Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Opportunity Can Knock More Than Once

“Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him. From then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Jesus” (Matthew 26:14-16).

Once Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus, apparently it didn’t take long for an opportunity to find him. While we have no idea as to the exact time that had passed, we do know that, by the end of the chapter, Judas is fulfilling his end of the bargain by betraying the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane.

When we contemplate sin, there always seems to be ample opportunities to act upon it. For example, when Cain decided to kill Abel, I don’t suppose he had to look very far for a murder weapon. When our faith begins to waver, there always seems to be a perfect occasion to act faithlessly. For example, in the midst of the fears and doubts raised by the arrest of Jesus, suddenly Peter was faced with several opportunities to deny the Savior.

Why – when times are tough economically – is a wallet or purse, containing large amounts of cash, found in a deserted parking lot? Why – when a marriage is struggling – does an attractive stranger smile from across the room? Why – when jealousy or animosity arise in the human heart – do damaging words come so easily to human minds and lips?

Why? Perhaps these are just random coincidences. I do know that there are spiritual forces arrayed against us all that seek to destroy us. No, the devil cannot force us to sin. We make that choice. But the deceiver is certainly not above providing ample opportunities to act upon sinful impulses to those who are actively seeking them. Paul’s warning is clear: “…do not give the devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27). He certainly doesn’t need the help or encouragement. So when opportunity knocks, refuse to answer the door!

God loves you!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Rest Of The Story

By now, you have likely heard of the recent death of radio news icon, Paul Harvey. He was a pioneer in his field -- a giant in the radio news business. I grew up listening to "Paul Harvey News and Comment," usually broadcast over the noon hour. Then, if I was near a radio later in the afternoon, I would try to catch "The Rest of the Story." Several factors combined to make Mr. Harvey such a success. He had a nearly perfect voice for the job. Deep and resonant, his voice had a clarity that made for easy listening. He was a wordsmith -- one who chose his words carefully and assembled them just as carefully. Perhaps this is why I get so fed up with many of today's radio personalities. Their over-the-top antics and bombastic self-promotion only serve to highlight the true gentleman that was Paul Harvey.

He was also a master of the "pregnant pause." While he could use words with the best of them, he also knew how to use silence effectively. He was aware that a well-timed period of silence would add important emphasis to what he did have to say. There was no need to fill every second of air time with a verbal barrage. As I recall, his newscasts would always end with a significant pause before the final two words -- "Good day." The "Rest Of The Story" segments would conclude with the phrase: "And now you know…(long pause)…the rest of the story." Paul Harvey understood that silence truly can be golden.

The Bible also promotes the value of silence. No, I am not talking about the over-used and widely-abused habit of making laws of God out of what the God doesn't say. I'm speaking of the need for measuring our words. "Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Enough said!

God loves you!

Who Is The Lord???

“Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). I can easily imagine these words being spoken with a deliberate level of contempt and defiance. Perhaps they came after a scornful laugh at the sheer audacity of it all. Pharaoh wasn’t impressed with the demands of Moses’ God. After all, he wasn’t used to taking orders from anyone, especially from the helpless deity of an enslaved people. Pharaoh dismisses God’s messengers with a promise to increase the workload of lazy slaves. If they have time to dream up this kind of foolishness, they aren’t working hard enough!

But the demands of God upon Pharaoh continued, and this time they were accompanied by terrible plagues that wreaked havoc upon the nation of Egypt. For a while, Pharaoh remained defiant. Then, as the plagues began to take their toll, he tried to bargain. When Moses refused to make a deal, the Egyptian leader became angry and ordered him out of his presence. This set the stage for the final, decisive plague – the death of the firstborn. This proved to be the final straw for the rebellious monarch. Surrounded by his devastated country and grief-stricken over the death of his own son, Pharaoh finally relents and orders the Israelites to leave just as God demanded.

I guess Pharaoh and God were finally introduced! Sadly, it took a master’s level course entitled “Introduction to the Power and Authority of the Living God” to facilitate the meeting. Never again could Pharaoh defiantly claim ignorance of the true God. And never again would he uninformed regarding the price of rebelling against God’s commands.

Many in our world still arrogantly follow Pharaoh’s example of defiance against God. But make no mistake. Modern day rebels, like Pharaoh, will also one day learn that “…it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). According to the scriptures, their ignorance and arrogance brands them as fools (Psalm 53:1).

God loves you!