Monday, May 31, 2010

Matthew 5:13-16 - Salt and Light

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
--Matthew 5:13-16, NASB

In the Jordan Rift Valley, with Israel to the west and Judea and Samaria to the east, lies the Dead Sea, one of the world's saltiest bodies of water. At 33.7 percent salinity, the Dead Sea is 8.6 times saltier than the world's oceans.

From the deep blue sky overhead, the constant sun beats down on the lapping water and its surreal white shoreline. The rocks are thickly encrusted with many layers of salt and minerals, glittering snow-like in the sun.

In all directions you can observe two qualities of which this unique area has in seemingly endless quantities--salt and light. Two qualities of which it is said we should also possess in equally great amounts.

Father, forgive me when I forget to be salt and light for those whom You bring across my path. Please keep me from growing dim and becoming tasteless. In a world that so desperately needs both, help me to be an endless supply of Your salt and Your light. In Jesus' name, amen.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lamentations 3:22-23 – Even Through the Bad, God is Faithful

The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
--Lamentations 3:22-23 NASB

The most significant thing about this wonderful passage is where we find it in the Bible. The Book of Lamentations tells of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which took place over 587 and 586 BC when Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar overran the city. The surviving inhabitants either fled to other countries, were carried away to Babylon as slaves or remained under the brutal rule of an occupying force.

Lamentations does not name its author, but it is generally attributed to the prophet Jeremiah. For many years Jeremiah had warned the people and their leaders about their unfaithfulness to God. Jeremiah knew that being chosen by God did not translate to a free pass. He knew that actions had consequences. If God's people were not faithful to God's instructions, bad things would happen.

But even when surrounded by death and destruction, Jeremiah still had hope. He knew that even if the people were not faithful in their commitment to God, God would still be faithful in His promises to them.

In verse 22 Jeremiah speaks of God's "lovingkindnesses" and "compassions." The first is the Hebrew word transliterate as checed (pronounced "KHEH-sed"), meaning "favor," "good deed," "kindly," "loving-kindness," "merciful kindness," "mercy," or "pity." The second word is transliterated from the Hebrew as racham ("RAKH-am"), meaning "tender love," "tender mercy" or "pity." Both words tell of God's faithfulness to express His kindness, His love and His mercy toward His people even when they do not deserve it or return it.

Then, in verse 23 Jeremiah observes that God’s love, kindness and mercy are new every morning. Jeremiah uses the Hebrew chadash (“khaw_DAWSH”), which means “fresh” or “a new thing,” and he uses the Hebrew boqer (“BO-ker”), meaning “day,” “early,” “morning,” or “morrow.” Here Jeremiah recognizes that with each new day, God’s love, mercy and kindness are brand new; that God never tires in his faithfulness. God’s captive people were first-hand witnesses to His faithfulness a few decades later, with the overthrow of Babylon by Persia in 538 BC, the return of the people to Judah, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Beyond those events, God’s people would ultimately witness His faithfulness in the coming of His Messiah, Jesus.

Father, I thank You for Your faithfulness to me even when I am unfaithful to You. Forgive me when I fail You and comfort me through the consequences. And with the coming of each day, remind me to rise, to seek You, and to know that Your love, Your kindness and Your mercy are new to me each morning. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Isaiah 55:11 - God is Faithful. Are We?

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
--Isaiah 55:11 NASB

In Isaiah 55 the prophet explains to us that we cannot truly understand the mind or the methods of God. After all, we are not God. That being said, Isaiah assures us that God is faithful and He will accomplish what He determines to do. A key point is in verse eleven, the Hebrew word transliterated shalach (pronounced "shaw-LAKH"). The word means to cast away or throw away, much like a fisher would cast a net, or like a farmer would cast seeds. At the proper time, the fisher will draw in the net and the farmer will reap the harvest.

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are instructed to bear witness to the Word of God through our words and through our actions. But to what end? We may have a general idea. We know that our goal is to lead others to God through Christ, and we know we are to further the kingdom of God. We therefore think we understand how God may use us in a given situation. But the truth is that we are not God and the way He uses us may not be the way we expect.

Of course, God may use us to reach a person directly involved in our actions--whatever we may say or do. But God may also use us to reach someone else who witnessed our actions. Or He may use us to reach someone who heard about our actions second hand or third hand.

And the immediate reaction to our use by God may not always be what we expect. The reaction we perceive might be good or it might be bad--so bad that we are offered an excellent opportunity to turn the other cheek. For that matter, we may perceive absolutely no reaction at all.

What's more, we truly don't know when our use by God will have its real and lasting affect. It could come in the moments of what we say or do, but it could also come days, weeks, months, or even years afterward.

In the end, our concern should not be how God uses us, when God uses us, or even what happens as a result of God using us. Our concern should be that we allow God to use us.

Father, I thank You for Your love. Forgive me when I presume to know exactly what You are doing. In all that You do, whatever You do, I believe You are faithful. I give myself in faith to be Your instrument. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.