Awed

My wife made a deal with me years ago.

It went something like this, “I found some wallpaper I really like.  If you put it up in our dining room, I promise, you will never have to do anything to that room again.”  As you can probably guess, the day came when she said, “This wallpaper is outdated. Can we paint?”  Two things came to mind . . .  first, the obvious disregard of the promise and second, I knew that the word “We” really meant, me. “Will you paint?”

It was funny how easily the words, “Can we paint?” rolled off of her tongue.  In her mind, painting was just a matter of going to the store to get the paint and rolling it on the wall.  She didn’t, and to some degree, still doesn’t realize the work involved in the preparation of the walls so that we . . . rather . . . so that I can paint.  Not only was there wallpaper to remove, but there were also holes to patch and there was chipping paint to scrape, not to mention all of that wallpaper glue that needed to be removed.   There was a lot of sin to take care of.  Rolling the paint on is always the fun part.

Well, I gave in and got started with the painting project. Funny but I don’t recall every hearing; “Wow that’s great!” as I prepped the walls.  That took, what seemed to be, forever.  When I finally started to paint, well, that’s when the ooos and the ahhs filled the room. 

As I considered the account of the healing of the paralytic in Luke 5, I saw some parallels.  The ooos and ahhs from the crowd came as a lame man was made to walk.  The people could see that, and marveled at the “paint” rather than the greater work of having sin forgiven.  Jesus knew that the crowd would be impressed with what they saw and that would point to the real work.  How elementary.

Then I started thinking about me.  I’ve cited several times when God has left me and my family in awe as, in a spectacular way, He worked to meet a need we had. . . And I think that’s important!  But then I start to wonder if I’m just like the crowd. Is my breath taken away more by the spectacular way God has worked to pay one of our bills, or by the spectacular payment that was made for my sins?  Which am I quicker to brag in public about? Hmm . . . Sad to say that I know the answer to that . . . and it isn’t as it ought to be.  How elementary.

Lord, as I read, I need to see ME through Your eyes rather than the shortcomings of others.  It does me no good to identify where others fall short, if I don’t allow your Spirit to convict and change me as my life is reflected in what I see.  Thank you for all of the prep work that you performed on me. You filled my gouges and cracks with your blood so that I can now be presented as a perfectly painted wall in You. I am in AWE of that work!

Luke 5:17 17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.[d] 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”(biblegateway.com, ESV)

More than just a BELIEVER in God, I need to be a FOLLOWER of Jesus!

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Repurposed

I was away on a trip to Manitoulin Island with a friend. I love going to see people who have become so very important to me . . . but, I have a hard time leaving my wife, Lynn behind during those trips . . . and this trip was no different.

While I was gone, Lynn kept herself busy.  She went to work gathering pictures from past plays I had directed at Macomb Christian Schools, as well as pictures of my friends from the Island.

When I got back from my trip, she was excited as she showed me three big collages she made and framed while I was away.  They were filled with pictures and were to be hung in my office.  I picked up the collages one by one and looked over the individual pictures . . .  Smiling, I recalled the people and the events we shared together. I relived each photo as I stared.  Wow, what a treasure!

For seeral weeks, Lynn asked me to get the collages hung in my office.  I was busy, so it took some time, but the day came when I was able to get them hung.   As I picked up each frame to hang, I again smiled as I looked over all of the pictures.

The largest collage was the one filled with Wikwemikong pictures from Manitoulin Island.  The frame is about 3 feet wide.  As I stood over the frame, as I looked down, I could see that it was quite warped.  I mentioned how warped it was to Lynn and her response was, “It’s old . . . we found in one of your rental homes.”  Well, it was just right, and looked great with all of the pictures.  When I stood back and looked at the collage, it was perfect!

I don’t know, maybe I’ve been watching too many Pixar movies, but I could almost picture that old, warped frame, with its head hung low, thinking, “I have no value because of my condition.  Just let me shrink away  . . . My past has rendered me useless.”

The frame that was sitting, unused, in our basement, was approached by Lynn.  She was searching for something special . . . something to be used to help create a masterpiece . . . Many people would have tossed the old, warped frame out as soon as they picked it up and saw its condition . . . But in the hands of an artist, it became a thing of beauty . . . It was hung on a predominant wall . . . A display of work done by the artist.

In Luke 5, Peter was that old frame.  After a fruitless night of fishing, reluctantly Peter obeyed Jesus and put down his nets.  The “net” of that obedience was great catch!  It was then that Jesus, the master artist was revealed. The sentence that popped out as I read the account was:

"But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”" (Luke 5:8)

Peter, saw himself for what he was . . . warped and useless.  He knew his past rendered Him unfit . . . But in the hands of the Creator, Peter became “The Rock”.  The very one Jesus used to “frame” the church.

As I think through my life, I have fallen short . . .Boy have I fallen short. So much so that my “warped” frame no longer resembles a frame.  The truth is, I can’t do anything to change my past.  I can’t dwell on what I can’t change.  From this day forward, the job of this warped old frame is to yield to the Master.  He’s the one who is able to create a masterpiece out of my brokenness . . . for His glory!

Lord, use this old, warped, frame of mine. In Your hands I can be used.  Thank You for not giving up on me.

Luke 5:1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.

They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”[a] 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.  (biblegateway.com, ESV)

More than just a BELIEVER in God, I need to be a FOLLOWER of Jesus!

As I finished writing this, the Lord brought the song, “Beautiful Things” by Gungor to mind.  What a blessing! Take time to listen.

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Tempted

I don’t know why, but I’m intrigued with old episodes of “Deal or No Deal” on TV. In the game, the contestant picks one closed briefcase from 26 numbered cases that are displayed in front of them.

Inside each case is a number representing money amounts, from one penny to one million dollars.  The chosen case represents the amount of money the contestant will win . . . kind of.

All the amounts of the closed cases are listed in order in two columns, lit up on the game board.  The contestant must pick one of the cases that are on display.  That case is theirs.  From that point on, each case picked by the contestant, whether one cent or 1 million dollars, is opened and the amounts that are written inside the case are eliminated from the list of original amounts as listed on the game board.  From the remaining dollar amounts on the board, the “Banker” determines the odds of the contestant having the largest amount of money in the case they chose for themselves.  The Banker then makes an offer to buy their case, base on his computations.  Depending on the remaining dollar amounts on the board, the Banker’s offer can be quite large . . . in the hundreds of thousands of dollars! 

This is where it gets interesting.  A board that may have only 3 cases left . . . Let’s say, $1,000,000, $10,000 and $5, may produce an offer from the Banker, to buy their case, for $300,000.  Even though the contestants closed case may only contain $5.00, if that contestant says “Deal” that $300,000 is theirs . . . It’s guaranteed.  I am always amazed at the number of contestants who say, “No Deal” to $300,000 and end up walking away with only the $5.00 that was in their case.  The $300,000 was already theirs, but instead, they traded it in for $5.00, thinking it would be more than what they already had.

But then, there are those times when the contestant, right from the start, chose the closed $1,000,000 case as theirs . . . They owned $1,000,000 if they didn’t sell out for the immediate offer the Banker was tempting them with.  Selling out for the immediate.

In a game of chance, that may make sense. Even so, it was depressing when today I watched a special game where $2,000,000 was the top prize.  The Banker successfully tempted a woman to sell her case for $147,000.   When the amount in her original case was revealed, she learn that she gave up the $2,000,000 . . . It was already hers!

Well like they say, hindsight is always 20/20.  Wouldn’t it have been great if that contestant could have seen what was in her case before she made her choice?  It’s nice to know that with Jesus, there are no closed cases.

As I reread Luke 4, regarding the devil’s temptation of Jesus, verse 5 popped out at me:

“5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this . . . it will all be yours.”

The offer that was made to Jesus was to jump on the immediate! . . . “The kingdoms of the world . . . in a moment of time.”  To accept the offer of “in a moment of time” would have meant giving up His “case” . . . The one He already possessed . . . “All creation for all eternity”

When I’m tempted by Satan, I need to remember that his offers, to give into the immediate pleasures of sin, are “in a moment of time”, and at the expense of the true pleasures that are already mine, in Jesus.  Jesus knew what was in His “case”, when He turned down the temptations from the devil . . . Thankfully, God has revealed the richness of my “case” through His Word, the Bible.  It’s up to me to heed His instruction and walk away from sin.

Lord, give me the wisdom and the strength to away from the “in a moment of time”, immediate offers of sin, and instead . . . in obedience . . . run toward the “eternal” that is already mine in Jesus.

Luke 4:1  And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”  (biblegateway.com, ESV)

More than just a BELIEVER in God, I need to be a FOLLOWER of Jesus!

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Tested 

Filling up my cars with gas is a necessary evil that I don’t look forward to. I especially don’t like it when it’s cold outside and the wind chill factor pushes the temperature below zero.

When it’s like that, I don’t want to leave the house and get into a cold truck . . .  even more, I dread the fact that I will have to stand outside to pump the gas.

One such time, I got to the station, with the wind blowing and got out of my truck.  I wasn’t disappointed; it was every bit as cold as I had expected.  My wife was in our other car, just on the other side of the pump I was using.   I was going to fill up both vehicles.  What a pleasant bonus!

I took out my credit card, and of course it didn’t swipe the first time . . . great . . . I swiped it again and then was asked to enter my ID to get my my discount.  Something went wrong and I was told I had to enter my ID again. . . Really? . . . I’m freezing . . . Oh and to accomplish the above, I had to keep my gloves off.

Finally, I managed to get everything in order so I could start fueling.  I started with my truck. My wife, Lynn, was still waiting one car back, on the other side of the pump.  The whole time I was pumping, I was mumbling out loud, “This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong.”, as the wind blew, When I got done with my truck and Lynn was able to pull up to the pump, I swung the nozzle over to her side to pump.  As I pumped, an ornery old man started tooting his horn at me.  I was taking too long.  Did he really think I was deliberately taking my time to enjoy the great outdoors more?

Well, I got done . . . Lynn took off, and to finish off, I bravely took off my glove to have my receipt printed.  I pushed the button and waited and waited . . . nothing happened.  I pushed the button again and still nothing.  I left without a receipt.

I then drove across the street to the city building to get my original task done.  Still shivering, I got out of my car and went to the door only to find it was locked.  They were closed for their holiday break. With that shiver,  I had been pushed to my limits.  I rode off grumbling as I drove. For me, the end really wasn’t the end.  After the struggle at the pump, thinking I had conquered my trial for the day, I had to face a closed city building.

As I read the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4, I saw something that I hadn’t considered in the past.  It reminded me of the end of my fueling adventure . . .

When Christ faced the three temptations of the devil:  The offer of food, the offer of a kingdom, the dare to leap from the temple . . . What I had not considered before was the environment in which this all took place.

“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him . . . “.

What happened during those 40 days?  It appears to me that these three temptations mentioned took place after the forty days.  That being the case, were those temptations the culmination of many other things that Jesus had to face?  Kind of like my “after pumping gas” experience. When I had reached what I thought was the end . . . there was more that needed to be faced . . . And that was while I was in a weakened state.

The strength of God in my life is demonstrated when I am spent and would otherwise like to throw in the towel. My normal response to normal activities doesn’t show much . . . My reaction, when I walk up to the locked doors of my life, after being spent . . . It’s during those hard times that shine the reality of God’s working in my life.

Lord, help me to understand that through the Holy Spirit, I am able to meet the challenges laid before me with a grace that only He can provide . . . especially when I am already spent.  Right now, I’m not so good at that.  The world is watching.  Help me to shine for You.

Luke 4:1  And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
    and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.  (biblegateway.com, ESV)

More than just a believer in God, I need to be a follower of Jesus!

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Authentically Yours

Rental homes . . . Sometimes they’re a pain! During a long stretch cold weather we were having, I had problems with a rental home of mine. I received a call from a tenant letting me know that the drain in the bathtub of her house had frozen up.

When I got there, I crawled under the house and began to get it thawed out with a hair drier. After quite some time I was able to get the drain to work. I then had to clean the tub out.  When I turned the shower on  . . . no shower.  Eek . . . The pipes were frozen.  Though I would have preferred a different illustration, I guess it’s good that the freeze up could serve a higher purpose.

When I walked into the bathroom, the shower in the tub looked like . . . Well it looked like a shower in a tub. In fact, as far showers go, it looked pretty good in that, the whole thing was new.  The handles were bright and shiny; the chrome wasn’t spotted all . . . The shower head was clean and moved freely.  Everything shouted, “This is a shower . . . A nice shower!”, until I turned the shower on . . . The water didn’t work.  Lots of good that was.  When that situation came to mind, the passage I was reading became alive.

Almost like a Dr. Seuss line, I realized that “A shower is not a shower unless it showers.” How elementary is that? No matter what it may look like or even where it may be found, until a shower showers, it’s only a fixture.  The fact that the label on the package says “Shower” . . . or even that it came from a shower factory . . . Only what it does will confirms that it truly is a shower.

Like that shower, in the book of John, John is letting his listeners know that their heritage does not give them proper standing before God. Only their actions will confirm their relationship with the Creator God.

That same principle is also true regarding my position in Christ. I am a child of God’s, not because I have uttered some words in a prayer . . . . without any real conviction . . . Rather, I am only a child of God’s when living water flows from me.

My sincere faith is seen when I step in and allow the “Shower” of God to do what it is designed to do . . . clean me . . . My change will be evident . . . There will be no need to ask, “Did you take a shower?”  The contrast will be evident. If I am no cleaner than when I stepped into the shower, I can be sure that something is  wrong. My life needs to change! If a “clean-up” is not taking place, the words, “I’m Yours God”, I uttered mean absolutely nothing . . . My faith is all wet.

Lord Help me to confirm what I believe by allowing the power of the living water to clean me.  I need to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”, to be an authentic follower of Christ.

Luke 3:2 . . . The word of God came to John in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins . . .

7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  (biblegateway.com, ESV)

More than just a believer in God, I need to be a follower of Jesus!

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Greater Expectations

Out fishing and catching a lot of fish with my friend Jim, on a sunny, cool, spring morning . . . Things don’t get much better than that! But they can get much worse.

The rowboat was small, and the seats were low, for a couple of old guys. Because of that we sat up lawn chairs over the seats so we would be more comfortable.

My friend was in the back of the boat, and I was in the front, facing away from him. As I sat quietly, enjoying the opportunity to soak in the scene that I was a part of, the silence was broken as I heard Jim say, “Oh no” . . . In an instant, we found ourselves in the lake instead of our boat.

We had fallen in just a few short feet from our boat, and we were fairly close to shore. However, because of the weight of our cloths and jackets, we found ourselves bobbing like a pencil bobber . . . weighed down by our feet, we were sinking a little with each bob. Because of that, we were unable to swim the short distance to the boat, let alone get into the boat.

After trying, for what seemed to be forever, I watched Jim’s panicked eyes. With each bob, his nose sank closer and closer to the water. I needed to do something fast! Even though there was no one in sight, I began to yell. “Help! Help!” Then suddenly I stopped yelling.

As I struggled, gasping for air, I shouted out: “We need to pray!” With that, I cried out loud, in desperation, “Lord, we need your help, give us the strength to get into the boat.” What I didn’t pray was, “If it be Your will”. After praying, I expected God to help . . . I anticipated that God would give me an ability that was beyond my own . . . And He did.

I grabbed the oar that was floating near me and swung it over Jim’s direction. Using the oar, I struggled to float him to the back of the boat where he was able to grab ahold and hang on. With the help of the oar, I was able to make it back to the boat. Then, somehow, I was able to swing the rear of the boat, with Jim hanging on, toward the sumac looking branches that were sticking out of the water. Jim was able to grab a branch, pull himself over and stand on the submerged limbs. 

I was on the side of the boat that was facing away from shore. After a struggle. I was eventually able to throw my leg over the half submerged boat and roll in.  

Needless to say, I was exhausted! The water was cold . . . I found my teeth chattering as I talked. Unable to warm up on top of my exhaustion, I was left shaking, uncontrollably, for the full 45 minute ride home . . . But we were safe!

Looking back on that terrifying situation, I learned that on a normal day, I don’t pray with the same intensity as when I found myself crying out to God from the water. Sometimes my prayer almost becomes an exercise of duty, rather than an intimate time of expectation . . . I pray safe things . . . If I pray at all.

Quite often as I pray, at some point, I’ll find myself uttering the words, “If it be Your will God”. I’m confident that there’s nothing wrong with yielding to the Lord in that way . . . Even Jesus Himself, in the garden of Gethsemane, Cried out to God, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Yet, I want to be careful that I never use, “If it be Your will” as, “a way out”, for God . . . or even a way out for me, demonstrating my lack of faith . . . as though I don’t really expect a positive response from God.  

In the 10th chapter of the book of Joshua, Joshua pushed the envelope when he prayed. Talk about thinking big! He prayed for the sun to stand still . . . His plea and his faith was spectacular enough for God to say, “There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man”.

I often wonder how many times I limit the Lord’s working in my life because of my lack of faith . . . or, my lack of expectation. Joshua’s cry to God was made to the unchanging God. He is the same God that I bow before. He hasn’t changed!

The times I cry out to God, as I did from outside of my boat, needs to be a part of my life, even when I find myself in safe spots. It shouldn’t take times of desperation for me to understand my urgent need for extraordinary faith . . . I need that kind of faith to live live for God in an honoring way, each day.

I am a child of the King . . . He has so much more for me to accomplish than what I am now trusting Him for.

Creator God, help me to be discontent with the ordinary. Give me the discipline to cry out to You, expecting the extraordinary!

Joshua 10:12 At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
“Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel. (biblegateway.com, ESV)

More than just a believer in God, I need to be a follower of Jesus!

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Do The Right Thing

Over the years, at Christmas, we have done the gift thing for our family . . . or rather my wife has done the gift thing, in that she has done all the shopping for us. Most times when gifts, given by “my wife and me”, are opened, I’m as surprised as the one receiving the gifts.

Over the years, at Christmas, we have done the gift thing for our family . . . or rather my wife has done the gift thing, in that she has done all the shopping for us. Most times when gifts, given by “my wife and me”, are opened, I’m as surprised as the one receiving the gifts.

I can remember how excited I was for Christmas morning as a child. I would usually get up real early in the morning and sneak out to the living room to look under the tree. I was good . . . I would never touch anything because that might give me a clue as to what was inside. I would make my way around the tree to try and read the names that were on the packages . . . I wanted to see which ones were mine. Sometimes that would mean that I would have to stand on my head to make out the name . . . but that was part of the fun. I always hated the fact that we had to wait until everyone was up to open the gifts. It seemed as though time stood still as I waited.

One year, a couple of days before Christmas, I unintentionally stumbled onto a bunch of bags in my parents’ closet.  I wasn’t snooping . . . I was just going to get something else I was after. I knew that I had just found things that would find their way under the tree Christmas morning. I can’t believe what I chose to do . . . I closed the door and walked away.

Thinking back, I realize that the issue wasn’t that I found all my gifts in the closet, but rather, would I obey what I knew my parents would want me to do? . . .  But . . . If I took just a peek, I could enjoy knowing what things would be mine, in just a couple of days. What harm could there be in that?

The reality is, had I looked, I would have felt guilty up until Christmas day. . . and beyond. On Christmas day, rather than showing genuine surprise, I would have had to lie, by looking surprised. I think of the disappointment that my parents would experience as they looked on and the picture of that, “Just right gift” look, was less than expected.

Patience . . . All it took for me was waiting . . . In doing so, I avoided all of the guilt that I would have otherwise faced. My parents were anticipating my excitement when I opened the gifts and would jump at what I saw . . . Instead, I could have robbed them of that joy and forced them into a situation that demanded my punishment.

In the book of Joshua, Achan ruined his “Christmas” as he robbed God of the joy that would have come through his patient obedience.

Joshua 6:1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. 2 And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. (And so they did)

5 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. . . . Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city. 17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction . . .18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction . . . 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.” . . .

7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan . . . took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels,[c] then I coveted them and took them . . . 25 . . . Joshua said . . . “The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. (biblegateway.com, ESV)

If only Achan had been patient and obeyed. In chapter 8, God gave Israel the very things that Achan chose to take for himself.

Joshua 8:1 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land. 2 And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. ONLY ITS SPOILS AND ITS LIVESTOCK YOU SHALL TAKE AS PLUNDER FOR YOURSELVES.”  (biblegateway.com, ESV)

Lord, I need to wait on You and not allow the distractions of this world tempt me to be disobedient to You. Help me to remember that my time, like gold and silver are Yours, to require of me. . . or to gift to me.  I need to wait until Your gifts are beautifully wrapped and place under my tree.  Until then. my job is to respond obediently. 

More than just a believer in God, I need to be a follower of Jesus!

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Forgive

I am amazed at how easily I can recall times that I have been wronged . . . Things from years ago are so vivid. It’s obvious that I’ve never really let go of those events. It’s worse than that . . . as I think back, I relive those times . . . and my blood still boils. I guess the fact that I still get upset shouts that in addition to remembering the events; I have never forgiven the offenders.

I can so clearly see the time that, as I was growing up, there was R. G. He was a guy who was mad at my neighbour friend, J. P.  I encouraged them both to mend their ways . . . They did . . . And then from that day on, they both forgot that I existed. What a couple of jerks!

Then there was the time B. P., one of the neighbourhood bullies who put up his fists and came after me. I can still picture standing in front of the big pine tree at the corner house on our block as he swung away. I didn’t do anything to provoke that. What a thug!

And then there was C.R. one of two “friends” that would drive the three of us to high school every day. One day he thought it would be funny to pull away as I walked up the drive to get in the car.  He left me with no way to get to school.  What a loser!

Oh yes, and P.M. another bully that was always pushing me around in front of his friends. I still smile when I think of the time he walked by my desk at school and tried to smack me. I got lucky though. I stuck out my hand to protect myself and found his hand bent backwards in mine . . . So I bent it back further.  I think I made him cry. Served him right!  He never bothered me again. Take that!

Oh, and then there was B.T.   He came into the gym locker room drunk one day. He wanted to use the locker I already had my clothes in. I stuck up for myself for a change and said, “No”. He swung for my head, I ducked, and he hit the locker, busting open his hand. That still kind-of delights me. What a creep!

I could go on with the list, especially those who I lent money to and was never paid back . . . I guess I kind-of hold a grudge when I am wronged.  In contrast, I need to better understanding the extent of the forgiveness of God . . . I fall so short!

And then I read of God’s forgiveness for those who turn to Him. Rahab the harlot . . . a bad girl, from the land of a people who rejected God. God, being far more righteous than I can even comprehend was willing to forgive this offender. No, let me restate that because His love, mercy and grace go so far beyond that . . . God sent His Son to be put to death as payment to redeem that offender. More than forgiven, the sin was paid for . . . Paid for by the one who was offended! And I can’t even shake some of my childhood grudges. How great is my God!

Help me Lord, I need to let go of those things that keep me a prisoner. Instead, help me to hold tightly to the mercy and grace You have shown me. You have forgiven me of so much more than I deserve . . . More than that, you paid the penalty that I deserved.  Give me the strength to reflect Your love to others.

Joshua 6:22-25 But to the two men who had spied out the land (for battle), Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.”23 So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel.

24 And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it . . . 25 But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.  (bible gateway.com, ESV)

More than just a believer in God, I need to be a follower of Jesus!

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The Effect of Disobedience

While I was a kid, my church would go to Christian Life Camp, at Mill Lake Camp, in Michigan. We met with three other churches for the week, so it was always fun to see our friends from past years . . . Ok . . . to be honest, it was mostly to see what girls they brought with them.

The camp was laid out with a bridge over a small stream, that separated two sets of cabins. On one side of the bridge were the boy’s cabins, the beach and all of the meeting buildings. The girl’s’ cabins were on the other side of the bridge.  Their side of the bridge was designated as “No Man’s Land”. At no time, were the boys to cross over the bridge.

At night, there was a curfew set. When in High School, a few of us guys thought it would be a good idea to impress the girls, so we broke our curfew. We snuck from our cabin and ran over to the bridge, which was a significant distance. When we got to the bridge, we stopped and sang “Good Night Ladies”, from our side of the bridge. As soon as we were done, we headed back to our cabins. As we ran across a field, near the beach area, we could see Pastor Smith standing, a long way off, on the porch of the mess hall.  He was an old, deep voiced, very proper, scary figure.  That scary figure was amplified by his backlit silhouette, as he stood on the porch.

When he saw our shadows as we ran by the lake in the moonlight, he shouted, “Stop, stop! . . . Come up here right now!”. Hmm, High School boys . . . an old man, unable to run . . . standing a long way off.   There was no way we were going to stop!

We made it back to our cabin and safely crawled into bed . . . or so we thought. The next day, at breakfast, Pastor Smith called us out on our harmless prank. He wanted to know who it was, that he saw the night before. No one replied.  He asked again, and still, not a word . . .  So all of the guys at camp, were punished for the disobedience act of a few.

As I read the about the city of Jericho falling before the people of Israel in the book of Joshua, an account of one individual’s disobedience was given. Because the result of that disobedience was recorded, I was given a picture of the heart and actions of God, as they took place. God responded like Pastor Smith . . . All of Israel suffered the consequences of one man’s sin, as did all the guys at Christian Life Camp.

As I meditated on that a bit, I became very uneasy as I considered how my disobedience, throughout my lifetime, may have affected others. As chilling as that was, the reality is, I can’t change my past; I can only strive to become more obedient to God in the future.

Lord, help me to consider the negative impact my sin has on others. I pray that I don’t live selfishly, but rather, live to make you smile as I strive to be obedient.  Thank You for sending Jesus to intervene, on my behalf, for my many shortcomings.  I’m so blessed that the earthly consequences of my sins, will have no standing in Your eternal kingdom.  Your willingness to be punished for my sin, has enabled me to stand, sinless before Your eternal, holy throne.  There is nothing that shouts, “I love you”, more than Your sinless life being put to death on behalf of my sinful life.  Words cannot express . . . !

Joshua 6:15  On the seventh day they . . . marched around the city in the same manner seven times . . . 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city . . . 17 . . . all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction  . . . 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.” 20 So the people . . . captured the city . . .

7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan . . . took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai (to scout out for battle) . . . 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men (went) . . . 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men . . . And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD Israel . . . 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all,  . . . to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? 11 Israel has sinned . . . they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.12 Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies . . . I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you . . .

16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, . . . 18 And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan . . . of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him.  And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” (biblegateway.com, ESV)

More than just a believer in God, I need to be a follower of Jesus!

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Wait & Trust

Years ago, I started writing material for a one-week summer ministry I’m involved in in Wikwemikong, on Manitoulin Island. I began writing, starting with . . . Genesis

Each year following, I continued to journey through the Old Testament, building a foundation for the Gospel.  One day of the week, I would jump to a New Testament story. That story would point to the fact that the Old Testament looked forward to Jesus and our need for forgiveness for our sin that could only come through Jesus.

At the time there were several other ministry teams that used the material I was writing.  I learned of several teams that wanted material from the New Testament . . . The New Testament stories dealt more directly with Jesus . . . And that’s what everyone really needs to hear about today.

As I thought through what was being said, I stumbled onto something I had never considered.  When Adam and Eve chose to sin, their immediate need was for a Savior . . . Yet they never saw that Savior.  All of the Old Testament people desperately needed a Savior, but “The Law” was what God provided them with.  Worse than that, there were 400 years of apparent silence, a time when God chose not to speak directly with His creation.  And then . . . at just the right time . . . Jesus!

Why did God wait so long to send Jesus?  Jesus is what the people needed . . . And those people weren’t just listen to pre-Jesus stories as Bible Stories . . . They were living them.

Throughout the Bible’s pages, God shouts, “Trust Me”.  The act of faith is demonstrated over time in things that sometimes don’t make sense to me. But if they don’t make sense to me, that’s ok.  What better way is there to demonstrate my faith than to wait and trust that God will work?  There is a reason that God didn’t begin the New Testament the minute after Adam chose to rebel. I must trust Him.

I think the event of Joshua 6 is a great illustration of faith.  It reveals a pretty odd battle plan . . . a plan that had “the men of war, marching around the walls of the city of their enemy without raising a weapon . . . not for one night, but for seven. I’m sure that God’s plan had the ‘men of war” engaged in some pretty lively discussions in their tents at night. Marching around the walls of Jericho . . . Wow . . . Each night, I imagine more and more of the people must have joined a chorus of, “Again?  Another night? Why is this taking so long?” God’s plan for them was . . . Wait . . . Just wait.  The obedience to the plan revealed their faith in Him.  The battle plan didn’t make sense, instead the plan revealed God’s power and the need to trust His plan.

God put the Old Testament into my hands to reveal His heart . . . my need . . . and His power to meet my need.  It’s interesting that when Jesus finally came, as written in the beginning of the New Testament, the people of that time were to lay down their old ways . . . to trust in Jesus alone to fight and win their battle over sin . . . and that’s what He asks of me.

Help me Lord to be patient and trust You, even when Your plan doesn’t make sense . . . Your people were left in awe when they listened to Your plan, and the walls of Jericho fell.  You, Lord, fought and won the battle as the “men of war” marched in obedience.  Like that, all of creation was left in awe, when the Savior was finally revealed to fight and win the battle over sin . . . Time was not an issue for You . . . My obedience to Your plan ensures victory over sin.  Help me to keep marching in faith.

Joshua 6:1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.

And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat,[a] and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.” And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.”  (biblegateway.com, ESV)

More than just a believer in God, I need to be a follower of Jesus!

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