Recently, on the Hebrew calendar, Yom Kippur, “Day of Atonement”, was celebrated. This is the most solemn and holy of Jewish observances. It is the one day even many secularist and religiously indifferent Jews show up at synagogue. As reported in the Chicago Jewish Star, “many synagogue seats are sold out and overflow crowds congregate in every type of hall around the country.” So, why so much emphasis on this day?

Let’s look in our Bibles to Leviticus, chapters 16 and 23. Here we learn that once a year, the tenth day of the seventh month was to be a day of total fasting, [the only 24 hour fast period required by Mosaic Law]. “For on this day, he [the priest] shall make atonement, [root meaning-to cover up] for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from your sins before the Lord”. (vs.16:30) The high priest would take a bull, two goats, and a ram. One goat would be set aside, the others would be sacrificed. Then he would enter the Most Holy Place and he would sprinkle their blood on the mercy seat, [aka the cover of the ark] first for his sins then for the sins of the people. Then, the high priest would come out from the Most Holy and apply and sprinkle blood on the altar. After this, he would take the live goat and put both his hands on its head and confess over it the sins of the children of Israel. The goat then would be led into the wilderness to an inaccessible region and released. This has become known as the scapegoat.

Yom Kippur Day of Atonement - Mosaic LawThe New Testament explains that “In those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins every year for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin.” [Heb. 10:3,4] “But Christ [Messiah] came as High Priest….not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered into the Most Holy Place once and for all time, having obtained eternal redemption.” [Heb. 9:11, 12] “By the will of God we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus once and for all”. [Heb.10:10]

Today many people are yearning for release from guilt. Some look to psychologists to ease their conscience. Others turn to drugs or some strange religious philosophy. Humans seem compelled to seek freedom from a guilt laden soul. To the Jews of today, the idea of release from the power of guilt is potent enough to fill their meeting places.

The simple message of the gospel is what all of us need. We must look to God for our forgiveness. Jesus paid the price once and for all time! If we obey Him, His blood cleanses us from all our sins; through repentance [changing our ways and turning toward God], and baptism we can know this release from guilt, and look forward to eternal life when Jesus returns! “So, Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who eagerly are waiting for Him”. [Heb. 9:28]

Sphere Of Influence

Have you noticed that some people have an ability to influence others that is so great that companies will pay them to be the name and face of their products. These business’s look for people who have a good reputation and that are known and respected by the general public. People who are in big demand have an image that others like, such as confidence with humility, nice appearance, friendliness and stability. Traits that are universally liked.

I remember back in the later part of the 90’s when a certain basketball player announced his retirement. Perhaps no one was more marketable than he was at that time. The influence that he had on everyone – young and old, male and female, black or white, American, European – was enormous. Sometimes I think about such an individual as him becoming a Christian and preaching the good news of repentance toward God and faith in Jesus. Wow! What good he could do! It is sad that things like this don’t seem to happen, but God is in charge, and He does spread His Word.

sphere of influenceHow? Through people who generally don’t have a lot of influence or charisma or power or fame. By just plain folk like you and me; through people who know the truth and are willing to spread His message to others. This is God’s way. When God sent His Son into the world, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him”. (Isaiah 53:2)

Paul also was not a good looking, crowd-pleasing speaker, but was weak in presence and unimpressive as a speaker. (2 Corinthians 10:10). As Jesus said to Paul concerning his physical limitations, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”. (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So, my point is this; the fact that people with great worldly talents and abilities don’t use them for spiritual good should not surprise nor disappoint us, because God intended all along to use us. And even though our sphere of influence may not be very much, we still have some influence on some people. Therefore, we are responsible to speak and behave as though those people are our sole responsibility. After all, if we are in a position to evangelize someone, maybe it is God’s providence.

Also, we should not get discouraged if we don’t see immediate results. As Isaiah said, “So shall My word be that goes forth from my mouth, It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (55:11) Or in other words, “one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

I suppose my day-dreaming about a famous person publically converting and preaching the gospel and saving thousands of souls may be a fun way to kill time, but it doesn’t do any good, because the reality is God uses Christians and wants us to view everyone we know as a potential Christian. Even though we may not have as much influence as a lot of other people in this world, if we allow Him to, God is able to use us effectively.

Set In Our Ways

Have you ever noticed that the younger a person is, the more open they are to advice? And as we age and get set in our ways, we generally do not take advice very well at all, especially from younger people? And the more important that a person thinks he or she is, the higher the probability that they don’t seem to want any advice? It’s our human nature. Take the following story by Steven Corey from the Naval Institute magazine, PROCEEDINGS.

While on maneuvers, a battleship lookout noticed a light in the dark, foggy night. After noting the light’s coordinates, the captain recognized his ship was on a collision course. “Signal the ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.” The return signal came, “Advisable for YOU to change course 20 degrees.” The captain said, “Send, I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.” The response was, “I’m a seaman second class, You had better change course 20 degrees.” By this time the captain was furious. He yelled, “Send, I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.” The reply….”I’m a lighthouse.”

This humorous story captures the fact that in life we all need to sometimes humble ourselves, take advice and change our course. This is what Jesus taught, “And Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whomever humbles himself as this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:2-4).

Set In Our WaysJesus said that we must change and become as children. Not in everything of course, but in our willingness to obey and trust. Notice how the child that Jesus used here came when called and allowed himself to be set in the middle of them. Children characteristically are void of shame. Humbling ourselves like a child gets harder as we grow farther from childhood. When was the last time you saw someone up in years get baptized? Obviously, something happens to us as we age. I think it’s called sinfulness. It usually manifests itself as the trait of self-righteousness that eventually will reject even God’s advice.

So, can you teach an old dog new tricks? Not without Gods help. Only God can prepare someone’s heart to heed His will. Take Lydia, for an example. God, in some way, opened her heart to listen to Paul. (Acts 16:11-15). We may not know what made her ready at that time but God knows what to do. And the Philippian jailer? It seems a little fear got him ready to pay attention. (Acts 16:27-34). Getting people to listen with an open heart is not within our ability, but being ready and willing to explain the saving gospel is! We should pray that God will continue to grant them time on earth before it is everlastingly too late.

It is hard for an adult to admit that the way we have been living needs to change. And the older we are, the harder it seems to get. But, change is what we must be willing to do if we are to live with God in Heaven. We cannot safely pilot our own ship through life. God is the lighthouse that keeps us from crashing on the rocks.

Nathaniel Hawthorne – “Happiness in this world, when it comes…

Nathaniel Hawthorne imageHappiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us on a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object and very possibly we may find that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.   Nathaniel Hawthorne

Is this not what Jesus said in response to the daily concerns we have for our needs -“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

I have never seen a quote of wisdom that did not have a root in scripture.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7