If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 1:4

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

But if ye will not obey the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then shall the hand of the LORD be against you, as it was against your fathers.

Famine, war, captivity…these are all the consequences of rebellion the people of Israel experienced. The Old Testament has example after example of the Lord turning his hand against those who did not obey him. It can be easy for us to judge these Old Testament citizens, but if we look closely at our own hearts, we will see that there have been times when we have disobeyed and rebelled against the Lord’s commandments. Rather than judging the Old Testament body, we should use their experiences as a guide. Rather than continuing in sin and having God subject us to his wrath, we should seek his face.

The early Christians were known by the example they showed in how they loved one another. In this short passage, we learn that they shared what they had so that no one went without. If we read further in chapter 4 we hear of how they sold their possessions and turned in their monies so that the apostles could distribute it according to one’s needs. Does this sound like the Christians of today?

Actually, it does describe Christians living in the poorer countries of the world. Many missionaries have described the welcome they have received and the good will of the people in the poor countries where they have served. I experienced the same on a mission trip to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world. In the wealthier countries, keeping what they have seems more important than sharing with others. People are willing to donate what is not longer useful, clothing they have outgrown, furniture they need to replace, other items they no longer have room for, even cars that no longer work. But, are they willing to rent an apartment at a lower rate so that a poor family can live safely? They might rent to a low income family but usually with a government subsidy so they don’t lose any money. The rich can seem to feel that it’s their right to keep whatever they’ve earned – which is not actually wrong, but what of their responsibility to help the needy?

In the Gospel, Jesus points out clearly talks about our responsibility to the poor and the vulnerable, a preferential option for the poor. What about us?

Often we focus on the great, unearned, unlimited mercy God has shown us. Now we need to consider how we have shown mercy to others – and maybe even to ourselves! Where do you have a problem with being merciful? It could be with forgiveness, compassion for those who suffer from addictions, or who beg, or we might not be welcoming to the stranger. Each of us has a problem with someone or something. I worked in retail during high school and college and then married into the world of retail. One of my problems is having patience with store salespeople who are rude or who don’t have a clue about the products they are selling. I try. There are members of my family who don’t speak to one another. I know people who are so unforgiving that it interferes with their relationships.

God is merciful to us when we don’t know what we’re doing. He sends us help when we are lost. He forgives us over and over again. I also know people who continue to carry their past mistakes with them to the point where they can’t move forward in their lives. God has forgiven them, why is it that they can’t forgive themselves? Today, think about the areas of your life where God has shown you mercy, and then look at the areas where you need to pass that mercy on to someone else – or maybe decide that it’s time you put down your own baggage and forgive yourself. With God’s help, we can grow in our ability to share the mercy we have been shown with others and so relieve them of some of the pain they may be carrying.

Each time the Lord saved them, they poured out their thanks and let everyone know what God had done for them. It is now the Easter season, and we need to be just as enthusiastic in our thanks and praise as the Israelites. If they were grateful for the victories won for them, how much more should we be for Jesus winning the victory over sin and death. This is a battle that has won a victory for all people for all time. Never again will this battle have to be fought, and we didn’t have to fight it, Jesus did it all. There is a hymn that I’ve sung every year at the Baptist church during the celebration of the Seven Last Words on Good Friday that is called just that: “Jesus Did it All.” Not only did he do it all, but by his resurrection he let us know that the victory was won, the gates of heaven were opened and the power of Satan had been defeated. All we have to do is live each day following in the footsteps of Christ and accept the gift we have been offered. Why do we hold back? Do we take our faith so for granted that we no longer feel the need to say thanks? This year, let it be different and let those around you know of your gratitude for the victory won for you and for them.

Isn’t it amazing that God has the power to do great things through us? He pours His Spirit out and through Him alone, men and women are able to do things that they could never do apart from God. God can do anything. He has the power to move mountains, to speak His words through Humans, and to do great works in and through us. God is truly amazing!

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.

Here Jesus talks to His Father one of His final prayers on this earth. In this verse, He refers to the work He has completed. He knows that His time on earth has come to an end. He has reviewed His life and He says, essentially, “Father, I’ve done the best I can. There is nothing more for me to do here. I’ve prepared them as well as possible. It’s time to do this thing I came here to do.” And with that, it begins. The greatest act of love known to mankind is about to unfold.

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

One of Kari Jobe’s most famous songs is “You are for Me.” Based on this passage, the song emphasizes the love of a God who is faithful on our side. No matter what goes on in our lives, He is there. Paul makes an important argument here: God gave His own Son for us. How can He not be on our side? He chose us. Every decision we make, every step that we take, God is with us. He sees our going out and our coming in. He sees when we fall and when we fail and He still is on our side, with unconditional love. It doesn’t matter what the world has said about us. It doesn’t matter what we sometimes say about ourselves. He, the Lord of All, is for us. He’s in our corner and with God in our corner, who dares to be against us.

Lord, I thank You for what You did for me at Calvary. You gave Your life for me. You loved me unconditionally. You suffered and died for me. Help me to be worthy of Your sacrifice. Amen.

Dear God, you are holy and you are jealous. When we are tempted to disobey your commands, remind us of the Israelites and the ways they suffered because of sin. Remind us that sometimes we must be disciplined to learn a lesson, but help us to learn this lesson from those who went before us rather than having to walk through it ourselves. Forgive us for our sins, O Lord. Do not turn your hand against us. Please extend mercy on your children. In Jesus’ name, amen. Lord, I believe that You have the power to do mighty works in and through me. I believe that You work through Your Church in mysterious ways. I give my life to You to do whatever You want in and through me. You are mighty and wonderful. Your ways are mysterious, and I praise You for Your great works. In Jesus’ name. Amen. Father, I know that You are for me. I know that You have my best interest in Your heart. You gave up Your own Son to give me life and I thank You. If You are for me, then no one can be against me. Amen.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Salt is a wonderful additive to food, especially if it’s freshly ground sea salt. But let it set on a shelf or in a shaker for too long and it becomes clumpy and tasteless. You might as well be shaking air on your food. It does nothing for a salad or a stead. It is useless because it’s lost its flavor. The only use for it is to throw it on the walkway to melt the ice in the winter. Jesus tells us in Matthew that we are like salt. In this passage, He talks about useless salt, salt that has lost its flavor. If we are the salt of the world, and we lose our flavor, then we become useless. We cannot improve anyone’s situation. We can’t properly minister to others because we have nothing to say. We are as useless as the salt that people use on the ground in the winter time. We aren’t fulfilling our purpose. We must strive to ensure that we don’t lose our “saltiness.” We must read and study and spend time in prayer so that when the time comes when someone needs our salt, we will be ready.

Father, Help me maintain my “flavor”. I never want to be useless to You. I want to be an asset to You. Show me how to maintain my “saltiness” so that I may be useful to the building of Your kingdom. Amen.

Indigenous History of Healing by Our Great Creator and Mother Earth!

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=ZkEoAwAAQBAJ

The Herbalist The pages of this blog are designed to give an insight into alternative sources of medicine from the perspective of the Native Americans. It must be important to note that about the Native American practices that are enumerated in this dossier of herbal plants and practices employed by the Native Americans in their preparation, we aim to respect the traditions that are carried over from each tribe of Native Americans whose practices have contributed to the overall lore that we now know of, in the use of herbal medications to augment our body’s ability to heal and counter the symptoms experienced from a myriad of various health conditions. For the first part of this book, we talk about the proper practices that are to be observed when one seeks to engage in the art of herbalism. It must be remembered that this book relates to the use of healing herbs in a Native American approach, and in deference to the various tribal customs that pertain to how these herbs are to be gathered and stored for use, their practices are to be maintained as one goes throughout the various steps outlined in this book. Chapter 2 is a compendium of the common herbs and plants that the Native Americans have deemed essential to the healing process, and which plants tribal lore has deemed as efficacious in the treatment of various afflictions in the body, and thus are commonly used by various Native American tribes in the treatment of diseases. An important tradition that must be mentioned is the importance of prayer before one begins to harvest the plant. In a metaphysical sense, you must be attuned to the plant before you pick it, in keeping with the cherished traditions of the people who have walked the land before us. A traditional rule observed is that one must not harvest from the plant that you have chosen to pray to. Native Americans believe that the plant that is the subject to your supplications as an herbalist is the means by which you maintain attunement with the rest of the native flora. Offerings must be made to nature: First to the earth, then to the sky, then to each of the four cardinal directions—whose importance we will tackle later on in this book, but general consensus provides that offerings should start from the east, then south, west, and north. The central part of the cardinal directions must also share the same honor and have offerings given to it. Cornmeal is an important part of the ritual, as this creates a transcendent connection between you and the spirits. Cornmeal is placed on the heads of the gatherers. Tradition must be observed, and thus, you never take more than what you need from the plant. It is taboo if you gather from the herbal grounds of another person, or another tribe, as these grounds have been passed on from generations before. Native American beliefs state that there are specific items of clothing that are to be worn as a symbol of respect towards the spirits of the plants. 1.1 Herb Gathering in the Wild One of the more prevalent practices used by herbalists is gathering herbs in the wild. However, due consideration must be given in how you select the site where the herbs you need are to be gathered. Because we utilize the approach of the Native Americans, it is also important that their traditions in how they gather specific herbs are observed. One of the established practices in herbalism is the use of Wildcrafting. Wildcrafting is defined as a tradition engaged in by herbalists throughout the world that centers on the harvest and promotion of the use of natural healing through the use of various plants. The practice of Wildcrafting is symbolic of the renaissance of the use of herbal remedies for the treatment of illnesses, and its vogue is reliant on the ability of these herbal remedies to heal the illnesses that tradition and lore have stated these plants to be effective for. The practice of wildcrafting, however, is easier said than done. For the uninitiated, numerous herbs can be obtained through this practice. Herbs gathered in this manner remain subject to overharvesting, where one takes too much of an herb in the wild that the plant may not be able to sufficiently recover from the amount harvested and subsequently withers and dies. If you can cultivate the herbs you need, then that would be a more economical and ecologically-friendly alternative that ensures that we do not affect any particular ecosystems where these herbs are found and that there is a sufficient quantity of herbs for others to gather as well. As animals are considered endangered, as well as other flowers and trees, it is reasonable enough for us to understand that there are some herbs that cannot be gathered at all as zealous herbalists have overharvested these herbs or the biome in which these herbs naturally flourish have been severely affected by a human intervention which has resulted in the destruction of their usual growing conditions. Contrary to the earlier promotion of herb cultivation, some plants cannot be cultivated at all, even in the most controlled environments, as these plants can flourish in the wild. Goldenseal and several varieties of Cohosh are among these herbs that remain popularly used by many and are best grown in the verdant woodlands where they best grow. Like how a chef would substitute ingredients for another, it is possible to use alternative herbs with the same curative properties in place of these wild herbs. The United Plant Savers website http://www.unitedplantsavers.org contains resources that would help you and other herbalists to help conserve these endangered herbs. Another danger that some of these herbs face results not from the excessive harvests made from the plant or the destruction of their native ecosystem, but because the continued use of these herbs creates a strain on a particular population, in that these herbs, which are usually utilized by a specific tribe, are exploited to such a degree that they are gathered in large quantities and sold to the highest bidder. This drives up the prices of the herbs, and, therefore, because the said tribe is unable to use the herb due to its exorbitant prices, they cease to use the herb or plant in their tribal practices. Some of these herbs and plants subjected to these treatments are of such high nutritive and curative value that modern marketing has labeled these foods as superfoods, and thus, a word of caution must be taken when you choose to purchase these types of food, as the people who have subsisted on them before, may no longer be able to use them, as they have become a prized, and overexploited commodity. Reasonable substitutions can be found for these foods, and though they are not as unusual as their foreign counterparts, they are of equal nutritive and curative value. If you are in for the discovery of wild herbs, there are certain practices that must be observed as you engage in wildcrafting; as it must be recalled, one wrong move can cause a cascade of effects that can affect the environment where these herbs grow. The Rocky Mountain Herbalists’ Coalition outlines certain ethical practices. 1.An endangered or threatened species should never be gathered. Consult your local botanical garden or herbarium for a list of these plants. The American Herbalist Guild may be contacted by mail for a more comprehensive list at AHG, Box 1683, Soquel, CA, 95073. 2.Positively identify the plant before you harvest. Identification keys and voucher specimens are to be used. 3.Ask permission and give thanks, acknowledge the connection to life and show your gratitude. 4.Grandparent plants- those that produce seeds and those that are sufficiently matured should be left where they are or at the top of an elevated area, where they would be able to seed the slopes of the elevated area. Work upwards. 5.If doubtful, you should not harvest more than 10% of the plant and its root if it is a native species, or 30% of a plant if it is a naturalized species or has native leaves and flowers. Gather the quantity you need from ample plants. Be conservative when you harvest to ensure that the plants are maintained, and the well-being of the plant ecosystem is assured. 1.2 Site Selection Certain steps must be undertaken before you harvest the herbs from a specific site. These steps are taken from the Rocky Mountain Herbalist’s Coalition. Get permission: On land that belongs to the US Bureau of Land Management, a permit for free use can be obtained with a minimal fee. Regulatory practices from the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management provide that you cannot pick herbs in and around campsites and picnic areas. You cannot gather from areas that are within 200 ft of the trails, and you cannot gather from the sides of the road. Avoid areas that are situated downwind from pollution sites, stay 50 ft away from roadsides, areas with high tension electric wires (as these areas cause mutations in the plants around them), lawns and public parks that are fertilized, areas that are located downstream from mining and agricultural businesses, locations near parking lots, and areas you believed that might have been recently sprayed. There are areas maintained by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Services through routine spraying. The same criteria are applicable to private land, where you will have to inquire about the use of herbicides and pesticides. Use discretion when you are in a fragile environment, as you can alter the ecosystem with one irresponsibly performed action. 1.3 Gardening and Propagation Techniques The techniques outlined by the Rocky Mountain Herbalists’ Coalition are designed to ensure that the wildcrafter exerts a minimal impact upon the ecosystem where these herbs are gathered. The use of proper wildcraft techniques ensures that the environmental impact of the wildcrafter is kept to a minimum; that the plants are able to optimize their yield and continue to serve as fodder for the local fauna. It is advisable that you do not harvest from the same plant all the time, but care for it when possible. Thinning, the practice of root division and top pinching ensures that there is an adequate supply of grandparent plants that would propagate the landscape and guard more immature plants. Awareness of erosion factors is essential as you dig up the roots of the plant. If you replant, and if you propagate the seeds. Care for the plants that grow on the hillsides, and cover up the leaves and replace the dirt from the plants already harvested. It may be necessary to gather nearby foliage and spread it around nearby plants. Avoid the use of shoes with hard soles, as these can inflict damage upon fragile ecosystems. If your main goal in harvesting is just the leaf, do not pull on the roots. Utilize flower pruning as a means to improve the quality of the root yield as well as increase the amount of leaves. Wildcrafted areas are subject to seasonal observations, and you should mind the plants from which you regularly harvest and consult with their expected growth cycles. This is the best means to know how much your actions have impacted the biome in which these plants grow. Observations from an experienced wildcrafter have shown that a healthy plant would see a 30% increase in its yield initially until such time that it remains in a static state. A lower yield rate would indicate that the plant is in a decline. 1.4 The Best Times to Gather Certain Herbs For the purposes of this discussion, it is important to note that in reference to the gathering of herbs; it is noted that this would include the other parts of a plant commonly used by the Native Americans, and is not limited to the leaves, but also to the roots as well as the bark. For the parts exposed to the air and above ground: The best time to gather these is in the morning from 6 am to 10 am, before the ambient temperature rises enough to wilt these parts. If you harvest the leaves of a plant, the leaves are at their best the period before a plant effloresces. If you gather the flowers, they are at their prime, just as their petals begin to fully bloom—this is identifiable if you are able to perceive the color of the bud. If the harvest is dependent on the moon cycle of Native American Tribes, these plant parts above ground are at their most potent during the period near or on the full moon. Roots are best harvested after the plant has dispersed its seeds and before the sun has touched the plant—early morning. For the roots of biennial plants, they are best harvested in the fall of their first year or spring of their second year of existence. Moon cycles dictate that these are at their prime in the new moon phase. The barks of trees are best harvested in the springtime or fall. Do NOT strip the bark from the tree. Take the whole tree. Tree thinning is considered a permissible practice when the tree is part of a large population. Be sure to leave trees that are the healthiest in the group. If only the bark from the smaller branches is required, take measures to ensure that the remainder of the tree is not susceptible to fungal rot. A practice with most bark usage is that the inner portion of the bark, called the cambium, is the part that is alive. Short trunks for the tree are left to be pollarded, and low stems are meant to be coppiced to ensure that others can harvest from the tree later on. In accordance with the moon cycle, barks are to be harvested on the three-quarter waning moon phase. Saps and pitches are liquid substances that are best harvested in the later parts of the winter season or in the early months of springtime. Seeds and fruit are best harvested when they have reached maturity, except for citrus fruits and certain plants. 1.5 The Preservation and Proper Storage of Herbs Central to the preparations that are listed in this book are herbs in their fresh, dried, and extracted states, as various environmental factors are able to affect the ability of the herb or plant to cure the illness it was harvested to treat. Subsequently, the herbalist must be familiar with the steps to properly store the herbs you have taken great care to harvest to ensure that you cure, not exacerbate, the illness you mean to treat. The drying process is best done in the period immediately once you have harvested the part of the plant that you need. As with ancient civilizations’ ancient food preservation techniques, the drying process ensures the prevention of spoilage and inhibition of bacterial growth upon the herb itself. Contrary to the ancient methods, the drying process takes place without direct exposure to sunlight in a place that is free from moisture and has sufficient air circulation. Additionally, the drying process that the herbs are subjected to ensures that the herbs’ potency as a curable substance remains intact. Several steps must be followed to ensure that your herbs are properly dried. Separate the leaves from the stems and spread them in a single layer. The leaves must NOT come into contact with each other. Heavier plants may be suspended from a line in a dry area, such as in a cellar or attic. Because the herbs at this point may retain some of their fragrance, they would need to be protected from insects that may infest the herbs as they dry. This is best done with the use of a cheesecloth covering over the drying herbs. There is no specific time outlined for how long each herb is to dry. The rule of thumb is that the shorter the drying period the herbs are subjected to, the better they are for medicinal uses. Most herbs take a week to dry out properly. The best way to adjudge if an herb is properly dried is if it still retains its scent yet is easily broken from its stem. If the dried herb crumbles with your touch, you have subjected the herb to an excessive drying period. If it is the roots of the herb that you wish to preserve with drying, the roots must be completely cleansed of any dirt attached to them. The general assumption is that roots take longer to dry than flowers and leaves and have an estimated drying period of 21 days. Roots may be cleansed with the use of a pressurized hose, and in some instances, the roots must be brushed by hand, especially if the plant has grown in soil with the consistency of clay. Heavy Roots that have no scent may be cut lengthwise for proper storage. Do not wash the leaves or the flowers of the herb that are to be dried. Simply shake them to loosen and remove any dirt that is attached to them or any bugs that may have remained upon them. If the amount of herbs and flowers are of a sufficient quantity, they may be gathered into a bundle, with a diameter of 1 and a half inches (3.81 cm). An alternate way to dry these leaves involves spreading them in a single layer on screens. If the bark of the plant is to be dried out, simply scrape off the outer portion of the bark, as the cambium, the inner layer is more important. This is a process referred to by herbalists as tossing. The safest means by which herbs can be stored, regardless of their form, is the use of the Mason jar. The Mason jar is an indispensable tool for the herbalist who wishes to store herbs in their fresh, dried, or extracted state. The Mason jar is a receptacle that is readily made and inexpensive to use for the storage of herbs. However, it does have one drawback: it lacks a tint to the glass. Suppose you have seen medications that have tinted bottles. In that case, you will know that this is important in medications, as exposure to light can potentially decrease the potency of the herbal medication. If there are no mason jars that have tints, it is more feasible to simply store the jar in a place where it cannot be exposed to sunlight. Dried herbs in a mason jar have a shelf-life of one to five years, while tinctures that are stored in such means can last up to a decade. The shelf-life of certain herbal preparations is dependent upon the type of preparation, as dried forms and tinctures, as earlier mentioned, can last for several years. Oils and salves, because of the nature of their composition, can easily become rancid, and thus, are best used within half a year to a year from their preparation. Lotions, should you have made these from the herbs, can only last for up to 3 months, but their longevity may be increased if you stick them in the refrigerator as these are products that are emulsified. Once the herbs are properly stored, it is important to remember to use them when possible. The best way to determine their usability is if the herbs still maintain their aroma and if they have not bleached away their color. Additional signs include the detection of their tastes. If you can still taste the herb, it is still potent enough. Additional rules include: 1. Avoid the exposure of herbs to light and excessive heat, as these can destroy the rather volatile aromatic compounds of the herbs, as well as other compounds that make the herb medicinal. Once the herbs are dried out, the use of food-grade plastic bags, fiber barrels, or other air-tight and water-tight receptacles helps preserve the potency of the herb for an extended period of time. 2. Always label the stored herbs with their dates and the location where they were harvested. 3. Remember that herbs that have been altered in the structure are less valuable compared to herbs whose structures are intact. 1.6 A Glossary of Herbal Preparations Herbs are a versatile form of medicine wherein they have numerous applications that can affect the body in various ways. The knowledge of herbal lore is an important aspect, even without the integration of Native American beliefs, as herbal preparations form part of the body of knowledge in Alternative Medicine. Though herbal remedies utilize the plant in its raw and unprocessed form, certain preparations must be performed by the herbalist, regardless of skill level, to extract the essences needed and make judicious use of the plant. These herbal preparations may take several forms, which include: 1.6.1 Infusions We commonly encounter this form of herbal preparation in the form of teas and tisanes. Often the simplest form of herbal preparation involves pouring water that was brought to a boil the herbs in either their fresh or dried forms. The usual parts of the plant that are made into teas are the leaves and the flowers (this may be seen in other forms of tea if you are a tea connoisseur). The usual ratios of infusion preparations are as follows: 1 teaspoon of the dried herb to a cup of water; 4 teaspoons of a fresh herb to a cup of water. 1.6.2 Decoctions They are a form of herbal preparation that involves immersing herbs in water brought to a gentle simmer or a full boil. This form of herbal preparation is designed to fully extract the pharmaceutical compounds that are present in the plant, specifically in its hardest parts: the bark, seeds, and roots. The rations for decoctions are 1 teaspoon of the dried herb to a cup of water; 4 teaspoons of a fresh herb to a cup of water. Simmer for five minutes, then strain the mixture before you use the preparation. 1.6.3 Percolations Similar to how one would operate a coffeemaker, the process of percolation involves the use of a medium, either water or a form of alcohol, that drips onto a mass of herbs—usually powdered in form. The ratios for a percolated solution are 100 ml of liquid that is dripped onto 10 grams of the powdered herb. Repeat this process if you would like to obtain a more concentrated product. 1.6.4 Tinctures The process of creating tinctures will be discussed at length later on as we delve into the basics in this chapter. Tinctures are alcohol-based preparations in which chopped herbs have been blended into. Alternatives are available to use in place of alcohol—cider vinegar and glycerin solutions are popular alternatives used by herbalists. Tinctures may be created in a blender. 1.6.5 Fomentation To create a fomentation, you must first create a decoction or infusion of the herbs you need to use. A piece of absorbent cloth is then dipped into the mixture, where you wrap the cloth around the injured area. Only use enough of the decoction or infusion to cover the area that was injured. Care must be taken as certain compounds, when used, may be skin irritants. 1.6.6 Poultices Fresh herbs are first pounded, then macerated. The herb mixture, which is now a sodden mass, is then placed over the injured body part. As with the fomentation, the quantity of the herbs made into a poultice is sufficient to cover the wound. 1.6.7 Powders They are herbal preparations that use the herb in its dried form, where the herb is subsequently pulverized. The herbs are transferred into capsules with a maximum weight of 1 gram in their powdered form. 1.6.8 Oils and Salves—Among the herbal preparations with the shortest shelf-life The oil is the medium where one prepares the herb, and its pharmaceutical compounds may be extracted into the oil. The oil is then thickened and made more viscous with the use of beeswax. Animal-based fats are more readily absorbable when compared to plant-based fats when you have to choose which medium you would like to use as a base for your herbal oils and salves.

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Bible League: Living His Word For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our LORD. — Romans 6:23 NKJV In Romans Chapter 6 the Apostle Paul contrasts the state of being a slave to sin with the state of being a slave to righteousness. Each […]

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Adopted Lone Narwhal Traveling Among Belugas Could Produce Narluga Calves

The mammal, now reaching sexual maturity, could mate soon, giving researchers more insight into the previously elusive hybrid animals


An image of a pod of beluga whales traveling with a lone male narwhal. The mammals are seen from above as they swim in the ocean.

Researchers suspect that breeding is a possibility because of how close the narwhal is to the pod of belugas. GREMM/Baleines En Direct Via YouTube

Since 2016, scientists have been tracking a pod of beluga whales that seems to have adopted a lone male narwhal in Canada’s St. Lawrence River. At about 12 years old, the narwhal is reaching sexual maturity, and experts are watching to see if the lone male will mate with one of its beluga peers to produce a hybrid known as a “narluga,” reports Robyn White for Newsweek.

The narwhal was first spotted after scientists at the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM) used a drone to study social behaviors in beluga whales. Since joining the beluga pod, the narwhal has made itself at home and appears to be fitting in. 

“It behaves like it was one of the boys,” says Robert Michaud, GREMM’s president and scientific director, to CBC’s Emily Chung in 2018. “It’s like a big social ball of young juveniles that are playing some social, sexual games.”

Belugas and narwhals belong to the same cetacean family, Monodontidae, and bob around in the Arctic Ocean. However, belugas will migrate further south in the winter when sea ice forms, while narwhals stay in the Arctic and spend up to five months under ice-covered waters, per Newsweek.

The two species rarely interact in the wild, so it is surprising to researchers how the narwhal joined the pod. Behavioral ecologist Erica Siracusa tells Newsweek that the narwhal may have joined for protection against predators or because the two species are social creatures. Climate change may also create more interaction between the two species, as it continues to alter northern habitats, reported Brigit Katz for Smithsonian in 2018.   

Speculations of narluga hybrids have persisted over time, but it wasn’t until 2019 when DNA analysis of a skull confirmed their elusive existence, reports Matt Galloway for CBC. An Inuit subsistence hunter saved the skull of an odd cetacean he had hunted in Greenland in 1980s. It differed from the skulls of both belugas and narwhals, with mini tusks on its upper jaw and corkscrew-like lower teeth. DNA and chemical analysis found that the skull belonged to a first-generation narluga hybrid, according to the study published in Scientific Reports.

However, it is unknown if this narluga ever reproduced. While most hybrid species survive into adulthood, some hybrid species like mules are infertile and others, like the liger—a mix between a lion and a tiger—are fertile.

“We know that hybridization is possible … it did happen a few times,” Michaud told CBC.

Researchers suspect breeding is a possibility because of how bonded the narwhal is to the pod of belugas. Lots of interactions between the narwhal and the beluga whales have been seen, including social sexual behaviors in both species, Newsweek reports. For a narwhal to successfully reproduce, it will need to get close enough to the other beluga males to form an alliance. After the coalition is formed, as a group, they will approach and court the female whales, per CBC. Female beluga whales travel in a separate pod to raise and care for the young. If the lone narwhal successfully woos a female beluga, researchers will have to wait for it to grow to distinguish it from beluga calves.

Until then, scientists are gearing up to observe the unique pod of mammals when they return to the St. Lawrence River as early as late March to study their communication. It is currently not known if the narwhal can understand beluga vocalizations, per CBC.

“It’s fun, it’s intriguing, but it’s also very powerful and useful information for us tracking the life of this narwhal amongst the belugas,” Michaud tells CBC. “If he’s doing well, he might be here for the next 40 years — they live up to 60, 80 years old.”

Credit goes to Smithsonian writer’s.

Father, All around me I see the wicked prosper. It looks to me as if doing bad things gets good results, but I know in my heart that isn’t true. Your word reminds me that I shouldn’t be envious of those who do evil. Their fate is sealed. You have everything under control and in Your hands, nothing evil endures. Help me to stay in Your will and encourage me in my discouragement. I seek to follow after You alone. Thank you Father for hearing my pray in Jesus name Amen.

To whom are we to show our loyalty?

This question is no easier to answer today than it was in the time of Jesus. What do we do when the demands of the gospel and the demands of the government conflict? Although there are many people in the world who don’t have the option to choose their leadership, many countries support an elected government. The government in question could be local, state or national. We pay taxes and by doing so, often support behavior that we do not agree with and that does not agree with gospel values. However, if we do not pay what is due, then we are subject to fines and possibly imprisonment. How did Jesus answer the question of his day?

Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what is God’s. We may not be able to easily choose what our money supports, but we can help determine what our government supports. We have a responsibility to know what those running for office – on every level – stand for and support. We have a responsibility to let our elected leaders know what bills we want them to help pass, and those we want to see defeated. This also means that we have a duty to register to vote and then to vote on Election Day. Apathy enables special interest groups to have the last say, not the general public.

How is this rendering to God the things that are God’s? How is this showing our support of the poor and the vulnerable? Are we willing to take the time to check out which of the candidates are committed to our values? Are we willing to make sure that our vote will count on Election Day? If we are truly committed to social justice, then we will take the time to make sure that when we render to Caesar, we are also rendering to God. And we can continue to advocate for those who do not have the rights that so many of us take for granted.

It is sometimes easy to get caught up in other people. We see people all the time who do bad things, but still seem to get ahead. The fellow employee who goofs off, but still manages to get promoted. The classmate who cheats on every assignment, but gets a scholarship. It is frustrating. In this passage, David reminds us that the wicked never really prosper, though it may seem that way. We are not to be envious of these people because they are doomed to “wither” and “fade.” Wickedness does not last. Only the things of God endure.

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.

Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.

— Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV

What’s it all about, in the final analysis? What’s the meaning and purpose of life, when you get to the very core of the matter? This is the subject that the teacher, King Solomon, deals with in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Before he gave his final answer in Chapter 12 at the very end of the book, he explored the various alternatives there are in the search for meaning in life.

His search encompassed many of the things that foolish people try to center their lives around. He tried wine, women, and song. He tried to find meaning in great projects like the building of homes, vineyards, gardens, parks, and reservoirs. He bought himself everything money could buy—slaves, flocks and herds, goods and services of every kind imaginable. He amassed gold and silver and got himself a harem. He searched everything and everywhere and denied himself nothing in the process.

What he discovered is that focusing one’s life around these creaturely things is meaningless: “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). Nothing could satisfy his search for meaning and purpose, because everything he tried was temporary and limited in nature. You heap up wealth, for example, but you have to leave it to somebody else when you die. Thus, “This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-19). Even the search for wisdom itself is meaningless if it is done for its own sake.

Here in chapter 12 the teacher comes to the end of the matter. The final purpose of life cannot be found within the created order. Every good thing within the creation has its time and place, but if it is set up as the very focus of one’s life it turns into an elusive and meaningless chasing after wind.

Only the reverential fear of and love for the transcendent God of heaven and earth can provide us with a life whose significance will last for all eternity. Only the keeping of His commandments can offer us a purpose that will never fade away or lose its meaning.

© 2016 by Bible League International

Bible in a Year

Old Testament Reading
Numbers 34, 35, 36

Numbers 34 — Borders of Canaan

  NIV   NLT   ESV   NAS   GWT   KJV   ASV   ERV   DRB


Numbers 35 — Designation of Cities for the Levites and Refuge

  NIV   NLT   ESV   NAS   GWT   KJV   ASV   ERV   DRB


Numbers 36 — Zelophehad’s Daughters Marry

  NIV   NLT   ESV   NAS   GWT   KJV   ASV   ERV   DRB


New Testament Reading
Mark 10:32-52

Mark 10 — Divorce; Let the little children; Rich Young Ruler; Jesus Predicts His Death; James and John’s Request; Blind Bart

  NIV   NLT   ESV   NAS   GWT   KJV   ASV   ERV   DRB


Reading Plan Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

Tyndale Life Application Daily Devotion

How lovely is your dwelling place,
        O LORD of Heaven’s Armies…What joy for those who can live in your house,
        always singing your praises.

— Psalm 84:1-4 NLT

Insight
The writer longed to get away from the bustling world to meet God inside his dwelling place, his holy temple.
Challenge
We can meet God anywhere, at any time. But we know that going into a church building can help us step aside from the busy mainstream of life so we can quietly meditate and pray. We find joy not only in the beautiful building but also in the prayers, music, lessons, sermons, and fellowship.

Psalm 35:3 Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.

What does this sweet prayer teach me? It shall be my evening’s petition; but first let it yield me an instructive meditation. The text informs me first of all that David had his doubts; for why should he pray, “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation,” if he were not sometimes exercised with doubts and fears? Let me, then, be of good cheer, for I am not the only saint who has to complain of weakness of faith. If David doubted, I need not conclude that I am no Christian because I have doubts. The text reminds me that David was not content while he had doubts and fears, but he repaired at once to the mercy-seat to pray for assurance; for he valued it as much fine gold. I too must labor after an abiding sense of my acceptance in the Beloved, and must have no joy when his love is not shed abroad in my soul. When my Bridegroom is gone from me, my soul must and will fast. I learn also that David knew where to obtain full assurance. He went to his God in prayer, crying, “Say unto my soul I am thy salvation.” I must be much alone with God if I would have a clear sense of Jesus’ love. Let my prayers cease, and my eye of faith will grow dim. Much in prayer, much in heaven; slow in prayer, slow in progress. I notice that David would not be satisfied unless his assurance had a divine source. “Say unto my soul.” Lord, do thou say it! Nothing short of a divine testimony in the soul will ever content the true Christian. Moreover, David could not rest unless his assurance had a vivid personality about it. “Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” Lord, if thou shouldst say this to all the saints, it were nothing, unless thou shouldst say it to me. Lord, I have sinned; I deserve not thy smile; I scarcely dare to ask it; but oh! say to my soul, even to my soul, “I am thy salvation.” Let me have a present, personal, infallible, indisputable sense that I am thine, and that thou art mine.

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

2 Corinthians 7:5  For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.

2 Kings 6:16  So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Ephesians 6:10  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

1 Samuel 17:45  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.

2 Samuel 22:33,35  “God is my strong fortress; And He sets the blameless in His way. • “He trains my hands for battle, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

2 Corinthians 3:5  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,

Psalm 34:7  The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.

2 Kings 6:17  Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Hebrews 11:32-34  And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, • who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, • quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.

GOD’S Social Justice; Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.

When we see wicked people entering troubling times we should not fear – and neither should we gloat. We should simply take comfort in God, knowing that all will be well and that the fate of the wicked is not the fate we, God’s children, will face.

Dear God, I thank you that I can have total comfort in you. Lord, in times where the wicked are experiencing storms and trouble, may my heart be still. I know that the fate of the wicked is not a fate I will face. I also pray that in these times, may they be compelled to repent of their wicked ways. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

“Social Justice Jesus” has always existed. Faithful followers of Christ have always seen their Lord as a defender of the weak and oppressed—the helper of those in need of help. Likewise, the true followers of Christ have always responded to their Lord’s call to duty to address disparities and injustice wherever they find them. For these faithful servants, social actions are not seen as works of salvation but as fulfillments of the tenets of the kingdom of heaven. The pursuit of equity and justice are not only actions requested within the teachings of our Lord, they are duties assigned by our King. As such, they do become part of one’s salvation, because failure to be socially responsible and active—to love one’s neighbor and even one’s enemy—is grounds for denied entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Nowhere is this more evident than in Jesus’ epic sermon, the “Sermon on the Mount.” Unfortunately, much of modern Christendom believes that this sermon is a remnant of an old covenant and that these epic words of Jesus no longer apply to us. Nothing could be further from the truth, and believing this erroneous deception has been spiritually lethal—both individually and corporately. What a tragedy! What terrible confusion this has produced within Christianity, and what a loss of opportunity for the Christian church! This is why I have written “Social Justice Jesus.” Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in the Gospels, is a manifesto of the kingdom of heaven. It is a guide to how the followers of Christ are to live their lives. Within this sermon, Jesus indicates multiple times that his words—his instructions to his followers—remain valid far into the future, and that they are the pathway to current blessings and eternal life. Following them is faith in Jesus. Christians need to correctly understand this. Jesus’ words shape the proper influence and impact that Christianity is to have on earth. Their implementation brings the peace of heaven to earth—a major objective of the kingdom of God. Failing to implement his words would be a form of taking God’s name in vain—claiming to be a child of God but living as if one were free of the duties God desires us to perform. Calling oneself a Christian but failing to follow Jesus’ words is a misrepresentation of Jesus’ mission on earth, the nature of the kingdom of heaven, and God’s character. Many Christians have always intuitively understood their role as followers of Christ and have been active in the duties he has assigned. The words of their king are not taken lightly. The Sermon on the Mount greatly influences their lives. I know, because it has greatly influenced me. It has helped me see the value of every human life and has encouraged me to be active in service to others. It helped direct the course of my academic studies. It took me to Africa for seven years, where I helped meet the needs of war-displaced refugees and thirsty nomads. Jesus’ sermon has been the material of many of my Bible study classes and the topic of multiple sermons of my own. Jesus’ epic sermon is not a relic of the past. Correctly understood, it is a guide to Christian living. And the life he is directing us to live is exciting! This is what I want to share with you. For well over two decades, I have been studying Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, collecting thoughts, jotting down notes, thinking, and rethinking its applications, and trying to see how each theme connects to the previous topic. When I began, I had preconceived ideas of what Jesus was trying to say, but I wanted to dig deeper into every word. Jesus gave us a clue that his sermon was the fulfillment of God’s Law and Prophets. This means that his words are built upon past teachings. So, I took key words from within his sermon and tracked their usage in the Old Testament. For example: what is the meaning of someone who is “pure in heart”? Who are they? What do they believe? How do they live? Initially, I believed I knew the answers to these questions, but as I dug deeper into the Word of God, the revelations that I discovered took me in a direction I did not originally expect, and Social Justice Jesus began to take shape. These new discoveries profoundly called into question my own commitment to Christ. Was I really following him? Does he expect more from me than I have been giving? And if so, how do I put into action his request? My journey into God’s word was a revelation to me, and I anticipate that what I am about to share will be a revelation to you as well. On December 31, 2019, I made a New Year’s resolution to put my research and knowledge to paper in the form of a book. I have written other books of a technical nature; they were tedious but not difficult to compile. I anticipated, however, that this book would be  do they live? Initially, I believed I knew the answers to these questions, but as I dug deeper into the Word of God, the revelations that I discovered took me in a direction I did not originally expect, and Social Justice Jesus began to take shape. These new discoveries profoundly called into question my own commitment to Christ. Was I really following him? Does he expect more from me than I have been giving? And if so, how do I put into action his request? My journey into God’s word was a revelation to me, and I anticipate that what I am about to share will be a revelation to you as well. On December 31, 2019, I made a New Year’s resolution to put my research and knowledge to paper in the form of a book. I have written other books of a technical nature; they were tedious but not difficult to compile. I anticipated, however, that this book would be harder to complete. It would require more effort to organize and convey my knowledge and insights, and would be controversial to many Christians, but I felt I had to do it. I work full-time, so on weekends and evenings, when I had the time and strength, I attempted to write. Early on, it was slow going. Writing requires large chunks of time and mental energy, where one wrestles to analyze thoughts, and tries to conceive the best way to communicate ideas. By mid-March I had only completed two chapters, and I realized that fulfilling my New Year’s resolution was going to take an exceedingly long time. Then suddenly and unexpectedly, the world was hit with a new coronavirus. My employer deemed me nonessential and sent me home for weeks. The government told me to stay home and shelter-in-place. By a strange turn of tragic events, I suddenly had time on my hands. I knew what God wanted me to do, and I felt an urgency to complete the task. So, I began to write, and this book began to take shape in ways that have surprised even me. Then, amid this world tragedy, multiple social injustices became public, and people around the globe began to cry out for justice with a fervor that has seldom been acknowledged in recent generations. Their cries should be heard and evaluated. Injustices need to be corrected. There is, however, a danger that the pendulum will be swung to its opposite extreme, and one set of injustices will be substituted with another set. What needs to occur is a stopping of the pendulum altogether. Society needs to see all humanity as the creation of God, and it must value every life. Without justice for all, injustice will always exist. True justice, however, requires a true standard, and we have a standard presented to us in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Social justice and equity are dominant themes within the message of Jesus as found in the Sermon on the Mount. However, Jesus teaches that justice and mercy go hand in hand; correcting society’s failures requires action, but it also requires forgiveness. This is a message that many do not want to hear, but for Christians it is the Word of our King. Throughout my studies over the years, and while writing this book, I have often lamented the fact that if we Christians had taken Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount literally, we would have had nearly two thousand years of leading the cause of social justice and equity, peace and love, to all the world. Where would the world be today if Christians, past and present, fully understood Jesus’ words and diligently applied them? The world’s social and equity disparities may have already been corrected by the actions of Christ’s followers. The unrest we see today may never have been. Only the God of heaven knows for sure. What I know is that the Sermon on the Mount is an indispensable part of Jesus’ gospel—it is God’s word—and it too is to be preached to all the world. It is my hope that as you read this book, you will see clearly what Jesus was trying to communicate to us that day on the mountainside. It is my hope that you will be surprised and convinced by what Jesus still has to say to us today. It is my hope that you will see its universal and eternal application. And finally, it is my hope that you will accept the themes of his message and become a devoted follower; putting his words into ction and helping to build his kingdom of heaven here on earth.

I had accepted a volunteer position to help participate in famine relief efforts in one of Africa’s poorest nations. It was something I had longed to do for many years, and now, God had granted me the opportunity to serve him through service to others. Since I was a child, I intuitively knew that being a Christian required that we do what we can to help others in need. This is one of Christ’s predominant messages throughout the Gospels. It is the message in the parable of the sheep and the goats, and the main theme of Jesus’ epic Sermon on the Mount. It was this desire to be of service that led me to study theology, which eventually morphed into a degree in international development. I had envisioned myself working as an agricultural developer in Central or South America. Instead, after graduation, I landed a job at an agricultural research facility in Barstow. It was the perfect place to prepare for where God was about to send me, though I did not know it at the time. It was early August when I received a surprise phone call from a Christian international relief organization that had previously rejected my request for employment. Africa was in trouble; a severe famine had reached a crisis point, and the world was responding by sending food. The relief organization needed coordinators in place, and they needed them fast. Would I be interested in participating as a volunteer for three months? I was! So, It was a leap of faith, but I knew this was the Lord’s work, and I was willing to give it a try.

Now, I am working on a fundraiser to help build human trafficking safe houses in America. I could only hope and pray to God that he would be with me and guide me for the next three months. Little did I know that this poor, war-torn nation, plagued with social injustices and racial and religious.           misunderstandings, was going to be my home for the next seven years. In today’s world, the pursuit of equity within all sectors of society is known as “social justice.” Social justice has many definitions, and its application means different things to different groups, but essentially it is the philosophical theory which asserts that there are dimensions of fairness—justice—that go beyond those embodied in the principles of civil or criminal law, which themselves can be unjust. It looks to correct disparities that are perceived to exist in the communal distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges. It seeks to treat all people with equality, fairness, and dignity. Social justice advocates can be viewed as heroes or terrorists, depending on their actions, underwith social injustices and racial and religious misunderstandings, was going to be my home for the next seven years. In today’s world, the pursuit of equity within all sectors of society is known as “social justice.”            

Lying motives, and who they represent or who feels championed or threatened by them. Our whole world is divided by many political ideologies, races, cultures, and spiritual paradigms, and anyone who advocates a change to someone’s norm is open to suspicion and initial resistance. And rightly so. A change advocated by one, can be the violation of another’s sacred beliefs—a violation of their moral standards and taboos. Take, for example, the fight for marriage between same-sex couples, or the right for the terminally ill to end their lives. While some calls for justice will remain hotbeds of controversy, other battles for “justice” are eventually accepted and no longer questioned—like the right for women to vote. This book is written primarily for a Christian audience, so certain assumptions are made regarding the mindset of my readers. How However, the teachings of Jesus hold value to anyone, Christian or non-Christian, and what I have to present should be of interest to those who wish to study how Jesus interpreted the Mosaic Laws, and how he applied them to the social deficiencies of his time and to ours. There are limits, however, to how far Christians can use Jesus’ message. The gospel messages, for example, cannot be used to extrapolate a position on the legalization of cannabis, or to gain insight on whether an electric car is good or bad for the environment. There are some things we must figure out on our own. “Social justice”, as referred to in this book, will be presented within the context of Jesus’ time and culture, and to how he advocated for a greater compliance with God’s fairness toward all sectors of his society. Jesus saw the law of God being incorrectly folfollowed, and part of his ministry was to correct its misapplications. Jesus preached social justice, but he preached it within the context of his time and the laws of Moses that governed his community. Does this mean that Jesus’ teachings are irrelevant to our present age? No, far from it! His teachings address social issues that are still plaguing us today, and his wisdom gives us valid solutions to these problems. So, the social justice teachings of Jesus are timeless and still relevant to anyone who wishes to be a part of his kingdom of heaven. This book will focus on the teachings of Jesus as found in the Sermon on the Mount. Early in my Christian walk, I rarely considered Jesus to be the consummate social justice leader, but his equity themes became more and more apparent as my studies into this epic sermon deepened. They took me in directions that made it impossible for me to ignore Jesus’ repeated social justice themes. The context of his sermon is a revelation of the nature of a kingdom of heaven forming in his time—not just a future kingdom. It is a kingdom to be put into action, now, by those who hear him. Kingdoms have manifestos—policies and principles to be followed. These are formed for the good of their communities. The Sermon on the Mount is a manifesto outlining Jesus’ revelation of God’s law in action. Social justice and social equity are major themes of that law, given for the good of all who live on this earth. Much has been written about Jesus’ epic Sermon on the Mount as recorded in the Gospels. It is a sermon that has fascinated me since I was a child, partly because, unlike other parts of the Bible that I have found difficult to understand, this sermon was understandable. Its concepts seemed straight-forward, and I could see the logic of applying its principles to my everyday life. However, as a child, I did fail to comprehend the broader applications of Jesus’ message. I did not fully understand the context of the sermon or see how Jesus’ words were often a rebuttal to the teachings of his day. I missed the way in which this sermon reframed the Old Testament Law and the Prophets in easy-to-understand terms. I missed that Jesus essentially declares himself to be the “prophet” promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15–19. I missed that he puts his words, uttered that day, on par with the Law and the Prophets, and declares that his words, if obeyed, lead to safety and eternal life. As a child, I also missed the fact that this sermon is about what Jesus calls the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith,”1 which Jesus says are not to be neglected. However, as I grew older and studied this sermon in depth, I began to see that its message is indeed the law of God, and its focus is the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. It is a message calling for social justice and “equity,” a word often used to define “righteousness.” It is a message that calls disciples to take equitable actions, now, to begin the kingdom of heaven in their lives, for the benefit of themselves and for all who live on this earth. It is a message that has a cost to those who practice it, but calls for its disciples to have faith that God the Father will provide for their needs as they pay the price of implementing this kingdom in their lives. Surprised? Yes, you should be surprised if no one has told you this before! It is sad that what is probably the most straight-forward aspect of Jesus’ message is the one most often miscomprehended or ignored. Perhaps this is because our religious leaders over-spiritualize Jesus’ teachings. For example, pastors often take the beatitudes and frame them in terms of future benefits to members of God’s kingdom. In so doing, they miss the immediate calls to action and the current benefits that Jesus is presenting to those who act now. And these benefits are not for followers only; they are for the blessing of all humanity. Perhaps today’s “faith alone” Christians find the works-oriented themes of the Sermon on the Mount too divergent from their mainstream Christian paradigms. Maybe the face value of Jesus’ message is considered too radical or impossible to follow.

Rest assured, this sermon was radical even in Jesus’ day. Shortly into his equity message, Jesus has to detour and address his listener’s concerns that what he is saying may be a violation of the Law and the Prophets, as it has been taught to them. Nearly one-third of this sermon is devoted to correcting the misguided instructions that the people have received from their religious leaders. Could it be that we also need similar correction today? Later, Jesus must balance his equity themes with encouragements that living a life of equity is not as hard as listeners might expect. And finally, Matthew’s Gospel records that at the conclusion of Jesus’ teaching, the people were “astonished” by what they had heard and the way in which Jesus presented his message.2 Let me show you what Jesus teaches, and I believe you will be astonished too. The logic and structure of his social justice and equity message will become remarkably clear. His message is brilliant. If taken literally and acted upon by the whole of our Christian community, Christianity would become a far greater force for good in this world. We would be a government that transcends those of the nations of earth, filling in the needs of humanity where earthly governments fall short. We would be the kingdom of heaven on earth as Jesus intended us to be. The word “intended” is the key point here. The kingdom of heaven works through human agents, and it needs knowledgeable and committed followers working its tenets for the good of humanity. In this article, I will start with some background information concerning the kingdom of heaven and its expected arrival.

This will set the atmosphere within which the people heard the message of Christ. It is important contextual information and will give us vital clues for understanding the themes Jesus will be addressing. Next, we will take an in-depth look at every verse of the Sermon on the Mount. This is not as dry as it might sound. Looking at each verse, comparing it to other parts of the Bible and tracing key words back into the Old Testament, unlocks new insights and revelations—wondrous concepts that are rarely shared in weekend sermons or Sunday School lessons. These new revelations will leave you shaking your head in amazement. I am positive you will have this experience multiple times. The process of this study will be straight-forward as we progress through this sermon from beginning to end. Each new topic or theme will be treated as a separate chapter. Longer chapters will have divisions so you can take breaks in thought and later return to the book as your schedule permits. I do not expect you to read this book in one night. There is too much illuminating information to expose yourself to all at once. Feel free to pace yourself as you like. As you read this book, you will frequently see the use of the word “equity.” This term has often caused confusion for some readers and is mistakenly thought to mean equality or having a financial stake in some sort of property. “Equity” is more than this, and this book draws on one of the word’s alternate means and signifies a quality of being fair or impartial in one’s personal conduct with others. But it is also more than this. The Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words from which the Bible derives the English words for right, righteous and righteousness, are often defined using the word “equity.” And the biblical definitions of these three words are matched with the equivalent words of lawful, beneficence, and equitable deeds.3 These latter concepts of doing right, following the law of God, being charitable, fair, and just, on a personal level, are what best define my use of the word “equity.” So, is our Lord and Savior a social justice warrior? After comprehending the Sermon on the Mount, it will become clear that social justice is a tenet that has its origins in heaven. Its principles were set in stone by God and existed before the foundation of the world. However, the disciples of God’s true social justice are not the same as the militant actors that we see in many of today’s secular warriors. Like Jesus, ChrisChristian warriors will seek change and fulfillment of God’s law by way of the same meekness and forgiveness displayed by their king. Like Jesus, they will not only advocate for change, but they themselves will be the solution that is needed. There is a sad note, however. The unfortunate truth may be that the social justice turmoil of our day has arisen due to Christians failing to be the social justice leaders for which Jesus had advocated. The gospel message is about Christ’s death and his forgiveness of our sins. It is also about his resurrection and victory over death, and his ability to grant us eternal life. But as you will soon see, the gospel message is also about the promotion of social justice and equity. All these elements are to be preached to all the world before the end comes. We have been strong in promoting Christ’s grace, but too often deficient in participating in his calls for social responsibility. The participation in the promotion of justice and equity are part of our great commission as faithful Christians. If Christians fail to preach this aspect of the gospel message, we could be in danger of being passed by, as God gives this message to others—to children, or even to the stones to cry out.4 Perhaps this is where we are in history today. As Christians, it is imperative that we understand the full gospel message, and apply every aspect of it to our lives. By Jesus’ own words, it is a matter of life or death. So, I invite you to take a journey with me now, and take a closer look at a literal view of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Look at the information and determine for yourself how Jesus wants the followers of the kingdom of heaven to live. You will be surprised! You will be changed!

Please enjoy this reading. Blessed are those who read and study the Living Word of God, in Jesus name Amen

Father, I know that You supply all my needs, according to Your riches in glory. Help me to remember that when I put others ahead of You. Remind me that I am not to put my trust on man, but in You. Man cannot love me like You do. Man cannot understand me the way You do. Only You know my heart. Only You know what I need. I thank You for Your abiding love for me. Amen. Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Thank You, Father God, in Your Son Jesus name Amen

We have come to the last Sunday before Lent and we are presented with an unusual reading from the letter of Paul to the Galatians.

One of the biggest distortions I have heard is that only some can be saved. Jesus is clear that he came to save all. Whether all will have eternal life with him is another question for another day, but since salvation is a gift, not something to be earned, to say that some cannot be saved doesn’t ring true. Paul answered this question in many of his letters as does John in his. Luke’s gospel in his prologue gives us the guide we need to judge if what we are being told is true to the gospel. Sometimes it seems daunting to read a gospel straight through, but it’s the best way to get a feel for what the evangelist is trying to say.

This is important because another way the gospel message can be perverted is to quote it out of context. Almost anything can be proved if you take things out of context! When my first child was born, I wanted to know everything I could about how to raise a child. I consulted several different “baby books” to see what I should be doing. What did I find? Let the baby cry, don’t let the baby cry. Feed the baby when he’s hungry, feed the baby on a schedule. Don’t use physical punishment, no problem with physical punishment. You get the picture. Scripture out of context is the same. If you really want to know the true gospel, read it, study it, reflect upon it. Don’t be led astray.

God wills us to be conscious of the paths we take in life. Sometimes we actually have to stand still, take a look at the options before us, and ask God which way we should go. It’s better to take these lengths to ensure we are walking in the right way, than to rush ahead and make a ton of mistakes.

Dear God, in times where I am at a crossroad in my life, I ask that you will give me the counsel that will help me make the right decision. I do not desire to go in the way that is not pleasing to you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

He lifts the poor from the dust
    and the needy from the garbage dump.
He sets them among princes,
    placing them in seats of honor.

— I Samuel 2:8 NLT

I Samuel 1 and 2 tells the story of Hannah. Chapter 1 tells us that Hannah had prayed to God with “deep anguish” while “crying bitterly.” She vowed that if God would give her a son she would give him back to the LORD. When Eli the priest found out about her prayer he said, “. . . go in peace! May the God of Israel grant the request you have asked of Him,” and Hannah did find peace in his words and was no longer sad. And the LORD did grant her request and she gave birth to Samuel.

Chapter 2 records a second prayer Hannah prayed after she had given Samuel back to God at the Tabernacle in Shiloh. It is a paean of praise and thanksgiving to God. Its main proclamation is “There is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.” The earth is the LORD’s and He has the power to lift up those who are faithful to Him and He has the power to bring down the wicked and proud.

Our verse for today is part of Hannah’s second prayer. Just as the LORD lifted Hannah up from her sadness and shame to a place of rejoicing and strength, so likewise He can lift the poor and needy from the dust to a place of honor. The contrast could not be greater. The poor can move all the way from the garbage dump (other translations say “dunghill”) to a position held by princes.

Perhaps you feel today like you have been cast down to the dust and have been thrown into the garbage dump. You have prayed to the LORD with deep anguish while crying bitterly. Go in peace! The LORD has heard the request you have asked of Him. One day, just like Hannah, He will fill your heart with a paean of praise and thanksgiving because of the great things He has done for you.

Bible in a Year

Old Testament Reading
Numbers 30, 31

Numbers 30 — The Law of Vows

  NIV   NLT   ESV   NAS   GWT   KJV   ASV   ERV   DRB


Numbers 31 — The Slaughter of the Midianites and Division of the Spoils

  NIV   NLT   ESV   NAS   GWT   KJV   ASV   ERV   DRB


New Testament Reading
Mark 9:30-50

Mark 9 — Jesus is Transfigured, Heals a Boy with an Evil Spirit; Who Is the Greatest; Do Not Cause to Sin

  NIV   NLT   ESV   NAS   GWT   KJV   ASV   ERV   DRB


Reading Plan Courtesy of Christian Classics Etherial Library.

Tyndale Life Application Daily Devotion

But then I recall all you have done, O LORD;
        I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
They are constantly in my thoughts.
        I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

— Psalm 77:11-12 NLT

Insight
Memories of God’s miracles and faithfulness sustained Israel through its difficulties. The Israelites knew that God was capable and trustworthy.
Challenge
When you meet new trials, review how good God has been to you, and this will strengthen your faith.

Morning and Evening by Spurgeon

Isaiah 48:10 I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

Comfort thyself, tried believer, with this thought: God saith, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Does not the word come like a soft shower, assuaging the fury of the flame? Yea, is it not an asbestos armour, against which the heat hath no power? Let affliction come–God has chosen me. Poverty, thou mayst stride in at my door, but God is in the house already, and he has chosen me. Sickness, thou mayst intrude, but I have a balsam ready–God has chosen me. Whatever befalls me in this vale of tears, I know that he has “chosen” me. If, believer, thou requirest still greater comfort, remember that you have the Son of Man with you in the furnace. In that silent chamber of yours, there sitteth by your side One whom thou hast not seen, but whom thou lovest; and ofttimes when thou knowest it not, he makes all thy bed in thy affliction, and smooths thy pillow for thee. Thou art in poverty; but in that lovely house of thine the Lord of life and glory is a frequent visitor. He loves to come into these desolate places, that he may visit thee. Thy friend sticks closely to thee. Thou canst not see him, but thou mayst feel the pressure of his hands. Dost thou not hear his voice? Even in the valley of the shadow of death he says, “Fear not, I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” Remember that noble speech of Caesar: “Fear not, thou carriest Caesar and all his fortune.” Fear not, Christian; Jesus is with thee. In all thy fiery trials, his presence is both thy comfort and safety. He will never leave one whom he has chosen for his own. “Fear not, for I am with thee,” is his sure word of promise to his chosen ones in the “furnace of affliction.” Wilt thou not, then, take fast hold of Christ, and say–

“Through floods and flames, if Jesus lead,

I’ll follow where he goes.”

Daily Light on the Daily Path

Proverbs 3:5,6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. • In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Psalm 62:8  Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Psalm 32:8-10  I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. • Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. • Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him.

Isaiah 30:21  Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.

Exodus 33:15,16  Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. • “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Yesterday, we thought about doing God’s will. Today, we think about building up ourselves in faith. What are the ways that we can build ourselves up in? For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” Faith? I had to give some thought about how I try to do this.

The first thing that came to mind is prayer. My grandmother told me that God waited at the end of each day for me to talk to him and tell him about my day. This habit is one that has lasted for over 70 years. I didn’t even realize that this was prayer until when I was older! Such experience gives me time to reflect on my day, give thanks for the good things, thanks for getting me through the difficult ones and asking for help both for myself and my friends and family. I usually end with a formal prayer and then remember the other things and people I need to pray for. I find comfort and inspiration in my church community. After all, the word “church” originally meant the gathering of the people, not a building.

Reflecting on Scripture brings me closer to the Father as well as to Jesus. How can we follow Jesus if we don’t know what he did and said? Studying the Bible with others gives me insights that I might never have seen. So, I guess that prayer, reflecting on Scripture, both alone and with others, and immersing myself in the Christian community are the ways that I try to build up myself in this holy faith with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What are your ways?

Jesus and Nicodemus
(Genesis 22:1–10Romans 5:6–11)

1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs You are doing if God were not with him.”

3Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.a

4“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born?”

5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh is born of flesh, but spirit is born of the Spirit. 7Do not be amazed that I said, ‘Youb must be born again.’ 8The wind blows where it wishes. You hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and you do not understand these things? 11Truly, truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, and yet you people do not accept our testimony.

12If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.c 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.d

16For God so loved the world that He gave His one and onlye Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

19And this is the verdict: The Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever practices the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen clearly that what he has done has been accomplished in God.”f

John’s Testimony about Jesus

22After this, Jesus and His disciples went into the Judean countryside, where He spent some time with them and baptized.

23Now John was also baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because the water was plentiful there, and people kept coming to be baptized. 24(For John had not yet been thrown into prison.)

25Then a dispute arose between John’s disciples and a certain Jewg over the issue of ceremonial washing. 26So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Look, Rabbi, the One who was with you beyond the Jordan, the One you testified about—He is baptizing, and everyone is going to Him.”

27John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him.’ 29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30He must increase; I must decrease.

31The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks as one from the earth. The One who comes from heaven is above all.h 32He testifies to what He has seen and heard, yet no one accepts His testimony. 33Whoever accepts His testimony has certified that God is truthful. 34For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.

35The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in His hands. 36Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God remains on him.”i

Footnotes:

3 a Or born from above ; also in verse 7.
7 b The Greek word for you  is plural; also in verse 12.
13 c BYZ and TR include who is in heaven .
15 d Or everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.
16 e Or only begotten  or unique ; also in verse 18
21 f Some translators close this quotation after verse 15.
25 g TR and the Jews
31 h Tischendorf The One comes from heaven.
36 i Some translators close this quotation after verse 30.

This verse echoes the essence of our Christian walk: keep your trust in God and never rely on your own wisdom. Involve Him in all areas of your life and you will never go wrong. When tough times come, you will have confidence because you know God is with you. Our human wisdom can never match up to God’s wisdom.

Dear God, I put my trust in you and acknowledge that only you can guide me in the right direction. Father, may you be involved in every aspect of my life. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

We Are The Lost Tribes of Israel! We love him, because he first loved us.We love him, because he first loved us.

We love him, because he first loved us.

We know that there can be debates as to which denominational – or non-denominational – church is the one that is “correct.” In a way, Jesus answers this question. No one can do mighty works in his name and be against him. Now he presumes that these men and women are acting in good faith and not trying to win power for themselves. We may differ on how we worship, or even the necessity of organized worship, but it we are intentionally following Christ, who’s to say that we are somehow less worthy of leading people to faith in Jesus. Some of the best discussions I have had are with people whose denomination is different from my own. I have also been allowed to preach in churches of different denominations, and have invited others into my church to preach. Just as God has given each of us different gifts, I believe that we need to listen to others in order to appreciate the wealth of knowledge that God has revealed to those who believe. Sometimes it’s hard for us to admit that we don’t have all the answers. It’s hard to accept that someone else could be right too, even though we might disagree.

I belong to a Scripture reflection group that meets weekly. It is fascinating to hear what each person sees in a particular passage. I’m sure you have often seen other interpretations than I have given you to think about! Are you wrong; am I wrong? I think we both may be wrong or right! The important thing is to realize that Jesus speaks to us in a way that is for us. Scripture is called the living Word of God because it is meant for all people of all ages and time. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us to be open to all who speak in the name of Jesus.

Our love for God is a response to the love He has always had for us. God did not expect us to love Him first; we were incapable of doing so because of our sinful nature. So God took that extra step – He went the extra mile – and poured His love out on all of us.

Dear God, I will always be in awe when I think of how great your love for me, and everyone in this world, is. We weren’t anywhere close to righteous when you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us; but that did not stop you. Lord, I will always set my heart on loving you, ever grateful that you loved me first. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

One of the most popular passages in the Bible at weddings, this verse explains that love cannot be self-seeking: love is about other people. Think about it: if your loving actions are done with others in mind, loving your neighbors as yourself and even your enemies, how easy would it be to love yourself? It is when we hold hatred in our heart that evil flows out. It isn’t always easy to control our own egos and not demand attention for our good deeds, but is the love that we spread and feel for ourselves after not enough? It surely is enough.

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

We have all been chosen to be disciples of God, to spread the Good News concerning the coming of the Kingdom. We might be afraid that we are not up to the task, much as Jeremiah was. But just as God spoke to Jeremiah promising to help him, he is with us as well. The without the witness of the early disciples, we would not know of Jesus. Without our witness, how will future generations come to know Jesus? How will we know what to say? What will others think about us? But God is by our side helping us, giving us the words we need at the right time.

Our job is to look for opportunities. Once on a cruise ship, a woman stood next to me and the conversation turned to God. We had a wonderful conversation about our faith, our trust and confidence in God. I don’t know if anyone else heard us, but we didn’t care. Sometimes these conversations begin when a friend tells us about a loved one being sick and we offer to pray for them. Sometimes it comes after a political ad or speech. More often a discussion might evolve because of a tragedy, either from a weather incident or after one of the many terrorist attacks the world has dealt with in the past few years. In any case, it’s important for us to be open about our faith and also willing to listen to the views of others. We have been appointed; we need to accept the responsibility to spread the Good News.

If a person claims to love and know God, but it is clear in their actions that they are not loving towards the people around them, then this means that they actually do not know God. God is the epitome of love and we cannot have a relationship with Him if we do not express who He really is.

Dear God, I pray that I may never be ignorant of the way I treat people. Lord I want to know you completely and I know that in order for me to do that, I need to be loving to every single person around me. May you help me live this out, Lord. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

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