by Jay O'Toole
The Lord doesn't always speak in an audible voice, but often in nudges, moving the heart.
The Lord is a gentleman. He is patient. He is longsuffering|
He often remains silent, while we are speaking, but He will not remain silent forever.
He can be grieved and quenched when we refuse His message.
When nothing else works to get our attention,
then He may allow "...the pestilence that walketh in darkness;..."
to come into our lives to urge us to "...abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
When He gets our attention, and we begin to cry, "Daddy, save me," (Romans 8:15, KJV)
then "...I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him."
These selections come from Psalm 91. Many times my thoughts return to my childhood
with the reading of this psalm. When I was a little boy, I was wont to hide behind
my earthly daddy when dangerous or unfamiliar situations arose in my life.
My Daddy on earth was much bigger and much stronger than I was.
How much greater, today, as a grown man, that I can look to my Heavenly Father,
Who is infinitely bigger and stronger than my earthly father ever was.
As children, we were very good at "reading" our parents.
They gave us certain looks, which told us how to act without ever speaking words.
"You better not speak right now. I am so angry about what you have done."
"I love you, Dear One. Come here. Let me give you a hug."
Myriad were the looks in between these two extremes on the continuum.
The Lord in like manner says, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go:
I will guide thee with mine eye." (Psalm 32:8, KJV)
Earthly parents would often touch us on the shoulder in public,
especially when we were "acting up." When our eyes met,
they would simply hold up one index finger, waving it back and forth.
This meant, "Stop! Think about what you are doing!
Change your behavior before the hand of judgment falls on the seat of knowledge!"
Of course, at other times a big, strong, gentle arm would wrap slowly around our chests,
drawing us back to them in a warm embrace, simply meaning, "I love you,...just because."
The Lord in His inimitable ways gives us His Own Divine Nudges.
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come.
And let him that heareth say, Come.
And let him that is athirst come.
And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
(Revelation 22:17, KJV)
Prompt: What does it mean to come to Christ as personal Savior and Lord?
It is wise to begin by understanding the human condition.
Our first parents sinned, and we are now dead. "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17, ESV) "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;" (Ephesians 2:1, KJV)
The Lord is the eternal EMT, who gives life to those, who are dead. "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;" (Ephesians 2:1, KJV) The word, "quickened" means "to jolt to life (as through the use of shock pads.)"
The Lord initiates salvation, and this Sovereignty gives great comfort in coming to Christ as Savior and Lord. "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44, KJV) According to this verse, no human can get saved "just anytime he or she wants to." However, on the flip side this concept the very moment you want to be saved is the very moment the Lord has sovereignly chosen for you to be saved, according to Philippians 2:13, "For it is God which worketh in you to will and to do after His good pleasure."
The Lord initiates salvation by working on the human heart. This is where the loop is closed in John 6:37, KJV, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."
1. The individual Christian is a gift from God, the Father to God, the Son (aka Jesus.)
2. Father God draws the Christian to the Gift of Salvation in Jesus.
3. At that invitation, my coming to Christ as Savior and Lord, is a Done Deal. I come to Him with no possibility of rejection,...EVER.
I had a wonderful conversation with my daughter about her salvation experience in the summer of 2012. She told me she had a strong desire to become a Christian. I told her that's the only way we can become a Christian.
1. Jesus makes us alive from the dead, putting the desire to be saved in our hearts.
2. At that point we agree with the Lord about our condition, accepting His terms, "None of me. All of Him."
3. Since He promised never to turn me away, the only thing left to do is to say, "Thank you, LORD, for saving my soul."
by Jay O'Toole
on January 29th, 2021
"13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.
Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
14 Is any sick among you?
let him call for the elders of the church;
and let them pray over him,
anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick,
and the Lord shall raise him up;
and if he have committed sins,
they shall be forgiven him.
16 Confess your faults one to another,
and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Prompt: Prayer as the respirations of the spirit is critical to every aspect of the Christian's life. How has prayer become to you more than simply grace at the dinner table?
I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us, "pray without ceasing." That is why I liken prayer to the very breath of our lungs. We must breathe without ceasing in order to stay alive, physically. We must pray without ceasing to stay alive, spiritually.
As a bit of scientific trivia, I was at the point of being shocked when I learned that breathing is a voluntary activity. This means that the part of our brains, that regulates breathing must send out a command to breathe every time a breath is taken. However, the activity of breathing is so repetitive, that the voluntary element is almost transformed into something involuntary because of muscle memory.
Two things demonstrate the voluntary aspect of breathing.
1. When we swim underwater, it is necessary to stop breathing in order to prevent drowning. If breathing was involuntary, then we couldn't hold a breath underwater. That would, of course, be disastrous.
2. About a decade to fifteen years ago, I went in for a sleep test. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. This means my body would quit breathing multiple times every night. Because that, also, was dangerous, my body would wake-up to take a much-needed breath. This was a great liability for me because if I kept sleeping without breathing, I could die from a lack of oxygen, but waking up multiple times a night prevented my normal sleep patterns, which could produce mild insanity as was demonstrated so masterfully in The Taming of a Shrew by Shakespeare.
Meditations and a C-PAP machine alleviated my nighttime breathing concerns for many years until the Lord healed me of the issue in 2013, which eliminated the need for either crutch.
How does this apply to the subject of prayer?
There have been times in my life in which I was so focused on accomplishing a task, that I unintentionally held my breath, while I worked on some tedious task. I've lost count of how many times my wife has stopped what she was doing to look at me, and say, "Breathe."
As Christians, the Lord makes Himself known to us throughout the day in so many seemingly insignificant ways, while we work hard, trying to serve Him in our own strength. The Lord turns to us, and says, "Pray." But the children and the animals need to be fed. "Pray." The house needs to be cleaned. "Pray." The bills need to be paid. "Pray." Work, yard work, church activities all need to be done. "Pray."
Is it easy to pray in a spiritually healthy way? No. It takes work, but the Lord is worth the effort, and our spirits will thank us for maintaining this lifeline with the Lord every day, all day long.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 28th, 2021
"1 I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
2 I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are helpless take heart.
3 Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together."
(Psalm 34:1-3, NLT)
Prompt: Define worship. Give a few examples of how you enjoy worshiping the Lord by yourself and as a member of a larger congregation.
The word, "worship," has always seemed to the abbreviation of two very important words, regarding our relationship to God. Worship = Worthiness (the very Character of God) + ship(an ocean-going vessel)
We have the responsibility of speaking back to God His very Nature for the purpose of giving Him more Glory from our very lips. The amount of God's worthiness with which we could regard Him would fill all of Earth's ocean-going vessel, and still, that would be insufficient for carrying all the worthiness with which He is due.
Worshiping the Lord by myself often centers around listening to the great hymns of the faith, which is why I'm drawn to Christmas carols, since these are church hymns, speaking of the great Lord, Who came to Earth to be my personal Lord and Savior.
Prayer in the continual breathing of my spirit is the Lord's conviction, regarding my life. "Pray without ceasing," the Apostle Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:17. Though I always wish time all with the Lord was more, my spirit is breathing prayers to Him all day long.
In corporate worship my heart thrills to the singing of hymns by the congregation and as a special by the chancel choir. Hymns always rehearse the great doctrines of the faith. Remembering the worthiness of the Lord increases worship.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 27th, 2021
"For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish,
but have everlasting life."
How would you explain the abstract word,
"believe" to a concrete-thinker?
This will help us lead others to Christ.
Though children are often the concrete-thinkers we instantly point to in a discussion like this, some adults have mental challenges, that create the effect of childlike thinking. This necessitates conversations with them, which are for all practical purposes the same as conversations with children. Finally, many of us would consider ourselves skilled in discussing abstract concepts, but how many of us adults really have a firm grasp on the abstract?
The relationship between sound and movement is quite esoteric and abstract until someone demonstrates the Doppler Effect to us by telling us to be stationary on a sidewalk and then driving his or her car past us with the horn blaring a constant blast.
Teaching John 3:16 to a child or to an adult for whom abstracts are challenging can cause fear without situation-appropriate demonstrations of the concepts contained therein. By my own words, you can tell, that simple explanations are challenging for me because as a lover of words of all types, I have read dictionaries throughout my life thus far, and I have been reading the King James Bible since I was six, and Shakespeare from my high school years, but I still have the responsibility to simplify for the sake of eternal souls.
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." We may be able to read this verse to a child or to a friend, but we need to be able to express it in its most basic form. "God loved all of us so much, (and He still loves us,) that He gave Jesus, His Son, to us as a Gift. Why did He do this? He wanted people, who believe in Him to avoid the hopelessness and destruction of Hell, and He wanted us to live forever with Him in Heaven in the greatest possible level of peace."
I will expect the reader is now scratching his or her head, thinking, Simpler. That looks like more words to me. Where are you going with this, Brother? That's just the point. Abstract concepts are difficult to simplify without prayerful thought and meditation on the Word of God.
Tell a child, "God loves you," and the response could be, "How can I love God? I can't give Him a hug or a kiss on the cheek."
Tell a child, "God gave Jesus as a Gift to you," and the response could be, "I've never seen that Gift. Will it be under the Christmas tree on Christmas Day?"
Tell a child, "Believe in Jesus, and you will go to Heaven one day," and the response could be, "How can I believe Jesus? I've never seen Jesus."
Tell a child, "If you don't believe in Jesus, then you will go to Hell one day." This is where the tears start, especially if that child has even the concept, that I did when I was about three or four years old. "Hell is a very dark room with a fire in a big can, that is burning in the middle of the room. Everyone is very sad because they are all hurting. The fire is too hot." With a concept, even like this, the terrified child is likely to ask, "How can I believe in Jesus? I've never seen Jesus, but I don't want to go to that awful place. I don't ever want to go there."
How do you respond to a terrified child, like that? Once upon a time, I was a terrified child, like that. Even today, at 60 years of age, when I stop for a few moments to consider these concepts through the eyes of a child, I can still feel those emotions, and all of the hopelessness, that they create. This gives me great compassion to express God's Love as it comes through my own heart, taking all the time necessary to ensure, that concrete-thinking individuals are properly introduced to this loving Lord, Jesus, as fully as is humanly possible.
Where do we go from here? I believe the title of this post holds the key.
Parents of small children are well aware of play, that teaches trust. "Peek-a-Boo" starts with the child in a high chair. Mother covers her face. "Where is Mommy?" she says to the infant. Some children will cry at this point because Mommy has gone and left me alone, but the deft removal of the hands, and the cheery, "Peek-a-Boo!" changes the tears into giggles of joy. Over and over and over and over again the game is played to teach the child, "Mommy is still here, even when you don't see me."
The game expands as the child's ability to trust (aka believe,) that Mom is still there, even when I can't see her. Now, Mom walks out of the room. Again, the child may start to cry, but Mom pops her head back into the room, "Peek-a-Boo!" Over and over and over and over again, we go because the game just got bigger.
Often the game grows to the full-blown game of Hide-n-Seek. Mommy, Daddy, brother, and sister hide around the house, and the toddler, the preschooler, or the elementary-aged child comes to find them. We know the family is there we just need to seek them out.
When the child becomes a Christian by believing that Jesus is there, even though I can't see Him, then the Lord Himself takes up the game of Hide-n-Seek to teach, even the 60-year-old believer, "I'm still here, Son. 'And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.'" (Jeremiah 29:13, KJV)
Finally, the concept of the title of this post comes from another trust-building activity, that parents often perform for their small children. (This is what life is like in a perfect world, but alas we do not live in a perfect world. This fact should explain why many humans have great difficulty believing God or anyone else for that matter.)
Daddies are good for using "the swing" to teach trust and belief in the big man in my life, who is the child's first impression of Who God is. Daddies love to find a wide room with great padded floors of carpet (to help Momma's faith to grow.). Taking the child under the arms at the shoulders Dad begins to swing the child up and down through the widespread legs as a swing. At some point, Dad lets go, and the laughing child flies upward into the air, and Dad catches the child on the way back down.
At least this was how life was when I was a child. Modern Society tends to frown on such an activity, even calling the legality into question. Therefore, let the reader beware.
Activities of this nature, that are more socially-acceptable, include strapping the small child into a swing with the parent very near "just in case." The swing teaches, that moving through the air is safe as long as the swing is securely attached to an immovable structure from above.
The same concept holds as we get older. The swing may have a longer chain, and go higher in the air, but it is always securely attached to an immovable structure from Above.
When I was a teenager, my cousins and I used to love to swing out over a ravine on a rope swing, that had been secured to a thick tree limb. I'm not aware of anyone ever getting hurt because the rope was secured to an immovable tree from above.
Always our enjoyment in life and beyond is in direct correlation to our trust in the One, Who has secured our rope of faith (belief) to the immovable structure of Grace from Above by He, Who will never fail us. (Ephesians 2:8-10) One Day when it is time to swing out over the ravine, called Death, into that peaceful Eternity with Him in Heaven, and "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms:" (Deuteronomy 33:27, KJV) we will be safe.
When it is my time to pass beyond the veil of this life, will my ability to believe the Lord be completely doubt-free as Faithful, who went to Heaven in a chariot of fire? I pray so, but even if I struggle with doubts as did Christian in that last murky, roiling, turbulent river through which we all must pass, my security will not be blessed by my own very human heart, but by the One, Who lashed that rope around the limb of His Old Rugged Cross.
It is all of Him. It is none of me. The journey is about learning to trust, and I have no One else to trust, but Jesus, the Christ, my everlasting King.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 26th, 2021
|Prompt: "Is it okay to get angry with God? Why or why not?"
Any negative emotions I experience in my relationship with the Lord must all be subject to the fact, that He is God, and I am not.
Anger, fear, and confusion all seem to be to the emotions what illness is to the physical body. When my emotions seem to be harmed in some way, my response to the emotional hurt can be anger, fear, or confusion. Many times I have experienced all three at the same time.
Is God indebted to me for the circumstances, that have caused me to feel hurt, emotionally, spiritually, or even physically? No. God is not indebted to me for anything. The Lord was honest with us when He warned, "16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Genesis 2:16-17, KJV)
"Eat the fruit, and die," said the Lord. In its most basic form death means "separation." Mankind has been separated from God from that day, until this. God gave the responsibility to Adam. When Adam eat the fruit, Mankind became separated from God, regardless of the fact, that Eve took the first bite.
God ordered Adam. Adam disobeyed. No blame is allowed.
To be made right with the Lord is completely the magnanimous Gift of His Forgiveness, His Mercy, and His Grace.
When I feel some undefinable pain in my life, that seems to have no knowable source as well as for pains in which the source is easily known, I may feel justified to blame God, and to be angry at Him for either causing or allowing the pain, but ultimately all pain is the result of the introduction of Sin into the world, and the Lord is not at fault because He warned us of the result of Sin, and we sinned anyway.
However, trying to hide our feeling from the Lord is not a good approach, either, because He already knows how we feel. I am persuaded, that our best approach before the Lord, regarding the hurts, pains, confusions, and the dark days of our lives is to be honest with Him, based on our affirmation of His Place in Eternity. "Lord, You are God. I am not. I am in pain, and You are the only One, Who can help me."
King David often demonstrated this honesty appropriately.
"9 I will say unto God my rock,
Why hast thou forgotten me?
why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
10 As with a sword in my bones,
mine enemies reproach me;
while they say daily unto me,
Where is thy God?
11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
and why art thou disquieted within me?
hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him,
who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
(Psalm 42:9-11, KJV)
I have many "Why"s, regarding the current direction of our country,
and I try to be honest with Him about these emotional, and spiritual pains,
but I must always submit to Him for He is God. He can give me explanations if He chooses to do so, but He is not required to explain anything to me, ever.
Suspended judgment, holding the Lord guiltless, and offering my confusion up to Him will always end my pain more quickly than all the demands I might ever try to put upon God. He is wise. I need to rest in His Wisdom.
Do I always rest in His Wisdom? Sadly, I do not, but I have recently been learning from one of the Lord's great sons, who is Os Guinness. In his book, God in the Dark, he quoted another great Christian, Oswald Chambers from his great devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, "darkness is the time to listen."
I appear to be in a season of listening as I offer my anger, my pain, and my confusion to The One, Who knows the Why. "We do not know why, but we know why we trust God who knows why." (Os Guinness)
by Jay O'Toole
on January 25th, 2021
"Proverbs 13:7 says
'Some pretend to be rich yet have nothing;
others pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth.'
Besides the literal sense,
in which some pretend to be something they are not,
what do you think the teacher means by this proverb?"
"To seem to be the richest man
without a farthing aught
will fail his most detail-ed plan,
until his pride be taught.
"Presenting as the poor of Earth,
while money pads his rooms
is character of highest birth.
His honor aye resumes."
Have wisdom as your highest goal
from He, Who is all Wise.
Salvation in Him is as gold.
Each heart to Him it ties.
"Some pretend to be rich yet have nothing;"
These are they, which can't countenance the shame of being poor.
("Shame" in this case is their word, not mine.)
"others pretend to be poor, yet have great wealth."
These are they, which do not need wealth to prop up their self-image.
For the former, "low self-esteem" can't be overcome by the appearance of wealth.
For the latter, "a godly self-esteem" can't be marred by the absence of wealth.
May the Lord teach us humility, the godly appropriate self-esteem,
that thinks neither too highly of the self nor too lowly of the self,
but considers the self in terms of agreement with God Himself.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 22nd, 2021
"We can make our plans,
but the Lord determines our steps."
(Proverbs 16:9, NLT)
"13 Look here, you who say,
'Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town
and will stay there a year.
We will do business there and make a profit.'
14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?
Your life is like the morning fog—
it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
15 What you ought to say is,
'If the Lord wants us to,
we will live and do this or that.'”
(James 4:13-15, NLT)
by Jay O'Toole
on January 20th, 2021
Roses bloom among the thorns.
They're brilliant, then they pass.
They sleep in winter, then they're born
to glorify at last.
A rose needs tending, food, and love
to thrive as colors flow.
Illumination from above,
and room to daily grow.
A rose is hardy to a fault,
but still it needs the touch
of gardeners, those truly taught
to help it grow as much.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 19th, 2021
"This week we will be in Proverbs 13.
Proverbs 13:3 says
'Those who guard their mouths preserve their lives:
those who open wide their lips come to ruin.'
Do you think Solomon is talking about gluttony here?
What exactly is he saying?"
Though gluttony would be partly at issue here, I believe the matter of wisely spoken words are on the writer's as well, if not primarily. Proverbs and the Psalm are in agreement at this point.
"3 Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth;
keep the door of my lips.
4 Incline not my heart to any evil thing,
to practise wicked works with men that work iniquity:
and let me not eat of their dainties.
5 Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness:
and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil,
which shall not break my head:
for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities."
(Psalm 141:3-5, KJV)
Jesus Himself spoke about the flow of items In and Out of the mouth.
"16And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
17Do not ye yet understand,
that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly,
and is cast out into the draught?
18But those things which proceed out of the mouth
come forth from the heart; and they defile the man."
(Matthew 15:16-18, KJV)
In other words, gluttony of the belly can lead to the death of the body from obesity, but gluttony of the heart (or being full or oneself in the form of pride) can lead to the death of the complete person in everlasting Hell.
Watching what we eat is always wise, but watching what we say has lasting importance, horizontally with our fellowman, and vertically in the ultimate answer of our lives before God.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 18th, 2021
"Proverbs 12:11 says,
'He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread:
but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.'
What does this mean?"
Responsible farmers take as much (or more) care to prepare the land for the receiving of the seed as they do planting the seed, which is to be received.
This came home to me plainly just yesterday as I helped our pastor at church. Adding a handicapped ramp up to the church office had reordered the shape of our flower garden. Since I started attending this church a little over a year and a half ago, I have been given the great privilege of tending this flower garden. I have "carte blanche as long as it looks good." He said so himself.
This meant, that yesterday afternoon I spent about two hours on my hands and knees, using a handheld claw tool to pull up the remaining grass in two sections of the yard to give us a slender garden from the church building to the curb on both sides of the walkway.
The two sections were probably no more than 3'X3' or 4'X4' each, but that felt like a lot of sod to shake loose from tufts of grass. When I was done, everything was dark, loamy dirt with a smattering of gravel rocks throughout, and a couple of caked palms in need of a good washing.
My quadriceps have been "talking" to me today when I have the need to bend over, but as Dad used to say, "Keep at it, until you get the job done. You'll hurt, but it'll be a good hurt."
Yesterday, I spent two hours "tilling the land," not for food crops, but for the pleasure of the beauty of flowers for this next year, and for the future after that. My next opportunity, with warm enough temperatures, looks like about Wednesday of this next week. I can foresee more time on my knees to even out the rest of the garden, looking for weeds, making sure the ground hasn't hardened, again, anywhere, and redistributing the old pine straw ground cover, before I apply new pine straw, that will include the new area, that I tilled, yesterday.
In the week after that, I should be able to give homes to some new plants, which are the kind, that survive well here in the winter, before I need to put out spring flowers in late March or early April.
That's a good Rule of (Green) Thumb. "Always be willing to invest twice as much time in the tilling process as in the planting process."
We could insert right here the Parable of the Sower. (Matthew 13:3-9, KJV)
"3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying,
Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed,
some seeds fell by the way side,
and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places,
where they had not much earth:
and forthwith they sprung up,
because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up,
they were scorched;
and because they had no root,
they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns;
and the thorns sprung up,
and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground,
and brought forth fruit,
some an hundredfold,
9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Jesus told the Parable of the Sower about the reactions of people to the receiving of the Word of God, but there are many lessons, that can be learned herein for those, who see with both physical and spiritual eyes.
The four soils mentioned here give us insights into the tilling process.
1. The Way Side is land used for walking between the rows. This soil has definitely not been tilled. It is very hard due to foot traffic, meaning that seeds, especially of the Word of God, cannot get into the soil here, becoming fruitful. Fowls eat the physical seed, while the forces of darkness remove the seeds of the Word in order to keep their prey in their possession. These are the poor souls, who have been walked on by others and by circumstances throughout their days. They are past feeling. They are great candidates for friendship, that refreshes them with the water of kindness, before the seed of the Word of God will have the opportunity to take root.
2. The Stony Places have been inadequately tilled. This part of the land can have large rocks, which need to be muscled out of the ground, and placed on a wagon for carting off in order to improve the viability of the soil to be tilled for the growing of crops. Stony places could, also, refer to the drought conditions of land, that is in great need of rain. This land really can't be tilled, until water is mixed with the sod by rain or by irrigation of some sort. Individuals in this condition need the warmth and the refreshing rain of friendship to break up their hard hearts before the Word of God can ever have the potential for entrance into this soil.
3. The Thorns are plots of land, which are, once again, untilled. Thorn vines are some of the hardiest plants on Earth. They need very little ground to get started, but they put down roots everywhere they go. They thrive with very little water, but they seem to suck the life out of the land, including bushes, and other plants and flowers around which they wrap themselves. In His explanation a few verses later, Jesus Himself described "the thorns" as "the cares of this world." Give the world an inch, and it will take a mile. The nemesis I deal with often is called, "Carolina Creeper." It climbs everything. It climbs the bricks and the wood of my house. It climbs my pine trees. It nests in my Yuletide camellias. It crawls on the ground. It comes in clusters of five leaves, which makes it easy to remove from things because I can pull it off with my bare hands. I have to watch out for poison ivy, which comes in clusters of three leaves. My parents' generation taught me a saying when I was young. "Leaves of five, stay alive. Leaves of three, leave them be." Five = non-poisonous. Three = poisonous. Obviously, I have much to say about thorny vines because I have a lot of experience with these vines, but we could "open another whole can of worms" by talking about kudzu, "the vine, that eat the South." They're not thorny. They're simply invasive. Kudzu is like the relative, that comes to stay for a week, but ends up staying for a year or more. Bottom Line: "Who has got time for the Word of God when you're just trying to breathe?"
4. The Good Ground has been properly tilled, worked, and watered. The good ground is ready for whatever seed the sower, physical or spiritual, wants to plant in it. The Good Seed planted in the good ground will always return an abundant harvest of physical and spiritual fruit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Now, back to Proverbs 12:11, KJV, "He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding." I have covered the first half of this verse with great verbosity. Thank you for your longsuffering and clemency. The person in this second half of the verse has one besetting sin, that threatens to destroy his life, if left unattended.
He is a follower. Being a follower isn't necessarily a bad thing, if you have the wisdom to follow a good and wise person. (Jesus had twelve followers, and not even He could get through to Judas Iscariot. Jesus was not at fault in that case. The fault was the soil of Judas' heart.)
However, the follower in our verse, today, is a "follower of vain persons." What are "vain persons?" Arguably, vain persons are lazy people, who wouldn't dare get their hands dirty. Of course, "vain" could, also, speak to the vanity of the mind in which these individuals care more about their own thoughts than they could ever be persuaded to care about the wisdom of others, especially the wisdom of the Word of God.
One wonders if the Dear Spirit of God led the writer of the Proverbs to foreshadow the Pharisees hundreds of years before their being a bane of existence in the days of Jesus' earthly sojourn. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." (Matthew 23:15, KJV) At any rate, this foolish man is not only a follower, but he is the follower of a bunch of tumbleweeds. This, too, I know from my early elementary school days in the Oklahoma Panhandle.
"Void of understanding" is simple to explain, but not very PC these days. When I was a kid, the adults used to refer to a man, "who needed a clue," as a guy, who needed "a (finger) thump on the back of his head."
There you have it. Today's lesson has been a long discussion of the difference between diligence and laziness. "He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread:
but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding." My paraphrase is this. "The diligent man will have something to eat, but the follower of the unattached really needs to 'get a clue.'"
May the Lord grant us the ability and wisdom to use our days on Earth wisely, before we are called to give an account of them before His Throne.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 15th, 2021
The days of Earth are silver cold
with questions, none can solve.
Each sin of man from Garden told
Salvation must resolve.
Though evil men and women wax
in blackness born of Hell
the swarthy Lord is never slack
to do all humans well.
He came at first, restoring grace
to those so hopeless lost.
He bore their spittle on His Face,
and paid the final cost.
He soon returns with sinews ripped,
and mane in golden flows
to snatch away His Bride, that's gripped
by Wickedness, that grows.
The teeth of One, Who lived through stripes
of crucifixion's day
will shut the mouth of Jadis' gripes,
and pounce in one display.
"O, quickly, Aslan, come and win
the days of Narnian snow!
Return as Victor o'er all sin,
and help us in Thee grow."
"Peace, peace, my child, your waiting soon
will know my refuge last.
Just listen for the trumpet's tune,
and on my arms be cast."
by Jay O'Toole
on January 14th, 2021
Proverbs 12:9 says,
'He that is despised, and hath a servant,
is better than he that honoureth himself,
and lacketh bread.'
What do you suppose the author means by this?
The two individuals being referenced here,
are distinguished by money, and by respect.
"He that is despised, and hath a servant," is a man, who is wealthy enough to have a potentially paid employee or at least the man owns enough land to need help working it or enough of a home to require help with its upkeep.
"He that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread" is a man, who is very poor because he doesn't have enough money to buy bread.
"He that is despised, and hath a servant," has a degree of power, that would be envied by most men. "Men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected." This is according to Shaunti Feldhahn in her book, For Women Only.
This, of course, is in total agreement with Ephesians 5:33b, KJV, "the wife see that she reverence her husband." A man cares more about being respected than being loved.
Again, the first man is better off than the second man because "He that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread" has the respect of "Yours truly," but nobody else.
To recap: "He that is despised, and hath a servant," has respect, and wealth. You can't despise what you don't respect. To respect someone is not always coupled with liking that individual. For instance, football teams rarely like their opponents, but if they are wise, then they will respect their opponents. The attitude, "All we have to do is to show up, and we'll beat their socks off" demonstrates disrespect and foolhardiness. The attitude, "Our next opposing team is really good. We've got to spend every night this week after practice in the movie room, watching game footage" shows both great respect and depth of wisdom. Like and love are not part of the equation for either of these team examples. However, if you respect your opponent, then you have a fighting chance of winning the game on the weekend.
The attitude, "All we have to do is to show up, and we'll beat their socks off" demonstrates disrespect and foolhardiness. This team attitude fits with the second man in Proverbs 12:9. "He that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread." Self-honor leads to abject self-defeat.
The attitude, "Our next opposing team is really good. We've got to spend every night this week after practice in the movie room, watching game footage" shows both great respect and depth of wisdom. This team attitude fits with the first man in Proverbs 12:9. "He that is despised, and hath a servant." This demonstrates a man, who worked hard for whatever he has, not waiting around for the approval of other men, and as result, lazy people despise the hardworking man. Winning teams do not win because they develop amicable relationships with opponents, but because they defeat opponents. The defeat of opponents on a football field is not the basis for "winning friends and influencing people." The defeat of opponents in football is the basis for gaining great respect among opposing teams.
To live despised, yet have respect
will meet the depth of need
of every man, though love neglect
his heart to fully feed.
Yet, he, who honors himself, though poor
hath nothing good at all.
Respect of none, no love to cure,
no help when he might fall.
The best of all the world of man
respects him, and gives love.
This meets all needs by every plan,
the Gift from God Above.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 13th, 2021
Wisdom lives in writ Divine.
Eternal Presence known.
Within your heart He dwells as thine
when Self is overthrown.
Wisdom grants your dreams all rare
as One, who lives apart
from daily strife and awful care
To draw the new-made heart.
Wisdom comes from God Alone
to live in human days.
His lasting Wisdom will enthrone
The One, Whom Truth displays.
For Wisdom waits in lasting peace
Wisdom’s strength will aye increase.
This Wisdom knows the full release
from fear and others, that we please.
Wisdom paves the road we walk.
Wisdom shines the words we talk.
Wisdom dons the servant’s smock.
Wisdom builds upon the Rock.
Wisdom’s Day will last fore’er.
Wisdom’s shining over there.
Wisdom showed His friend the stairs.
Wisdom’s Days are strong through prayer.
Wisdom’s traits are always known
as those of Him, Who sits on the Throne,
and Wisdom’s gift to those, who groan,
Salvation bought through sin atoned.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 11th, 2021
Prompt: "Proverbs 11:27 says,
'Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
but evil comes to the one who searches for it.'
In what ways have you seen this come true?"
"You become like that, which you focus upon.
So, think about good things."
"6 Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye,
neither desire thou his dainty meats:
7 For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:
Eat and drink, saith he to thee;
but his heart is not with thee."
(Proverbs 23:6-7, KJV)
whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue,
and if there be any praise,
think on these things."
(Philippians 4:8, KJV)
Let's review with my own paraphrase.
This gist of Proverbs 11:27 is simply this.
"Anyone, who hunts for Good,
like a trained hunter hunts for a ten-point buck,
is looking for praise from those,
who love Good like the Lord loves Good,
but evil is magnetically attracted to the one,
who abandons Good, and who hunts for evil, tirelessly."
Focus on Jesus, Christian,
and you start to look like Jesus.
Those, who do not love Jesus, nor even like Jesus,
tend to focus on Satan and his dark kingdom.
As a result, that poor soul becomes devilish in aspect.
Psalm 1:1-6 is another example of the adage, "Birds of a feather flock together."
"William Turner is said to have used a version of this expression in the Rescuing of Romish Fox, from the year 1545:
'Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together.'"
"1 Blessed is the man
that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor standeth in the way of sinners,
nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD;
and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,
that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;
his leaf also shall not wither;
and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so:
but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous:
but the way of the ungodly shall perish."
"The one, who chases good anon
seeks favor evermore,
but evil comes before he's done
to evil's searching bore."
"How blessed is the wisest man,
who walks not with the lost,
nor stands to sinners' awful plan,
nor sits in scorners' cost.
"But his delight is God's great Law.
He focuses through day and night,
and meditates in loving awe
on the Word, which changed his plight.
"He, a tree, in muddy loam
is planted near water's edge.
Produceth he great fruit for home
in season as a pledge.
"His leaf will never wither down,
and what he does is good.
The hope he brings to every town
is living, never wood.
"Th'ungodly are not so at all,
but like the chaff of grain.
The wind will blow it 'fore it falls.
Its worthlessness is plain.
"Therefore, th'ungodly will not stand
as judgment's dais shines,
nor sinners in the crowded grand
of righteousness' design.
"The Lord of Glory knows the way
of every righteous one,
but th'ungodly souls will know their day
in the Light of Christ, the Son."
by Jay O'Toole
on January 7th, 2021
Prompt: "Proverbs 11:18 says,
'The wicked earn no real gain,
but those who sow righteousness get a true reward.'
Why is it hard for many to believe this proverb?"
I would say it's difficult for many to believe this because monetary gain is physical and therefore visible, yet righteousness is invisible and eternal. Humans like to see results in a hurry, if at all possible. Monetary results come in days, weeks, months, years, and certainly within a lifetime. The results of righteousness are not fully realized until we are standing in Eternity.
"24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples,
If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross,
and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it:
and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited,
if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?
or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
(Matthew 16:24-26, KJV)
Jesus was very plain when He told His disciples in this passage, that gain in this life, which is focused on this life only has a very short shelflife, and then it's gone. He went on the state, that people, who focus, in this life, on a gain in the currency of Eternity, will find a return on investment, which never ends.
Verse 24 is Christ-focused in self-denial, cross-bearing, and following Christ.
Verses 25 & 26 show the contrast believe the values of Earth and Heaven.
Earth's values grasp at all that may be possessed, now in this life, with the five physical senses. The gains of "save his life" and "gain the whole world" have the return-on-investment of the loss of the gains and of the soul.
Heaven's values hold this life loosely. The temporal losses of life and profit have the return-on-investment of fiding the riches of everlasting life.
"Then Jesus told His learners, plain,
'If any follows me,
he must deny himself to train
the bearing cross for me.
"'For he, that saves his life for gain
will lose it in the end,
yet he whose life is treated vain
will see it fully mend.
"'For what is profit when it's done,
if Earth alone is held,
while his soul is lost, not truly won
with naught of value telled.
"'Don't give your life for lesser stuff.
Exchange it for the best
for Christ, your Lord is strong enough
to see you through each test.'"
by Jay O'Toole
on January 7th, 2021
"7 You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you;
I answered out of the thundercloud
and tested your faith when there was no water at Meribah.
8 “Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings.
O Israel, if you would only listen to me!
9 You must never have a foreign god;
you must not bow down before a false god.
10 For it was I, the Lord your God,
who rescued you from the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
11 “But no, my people wouldn’t listen.
Israel did not want me around.
12 So I let them follow their own stubborn desires,
living according to their own ideas.
13 Oh, that my people would listen to me!
Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths!"
(Psalm 81:7-13, NLT)
The Lord is longsuffering with His people.
1. The people were in trouble, and He saved them.
2. The Lord spoke directly to the people.
3. The Lord tested the people at the source of bitter water.
The Lord gives His people ample warnings with instructions following the warnings.
1. "Listen to me."
2. "Worship no false gods."
3. "Ask me to meet your every need, and I will."
There are consequences to rejecting the Lord.
1. God's people refused to listen.
2. God's people wanted Him to leave them alone.
The Lord responds to rejection.
1. He let His people have their own way.
2. But still the Lord wishes they would listen to Him, follow Him, and walk in His paths.
The Bottom Line reflects the fact, that God cares about every human He has made. He calls us often to repentance, but when we become stiffnecked after many opportunities to come to Him, He finally has to let us have our own way.
Having his or her own way is consistently the worst judgment the Lord can pass upon a human. Sadly, we humans don't intuitively know what is best for our lives. "Going our own way" is the quickest way to "rock bottom," which is where the Lord often has to pick up the pieces of our lives, if we, finally, come to our senses and trust Him in complete repentance.
May we each come to the Lord, while He may be found. (Philippians 2:13)
by Jay O'Toole
on January 6th, 2021
Wait for God. He knows your need.
Darkness comes apace.
Night for sleeping. Rest from deeds.
The future live in grace.
The Sovereign Lord is on His Throne.
No human breathes apart
from He, Who breaths is His to condone,
and every heartbeat starts.
Each king will rule as Christ appoints.
All living souls confess.
What Jesus says, He full anoints.
We stand in His Righteousness.
Eternity has just One Lord.
Account our lives we will,
and those, whose goodness is their word
receive His lasting Bill,
But those, who fall upon His Grace
with nothing good to claim
are welcomed to His Home and Place
without the smallest blame.
"And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken:
but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder."
(Matthew 21:44, KJV)
This is the same Rock spoken of in Matthew 7:24-27.
He is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Righteous One.
If we humble ourselves on Jesus in this life,
coming into agreement with His Gift of Salvation,
then we will be broken to be refashioned for the better,
but if we don't humble ourselves now,
then we will receive His Everlasting Judgment
without remedy. This is my understanding of Matthew 21:44.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 5th, 2021
|Prompt: "Proverbs 11:12 says 'A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.'
How have you seen this play out in your life?"
Many times in my life I've had to be quiet when others have felt at complete liberty to speak their minds. There have been times, like during my teens and twenties, when I spoke my mind to the detriment of all kinds of relationships.
Whether I am the verbal culprit or the victim, the result seems to be the same, distress and pain of heart.
Wisdom in speaking has become my goal over the years, but it would seem, that there are certain situations in which no matter how diligently I choose my words, those words are not received with the same grace in which I have tried to express them.
Many times Silence is the only appropriate comment or response.
In some ways, it seems, that socially I've returned to my second childhood. As a child, the message was consistently preached, "Children should be seen and not heard.". Now, as a man, who has just embarked on the decade of his sixties, it would appear, that Society has the same message for me, today. "Seniors should be seen and not heard."
Funny, but it feels like societal norms skipped my generation, or, at the very least, it skipped me. As a child, my parent's generation was valued (as they should have been) because they had lived longer, and they seemed to have internalized more of the Lord's wisdom. However, when I became an adult, (and especially, now, as a senior adult,) my silence continues to be golden because children and youth or whatever is new seem to be more valued than the Biblical values I still hold dear.
I love the fact, that writing is one realm in which I have achieved a level of respect. People consistently seem to like what I write. Isn't it interesting? I can write, while remaining, physically, silent. Writing has the added benefit of moderating or eliminating "Foot-in-Mouth" Disease, completely because my writing doesn't correspond to verbally "popping off." When I write I usually read my words three or four times, ostensibly checking for grammatical and spelling errors, but contained therein is also the benefit of asking myself, "Is that really how you wanted to express that thought? Or would another choice of words be more appropriate relationally?"
Obviously, people, who do not believe in God as I do, will rarely, if ever, give me the time of day, regarding spiritual topics, in general, or the subject of God, in specific, but my choice of words in writing can usually maintain amicability in the discussion, if not complete agreement, regarding the topic of conversation.
There is one area of interpersonal engagement, that gives me pause these days.
As a child and teen, I observed two adults having a conversation, debating vigorously, and ending the interaction with the respectful agreement, "That's your opinion. I hold to a differing viewpoint. We'll agree to disagree." Civility was maintained, even if convincing was not part of the equation.
Today, however, group-think appears to have been inculcated as the religion of contemporary polite Society. Freedom of Speech is cheered as long as it does not violate the "party line" of the majority of the social order, that maintains power in Society at large.
Silence is the realm in which opposing viewpoints may hold court.
"A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue." (Proverbs 11:12). Societal group-think teaches the importance of deriding (or "hating on") a "neighbor," who thinks differently. A wise man maintains silence as much for the development of wisdom as for the continuation of peace in his or her environment.
May the Lord give us the grace to be wise in silence until He returns to set things straight in agreement with His original Creation.
by Jay O'Toole
on January 4th, 2021
The sun shines bright as clouds are burned away.
The peaceful breeze brings Holy Spirit Joy.
His sun and rain meet needs each passing day.
I rest within His arms, and peace I full enjoy.
A year of days are mysteries on this date,
but not to Christ, Who guides the barque to port.
The shoals and lilies are not of unseen fate.
The greatness of His Plans will ne’er abort.
“Dear Lord, the storm clouds breathe their fear on me,
but I eschew each devilish arrow’s fire.
I live in every wondrous Word I see.
No earthly foe shall have my living hire.”
“I love you, Child. I’m glad you love me so.
The fires are now to help you in me grow.”
by Jay O’Toole
on January 1st, 2021
"Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it,
as the shaking of an olive tree,
two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough,
four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof,
saith the LORD God of Israel.”
(Isaiah 17:6, KJV)
In so many ways the whole world has been shaken in the year, 2020.
A microscopic virus has sent the world to its room.
The Lord put us in Time Out.
The Lord forced us to see what is really important in life,
and still, there are corrupt hearts, who refuse to get the message.
These doers of perversity still hold to the philosophy,
"The end justifies the means."
Have all of the prophecies been fulfilled by New Year's Eve 2020? Not yet, but I have seen enough to encourage me, that the rest of the Lord's Goodness is on the way. The shaking has come. That part of the prophecy was correct. Nature has been preaching. This was a record year for hurricanes, especially on the Gulf Coast. That part of the prophecy was correct. Dare we doubt, that the rest of the prophecy will be fulfilled in the Lord's Good Time?
The Quarantine in March and April of this rest caused us great concern, that our business would be greatly affected. Many businesses have been greatly affected all over this country and throughout the world, but mercifully our business has been saved to date.
The Lord is always interested in creating Glory for Himself, not comfort for humans. Albeit, the creation of God's Glory often has the effect of benefits to His children in specific and Mankind in general. However, the process of going through the crucible to remove the dross from our lives is rarely pleasant. That, in a nutshell, is 2020.
Will 2021 be a respite, a time of restoration, and great revival? The Lord already knows, but He may not show us His Verdict on those needs, until the completion of January 20, 2021. May He give us Mercy and Grace for four more years, but if He does then 2021 will be the beginning of work in His harvest fields for the salvation of souls for Time and Eternity.
Either way, REVIVAL must come, and REVIVAL will bring the greater GLORY to shine as the Crown upon His Head. Let's be ready! Time to serve the Lord is at hand. The world has been shaken, and it's time to plant and to harvest!
2020 has been a rude awakening, but an Awakening it has been.
2020 has been that goose of a teacher or mentor or boss, that is always on your case, criticizing everything you do and say, but even the harshness has been good since critical people teach us how NOT to talk in order to learn how TO talk.
Church has been a nonentity for far too many precious people this year, but 2020 taught my church how to do live-streaming. We've gotten messages from people all over the world, that they've been blessed by the worship music and the messages. You may join us if you wish.
It's not time for less CHURCH.
It's time for more CHURCH.
If any entity is essential,
CHURCH most definitely is.
by Jay O'Toole
on December 31st, 2020