Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


Edify = instructive or informative in a way that improves the mind or character (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

"The Greek words oikodomeo, 'to build,' oikodome, 'the act of building,' are used both literally and figuratively in the New Testament; 'edify,' 'edifying,' 'edification,' are the translation of the King James Version in some 20 passages, all in the figurative sense of the promotion of growth in Christian character." (Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'EDIFICATION; EDIFY'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915. Definition of edify by F. K. Farr.)

Some of the Bible passages that speak about edification are:
  • Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another (Romans 14:19).
  • Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification (Romans 15:2).
  • All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not (1 Corinthians 10:23).
  • But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying (1 Corinthians 14:3, 12, 26).
  • Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying (1 Corinthians 12:19).
  • And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers (Ephesians 4:11-12, 29).
  • Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
  • Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do (1 Timothy 1:4).

Quite a few years ago, I was a visitor in a church service. Behind me was a woman whose speech was full of snide and critical comments about all of the proceedings. I felt badly for her—such bitterness—and I was tempted to get up and move.

Sometimes, in our own church, we hear negative speech. Probably, the person speaking has no idea what effect it has on the hearers. I would guess this problem is typical of most churches.
We go to church for many reasons, but one of them—a very important one—is to edify other Christians. We want to mutually encourage so that we'll all become stronger in the Lord.

So, how can we actually build one another up in the Lord? Here are a few ideas. You'll probably think of more.
  1. Be kind and friendly. Just a kind word, a nice hello, and a firm handshake in greeting makes a difference.
  2. Share. Be open with your friends at church. Tell about what God is doing in your life. Share your blessings. If you're on social media, share what encourages you. It could be a verse, beautiful sacred music, or an answer to prayer.
  3. Build up. How can you encourage the person beside you in the Lord? Do it. Maybe all you can do is smile. You could share a kind word. Be mindful of others. It is better to prefer others than to be self-centered.
  4. Minister. Does someone in your church have a need that you can help to meet? Do they need a meal? Child care? A gift to get through a rough patch? Can you lend your extra car? Do they need special care after losing a loved one? Are you even aware of the needs represented by those around you? Open your eyes and see how you can bless someone today.
  5. Do away with criticism and negativity. Catch yourself before you open your mouth. If you genuinely don't approve and believe a comment is needed, go privately and speak sincerely one-on-one with this person. Go in a spirit of humility. Bathe your encounter with prayer. Go to the meeting with the goal of resolving the problem. (See Matthew 18:15-17 for the biblical process.)
  6. Honor those who should be honored. I believe we could be more conscious of occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, special days) for those in authority in the church. When is the last time you presented your pastor or his wife with a card? When is the last time the church did something special for them? Is there anyone else who deserves recognition? It is great to honor those who should be held in esteem. It will encourage them. (See 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.)

The next time you go to church, purpose in your heart that you will edify others. Set out to encourage at least one person, so that they will be motivated to grow in the Lord. You will treat others pleasantly and be friendly. If everyone would do this, our churches would be havens of spiritual growth and brotherly love.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Sunday Attire: A Debate

Should we dress up for church—or not? Does it matter what we wear? Does it matter what the preacher wears? Is it okay to have a casual service and a traditional service? Is "Sunday best" a thing of the past?

On Sunday mornings, my husband and I often watch a pastor on TV. He's an excellent, old-school preacher. And, he's a sharp dresser: suit and tie, conservative and classy. After his service is over, the next program features a preacher who's much more creative in his dress. He's dressed in duds like motorcycle jackets or other shiny jackets, jeans, and sneakers. His hair is carefully styled and longish. Following him, is a preacher who often wears faded T-shirts and jeans, sometimes with a jacket. I remember seeing a certain TV evangelist who wore white suits and shoes.

Does it matter?

We look at the congregations. In the first church I mentioned, most people wear what I'd term "Sunday clothes." Most people's hair is combed, and they look conservative. In the second preacher's congregation, you see just about everything—a good cross section of society. In the final congregation, you see just about everything as well. Some dress up, but most don't. 

Many years ago, we attended church with dear friends. In the morning's traditional service, everyone was dressed in his best. In the evening service, even our hostess had changed to the kind of clothes one might wear for a day at the beach.

Does it matter?

We have a good pastor friend whose mantra is "the best for the Lord." We have another good friend, also a pastor, who never leaves his house without a tie on. Others feel perfectly fine wearing T-shirts and jeans to preach on Sundays.

Does it matter?

I remember in the 1960s that well-dressed churchwomen often wore hats. In the Christian college I attended, we were required to wear hats to church (1970s) and encouraged to wear gloves, too. Men wore suits or sport jackets with nice slacks.

Does it matter?

There are two ways to look at this, and I can certainly understand both. Let me outline them for you. 
      1. Yes, wear your best to the Lord's house. It's one way to honor God. 
      2. Wear whatever you like. The Lord looks on the heart, not on outward appearance.

The debate comes from how one interprets the Bible. You can actually understand both positions.

Wear your best.
  • The priests of the Old Testament were required to wear specific clothing that set them apart. Even people participating in worship wore white linen robes. And for Aaron's sons thou shalt make coats, and thou shalt make for them girdles, and bonnets shalt thou make for them, for glory and for beauty. And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him; and shalt anoint them, and consecrate them, and sanctify them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office (Exodus 28:40-41, with many other details in the same chapter). And David was clothed with a robe of fine linen, and all the Levites that bare the ark, and the singers, and Chenaniah the master of the song with the singers: David also had upon him an ephod of linen (1 Chronicles 15:27).
  • God actually provides Christians with a wedding garment. He who rejects the garment (symbol of righteous through Christ's sacrifice) is like the wedding guest in the parable. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless (Matthew 22:11-12).
  • Saved people are provided with garments of white linen in heaven, representing purity through Christ's blood. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels (Revelation 3:5).
  • God asks women to be modest. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel (1 Timothy 2:9a)

Wear whatever you like.
  • God looks at the heart. But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
  • God isn't a respecter of persons. My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? (James 2:1-5)

I believe the answer to this debate comes from an accurate understanding of worship. Whom do we worship? God. What is He like? Holy and so great that we can't even comprehend Him. How can I best worship Him? How can I show Him respect? Each Christian must answer these questions for himself and seek a congregation where Jesus is honored and the gospel preached.

Jesus said, But the hour cometh, and now is, 
when the true worshippers 
shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: 
for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him 
must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

Whatever we choose to wear to church, may we be loving towards others, reach out to the lost, include the poor, and be gracious towards those who choose to dress differently. May our hearts sincerely worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.

What do you think? Be kind in your comments, but feel free to express your opinion. Should people dress up for Sundays—or not?

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Paranoid or Protecting: Why Parents Need to be More Hands-on

These are some of the true stories I've read about or seen on TV news in one week:
  • Many American 14-16-year old girls reported missing this week
  • A six-year-old girl found dead, abducted from grandmother's house, raped, and killed
  • Several beautiful little boys missing
  • A mother follows up on a creepy stranger in her church, who befriends only children and ignores adults.
  • Adolescent introduction to porn
  • A young man on a train rescues trafficked girls by noticing their distress and contacting authorities.
  • Young women were befriended by a handsome young man at a sport venue. As they laugh and talk, a middle aged man makes signals with the young man and begins to come over to the girls. Thankfully, the girls' mom's friend notices the older man's actions, and they were able to call the girls to leave and rejoin their parents immediately.

Back when I was teaching a group of mothers in Sunday school, I made the statement that our children (even teens) need to be protected 24 hours a day, that we need to know where they are, what they're doing, and with whom. Some of them thought this was extreme. They commented to their friends saying I was old-fashioned, totally out of touch with the times. We don't need to limit our children, they said. We should trust them and give them freedom.

There are many parenting styles, and it's okay to differ one from another. It's great if you can be relaxed and flowing. It's also fine if you're fairly hands-on. Usually, your spouse will contrast with you, and it evens out in the end.

But, parenting styles are not what I'm talking about. My post is about knowing what's going on in your children's lives—all the time. It's about awareness. It's about recognizing red flags when you see them. It's about protecting your children from negative influences, abuse, and even human trafficking. There's no way you can protect your children 100% of the time, but you can do a very good job.

So, what can you do?
  1. Be informed. There are many good resources about child trafficking, about how preditors befriend and groom their victims, and about the effects of pornography on the mind. Do your due diligence and know what's going on. I might add that there are dangerous phone apps popular with young people. Find out what they are! Don't be ignorant.
  2. Be aware. Know what's going on in every place your child will be: his school, sports club, extra-curricular classes of all kinds, church, and where he goes in his leisure time. Know with whom he is (leaders and peers), and make it a policy he is not ever left alone. Also, notice your child's behavior. Does he seem nervous or bothered? Ask him what's going on in his life.
  3. Be there. The best way to protect your child is if you are with him. In some of the above examples, the parents actually rescued their children from imminent harm because they were in the vicinity. If you are with your child, you will be able to pick up on any "tricky people." Even for our own older teen children, we told them when they had to be home, and for late events, we took them and picked them up. Never let your child go anywhere completely alone.
  4. Prepare your child. Tell your child what to do if and make up scenarios. There are lots of ways to do this. Some families have a secret password. Some have speed dial for parents on the child's phone. Both are great ideas. Make sure you talk openly about porn, drugs, and inappropriate comments and touching. You must prepare your child to know how to escape awkward situations. Keep an open relationship with your child, so that whatever happens in his life, he feels free to tell you about it. Unfortunately, you need to have talks with even small children about bullying, touching, and if they don't feel comfortable about someone. Also, make sure you ask specifically about these topics from time to time.
  5. Cultivate a close family. From the time your children are small, do things together as a family. Have fun. Eat meals together daily. Camp. Travel. Enjoy each other. Make sure that all family members feel secure and valued.
  6. Pray for the safety and wellbeing of your children. Remember Job? He prayed for and offered sacrifices for all his children (Job 1:4-5). Ask the Lord to protect them. He can do it better than you can.

I don't think you need to be paranoid, but there's a fine line between paranoia and acute awareness. Put up your antennae. Notice what's going on. Be a satellite mom, not a helicopter mom. If you ever sense something's not quite right, ask. If necessary, act. Don't just let things happen. And, don't be naïve.

What kinds of behaviors should you look out for?
  • It is not normal for an adult to seek a special friendship with a minor. If you or your child observes this happening, it's a red flag.
  • Do you notice your child acting bothered or nervous? Find out why.
  • If your teen will not tell you with whom he/she is chatting or meeting, and he or she's not being honest with you, something's up. By the way, you should personally know all of your child's friends (chat and personal). Don't let them chat with or meet with people you don't know. (Having said that, most abusers are relatives or friends of the family. That's why it's so important to know your children well and listen to them if they feel uncomfortable around anyone.)
  • Beware of sleepovers. Unless you intimately know the family—all the members of the family—and all of the teens who will be there, don't let your child attend. Many Christian parents don't let any of their children do sleepovers at all. (This makes the whole vetting process much easier.)
  • Entertainment choices are important. The movies and video games a child sees affect his mind for good or bad. This includes when they visit in someone else's home. As a parent, you have the right to draw the line and approve or disapprove everything your child sees. Make sure you define porn (awful, naked photos) to your children and tell them to report to you if they are ever exposed to it. They will be, and you need to talk about it.
  • Notice anyone of any age who tries to separate your children from you. Move in and change the situation.
  • Does your child spend a lot of time in his room, alone, with his door shut? This should not be allowed. He is probably into chat or porn or both.
  • Most important: trust your gut. If you perceive any threat to your child, keep him away from the source. It's better to be overly careful than to allow your child to be hurt.

My personal opinion is that kids don't need smart phones at all. I would say yes to a simple phone so they can contact family and approved friends. But, the Internet in a youngster's hand? No. It's a Pandora's box and not necessary.

I believe we need to change our 21st-century parenting to be more protective than ever before. Why? Because there are more predators. They look like "nice people," but they want to destroy your child. They can be peers, leaders, friends, church people, and strangers. They are all around us, seeking vulnerable targets. Be careful and vigilant. Your child's wellbeing depends on you.

And, pray. This doesn't relieve you of responsibility, but with God's help, I believe we can do better at noticing red flags and dangers and be better with protecting our children.

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! 
therefore the children of men put their 
trust under the shadow of thy wings (Psalm 36:7).

Monday, August 13, 2018

Fiction Review: Who is Harrison Sawyer?

Who is Harrison Sawyer? by Aaron D. Gansky hooked me with the first line: "Harrison Sawyer didn't sleep the night he died." When Harrison meets his killer, knowing what will happen, he tells him, "I'm on God's side." He has to be killed in order to save his wife, Misty, who's away from home.

"Accidental drowning" was the coroner's verdict. But, it doesn't make sense to Misty. He'd been found in the pool, tangled in the cover, dead. When Misty returned home, she noticed something else that didn't make sense. The bedroom was perfect. The bed was made, and there were no clothes on the floor. The bathroom was in perfect order, as well. This wasn't like her husband. Who had cleaned up? Who killed him? She was convinced it had to be murder but she had no idea whom she could trust. And then, she found the laptop—between the mattress and box spring. Misty knew it held clues, and she was terrified about what she'd find.

Many miles away, Harrison's father, Marshall, also knew. He'd approached Misty at the funeral, but she was in no mood to talk to the absent father she'd never met before. At the funeral, a stranger, Nicholas Merit, had given him a message: "Swimmers like Harrison don't drown." In his gut, Marshall knew it was true. Harrison had been murdered. He had to know why.

Harrison had been the successful pastor of a megachurch. Everything was going his way. Until he found Jesus Christ. After that, he knew he had to expose Green, Carmona, and the awful truths behind the Resurrected's organization: kidnappings, torture, reprogramming, surveillance, and the total control Victor Green had over his troop of minions. Curiously, Green's "robots" had one thing in common.

Marshall gets in touch with his daughter-in-law, and they team with a football player friend to try to find out the message Harrison left for them. The adventures begin. Whom can they trust? Why is that car following them? Can they trust the safe house?

I fully enjoyed this book. It was scary and full of action. It kept me puzzled throughout, provoking thoughts about many different topics. Aaron Gansky is a great writer. He understands how to unravel a plot little by little. I didn't think the writing in this book was as tight as in The Bargain, reviewed here, but is very good. You'll be flipping pages and staying up nights. You might even end up looking over your shoulder!

Who is Harrison Sawyer? is strongly Christian, though not preachy. I believe both men and women will enjoy this book. It's for a mature audience, as it refers to the married relationship (nothing at all graphic). There's violence and torture, but the author is somewhat restrained, although he describes broken noses, splattered blood, etc. You might want to understand that the subject matter is about a powerful underground, evil organization with the agenda of power, which includes church and state. If you allow your older teen children to read this, you may want to read it first and use it to springboard a discussion about true Christianity versus an organization like Green's Resurrected.

Easily five stars.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

"I'm So Proud I'm Humble"

The sports commentator interviews the winning captain. The team captain's answer? "We did it with humility and teamwork." A news anchor interviews an author, who says, "I'm just a humble woman telling my story." The successful businessperson brags about his humble beginnings. We hear it all the time. We're proud of our humility.

It would be funny if it weren't true. People are proud of being humble. My grandfather used to label it "false humility."

Pride is one of the sins—first on the list—of things God hates. These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). Why do you think that is?

Pride was the devil's sin. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God …. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness (Ezekiel 28:13a, 15, 17a).

Pride was the sin of Adam and Eve. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Genesis 3:4-6). Eve was fooled into believing the serpent more than she believed God. She wanted to be wise like a god, so she partook. Adam followed her. Sadly, they condemed all of mankind to be born with a sin nature. Lest we judge them harshly (in our own pride), we should be mindful that every human being would have done the same thing. We would have sinned, too.

Pride is our sin. Because of our innate sin nature, it's something everyone has to battle. Jesus said, For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man (Mark 7:21-23).

Have you ever looked at someone else with disdain? I'm better than she is, you think with satisfaction. That's pride.

You notice another woman's wearing an outfit that shows a great lack of fashion sense. Didn't she look in the mirror? You glance down at your own stylish little dress and jacket and smile. That's pride.

Someone says something extremely dumb—like the blond jokes people tell. You think to yourself, My, that person's stupid. That's pride.

God hates pride—and we're all guilty of it. We might not be boastful and outwardly manifesting our pride. It might only be in our thought life. But it's still there. Where does it come from? For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16). "The world" means the world system, and in the Bible, the world isn't a good thing. If anything's not of God, it's not good, either. An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin (Proverbs 21:4).

Jesus set the example of selflessness—even though He is God and has every right to be treated as God. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Let this mind be in you.

Jesus said, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matthew 11:29).

How is this even possible? It must be, because God asks us to do it. As we grow in Him, God will give us the grace that enables us to be less prideful. But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble (James 4:6).

Being humble is actually being honest. God is everything, and we are sinners, saved by the unmerited favor of God, through faith in Jesus' payment on the cross for our sins. We don't deserve anything good, yet the Lord is merciful. An accurate picture of self and God will help us be more humble. Consider these verses.
  • For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself (Galatians 6:3).
  • For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:3).
  • But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth (2 Corinthians 10:17-18).

Because God hates pride, one of the qualifications for a pastor is that he is a mature Christian: Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil (1 Timothy 3:6). We've all seen the television preachers who've fallen because of this sin of pride coupled with greed. God wants pastors to be humble servant leaders. They're to love people, teach them Bible truths, and be willing to be on the same level as their people.

Being humble has its reward. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:12).

No one is immune from proud thoughts. We would do well to recognize them and replace them immediately. We need to get the right perspective on God and on others. It is possible!

Let this mind be in you.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Straw that Broke This Camel's Back

Call me the camel. It's okay. I won't be offended. I just read another plastic straw post. I have to speak out about the terrible scourge of plastic—from a camel's eye viewpoint.

Straws are terrible. I have always known that. Have you ever seen a camel try to drink through a straw? I prefer slurping loudly and imbibing a great quantity of water per slurp. Throw out the straws. Fine with me. (Throw out the paper ones, too. As my friend John so beautifully illustrated with his video, they don't poke through the plastic tops on cups, anyhow. Save the trees. Don't get me started on the plastic tops!)

Have you seen the plastics on the sand? I'm an expert in sand. The Sahara is my home. If I walk far enough west, I can visit a beach littered with plastics. And, you know what? Not one of those items is a straw. Plastic bags and bottles are the main culprits. Containers in all sizes, shapes, and colors. Ban the bottles. Ban the bags. Ban plastic containers. Of course, ban the straws.

Some countries are heeding the call. Entrepreneurs are getting wise and developing biodegradable packaging for everything. And, that's good. I smile a silly camel smile as I saunter away from the beach back to the hot sands where I'm happiest. I make a terrible cry as I turn, just for fun. A little boy on the beach jumps back, startled.

I never brush my teeth, but if I did, I'd brush with toothpaste with microbeads. Ha ha! Fooled you. No, I wouldn't. I don't want fish to end up swallowing microbeads and me to end up eating fish with plastic in them. You guessed it; I couldn't care less. I don't eat fish. Plant matter only. No wonder I don't brush my teeth.

Ban the microbeads. Ban straws. Ban plastic bags. Ban water bottles. Ban plastic cups at music festivals. Ban all plastic single-use stuff. Fine with me. I'm a camel. Doesn't affect me at all.

Hay … I could use some about now.

Mmmm … thank you, that was delicious. Ruminating on the plastics issue, I'm thinking how hard it is to change society—the way things have been done for a long time, the habits of life.

My ancestors have been around for thousands of years. They were in on some of the most amazing events in history. Would you like to—ahem!—ruminate along with me?
  • Abram (later Abraham) had a lot of us.
  • Rebekah watered the camels (using no plastic straws or bottles!), proving she was the right bride for Isaac.
  • Camels were unclean animals, and Jewish people could not eat us. (Whew! Thankful for Old Testament dietary laws.)
  • Jacob set his wives and sons on camels. We're great transportation, you know.
  • Zebah and Zalmunna ornamented their camels with fancy things. Gideon cut the chain ornaments off, because they were of great value.
  • Camels are fast. Four hundred young men on camelback fled and escaped David's army.
  • Camels are the world's first freight trains. The Queen of Sheba went to Solomon with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones (from 1 Kings 10:2).
  • In Bible times, the amount of camels one had was a symbol of his wealth. I always knew we were worth a lot.
  • Here's proof there were even camel chariots back then: And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels (Isaiah 21:7a). Betcha didn't know that one.
  • John the Baptist wore a garment made of camel's hair. 
And, Jesus said two curious things about camels:
  1. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:24b-26). I'm a camel, but I am thankful God makes it possible for anyone to enter into His kingdom.
  2. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel (Matthew 23:24). You might want to read this verse in context: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Obviously, Jesus wasn't talking about actually swallowing something as big as I am; the gnat and camel were metaphors for something very small and very big. (I was an unclean animal for Jewish Pharisees, you remember. They wouldn't have been allowed under Jewish Law to eat either me or the gnat.) The lesson here is that they needed a heart change—a clean-up on the inside.
Which leads us back to the plastic straw. Most of the junk in the oceans is bigger than a straw—and most isn't straws at all. (Supposedly, the statistics about plastic straws came from a nine-year-old boy.) So, the clean-up effort, though it can begin with straws, needs to encompass a whole re-think of materials and packaging.

And, most of the junk in people's lives—we call it sin—isn't the stuff we notice most (murder, rape, extorsion, etc.). It's the stuff that we think is "little" (lies, petty theft, porn use, gossip, an iffy movie). Jesus had it right. We desperately need Him to clean up our insides, and then our outsides will be clean. And, the best news of all: anyone can be saved. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, 
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, 
but have everlasting life (John 3:16).