disease from spreading to others. Since the Bible says that we are now all priests (Rev. 1:6), perhaps we all have some level of responsibility towards understanding our own health.
Some people make the mistake of thinking that they don’t need doctors and they can handle everything with prayer. I think prayer is always important, but if you also ignore going to your doctor, you’re just being stupid. Your physical body is a gift from God. God expects you to take care of it. It’s like the car that takes you down the road on your journey of life. If you take care of the car, you’ll get further on your journey. I’ll bet you don’t handle your car repairs with just prayer. Others make the mistake of thinking that it doesn’t matter at all how we treat our physical body because it’s only a person’s soul that’s important. The soul is indeed important. It’s the passenger in the car. Just be sure you keep the car running well so the passenger can go as far as possible.
Be wise with your body. Stay healthy my friends.
Spring Training is now under way. Ball players from 30 teams around the country are arriving at their training facilities in Arizona and Florida to work on their skills and get ready for the upcoming baseball season. In a way, the work of John the Baptist was a little like “spring training”, except he wasn’t preparing people for baseball, he was preparing people to meet the Lord.
John’s father, Zecharias, was given a prophecy detailing how John would turn people to God. John’s job would be “…to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just…” (Luke 1:17)
It seems to me that the health of society is tied to the health of families. I know there is no such thing as a “perfect family”, but the stronger the family is, the healthier we all are. Often it’s the mom that holds the family together, but John’s job was to help turn the fathers towards their children. Kids need dads who care. How will a child trust their heavenly Father when their earthly father isn’t there?
John’s other goal was to challenge those who are “disobedient”. There is “wisdom” involved in being right with God, in being counted as “just” before Him. A “just” person is a forgiven person. A “just” person also does the right thing. God wants us to be “wise” enough to realize things need to change.
Are you ready for the “big game”? Are you ready to meet God?
Jesus was asked about his views on divorce. Some of the people in Jesus’ day had some pretty loose ideas when it came to marriage. Part of Jesus’ reply was this simple statement: Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:9)
First, marriage is a “God” thing. We tend to think of marriage as a “human institution”, but it was actually designed and created by God. He invented marriage when He saw that it was not good for man to be alone. Keep in mind that if you are going to mess with marriage, you are going to be messing with something that God has made, and God doesn’t make junk.
Second, marriage is a “joined together” thing. It’s not about two people being in close proximity to one another. It’s about two actually becoming one. There is a physical connection in marriage, but marriage is so much more than sex. Marriage is two people letting down their walls. It’s about letting her inside your head. It’s giving him your entire heart. Two become one. If your car is running a little rough, do you tear the car in half to fix it?
Third, Jesus said “let not man separate”. When a marriage dissolves, there usually is a human involved. It might be a human inside the marriage that causes the split. It might be a human outside the marriage thinking they are a better fit than the spouse. Whatever the case beloved, don’t let it be you. Build marriage. Don’t tear it apart.
Religious stuff gets so confusing sometimes. I think some folks are “religious” because they love God and want to be close to Him. It’s just that we make things messy when we start mixing our rules of what’s right, with God’s heart to do what’s right.
The ultra-religious folks of Jesus’ day had some rules concerning what could and couldn’t be done on the “Sabbath”. I’m sure that those rules started off as a way of making sure that people honored God’s command to “keep the Sabbath holy” (Ex. 20:8-11). It’s just that all the extra rules made things messy.
It was on a Sabbath day that Jesus had the opportunity to heal a man with a withered hand, and right in front of the religious church folk. The problem was, healing was against the “rules”. Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent (Mark 3:4). Now I don’t know about you, but if my only choices are to do good or evil, I would think the answer was pretty obvious. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other (Mark 3:5).
When your “religion” makes it hard for you to see the obvious, something is wrong. Do you love God? Then do good.
There is a right way of doing things and there’s a wrong way. At least I think so. Sometimes. Some of the “rules” we follow in life are indeed absolute principles. There are some things that are absolutely right and absolutely wrong. But some of the “rules” we follow in life are no more than just habits. We look to “how we’ve always done it” as our rule of thumb. Some traditions are just fine, but sometimes God wants to work outside of our traditions.
When the twins were still in her womb, Rebekah was told by God that the “younger” would rule over the “older” (Gen. 25:23). Now that’s a bit odd since the “tradition” was that the “older” sibling was always large and in charge. Pop (Isaac) seemed to lean towards staying with tradition and blessing the older son (Esau), but in the end, the younger son (Jacob) did indeed get the blessing and ruled. And if you recall, there were a bit of shenanigans that went on, accompanied with a lot of grief and heartache, for God’s plan to come about.
When it came time for Jacob to give his own blessing, he had learned the lesson. Jacob sensed that God’s desire was not for the tradition, and he gave the blessing to the younger of Joseph’s sons. And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head” (Genesis 48:18). God doesn’t always follow my rules. May I listen to His leading and do what He wants, instead of what my tradition dictates.
Jacob and Esau were twin brothers with problems. The biggest injury to their fraternity came when mom pressured Jacob into tricking dad and receiving the “blessing” that was intended for Esau (Gen. 27). Esau responded by planning to kill Jacob. Jacob escaped to Uncle Laban’s house, where he would live separated from his parents and brother for twenty years while he built his own family and fortune. When Jacob finally returns home, he finds that his brother is coming to meet him with an entourage of 400 men. Jacob panics. Has his brother been holding on to his grudge for the last twenty years? Does Esau intend to kill Jacob? Jacob spends the night before the reunion wrestling (literally) with God (Gen. 32). He emerges from the struggle limping, but also with a new name, “Israel”. His name means “Prince with God” because he had wrestled with God and man and had prevailed. The next day Jacob greets Esau with a substantial gift, a gift to say, “I’m sorry”. Then Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company which I met?” And he said, “These are to find favor (“grace”) in the sight of my lord” (Genesis 33:8). Jacob was looking for reconciliation. After some convincing, Esau accepted the gift. It’s not the prettiest of reconciliations, but it worked. I wonder if the key was the wrestling match. Perhaps reconciliation with others requires me to wrestle a bit more with God. I might get injured in the match, but it’s worth it. Serious reconciliation requires serious prayer.
When is a tragedy not a tragedy? Is it possible for a loss to be a good thing?
When I look at the story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom, I sometimes wonder what Lot might have been thinking. He was visited by two strangers who warned him to leave the city as quick as possible. And if I read my Bible correctly, Lot seemed a bit reluctant to go. The angels had to take the family by the hand and drag them out of Sodom. And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:16). Lot had built up quite a prosperous life up to this point, and the way the angels were describing it, he was going to lose everything. I can see why Lot was a bit reluctant to just walk away from it all.
The bigger story gives us a different perspective on things than what Lot had. Lot’s uncle Abraham was actually praying for God to spare the righteous (like Lot) in the city of Sodom (Gen. 18). Lot’s removal from Sodom was an act of mercy, not judgment. Peter wrote that Lot’s story shows us that … the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, (2 Peter 2:9)
Tragedy isn’t always what we cook it up to be. Sometimes the loss might actually be God’s way of saving us.
The historical account of Noah has much value for us today. Some might discount the record, attributing it to some ancient superstitious mythical tradition. Yet Jesus said that it held importance for those of us living in the last days. Jesus said, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37–39). In the days of Noah, life went on as usual, right up to the time when the flood came and took them all away. As we get nearer to the Lord’s Second Coming, life will continue to go on as usual. Our society sure loves to eat and drink. And if you want to talk about marriage, well everyone seems to want to get married, even if it’s not a Biblical marriage.
The record of Noah’s “days” in the book of Genesis gives us another hint as to what Noah’s days were like. Moses records, Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)
I’d say we’re just about there, wouldn’t you? And if we are just about at the Lord’s coming, what does that mean for you and I? Are you ready for His return? Are you ready to meet God?