September 4, 2011
By Don Meadows
My daddy told me time after time, “Donnie, the most valuable thing you have is your word. Don’t ever break it because it is awfully hard to fix.”
Today’s litigation-prone society is sad. You have to be careful what you say, what you do, what you suggest and what you believe in business and personal relationships. It’s probably good advice, although somewhat depressing: “Get it in writing.”
In Ecclesiastes Solomon sounds a bit depressed. Many times he seems to be saying something like, “I’ve look around me, and life doesn’t always seem worth living.” Everyone around him had disappointed him in some way, one can conclude.
Yet, what he says, unfortunately, is a reflection of society, whatever generation in what generation you are blessed to live. Human nature hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t, change much.
I was intrigued by today’s reading. I also enjoy the way the New Living Translation say it. Basically it’s this: Watch your mouth! Say only what you really mean; and when you blow it, don’t try to talk your way around it or lie about it. To do so, he said, is to commit sin with your mouth.
Jesus put it this way: “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” Matthew 15:11 (KJV) Often we try to laugh off our lapses in integrity with such reasoning as, “Oh, it’s just a little white lie” or “I was only kidding.”
Solomon was focusing in on what people say to God. It’s better to say nothing to God than to make a commitment and then break it, he reasoned. Yet, have not all of us done that?
One of the most sacred vows to God a person can make is a wedding vow. Yes, I said “to God.” Few people standing in front of a church being married realize the seriousness of the words being spoken. They are words being spoken by a man and woman, but they are being said in the name of God. Folks, that’s serious stuff.
How soon many people forget those vows. God doesn’t
Jesus said, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Matthew 12:36 (KJV)
Obviously, there are many other examples of the lack of integrity. Thinking back to what my daddy said about “fixing” a broken word, I wonder what society’s values today are doing for our young people? George Bernard Shaw said, “We must make the world honest before we can honestly say to our children that honesty is the best policy.”
Yet we see our elected leaders, on both sides of the aisle, handle carelessly basic integrity. Schools no longer are the haven for honestly, wholesomeness and godliness. Religious organizations and preachers are caught in scandal after scandal.
Is it all for naught, useless and searching in the wind?
I don’t believe so. There are godly, honest people in the world. The question, I think, is will you and will I be among these? With God’s help, and with a determination to keep our word through surrender to His will, we can.
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September 5, 2011
Ah, The Lessons of Old Age
By Don Meadows
Only an older man could have written the above verse.
Have you ever said, “If only I had known when I was young what I know now?” It’s a rhetorical question, of course, since we can’t go back. In my case, it probably would have made no difference, as I would have done the same things the same way anyway. I know me!
My younger brother said the other day, “I just did what is probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
“Oh,” I replied. “What was that?”
“I just said goodbye to my only son.” His son, Robby, graduated from high school this year; he is a hockey player – a very good hockey player who has dreams of one day playing professionally.
The world of hockey players is a strange one, indeed. It seem the road to greater success is to play “junior hockey” and then college hockey and then, if things work out and you’re good enough, professionally.
So, my brother took my nephew to live with a family in Montana, where he can be in a “hockey-intensive” environment. He will devote six hours or more daily to developing his hockey skills and body and mind.
My brother’s emotions are two-fold:
First, it’s tough to see your last child leave home. It’s the so-called “empty nest” thing. Life for my brother and his wife has changed and it is not always a happy event. Someday – after college bills are all paid and emotional storms come and go – they’ll appreciate their own graduation.
Secondly, they are concerned about the well-being of their son. How will the world treat him? How will he treat the world? What will happen?
Solomon’s advice is straight to the point. It’s wonderful to be young. Enjoy it to the fullest. Do what you want. Don’t miss a thing.
That sounds exactly what young people today want to hear. There are no limits. Everything is fair game, and it’s yours.
Well, not exactly. You see, Solomon adds this caveat: “Just remember that you are going to have to give an accounting to God for everything you do.”
Come to think of it, that’s not bad advice for someone of any age. One day there will be an accounting for the choices we make. Most of the time the consequences of our decisions will come quickly in this life; but remember that everything will be judged by a holy God.
Have fun, Robby. Have courage, Ron. But may none of us forget that God is here, sharing our joys, ready to help us cope with disappointments and strengthen us to do what is best for us. Remember, too, that we live not for ourselves but for God and His glory.
We will make mistakes – huge ones. These will come through ignorance, through being stubborn and because of rebellion. Most of these mistakes won’t have dire consequences, but some will.
It’s when we make the mistakes of ignoring, disobeying and offending God and bringing hurt to others that we must remember something very important. God loves us so much He said goodbye to His only son Jesus, watched Him die a miserable death on the cross so that you and I, we all, could ask for and receive forgiveness for our sins.
Youth turns into old age quickly – you’ll be surprised just how quickly. Life on earth is brief. Thoughts of mom and dad, grandma and grandpa and uncles and aunts and friends who have been gone for many years are a constant reminder of the death that is coming to all.
Then will come the accounting before God. Ask Jesus today to be your Lord; live life to the fullest by living it in Him and there will never be an end to the joys we have, for they shall be ours eternally.
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September 7, 2011
By Don Meadows
This psalm attributed to Asaph is more of a prophetic sermon than song. It argues, I believe, that the decision to follow God is not a “one and done” deal but a continual struggle of choosing to obey or disobey the summons to holy living.
God says through the psalmist, “I don’t need, I don’t want your sacrificial gifts or your rituals as acts of expressing your love for Me. I want heart-felt thanks from you. I want you to live the things you talk about with your mouths.”
Asaph was a Levite, the son of Berachiah the Gershonite (2 Chr. 20:14). He sounded cymbals before the Ark of the Covenant when it was moved from the house of Obed-Edom to Jerusalem (1 Chr. 15:16–19). Asaph’s family became one of the three families given responsibility for music and song in the Temple (1 Chr. 25:1–9). Following the Captivity, 128 singers from this family returned from Babylon and conducted the singing when the foundations of Zerubbabel’s temple were laid (Ezra 2:41; 3:10). Twelve psalms (Psalms 50; 73–83) are attributed to the family of Asaph.
Asaph was familiar with human nature. His writing probably came out of his observations of the many people who came to “worship” God. Like preachers today, he saw the hypocrisy of those who bent the knee in the ritual of church. They went through the motions, said the words, put something in the offering plate and outwardly seemed God-fearing and God-loving. Inside they were something else.
In Isaiah’s words, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (KJV)
It’s not comfortable exposing the inward filth that lurks within each of us. The power of ritualized religion can blind us to the true nature of our inward self. Others, looking at our outside, affirm us and we begin to believe and trust their evaluations. Eventually we are unable to see ourselves for what we really are.
We become acclimated to the values of the world in which we live and grow comfortable with the moralities of the masses. Dangerously we are unable to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong, what is sin and what is not.
The psalmist notes that God was silent for a season. Then He spoke. He calls for repentance. He calls for change so that devastating judgment can be avoided. Repent, or “I will tear you apart, and no one will help you.”
God speaks to us as individuals and to nations. As we watch the news, read the papers and look upon our own circumstances, one wonders if perhaps the “tearing apart” has not begun for our generation. Earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, typhoons, disintegrating economies, greed, perversions accepted as moral alternatives, killing of the innocent sanctioned, starvations of millions of God’s children.
Do they speak? Do they encourage you to examine your world and, perhaps more importantly, peer intently into your own heart?
If so, listen to what God says, what He promises:
To see God’s salvation is not limited to a one-time moment. As exciting as the moment of our conversion might have been, the continuing revelation of salvation is more so. It’s contingent upon keeping to the path, to following the leadership of Jesus.
Ronald F. Youngblood, general editor; F.F. Bruce and R.K. Harrison, consulting editors, Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary: An authoritative one-volume reference work on the Bible with full color illustrations [computer file], electronic edition of the revised edition of Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary, Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1995.
September 9, 2011
Two Prerequisites for God’s Blessings
By Don Meadows
To be recipient of the blessings God wants for you requires:
1) You listen to the laws of God. Knowing proper conduct is a prerequisite to obedience.
2) Obey. This means more than physical submission to God's instruction, though that is important. It means surrender of one's heart, a desire to be obedient out of a sense of love.
We lament as political leaders and supposed-learned commentators explain, interpret and project the outcomes of our economic troubles. We express surprise as our society claims more and more victims by way of drug overdoses, cancers from smoking, killings on our roads from alcoholic abuse, destruction of families through sexual and emotional misconduct and a myriad of other social contagions.
Suggestions that there is spiritual connection to these conditions will draw the ire of most people. One advancing such a rationale will be branded eccentric, radical or just plain nuts. Perhaps the thing feared most by today’s would-be prophets is to be labeled politically or socially incorrect. We do like being liked.
God’s word to Israel was meant for both the nation’s leadership and the individual citizen. Everyone is included, no one is left out when God speaks this word. Today our President, congressional leaders, state and local officials are included. You are included. I am included.
Why won’t we listen? The causes are many, the reasons are simple but the explanation so condemning that we prefer to allow it to remain a mystery to our hearts and to our minds.
One reason we won’t listen is because of the position that listening would put us. Listening means more than hearing, or reading, the words and comprehending their meaning. Listening means allowing the words to become a part of us. This would require that we either accept or reject them. Said another, we’d have to obey or disobey.
We don’t want to obey God’s Word, or law, because we fear it would cost us what we want or like to do. Idol worship is a strong term, but is that not what we really do? We become preoccupied with what we do, the stuff we own and want and that which gets our real attention. It’s not intentional, but somewhere along the way God and His law gets shoved backward. We have gotten so good at pretending obedience by our weekly pilgrimage to “His House” and our occasional exposure to the Written Word that we no longer know the real god in our lives. Some folks – nearly two-thirds of those in American – don’t even bother to go to church and participate in the divine pretense.
Too many contemporary “prophets” use their pulpit time to rationalize that which God calls sin and comfort their congregations with the suggestion that the Lord is an all-knowing, always-loving, constantly-merciful and push-over deity who accepts us as we are. That’s all true, of course, but it doesn’t stop there.
God says to us, as He said to Israel, listen! Obey my laws.
The choices are clear. “If you will only obey me and let me help you, then you will have plenty to eat. But if you keep turning away and refusing to listen, you will be destroyed by your enemies. I, the Lord, have spoken!"
What do we not understand about that? Apparently a great deal.
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