Each year 3.5 million people visit Yellowstone National Park. One of the attractions that people love to see are the bears. For years tourists would feed the bears from their cars as traffic backed up and the park officials would turn a blind eye. However wildlife officials have discovered the negative consequences of feeding the bears. Each year there are several bear and human incidents that result in a bear having to be killed. Also, feeding the bears causes them to depend on the human handouts and makes them less likely to use their skills to search for their own food. They become used to the freebies. The park is filled with plenty of bear food but they still find bears dead from starvation.
I am afraid that many of us as Christians look to God in the same way that bears look to tourists. We follow Him for what He can do for us. God please fix my marriage, get me a better paying job, and while you’re at it find me a parking place close to the mall. We look to God for a quick handout, and with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. While it is true that the Bible tells us to ask God for what we need, our God is much more than some kind of wealthy tourist dispensing free handouts. Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23: “…If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me”. We need to develop a rugged servant attitude that will follow our Lord no matter what. Job lost everything in his life but he did not give up on God. The three Hebrew children in Daniel knew that God could deliver them from the fire but they also said to the king that if God did not deliver them, they still would not deny Him and bow down to the idol.
Everywhere you look in Yellowstone you see the “Don’t Feed the Bears” signs. Perhaps God’s people need to dig into the nourishment-filled woods of scripture and learn to feed themselves.
My wife and I have developed a new pastime when we have a free Saturday. We enjoy walking the various beaches in our area. The beaches along the Gulf Coast in Southwest Florida have their own unique qualities. On our beach walks we look for treasure. Some beaches have beautiful and unusual shells that we collect. Other beaches have an abundance of shark teeth and other fossils. We have found sea glass, sand dollars, and star fish on our treasure walks. We make it a friendly competition on who can find the greatest treasure. But probably the greatest treasure we have found on the beach is the treasure of time we have spent together.
Psalm 119:162 tells us: “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure”. I wonder if we are spending any time going on treasure hunts in God’s Word. God buries some wonderful truths that are valuable for our everyday lives within the pages of His Word. He tells us where to find comfort in sorrow, strength in weakness, forgiveness when guilty. Precious treasures can be discovered about our loving Heavenly Father, about our wonderful Savior, and the blessed Holy Spirit. We can get wisdom when we are confused, encouragement when we are despondent, and peace when we are troubled. The Bible is a veritable treasure trove of truth for life. You don’t need any special equipment to begin your treasure walks in the Bible. Just a Bible and perhaps a notebook to collect your treasures. Approach your treasure walk with an eager desire to discover what God has in store for you on this particular day. Just like on the beach there are plenty of treasures lying right in plain sight, but often a little digging will reveal much more.
I have found a secret on my treasure walks in the Bible. The more time I spend walking in the Word, the deeper I get to know its author. So why not put on some sunblock and go on a treasure walk with God in His Word?
The cross of Jesus Christ bears a deep significance to those who call themselves Christian. It stirs the heart and reminds us of our precious Savior who gave His life willingly on that cruel cross to pay for our salvation. For the believer the cross has affected his past, present and future.
Because of the cross our past is forgiven. Colossians 2:13,14 says: “When you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross”. Many people try to forget or ignore the sinfulness of their past. Others do their best to overbalance it with a load of good works. However, nothing has the power to erase those past sins except the power of the cross. Through faith in Jesus’ shed blood on the cross, our past is forgiven.
Because of the cross our present makes sense. Paul said in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. We have a purpose and meaning in life that the rest of the world knows nothing of. A fulfilling joy lights up our journey through life. A desire to share our Savior gives us a compelling passion in life.
Because of the cross our future is secure. The scriptures assure us that those who believe in Christ’s death on the cross will also see him once again. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28). We don’t have to worry what will happen to us. We have the promise of our Lord: “that where I am, there will ye be also… (John 14:3).
The cross truly is precious and wondrous for the child of God. It alone has the power to save our souls, to satisfy our lives and to secure our future. Have you been to the cross?
Someone gave my wife and me free tickets to Disney World. We planned the trip to Orlando and were excited about our first trip to this popular destination. We were surprised that the day happened to be unusually cold with drizzling rain and we were only wearing short sleeves. We had forgotten to bring a jacket or sweater. My wife gets cold quickly and she was freezing. It went against my cheap nature but I went into one of the Disney stores and bought her a $50 sweater just to survive the day. The sweater kept her warm and protected from the elements and we proceeded to enjoy our Disney experience.
This world is a cold place for believers as well. It is not friendly to our spiritual existence. Trials, temptations, and the tricks of the Devil are constantly assaulting the child of God. What can protect us and what can keep us spiritually warm in such an unfriendly environment. I was reading in Ephesians chapter 6 recently and came across Paul’s description of the armor of God. We are challenged to put on these 6 pieces of armor. Verse 13 tells us: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand”. If we put on this armor we find that we are not only protected but we can be kept warm. One piece in particular is called the breastplate of righteousness. What assurance we receive when we acknowledge that we are clothed and protected by the righteousness of Christ. We do not have to depend on the flimsy shirt sleeves of our own righteousness. We are warmed, we are secure, and we are protected in the wonderful garment of Christ’s righteousness.
Why do we walk around cold and unprotected when we have the whole armor of God available to us? The good news is that God makes this armor available to all of His children and you don’t even have to pay $50 for it.
She loved to sing. She went everywhere lifting up her voice in song throughout the day. The little girl was finally given the opportunity to sing her favorite song in church. She had practiced and practiced and was now ready for her big day. As she got to her place and the piano began the introduction she opened her mouth and began the song but it didn’t come out the way she had practiced. She had lost the key. So she began the song again and still it wasn’t quite in tune. She knew the words so she just continued singing even though she was embarrassed that it wasn’t coming out right. At that point the congregation who loved the little girl started singing the song along with her and she found the key and finished her version of Amazing Grace. Her church family was delighted.
Once in a while we all lose the key to a life lived in harmony with God’s Word. We become out of tune and what comes out of us is rather unpleasant. It is during these times that we need the help of others who are singing in the right key to help us get back in tune. The encouragement and example of fellow believers is vital to our restoration of harmony. God’s Word tells us in Hebrews 10:24,25: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching”.
I wonder if we are like that congregation who helped the little girl find her key. Or are we among those who cringe and complain and criticize when those around us do not quite have that perfect pitch. We need to remember that all of us have times in our lives when we are singing off key. Amazing Grace should not be just the title of a song, it should be what we display to others in hopes they will find the right key.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation