Wednesday, April 14, 2021

"I Got Noticed!"

Ruth 2.10 NKJV

“So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?’ 


The Bible says Boaz noticed Ruth when she “just happened to end up in… the field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2.3). The literal Hebrew reads: “her chance chanced upon” his field. According to The NET Bible study notes:

“The text is written from Ruth's limited perspective. As far as she was concerned, she randomly picked a spot in the field. But God was providentially at work and led her to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who, as a near relative of Elimelech, was a potential benefactor.”[1]

It was no accident that Ruth found herself gleaning in the field of Boaz and it was not accidental that Boaz noticed Ruth. We romanticize the text but the book of Ruth is not primarily a love story between an rich man and a lovely Moabitess virgin. If Ruth’s beauty was so captivating that Boaz couldn’t help but to notice her, then Ruth’s relative closer than Boaz may have claimed her for himself (see Ruth, chapter 4).
 
Let’s examine the historical context. There was a famine. The immigrants from Moab were verging on starvation. Ruth was probably horribly skinny with sunken eyes, weather-beaten skin, and baggy, torn clothes. She couldn’t afford expensive, guaranteed-to-attract-a-man make-up. Limited sexual electricity there. Gleaning was hard work. Ruth was a foreigner, impoverished, homely, dirty, and covered in sweat. 

There was no good reason for an upstanding wealthy Israelite like Boaz to notice Ruth. Yet notice her he did. Boaz noticed Ruth for the same reason she chose to glean in his field… God was orchestrating the entire story. It was no accident. It was providential.
 
I’m like Ruth. No great catch. Nothing special to look at, but Jesus noticed me. I caught His eye. It was no accident I became a child of God. I did not stumble into this divine relationship. I was part of His plan. He directed my steps. He conceived and wrote the story of Ruth and the story of Dave. He redeemed me. I was and still am under the watchful eye and providential care of Jesus.

“A man's steps are directed by the Lord.”
Proverbs 20.24 NIV

“…no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father”
Jesus, John 6.65 NASU

I didn’t make it happen, God did. I was on a journey gleaning my way through life when I “just happened” to land in Christ’s barley field. For reasons I shall never fully understand, He noticed me and chose to have me as His own.
______________

[1] The New English Translation (NET Bible) ®, Copyright © 1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., Dallas, Texas, www.bible.org. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

The painting at upper right is titled Les Glaneuses (The Gleaners, 1857) by Jean-François Millet who was part of the Realism Movement that began in France in the 1850's.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

"The Ambush"

Judges 20.29-30, 37, 42 Amplified Bible

So Israel set men in ambush round about Gibeah. And the Israelites went up against the Benjamites on the third day and set themselves in array against Gibeah as at other times.”

“And the men in ambush quickly rushed upon Gibeah, and the liers-in-wait moved out and smote all the city with the sword.”

“Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel and fled toward the wilderness, but the battle followed close behind and overtook them; and the inhabitants of the cities destroyed those [Benjamites] who came through them in their midst.”


Sin is very tricky business. It’s impossible to sin just a little, especially for any length of time. The devil’s strategy includes plans for your complete destruction. Don’t be fooled. You can be easily lulled into tolerating an acceptable level of sin only to discover there’s no such thing. You are quickly swept into the power of your enemy, engulfed by the flames of fire you meant only to touch.

The tribe of Benjamin had two military victories under its belt. This day would be no different. Benjamin’s fighters would chase and defeat the men of Israel as before. But this time Israel set an ambush. As Benjamite warriors left Gibeah to pursue fleeing Israelites, those in hiding sneaked into town and burned it to the ground. The smoke of their victory signaled Israel to turn on their attackers. Benjamin was caught in an ambush, surrounded on almost every side. Benjamin’s soldiers were out of options and “fled toward the wilderness” where they were slaughtered by more Israelites secretly waiting there for them.

Sin has a way of drawing us outside the protective walls of our inner city. While chasing our pleasures, something inside of us dies. We violate our integrity. We stray too far from home and get caught in a spiritual ambush between our sinful desires and the loss of self. We’re forced into the wilderness where we die at the hands of our souls’ enemy. The “wages of sin(Romans 6.23) and Satan’s plan are the same... death!

There is another way. Stand still. Don’t be fooled by the temptations of the evil one. Never play with the fire of sin. Refuse to be lured into open interaction with the enemy. That’s a set up for a spiritual ambush. There’s nothing for you out there. Press into Jesus. Stay close to center of His will. Avoid the boundaries of permissive behavior. Don’t peer over the edge of holy living to imagine your life in the chasm of sin. Run to  Jesus. He’ll fight your battles for you.

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord
will bring you today... The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Exodus 14.13-14 NIV

Monday, April 12, 2021

"Thanks Ned"

Judges 18.27-28 NIV

“Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a peaceful and unsuspecting people. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob.

The people of Dan felt squeezed. They were the last tribe to roll the dice for an inheritance in Canaan. Stuck between four other tribes, Dan got the property leftovers. Besides being the smallest portion of land, “the Danites had difficulty taking possession of their territory” (Joshua 19.40-48). Apparently the original inhabitants were hard to dislodge. So the leaders of Dan sent six hundred warriors to locate a less protected piece of real estate. Israelite spies found Laish at the northern tip of Palestine “where they saw that the people were living in safety,… unsuspecting and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else” (Judges 18.7).

Perfect! Just what the soldiers of Dan were looking for. The people of Laish thought they were secure and “living in safety.” They were “prosperous” and “lacked nothing,” but they were also naïve and “unsuspecting.”

False security is easily breached. Laish had no idea what was about to happen. They lost everything and it could have been avoided. Laish could have developed allies of neighboring cities for just such a time as this. Instead they were all alone and “had no relationship with anyone else.” This made the city an easy target for war-savvy Israelites. Laish was destroyed “with the sword and burned” to the ground.

I attended a dance at my high school somewhere around 1968. A couple of long haired guys from another school cornered me and I felt threatened. Ned noticed my plight. He quietly strolled over and asked if everything was all right. Ned was a big guy. He was a lineman for the Ingraham High School football team and best of all, Ned was my friend. The bullies quickly got the picture and vanished. Thank you Ned.

Laish had no such friend. Do you? There will come a time when you wish you did. -

Friday, April 09, 2021

"Love Can Say No"

Judges 14.1-3 NLT

“One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, ‘A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.’

His father and mother objected. ‘Isn't there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry?’ they asked. ‘Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?’

But Samson told his father, ‘Get her for me! She looks good to me.’

Young Samson needed a strong dose of the “N” word. His parents were too permissive. What Sammy wanted, Sammy got. It did not matter who was inconvenienced or hurt. If it ‘caught his eye’ and ‘looked good’ to Samson, he made a fuss until he got what he wanted. Mom and dad weren’t strong enough to just say “No.”

In his best seller No: Why Kids - of All Ages - Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It [1], author David Walsh writes a chapter on “Self-Esteem: Kids Need the Real Thing.” He proposes a “Self-Esteem Quiz” reprinted below.  --

Self-Esteem Quiz Answer the following questions Yes or No, depending on whether you think these efforts will help Adam build positive self-esteem.

  1. Adam’s parents praise his performance regardless of the effort.
  2. Adam’s teacher never uses a “red pencil” because he doesn’t want Adam to feel that his work is not good enough.
  3. Adam learns songs and reads books that remind him how special he is.
  4. Mom praises Adam for any effort on chores around the house.
  5. Adam’s parents steer him away from things that might frustrate or discourage him.
  6. When Adam’s teacher corrected him, his parents got upset and called the teacher to complain that she was hurting his self-esteem.
  7. Adam’s parents tell him not to pay attention to what other people think and that “the important thing is to please yourself.”
  8. Adam is learning the most important goal is to “feel good about yourself.”
  9. Adam’s parents don’t want him to feel guilty because they’re afraid that would hurt his self-esteem.
  10. Adam learns that if he loves himself, he will be successful.

“All the above answers should be No because none of these actions will build Adam’s real self-esteem” according to Dr. Walsh. He goes on to describe three self-esteem myths…
---

-----Myth 1: Self-Esteem Comes First and Leads to Success ---
-----Myth 2: Self-Esteem = Feeling Good ---
-----Myth 3: Stress, Challenge, and Disappointment Damage Self-Esteem.


Samson was called and empowered by God to lead Israel for twenty years. But this man’s existence was destined to become a series tragic episodes. He was an “R-rated” guy. Sex and violence dominated his life. He demanded the pleasure of unfaithful women and killed more than his fair share of ruthless men. Samson spent the last days of his life in a Philistine prison and died a violent and horrible death.

Imagine how much better life would have been for Samson if he had heard “No” more often as a child. Denying kids their every wish will not hurt their self-esteem. False affirmations, permissive parenting, and over-attentiveness are more likely to endanger a child’s self-esteem than catering to their every whim. Self-esteem isn’t free. It doesn’t come in a bottle.

If you want to help a child increase self-esteem, make it real. Give him age-appropriate opportunities to earn it. Earned success always leads to positive self-esteem. The stress, challenges, and disappointments on the road to success are a necessary part of that journey.

Don’t be afraid to say “No” to your child... or to yourself the next time you’re acting like one.
________________

[1] No: Why Kids – of All Ages – Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It, David Walsh, PhD, Free Press – A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2007, pp.57-79.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

"Midolescence"

Judges 12.2-3 NIV

“Jephthah answered, ‘I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn't save me out of their hands. When I saw that you wouldn't help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave me the victory over them.’”

I’ve known some fifty year old adolescents. I call them midolescents, people who never quite grew up. They still depend on others for their safety, happiness, and success. When they don’t get what they need, adult-children blame others. Aging parents are favorite targets of forty, fifty, or sixty year old children. Presumably, if their parents had been more (or less) attentive or indulgent; stricter or more permissive; kinder, nicer, more understanding and qualified, the child, who is now an adult, would be a well-rounded human being. The adult-child’s stressors, conflicts, traumas, disappointments, and failures are mom and dad’s fault (or anyone besides his or her own). Character flaws are not an occasion for the hard work of personal growth, but rather an opportunity to point fingers. 

Jephthah was the 10th judge in Israel (according to the biblical record if you count Barak and Abimelech, but not Eli). He ruled Israel for six years about eleven hundred years before the birth of Christ. 

If anyone had cause to blame his upbringing, it was Jephthah. Jephthah was the son of a prostitute. His father’s wife and other sons kicked Jephthah out of the home despising him as “the son of another woman” (Judges 11.2). Jephthah hung out with the wrong crowd, “worthless fellows” (Judges 11.3) and, having good reason to point the finger at his family of origin, could have remained a child for the remainder of his life. Instead, this man of God (as imperfect as he was) took hold of one important truth… 

No one was going to help Jephthah. 

If he was to better himself, he better do it himself.

This attitude gave Jephthah fierce confidence to lead Israel in a successful rebellion against the Ammonites and their eighteen year reign of tyranny. His unhappy childhood became an asset. It taught Jephthah self-reliance, a character trait that catapulted him to the top rung of Israel’s political ladder.

Jephthah asked for help in his war against the Ammonites, but when help was not forthcoming, he refused to whine or blame others. The judge of Israel simply took charge: “When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands… and the Lord gave me the victory.”

It may be time to grow up. You don’t need to depend on anyone else for your safety, happiness, or success. Stop pointing the finger of blame and, taking full control of your life, affirm with Jephthah:

“I took my life in my hands... and the Lord gave me the victory.”

We all need a loving community of faith, but that starts with Jesus and you. He is more than enough. Jesus is the only savior you need.
__________________

Check out over 1,000 pictures at "Idioms by Kids" (http://www.idiomsbykids.com/). This is where I found the I found the clever "Grow Up" image.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

"Your Bed Never Looked So Good"

Judges 8.4-5 NASB

“Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. And he said to the men of Succoth, ‘Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.’”


Gideon was a man with a mission. He was fully intent on the capture of “Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” Nothing could deter him. With total abandon, the judge of Israel would not rest until the leaders of Midian were brought to justice.

Yet rest he must. His energy had limits. Even if he could go on, Gideon had three hundred troops to think of. These men were absolutely exhausted. They had the vision. They were invested in the mission. They shared the dream. Gideon’s warriors wanted Zebah and Zalmunna as badly as Gideon did. But they were tired and exhausted. Gideon and his soldiers were driven by a mission embedded in their corporate soul, but they were also at the end of their physical strength. 

The Bible describes Gideon’s experience as “weary yet pursuing.” Did you ever fall into bed entirely exhausted? You couldn’t even brush your teeth or put on your pajamas. You were so utterly spent you fell asleep before your fully clothed body hit the bed. You ran out of strength and were forced to quit by the sheer absence of energy. Your mission was too far out of reach, your resources depleted, and the pursuit of your dream was beyond your capacity to perform. 

Gideon and his band of three hundred were done, but they would not quit. They could rest later. But for now they had a job to do, a mission to complete.

You can rest later. Embody the spirit of Gideon. Capture his motivation… “weary yet pursuing.”
_________________

Photographer Salbjörg Rita Jónsdóttir (Dalla) from Iceland captured this wonderful and cute shot of a child sleeping and called it "exhausted". She graciously gave me permission to place this image on my blog. View her work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dallaportfolio/ and http://www.dalla.is/.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

"March On!"

Judges 4.2-3, 24 NASU

Pain photo from www.disaboom.com“…Jabin king of Canaan… oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years.”


“The hands of the sons of Israel pressed heavier and heavier upon Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin the king of Canaan.”


Twenty years is a long time, especially long when living in servitude under the oppressive reign of a cruel dictator like “Jabin the king of Canaan.”  
Substitute any cruel dictator’s name for Jabin… Pharaoh, Herod, Nero, Stalin, Hitler, Ayotallah Kohomeini, Edi Amin, Saddam Hussein. History is filled with political bullies and murderers. 

Oppression can be psychological, as well as political. Many people live under the mental bondage resulting from dark and unhappy memories of the past. Broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, dashed hopes, desperate times, untrue friends, physical suffering, prolonged illness, family loss, financial despair, unresolved conflicts, open hostilities, mountainous debt, unyielding boredom, chronic pain… can weigh a soul down until it crumbles under the cruel and relentless pressure of mental oppression. Decades pass and the roots of hopelessness take firm grasp in the soil of a broken heart.

How did “the sons of Israel” overcome their oppressor? Where did Deborah, “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5.7), find the strength to lead Israel out from under the heavy hand of tyranny? What did it take to inspire a down-trodden nation to press “heavier and heavier upon Jabin the king of Canaan” until its people reversed the balance of power?

I found a little secret in the text of Deborah’s victory song:

“O my soul, march on with strength.”
Judges 5.21c

Sometimes you must simply command your soul to “march on.” There are no other answers. Refuse despair. Hang on to hope. Eventually, personal resolve weighs “heavier and heavier” than the oppression you face.

Trust Jesus and make yourself… “march on!”
____________________

I found the black and white photograph entitled "Pain" at Disaboom - Live Forward community dedicated to "connecting the millions touched by disability".

Monday, April 05, 2021

"Learn War"

Judges 3.1-2 NASU

Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is, all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly).

There is one thing every believer must learn… war.

The Lord did not drive the nations of Canaan from the land of promise until inexperienced “sons  of Israel might be taught war.” War was a reality for Jews over a millennium before the birth of Christ. It is still a reality for every believer. 

Jesus said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”  (Matthew 10.34). We have dragons to slay, demons to crush, battles to win, ground to gain, and war to learn. We must face the enemy, engage in conflict, and learn to fight for our inheritance.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.”
Ephesians 6.12 The NET Bible

The difficult situations and persons in your life are there for a purpose. God will not remove them for us. Hard realities and challenges exist for the same reason the nations in the land of Canaan existed 3,400 years ago… that you “might be taught war.”

Yes, there are 'problem people,' but people are not the problem. Don’t make them the enemy. As Paul warned, your “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against... spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” The battle between good and evil exists primarily within ourselves. Externalizing evil by blaming others can actually create more evil of the kind we are trying to eradicate and compound the problems we hope to fix.   

The battle is in your mind. That’s where Satan directs his primary assault. Overcome him there. Nobody gets out of this life alive. Your time on earth will end as promised in the Word of God: “…it is appointed for mortals to die once” (Hebrews 9.27). Go out fighting for causes worth dying for.
________________

"The Archangel Michael" is on display at Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins in Rome and was painted by Italian Baroque painter Guido Reni in 1635.

Friday, April 02, 2021

"Be a Decision-Maker"

Joshua 23.11 HCSB 

“So be very diligent to love the LORD your God for your own well-being.”

If love is a natural thing… ------

     …then love should happen naturally. But it doesn’t just ‘happen’ for me.


If love is primarily romance…
 -------
     …then falling in love is easy and somewhat beyond my control. It takes no effort. Those times are rare.


If love is about sex…
-------
     …then love becomes mostly self-serving and can be addictive. There’s something not quite right about that.


If love is a feeling…
-------
     …then it comes and goes, ebbs and flows like all my other feelings. This kind of love is not predictable, reliable, or consistent.


If love is what I have only with friends…
 -------
     …then it is limited to my social circle and just for those people with whom I easily relate. Most of the world is excluded.


If love is about my performance…
 -------
     ...then some days I deserve the love I’m shown. Most days I don’t. I cannot always perform at peak levels.


If love is social and political action…
 -------
     …then there is never an end to the need for love. My limitation in the face the overwhelming need will cripple my efforts to love.


If only God is capable of real love…
 -------
     …then don’t expect any from me. God and me are radically different.


But, If love is a choice…
 -------
     …then I have a decision to make.


Jesus made the decision to love. He paid the price for that decision on the cross. There was nothing romantic or self-serving about His love. It wasn’t natural. It didn’t feel good. It transcended all we usually associate with the concept of love. Jesus died for everyone, not just his friends. His death was not a political statement. It did not advance a cause or establish a new order of social justice. The sacrifice of His life did not showcase Christ’s talent or impress His enemies. 

Jesus made a decision to lay down His life. He didn’t have to do it. He made the conscious choice to love. It was His decision to make.

“…I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it
down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
John 10.17-18 NKJV

I am faced with  a decision to “be very diligent to love the LORD” and to love others in His name. If I am called to love, I must make the decision to do so. I must become a decision-maker.

Thursday, April 01, 2021

"Don't Be a Little Piggy"

Joshua 19:8b-9 “The Message”

“This is the inheritance of the tribe of Simeon according to its clans. 

The inheritance of Simeon came out of the share of Judah, because Judah’s portion turned out to be more than they needed. 

That’s how the people of Simeon came to get their lot from within Judah’s portion.”

I lived at Haggett Hall dormitory on the University of Washington campus in 1970 where most students were never late for ‘Steak Night’ at the dormitory cafeteria. When the catering staff ran low on steaks, they substituted hamburger patties. If you came early and ate fast and were just a little lucky, you might get seconds on steak before ‘gristle patties’ were served to latecomers. ‘First come first serve’ ruled in the dining room. I ate more than my fair share of seconds on steak. I never felt quite right about it, but the lure of sirloin was too strong. I was a little steak piggy.

Look at a map of the twelve tribes of Israel in the back of your study Bible. Notice Simeon landlocked by Judah in southern Palestine? Judah was the first tribe to receive its property allotment on the west side of the Jordan River (Joshua 15.1ff). The order of land distribution was determined by the casting of lots. Being first, Judah was accidentally given more land than necessary or equitable. By Simeon’s turn, land was becoming scarce without enough to go around. Joshua and the leaders of Israel, with the consent of all parties, decided that Judah would share its inheritance with Simeon who received their property inheritance “within Judah’s portion.”

Judah was first in line and got the biggest and best portion of land, but that did not entitle Judah to keep it. Once the inequity was realized, Judah became willing to share. [1]

At God’s banquet table everyone is entitled to a full and equal portion, as Paul explained to the Corinthian church:
“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.’” 
2nd Corinthians 8.13-15 NIV (quoting Exodus 16.18)

Judah was first in line for property allotments. Many of us also have more than our fair share...
  • just plain lucky
  • of royal lineage
  • unexpected sale
  • surprise windfall
  • gifted and talented
  • healthy and strong
  • blessed with good looks
  • born of wealthy parents
  • unexpected tax refund
  • uncommonly privileged
  • citizen of the USA by birth
  • recipient of large inheritance
  • job promotion
  • friends who care
  • warm bed, roof over head, and enough to eat
  • the incredible and free gift of membership in the community of Jesus followers as a redeemed child of the living God
A privileged station in life or larger accidental portion does not automatically entitle one to the biggest and best of everything. Lucky and blessed people, organizations, churches, communities, and countries have no excuse for behaving like little piggies.
______________________

[1] Reformer John Calvin observed of this passage from Joshua: “…as it is decided by the common consent of all the tribes that more has been given to them [Judah] than they can possess without loss and injury to the others, they [Judah] immediately desist from all pretext for disputing the matter…. acknowledging that it would have been wrong to give them [Judah] what would occasion loss to others, they willingly resign it, and give a welcome reception to their brethren [Simeon], who must otherwise have remained without inheritance…” (from Calvin’s Commentaries, John Calvin, “Commentary on Joshua”, 1561.)

The image of the piglet at the top of this post is entitled "Little Piggy" by photographer Jill Greenberg & Studio Holdings, LLC (http://www.rsub.com/thebluedot/greenberg/2/little_piggy.html).

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"But..."

Joshua 17.14-18 (selected portions) NLT

“The descendants of Joseph came to Joshua and asked, ‘Why have you given us only one portion of land as our homeland when the Lord has blessed us with so many people?’

“Joshua replied, ‘If there are so many of you, clear out land for yourselves in the forest where the Perizzites and Rephaites live.’

“The descendants of Joseph responded, ‘But all the Canaanites in the lowlands have iron chariots,… They are too strong for us.’

“Then Joshua said to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph, ‘The forests of the hill country will be yours… Clear as much of the land as you wish, and take possession of its farthest corners. And you will drive out the Canaanites from the valleys,… even though they are strong and have iron chariots.’



I was fourteen years old and explained, “Dad, I need some more money.” I thought he’d understand.

“Get a job,” was all he said. I looked for a job along the Aurora Avenue strip of businesses on both sides of NE 130th in Seattle in 1966. I was met with rejection. I soon discovered that labor laws prevented companies from hiring fourteen year old's. Surely my dad would understand that.

“Dad, I need some more money and I am too young to get a job.” Dad expanded a little on his earlier advise. “Figure it out son. You can do it. Get a job.” My dad didn’t listen very well. Primarily to prove him wrong I went door-knocking again. When I inquired at Art Lee’s Chinese Restaurant, owner Art Woo handed me an apron and pointed at a stack of unwashed dishes. I asked to borrow the phone first.

“Dad, I got a job. I’ll be earning $1.25 an hour!” I could not have been happier to prove Dad right.

The sons of Joseph asked their leader for more land. Their request seemed justified. “The LORD has blessed us with so many people.” Joshua responded, “If there are so many of you, clear out land for yourselves in the forests of the Perizzites.”

Oh no! Not the forests of the Perizzites! Those guys are “too strong for us.” They have (gasp) “iron chariots!” Like my dad, Joshua didn’t listen too well. Also like dad, Joshua was prone to repeating himself... Clear out the forests and “drive out the Canaanites… even though they are strong and have iron chariots.”

Meeting opposition? Facing resistance? Suffering rejection? Don’t stop. Do what Jesus has shown you to do. Iron chariots and dense forests make no difference. Your excuses won’t work here. Get the job done.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

"As My Strength was Then..."

Joshua 14. 10-11 NASU

“Now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today.


I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.”


Caleb was a strong man. Or, at least, he thought he was. At eighty-five, the patriarch asserted, “As my strength was then [at forty], so my strength is now.” I be closer to eighty-five than forty, but I cannot honestly make that claim. 

Many old people love to give organ recitals. They point enthusiastically at body parts and proudly announce, “This organ hurts. That organ hurts.” An old guy’s poor health may be all he has to talk about. Caleb probably had a few aches and pains of his own, but he refused to dwell on his physical limitations or talk about them. The man had little time for self-pity. He was eithty-five years old and if he was to conquer the giants in Hebron, then he better get going!

I used to talk about my various ailments. My family mostly ignored me, so I complained louder and more often. They kept ignorning me. Then I got mad and tried a new strategy for sympathy... I refused to speak about aching joints and failing body. I soon felt better. 

Perhaps it’s a mindset. Not a pop-psychology mindset. But a “mind set on the Spirit” of God (Romans 8.6). Caleb focused his mind squarely on a forty-five year old promise of God. Caleb had a mindset of faith. He forgot about his age and limitations. He remembered only the faithfulness of the Lord.

Are you “only as old as you feel?” Apparently not, according to Caleb. Feelings have nothing to do with it. If Caleb were here today he’d forgo the organ recital and say again…

“As my strength was then, so my strength is now.”

I have an inheritance to claim. I must fight to possess a ‘Caleb mindset.’ Because “I can do all things through Him [Jesus Christ] who strengthens me” (Philippians 4.13), I will affirm with this old saint…

“As my strength was then, so my strength is now.”
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Disclaimer: I do not mean to minimize the terrible affects of a debilitating disease, crippling handicap, or terminal illness. I only hope to encourage those who, like me, tend to complain about the typical aches and pains associated with aging. I presume it is possible, as in the case ofd Caleb, to grow old with dignity, suffer in silence, and exhibit faith in Him who is able to impart the strength we need to live victoriously until the day we die.

The picture above is called "Old Man" at http://netk.net.au/KeoghHome.asp. It is by Australian Henry Keogh who was convicted of murder in 1995. Mr Keogh has always maintained his innocence. His murder conviction was overturned in December 2014 and he was released on bail.

Monday, March 29, 2021

"Eden is Coming"

Joshua 9.22-23 NIV


“Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, ‘Why did you deceive us by saying, “We live a long way from you,” while actually you live near us?

You are now under a curse: You will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.’”

Joshua’s question to the Gibeonites puzzles me. What did he expect? Of course the Gibeonites would lie. They would happily pay any price for the consequence of their deception. It would be far better to lie than to die. If they could secure a covenant of peace with Joshua, the Gibeonites would save themselves and their city from destruction at the hands of Israelite warriors. They would live under a curse, but they would live! So they fooled Joshua into believing a lie...


“We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
Joshua 9.6b NIV

The people of Gibeon would live under the curse of hard labor in servitude to Israeli masters. As bad as that was, it was better than death. They would “never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers,” but the Gibeonite nation would also “never cease” to live!

I live under a similar curse. Since the sin of my original father Adam, I am under the curse of sweat and hard labor.[1] Nothing on earth comes to me free-for-the-taking. This life is no “Garden of Eden.” I must work, and work hard, to make a decent living.

Humans are cursed with a life of hard work. If we wish to eat and feed our families, we must work. It’s a hard life, filled with challenges requiring me to get out of bed early each morning and go to work. But, as hard as it is, it’s not all bad. It can be a very good life. Though I don’t always enjoy my work, most of the time I do. To make a living requires me, at times, to rise to distasteful, difficult, and dreaded occasions. Regardless of how I feel about my vocation, the fact remains that I will only eat “by the sweat of my brow.” If I choose hard work over laziness and choose insteat to trust God who gave me the capacity to work hard, my family and I will be taken care of. We believe in and pray often for God’s provision... and He always provides. 

The Gibeonites made peace with Joshua and I made peace with Jesus. I may “never cease” from my labor for my remaining years on earth, but I am alive and grateful for it.

I have something else to be grateful for. Eden is coming. Someday I will be forever released from the curse of hard work, sin, and death. Jesus made that possible...
 

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…”
Galatians 3.13

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[1] “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3.17-19).