Who is Your Standard?

Pick up an instrument of measurement sometime, such as a ruler, a scale, or maybe a protractor, and look at the units of measurement on it. Whether pounds, kilograms, centimeters, inches, feet, or degrees, the units are always the same measurement on any instrument that uses them, no matter who manufactured the instrument or what the design might be (unless it was improperly made or has worn out). If you were to pick up a tape measure while you were at a hardware store and measure a piece of wood that you brought with you, you might find that it is two feet, six inches. Now go home and take your own tape measure and measure the same piece of wood, and you will find that it is two feet, six inches by your measure also.

Why is this? Because instruments for measurement are all based on a standard or benchmark that was developed and put in place long ago.

In order to maintain a consistent level of accuracy and compatibility, a mutually agreed upon standard has to be created at some point. Otherwise, no two measurements of an item would ever be the same.

If everyone used their own standards, a one-pound package of butter bought at the store might actually weigh in at only thirteen ounces (or even nineteen ounces) when you check the weight on your own scale at home. A bottle labeled as one liter of soda may actually be a liter and a half according to your measurement. So whose measurement is correct—yours or the manufacturer’s? Or were both of you wrong? Who determines what will be the basis for these measurements? Without a set standard, there can never be a definite answer.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, an organization located near Washington, D.C., sets the standard for items used throughout the world. Tolerances and specifications for thousands of things, from weights and measures to clothing and chemicals, are established there. Industries, institutions, and individuals throughout the United States, as well as many countries across the globe, use the standards set by this organization in order to have consistency regarding what they manufacture or use compared with what is made or used by others. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people rely on the standards set by this organization.

But the standard that we are to continually follow in our lives was set by someone even greater that this or any other organization. He is Jesus, the cornerstone the Bible instructs us to build upon. He is our only accurate guide and reference point.

In all matters, both morally and spiritually (which also impact us physically), He is our only true standard to compare with and measure by. No other standard created or developed by any person or group here on earth is superior to Jesus Himself.

Jesus established the standard back in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. And when He came to earth as a human being, He became the standard Himself, as set forth in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The correct standard was finalized when He died on the cross for the sake of every man, woman and child on this earth, past, present and future. While many of the standards that have been set by man on earth throughout the ages remain beneficial for a long time, none will last throughout all eternity. Philosophy, psychology, and sociology cannot set the standard for us to follow. Science, technology, and education cannot set our standard either. World leaders and international government also cannot be our standard. Even our own parents, relatives, or closest friends cannot serve as our standard. Jesus is the fundamental reference point for everyone, whether they are aware of it or not. How do we measure up compared to Him? Jesus is the only One capable of being our standard to measure all else by.

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7)?

Now ask yourself, who is your reference point? Whose word will never fail? Who is the standard by which you should measure yourself?

Lost in the Dark?

man with dog on dark path
Have you ever eagerly wandered off into a deep, dark forest, only to find yourself lost? Or taken a walk down a path and had the sun go down earlier than you had anticipated, leaving you to find your way in the dark? Maybe you have driven down a road and had dense fog suddenly move in, or had snow begin to fall heavier than you expected. Have you traveled where the way was so dark you could see only a short distance ahead, only to have your source of illumination quit working?

We all have to face situations like these at some point in our lives. I once read about a man who traveled a considerable distance in the midst of a Saudi Arabian desert to view a rare cluster of “desert roses” (a flowerlike collection of mineral crystals found in very arid areas of the world). While his effort to find them in the daylight was not much trouble, his return at sunset proved to be of significant concern, since his car would not start! Being lost in a Middle Eastern desert at twilight is challenging enough, but to try and find your way overnight with no light is even worse. In the end, this man had to sleep in his car. He barely managed to get a ride back to civilization the next day with a man hauling goats! But not everyone has that option.

There are times when we can’t stay where we are until the light returns. There are even times when the light does not return.

Most try to press forward, groping in the darkness, proceeding slowly step-by-step, not really knowing exactly what lies ahead. Is there a tree, a large rock, a steep ravine, a poisonous snake, a hole, or a parked vehicle ahead?

Does the road continue to go straight or does it turn sharply? Is there a precipice ahead? How much farther do we have to travel to reach something recognizable? But the nagging question always looming in the back of our minds is, are we going in the correct direction?

Some have never experienced situations like these, since they have always lived in well-lit urban or suburban areas and were safely inside whenever power outages occurred. Others have never had a malfunctioning light source. Yet they continue to live a life regularly filled with darkness. Even as you read this, you may be experiencing darkness in your heart and life that you can’t seem to eliminate or even control. So you go along, groping in this darkness, grabbing at this solution or that. But each seems to brighten your path or dispel the darkness no more than a flashlight with weak batteries could do. You may try some religion, or you may have dropped all religion. You may try praying more, or you may stop praying altogether. And still the darkness refuses to dissipate. Have you done something good for others, or maybe traveled to a distant land on a pilgrimage, and found that the darkness lifts—but only for a season? Then it returns to haunt you even more than before.

I have been there too. In fact, all who have overcome being lost in the darkness have been there. Those who have overcome still have darkness all around them. While the particular darkness we have been through may not be identical to what you are going through now, it is still darkness and no light can be seen. But the difference is, that we have found a source of light that is always with us which will never dim, flicker, or burn out. That light is Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “…I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Have you ever been led somewhere by someone holding a light? You followed him because he could see the way, since his light illuminated the pathway. But you had to follow closely behind because the light only covered a short distance. If you hesitated or lagged behind, it would get farther and farther away, and you would find yourself in the dark again. We must draw near to Jesus when we follow Him, and let Him be the light that lights our way. When cares or pleasures of this life distract us, when we start looking around or behind us, the path becomes darker and harder to see, since the Light gets farther and farther away. Just as the moon only reflects the light of the sun, having no light of its own, we also have no light of our own to light our way. We must let Him be our light and guide us.

“In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death” (Proverbs 12:28).

How did Jesus become the light of the world? through His victory over sin and death, which came through His death on the cross. Throughout the period of the Old Testament in the Bible, thousands and thousands of sacrifices were made by the Jews to cover their sins. But they only covered them for a time. When Jesus died on the cross, He became the ultimate and final sacrifice. Then there was absolutely no need for another sacrifice for sin, since He paid it all. This was further cemented when He arose from the grave and returned to His Father in heaven. By accepting His sacrifice for us and turning completely from our sins in faith, allowing Him be our only light source, we can have the Light to see through the darkness continually! But if we reject Jesus as our light, we will only continue to grope and stumble in darkness, never having everlasting light.

“O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles [dwelling places]” (Psalm 43:3).

For more information about the path or way to everlasting life, click here.

Does God Play Favorites?

 

acorns showing partiality

“…Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

“For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons [does not consider one over the other]” (Deuteronomy 10:17).

Did you ever have that one person (or group of people) in your life who seemed to be treated better than everyone else, someone who often left you in teeth-gritting anger? It would seem like, no matter how hard you tried, you could never get the special recognition you felt you deserved—whether at work, at school, or even at home. There seems to have always been that one person or group who got all the extra favors. When I was much younger and going to school, there was almost always a person there who could have his way with the teacher no matter what he did or did not do. People like that were always doing something extra that was ordinarily unnecessary. But, in their case, it would get them special favors or attention from the teacher. The annoying part was that most of us in the class (especially me) could not do the things that they did and get special favors.

Later in my life, when I had been working at a job for some time, some coworkers were allowed to do many things that were against company policies, which were obviously not permissible for me or others to do. I remember one who, many times, would only do half of the required work, and then would chat endlessly with customers, or go take an extra-long smoke break. Was he ever reprimanded? Of course not! He probably could have gone so far as to ask the boss if he (the coworker, not the boss) could leave early, and the boss would let him!

These examples only concern school and work, but favoritism can also be found in all facets of life, all over the world, among all types of people, in all age groups. Some people are regarded as superior because they are of a certain race or skin color. Some are automatically considered superior because of the higher caste that they were born into. Others are favored for their wealth and all that goes with it. Some who have a commanding or persuasive personality will often coerce others into favoring them. Quite a few are favored because of their advanced education. Others gain favor because they have convinced almost everyone that they know everything (even when they don’t). Many are favored due to their taste in fashion. Then there are people who are favored due to their political status or position. Ironically, some are favored because they don’t have any status or position in life at all!

Thankfully, God does not show favoritism—ever. He can’t be partial to any one person or group of people and still love everyone unconditionally.

Some may argue that God sends many people to Hell; therefore, He must like some people more than others. Actually, it is sin that God hates. When a person chooses to sin, never confesses his error, and refuses to repent, that is what will cause him to go to Hell. God loves the sinner, but He never condones the sin he commits. God does not want anyone to go to Hell; it is repeated or continual rejection of Him that results in this final judgment. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering [patient] to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 emphasis mine).

When God brings to light various qualities (both positive and negative) in a particular person, He does this as an example for all to see what they should do or not do. There are times when our deeds speak louder than our words. God never intended for that particular person to be favored over another, just his deeds. “And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect [blameless] and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth [abstains from] evil” (Job 1:8)? In this Old Testament verse, God was uplifting Job’s righteousness to Satan, not Job himself. We are all sinners, worthy of death, in God’s eyes.

In our own futile wisdom, we think that if we try hard enough, and make ourselves right enough in God’s eyes, He will like us better than someone else, and will want us to sit at His side in Heaven. This is called self-righteousness, and God never honors it. In fact, He abhors it, because it makes the creation think it is equal to, or greater than, the Creator.

God does not want competition with Himself, or among us. What He really does want is for us to love Him and submit ourselves to Him. When self-righteousness is active, then we are competing among ourselves and favoritism becomes prevalent. When Lucifer, the closest angel to God, (before he sinned against Him and became what we know as the Devil, or Satan) pursued favoritism and self-righteousness, God struck him down out of Heaven permanently. Therefore, how much better can we expect to fare with God if we are cultivating favoritism here on Earth in our own lives? God sees us as one people, not as greater and lesser individuals. Therefore, we can’t look at each other as being either superior or inferior, especially when the standard we base this favoritism on concerns the very individuals and society we exalt or debase. Our standard has to be God’s Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only One that we are to exalt and show favor to. Man will always fail us, no matter how much favor we may show to him, but Jesus will never fail us. Let’s look to Him for our righteousness and not ourselves. Let Him be our favorite and no one else.

–James Pangburn

God Will Take of You

“… [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

There are times when the Lord God chooses to put His people into intensely difficult situations which appear to lead to a position where there is no way of escape. If He were to ask you in advance what you think about them, you would never choose to be involved in such predicaments on your own. Are you in such a situation right now, where it seems like a dark cloud is coming over you, engulfing you against your will? Then keep this in mind—no matter how dark the cloud you are sensing might seem to be, it will not stay forever. After the dark storm clouds pass, morning always comes again. Your cloud will move on. And then God’s mercy will fall on you like rain.

 

Are you struggling to carry a tremendous weight that God doesn’t seem to notice? The weights we think are so unbearable are like minute grains of sand to Him. These matters seem so grave and upsetting to us, but to God they are right on target in His plan for you. In the end, you will find that His handling of your situation is just, and that it has brought you right where He wants you—to a position of seeking Him, confessing that you cannot rely only on yourself. In fact, the very scene you’re in right now provides a stage to showcase the mighty power and grace of God.

Don’t doubt that His grace is working in your time of suffering. Don’t stop believing that He loves you in times of tribulation as much as in times of happiness. God will deliver you, and He will leave you with a lesson you won’t dare to forget.

Every time you return to this scene in your memory later, your spirits will be uplifted when you remember what God has done for you. Then you will be able to thank God over and over for doing just what He did.

The heavenly Father is continually watching over His children. His heart feels your distress and despair and He takes pity on you. Doesn’t He see that even the tiniest bird has food to eat? Then won’t He see that you are taken care of too? He will come to you and bandage your wounds. He will heal your broken heart. Don’t just lie there in a pool of despair—keep on hoping, and never give up.

Where does this burden you carry belong? It belongs to the Lord! Give it to Him. His powerful hand will be there with the help you need when you need it. He will calm your sorrow if you transfer all your concerns into His hands. Allow yourself to lie still in His hands, letting His will be your own.

My suffering brother or sister, be patient. Realize that God has not overlooked or forgotten you; He really does care for you! Why don’t you let the One who is your Provider do your providing? Has He ever refused to carry your burdens? Has He ever collapsed because they are too heavy for Him? If this same God really cares so much for you, why do you worry so much about yourself? God will take care of you!

–Alana Pangburn

Fine Castles Are Not Made With Wet Sand

sandcastle with wave

When I was a child, my family preferred to go to the beach whenever possible for vacations—not so much for the sun or to swim, but more to take in the refreshing air and relaxing sounds of the surf. I never cared to go swimming, never wanted to ride on the waves, or even to go wading in water higher than my waist. This is mostly due to one small detail—not being able to swim! My particular fondness was building sandcastles. I enjoyed creating grand structures in the sand, particularly in forming them dangerously close to the water’s edge. I doubt that any king would have wanted to reside in the ‘castles’ that I formed though! In fact, I think he would be in a constant state of fear, considering how close these ‘fortresses’ would be to the incoming waves.

I would naturally build some kind of retaining wall, perhaps even two or three, to help protect the ‘castle’ that would eventually rise up from the sand. (I’m using the word ‘castle’ loosely here, since the end result of my endeavors only vaguely resembled anything a self-respecting monarch would live in!) I have found that, no matter how carefully I would take handfuls of dripping wet sand and try to construct something with them, when I finished almost nothing resembling a building remained. It did not matter how hard or how fast I tried to use the sand. The mixture would soon just dissolve into the sand around it, if not first swept away by an incoming wave.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might [show] the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Have you ever thought about the fact that our own works we do for God are much like building fine castles with handfuls of wet sand? They ultimately prove to be futile, without any lasting merit. It doesn’t matter how much work we do on our own to try to make ourselves right before God. In His eyes, these efforts are worth nothing more than a pile of wet sand. If we decide that we are going to clean ourselves up before we come to Him, we are just wasting our time.

beach with person

At the beginning of each new calendar year, we have lots of great ambitions to lose pounds and pounds of weight, read numerous books, fix everything broken in our home or vehicle, visit places all over the world, maybe even clean up our lives and make ourselves right with God, as well as with everyone else. Yet, after just a few months (or even a few days), these great ambitions soon fizzle out. We find ourselves in the end not much better than we were the year before. Why does this happen? because we do it all by our own strength and effort. To put it bluntly, God does not need our help (or even us, for that matter). Whenever we try to do God’s work for Him, or try to help Him with His work, we are doing it without Him. Yet it is only by the grace of God that we can even be here today.

What is God’s grace? Many views and explanations have been put forth. But, in a nutshell, His grace is His perfect love (something we, as finite beings, can’t truly understand) and favor for us that makes Him willing to overlook our faults and shortfalls, even though we don’t really deserve anything but death eternally in Hell. Grace is continuously flowing from Him, but that does not mean that it automatically flows over or covers us. We need to first accept it, and then to be obedient to His commandments and His will.

We can only do this by accepting the sacrifice that His Son, Jesus Christ, made on the cross over two thousand years ago for our sins as our own, done for every man, woman and child who ever lived.

There is nothing we can do by ourselves to earn His grace or favor. No human being, or even the angels above, can earn His favor.

We need to come humbly before Him instead and yield our lives to Him. We need to turn completely in the opposite direction in our sinful ways, willing to totally forsake them. We can’t remain in their shadow  and also be successful with Him.

At the same time, this needs to be a continual effort. Whether you accepted Christ and became a believer decades ago, or only just recently, you need to come humbly before God, our Heavenly Father, daily, and yield to Him. For many, the act of surrender is considered a one-time event. But God expects it every day. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23 emphasis mine).

This is not some type of asceticism, but rather, not allowing our old sinful self to continue to control us. If we are not surrendering ourself to God every day, we are operating on our own plan. Then all our efforts become just futile works, not worth much more than elaborate castles built of piles of wet sand. This ultimately will lead us to boasting about our works, thereby leaving God out of the picture.

Don’t try to please God with your own works, thereby nullifying the finished and complete work of Jesus at the cross. Yield to God instead, and trust Him do all of the works for you.

Made Your New Year’s Resolutions?

resolutions

Another year rolls around, and we hear people making all kinds of New Year’s resolutions or vows.* Are you one of them? A resolution means reaching a firm decision about something. Is it a good idea to make these promises that we don’t get around to keeping, or keep only for a short time? The ancient Israelites were not told to make vows, but they did make some under a wide variety of circumstances. These were voluntary promises which, when once made, were to be kept if the thing that was vowed was right. And if they made them voluntarily, the Lord said that they were obligated to perform them conscientiously. King Solomon said not to vow. Make a vow about everyday things, fail to fulfill it, and you will be worse off than if you had never made the vow at all.

A vow is really a promise. Why do we make promises that we are not likely to keep? Doing this cancels out the meaning of a promise, if you stop and think about it.

If someone you know signed a promissory note saying he will repay you a certain amount of money, he has made a legal promise to you. When you want to collect on that promise, what if he says, “Oh, that. Yeah, I signed it, but I don’t really have the time or money to pay it now. Maybe later, if I get a chance. It doesn’t really matter that much.” Maybe it doesn’t matter much to him, but it would certainly matter to you whether he repaid you or not! That is the point of drawing up a promissory note! He has promised something that you are now depending on.

You become a person who does not keep his word, who cannot be relied on, if you do not keep your promises. That is why the Bible tells us that it is really better not to make vows in the first place. Instead, we should say, “I will if I can” or “I will try my best to do it, but I don’t know if I will be able to,” rather than saying, “Yes, I will definitely do that for you, or give that to you, or call you back” and then you don’t.

We tend to have the idea that we can follow through on anything we say we can do. Yet we have proven time and time again that we often cannot follow through, no matter how good our intentions are!

It just is not in our human makeup to be able to do anything and everything that we determine to do all the time. There are other factors, other loyalties and obligations we must yield to in our lives at times that are greater than we are. How often we make vows and promises that are beyond our power to keep!

Beware of letting the excitement of a holiday or the hope stirred by entering into a brand new year entice you into making promises or vows that are beyond your power to fulfill. After all, we don’t vow or promise our way into heaven to be with Christ. It won’t work, because we don’t have the power to keep such vows. Realize instead that we are not always able to make the right decisions, and that we need someone greater than we are to lead us in the right way. God is not interested in hearing lofty sounding promises and vows to Him. He wants us to simply come to Him just as we are, and let Him remake us into what He would like us to be. It is not a matter of our will-power, but of the power to do His will, which comes from yielding to Him.

“When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay” (Eccl. 5:4-5).

*A vow is a solemn promise or pledge, a personal commitment or assertion. Interestingly, it comes from the Latin word “votum,” corresponding to “euchesthai” in Greek, which means “to pray.” The meaning in Sanskrit is “to sacrifice.”