Meditating on the Commands of Christ (61): Judge Not

This has been a really challenging post for me to write, because by nature I am a moralist, and as I’m slowly learning—also a legalist. So, to figure out what Jesus was teaching—and is (present tense) expecting from those of us who attempt to be his disciples, I studied every verse in the Bible that talks about judging. . . and there are literally hundreds! From Genesis 18:19, where Abraham is commended as someone who will “keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment” all the way to Revelation 19:2, where God is worshiped because “true and righteous are his judgments,” the Bible is filled with admonitions about the importance of understanding and keeping God’s laws, of living justly, and doing right.

So, what did Jesus mean when he said, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged” (Luke 6:37 ), and “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2)?

The first thing that struck me from studying is that Jesus doesn’t mean, “Don’t attempt to discern right from wrong.” The entire weight of scripture promotes a life of knowing and keeping the “way of wisdom,” embodied in knowing and keeping God’s laws: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:7-9). Being a moralist and a legalist is not all bad. God wants us to know and do what is just and good. “Mind over matter.” “Do right ’til the stars fall.” “Keep on keeping on.” These aphorisms are right and good! Don’t shove your moral compass (the scriptures) into a back drawer; keep your Bible as the GPS on your dashboard!!

The second thing I learned is to distinguish between discerning good from evil and judging people. I think Jesus is saying, “Judge not [people], that ye be not judged [by other people].” So, the standard is personal purity for ourselves while not assuming responsibility for the actions of other people . . . or passing judgment on them. You can call it a “Double Standard” if you want, and I think that’s almost appropriate, but the double standard puts the burden for purity and uprightness squarely on our own shoulders. It is up to us to do right regardless of what anybody else does.

What does this look like day to day? Jesus didn’t come only as an example to us (He came to die for our sins and become our redeemer), but He is the perfect example for us to follow, and in studying the life of Christ, we have many accounts of how he interacted with people—all of whom had character flaws, and some of whom were characterized by immoral behavior. Jesus never shunned anybody! (If you can correct me, please do, but I haven’t found a single instance.) Jesus rebuked those who confronted him with sinful behavior: “Sin no more” (to the woman caught in adultery, John 8:11) and even “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men” (speaking to his most passionate disciple, Peter, in Mark 8:33). Jesus’s most violent reaction was to the religious leaders who had turned God’s temple into a “den of thieves” (Mark 11:17). Jesus was clearly enraged by the spiritual leaders hypocritically oppressing the people, and he cleansed the temple, but he didn’t lay a hand on anyone . . . anyone. If Jesus—who could have called down fire from heaven to devour evil men—never harmed anyone and only rebuked sinful behaviors, then none of the rest of us ever has the right to attempt to take justice into our own hands and repay evil with evil.

How do I know? Because the scriptures are crystal clear on how God intends for judgment and justice to work:

*God is ultimately responsible for judging: “He cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity” (Psalm 98:8-9).

*God, as the creator, ruler, and sustainer of Earth, is the only one with the ultimate right to judge: “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us” (Isaiah 33:22).

*God is the only one who can judge and execute justice perfectly: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). “For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people” (Hebrews 10:30).

*Furthermore, God does care about good and evil, and He is at work, even though it’s not always obvious to us: “God is angry with the wicked: God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11).

*God has ordained governments and church leaders to serve as judges in disputes between people: “And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him” (Deuteronomy 1:16). Also: “And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:12).

*In situations where we are being personally oppressed, we are free to pray for relief and for God to judge— based on our personal uprightness and innocence: “The Lord judge between me and thee, and the Lord avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee” (1 Samuel 24:12). ” The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me” (Psalm 7:8).

*Because Jesus did not come to earth to judge, we are relieved of that responsibility at this time also: “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47).

*Our responsibility is to teach the Bible to others so they’ll understand right from wrong, because it is ultimately the Word of God in the Bible by which people will be judged: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

*We are specifically warned against judging other people: “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

* We are reminded that we are also not without sin: “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (Romans 2:1).

*Instead of being judgmental, we would do well to pray for those who are trapped in sinful lusts, doing everything we can to help them overcome: “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” (Galatians 6:1).

*Instead of being angry and shunning those who are doing evil, we need to learn to be broken-hearted for them, as they will eventually become miserable, whether or not we can observe it from the outside: “Unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil” (Romans 2:8-9).

*Lastly, let’s remember that there will ultimately be a judgment for our entire earth, where good will be vindicated and evil punished: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20:12-13).

*Still confused? I am sometimes! But thankfully, if we are believers, we have the resource of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to interact with others, and we can remember that it’s HIS JOB to convict people of their sins, not ours!If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:7-8). “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Ezekiel 18:30).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (60): Don't Worry About Tomorrow

It took me quite a while to decide whether this was a separate command or part of Jesus’s earlier imperative: “Take no thought for your life” (Matthew 6:25), but the two commands are like two bookends in the passage (Matthew 6:25-34), and I think the first is telling us not to worry about the present, whereas the last is telling us that we shouldn’t worry about the future either: Matthew 6:34 “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Jesus gives us two good reasons for not worrying. I think he gives the second reason first and the first second, but however you want to look at it, he makes two points:
1. Dealing with the issues we face—present tense, day by day—is enough to keep us fully engaged. If we’re worrying about tomorrow, we won’t be giving our complete attention to what needs our focus NOW! As my pastor says, “Wherever you are, be all there.”
2. The concerns of tomorrow may change, depending on how this day is lived out. If we live the present day well, we may find that some of the things we worried about the most have completely dissipated, like dew on the morning grass! As my husband’s boss likes to say, “I have anguished through many horrible events in my life, and a few of them actually occurred.” 🙂

I notice there are literally hundreds of quotes encouraging us to stop worrying, and I’ve chosen a few favorites to share, but if you need more, there’s no end of them online!

“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” -Swedish Proverb

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
-Leo Buscaglia

“Worrying is using your imagination to create something you don’t want.”
– Abraham Hicks

“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
-Arthur Somers Roche

“Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “A day of worry is more exhausting than a week of work.” -Anonymous

“What worries you masters you.” -Anonymous

“It’s not the work which kills people, it’s the worry. It’s not the revolution that destroys machinery it’s the friction.” – Henry Ward Beecher

“Worry is like a rocking chair-it keeps you moving but doesn’t get you
anywhere.” – Corrie Ten Boom

“Most Christians are being crucified on a cross between two thieves:
Yesterday’s regret and tomorrow’s worries.”- Warren Wiersbe

“Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear.”
– Corrie Ten Boom

“Worry causes stress. Prayer causes peace, so worry less and pray more.”
– Anonymous

Matthew 6: 25-34:”Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Day by Day
(—Lina Sandell, 1865, Public Domain)

“Day by day and with each passing moment, Strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment, I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He whose heart is kind beyond all measure Gives unto each day what He deems best– Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.

“Ev’ry day the Lord Himself is near me With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me, He whose name is Counselor and Pow’r. The protection of His child and treasure Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
‘As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,’ This the pledge to me He made.

“Help me then in eve’ry tribulation So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting, E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting, Till I reach the promised land.”

(Credit for initial painting of Jesus with a lamb and a clock by Yongsung Kim, used by permission of Havenlight.com.)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (58): Give Up Your Doubts!

This has been a really difficult week. The father-in-law of one of my sons “died”—from our perspective here on earth, although I am confident that he has been safely birthed into heaven. As Tony said before he left, “I know where I’m going, and I know God does all things well. It’s just hard to get from here to there.” He is now there! How do I know? Because he believed: “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:8-11). Tony found and walked the path of life, and now he is experiencing the fullness of joy and eternal pleasures of heaven.

Do you believe in heaven? Probably the most profound questions every person ponders while battling earth’s final headmaster go something like this: “Is there an afterlife? If there is, what’s it like? What will happen to me after I die?” Each of us has to grapple with these enigmas for ourselves. Atheists say there simply is no afterlife, but I’ve heard there are no atheists in foxholes, and I think the contractions we feel as the womb of death seeks to expel us must be more terrifying than any other experience on earth.

I don’t know what you believe about life after death, but may I share with you what the Bible teaches in case you don’t know or haven’t yet decided what to believe? Jesus taught that there is life after death, and that He, Himself, is the way to get to heaven after we die: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).

So simple, but not easy for adults who have spent their lives trying to be good and find their own way, often without even recognizing their need for a Savior. God gave us the Mosaic Law to test us, and without exception, we all fail. We are incapable of being perfect, of always making the right choices, or of always wanting to be good! Jesus came to earth as God incarnate (“in the flesh,” as a man), lived a sinless life, and died in our place as the perfect Lamb-of-God sacrifice. We don’t have to spend our lives trying to be good enough. We’ll never be “good enough,” but Jesus was. All God asks is that we acknowledge our sinfulness and accept Jesus as our Lord (“master”) and Savior, asking Him to make us new (“born again”—reborn spiritually as a child of God).

Where are you on your journey of faith? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Jesus? Is it possible that you don’t want anybody becoming your “master” or telling you what to do? But, do you want to go to heaven? If so, please don’t doubt the goodness and love of God! Jesus won’t make you miserable if you surrender your heart to Him. He loves you! He wants you to live a holy (which will make you happy) life here on earth and live forever in heaven with Him.

Have you asked Jesus to become your Savior and Lord, and to bring you safely home to heaven when you die? Jesus wants us to stop worrying about this life—even the most basic aspects of how to provide for ourselves, like food and drink. Jesus invites us to accept his invitation and become part of his “bride,” his Church. Just as a man cares for his wife, Jesus will care for us if we’re willing to entrust our lives fully to him.

Are you still doubtful? Afraid? Too proud to open your eyes and see Love staring you in the face? Death will indeed search for and destroy our bodies, but even the final headmaster has a Master. . . the God of Love who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If you’re not yet a believer, I beg you to give up your doubts and believe! If you are a believer—well, let’s encourage one another. Let’s not “be ye of doubtful mind” about anything. As we keep our hand in His, Jesus will take care of us, even on our deathbeds. He will provide for us, so that even though it’s the hardest thing on earth to get from here to there, we can have every confidence that we’ll be safely birthed from this life to the next!

Text for today’s meditation: Luke 12:23, “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.”

(Photo credit: “Come Follow Me” was painted by Yongsung and used by permission of http://Havenlight.com)

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (57): Consider the Lilies

Among the world’s most beautiful living plants, I can’t think of anything more gorgeous than flowers. How about you? Trees can be majestic and fill me with awe, but for sheer pleasure, there is no botanical sensory experience I enjoy more than visiting a lush flower garden bursting with extravagantly colored blooms . . . especially if they perfume the air! The profusion of shapes and sizes . . . the uniqueness of each blossom . . . I sometimes feel like I’ve died and gone to a Thomas Kinkaide heaven!

Lilies and delphinium growing in our garden

Therefore, it was with great joy that I embarked on a memory tour of my favorite lily photos to share with you while meditating on today’s texts: Matthew 6:28-30 “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” Luke 12:27 “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

Amaryllis. belladonna (aka/Belladonna Lily)

When I typed “lily” into my photo library’s search bar, it brought up 434 pictures (about 300 of which weren’t actually lilies), so the first thing I realized is that there are many flowers that look like lilies but aren’t.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) growing along our lane
Some scholars believe this could be the “lily” from Song of Solomon
Rather idyllic rendering of Jesus preaching to the people about lilies,
but these are what are commonly considered “true lilies.”

Even within the generous group of flowers that I always thought of as “types of lilies”— with common names containing the word “lily” . . . most of them are not actually part of the genus “lilium,” and are therefore not true lilies by botanical class or definition!

Nymphaeaceae, Pink Water lily in Thailand

For instance, all the gorgeous “water lilies” —lotus flowers—found around the world are not “true” lilies!

Water lily in our lake

Nor are any of the common (but splendid) water lilies that choke the perimeter of our lake part of the lilium family. I am so surprised!!

Lily-of-the-Valley, Convallaria majalis, growing in my front yard

The thousands of lilies of the valley that crowd the edges of our woods are not true lilies!

Trout Lily in our woods, Erythronium
(in truth, more closely related to tulips than true lilies!)

Not even the tiny trout lilies that dapple our woods in spring can be called genuine lilies! I was amazed when I learned this (just now, through study for this post)! 😦

Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria aurea) found in Iguaçu National Park, Brazil

Even this delicate “Peruvian lily” that I noticed growing near Iguaçu Falls is not a member of the “lilium” genus. So, the first thing I learned in considering the lilies is that there are many flowers called lilies which are not genuine lilies.

Lotus flowers blooming in Fort-de-France, Martinque

As I believe you are someone interested in studying what Jesus taught, I think it’s worth considering: Are you a genuine Christian?

Springtime in Monet’s Garden, Giverny, near Paris, France

The world is full of beautiful people, many of whom may call themselves Christians or think of themselves as Christians without truly be a part of the genuine family of Christians. Jesus taught us that: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). How can a man be born again? “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13).

Easter lily, uncurling in the early morning light

It is my hope and prayer that if you are reading this, you either are—or will become—a true child of God through faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior!

Lilies at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York

All true children of God—whether or not rich and part of some magnificent church . . .

Red lily growing wild in the french Alps

or alone, growing in some remote area of the world . . .

Peach-colored lily growing along our fence line (Michigan)

each of us is precious to God and can claim the promise intrinsic in what Jesus taught:

Tiger lilies growing in our yard
(along with blue delphinium and wild black raspberries)

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30).

Bouquet with lilies on our kitchen table

Any of you feel pretty as a picture (or pretty as a picture of a flower)?
For me, I say, “Not a chance!”

Budding Tiger Lilies on our lane

Most lilies (particularly the common “tiger lilies” that grow everywhere around our home in Michigan), put on an extravagant display in July, but each flower only lasts for a single day, and then withers, often being replaced by another emerging bud.

Peonies and tiger lilies in our garden

Although the (literally) hundreds of lilies growing around our home have to fear being eaten by the deer, they do not fret over what they’re going to wear!


Spring Bouquet

They don’t toil all night spinning the dress of gold they’ll wear on the morrow!

Star-gazer lily in a basket of flowers

And yet, have you ever met any person robed any more elegantly than a lily?

Easter lilies in full bloom

I may just be a sucker for flowers, but I wouldn’t trade the beauty and perfume of a dazzling lily for the most elaborately adorned woman. Would you? (I’m not talking about the woman, I’m talking about how beautiful her dress is . . . and maybe you would think her dress is more lovely than a flower. That’s fine too, but I would not.)

Bouquet of lilies, roses, and babies’ breath

Regardless of how much you prize clothing and shoes and jewelry and accessories, the point is this: God will take care of us if we’ll let him, and He doesn’t want us to spend all our time worrying and fretting about not having or being. He has a better plan for us!

Lilies growing over the edge of our swimming pool

God wants us to grow where we’re planted and concentrate on being and loving, not having and doing! Sound like a good plan?!

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (56): Consider the Birds

Having just returned from a cruise along the Amazon, I can’t think of a more appropriate topic than considering birds, since we must have seen many dozens of the more than 1,300 species of birds that make their home in the rain forests of the Amazon. (One in every three species in the world exists in Amazonia!)

There were times as we cruised along in a smaller boat close to the shoreline that the cacophony of bird sounds emanating from the jungle reminded me of the aviary of the John Ball Zoo (our local zoo) when the budgies were almost out-of-control noisy!

(If you don’t believe me, check this link to our visit a few years ago: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/a-few-of-my-favorite-the-birds-32-budgie-mania/

If you know me, you know I love birds, and one of my daily pleasures is watching them come to the bird feeder that’s just three feet in front of my nose as I type!

Female cardinal on our snowy cherry tree

At any rate, I do think about birds pretty much every day. BUT, what is that our Lord wants us to learn from considering the birds?

Brazilian Toco Toucan

Let’s start with the Brazilian toco toucan. His uniquely large schnoz, which can be half the size of his entire body length, is specially designed of light bone struts filled with a spongy keratin tissue that makes it exceedingly light and strong. The toucan’s beak is useful for grabbing fruit, reaching deep into the interior of holes, intimidating the competition, and is a wonderfully efficient thermoregulator—just perfect for the tropical areas where he lives.

Amazon Parrot resting in the snag of a tree

Consider the Amazon parrot, arrayed in gorgeous green and yellow feathers with brown underparts. Talk about perfect camouflage!

Flamingos at the Bird Park near Iguazu Falls in Brazil

Consider the flamingo, with her amazingly long neck and legs, just perfect for wading. Consider her uniquely designed bill, which is used upside down and is especially adapted for filtering the mud and silt from the tasty tiny shrimp and algae that she loves to eat!

Harpy Eagle in Brazil

Consider the harpy eagle—largest and most powerful raptor in the Amazon and top of the food chain, routinely carrying off monkeys and sloths for dinner. Wings, talons, razor-sharp beak and piercing eyes that sent chills through me!

Glittering-throated Emerald Hummingbird

Consider the smallest birds of the tropical rain forests—beautiful hummingbirds! So tiny they’re hard to spot, and so fast they’re almost impossible to capture on camera . . . or probably for dinner, too! Notice how perfectly color-coordinated they are as well!

Male Saffron Finch in Amazon

Consider the humble saffron finch, which is tiny and vulnerable but nevertheless thrives without even having to build a nest! These unassuming little birds nest in holes that other birds have built and abandoned.

Beautiful Scarlet Ibis searching for supper in the soft mud

Consider the scarlet ibis—adorned as brilliantly as a fire siren. Her beauty makes her a perfect target, but the powers that be have made her a protected species the world around! Both God and man watch out for her!

Color-coordinated Macaw in front of a grass hut in Brazil

Well, I could go on and on sharing about the fascinating birds we saw in Brazil!

White-naped Jay in Brazil

The songs and calls, the size and gorgeous colors, the similarities and differences from North American birds. Everywhere we wandered, birds appeared and serenaded (or scolded) us!

Black-collared hawk perched on a post beside an old fishing boat
on the Rio Negro in Brazil

As I “considered the birds,” I realized that what Jesus taught about them is absolutely true! God has created each bird with the unique qualities that it needs to survive and thrive. Survival skills come as standard equipment, and birds never seem to worry about the future!

Black-collared hawk in Amazonia

They aren’t busy planting and sowing and sweating whether or not it’s going to rain so they can reap a harvest.

Kingfisher perched on a snag along the Amazon River

Birds live one day at a time, focused on the present moment. Sure, they work tirelessly to provide a living for themselves and their little ones, but they don’t worry about tomorrow, and God does provide for them: “He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry” (Psalm 147:9).

Alcyon Amazon Kingfisher

No matter if we’re at the top or bottom of the food chain in this world, God loves us and tells us to trust Him with our future. He makes sure the birds of the air have food, and He will help us find the provisions we need too.

Iguazu Falls in Iguazu National Park, Brazil

I’m going to take my inspiration from the swallows at Iguazu National Park, who build their nests behind the torrential waterfalls.

Swallows darting through the waterfalls to their home in the cliffs

Rather than worry about tomorrow, let’s live under the rainbow of God’s protective care. Sure it’s scary having to dart back and forth through the downpours of life to find food every day, but God will provide, and we’ll get through! God loves us even more than He loves the beautiful birds that He’s created, and He will take care of us too! He wants us to relax and trust Him with our future! “Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God” (Psalm 84:3).

Texts for today’s meditation: Matthew 6:26 “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Luke 12:24 “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?”

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (55): “Take No Thought for Your Life”

Some of Jesus’s commands seem impossibly hard, but others seem simply impossible. This is one of the latter! How in the world can we, as humans, actually “take no thought” about the most basic aspects of our physical lives: Food and clothing? After all, doesn’t the Bible teach us that, “having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8)? Or, in other words, “As long as we have food and clothes, we should be satisfied” (Names of God Bible rendering).

I can get far enough in my thinking to understand that Jesus doesn’t want us to be all caught up in material possessions and to imagine that it’s possible to be content with simple food and shelter. My mother, who grew up on the western prairies with a fierce pioneer spirit, claimed as her theme songs “Don’t Fence Me In” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”

Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1964)

I—on the other hand—identify more with Eliza from My Fair Lady, who sang:

“All I want is a room somewhere
Far away from the cold night air.
With one enormous chair,
Aow, wouldn’t it be loverly?”

That’s me! I could be content with a quiet corner of a small, warm home ( . . . especially if I had access to my camera and computer! 🙂 ) How about you?

I always thought contentment with “whatsoever state I’m in” (Philippians 4:11) was the goal, but Jesus calls us to something higher! He challenges us to “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25). If life is more than eating and the body more than clothing, then what is that “more”? What’s more for you? Got any thoughts?

I’d love to hear your response! Is there anything in life even more essential to your well being than food and shelter? What’s the essence of your life? Is there anything even better than life to you? I’ve been pondering this passage particularly in light of just returning from a cruise down the Amazon River. There is something better than life to me, and I’ll try to be ready to share it with illustrations from Amazonia by this coming Tuesday!

Texts for today: Matthew 6:25, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” and Luke 12:22-23, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.

(Painting of Jesus holding a little girl by Yongsung Kim, used by permission of Havenlight.com )

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (54): Do You Know Where Your Heart Is?

“The Light of His Love.”

Do you know the first thing that popped into my head when I asked you if you know where your heart is? I probably shouldn’t even admit it, but it was a line from a song written years before I was born. I can’t remember the last time I heard it (probably as a little girl somewhere while shopping in a store with my mother), and I never knew who sang it or the context, but one line has stuck with me all these years. I just looked it up and promptly stopped, because the context was an old movie with a skanky theme. BUT, what I remember about the song is good, because it says, “Yes, my heart belongs to Daddy,” and the song goes on to say, “so I simply couldn’t be bad . . .cause my Daddy treats me so well.”

For the past fifty plus years, I’ve thought of that line and attributed it to God, my heavenly Father, who has been so unbelievably kind to me that I’ve never been tempted to run away from him. His love keeps me reigned in when temptation threatens to undo me. My heart really does belong to Daddy . . . my Abba Father!

How about you? Does your heart belong to Daddy? This week’s “command of Christ” is found in Matthew 9:20, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If our hearts belong to our heavenly Father, then we will want to lay up our treasures in heaven, not on earth. But, what are heavenly treasures? From last Sunday’s study, we learned that spiritual treasures are eternal and spiritual in nature rather than transient and material.

While studying to see what the scriptures teach about treasure, I found a few lovely ideas. First, Israel is God’s treasure (Psalm 135:4), and if we have become “children of Abraham” by faith in Christ, we are part of God’s treasure too! In Proverbs 2:4, we are told to seek wisdom the way some search for hidden treasure, so “wisdom” is certainly something of eternal value that we can “lay up” in heaven! Isaiah 33:6 adds this bit of insight: “And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.

What is “the fear of the Lord”? I’ve heard it defined as “reverential trust with a fear of doing evil.” When we trust the Lord’s Word as pure and right, we avoid evil out of respect and love for God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Want treasure in heaven? I do! Looks like it starts with reverentially trusting the Lord as the omniscient law giver who teaches us the way of wisdom. Even when the Bible looks “wrong” according to current trends—or even our own ability to judge good from evil—God wants us to trust Him and obey Him more than we trust our own hearts and obey the strictures of government (only when they disagree with the clear mandates of the Bible).

So, heavenly treasures start with belonging to God as our Father and becoming wise through learning to obey Him. As we follow him, then we’ll start producing the heavenly “treasure” of good works: “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matthew 12:35). These “good works” aren’t produced in order to earn our way into heaven, they are the natural by-product of loving our heavenly Father and are like gifts we can offer him.

Continuing along the path of treasure hunting, Matthew 13:44 teaches us that “the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field” and in verse 46, the kingdom of heaven is likened to “the pearl of great price” worthy of giving up everything else in life in order to obtain it! How do we “obtain” the kingdom of heaven? By being born again: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). In Matthew 18:3, Jesus said it this way, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” If you’re not sure what that means, please click where it says “Coming to Christ” at the top of this page. This explains how to be born again and enter the kingdom of heaven.

In the Gospels, Jesus shares with us several times that when we give to the poor, we’ll have treasure in heaven! Do you believe that? I do!! It’s one of those “by faith not sight” things that doesn’t make sense in the world’s economy, but Jesus has a better way in mind for us than heaping up material treasures for ourselves! In 2 Corinthians 4:7, we’re told “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” What is this treasure? It is “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This may make no sense at all to those who do not believe, but for those of us who have experienced the radiance and comfort of the glory of God, it makes perfect sense!

Think of it this way: What do you love more than anything else in life? Isn’t it being in the presence of the one whom you love more than anything else in the world? Think about it for a minute. What DO you love more than anything else in the world? Is it a person, or a possession? There is no person or possession that will bring you the pleasure and peace of residing in the presence of God and experiencing the light of His countenance smiling down on you! If you’re not sure, try meditating on this prayer over this coming week, and see what happens.

God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Selah. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.” (Psalm 67).

Another song I just love listening to is by Michael W. Smith singing “Shine on Us.” (You can start about a 1:05 into it without missing the song): https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-SGMedia-sgmedia_maps&hsimp=yhs-sgmedia_maps&hspart=SGMedia&p=michael+w+smith+singing+shine+on+us#id=2&vid=e0ae2b512544e28688f8f2aee6716d0f&action=view

“Lord
Let your light, Light of your face
Shine on Us

That we, may be saved
That we, may have life
To find our way
In the darkest night
Let your light, Shine on us

Lord
Let your grace, Grace from your hand
Fall on us . . .”

Text for today’s meditation: Matthew 9:20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

(Photo of the painting “The Light of His Love” by Yongsung Kim, used by permission of Havenlight.com)