Visit means more than stopping by

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27 NKJV)

In the above verse, the word translated as “visit” (from the Greek word, ‘episkeptomai’) means much more than “stopping by” to see someone for the sake of seeing them. The idea of “stopping by” (which we may associate with the word, “visit”) is nothing close to the idea or intent the scriptures have in mind.

Episkeptomai means (according to my personal breakdown), “to inspect, examine with our eyes in order to help, benefit and look out or provide for.”

In other words, God’s intentions aren’t for us to simply visit someone who needs help to see how they’re doing, but rather to visit someone to see how we can help.

Turning a blind-eye to the problems of others may be easy, but turning a blind-eye may be due to symptoms caused by giant spiritual beams (Matthew 7:1-5) that are keeping us from seeing the things that lead to pure and undefiled religion before the eyes of God.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25 NKJV)

#greek, #personal-application, #religion

When we find ourselves in a hole we need to quit digging!

You’ve no doubt read about the many times over the children of Israel made things worse on themselves, but what about the time the children of Ammon kept digging their own grave?

It happened when Nahash, king of the Ammonites, had passed away, and, according to 2 Samuel 10:1-2, the word reached the ears and heart of David causing him to send his condolences to the Ammonite royal family:

It happened after this that the king of the people of Ammon died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent by the hand of his servants to comfort him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the people of Ammon.

The trouble begins when Hanun’s advisers convinces him that David’s act of condolence was only a ruse of espionage. Thus David’s servants were ungratefully sent home with a lot less luggage to their name – half of their beard and the bottom-half of their robes to be more specific!

Now you might think the children of Ammon would’ve had an advisor somewhere amongst the king’s “cabinet” smart enough to know about the genuineness of  David’s and Nahash’s relationship and how foolish the nation had treated David’s servants, but such was not the case. As a matter of fact, according to 2 Samuel 10:6, the children of Ammon kept digging:

  • “When the Ammonites realized that David was disgusted with them, they sent and hired 20,000 foot soldiers from Aram Beth Rehob and Aram Zobah, in addition to 1,000 men from the king of Maacah and 12,000 men from Ish-tob.” (NET)
  • “And when the children of Ammon saw that they were become odious to David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Beth-rehob, and the Syrians of Zobah, twenty thousand footmen, and the king of Maacah with a thousand men, and the men of Tob twelve thousand men.” (ASV)
  • “And when the children of Ammon saw that they stank before David, the children of Ammon sent and hired the Syrians of Bethrehob, and the Syrians of Zoba, twenty thousand footmen, and of king Maacah a thousand men, and of Ishtob twelve thousand men.” (KJV)
  • “And when the children of Ammon saw that they had made themselves hated by David, they sent to the Aramaeans of Beth-rehob and Zobah, and got for payment twenty thousand footmen, and they got from the king of Maacah a thousand men, and from Tob twelve thousand.” (BBE)

When it comes to the reaction of David’s nose as he stood downwind of Ammon, I think the KJV hits the nail on the head as far as the word-for-word translation is concerned, but I believe the BBE nails one aspect of this bad to worse situation – the children of Ammon understood, one way or the other, that they had done this to themselves. But instead of putting down the shovel, Ammon picked up the sword!

The children of Ammon could have sought to repair the damage that had been done, they could have fought back the fire they had started, they could have apologized for the shame they had caused and they could have stopped digging the hole they were standing in, but they kept swinging the hammer, they kept adding fuel, they responded with arrogance and they kept digging!

And lest we miss the lesson of Ammon’s mistake when it comes to the stubbornness of king Hanun and his people (by piling on with dirt from our own hole), might I ask how many times have we have found ourselves in a particular situation simply because we refused to put the shovel down?

And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah…” (2 Samuel 11:1)

#bible-application, #learning-from-the-mistakes-of-others, #personal-application, #personal-responsibility

Mirrors and binoculars

Binoculars are a funny thing to me. Our family only ever owned one pair. I can think of reasons someone would want some: bird watching, hunting, making sure your students survived the downhill slip-and-slide. I think I’ve used our pair one time. I’m pretty sure it was at a football game.

A mirror though, I use every day. We have tons of them in our house. Most are decorative, a few are purely functional. I watch myself brush my teeth a lot. I also see how many spots I can miss while shaving. In normal life, I use a mirror WAY more than binoculars.

When studying the Bible, unfortunately, I find myself using binoculars much more than a mirror.

Many of us study the Bible looking through a pair of binoculars. What I mean is, most of us study the Bible in order to teach someone else the truth we’re learning. This is fine, but most of the time we miss studying the Bible through a mirror. Usually we’re so busy studying the Bible for other people that we rarely look at it for ourselves.

This is a trap too many Christians fall into. Myself included.

The next time you’re studying the Bible in order to teach a lesson or help a friend, try to see how you can apply the truth to your own life first. Not only will your own life be changed as a result of studying the Bible, the truth you try to teach others will mean that much more to you.

When others see that the Bible has changed your life they will be more inclined to change their life based on the truth you teach.

Ronald Long, in “The Observer,” Somers Ave. church bulletin, N. Little Rock AR

#bible-study, #church-bulletin-articles, #evangelism, #personal-application