I saw pictures today that broke my heart, and immediately brought a certain verse of scripture to mind. The pictures were of people walking through flooded streets in Houston, Texas, in the devastating wake of Tropical Storm Harvey. The people in the images on the news look so helpless and desperate, overwhelmed by water.
I saw their faces, and I ached for their ordeal, and I prayed for their safety, and I thought, "Oh, if they could just get to higher ground!" I don't know much about the landscape of Houston. I think of Texas as being very flat. And with the water coming down so fast, it seems their only refuge would be an elevated place.
Many times in life, we feel flooded with trouble, much like the literal flood being experienced right now in Texas. It rains down on us and overtakes us, and we feel like we just need to get to a place of refuge.
King David certainly felt like this, when he wrote the psalm that says, "Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61:1,2) This is the verse that came to mind when I saw pictures of the flooding. There is a rock that is higher than all of us- a place of spiritual safety above the storms of life.
When we trust Him, God is our rock. Psalms 62:7 says, "In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God."
Rocks are solid, and they can provide stability. In the New Testament, Jesus compares those who follow his teaching to "a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock." (Matthew 7:24-25)
The Word of God provides a sure foundation for life. No matter what circumstances we may face, we can trust in the Bible to point us in the right direction and teach us how to endure trials.
I pray for the people in the path of the storms in Texas. I pray that God will provide physical safety and refuge. My hope for those overwhelmed by this terrible situation is that they will trust in Him as their Rock, that their hearts will be comforted by Him and He will give them courage.
It is often said that money is the root of all evil. Indeed the scriptures tell us (1 Timothy 6:10) that specifically the “love of money” is the root of all evil. But we understand there are many sins that have nothing to do with money, so we have to look at the verse in context.
“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Here we see money was the root of all the evils of those who coveted after it and allowed it to compromise the tenets of their faith.
There is, however, another portion of scripture in the New Testament that I believe provides us an explanation of the cause of ALL evil in the world. It seems too simple that there is a singular problem with mankind that causes us to sin, but I believe the first chapter of Romans does provide us with a powerful and concise explanation.
"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen."
I underlined the parts of the passage I want to bring out as key points.
There is no such thing as an atheist. I find it hard to believe that anyone could look at the beauty and majesty of creation and arrive at the conclusion that it is all a serendipitous result of cosmic happenstance. We have the evidence of God the creator right in front of us, so there is no excuse for unbelief.
So, what is the cause of evil? Not glorifying God as God and not being thankful. (I suppose that really is two causes, but I believe they go together.) Along with that comes worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator (which brings us back to the love of money- a “thing” that people have created and tried to elevate above God).
In this same chapter, verses 26 and 27 specifically address homosexuality; then verses 29-31 give us a list of some of the other problems in the world, all prompted by the failure to honor God as God- the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent Creator- and to be thankful for His perfect design: “fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful”.
It is easy to understand that sin is disobedience, but we disobey whenever we fail to recognize His creative power and His authority over all creation. I believe that much of the moral decline of our society can be attributed to the theory of evolution being widely embraced as scientific fact. People have bent and stretched the definition of science for the express purpose of denying the Creator.
Not honoring God as Creator is the starting point of sin for many, while others may espouse the idea of Intelligent Design and still fail to honor God as God in other areas by simply not following His divine instructions outlined for us in the Bible.
Now that we understand the cause of sin, at a base level, what is the antithesis of a sinful life? Romans 1 gives us the answer for that, too!
Verse 16 says: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." And verse 17 delivers the final answer: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (For further study, the last part of verse 17 is a reference to Habakkuk 2:4.)
How beautifully the Word of God fits together! It doesn't condemn and just point out all the weaknesses of man. It mercifully gives us instruction for how not to fail. The antithesis of a sinful life- one of wickedness, deceitfulness, envy, pride, etc.- is one of faith in Jesus and the redemption that comes from Him alone.
I’m sure there will be tons of devotional articles about the “Great American Eclipse”. On August 21, 2017, people in a 66-mile-wide path, stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, will be able to witness the sun be completely blocked from view by the moon, and the rest of the United States will experience a partial eclipse. Obviously, the eclipse is a big deal, and there are several spiritual applications that can be drawn from it. Here are my thoughts about this grandiose celestial event.
Darkness and Light are common spiritual themes. We know that Light is symbolic of goodness and God, and darkness is symbolic of evil and Satan. But, the analogy I draw from thinking about the eclipse doesn’t deal with the most obvious symbolism. When I think about the eclipse, I think about the massive, powerful sun being covered up, blocked out, at least from our line of sight. The sun is so big and powerful, yet it will be hidden from view.
Right now, especially, in our country and in our world, it feels like sin abounds- against God and against our fellow man. It’s easy to feel like the egregious acts of evil we witness daily are too rampant and too serious to be overcome. But the Bible clearly gives us the answer: “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)” This verse is a reference to Proverbs 10:12, which says: “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”
Love eclipses sin. Just as the sun will negate the effect of the sun during the eclipse, love can negate the power of sin in the world.
I’m thankful for the total spiritual eclipse that has taken place in the life of every believer. When a person repents of their sin and believes on Jesus as their Savior, the sins of the past are blocked out, never to be seen again by God.
Where I live, 95% of the sun will be covered by the moon during the solar eclipse. But, Jesus, who’s love is perfect, has covered up 100% of my sin. The Bible says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)” Not a little bit free. Not mostly free. Free, indeed.
Thank you, Lord, for my children and for the gift of summer vacation.
As this new school year begins, I pray for your blessings on them:
Lord, please give my children Christian teachers. Let the people who lead and teach them be led and taught by You.
Surround my children with kind and patient authority figures, who are also consistent and structured.
Lord, please help my children know and remember their identity in You. Help them understand how You see them .
Help my children have a healthy self-esteem throughout the school year. Let them be confident in how well You made them.
Lord, please put people in my children's paths that will encourage them, motivate them, inspire them, and guide them in the right way.
Give them friends who will encourage them in their faith, and let my children encourage others. Teach them how to be a friend.
Please let my children encounter people who are different from them, so they will see how creative You are in Your most important handiwork.
May you expand my children's knowledge of science this year, so they will marvel at Your awesome creation. Let them learn more about the history of the people you have placed on this earth, so they can learn from the mistakes and the successes of the past. Give them a passion for reading, and for language, so they will learn how to think and to communicate. And, let each lesson my children are taught contain only truth.
Teach them how to be responsible. Teach them how to deal with stresses and pressures.
Please give my children endurance to accomplish the tasks set before them every day. Help them to try their best at everything, with a good attitude. Give them a healthy pride in their accomplishments at school. Please teach them to accept and learn from their mistakes.
Father, let this be a fun and happy school year. I pray school will be a joyful place for my children to spend their days. I pray this year will be exciting and memorable to them.
Please protect my children from all mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Guard them, Lord, with Your strong hand.
Help my children to let their light shine for You. Please present them with opportunities to show people Your love, at school and everywhere they go.
Above all, let Your will be done in the lives of my children.
One of my favorite places is a particular spot on the bank of a canal that connects the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic. Recently at this special place, I enjoyed watching a school of little fish right next to the bank. As many times as I have witnessed a similar sight, I was still amazed by their cohesiveness. It was fun to watch them glide and dart as a unit, then to watch them scatter in every direction when a water bug disturbed the surface nearby and immediately come back together. It made me think about relationships among believers and what the body of Christ can learn from a school of fish.
My study began with finding out why fish swim in schools. There are three main reasons for the schooling behavior of fish:
1.) To help keep them safe
2.) To find food
3.) To find a mate
I realized these are some of the same reasons we as believers should join together with other believers in a collective body. We need each other. We need to be unified- within our local assembly and within the Church as a whole. Let's look to the scriptures to find out how the instinctive motivations of fish align with the spiritual benefits of being unified with other Jesus-Followers.
- "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." Galatians 6:1-2
- "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." James 5:19-20
The body of Christ should operate as a cohesive unit to help protect individual believers from spiritual danger.
To Find Food
Again, we are not speaking of physical things (although I have enjoyed many wonderful meals at church). We join together with other believers to receive spiritual food; that is, sustenance that helps us grow in the faith.
- "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Hebrews 10:25
- "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Colossians 3:16
We come together- teaching, preaching, and singing- to be fed spiritually.
To Find a Mate
While perhaps not the most important reason, the third point still fits into our illustration. The body of Christ is the only place a believer should look to find a spouse.
- "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14
In order for a marriage to be optimally successful, a man and woman must be aligned spiritually; in other words, part of the same "school".
The unity of believers is a common subject in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians 1:10 says, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." Think about how much we can accomplish when believers are in sync with one another, like that little school of fish!
In John 17:11, Jesus prayed: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." Very simply, He wants us to be unified.
Believers- join together and keep swimming!
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