Answers to Life's Questions

Oct 25, 2006 at 15:35 o\clock

Fall

Postings this fall will be less frequent.  Please click on http://dondegr8.tripod.com/id4.html or http://www.backtothebible.org/devotions/ to read some useful answers to life's questions.

Oct 21, 2006 at 19:28 o\clock

Wisdom and Riches

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference:
Proverbs 8:1-36 

Wisdom and Riches

I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

Proverbs belongs to that segment of the Old Testament designated as "wisdom literature." Such proverbial teaching represents one of the most ancient forms of instruction. The wisdom literature of Israel was the chief storehouse of moral and practical instruction for the Jews. It guided the head of state as well as the head of the home. It embodied the difference between right and wrong, righteousness and unrighteousness. But most of all, Israel's wisdom literature taught the Jews how to live before Jehovah. It contrasted the wisdom of the world, a wisdom of possessions, with the wisdom of God, a wisdom of piety.

Proverbs teaches us that all who would live godly must seek the wisdom of God and forsake the wisdom of the world. To seek divine wisdom, therefore, is to seek to know God better and to possess less. Wisdom is God; and speaking as wisdom, God says, "I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me" (Proverbs 8:17). God is to be sought early in life and early in each day of life. When we show Him we love Him in this way, He shows us He loves us by filling our day with His wisdom.

Seeking the wisdom of God and the God of wisdom does not necessarily mean we will be paupers on this earth. God says, "Riches and honor are with me; yea durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver" (Proverbs 8:18-19). The revenue paid by seeking this world's wealth is temporal gain and a frequent deterrent to godliness. The revenue gained by seeking divine wisdom is eternal gain and an everlasting aid to godliness. Therefore, the truly wise person in this world will seek God's wisdom instead of the world's wealth. But should God allow us to have both, our attitude toward our possessions will be, "Every man to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God" (Ecclesiastes 5:19).

An English nobleman once visited Josiah Wedgwood to see how he made his legendary china and pottery. A young apprentice was instructed to give the nobleman a tour of the factory. The nobleman didn't believe in God and was sacrilegious and foul-mouthed, and he consistently ridiculed the Bible during the tour. At first the young apprentice was shocked, but after awhile he began to laugh when the man made his cynical remarks. Josiah Wedgwood was greatly disturbed by this, especially when he saw how his young apprentice was being influenced by this wealthy nobleman. Later the atheist asked if he could purchase a particularly expensive vase. As he handed it to the nobleman, Wedgwood deliberately let it crash to the floor. With a vile oath the nobleman angrily said, "That's the one I really wanted and now it's shattered by your carelessness." Josiah Wedgwood replied, "Sir, there are things more precious than any vase things that can never be restored once they are ruined. I can make another vase, but you can never give back to my helper the pure heart you've defiled by your vile language and sacrilegious talk!"

The nobleman was an example of a man who did not seek the Lord early but sought riches all the day. Josiah Wedgwood is a fine example of a man who early sought the Lord and recognized that his wealth was a gift from God. God never intended that we should not have riches; He only intended that riches should not have us. It is vitally important for Christians who possess wealth not to be possessed by it. Seek the wisdom of the Lord early in the day, before earning the wealth of the world. Then use that wealth in a way which will bring eternal reward.

MORNING HYMN
I take, O cross, thy shadow
For my abiding place
I ask no other sunshine than
The sunshine of His face
Content to let the world go by,
To know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self my only shame,
My glory all the cross.

Oct 13, 2006 at 17:52 o\clock

Fruit and Faith

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference:
Mark 11:1-26 

Fruit and Faith

And in the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.

There is an old legend about a great teacher who was walking through an orchard on a windy day. The teacher came to a fence which divided the grove from an adjoining forest and he imagined that he could hear the trees talking to each other. The maple trees taunted a group of nearby fruit trees, "Why don't your leaves rustle in the breeze like ours so that you could be heard from a distance?"

"We don't need such useless fluttering to draw attention to our presence," was the reply. "Our fruit speaks for us!"

The story of Jesus cursing the fig tree is a story of fruit and faith. As our Lord approached the cross during the Passion Week, many outstanding events took place. On Palm Sunday He triumphantly entered the city of Jerusalem, but he retired to the house of His friends in Bethany that evening. On the morrow He made His way back to the city of Jerusalem early in the morning. He was eager to be about His father's business and did not want to disappoint the people who would come early to hear Him teach in the Temple. Because He had risen early and left Bethany before the breakfast hour, Jesus and His disciples were hungry. On the way He spied a fig tree in full bloom.

The fig tree is unique in that the fruit appears on the tree before it comes to full bloom. Figs generally appear in February, followed by leaves later in the spring. Thus when Jesus saw the tree in full bloom, He had every right to expect that there would be figs which He and the disciples could use for temporary sustenance. When He arrived at the tree, however, even though the tree was in full bloom, it was barren of fruit. Jesus cursed the tree saying, "No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever" (Mark 11:14).

When Jesus and the disciples returned in the morning to the site of the fig tree, they saw that the tree had dried up from its roots (Mark 11:20). The disciples were astonished at how rapidly the cursed tree had begun to disintegrate. When Peter called this phenomenon to the Master's attention, Jesus said, "Have faith in God." The cursing of the fruitless fig tree was done deliberately to teach the lesson-"Have faith in God." Jesus continued to illustrate this when He said, "For verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass he shall have whatsoever he saith" (Mark 11:23).

Some years ago a group of botanists went on an expedition to a remote part of the Alps. They were searching for new varieties of flowers. One day they saw a beautiful rare species growing at the extreme bottom of a deep ravine. It was almost impossible to get at. Someone would have to be lowered into the gorge to retrieve the rare flower. The botanist noticed a local Swiss boy standing nearby and asked him if he would get the flower. A rope would be tied around his waist and the men would lower him to the floor of the canyon. The young boy peered thoughtfully into the chasm. "Wait," he said, "I'll be right back." The lad dashed off. When he returned he was accompanied by an older man. The boy said to the scientists, "I'll go over the cliff now and get the flower for you but this man must hold the rope. He's my dad."

Fruit and faith go hand in hand. The incident of Jesus' cursing of the fig tree illustrates this beautifully. If we are to bear fruit, we must have faith in the one who holds our hand. Whatever the task given to us, we will be only as successful in completing it as our faith in the Father will permit.

MORNING HYMN
I would be true, for there are those who trust me
I would be pure, for there are those who care.
I would be strong for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

Oct 10, 2006 at 17:16 o\clock

Mercy Amid Judgment

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference:
Exodus 9:13-35 

Mercy Amid Judgement

And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me.

One of the great paradoxes of the Bible is God's compassionate practice of tempering judgment with mercy. If ever anyone deserved the biting edge of God's wrath, it was the Pharaoh of the exodus. He was cruel, vindictive, and hard-hearted. When Moses and Aaron appeared before him, seeking the release of the Israelites, Pharaoh was insolent and blasphemous. He deserved to be stricken by God. Yet he was spared through the plagues of blood, frogs, lice, flies, malignant livestock and boils.

Now once again the Lord instructed Moses to “rise up early the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let My people go” (Exodus 3). Yet another plague was to be inflicted on the Egyptians unless their king abandoned his insane rebellion against the Lord God. The first six plagues were accompanied by much suffering and humiliation. However, none of these had actually touched the lives of the Egyptians. This time, if Pharaoh did not relent, God would smite the people and their land with pestilence and they would be cut off from the earth.

Characteristic of God's mercy, the pestilence was not to begin immediately. Moses predicted, "Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.” God gave the Egyptian king time for reflection. Judgment was impending; but before it came, the mercy of God allowed the rebellious Pharaoh twenty-four hours to consider the folly of his resistance.

But God's mercy did not stop there. Every God-fearing Egyptian had opportunity to respond to God as well. Those servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord, probably as a result of the previous plagues, quickly sought shelter for their families and cattle. Those who regarded not the word of the Lord remained in the fields.

Wherever the word of God is heralded, the reaction is always the same. Some believe and receive; others ridicule and reject. When the Apostle Paul delivered his compelling address on Mars' Hill, some mocked, others delayed, and a few believed (Acts 17:32-34). Nowhere is this more emphatically stated than in the final chapter of the Acts. "And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not" (Acts 28:24).

When the period of reflection and response was over, judgment came as promised. The thunder cracked, and the Lord sent hail and fire on the land of Egypt. So fierce was the hail and fire that upon impact great balls of fire ran along the ground. This pestilence smote both man and beast in the fields as well as the herbs and trees throughout Egypt. Yet the land of Goshen, where the people of God resided, was not touched. Neither were the Egyptians who had heeded the word of the Lord and took shelter—another instance of God's mercy, even during judgment.

Perhaps the greatest example of God's mercy in the midst of judgment is seen after the plague. Since many Egyptians had lost their lives, Pharaoh made a halfhearted, mock repentance in order to stay the mighty thunderings and hail. The flax and barley crops were completely destroyed, for the barley was in ear and the flax in bud. But the wheat and rye crops were yet in the ground and not destroyed. Those Egyptians who remained were not left without the hope of a harvest. That's the mercy of God!

Though Pharaoh's rebellion and insolence deserved the utter destruction of God's judgment, yet before, during, and after the plague of hail the mercy of God is evident. God's pity rests on men who have none on themselves. "The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works" (Psalm 145:8-9). Let's thank Him today for His great mercy.

MORNING HYMN
There's a wideness in God's mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea
There's a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

Oct 6, 2006 at 18:13 o\clock

Working Together

Author: Woodrow Kroll
Source: Early in the Morning
Scripture Reference:
Nehemiah 4:1-23 

Working Together

So we labored in the work; and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.

It was not until the year 539 B.C. that the Persian king Cyrus decreed that Jews and other captives could return to their homelands after a long Babylonian captivity. Wave after wave of expatriates made the journey back to a beleaguered land of promise. While yet captive, however, the news came to Nehemiah that the wall of Jerusalem had never been repaired since its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. Brigands and robbers could attack the city at will. Nehemiah was distressed and became terribly burdened for his home town. He secured the necessary papers from Artaxerxes, the Persian king at that time, to return to his homeland and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.

In 444 B.C. Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and soon afterwards went by night on an inspection tour of the city walls. He elicited help to rebuild the ruined fortification both from residents and returnees. Volunteers quickly came to his side, but so did villains. Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite heard that Nehemiah had come to rebuild the walls and "it grieved them exceedingly that there was a man come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel" (Nehemiah 2:10).

At first Sanballat and Tobiah had only scorned the idea that these feeble Jews would fortify their city. But now they had become seriously alarmed. A conspiracy was formed of the Arabians, Ammonites, and Philistines of Ashdod. The enemies of Nehemiah were ready to attack Jerusalem before the fortifications could be completed.

When Nehemiah heard the news of this conspiracy, he made proper response. Nehemiah 4:9 says, "Nevertheless, we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them." Nehemiah immediately turned to God in prayer but just as immediately made preparations to defend himself. This is the delicate balance between faith and works which is needed in each of our lives. With a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other the workmen continued to rebuild the walls. They would both watch and pray. The end result was summed up in Nehemiah’s words, “So we labored in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared” (Nehemiah 4:21). With each one doing his part, the task was finished in record time to the glory of the Lord.

The story could have been much different if, for example, those who worked complained that those who watched were not doing their fair share. Nehemiah’s workmen had to recognize they were all laborers together with God (1 Corinthians 3:9), as we must today if we are going to accomplish anything for God.

The following parable illustrates this principle. A carpenter’s tools were having a conference. Brother Hammer was presiding, but the others informed him that he’d have to leave because he was too noisy. “All right,” he said, “I’ll go, but Brother Plane must withdraw too. There’s no depth to his work. It’s always on the surface.” Brother Plane responded, “Well, Brother Rule will also have to go. He’s constantly measuring people as if he were the only one who’s right.” Brother Rule complained about Brother Sandpaper, saying, “He’s always rubbing people the wrong way.” In the midst of the discussion the Carpenter of Nazareth entered. He went to His workbench to make a pulpit from which He would preach the gospel. He used the hammer, the plane, the rule and the sandpaper. All were important in their own way.

If Christians criticize one another, insult one another, and refuse to work together for God, the task of gleaning the whitened harvest fields will never be completed for His glory. Though differences remain between believers, let us always recognize who the true enemy really is. It is Satan. Each of us possesses different gifts and abilities, but none of us is unimportant in the work of the Lord. Let’s defeat our common enemy this day.

MORNING HYMN
To the work! to the work! we are servants of God,
Let us follow the path that our Master has trod;
With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew,
Let us do with our might what our hands find to do.