SALTY SEA Matthew 5

I’m the only one of our Holy Land tour group who can’t float on Israel’s super-salty, extra-buoyant Dead Sea.  What an honor!  But I couldn’t.  Too scared?  Maybe.  After all, why do they call it the ‘Dead Sea’?

As a kid I love salty snacks.  Can’t tell you how many cans of potato chips and pretzels I consume growing up, bursting the seams of my clothes.  My parents would drive back to Jersey City to some bar that sells zesty, briny treats by the barrel full.  My sister and I dive in.  Good to the last crunch!

Jesus talks about salt.  As in His followers having spicy and preservative qualities.  Matthew 5:13–‘You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.’

I read somewhere that salt remains effective for about 15 years.  After that forget it.  No good except to be trashed or used to foul some good-for-nothing neighbor’s land.

Jesus warns about losing our tastiness, being an ineffective follower.  How?  Praying less while worrying more?  Probably.  Checking your net worth more than God’s Word?  Most likely.  Constantly talking about yourself rather than listening to or caring about others?  No doubt.  You can think of your own un-salty behaviors.  For sure.

That business about the 15 years reminds me of how patient the Lord is.  He doesn’t fly off the handle at the first sign of our wavering or weakening.  No nailing us to the wall in a sudden fit of rage.  Thank God, for I’d have been cast aside and booted out decades ago.  But here I am!  Still salty!

Jesus’ love is patient, consistent and dependable.  When all else fails, He doesn’t.  Ever.  ‘…Jesus…having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end’ (John 13:1).  Right to the finish line… and beyond.  That’s the gospel truth!

Pass the salt, please!


Thank you, Jesus, for such great love.  Amen.

FAR FROM SHORE John 10: 1-18

Listening to a Southern Gospel CD, my ears perk up at the singing of ‘Jesus Pilots My Ship’.  The lyrics talk of wanting Jesus to take the lead as I follow close behind.  Here’s one phrase in that song –‘…I won’t ever drift so far from shore that I can’t hear what He has to say…’

‘I won’t ever drift…’  Really?  Not ever?  Wish I could say that, but I can’t.  I’ve floated far from shore with His voice muffled by laziness, stubbornness and pigheadedness.

An example?  When at Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute, a few friends commit to read our Bibles every day, completing it by year’s end.  Doesn’t seem like a big deal for Bible school students, does it?  But after a couple of days, less than a week, I poop out.  Such stick-to-itiveness!

Then something strange happens.  I’m lying on my dorm bed, wide awake, unable to move.  Paralyzed.  White smoke fills the room.  I hear an audible beastly, hellish laugh.  In a few seconds, it all clears.  I’ve never had anything like that happen before or after.  As if Satan gets his jollies when I fizzle out.  He wins the marbles as I wipe out.  I’ve drifted far from shore.  Can hardly hear Jesus.

Did anything get through my thick skull from that weird experience?  In time (not immediately, sad to say) I commit to daily Bible reading.  I’m still at it, more so than ever.  These days, staying closer to shore, hearing Him much clearer.

And you?  Drifting?  His voice stifled?  Jesus said, ‘…the sheep follow him, for they know his voice’ and ‘…they listen to my voice…’ (John 10: 4,16).

Time to dive daily into your Bible?  You’ll find yourself nearer shoreline, rarely out of range of His voice.  Exactly where you want to be.


Thank you, Jesus, for keeping us close by you, hearing your Word.  Amen.

BIG TROUBLE! Mark 3:20-35

The phone line sizzles red hot after the Good News Club that day.  I’m dog tired after leading 50 kindergarteners in songs and Bible stories.  That summer, after my first year at Princeton Seminary, I agree to lead a series of 8 weeklong Good News Clubs for the town’s children.  Everything runs swimmingly until…

On the phone is the mother of one of the kindergarten girls.  She’s incensed–the mother that is.  Going through the roof.  Off the charts.  Ballistic.  Well, you get the picture.  That morning I taught a cute song with these lyrics–‘Praise ye the Lord, Hallelujah!  Praise ye the Lord, Hallelujah!…Praise ye the Lord.’  Nice praise chorus.  Kids like it and we sing it a couple of times that day.

When this precious darling gets home, that’s when something falls off the tracks.  The little tyke bellows out these words–‘Crazy the Lord, Hallelujah, Crazy the Lord…’  What in the world am I teaching at this Good News Club?  Blasphemy?  Must admit I catastrophize, picturing the collapse of both seminary and ministry as both barely leave the starting gate!

I’m feeling misunderstood.  Who hasn’t?  Don’t call me a name-dropper, but Jesus experiences this all during His earthly ministry.  The religious high mucky-muck damn Him as demon possessed (Mark 3:22).  An ally of Satan?  Nice bunch.  His local religious friends snub their noses at Him for being merely the son of carpenter Joseph (Mark 6:1-6).  His disciples rarely get the point (Mark 4: 41; 6:51-52; 8:15-21).  His own family thinks He’s a nut case (Mark 3: 21).  Misunderstood?  At every turn.

But, unlike me, Jesus rises above it all.  His eyes are fixed on His Father’s love and the mission He’s been given.  That’s a hint.  Keep your focus locked in on Jesus.  And what He wants for you.  That’s real hard work.  Cutting out so many distractions in our over-crowded lives.  But that’s it, like it or not.

‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim…’  Understood?


Lord Jesus, thank you for being understanding.  Amen.


SO LITTLE FAITH Matthew 14: 28-33

When we sail on Israel’s Sea of Galilee, a sandstorm has been raging for countless days.  We can hardly see the water below us, let alone the surrounding shoreline.  At least no storms hit that day.  Not so for Jesus’ disciples, plying those same waters two millennia ago.  Ferocious winds batter their boat, leaving their emotions on pins and needles.

Who comes to their rescue?  We know but they have no idea.  Maybe a phantom or a ghost?  No, it’s Jesus!  And Peter calls out for help.  As we should when life turns ugly.  He’s their rescuer as He’ll be for us.

But it’s Peter who wants more, as in walking on water with Jesus.  Unfortunately, Peter gets spooked, looks down and has that sinking feeling.  Glub, glub, glub!  ‘Lord, save me’ (Matt. 14:30).  And Jesus does.  That’s when our Lord utters those sad words–‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ (Matt. 14:31).

Jesus doesn’t say that they have no faith, but way too little of it.  Looking in my honesty-mirror, when ‘storms’ lash out my way, without missing a beat, I begin to worry.  More than that, I catastrophize, imagining the very worst is just around the corner or smack dab in my face.  At some point I pray, trying to focus on Jesus as best I can, with all those blasted jitters and shakes weighing me down.

Why so hard to rely on my Lord?  Well, I have little faith.  Limp dishrag trust.  Less than a gallon of gas in my belief-tank.  Low-voltage hope.  What to do?  Any ideas?

Here’s a few.  First, I try to remember that the Lord still loves me even when I falter and sink.  Like He does for Peter and the others.  He’s much more forgiving than I imagine.  Then, I daily stay in His Word, the Bible.  Also praying, telling Him all my fears.  Everything really.  Like He doesn’t already know?

That’s a good start.  Our faith?  Not quite so little.  Signs of growth clock in and come to light, much like daffodils in earliest spring!


Lord Jesus, help my faith to grow.  Amen.