Salt: A Little Dab Will Do You

What we say is not as important as how we make others feel.

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In a culture absent of mercy, Jesus shocked the assembled crowd with words like, “Blessed are the merciful” (Mt. 5:7), as He stood on the Mount of Beatitudes preaching what we know as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus spoke to a culture where mercy was not a popular concept thought to better society but rather a weakness to be eradicated. One Roman philosopher called mercy “the disease of the soul.” This was a culture where a father could give a “thumbs down” to his newborn if he thought the child ugly, too loud, or unhealthy, and the child would be put to death. A Roman citizen could kill and bury a slave without any consequence, and husbands could end the life of their spouse for any reason without retribution.

It was in this dark culture, void of mercy, that Jesus stated, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”  -Mt. 5:7, ESV  

And, let me point out, not much has changed from the culture of Roman history to our current American culture:

  • We are giving a “thumbs down” to 1.2 million unborn babies each year in America, mostly because of inconvience.  
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.

Mercy has always been foreign to the world and not rewarded by the world. Jesus made the lame to walk again, and He caused the blind to see. He rose the dead, brought hearing to the deaf, and reached out to the outcasts and the untouchables. He sought out the; tax collectors, degenerate, immoral, prostitutes, drunk, despised, and the rejected; Jesus was an advocate for the weak and an encourager for the bleak. So, after Jesus tells the crowd “what” to be, a distributer of mercy, He then tells them “how” to achieve that goal by being the “salt of the earth.”

A few years ago, thirteen-year-old Darci Lynne walked onto the stage of the twelfth season of America’s Got Talent. Her act? She explained to the judges that she desired to reignite the once-popular art of ventriloquism. Darci was nervous, even laughing for no reason, her hands shaking as her eyes darted around a full auditorium boasting thousands in attendance with millions more watching from home. When instructed by Simon Cowell to start, she composed herself, queued the music, and sang. From the first note, it was evident this girl was special; she captivated the crowds and the judges, and by the time she finished her performance, everyone-even Simon-was standing with shouts of acclamation and praise. Confetti fell from the ceiling, and lights darted all around the stage as one of the judges, her mom, and the host rushed up to surround her in celebration of her advancing to the next round. Darci didn’t have any words; she simply wept. As she took in all of the support through cheers and applause, the look on her face was enough to see what the power of encouragement could do. Darci ended up winning that season, and her first performance became the most viewed in the show’s history in just 30 hours. 

When Jesus calls us the “salt of the earth,” he was undoubtedly speaking of us acting as a preservative in this rotting world, and as a spice to show the contrast between darkness and light. But salt has another benefit; as an advocate, enhancing everything it touches. Therefore, Jesus is calling us to bring out the best in those around us, to stand applauding in the audience for those on the stage of life. When you watch the videos of Darci’s performances after that first nervous entrance in 2017, you no longer see a shy and timid entertainer, rather someone with confidence and boldness, recognizing her talents and using them free of fear. What was responsible for bringing her from fear to fame? I am confident it was the support and praise she received. We all have the opportunity to make such a difference in others’ lives by being the salt.

There are so many in this world, believing they have nothing to offer, no talents to share, feeling worthless. God does not make junk. We must seek out the hopeless, reminding them of who they are in the eyes of God and encouraging them to walk boldly on the stage of life shining like the stars God designed them to be. 

Scripture: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” -Matthew 5:13-14, ESV

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” -I Thes. 5:11, ESV

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Heb. 10:24-25, ESV

Question: Can you think of someone that may be down and discouraged, someone that could use some “building up”? 

Prayer: Father, please bring my focus on someone that may need encouragement. Please give me the wisdom and discernment to recognize those around me in need of someone in their corner, cheering them on. I know you are calling me to make a difference in this world, may I strive to please you by encouraging others today. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Fourth Lung

Understanding the Word of God is a matter of life and death.

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Recently my wife Laurie and I took a five-mile trail hike in a state park in Southwest Virginia. Laurie and youngest dog, two-year-old Harvey, led the way by about 10 yards most of the trek. Of course, I blamed having our oldest dog, a fourteen-year-old miniature Dachshund named Jake, but the truth is, I am out of shape! Every once in a while, one of us would yell to the other, pointing out a nice view, colorful flora, or even some wildlife.

Toward the end of the trip, after marching along for about two hours, Laurie yelled back, “Norse hung.” That made no sense to me, so I yelled back for her to say again, to which she replied, “Fort Mung.” Not wanting to aggravate her by asking for another repeat, I kept my head down and tried to figure it out myself. Finally, I landed on forth lung, figuring she was tired and out of breath like I was and desired another set of lungs to complete the trip. Right, when I was about to yell back, “How about a second heart? Mine’s about to explode”, my left foot sunk in something. Looking down, I realized what my wife had been shouting, horse-dung; she was warning me that horse dung was on the trail so that I would avoid it.  That made a lot more sense than “fourth lung”, and as I picked away the unwanted matter from my shoe, it dawned on me how important clarity and understanding can be.

Soldiers must understand all commands given in the military, as their lives often depend on it. For example, trained as a Radioman in the United States Coast Guard, I was taught to use the phrase “say again” if ever I needed something restated over the radio for clarity instead of the word “repeat.” Why? The term “repeat” can also be interpreted to recommence a firing pattern; therefore, instead of merely saying something again, the recipient of that command might start firing their weapon!

Even more so with the Word of God. This is most evident in the diversity of interpretation with the title “Christian”. According to a 2014 Pew Research study, over 70% of American’s identify as Christian. The problem is highlighted in the diversity of that 70%, consisting of Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even some New Agers. And while many may identify as Christian, the Bible is very clear, only followers of Jesus; those who surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God are true Christian, and they are in the minority. There are so many interpretations of what Christianity is, how we can approach God, who can access heaven, and must we believe Jesus to be the only way to salvation. Therefore, many remain confused, and some even taking temporal solace in false hope. 

Who is right? With over 4,000 religions in our current world, with almost as many paths of life and answers about death, it is paramount that we all are clear in our understanding; it is a matter of life and death. 

Scripture: “And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” -Mark 4:11-12, ESV

Question: If you are not 100% sure that your sins are forgiven, and heaven is your home, would you be willing to test your beliefs with the Bible? 

Prayer: Father, I don’t want to blindly trust what others say but want to be sure that I am right in my relationship with you. Please help me to understand the truths in your Word. Please give me eyes to see, ears to hear, an open heart, and the faith to believe what you have to say in your Word. Please reveal any false information I may have been taught and replace them with your Words of truth. Father, may I be willing to cast aside my feelings and emotions so that your Word would penetrate my heart and bring real joy to my life. Please give me the faith to believe your Word over everyone else, and may your Word be all that I seek, desire, long for, and live by. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

That’s So Raven

The most tragic experience to ever darken the door of a soul is to feel forgotten.

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I remember reporting to my first unit in the Coast Guard, scared, nervous, and out of my comfort zone. I was escorted to the birthing area and assigned a rack and locker, and told to wait until my mentor came to get me for a tour of the ship. There I waited, all night long. I finally resigned to the fact that my command had forgotten about me; unwilling to explore out of fear I would get in trouble, I laid down and slept. In the morning, I was awoken by an announcement that lunch was being served on the mess deck. Eventually, hunger overcame any fear of reprimand, and I went to look for that mess deck. By the time I found it, the cook had shut the doors, and lunch was over. It was at that very moment I felt completely and utterly alone. Separated from my family and friends by almost 4,000 miles with no way to communicate, I ended the day in my rack, forgotten and alone.

I have often wondered about Noah, yes, he had his family, but I wonder if he ever felt that God had forgotten about him. It is much different from believing you have been forgotten by people than been left alone by God Himself. God had been speaking to Noah, giving instructions on building the ark, directions on who should be loaded up, and when it was time to enter. Then, for the next 150 days, silence. If Noah was anything like us, it was during that season of silence that he started wondering, questioning, and perhaps even doubting. And, if Satan has not changed, it was during the season of silence that he spoke the loudest in the ears of Noah, “God has forgotten about you.”

After about seven months in the ark, it landed on the mountain top, and there it remained for forty days. It was then Noah opened a window and sent out a raven, which went “to and fro” until there was dry ground (Genesis 8:6, KJV). After the raven release, Noah dispatched a dove three times; the dove returned after the first trip empty-handed, with an olive branch on the second run, and did not return after being released the third time. Why, though, did Noah release the raven? And, was the raven’s trip unsuccessful? He never returned, he remained in the air, with the dove, until all was safe for Noah and his family to leave the ark. After some deep studying, I have developed an opinion that I’ve not heard nor read anywhere else; God used the raven to assist the dove in finding the olive branch that would remind Noah God had not forgotten about him. 

There are only four of God’s creation that has linguistic displacement; the ability to communicate to about things that are not immediately present, things that are not seen in the current time or place. The four? Humans, bees, ants, and ravens. Only these four can be aware of something somewhere and then communicate that information to another. As a human, I can give my home directions to a friend in another state with such detail they could make the trip and visit with me. Only humans, bees, ants, and ravens have this gift from God. So, could it be that God had Noah send the raven out for this very reason, knowing the raven’s gifts and abilities? Could it be that the raven’s mission was, in fact, successful? Perhaps the raven traveled “to and fro” looking for dry ground, and upon finding an olive tree, led the dove to that very spot and then back to the ark? In my opinion, this is the only theory that makes sense. For Noah, he simply received an olive branch from a dove, a symbol of peace, but for us, we have access to the inner workings of God’s planning and know that God had all of this worked out when He created the raven, perhaps for just this very purpose. How comforting it must have been for Noah to receive a token of remembrance after months of silence, confirmation he was not, after all, forgotten.

How about us? There are certainly times that we feel our prayers are not being answered, times when our world is crashing around us as we wait from the One above us to move through us, yet all we experience is silence. It is during the times of God’s seeming silence that the voice of Satan is the loudest, whispering in our ears, “God has forgotten about you.” My friends, remember the raven. Remember the story of Noah and take comfort in the fact that even though you don’t see God move or hear His voice, He is nevertheless very active in your life. There will come a time when the rain lets up, the winds cease, and the waves settle, that God will send you something that will remind you He was with you the entire time.

Scripture:

Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” 

Isa. 49:15-16, ESV

Question: Do you ever get so overwhelmed by the circumstance that you feel that God has forgotten about you? Perhaps ever wonder if God has given up on you or moved on to love someone else that can love Him more or serve Him better?

Prayer: Father, thank you for this story of the raven. I need your help to remember that you will never leave me, especially during the periods of silence. May I know that you are working and moving in my favor. Please give the faith to endure the storm and the peace that comes from trusting you no matter what. Father, I am weak, but you are strong; thank you for holding me with unseen hands and for the gift of your Word that will fill the silence and overcome the voices of the devil. Thank you for always remembering me. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.