Several years ago there was a traveler going into the South American Jungles to hunt when he heard the startled cries of a bird fluttering over its nest. In the nest he could see the female bird and several baby birds. The reason for the alarm soon appeared in the form of an extremely poisonous snake. He was slowly moving towards the nest determined to make a meal of this small family. The hunter grabbed his gun and prepared to shoot the culprit but decided to watch and see what would happen. What he saw shocked him. The startled male bird suddenly flew away from the nest as though looking for something. A minute or two later it returned with a small leaf-covered twig which it laid carefully over the nest. Now calmer and quieter than before the male bird perched on one of the upper branches and watched the snake. It got closer and closer to the nest and prepared to strike the deathblow, when suddenly it drew back its head as if being struck itself. The snake then quickly retreated from the nest. After it was gone the hunter climbed the tree, retrieved the twig and took it to one of the native villages. Being more than curious he asked them about it. He learned from the natives that the twig was from a bush, which is a deadly poison to snakes. The very sight or odor of the bush causes them to flee. The bible is very forthright when introducing the devil. He is described as a serpent that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. He is always on the prey. However, we are not defenseless. In the words of Isaiah, Jesus is our tender plant and the branch that drives the serpent away. He is the poison that allows us to constantly defy our enemy.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Sometimes we get so caught with up with our Christianity that we forget the supreme sacrifice involved in its purchase. I am reminded of a story I read in John Guest’s Commentary on Romans, about a man who operated a giant drawbridge. One day he took his young son with him in order to show him what it was he did every day. He led the young lad down into the cavernous workings of the bridge that they might marvel together over its powerful machinery. While down there the man received a phone call that a train, well ahead of schedule, was speeding toward the bridge. There was just enough time for him to race to the top of the tower and flip the switch to lower it into place. Patiently he instructed his son not to budge from his tight position of safety. The father reached the tower with just enough time to lower the bridge. In that same split second he looked down to find that his son had moved into the jaws of the powerful machinery. He had to decide between the hundreds of lives speeding toward him in the train or the precious life of his only son. In great pain and anguish he flipped the switch. Down came the bridge, grinding the life out of his son. The train rushed by and as it did he could see people sitting there, in the comfort of their dining cars, chatting merrily with one another, totally oblivious to the enormous sacrifice that had just been made for their lives. Beating his fists on the tower window, the man screamed out against the stiff faces streaking past, a people for whom he had made so dear a sacrifice. “Don’t you know that I gave my son for you?” “Don’t you know that you are alive now because he yielded up his life?” “Does anybody care?” John concludes his remarks by saying, "God looks at the indifference of humanity rushing by Him, careless and unconcerned by the enormous cost of their salvation.” We compound His anguish when we fail to remember that He paid the ultimate price for something he offers to humanity free. All of us were runaway trains given the drawbridge of grace that we might have life and that abundantly.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
A few days ago my wife came to me complaining that gnats had overtaken her car. She said, “I have rolled down the windows, but I can’t get rid of them.” Now when this happens it’s a good indication that they are being drawn in. I said to her, “You have something in your car that they are after.” Of course this didn’t seem to be an adequate answer since she had already completed what she thought was a thorough search of the vehicle. Yet, I stayed with my premise and made my way out to the garage and opened the passenger door to the gnat infested party. They were definitely having a marvelous time. Immediately I could smell a familiar odor. Reaching my hand underneath the seat I suddenly felt it, the soft remains of a rotten apple. It had escaped from one of our shopping bags a few days earlier. After its removal suddenly the gnats began to vanish. All of this aggravation came about because something was allowed to lodge and then decay within the inner sanctum of our automobile. Doesn’t this same thing happen to us spiritually? Don’t we allow things like anger, jealousy, strife and fear to sit within our hearts until rotting transpires? Then everything around us creates irritability and has the semblance of an aggravating gnat. That’s why Jesus instructed us to guard and purify our hearts daily. Failure to do so is to invite those unwanted pests into the inner circle of our lives bringing their own form of misery. However, the good news is that Christ has given us the freedom of forgiveness which allows us to discard the rotten while taking on the righteous; that my friend will keep away those aggravating gnats.
Sunday, July 8, 2012
A few days ago I left the house and headed to a restaurant to have lunch with a friend. Upon arrival we ordered greasy hamburgers with all the trimmings and fries. While in the process of indulging I suddenly looked down and realized I had dropped food on my brand new necktie. Needless to say it was quite disappointing to see the greasy spot the drippings had left behind. I shared my feelings of distress with the friend and was quickly encouraged by his response. “Do you have any instant stain remover?” I replied “no” which was my best answer, given the fact that I really didn’t know much about the product. He said, “I have a tube in the car, we’ll try some when we’re finished eating and it will take that spot right out.” We walked to his car located the “Tide to Go” and made the application. Amazingly the spot disappeared before my eyes. I thought, “This is incredible.” On Sunday morning I was reminded of this story after our worship leader led us in the song, “What Can Wash Away My Sin.” I thought my tie was ruined but then came the application of something greater than the power of the stain. The same is the case with our spiritual lives. We think we are ruined for life when sin enters our lives. The spots are so dark, shameful, and disfiguring. However, there is a product that can wash away our sin. Although unpopular in today’s culture the blood of Jesus is still needful. It is greater than the spot of our sin and will forever be God’s instant stain remover.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Have you ever heard the expression “That got my goat.” That phrase has an interesting beginning. Owners of sensitive, high strung horses used to keep a goat in the stalls with the horses. The very presence of the calm, relaxed goat helped the horses to relax. On the day before an important race, rival owners would sometimes steal another owner’s goat. Thus the horse would not run its best the next day. How often have we allowed the trials and challenges of life to steal our goat? When we get sensitive and high strung, we falter and fail to run the race of life with patience. The secret to keeping things in place is given to us by the writer of Hebrews. In chapter 12 we are told that in order to keep our “goat” we must look to the “Lamb.” Looking to Jesus who is the “author and finisher of our faith” allows us to race consistently. Jesus was faced with all kinds of opposition yet we find that he endured refusing to act out of character. He would not allow others to put Him in the position of being manipulated. I have found that when anything “gets my goat” it has first gotten my attention. As long as I keep my focus on the “Lamb,” I don’t have to worry about my “goat.” What about you?