Subscribing to Scribd

If you love books and have a bit of a budget for continuing education, then you might appreciate Scribd. Have you heard of it? It’s been dubbed the “Netflix for e-books.” Although there have been some serious accusations of copyright infringements since its inception in 2007 (by then Harvard student, Trip Adler), it is my understanding that at this point, Scribd has a clean bill of health and you can become a member without any concern that you’re doing anything shady. I joined last fall and have become a fan. For $8.99 per month, you can listen to as many audio books as you like, choosing from their vast collection of over a million titles and growing. Let me share just a bit of my own experience.

I love reading but all too often “don’t have time” for the pleasure of sitting and learning via the written word. To compensate, I discovered LibriVox (actually, my book-loving editor son told me about it), which self-identifies as “Accoustical liberation of books in the public domain.” This is a marvelous service, and you can access over 12,000 books that have no copyright issues. It’s completely free, closely affiliated with Project Gutenberg (another wonderful volunteer organization that has been digitizing culturally significant books in the public domain), and is always looking for volunteers who are willing to contribute their time and voice to adding to LibrVox’s listings with high quality books. Over the past 10 years, I’ve enjoyed a number of LibriVox’s audio books, and if you have no money for continuing education but have time and the means for listening to audio books, this is an excellent way to go!

And then, last year, I began hearing about more recent books that I really wanted to read but were (are) still under copyright. Again, my son came to my rescue, as did several friends, particularly one friend who travels by car extensively for her work. Scribd will let you have one month as a free trial, and within one month, I was hooked. (Also, if you’re a student and too busy during the year, you could still sign up just for the summer. 🙂 )

There is a seemingly endless array of possibilities out there, but I will tell you that I mostly read non-fiction Christian books, so not everything I want to read is available on Scribd, which is probably good. I love to underline, go back and rethink, and study the books I really love, so it’s good for me to OWN books. However, Scribd opens the door for learning at times that I just can’t read, like when I’m driving, folding laundry, or washing dishes. I hope nothing ever ends our desire to possess paper copies of precious books (the Bible most of all), but every avenue for growth and learning about God and good seems like a blessing to me.

Here are a few of my favorite books from those I’ve enjoyed since last fall (all of which could also be purchased, but I’m just giving you a sampling of what’s out there that I really appreciated):

*King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, by Timothy Keller (excellent study on the life of Christ from the book of Mark, for both seekers and those who have found!)

*Why Suffering?: Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, by Ravi Zacharias (so helpful for gaining perspective on why a “good” God might allow suffering in this life)

*Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, by Stephen C. Meyer (highly technical but excellent information for those with scientific minds, providing solid philosophical and scientific arguments for the probability of intelligent design rather than random chance in the creation of the universe)

*Earth Psalms, by Francine Rivers (short, happy devotional thoughts about nature and God; easy listening for tired ears)

*A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Suffering, by Jerry Sittser (learning to accept and grow through tragedy)

*America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation, by Grant Wacker (fascinating, technical biography about one of our world’s most influential religious leaders)

*The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown (“The #1 New York Times bestseller about the Greatest Generation freshly adapted for the next generation” [that’s me]; wonderful account of a motley crew of young men who worked tireless to fulfill their dream of rowing their way to an Olympic Gold Metal back in 1936)

*The Classic Hundred Poems: All-Time Favorites, by William Harmon. The commentary on the poems alone was worth the listen; I felt like I’d taken a crash course in English poetry, and since I love to write poems, it seemed worthwhile to hear what the world loves best.

And more, although I won’t bore you. The point is, if you’re looking for a good resource for spirit and brain food, there are ways to promote learning and growth even during times when your hands are occupied with daily duties. Of course, nothing is as sweet and good as prayer and meditation, but if you have time for some audio books and $9 a month, you might also enjoy this avenue for expansion!

May Jesus bless you this summer as you pursue Him!

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:12-13). “Let no man despise thy youth” . . . or thy old age! Let’s be lifelong learners!!

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (39): To Resist or Not to Resist

The real problem with meditating on the commands of Christ is that many of them seem (and are) totally contrary to our human nature and therefore very confusing. It’s as if we’re on a hurdles course, and each new hurdle is higher or harder than the last in some respect. Last week, we learned about the need for a heart transplant, but at least we can rest in the knowledge that God, as our Great Physician, is standing by, ready to perform the surgery that only He can perform: Birthing within us a new spiritual heart that lives and breathes the pure, eternal life of Christ.

That is mystery and miracle enough, but what about today’s texts?!:

*Matthew 5:39 “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

*Luke 6:29, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

Wait a minute! This makes no sense at all, and I can prove it with a lot of other texts:

*James 4:7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

*1 Peter 5:8-10 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

*Hebrews 12:3-4 “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

Well, these verses clearly teach us to resist the Evil One and sin, but I guess they don’t really tell us to resist any and everybody who might be trying to take advantage of us. In fact, the New Testament teaches, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1). Some scholars believe that Jesus’ commands to withstand the abuses mentioned regard submitting to unjust authorities, since it was possible for a Roman soldier to demand a civilian to give the soldier his coat or carry the soldier’s burdens for a mile (or so I’ve heard).

As unpleasant and unpopular as it is, God wants us to submit to those who are over us in authority, such as wives to husbands (Oh, no!!! Oh, yes: Colossians 3:18), those who are younger to their elders (1 Peter 5:5), servants to their masters (and not just those employers who are kind and fair, 1 Peter 2:18: “Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward“), all of us to the man-made ordinances of government (1 Peter 2:13), and all of us out of deferential love for one another “in the fear of the Lord” (Ephesians 5:21).

Wow! That’s a long list of high hurdles God expects us to jump! I understand that God will take care of those who rest in Him when we are obedient but cornered: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day” (Exodus 14:13), but are their limits to how much abuse we’re supposed to take, and are we just supposed to become “doormats” for evil people to walk all over?

And, what about in the Old Testament? What about Joshua and David, and all the kings of Israel who fought against the surrounding tribes and conquered Canaan? Is it wrong to go to war against evil and oppression? Some people quote Romans 13:3-5 to say NO:For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” So, it appears to be reasonable, under the authority of your country, to defend “liberty and justice for all.”

I think the bottom line of Jesus’ command for us to “resist not evil” refers not to random acts of violence, but to authorized acts of unfairness . . . even EVIL ones, like the government “smiting us on the mouth” through an unjust ruling in court or demanding more of our money in taxes than we deem fair. Even on the personal level, we are told, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). This is a little easier to understand and work out, because it gives us an action point: Overcome evil with good. Seems a little easier than to “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4). However, both are implicit in Jesus’ teaching. Sometimes we have to “take it” and sometimes we’re asked to “give it,” but always to give back good, even if we’ve been given evil.

Truly, I don’t think this is possible apart from the grace of God! In my flesh, I resist evil—especially directed against me—with every fiber of my being. But, there are times when God wants us to submit rather than resist, and I think only his Holy Spirit can give us the wisdom to know when to submit and when to resist, and then to provide the grace to do so.

Lest we become weary in well doing, God does give some promises along the way to encourage us: “Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him . . . Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord” (Psalm 4:3,5). He will hear us. He will rescue us (1 Peter 8:10).

Finally, look back up at the verses listed above (and the passage listed below) on resisting. Each hurdle comes with a promise. If we “resist not evil” but submit first to God and then respond with patience and kindness, we will find that:

*The devil will flee from us.
*God will make us mature, establish, strengthen, and settle us.
*We will become partakers of his holiness and bear the peaceable fruit of righteousness.

Sound like what you’ve always wanted? No? Well, it wasn’t really on my bucket list either, but nobody said being a disciple of Christ would be easy or natural. It’s the way of the cross, but it’s the right way, and God wants us to walk in it! Maybe we can pray for each other as we practice trying to jump these high hurdles! God is watching, cheering us on!!

If you’re interested in the real-life struggles of two missionaries trying to grapple with this command, I highly recommend In The Presence of My Enemies, a heart-rending book about a couple who were abducted in the Philippines. I heard Gracia speak at a ladies’ conference a few years ago . . . amazing story of the power of God to transform us! Our heavenly Father is the Great Physician . . .but he is also the Final Head Master! Yes, the Force of All Good is with God alone, but it’s the greatest Force in the Universe!! May this Force be with us!!

Hebrews 12:3-15 “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”

Texts for this Meditation: Matthew 5:39 “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Luke 6:29, “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (38): Stop Swearing!

Even though reared in a non-religious home, I was still taught it was wrong to “swear,” but to me, that meant “don’t use the terms ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ as a way of expressing anger or negativity.” I didn’t understand why, but I obeyed. Looking back, I’m sure this came from America’s culturally Judeo/Christian ethic, reflecting one of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:7, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

I have Jewish friends who are so careful to protect God’s name that they won’t even spell it out! They write “G-d” instead to honor the preciousness of His holy name. Today, God’s name is used “in vain” (“as nothing”) so commonly that it’s hard to go anywhere without being affronted by people disrespecting the highest and holiest name on earth and heaven. Even if people don’t believe in God or Jesus, why would they slander and disregard what is precious to others? To me, it’s just another proof that God really does exist . . . and that people are prone to rebellion!

This type of “swearing” doesn’t refer to taking God’s name in vain but means promising to be truthful. It doesn’t happen often today, except in a court of law, when we are asked, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” Historically in American courts, people were supposed to swear on the Bible that they would tell the truth, although this tradition is not currently kept in many courts. In Britain, people of other faiths are allowed to base their oath of truthfulness on their own holy book, and atheists are allowed to affirm their oath to truthfulness without basing it on anything.

However good and right it is to protect God’s name, that not exactly what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 5:33-37 when he says, “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

In truth, ( 🙂 ) I think the atheists have the “most Christian” stance on this issue, at least if I understand Jesus’ command: “Swear not at all.” Rather than basing our truthfulness on some source outside ourselves—or even on our own “head” (meaning according to our ability to remember correctly??)—Jesus tells us to simply let our “Yea” be “Yea” and our “Nay” be “Nay.”

Oh, to be such people of our word that when we say “Yes!” we can be counted on to mean that we agree and will perform that which we’ve affirmed. “Can you come to my party?” “Yes!” But then, a more interesting opportunity comes along, and so our friend skips off to pursue something they prefer. Really? We say, “No,” but when pressured, we give in. Really? Oh, I just changed my mind! Really???

In a world where relationships seem to be built on shifting sands and keeping our word is no longer prized, let’s follow Jesus’ example of being men and women who can be trusted to keep their word. As a young person, I was profoundly impacted by the list from Psalm 15 that speaks about those who will be blessed, and one of the causes for blessing is, “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.”

God expects us to be faithful, even when it’s harder than we expected (and isn’t that almost always the case?). God is the ultimately faithful one, and for this reason we can trust him and hope in him: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3:22-24).

Wouldn’t you love to have a friend who was always faithful and trustworthy? Wouldn’t you love to be a friend who is always faithful and trustworthy? Jesus would like us to be! In fact, he commands us to be. What a challenge!

Text for this meditation: Matthew 5:33-37 “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (37): Going to Hell in a Handbasket

Excuse this offensive expression, but today’s passage is actually all about offenses: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:30). The expression “going to hell in a handbasket” is American slang for someone deteriorating morally without resisting sin, the way a handbasket is carried along without any protest (by the handbasket). Looking deeper into the expression’s murky past, it conjures up images from the days of the French Revolution, when there were mass executions using guillotines and the heads were hauled off in baskets. We also use the word picture “sliding down the slippery slope” to give a graphic description of a similar state, where someone is falling quickly into ruin and self-destruction. Hard question, but does this describe you or someone you love?

Cutting to the heart, Jesus’ command is about purity. Jesus says it is better to cut off our hand if it causes us to offend rather than to be cast into hell. What does he mean? To “offend” (according to Merriam-Webster) means “To transgress the moral or divine law: Sin.” It can also mean “to violate a law or rule: do wrong;” “to cause difficulty, discomfort, or injury;” or “to cause dislike, anger, or vexation.” I think all of these definitions will come into play as we study this passage.

Interestingly enough, Christians don’t chop off anyone’s hand if they break the law, and we feel horrified (and offended in the sense of causing “dislike, anger, or vexation”) when we read reports of other religious groups using this form of punishment for failing to keep their moral codes. As we discussed last Sunday, Jesus was speaking spiritually, not physically. Like our eyes, our hands are physical, morally neutral, instruments that we (as moral souls) use to perform our wills. The problem is not with our hands, but our hearts: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).

So, our hand . . . or our heart? If we’re going to do any chopping, it needs to be chopping out our hearts, not our hands! Thankfully, God has made a provision for us if we will sanctify him in our lives (understand that He is holy and live accordingly): “I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 36:23-28).

So, we have the potential solution to our quandary, if (and this is a BIG “IF”) we are willing to accept it. Jesus warns us to stop sinning, to “cut off our hand” if we are using it to perpetrate sinful behavior. If we will allow God to search our hearts, he will reveal our sins to us: “If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:20-21).

The trick is, once we’re enslaved to a particular sin, we don’t really want to acknowledge it as sinful, because we don’t want to have to stop. So, rather than “sanctifying” the Lord in our eyes—acknowledging His holiness, His person, and His Word as the only true purity—we go about trying to justify our actions as “okay too.” I’m okay, and you’re okay. Everybody has the right to do whatever seems right to them. Don’t judge me, and I won’t judge you. Quit being such a legalistic pharisee! The Old Testament law is no longer in effect, and the New Testament commands and observances were for a 2,000-year-old culture that are no longer applicable today. Just love everybody and don’t try to tell me what’s right.

Sound familiar? I think Jesus was addressing those who feel this way. To those who think they can go about establishing their own righteousness, Jesus gives this oh, so unpopular warning! But many people are unwilling to acknowledge that their actions are sinful and offensive. Instead, they find this command from Jesus offensive! Many hide behind the currently popular deception that since Jesus died to make salvation available to “whosoever will,” then everybody “will” be saved regardless of what they believe or do!

Be careful, my friends! Jesus gave us some very severe warnings! Jesus taught, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42). How did the people respond? “And they were offended in him” (Matthew 13:57).

Do you find yourself offended by what I’ve written? You can take issue with anything I say, and I invite you to respond, but please don’t be offended by the words of Jesus. “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (spoken by Jesus in Matthew 11:6). When Jesus taught the parable about the sower (speaking of those who share the word of God), he warned about those who “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Matthew 13:21). There is offense in the Gospel, and that comes from God being righteous and our being sinful, and in need of a Savior who will change us and conform us to true holiness and righteousness. Please don’t be offended by the gospel. Rather: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). If you need a transplant, let God give you a new heart. Don’t take the risk of being cast into hell because you refuse to sanctify God in your heart or cut off your sinful actions! Ultimately, it’s a choice between being offended with Jesus or offended with our own offenses.

Text for today: Matthew 5:27-30 “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

The B.I.B.L.E . . .What is That?

Did you know that “Bible” simply means “book” in both Greek (Byblos) and Latin (Biblia)? It’s THE book. It is the best book in the world, and it’s also the best-selling book in the world. If you haven’t read it yet, then may I invite you to try reading just one chapter today? Granted, there are many passages in the Bible that are not easy to understand, but the Bible does come with the promise that it will speak to you if you listen. If you find the Bible puzzling or confusing, try this method of Bible meditation, which was recommended by my pastor this past Sunday in church:

  1. Pick a passage. Any passage. We were studying Isaiah 55 in church, which is so beautiful that I memorized it as a girl. That would be one good option. Or, you could just open your Bible and read whatever chapter comes up, or you could try one of the traditional “favorites,” such as Psalm 1, John 14, Romans 12, or 1 Corinthians 13.
  2. Sit down and pray before you start reading, asking God to speak to you through the passage. If you don’t believe in God, ask God to reveal himself to you if he is real . . . to give you a sense of his presence and his love for you. Listen for a still, small voice in your heart! Quiet yourself and clear your mind. If you are aware of any sin or rebellion in your heart against God—anything that makes you angry so that you really don’t even WANT to believe in God, even if he does exist—confess it to God. If you want to get to know God, you have to be “real” with him, too! Ask him to give you a desire to know him, to forgive you for any way in which you’ve been resisting him or deceiving yourself, and to cleanse your heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
  3. Read the passage thoughtfully, noticing anything that stands out to you. Is there anything at all that strikes you as true, or strange, or mysterious, or wise? Find something to “meditate” on . . . to chew on, like a cow chewing on her cud. Ponder its meaning.
  4. Think through how this passage or verse might apply to you today. Is there a good example to follow? A bad example to avoid? A bit of wisdom to remember? Something that might: impact a relationship? help with making a decision? prompt you to an action, change your direction in some area of your life? Find one nugget of thought to take away from your study, and ask God for the grace to allow this insight to impact your life in a positive way.
  5. Share what you’ve been thinking about with a friend. Also, this type of meditative study of the Bible can be done in community. You could read a passage with someone you love and work together on thinking through what the passage might mean. For many years, we were part of a small group that worked together, chapter by chapter, week by week, through many books in the Bible, doing just this! The more you study, the more you can test your thoughts against other passages from the Bible to make sure your thinking is clear and correct, good and true!
  6. Trust God to produce good spiritual fruit in your life from this practice. Meditation is like watering your soul. It might not change your life in a day, but it will change your life for good over time. That’s why it’s called “spiritual life” and “spiritual growth.” It’s not magic, but it’s even better! It’s transformation: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

The Bible, God’s Word, is alive in a way that no other book is. It’s a light to guide us, a sword to help us discern good and evil. It’s sweeter than honey, pure, and true. It’s like a hammer to convict us and help us change where we need it. Through studying the Bible, we find wisdom, understanding, and eternal life. If you’ve read it once or twice, don’t quit! I think I’m on about my 50+ time of meditating my way through its pages, and I keep finding new insights and understand more passages that seemed esoteric before. Become a life-long spiritual learner! If you want to get to know God, or know him better, there is no better way! Besides, the Bible comes with this guarantee: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8). Want success? Try meditating daily on the Bible for one month, and see if it doesn’t make a positive difference in your life.

(Just to get you started if you can’t think of a passage you want to read! Here is Isaiah 55.)

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (35): “Agree with Your Adversary.” ??

Do you have an adversary? Somebody who opposes you at every turn? You may not have a true enemy (although around the world, I know many who do), but I think all of us can think of someone who tends to oppose us on a consistent basis.

Family of Canada Geese having breakfast at our cottage

If there were someone in my life who fit that description, I would not post a photo of them or tell their story at any rate, so I’ll use the Canada geese, who’ve been driving us nuts by gobbling up all our grass seed, the deer, who like to devour our flowers, the squirrels, who hang upside down from our bird feeder in order to steal the birds’ food, and the birds, who strip our cherry trees before the fruit has a chance to ripen, leaving the ground littered with merely pecked-at fruit!

Squirrel stealing our birds’ food

These are not serious offenders compared to what humans do to one another, but I think they will suffice as gentle illustrations for what Jesus wants us to understand.

One of the deer who check our flower pot each morning in hopes of finding tasty flowers

Both Matthew and Luke recount the same command, which puzzled me for many years. Matthew 5:25-26 states, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” This message is repeated in Luke 12:58-59, “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.

Male Cardinal in our Bing Cherry Tree

For years I was stumped by this, thinking that we should never back down from a fight. I mean, aren’t we supposed to stand against sin and evil? This thinking was reinforced by such verses as, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Ah, the pride of youth!

Hairy Woodpecker

The verses in today’s meditation are pointing out the likelihood of each of us to be wrong! Jesus didn’t say to give in to evil (which we are taught to stand against), but to learn how to compromise with our “adversaries” . . . those whose views oppose ours.

Canada Goose with gosling . . . gobbling up our grass seed! 😦

In the case of our geese, they leave droppings everywhere and are busy eating up all the fresh grass seed, which we just planted now that most of the construction is complete. My contention is that my grandchildren are coming, and I would like them to be able to play in grass rather than slip and slide in muddy goose droppings!

Pair of Canada geese with young family

Their contention is that they have a big family to rear, and I usually don’t complain about their pecking through our grass, who why should I complain now? Mother Goose says I’ve stopped being a very nice neighbor.

Robin feeding chicks

If we were taken to the Great Judge, who do you think would win the case? I’m not sure. Feeding your family is more important than having a grassy yard, but on the other hand, if the geese would eat elsewhere this summer (and there are plenty of lawns around our lake), they would be rewarded by abundant grass for pecking next year, so perhaps the judge would rule in favor of our being able to shoo them off! Besides, there is such a thing as private property . . . but, Canada geese are protected by law too. So . . .?? If I had everybody vote, I’ll bet there would be people on both sides of the issue!

So it is with all of life. Each of us has a different sets of needs and wants, and all of us tend to see “our side” of issues as having more value and weight. But, God wants us to learn how to figure out a compromise that meets the needs of all parties concerned!

Reddish Egret

And, to prod us in the direction of love and understanding, he warns us that things can get really ugly if we don’t figure things out on our own. If we fail to work things out, we might end up on the wrong side of the verdict, and once an issue goes before the court, even though we feel dead sure that we are right, the judge might decide we’re dead wrong. We might end up in a lot of trouble for a long time. And, once you’re in jail, it becomes a bit of a moot issue whether or not your behavior was justified. The bigger issue is that you are no longer able to live your life freely .

Queen Elizabeth I of England, 1575, Public Domain

The first Queen Elizabeth of England (who was later crowned queen in 1559), while in prison lamented that she wished she could trade places with the milk maid outside her prison walls just so she could be free again. So, it’s not simply about being “right,” it’s about learning how to live with those around you, how to love others too (not just yourself), and how to live in harmony with others as much as is possible. Humility, not pride, should reign supreme in our hearts!

Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:9).

Meditating on the Commands of Christ (34): The Sweet Relief of Reconciliation

Matthew 5:23-24 “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” This is the first less-than-imperative “command” of Christ that I’m going to tackle. While meditating through the gospels last year, I found 33 such teachings and wondered if these “If-then” declarations should be included as commands, since technically they are “conditional” rather than “imperative” statements. So, do we “have” to obey them? Only if the first part of the statement is true: If we want to give something to the Lord, then God wants us to be reconciled to anyone who has something against us first.

Do you want to give something to the Lord? I do. My life. My heart. My thoughts. My actions. I want my life to be a gift to God that makes him happy. Do you feel that way? If so, then God says the first gift we can give him is this: We should seek forgiveness for how we’ve hurt our loved ones and reconcile with them. God loves each of us so much that he identifies with each person’s pain. He doesn’t want any of his children left out or left behind! “Trinity” comes from two words meaning “tri-unity.” God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are often defined by their being three in one. “Three-way UNITY!”

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, recorded in John 17:21-23, he prays: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us . . that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” God wants us to live in love and unity with one another even more than he wants us to give him any other type of gift!

Wow! This says something profound about how highly God values unity and how deeply he desires it. Jesus prayed to his father for unity in the Church. Reconciliation is a precious gift that we can give him. No where does Jesus command us to give God anything! Did you know that? Although the word “give” is mentioned 1392 times in the Bible (KJV), in the New Testament it isn’t until Judgment Day that we are told, “Fear God, and give glory to him” (Revelation 14:7).

The vast majority of times giving is mentioned, it is in the context of God giving to us, and our giving to other people. It’s like the runoff of rain on our roof. God showers us—our home—with blessings, and the runoff waters the gardens of loved ones—friends and neighbors—all around us. We live in a vast spiritual ecosystem of clouds, rain, runoff, streams, lakes, oceans, transpiration and evaporation, only it’s not literal water that our spirits crave, but receiving and giving love and forgiveness.

How do we seek forgiveness and reconciliation? I think we can start by asking God to show us how we’ve hurt the other person (which we may never fully comprehend) and to help us understand how they feel. We need to repent—to be genuinely sorry—so sorry that we will go way out of our way to make sure we don’t do the same thing again—and then to seek their forgiveness.

What if they won’t forgive us? “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle” (Proverbs 18:19). I have seen this dynamic over and over again! Even if the offender repents, the offended person is often unwilling to forgive, because to forgive means the offended person has to absorb the pain and suffering caused by the offender, while the offender “gets off scott free.” Many people choose to hold a grudge and refuse to forgive, but this is not the way of Christ, who prayed for those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). I think it is only through a deep experience of God’s forgiveness and love for us that we are able to truly forgive those who have hurt us. This is the way of Christ . . . and the way of the cross.

If you have sincerely repented and tried to reconcile, but without success, don’t despair. Just as we persevere in prayers for our loved ones to trust Christ as their savior, so we need to persevere in prayer for those we’ve offended to find the grace to forgive us. There is sweet relief in reconciliation, and that is our calling, so don’t give up, but don’t let disunity discourage you from faith. Keep your faith in God. Keep looking up and find your joy in him! Remember that someday He will bring unity and peace to earth. In the meantime, we can “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11, ESV), and we can practice: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).