First Baptist Church
“On A Clear Day…” “On a clear day you can see forever…”How most of us here in Trinity County have longed for the clear, blue sky days of summer!  Of course I’m referring to the almost constant and incessant smoke that we’ve had these last couple of months, all do to one night of lightning strikes a short time ago.  This ‘dry lightning’ sparked off a series of wildfires seemingly unparalleled in California history.  What does fire bring (besides brave firefighters from all over the country) but smoke – and lots of it.  I remember riding my bike to church the day after the fires started with all of the smoke that was invading the town and figuring that by the next day or so it would pretty much clear out and we’d be back to normal.  But of course that was not to be.  The smoke stayed…and stayed…and stayed…and stayed some more!  At first we were keeping our house closed up pretty tight and the kids indoors, kind of like on rainy days, but as time went on and cabin fever set in you realized you couldn’t keep them locked up forever.  So we started to not worry about it as much and at some point I think many of us just started to get used to it.It was funny because on a recent trip to Sacramento to visit my sister and her husband, we brought our suitcase into the house and my sister commented on how she could smell the smoke in our clothes and from our bag.  Sure enough, even getting back into our truck, after having been exposed to the clean air of Sac, it smelled like a campfire.  All we needed was some wieners and marshmallows!  Other residual effects of the smoke have appeared with increase visits to doctors and emergency rooms.  I can remember in Burbank having bad enough smog days that your eyes would get itchy and start tearing up, but nothing like this here with your chest getting congested and even burning while you try and walk your dog.  I’ve seen people around town with masks over their noses and mouths trying to limit their smoke and carcinogen intake.One of the things that I’ve found most interesting about this smoke-soup we’ve been living in is the general attitudes and demeanors of people and how they’ve changed.  Let’s face it, this smoke has got many of us “down.”  It’s got us bummed out, cranky, not feeling well and just flat out tired of it.  I didn’t really notice this until I saw it in myself.  It happened when we had one of our rare super-clean air days early this month.  It was one of those days when you could see the mountains, not just their outlines, but you could differentiate trees, rocks and colors!  When you looked up you didn’t see brownish-gray haze but a bright and vibrant blue sky.  The smell in the air was not of a campfire but of trees, flowers and clean mountain air.  It was then that I noticed a change in myself.  Not to sound too sappy but I felt renewed, happy, joyful, filled with life; I had a bounce in my step that hadn’t been there for several weeks.  I told Julie and the kids to pack up a lunch and grab the inn-tubes, we’re going to the river – and go to the river we did!  We had a wonderful time of playing in the cool, refreshing water, flying off the rope swing, looking at the fish through a mask and snorkel and “shooting the rapids” into the swimming hole.  It was one of those summer days where you thank the good Lord for all of His blessings.    In any case, this renewed feeling is what caused me to reflect on my own attitude and demeanor of the previous two months and realize just how this smoke has affected us.  This got me to thinking about it all from a spiritual perspective.  As a pastor and teacher of God’s Word, sometimes you think you sound like a broken record because you’re always telling people to read their Bibles: “Have you read your Bible?…You should be reading your Bible…If you want to grow as a Christian, you need to read your Bible…Reading your Bible is where you’ll find the answers to your questions…Read your Bible daily…Don’t stop reading your Bible, etc.”  Certainly the Scriptures affirm that reading and meditating on God’s Word is vital.  Yet how often do we take this to heart?  How often do we put this most basic discipline into action?  For most people the question is not, “Do you know that you should read the Bible?”  But rather, “Are you reading your Bible everyday?  It’s not enough to pick it up once a month or even once a week, the Scriptures teach that we need to be meditating on God’s Word “day and night (Ps. 1:2).”  This means all the time!   Consider the following Scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments:  Deuteronomy 6:6-9 “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8“You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 8:3 “…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”  Jesus re-iterated this to Satan during His temptation in the wilderness (Lk. 4:4). Joshua 1:7-8 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” Psalm 19:7-11 The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 8The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. 10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. 11Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 119:97O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day…105Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” 1 Peter 2:2 “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation,” 2 Peter 1:3 “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”  How do we have this “true knowledge” of God?  Through His Word, the Bible!  “But what does this have to do with all of this talk of smoke,” you ask?  Simple, when we are not in the Word of God on a regular basis, the smoke settles in and our spiritual lives start to get hazy and things aren’t as clear to us including God, His Son Jesus and His will for our lives.  Our vision starts to blur, and our minds get cloudy regarding spiritual things.  We start praying less and less.  Our church attendance becomes sporadic and maybe not at all.  Our serving tapers off and we’re not even fellowshipping with the saints anymore.  Without God’s Word in our daily life we lose sight of the path that He wants us to be on and it causes us to be less discerning between godliness and worldliness.  If we continue to live in this smoke-soup without God’s Word long enough it’s starts to take it’s toll -  it causes us to choke and gag and we don’t get the oxygen we need that only His Word contains; it make us spiritually sick and we start to whither and die.On the other hand, when we are actively reading our Bibles and filling our bellies with the milk and meat of His word; we’re filling our lungs with the pure oxygen of Scripture; we’re watering our stalks with His brand of “Miracle Grow,” then the wind of His Spirit pushes out all of the nasty smoke and haze; all of those hurtful carcinogens; all of the bad smells and foul odors and ushers in the clear, clean blue skies of a life with Christ.  Our joy returns, along with our positive attitudes and Christ-like demeanors.  Am I trying to say that life is perfect for the Christian?  No, not here on this earth anyway.  But how different is our life here when we live each day soaking up the promises of God’s Word by way of His forgiveness of sins and the eternal hope and promise of everlasting life with His Son Jesus Christ?!  This is what gives us joy through sorrow, contentment through trial and perseverance in pain; it’s our blue sky and clean, fresh mountain air that we get to enjoy as long as we are rooted in His Truth!   How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. 4The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.”Psalm 1:1-6