Thursday, December 3, 2009

Salt or Light?

"What?!" you may ask. "Why do you say, ‘Salt OR Light?’ Isn’t it both . . . and, not either . . . or?"

Yes, you’re right. We are to be both salt and light. Jesus told us, "You are the salt of the earth. . . You are the light of the world." [Matthew 5:13-14] The title is actually part of a question.

My friend Harry (not his real name) was over, and I asked this question, "What is harder, being salt or being light?" Harry responded, "Without Jesus, both are impossible."

"That’s true," I said. "But for those of us who are already Christians, is it harder to be the salt of the earth or to be the light of the world?"

"I really don’t know," Harry said. "How would one be harder than the other?"
Let’s look at what it means to be salt and light to try to answer that question.

First, Jesus used two metaphors, both alike and different. Salt and light affect the world around them, but in different ways. Jesus’ explanation of the light make it clear that we are sources and transmitters of light, like lamps, lenses or reflectors. A lamp, lens or reflector does not have to have contact with it’s surroundings to shine light on them. Those the light shines on do not necessarily interact with the lamp, though they may. If someone likes the light he or she may come closer. Someone who does not appreciate the light may try to block it, or even become hostile and attack the lamp. Many others will simply ignore the light and eventually become insensitive to it.

How are we "the light of the world?" Those around us see what we do and hear what we say. This is important, our witness to the watching world. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Being light also means speaking out, giving verbal witness to the truth. We are to be witnesses, but in more ways that what we say or others see.

But being salt is harder. It is more interactive. Salt affects its surroundings through contact. Therefore, it is affected by its surroundings. People don’t just see what we do, but what we do impacts them. In everyday life, it is how we treat others, how we react and interact. Those who are close enough to the candle feel the heat and smell the wax, even touch it. In other words, they not only see and hear our witness, they feel it.

Why did Jesus use the metaphor of salt first? Because it has more impact. When we come into contact with other people, we influence them more by how we impact them than what we say. They are impressed less by the language we use and more by how we use the language. We may avoid obscenities and profanities while exposing obscene and profane attitudes. We may be strictly honest in very visible things, but not in how we deal with others in daily life. We can proclaim love to God while being unloving to those near us. For most of my life I’ve heard, "People don’t care what you know until they know you care." The talk is easier than the walk.

Jesus warned us against losing our saltiness. Just as we need power or fuel to produce light, we need a continuing source of saltiness to remain salty. Salt used to be produced in this area. Men drilling for oil found brine. So they drew the brine from these salt wells, evaporated the water and sold the salt. Jesus is not only our artesian well of living water, He is also our salt well. Living in close communion with Him keeps us salty.

The salt of ancient times was made by evaporating sea water. If the salt leached out, what was left was powdered silica and chalk, useful for paving pathways. It’s saltiness could not be restored. But if we have let our communion with God down and have lost our saltiness, He can restore it when we submit to Him again.

Back to the question, "What is harder, being salt or being light?" For many of us it is harder being salt than being light. It is not all that hard in today's society to make a profession of faith, to mouth things like "Thank God" and "Bless the Lord." We can say what ought to be done and be seen in our "Sunday best" on our way to church. But the real test is when we are tempted to cheat "just a little" to gain an advantage or save a little. Or when a co-worker gets a promotion we thought WE deserved. Or any other much-too-close situations. Then, when it really counts, it can be hard to "walk the talk." The same God who said to love Him, love our family members and love our neighbors, also said to love our enemies. He didn’t just say it, He set the example (Rom. 5:8-11). It is harder to be salt than light, but "with God all things are possible." (Matt. 19:26)


Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
14"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." [English Standard Version]

© 2009, Wesley G. Vaughn

The Fulfillment of the So-Called “Curse of Ham”

What does it mean at Christmas?
Genesis 9: 24-27

Even an 8th or 9th grade student can figure some things out and see the fallacy of a long-held argument. This is especially true when the youth has been raised free from the prejudices which spawned the argument.

Such was the case when I was in the 8th or 9th grade. In American History class I learned of the so-called “Curse of Ham.” This was used to argue that God had destined the Negro race to be slaves. It was an interpretation of Genesis 9:24-27. Noah’s youngest son, Ham, had dishonored his father’s decency, so Noah had put a curse on his descendants. Since the Hamitic people of Africa (the Blacks, or Negroes) were from Ham, Southerners argued that all Negroes were cursed by God to be slaves.

Well, I was in a Christian school, and had been taking Bible classes. I looked up the passage and read it for myself. The error of the “Curse of Ham” leaped right off the page. The curse was not on Ham himself, but on his son Canaan. It was Canaan’s descendants who were to be servants to others. They were the ones conquered by Israel in 1400-1395 BC. I concluded that the argument was a misinterpretation of Scripture fueled by racial prejudice and economic self interest.

Decades later, I revisited the Curse of Canaan and saw that it was actually three-fold. Here is the text (from the New American Standard Bible):

24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him.

25 So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant* of servants* He shall be to his brothers.”

26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant*.

27 “May God enlarge Japheth, And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; And let Canaan be his servant*.”

* Note: “Servant” literally means “slave.”

First, Canaan would serve his brothers, meaning his descendants would serve the descendants of the other sons of Ham. Then he would serve Shem. After that, he would serve Japheth. This was literally fulfilled in history before New Testament times. First, the Canaanites were subject to the Egyptians (from Mizraim, son of Ham). Then they were conquered by the Israelites, sons of Shem. Then they were subject to the Greeks, sons of Japheth.

This is also fulfilled in Jesus. It is at Christmas we think of his genealogy, if we ever do. Of course he was a descendant of David and Abraham, but who else was in his line? Let’s see:

Tamar, daughter-in-law of Judah, was a Canaanite. David came from her. So was Rahab of Jericho a Canaanite. Then David’s wife Maacah was a Canaanite princess. Her great great granddaughter, named after her, was the mother of King Abijah and grandmother of King Asa.

Another Canaanite princess, from Sidon, was Jezebel, wife of Ahab, King of Israel. She was the grandmother of King Ahaziah of Judah, from whom all the rest of Judah’s kings came. Both Joseph and Mary were descendants of Zerubbabel, grandson of Jeconiah, the exiled King of Judah. So Jesus was also her descendant. He descended from at least four Canaanites.

What does this mean to us? Two things:

First, Jesus came to be a servant. “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” He was the example of servanthood for us. He said that the greatest among his followers would be the servant of the others. First he served his brothers, the Jews, then he served the whole world.

Second, on the cross Jesus became cursed for us. It was there he bore the curse of our sins, not for ours alone, but the sins of the whole world.

At this season, let’s remember why he came and what he did.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 9:35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.

© 2009, Wesley G. Vaughn

Friday, November 27, 2009

Peace & Thankfulness

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace, and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

Here peace and thankfulness are in close association. We are called to peace and also called to be thankful. How closely are peace and thankfulness linked?

War is in opposition to peace, and covetousness is in opposition to thankfulness. James 4:1 begins, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? You want something, but don’t get it.” (NIV) Here the Lord’s brother says that covetousness and greed cause conflict, even among believers. For instance, fighting over an inheritance has divided many families.

In his letter to Roman Christians, the Apostle Paul attributes the state of war between people and God to unthankfulness: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks . . .” (Rom. 1:21 NIV) He then outlines the progression of estrangement from God into total depravity and reprobation. It began with unthankfulness.

Thanklessness and covetousness are linked. One can lead to the other, then they progress together. Thanklessness may begin with thoughtlessness, forgetting the source of what we have. The Bible warns us many times not to forget God’s provision, lest we slip into idolatry. In the Ten Commandments, the first one is, “Don’t worship any other gods,” and the last is. “Do not covet.” (Ex. 20:3,17) These are linked, look alike like matched bookends. Paul says that covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). When we covet something, we worship it beside God. Since God does not accept this, it comes between us and Him. So covetousness leads to conflict with God as well as with other people. But thankfulness leads to peace.

Being genuinely thankful to others and to God can be a guard against coveting. It keeps us mindful not only of where it all comes from, but of the proper place of things in our lives. It helps to focus on the giver rather than on the gift. Taking Job and David for our examples, we should love God for Himself, not just for what He gives us.

Here is something to ask ourselves:

Which do we value more, God’s presents or His presence?

© 2009, Wesley G. Vaughn

Monday, October 12, 2009

Family Membership

Mr. Parks is the Biology teacher at Brown County High School. One day in Botany class he held up a jar of Pedro’s Taco Salt, showing the front label to the class.

"What is this?" he asked

"Taco salt."

"Let’s see what’s in it?"

Mr. Parks turned the jar and read from the back label. As he spoke, the ingredients appeared on a screen. "The ingredients are ‘salt, dried red and green bell peppers, granulated sun-dried tomatoes, celery, parsley, cilantro, onion powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, and silica to prevent caking.’ All natural, I see."

Mr. Parks set the jar down then addressed the class, "You will notice that all but two of the ingredients come from plants." Using a laser pointer, he highlighted ingredients on the screen "The peppers, tomatoes and cayenne are members of solanaceae, the nightshade family. The celery, parsley, cilantro and cumin are members of umbelliferae, the parsley family. And the onion and garlic are from liliaceae, the lily family. Any questions?"

A hand shot up.

"Yes, Tom. What is your question?"

"What family is the salt from?"
© 2009, Wesley G. Vaughn

Mnemonic Sentences Help Distinguish Homophones

The English language abounds with homophones, words which share the same sounds, but have different meanings and, especially, spellings. There are also near homophones. These can be confusing to writer and reader alike. Most of the time the context tells the reader which word is intended, but sometimes it may mislead the reader. Therefore, it is important to properly spell the word you are using to clarify your meaning. The wrong choice among homophonic spellings may not only confuse your readers, it can make them stumble in reading your material. And it can make a poor impression when a good impression counts. Examples of this are resumes, cover letters and reports.

So how do we keep homophones straight? We may memorize many sets of homophones. But many of us have trouble just remembering what amounts to another list. I suggest using mnemonics. A mnemonic is a device which aids memory. What I am suggesting is mnemonic sentences or phrases which use the homophones in a set together in the same context. Just bringing them together reminds us that there are different spellings of same-sounding words which carry different meanings. I will give a few examples. You may create others to assist you in your writing.

Homophones: there, their, they're
They're over there with their luggage.

Near Homophones: weather, whether
I wonder whether the weather will be rainy or sunny.

Homophones: to, too, two
You have to mail two letters to Mr. Jones too.

Homophones: accept, except
They will accept all of these except that one.

Homophones: affect, effect, effect
This decision will affect every one of us adversely. The effect is unacceptable. Please do not effect this policy.

Homophones can be on the humorous side:
Tutu taught English as a Second Language (ESL) to immigrants. He was teaching Phan and Thu [pronounced "TOO"]. Phan learned fast, and soon moved from Level One to Level Two. One day Tutu's ESL supervisor came to him and asked, "Phan is almost through Level Two. When will we get Thu to Two too, Tutu?"

(This was posted on my tutoring blog on WyzAnt: )

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Family Ties

"Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity." (Psalm 133:1)
**** All Bible quotes are from the English Standard Version
Over the July 4th weekend, I attended a family reunion. Actually, two. The one on Dad’s side was held Friday-Saturday at my home church. The other, on Mom’s side, was a picnic Sunday afternoon at a church camp. It was good to see many so family members I had not seen in years, even decades. I also met many not seen before, especially younger ones, such as great nephews and my cousins’ grandchildren. The event went well. It is nice to see good, working relationships between people, especially those bound by bonds of blood.
Appropriately, the affairs were staged in Christian facilities. Christian faith and values have been strong on both sides of my family for generations. Both sets of grandparents were born-again believers in Jesus Christ, as were my parents. As good as it is to maintain earthly family ties, it is essential to maintain unity within the Family of God. Those of us who are Christians are bound by a bond of blood, not genetics but the Blood of Jesus: ". . . knowing that you were ransomed . . . with the precious blood of Christ . . ." (1Peter 1:19-20).
The New Testament sees Christians as members of a family. Paul quotes the Old Testament, where God said, "I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me" (2 Cor. 6:18). We are brothers and sisters in Christ. Believers are referred to as "brethren’ in Acts (Acts 11:1, 29). The Apostles called their readers "brethren" (Rom. 12:1; James 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:13). And Paul advised Timothy to appeal to the members of the church as family (1 Tim. 5:1-2). In a sense, we can refer to weekly services as "family meetings," and annual campmeetings, conferences and conventions as "family reunions," because that is indeed when the Family of God gets together. The first verse of Bill Gaither’s well-known song says:
******** You will notice we say "brother and sister" ‘round here;
********** It’s because we’re a family, and these folk are so near;
******** When one has a heartache, we all shed the tears
********** And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
One thing I did not expect. A book. A sister presented a book Dad left for me when he passed away. She found it among Mom’s things. This is a very special book, 123 years old. The Gospel Delineator and Survey was written by my great great grandfather George R. Hand, a Christian minister from the nineteenth century. I will read this book not only for its information, but to get in touch with my ancestor, to know his mind and spirit. I cannot sit down and talk with him, nor walk with him, but I can read what he wrote.
We do have a book left for us by our Father in Heaven. It is jam-packed with information: history, personal stories, poetry, advice, rules & principles, etc. There is a lot we can learn by reading this book. That is why many people use it as a reference guide, a how-to book, a referee to settle arguments, etc. But it is much more than that. The best benefit of reading this book is getting in touch with the author, getting to know him better - his character, his intentions, his thoughts. Unlike my ancestor, we can sit down with God, the author of the Bible. We can talk with Him and walk with Him if we have a relationship with Him, if He is our Father.
In our family, the Family of God, we look forward to a family reunion, to meet not only the family members we already know, but also those whom we have never seen. We do not know the date and time of this reunion, but we do know the place. Until that time, many of us will go on to the "Foyer of Heaven" to await the grand event. Even better than meeting all the brothers and sisters, we will finally see our Father.
1. Bill & Gloria Gaither, "The Family of God", © 1970 by William J. Gaither
Article © 2009, Wesley Vaughn

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Flower is This?

What flower is this?

I know.

I just want to see how many of you can figure it out. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Give your answer as a comment

After posting your guess, look for the answer on this page.

© 2009, Wesley G. Vaughn

Monday, June 8, 2009

An Appointed Time and Place

“And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined theirappointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.” ~ Acts 17:26 [NASB]

This year we celebrate 233 years since the Declaration on Independence was signed, marking the birthday of our nation. Ever since the first colonists arrived, there has been a sense of manifest destiny, the belief that our people were brought here by God and established on this continent for His purposes. Historically, we as a people have believed that our times are in God’s hand.

In a sense this is true for all peoples. The Apostle Paul told the Athenian philosophers that the Supreme God has determined both the times and the boundaries of all nations. We can see examples of this in history.

I saw this myself on a recent trip. When we were visiting Sedona, Arizona, seeking shelter from the rain while waiting for others, I found a display which told the story of the Sinagua people. The Sinaguas dominated central Arizona for more than 700 years. They farmed the Verde River Valley, built cities and villages on the cliffs, and mediated trade between peoples to the north, south, east and west. According to archaeological finds, they prospered and flourished. Then about AD 1450, they disappeared, leaving behind their cliff dwellings, canals, pottery and other artifacts. No one knows how or why. This does not necessarily mean the end of the people. The Mayan cities of Central America were abandoned long before the Spanish came, but the Mayan people still live in that area.

Like the Sinaguas, the Israelites occupied their land and dominated the surrounding area for about 700 years. Then they left their land. Unlike the Sinaguas, we know why, specifically why. They forgot God, who had given the land to them and had caused them to prosper. More than just forget God, they actually turned against Him. They gave their allegiance to other gods who were not really gods. So God caused them to be removed from the land. First the Assyrians took away those in the north in 722 BC. Then 136 years later the Babylonians took the rest away.

About 400 years ago, our civilization began to occupy this land. Later they established a nation, believing God had placed them here and made them a nation. This county has spread across the continent, from one ocean to the other. It now extends to the far north and to the middle of the world’s largest ocean. In our lifetimes, it has been the most powerful nation on earth. It has dominated the world’s economy. It has influenced the culture of almost every otherland on earth. It’s people have carried the Gospel to every corner of the globe. In many ways, itis seen as the greatest nation on earth.

Now we have reached the time when we, as a civilization and as a people, are turning away from the God who has made us a nation*. How long will God allow this to continue before He brings us down? How long before He removes us from our place among the nations? When will God determine the end of our time and our habitation?

* See the last verse of The Star Spangled Banner.

© 2009, Wesley G. Vaughn

Monday, April 20, 2009

Public Usage and Free Speech

The attempt by the current administration to regulate which views are aired on radio and TV hinges on the concept of "public usage" of radio frequencies and the regulatory powers of the Federal Communications Commission granted in the 1927 law. John Armor addressed this issue in his current blog, "The Myth of Public Airways." The following is my response to this.


To many "public" means "governmental." This is a misidentification which falls right into the lap of leftists and other wannabe totalitarians. A little exercise of logical extension shows us where this leads:

1. We all breathe air and drink water and use the air we breathe to speak.

2. Since protection of the quality of the air and water is a public issue, then the "usage of public properties" includes all speech.

3. If the government has the right, even the obligation, to monitor and control the content of "public usage," then it must therefore monitor and censor, speech, even the most private.

4. But wait a minute! * Speech is protected by the Constitution. *

5. Don't let this let you breathe easy. The illiberal leftists will find a way to say that the First Amendment right of Free Speech is subject to the government's right and obligation to regulate the "public usage" aspect of our speech if it is in the interests of the "public good." And you can bet your last penny that if they think this will work in the courts, they will try it!

6. With that kind of reasoning, the entire Bill of Rights might as well have been written in sand.

See John Armor's blog:

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Open Request to Sen. John S. McCain

Dear Senator McCain:

We need this change in campaign finance laws:

Ban contributions made through anonymous pre-paid credit cards.

The reason for this? These cards are a vehicle through which enormously wealthy individuals and groups can make political contributions many times the size which they can openly make. You ought to be sensitive to this following the last election.

Please introduce a bill to make this needed change in the Federal campaign finance laws.

Wesley G. Vaughn


Dear Reader,

If you agree with this, please let Sen. McCain know your views.
Go to, click on "Contact," select "Contact form."
On the Issues list pick "Not listed."
Say what you want in the message box.
Thank you.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

One Year to the Next

Years ago, members of a panel were asked, "What do you do on New Year's Eve?"
One panelist said, "I sleep through it."
"How's that?" the host asked. "You mean you don't party or pray or watch the ball come down or anything like that?"
"Why would you sleep through rather than see the new year in?"
"To me the year is like life," the panelist responded. "You go to sleep in one then wake up in the next."

(c) 2009