Friday, December 30, 2016

Useless Chaff

Useless Chaff
“The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away.” (Psalm 1:4-6)
The first half of Psalm 1 describes the godly person and the blessings coming to him, while the last half focuses on the ungodly who will perish. The wicked are pictured in Scripture as “chaff.”
   When grain is harvested and placed in piles on the threshing floor the servants beat it with a rod. The harvesters throw up the beaten grain and the wind blows the chaff away. It is later gathered and thrown into the fire to be burned. In contrast to the righteous, who are like fruitful trees and blessed, the ungodly are dead, rootless, blown about, and destined for the garbage heap. No wonder Jesus used the garbage dump outside Jerusalem (gehenna) as a picture of hell, because that’s where the useless waste ends up in the fire.
   Have you ever seen a garbage dump on fire? It gives off a noxious smell that permeates the air making it hard to breathe. Often times the fire releases toxic fumes that can cause permanent health issues and even death. Such a place is alleged to exist in Bridgeton, Mo. Another is an underground fire in a coal mine in Colorado that has been burning for years.
   John the Baptist used these same images of the tree, fruit, and chaff to warn sinners to repent in Matthew 3; “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clear his threshing floor; and he will gather his wheat into the barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Mt. 3:7b, 12)
   What is the responsibility of the righteous in relation to the wicked? Are we to ignore their plight and stand aside to watch them fall into the fire?
   According to the Psalmist in verses 1-3, the godly are to reach out to the ungodly with the gospel.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray that 2017 will provide many opportunities to share Christ.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Fruitful Trees

Fruitful Trees
“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)  
     Both beauty and blessing are ascribed to trees. The Bartlett pear is known as one of America’s most famous trees. Its blossoms in the spring are a source of beauty and its luscious fruit in the fall are favorites for eating and canning preserves. Also noted for its beautiful blossoms in the spring are the Magnolia and Cherry trees. In the fall, we can enjoy the red, yellow, orange, and purple foliage of the sugar maple, bald cypress, aspen, sassafras, and sweetgum.
   The tree is a familiar image in the Scripture. In the Garden of Eden, God used the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” to test Adam and Eve’s obedience. He used a tree to symbolize Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall and loss of his kingdom due to pride. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus uses the “mustard seed” which becomes a tree to describe the expanse of the kingdom of heaven.
   Like a tree, the Psalmist describes a godly person as alive, beautiful, fruitful, useful and enduring. The most important part of a tree is its hidden root system that draws up water and nourishment from the soil. Without a steady stream of these ingredients the root system would shrivel up and the tree would die.
   The most important part of the believer’s spiritual root system is the Lord Jesus Christ and the word of God. Our spiritual vitality is dependent upon our drawing upon the life giving nutrients from the Lord. These are obtained by our “abiding in Christ,” and feeding upon the Scriptures. (John 15:1-9)
    Two types of flowers can be planted – annuals or perennials. I prefer the perennials that will regenerate themselves year after year. Like perennials, believers who abide in Christ will continue to stay fresh, green, and fruitful all year long. We must remember, a tree or plant doesn’t eat its own fruit – others eat it. Fruit comes from life, the life of God flowing in and through us.

Prayer; Dear Lord, help me continue to feed my “spiritual roots” through the word of God and prayer. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Snorkeler or Diver

 Snorkeler or Diver
“But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.        (Psalm 1:2)
My daughter loves to spend her vacation in areas where there is pure, clear water good for snorkeling. She has snorkeled in Hawaii, Mexico, and next year plans to go to the Bahamas. The snorkeler swims just below the surface along the reefs where there are thousands of multi-colored fish, crustaceans, starfish, and other sea creatures. To go deeper would require a diving suit with attached air hose and weighted shoes. A person would need special training before trying deep diving. It would be advisable to begin with a course on snorkeling before attempting anything more advanced.
   Part of my training for the U.S. Navy was to jump in a pool and see how long I could hold my breath while swimming under water. The average time one can hold their breath is approximately two minutes. We had one sailor who could stay under water for three minutes. He had fantastic lung power and qualified to be a submariner.
   When you apply these facts to the Christian life we find that believers have two choices to make each day. We can approach our daily Bible reading as a snorkeler or as a deep sea diver.
   The snorkeler is identified as the person who stays near the surface, satisfied with nourishment found in the shallows. The Bible speaks of snorkelers as “newborn babies, who crave the pure milk of the word.” (1 Peter 2:2) On the other hand, you may be like the deep sea divers who dig into the “meat of the word.”
   Are you a snorkeler or a deep sea diver when it comes to your daily meditation on the word of God? It’s okay to be a snorkeler once in a while, but to grow in the word we need to follow the example of the Psalmist and study, reflect, and meditate on the law of the Lord “day and night.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me move on from being a snorkeler to a deep sea diver in your Word.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Two Ways to Walk

 Two Ways to Walk
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.” (Psalm 1:1)
Several days a week I take my wife, Elaine, over to the mall to join the walkers. Due to a lower back problem I find a chair to sit in and watch. Nothing is more interesting than watching people when they don’t realize you are watching. I see people who are walking at a fast pace with “fit bits” on their arms. Others are slowly plodding along barely able to put one foot in front of the other. Still others are walking either in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. Elaine walks around on one floor and then goes down the escalator to walk on the bottom level. Everyone seems to have the same purpose in mind.
   The Scriptures have a lot to say about walking. In Genesis 5:24 we are told, “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” And in Gen. 6:9 the Bible says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” God spoke to Abraham in Gen. 17:1 and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.” Later on when the Israelites entered the Promise Land, Joshua had them walk around Jericho once each day for six days and seven times on the seventh day before the walls fell down.
   The writer of Psalm 1 presents to us two ways – the way of blessing and the way of judgment. The focus is upon God’s word and upon God’s blessing on those who obey it and meditate on it, and on His ultimate judgment on those who rebel.
   The word “blessed”is asher,” the name of one of Jacob’s sons. It’s in the plural form meaning – “O the happiness! O the blessedness!” The person described in Psalm One met the conditions and therefore God blessed him. If we want God’s blessing, we, too, must meet the conditions.
   Why does God pore out his blessing on us? So that we might become channels of God’s blessing to others. It’s a joy to receive a blessing but an even greater joy to be a blessing. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)

Prayer: Dear Lord, make me a blessing to others as the new year approaches.