Friday, July 21, 2017

"Eye Covenant"

Job 31.1, 7-8 NIV

“I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.”

“If my steps have turned from the path, if my heart has been led by my eyes, or if my hands have been defiled, then may others eat what I have sown, and may my crops be uprooted.”

I purchased my first iPhone a several years ago and took a crazy number of pictures.  It’s easy. Anytime the thought occurs to me, I press the camera app and capture the moment. 

The human brain functions like a camera. Our eyes are viewfinders. Once we’ve selected subject matter of interest, we fix our gaze and take a mental snapshot. It’s easy. Just point and shoot. The image makes an impression on our brain and we can pull it up anytime we choose. This photographic capacity of the human mind is amazing. If we direct our eyes toward that which uplifts and benefits us, we capture a cerebral image that will motivate us to achieve God’s best for our lives. For example, when I see a man treat his wife like a queen and his children with respect, I remember that. The idea is filed somewhere in my gray matter and reminds me to repeat that behavior with my own family.

There’s a danger also. If I am indiscriminate in my choice of subject matter, then, like Job, my “my heart has been led by my eyes.That’s not a good thing. My heart is my control center.[1] It should control my eyes, not the other way around. My heart is the operating system that makes everything else in my life work right. If my heart is “led by my eyes, marred by unwholesome images and past negative recollections, I set myself up for a fall. I must use caution in what I choose to look at or I will inhibit the flow of God in me and potentially destroy my life, as the Bible says...

“Watch over your heart with all diligence,
for from it flow the springs of life.”
Proverbs 4.23 NASB

In the words of Jesus…

“The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear,
your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole
body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you
is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Matthew 6.22-23 NASB  

Job “made a covenant with [his] eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.”

Q: Why would Job, or anyone, make a covenant with their eyes?
A: Clear eyes = clean heart = happy human = effective follower of Jesus.  

____________________

[1] The terms "heart," "mind," and "brain" are used interchangeably in this post.  In ancient Hebrew times, the concept of heart and mind were synonymous.  The notion that all internal human processes merge to form a singular concept is common in ancient literature of the middle east. 
"The thinking processes of man are said to be carried out by the heart. This intellectual activity corresponds to what would be called mind in English. Thus, the heart may think (Est 6:6), understand (Job 38:36), imagine (Jer 9:14), remember (Deut 4:9), be wise (Prov 2:10), and speak to itself (Deut 7:17). Decision-making is also carried out by the heart. Purpose (Acts 11:23), intention (Heb 4:12), and will (Eph 6:6) are all activities of the heart."
Quote from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, "Heart", copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

"Make a Difference"

The Almighty Dollar ain't that impressiveJob 29.2-6 “The Message”

Oh, how I long for the good old days, when God took such very good care of me. He always held a lamp before me and I walked through the dark by its light. Oh, how I miss those golden years when God's friendship graced my home, when the Mighty One was still by my side and my children were all around me,

When everything was going my way, and nothing seemed too difficult.

Contrary to prevailing opinion, most business owners I know are not single-mindedly committed to the pursuit of financial success. The “almighty dollar” is not the God they serve. Most people would rather “make a difference” than “make a buck.” A man solely committed to the pursuit of money is not a happy man. He sold his soul for a cheap replica of fulfillment and happiness.

Job was a man of high and noble intentions. He was dedicated to something infinitely more worthy than money. He wanted to make a difference in his community and leave the world a better place than he found it. It was not money he wanted, or the comfort, friends, and influence money could buy. Job longed to help people. He had the heart of a shepherd of souls, a pastor. In the midst of his most desperate suffering, Job cried for the return of “the good old days,” the times when…

“God took such very good care of me... everything was going my way,
and nothing seemed too difficult”

Why did Job want to return to the past? The obvious answer is those days were easier and more comfortable than his current affliction. But there’s more. In describing happier days, Job asserted...

This woman made a difference
“I was eyes to the blind and feet
to the lame, I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger, I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth. I was like one
who comforts mourners.”
Job 29.15-17, 25c NIV

Job cared for the plight of the blind, lame, needy, aliens, victims of abuse, and those in grief. His life had purpose and Job was happy.

The reflections of Job in the midst of his torment brings into focus the true purpose of a dedicated life… to serve others in need with the good news of Jesus Christ.

“Then the righteous will answer Him,
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty,
and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger,
and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
When did we see You sick, or in prison,
and come to You?’

The King will answer and say to them,
‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of
these brothers of Mine, even the least of them,
you did it to Me.’
Jesus, Matthew 25.37-40 NASU

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"The Sexy Christian"

Job 20.20 NKJV 

Dr. Ted and Diane Roberts“Because he knows no quietness in his heart, he will not save anything he desires.”

About ten years ago my wife and I experienced what some would call an ‘oxymoron.’ We attended a “Sexy Christian Seminar.” Is there such a thing a sexy Christian? Apparently, there is. Married, born-again, Bible-believing Christians can have great sex and great sex can get even better. Together with about 500 other attendees, we enjoyed three days and four hours of ‘R-rated’ Bible instruction at the feet of a super-dynamic Christian couple. Ted and Diane Roberts, who were nearing their 40th wedding anniversary, inspired, challenged and invited attendees to go deeper in their marriages. I literally wept and laughed my way through the lessons following which my better half and I put some of the material into immediate practice.

One of the seminar highlights was what the Robert’s called “Home Play,” combining the sexual term ‘foreplay’ and their expectation of ‘homework.’ (“Home Play”sounds better than “Fore Work.”) My wife and I were required to privately discuss answers to relationship questions after each session. It was wonderful to learn more about what motivates my dear woman. I rediscovered the joy of listening and found out she really, really likes it when I do. Our personal discussions were so enlightening that I caught myself admiring my wife and wondering, “How did I ever find such a fantastic woman?” I loved my wife and was always quite certain I was the luckiest man alive!

The Sexy Christian Conference wasn’t all fun and games. I had to do a little bit of hard work. I re-discovered what I already knew… a man’s anger is a royal turn-off to his wife. Even mild anger robs inner peace and sends out vibes that your mate wants nothing to do with.

Occasionally, I have an issue with anger. I don’t rant and rave and rage. I’m not a rage-oholic. You won’t catch me cursing and yelling and stomping around the house. But certain things do irritate me. I murmur inappropriate words under my breath in a traffic jam. You might hear me sigh heavily or whine a little when things don’t go my way. I can be easily annoyed and almost never keep my opinions to myself. It’s quite possible for me to grumble at a change in plans and if don’t get my morning coffee, well, you might want to steer clear. I can be just a little huffy. It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while even I think I act like a jerk. 

The worst part is, I seem to be getting worse as I age. Am I becoming a grumpy old man?  

I received a fresh insight from the Sexy Christian Seminar (which, by the way, was fully reinforced by my wife during Home Play). I learned a guy has a simple choice… he can act like a jerk or he can enjoy great sex but he probably can’t do both. Hmmm.

This morning I read my Bible and stumbled on this verse:

“Because he knows no quietness in his heart,
He will not save anything he desires.”
Job 20.20 NKJV

Clearly, high quality sexual intimacy with my wife was one of my fondest “desires.” Equally as obvious is the fact that even mild uncontrolled anger will rob a man of “quietness in his heart.” Allow me to paraphrase Job 20.20:

‘Because he is annoyed and irritable in his heart,
He will not enjoy the great sex with his wife.’

I found new motivation to correct this issue in my life. I am super thankful for…

  • the creativity of the Holy Spirit in revealing this truth to me.
  • the amazing patience of my wife during my slow learning curve.
  • the willingness of Ted and Diane Roberts to share candidly and transparently.

Thank you Ted and Diane.

____________________

Dr. Ted Roberts is a renowned pastor, author, speaker, and founder of Pure Desire Ministries International. He is also a co-recipient of the Telly Award for excellence in video and film production. I strongly and wholeheartedly recommend every married couple attend a Sexy Christian Conference near you. Find out more at http://www.puredesire.org/sexy/.

This is a re-post. Today my wife is with Jesus, having suffered and died from Leukemia at the young age of fifty. I wish I would have appreciated her more and better followed my own advice in this post when she was in good health. I loved my wife so very, very much, and I always will.   

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Speak Up or Shut Up"

Job 16.6 “The Message”

“When I speak up,
I feel no better;
if I say nothing,
that doesnt help either.” 

Nothing compares to the horror of Job’s plight, other than perhaps the sacrificial death of the Christ. Job lost it all… his possessions, his wealth, his children, his reputation, and finally his health. Even Job’s friends, who began their mission of mercy with an incredible display of understanding and sympathy, eventually added unbearable insult to Job’s tragic injury. They blamed him for his own demise. They held Job responsible for his pain and accused him of causing his own tortured story. Their advise was cheap and easy and, of course, entirely misguided.

What would Job do? Job’s mind and ability to form words were all he had left. Unfortunately it did not help to talk about it. Nor did Job benefit by remaining silent. Nothing worked to lessen the pain...

“When I speak up, I feel no better; if I say nothing, that doesn’t help either.”

On not-so-good days in some households, it’s either the ‘silent treatment’ or the ‘talk it to death’ approach. In Job’s case, the ‘no-talk’ rule certainly didn’t work. But talking about his problems also did not help.
 
Dr. Louann Brizendine, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, in her best-seller, The Female Brain (Morgan Road), claims, “A woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000.” This statistic seems to prove what my wife and I used to experience routinely. I once informed my wife of the research proving men use less words in a day than women. She was familiar with the statistics. I presented the idea hoping she would learn to accept my typical pattern of grunting when she wanted to talk. It’s normal for men to use far fewer words than women I argued. My wife answered, “That’s because women have to repeat everything we say to men.” I said, “What?” and proved her point.

I started talking more with my wife. She really liked that. For some reason, communication with me makes her happy, and I always reaped the benefits of my wife’s happiness. I was fortunate that a woman as intelligent as my wife wanted to talk to me.

My wife suffered from incurable cancer and died way too young. In the last few months of her life, I savored every moment of communication I could get with her. Those are days I shall never forget. 

Sometimes you have to talk things out. Other times it’s best to say nothing. Each situation demands a unique response. Poor Job. Neither talk or silence worked for him.

“When I speak up, I feel no better; if I say nothing, that doesn't help either.”

Occasionally, I relate to brother Job. When neither talk nor silence seem to work, I assume that’s a signal for me to wait and listen to God. Maybe God will bestow the same incredible gift my wife granted me every day of our beautiful courtship and marriage. Maybe He will condescend and speak to me like He eventually did to Job. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

"In Search of the American Jesus"

Job 12.16 NAS

“With Him are strength and sound wisdom, the misled and the misleader belong to Him.


No one can mislead without followers who are willing to be misled. Mis-leaders need mis-followers. Mis-leaders, using skillful leadership principles, create dysfunctional organizations and mis-management teams to insure the on-going success of the whole mis-adventure. God is bigger than all our conceptions about Him and how He would do things. “The misled and the misleader belong to Him.” But that does not stop us from trying to create bigger and worse ideas about who Jesus is. It’s called “totemism,” the human tendency to form a conception of God in our own image, and it’s as old as civilization itself.

“Human beings… take the values and traditions that we most admire about ourselves and project them onto a totem. Eventually, we stand in awe of that totem and end up worshiping an incarnation of the things we love about ourselves. As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘God created us in his image, and we decided to return the favor.’ ”[1]

The popular question “What would Jesus do?” can be very dangerous. Its answer depends entirely on who Jesus is. Strong leaders who invent Jesus in their own image form faulty conclusions and mislead others in their experiment of faith. Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution, had a personal experience with this scary idea while on a short-term mission trip...

“…a group of children were preparing a skit from the gospel story they had read. They came up to me and said, ‘Shane, we need you to play Jesus, because you are white and from America.’ Ouch! God forgive us. Buddy Jesus has become a white American resembling Mr. Rogers.”[2]

Totem Pole by Tripleman
Sometimes we act just like the children preparing for a skit. We allow ourselves to become easily misled. Our continual search for the American Jesus who fits our image of who He should be makes us vulnerable to any mis-leader with a so-called new and better vision. Mis-leadership does not always happen intentionally. We want so badly to perpetuate a notion of Jesus who approves of the lifestyle we adopt and wish to maintain that we easily deafen ourselves to the true voice of Him who said, “Follow Me.”

Thankfully, both “the misled and the misleader belong to Him.” I trust the real Jesus will stand up every day and reveal Himself in stark contrast to the Jesus I want Him to be.

_______________

[1] The Irresistible Revolution ~ living as an ordinary radical, Shane Claiborne, Zondervan, 2006, p. 112.

[2] Ibid. p. 112f.

The painting of Jesus with a tie is called "The Conformist" (alkyd on canvas, 12" x 16", 2003) by Clifford Davis B.A. Hamilton College, M.F.A. Cranbrook Academy of Art. Mr. Davis is a faculty member at Rivier College in Nashua, New Hamshire, and kindly gave me permission to use his painting on this post.

The image"Totem Pole" was shot by photographer Tripleman at Brockton Point in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia (http://www.tripleman.com/index.php?showimage=107).

Friday, July 14, 2017

"From Womb to Tomb"

Job 10.18-22 NASB

from womb...“Why then hast Thou brought me out of the womb? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me! I should have been as though I had not been, carried from womb to tomb.

Would He not let my few days alone? Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer before I go — and I shall not return — To the land of darkness and deep shadow; the land of utter gloom as darkness itself, of deep shadow without order, and which shines as the darkness.”

Have you heard about the luckiest baby alive? According to an ABC channel 4 news report in Ogden Utah, Isabella Rose Mecham was born on July 7th, 7:07 a.m. at Ogden Regional Medical Center in Utah and weighed in at, you guessed it, 7 pounds, 7 ounces.[1] On 7-7-07 at 7:07 and 7 lbs, 7 oz. That’s more than seven 7’s! Even if you don’t believe in luck, still you have to admit, that was pretty lucky for for the Mecham household.

Job wasn’t that lucky. For Job, life was a short gulp of fresh air between two bottomless oceans of dark nothingness. He begged God to leave him alone so he could die in peace. “Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer before I go… to the land of darkness and deep shadow.” Both Job and his advisors agreed…

“Life is but breath… When the cloud vanishes, it is gone.”
“Our days on earth are a shadow.”
Job 7.7-8; 8.9

In his despair, Job hoped God would shorten his hard life on planet earth. He actually wished he had never been born. If Job had his way, he would have been stillborn, carried directly “from womb to tomb.”

...to tombHave you felt like Job: “I should have been as though I had not been?” Like the rebellious teenager who argued with his dad, “I didn’t ask to be born!” and the exasperated father’s response, “If you had, the answer would’ve been ‘No!’”

Life is not always easy for anyone. No one gets out of here without a little (or in some cases a lot of) suffering. Young and old, rich and poor, male and female, present and past, natural born and aliens. Everyone suffers. Some think they’d be better off dead or never born. “At least a million people are estimated to die annually from suicide worldwide.” [2] Even Job felt forced to admit “...my soul would choose suffocation, death rather than my pains” (Job 7.15).

What we know about Job, however, is that while he may have wished himself dead, Job did not choose to end his life. He waited patiently for the mercy and compassion of God to alleviate his suffering and, ultimately, that’s exactly what God did.

“You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of
the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
James 5.11

None of us, including Isabella Rose, the luckiest baby alive, had the option of selecting our own birth date, or birth time, or birth weight. Nobody ever asked to be born. It was not our choice. The option of heading directly “from womb to tomb” was never ours to select. In times of suffering, we can only acknowledge our pain, then pray and wait for the mercy and compassion of Jesus. It came for Job. It will come for you and me.
______________

[1] I originally found the story about Isabella Rose Mecham and her birthday experience at http://www.abc4.com/content/features/story.aspx?contentid=647acdaa-ffd8-4e0e-b4bf-73378b5fbbd1 on July 13, 2007. It is no longer posted there.

[2] "Global suicide rates among young people aged 15-19", World Psychiatry, Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), June 2005, 4(2): 114-120 quoting from Bertolote JM. "Suicide in the world: an epidemiological overview", 1959-2000. In: Wasserman D, editor. Suicide - an unnecessary death. London: Dunitz; 2001. pp. 3–10.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Through All This"

Job 1.22 NAS

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

Somewhere around two thousand years before the birth of Christ there lived a very influential man. He was “the greatest of all men of the east” (Job 1.3) and his name was Job. Job was a good man “fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1.1).

Tragedy befell this good man. He lost all his money and possessions. His seven children died in a hurricane. Then he was stricken with “boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2.7). If this was not bad fortune enough, his wife urged Job, “Curse God and die” (Job 2.9). He sat in a pile of ashes scraping the oozing sores of his diseased body with the fragment of a broken clay pot (Job 1.8). Job was a broken man. Yet,...


Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God”.

I’ve lost a lot of money but never all of it. Some of my seven children went astray for a while, but I’ve never had a child die and go away forever. I’ve been sick but giant boils have not yet covered my body. My wife has never advised me to deny God nor wished me dead. I’ve had plenty of bruises and taken my share of stitches, but I never had to scrape my bloody skin with a dirty piece of broken glass. I’ve been depressed but I never sat in a pile of ashes.

If I had been Job, I probably would have sinned and blamed God. I may even have agreed to “curse God and die” (Job 2.9). But not Job…

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

Broken pots and pieces from Shea's Gallery on PicasaNone of my troubles have ever compared to those of Job’s. Nevertheless, I have sinned and blamed God for much lesser adversity. I’m not even as sympathetic as Job’s much maligned three friends. They wept out of pity for Job. I can’t remember the last time I cried for the misfortune of a hurting friend. Job’s friends tore their clothes and “threw dust over their heads” (Job 2.13) to identify in some small way with Job’s grief. I’ve never done that. And most amazing of all…

“Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”
Job 2.13 NASU

Seven days! I’m lucky to spare fifteen minutes for a sick friend in the hospital and probably never went more than thirty seconds without talking. Job’s friends were more sympathetic than I will ever be and Job’s suffering is greater than any I will ever endure. I am inspired by a man who could wait for the mercy of God in the midst of his pain.

“You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of
the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”
James 5.11 NASU

Job and his friends offer me two lessons:
  1. Learn to suffer with more dignity and less whining.
  2. Learn to better empathize and comfort my hurting friends.
No one gets out of this life without some suffering. “Through all this” I need to stop complaining and accept my minor suffering with courage and grace. I thank God for historical mentors like Job and his friends who help us get “through all this” whatever “all this” may be.

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God”.

__________________

"Broken pot and pieces" is from Shea Lemley's Gallery on Picasa's Web Albums (http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/k2cr3xhQOLxiHM58hBJP0w). The image has been flipped and slightly tinted.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Be Careful When You Correct Your Wife"

Esther 7.5-6 AMP

“Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he who dares presume in his heart to do that?’

And Esther said, ‘An adversary and an enemy, even this wicked Haman.’

Then Haman was afraid before the king and queen.”

“I was wrong.” These are undoubtedly the three hardest-to-declare words in the English language. Try them on for size and you’ll see what I mean. I had an opportunity to say them a few years ago. My wife, Adonica, brought something interesting to read to the kids and me after dinner. It was a Fox news article.[1] Here’s an excerpt:
“It was a ginormous year for the wordsmiths at Merriam-Webster. Visitors to the Springfield-based dictionary publisher’s Web site picked ‘ginormous’ as their favorite word that’s not in the dictionary in 2005, and Mirriam-Webster editors have spotted it in countless newspaper and magazine articles since 2000. That’s essentially the criteria for making it into the collegiate dictionary – if a word shows up often enough in mainstream writing, the editors consider defining it. ‘There will be linguistic conservatives who will turn their nose up at a word like “ginormous,”’ said John Morse, Merriam-Webster's president. ‘But it’s become a part of our language. It's used by professional writers in mainstream publications. It clearly has staying power.’”
This article was significant because I once corrected my wife on the use of this word. She described an event as “ginormous” and, in front of the children, I said, “There is no such word as ‘ginormous.’ ” I knew I was taking my chances. My wife is literally almost always right. But I was certain I had her this time. How could I have known that at the very moment I was correcting my dear wife, Merriam-Webster was adding “ginormous” to the next edition of their Collegiate Dictionary? This was a clear case of the providential humor of God. I was forced to admit I was wrong.

Haman was also wrong and he picked the wrong people to annihilate. Haman did not reckon with the Providence of God.[2] His plan to destroy the Jews was a political blunder of ‘ginormous’ proportions and set the stage for his own demise. Imagine his shock and terror as “they covered Haman’s face” and led him to the gallows he had built for Queen Esther’s cousin, Mordecai (Esther 7.8-10).

Thankfully my mistake was not as serious as Haman’s. My kids had a good chuckle, at my expense, of course, when Adonica produced and read the article about Mirriam-Webster’s new word. The consequences of my wrong were minor and I hope, by the ‘ginormous’ grace of Jesus, to keep it that way.
__________________

[1] “New dictionary includes‘ginormous’”, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/books/2007-07-10-dictionary-new-words_N.htm?csp=34.

[2] No reference to “God” is made in the book of Esther, however God’s providential care and protection for His people is evident throughout the book.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Ask Why"

Esther 4.5 KJV

“Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king's chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was.”

The book of Esther is a fascinating story of the Jewish nation exiled in the land of Persia nearly five centuries before the birth of Christ. King Ahasuerus was tricked by his friend and high ranking advisor, Haman, into issuing an edict for the destruction of the Jews. By the providence of God and the courage of Esther, the queen of Persia and a Jewess herself, God’s people were miraculously saved from Haman’s awful plan.

Upon hearing of Haman’s scheme, Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin and caretaker from her youth, “wailed loudly and bitterly” (Esther 4.1) and Queen Esther “writhed with great anguish” (Esther 4.4). She demanded to know… what it was and why it was” that these things were happening.

The “what” was easy... the Jews would be destroyed. The “why” was not so evident. If Esther could understand why her people faced extinction, maybe she could put a stop to the terrible event.

Look around you. It becomes quickly obvious “what” is happening. The condition of the world, the plight of the poor, the health of the nation, the issues at hand, and the state of affairs. It’s all there for you to observe. If you open your eyes and ears you will learn “what” people think, “what” they want, and “what” they need. The “what” is not hard to know if you want to know it.

The “why” is another matter. When you know why things are the way they are, then you really know something. Until you know “why” you can’t make a lasting difference.

Queen Esther demanded to know both what it was, and why it was.” She was a woman of great beauty and courage who determined to know “what” was happening to her people. She was also a woman of great wisdom who demanded to know “why” these things were so. Knowledge of the “why” gave Esther the power to do something about the grave matter at hand.

It takes courage to face reality and decide to know “what” is so. It takes wisdom to develop an understanding of “why” what is so. Determining “what” is going on inside and around me is not so hard. Knowing “why” these things are so, is not as easy.

I must ask myself and others “why?” more often.

Monday, July 10, 2017

"Leaders Stand for Something"

Nehemiah 13.7-9 NLT

“When I arrived back in Jerusalem, I learned about Eliashib's evil deed in providing Tobiah with a room in the courtyards of the Temple of God. 

I became very upset and threw all of Tobiah's belongings out of the room. 

Then I demanded that the rooms be purified, and I brought back the articles for God's Temple,…”

Nehemiah was a leader. He stood for something and took appropriate action. He was passionate, even angry. By his own admission:


“I became very upset and threw all of Tobiahbelongings out of the room.”

Nehemiah wasn’t nice. Unlike most politicians, Governor Nehemiah did care about being perceived as polite or relevant. His faith mattered enough to take a take a chance and make a stand. Compare the actions of Nehemiah with one current, popular understanding of faith by a noted Unitarian minister:

Universalists believe that every human being needs to be absolutely free to follow his or her own conscience. We’re known as the uncommon denomination because we are a free faith. There is nothing that you have to believe. You don’t have to sign on the dotted line to believe a specific thing. But your faith is so important that you are required to pursue your own beliefs.”[1]

According to Universalists, “there is nothing you have to believe,” yet somehow “your faith is so important that you are required to pursue your own beliefs.” So, if I choose to believe nothing I am “required to pursue” nothing because of how “so important” my faith in nothing really is. The concept is confusing and uninspiring. I’d rather believe in something than nothing. 

Nehemiah put his faith “on the dotted line to believe a specific thing.” He actually believed the Temple of God should remain undefiled. It was not OK with Nehemiah that the pagan leader Tobiah should be allowed a room in God’s house. Was Eliashib “absolutely free to follow his own conscience” and, as a Temple priest, authorized to offer a room in the Temple to anyone he wanted? Not according to the governor. When Nehemiah found out he “became very upset and threw all of Tobiah’s belongings out of the room.” Nehemiah made no popularity points with Eliashib or Tobiah and their friends. Nevertheless, Nehemiah was a leader, and he stood for something.

Leaders necessarily risk offending those who disagree. That’s the price you pay for having an opinion and sharing it.

Nearly two millennia ago a great leader bravely claimed to be “the way, and the truth, and the life.” He was audacious enough to announce, “No one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14.6). He stood for and required something of the people who bore His name:

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, 
he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me”.
Mark 8.34 NASU

Jesus Christ was and remains to be a leader worth believing in, following, and taking a stand for.
___________________

[1] Quotation from the article “Unitarians’ faith (or not) on view”, by writer Nancy Haught, The Oregonian, June 23, 2007.

Friday, July 07, 2017

"How to Avoid Back-Seat-Drivers"

Seek Truth by eyepanda (http://s182.photobucket.com/albums/x312/eyepanda/)
Nehemiah 9.26-27a
Holman Christian Standard Bible

“But they were disobedient and rebelled against You. They flung Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who warned them to turn them back to You. They committed terrible blasphemies. So You handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them.”

My wife and I were driving after dark to a party one night before the days of GPS. I thought I knew the way, but I was wrong. Help, in the form of a map, was at my fingertips but I, of course, did not require a map. I was confident (proud) I could get to the party under my own guidance and was too busy (lazy) to plot my route with the use of a road atlas. After I became hopelessly lost, my dear wife offered some kind (direct) advise: “Why don’t you stop and ask for directions?” I hate those words.

Our final destination is a party in heaven. We drive through life in the dark thinking we know best how to get there and refusing to admit we’re lost. If we fail to seek truth from God’s road map (the Bible), it will take us longer to get to the party. Because He still wants to help us, God sends prophetic road signs and even a few back-seat-drivers. Hopefully we listen and avoid dead ends, wrong turns, and car wrecks along the way.

We encounter truth in two dimensions. The quiet, hidden and passive dimension is an untapped resource. This truth must be sought and discovered. First dimension truth is contained in the Bible and embodied in the person of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14.6). This is invitational truth offered gently by a loving Lord about whom it is said, “If you seek Him, He will let you find Him” (1st Chronicles 28.9; 2nd Chronicles 15.2 ).

Our second dimension experience with reality is blatant and demands an immediate response. It contains the truth (whether you believe it or not) and delivers the truth (whether you want it or not). It’s a fully avoidable, last resort, prophetic truth taking the form of back-seat-drivers and harsh circumstances designed to help us to our knees in humble admission of personal limitations.

God is relentless about truth delivery because He loves us. Yet, God’s people have always rebelled against both dimensions of truth:
  • The “law” and the “prophets”
  • The road map and the back-seat-drivers
  • The Bible and circumstantial realities
The ancient Jews were forced to hear from the “prophets” because they did not pay attention to the written “law.” If I don’t want to hear from back-seat-drivers (and I don’t), I’should consult the map. If I want to be a first dimension Christian (and I do), I’d must find the truth before it crashes down upon me.
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The black and white image "Seek Truth" is by eyepanda whose very interesting photography may be seen at http://s182.photobucket.com/albums/x312/eyepanda/.