Archive | May 2018

Be Watchful

via Daily Prompt: Observe

A lion can teach us many things about being observant or watchful. It can also teach us about patience. Moreover, it reminds us that we must be always vigilant. The lion may lack the speed and agility of a jaguar, but it did not get the title “King of the beasts” for no reason. What it lacks in speed, it makes up in strength and cunning. Because of the latter, it has been able to kill animals like elephants that are much larger than its size.

It is interesting to note that a lion’s heart and lungs are very small so it rarely tries to overtake its prey and prefers to stalk them. Observers have noted that the lion does most of its hunting under the cover of night and watches its prey for a very long time before attacking. Usually, they travel undetected in groups, stealthily encircling their  prey until they have an opening, and then they pounce. The prey may be able to smell the predator and escape death. However,  if it is alone, it may become food for the lion who immediately suffocates its victim.

Lions look for areas of vulnerability in a group and will invariably attack the weak and young. Satan, like the lion is a predator – the only difference is that the devil does not rest from his pursuit. He and his minions are sizing us up 24/7 to find a weakness in us that the can use to destroy us.  The Bible warns us to be on guard against the Evil one: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).

Our only protection against him is the armor of God. We cannot ward him off or overcome him in our strength because he is a wily creature. Therefore, make yourself Satan-proof by:

Finally, [being] strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:10-18).

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God’s Plumb line

We live in an age of relativism, moral humanism and alternative truths. There is a tacit acceptance, even among the religious, of the erratic opinions and shifting viewpoints of every pundit and fool alike whose claim to fame is shaped by a media that caters to the human penchant for salacious news. It is understatement to say that the world of communications is big business because it is more than that – it is a mighty conglomerate, crisscrossing worldwide geographical, political, social, cultural, and religious boundaries and exerting phenomenal influence on the many peoples of this planet.

 

Humans communicate, and the media satisfies that need. We are wired to find out knowledge and use it to make decisions that enhance our survival. We receive and give information. However, as societies have evolved, communication has taken on other dimensions. The more we know is the more we want to know; and it is mainly the extraordinary that catches our attention whether it be good or bad. Unfortunately, it is the latter that attracts us more. So why blame the media when they splash provocative imagery on television and the glossy pages of magazines to whet the appetites of information gluttons? They are only employing the tools that will appeal to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” of carnal man (John 2:16). After all, they are in business and they will increase what sells. And what mostly sells in the 21st century is not truth, but versions of it. The reason is that many believe that man is the center of his world and he has the right to view it as he sees fit.

 

This notion is rooted in the humanist belief that human beings are essentially good and can harness critical thinking and evidence to make decisions without reliance on religion. Such philosophy does not appear in contradiction to God’s word because God has given us free will. However, a completely autonomous or self-governing human being is like a piece of paper tossed to and from in the wind without a moral compass. Therefore, although having granted us the ability to exercise free will, God retains sovereignty over His creation and expects that we will admit our limitations and recognize that He is the only absolute authority.

 

God leaves no room for error with his subjects. Just as a carpenter or builder makes sure that His foundation is laid out perfectly, God does the same. He uses the metaphor of the plumb line to talk about the accuracy of his word. A plumb line or plumb is a cord weighted with lead or a non-magnetic object at one end to determine verticality. Builders and painters apply the law of gravity to find right angles and to keep work straight simply because there is no place for error or guesswork in the middle of a job. A mason cannot correct lines and angles in the middle of erecting a building, therefore he trusts the precision of the plumb line to enable him to produce visually and structurally sound work. I have seen buildings that did not line up with a plumb line and the results were not good.

The word of God is the plumb line for righteousness, hope and justice. The building term appears in several scriptures in the Bible.  Jesus Christ is the builder who establishes his kingdom with exactness and truth as we see in Isaiah 28:16 -17:

See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.
      I will make justice the measuring line
and righteousness the plumb line…

 

He will always continue to keep it intact as the chief cornerstone, though he was rejected) Mark 12:10, Acts 4:11, 1 Peter 2:6). After the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon and they were rebuilding the temple, God sent his word to Zechariah to give them hope: “Whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel” (Zechariah 4:10, ESV). Allusion to the latter tool serves as the most effective image to remind the Jews of God’s invariableness.

James pinpoints characteristics that support God’s immutability: “…with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Builders have learned to trust the mathematical accuracy of the plumb line because it is not constrained by the whims or moods of its users. In Amos 7:7-8 (NIV), God draws the prophet’s attention to the plumb to illustrate how far away the Israelites had swerved from His standard of righteousness and holiness:

 This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb,[a] with a plumb line[b] in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”

“A plumb line,” I replied.

Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

 

It is the practice of some Christians in our society to cover up wrongdoing by the roles they perform each day; they show loyalty to charismatic figures, jobs, family, political affiliations; culture; and other associations that they become attached to as an excuse for their disjointed lifestyle. Whenever their consciences are pricked, they concoct a ton of excuses to justify their infidelity to God’s word. They will glibly justify the wrongdoing of themselves and others by the cliché, “Everyone sins”.  However, what they fail to realize is that God’s word is constant like a plumb does when its lines are found, and even more so, because: “Forever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89, KJV).  The word will not conform to the white lies of spinmeisters who do wrong and profess to be Christians: application of God’s word is the same in all situations.

 

If we use any other standard than the Word of God to evaluate our conduct as Christians, we are out of line with God’s word.  An engineer, surveyor or builder knows that a slight error in measurement could cause a bridge to crumble, land to be wrongly divided and a shaky foundation in a home – if they work without a plumb.  A little straying from the word makes us crooked and an enemy of God. Too many times Christians choose allegiance to race, politics, money, and other things over God because they do not fear the Lord.  Unfortunately, they fear people who can destroy their bodies and not the One who can destroy both body and soul. They will lie to cover up wrong although they know it is against the teaching of God. They will ditch their faith to support an ideology, to be loyal to their race, a political party, to get a promotion and for various other reasons. Our total loyalty must be to Christ and no other because He alone is faithful. Jeremiah 17:5, NIV warns that:

This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

 

 What good is it to us if we gain the whole world and lose our soul?

When troubles hit…

In the past few days, God has brought me back to my childhood by reminding me about the tools that the builders used to erect structures whether for life or for death. Morbid as it may sound, the measurements for a coffin had to be no less accurate than that for a house so the builder employed these three tools extensively in his craft: the plumb line, the level, and the square. It seemed as if they were worth more than gold to carpenters and masons who lived in the small community where I grew up in Jamaica.  I learned later that they were very expensive and without them, a builder was unable to do his work well.

My father was not a carpenter, although he was always building something. How can I ever forget the bright chalk line on the cords that he and other carpenters used on the plumb and the mercury that settled in the middle of a level that he kept out of the reach of my siblings and me when it was not in use?  He would always talk about the importance of “correctness” each time he used a measuring tool.  “If you don’t use the level, it’s going to be off”, he would say to us.  Our family always had this inside joke about a mason in our district who built a leaning house because his measurements were off and so I am always particular about symmetry.

I have little or no knowledge of carpentry and I’m not mathematically inclined as my husband. However, I have lived long enough to know that everything must be exact and correct in constructing a building. The builder cannot fight gravity, his tools are what he uses to erect the most majestic Taj Mahal to the humblest cottage that will stand up to the forces of nature and the wear and tear of human activities. In the same way that the builder allows his tools to harness gravity, we must engage the word of God to stand in the face of temptation, trials, and tribulation. When Job heard one terrible news after another, there was nothing he could do but to hold on to his faith in God. He reminded himself about the surety of God although he was surrounded by friends who tried to make him lose hope because he knew something that we must also know: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, KJV).

If you have the chance to watch a carpenter, you will notice that as soon as the plumb that he holds in his hands find a vertical line, it becomes taut and the object at the end of it stops moving.  Likewise, the liquid in the middle of a level settles in the same way when used to check for the alignment of lines and the square checks that when the plumbed object intersects with the level object they create a 90-degree angle.  That is what Christians must do in challenging situations, stop moving and intersect with God:

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:13, KJV).

Make your yourself against sin like the vertically straight line of a plumb line: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). A plumb line does not fight gravity so do not fight the devil. God will fight for you. Do what the writer tells us in Proverbs 3:5 NIV:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

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