Caleb, one of two faithful Hebrew spies, urged conquest of Canaan despite the difficulty. In Joshua 14:10-112, he pressed his claim to the hill country in Judah, despite the challenge of evicting the Canaanites. And despite being 85 years old. He obviously had as his life-theme what the Psalmist later wrote in 92:14, “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.”
We may not be willing or able at 85 or 90 to wage warfare to conquer land. But if we’re in reasonably good health, we should retain an interest in serving Jesus in some capacity. Remember: God has nothing for us to do ONLY if we think we’re finished. Otherwise, if we’re willing, he can still use us.
Consider two stories that illustrate. Bob Shaw accompanied as listener on an evangelistic call where his partner did the talking. As the partner talked to the prospect, Bob noted the family’s Great Dane dog eyeing him. Watching him approach, Bob didn’t know what to expect. He DIDN’T expect what happened next. The dog put a paw on Bob’s leg; then the other paw on his other leg. While Bob instinctively leaned back in his chair, the Great Dane began to inch his way into Bob’s lap. And before he knew it, the Great Dane had become Bob’s lap dog.
A tornado tore into a Mississippi town on Sunday. One of the members and his wife stopped at a cafe before going to church. The twister hit soon after. The owner herded all patrons into the restaurant cooler just in time. The man, a big guy, stood at the door holding it closed—while the tornado rammed head-on into the cooler, trying to rip it open and snatch the people out and away.
The man later said he could hear his wife behind him praying fervently to Jesus. And while he was agreeing with everything she said, he could think only of holding that door closed!
Here’s the lesson. When we serve Jesus, we may find ourselves holding the dog while someone else does the evangelizing. Or we may find ourselves standing behind and praying for the one standing ahead holding the door.
Both the dog sitter and the prayer-warrior are essential to the success of the obviously necessary person. If all we do is hold the dog, do it for Jesus and he will bless it. If all we do is pray for the worker, he will bless it.
Remember...we’re all Christ’s servants, and nobody’s master. Remember...it doesn’t matter who gets credit. Remember, all that matters is that Christ gets the GLORY. And that way, all of us SHARE as equal partners in what he possesses. And no one will ever feel slighted! Amen.
Had Australian Margaret Court been a lesbian, her achievements as the first to win the Women’s Grand Slam of tennis would have been heralded loudly and universally. Since Margaret Court as a Christian opposes homosexuality, lesbianism, transgender issues and same-sex-marriages, Australian officials debate how to honor her. San Diego U-T, 1/21/20
Not because they doubt her tennis skills. But because she speaks out against sexual perversity. Meaning...her life skills won’t be recognized because her life-beliefs run counter to societal acceptance of sexual deviancy.
In other words, society’s acceptance of homosexuality has reached a new level of intolerance against Bible-believing Christians. I’ll call attention to but one remark made by a well-known lesbian: that Margaret’s views are pathetic and she’s hiding behind the Bible.
That’s emphatically wrong. Court isn’t hiding behind the Bible. She’s very public about the Bible’s standing against sexual perversion. Homosexuals don’t want to just turn Bible truth into a lie. They more dangerously want to turn the lie of homosexuality into a truth all must accept.
It’s nothing new. It was called aselgia sin in the New Testament, Ephesians 4:19, I Peter 4:3-4: brazen, public, shameless, and calling opposition to it intolerance for not being tolerant of their lifestyle. It’s a darkened mind that pits itself against Bible teaching, ignoring Christ’s in-your-face teaching that “every plant”—that is, every teaching and habit and behavior—that God rejects will be eliminated from Heaven.
The Old White Lighthouse remains a prime attraction in Pt. Loma, California. It had once been, since 1855, one of three lighthouses built and beaming off the California coast. When first occupied by its keeper, he looked across San Diego Bay to meadows where sheep grazed. Where high rise apartments, hotels and bank buildings now stand.
Because fogs settled below the hills, by 1891 it had out-lived its usefulness. A new cottage group built at ocean elevation, 400 feet lower than the original location, took its place and remains the Pt. Loma lighthouse.
Truly, what mortals build can have a lifespan beyond which it cannot compete.
Which, by the way, the Gospel of Christ never experiences. Why preachers don’t study it more deeply, and proclaim it more steadfastly, I cannot say. But the church suffers without God’s Word faithfully and continually preached. And...sadly...our role as witnesses to the lost in equal proportion.
May God find us as open to his Word as old Simeon. May he find us looking for the Christ. And, may God lead us, as he led Simeon, to see: the Christhood in the Christ child; the Godhood in his humanity; the royalty in his commonness; the strength in his weakness; the wealth in his poverty; the fame in his obscurity; the exaltation in his humiliation; and the resurrection in his death.
Once we do, we’ll re-dedicate to repeating after the mature Jesus the message that never loses its relevance and usefulness, and never loses its power over sin, Satan, death and Hell—whatever the age.
The master of double-speak, and quick of wit, David put himself in needless jeopardy by fleeing Judah for Gath. He decided that Saul’s hatred would eventually make him a casualty. A strange conclusion given God’s anointing as king-apparent and his many deliverances I Samuel 27:1. David’s decision issues a warning to us. We too can separate ourselves from grace by fixating on life-problems, not God’s Presence.
Carrying Goliath’s sword with him to Gath certainly created the illusion in which David took refuge. Who but a mentally-disturbed warrior would carry back to Gath the weapon of their conquered champion?
David’s mistaken perception has lessons for Christian disciples. First, believers in Jesus never need worry that he will sooner or later fail to protect us or provide for us; sooner than later if we engage in risky service. I visited with a Christian man who exercised his faith in a street ministry. In the crisis of debate, discussion or exhortation he quoted scripture completely separate from context. He admitted it but declared, “When you’re in the street, you use any scripture the Holy Spirit gives you.”
Good point. We can sit in our study and quietly look at scripture in context. But if we’re in the streets, encountering people and problems foreign to our experience, will Jesus fail to help us, even if we’re out of context? Will he fail to defend his own name when a disciple sincerely witnesses, even in ignorance?
Second, who but a spiritually-filled, spiritually-committed man would command the evangelism of the world to 11 disciples only recently recovered from the shock of his death by crucifixion? When at the time, Matthew 28:16-20, they had no qualifications to confront their own people, let alone a fiercely pagan Gentile world.
Third, who but Jesus, having lived in self-denial all his years, would demand self-denial as the first requirement of every believer? But there it happened, on one of the shoulders of Mt. Hermon. Immediately upon accepting the confession of Simon Peter that he was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus undertook their education in his NATURE: suffering and dying followed by RISING AGAIN.
All of which petrified the Twelve. And when Simon essayed to correct him, Jesus lashed out against his effrontery. Then...flinging the gauntlet at every generation of believers, as he DIED to SAVE, every disciple would necessarily DIE to SELF! Forget being religious, moral or “spiritual”. Self-denial remains the basis of all discipleship. And, to this day, that demands the most vigorous kind of spiritual adventure. Fini
With uneven success ancient kings and modern rulers have hired mercenaries as fighters. It’s interesting that anointed-as-king, but still king-in-training, David led as difficult a group of fighting men as existed in his world: those “in distress or in debt or discontented....” I Samuel 22:2. Those 400 later increased to 600 I Samuel 27:2.
When anointed publicly as king in Hebron, II Samuel 5:3, then as king over a united Israel, II Samuel 5:1-5, his influence, by his conquests, grew exponentially over the eastern Mediterranean. Scattered members of the condemned Canaanites converted to Mosaic faith, among them one Uriah the Hittite. Others, such as Ittai the Gittite and his Philistine soldiers, and Pelethites and Kerethites from Crete, served as soldiers and his personal bodyguard. They may have been attracted to David during his 16 months in Gath I Samuel 27:7.
The pervasive difference in David over other kings, was the positive influence he had over all who came to serve under him. Indeed, as II Samuel 23 recounts, his Mighty Men achieved great success by following his example of faith in God. He established the model in slaying Goliath. They followed his example facing formidable, sometimes equal challenges.
Consider two examples. David received permission from God to lift the Philistine siege of Keilah I Samuel 23:1-2. When his men feared such an operation, he returned to God for a second time—just to assure them, not because he had any doubt. That established the principle of compassion for those who fear assuming what appears difficult, if not impossible, challenges. Take time to carefully answer questions, address skepticism and assure the people that God has spoken and can be trusted.
Two, David and 400 of his 600 man force continued pursuit of the Amalekites who had raided Ziklag and carried away all its personnel. The 200 were exhausted by the pursuit of some 10 miles to the Besor Ravine. The rest continued into the Negev and re-gained in battle all the kidnapped people.
The exultant victors, wives and children, carried back to the Besor all the plunder taken. When the 200 men left behind to guard David’s military equipment saw the returning entourage shouting in joy, they rushed to greet them.
And...to prove that no leader can escape unworthy followers, “all the evil men and troublemakers” of the 400 wanted to deprive the 200 of their share of the plunder. They would only give their wives and children back.
The first test of David’s new-life in faith, after his return from Philistia! And he met it successfully. He immediately vetoed their suggestion by his SINGLE vote against it. All would share equally in any victory gained. Those protecting the equipment and those fighting would be equal partners. That became the law in Israel.
That established the principle of innovative leadership where no previous decision had been reached. Only the one anointed as LEADER possesses the intuitive insight to make rules just and fair for all. End Part II
Judges 9 recounts the sad and bad exploits of Abimelech, son of Gideon by a slave girl, and assassin of 69 of Gideon’s sons, with Jotham the sole survivor. He ruled Israel for three years before “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem.” They had originally conspired with him as leader since he had been a resident in their community.
In the “good old days” of peace between them, the citizens had withdrawn 1 ¾ pounds of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith. (Not that they stole the money. In ancient times temples were often bankers entrusted with wealth.) Anyway, Abimelech used the cash to hire “reckless adventurers”—AKA known as “soldiers of fortune.”
Hiring such men to serve as militia and a standing army wasn’t unusual in that day—or this. King George III couldn’t persuade enough Englishmen to fight his American colonies, so he paid Hessians from Hesse in Germany. To this day, Americans who love to fight, and prove they can fight, will always find work killing people somewhere in the world—or even as bodyguards for drug lords, but no less savage protecting their bosses.
All of this introduces the essential point: Israelite kings often resorted to hiring mercenaries as warriors. Check Judges 11:3, I Kings 11:23-25, II Chronicles 13:6-7. David’s two ego-centric sons Absalom and Adonijah loved the display of having the appearance of an army by hiring 50 armed guards to serve as their vanguard II Samuel 15:1, I Kings 1:5. David’s constitutional inability to discipline his sons encouraged their publicity-seeking adventures. End Part I
Zane Grey turned his interest in the west into a series of best-selling, made-into-movies books. Grey loved fishing, and could never fish enough. When on the rivers or oceans, he forced himself to rise early to write, then write late at night. When at home he had a harder time getting to his writings. As his biographer said, “he would keep putting off the inevitable moment....” Frank Gruber, 214.
Writing a lesson or sermon; making a necessary call; or giving one’s self to important but unwelcome administrative work, can all suffer from our procrastination.
Jesus never suffered procrastination to delay him, whatever he faced. At age 12 he remained behind when his parents returned to Nazareth. That’s where he HAD TO BE. Though we might think that, as a 12 year-old, he had more than enough time to prepare before he began preaching at age 30.
On the night of his arrest Jesus went, “as usual” Luke 22:39, to the Mount of Olives. Though he knew shame, disgrace and humiliation awaited him there. Timeliness, not delay, motivated him.
He approached Lazarus’ tomb, John 11:34-35, with tears in his eyes and trouble in his mind. But by going directly there he performed the greatest miracle of his career, knowing it would bring his death at the behest of the Sanhedrin.
He had much the same experience in Gethsemane. He went beyond the three disciples in an agony of distress, facing the certainty of separation from God’s presence for the first time EVER. In the turmoil between emotion and reason he momentarily sought avoidance of the Cross, but as quickly submitted to God’s will. Because he accepted God’s will he won the battle of Calvary in the Garden of Gethsemane. He ENDURED the Cross for the JOY set before him Hebrews 12:2. May we all go and do likewise when facing the Master’s demand that we deny ourselves daily and take up his cross!
First, an addendum to Thursday’s 9 January blog. I should have added the following to “Go to Hell.” “That isn’t a profanity, but a punishment. Hell is a place, not an oath. No one wants to be sent there. Anyone going there will have but one regret: but it will be savage and eternal.”
Now for today’s blog.
Many Christians instinctively fear the loss of faith by associating with the unsaved. That naturally keeps them in the company of the saved, their comfort zone. But it reflects an Old Testament perspective, not a New Testament reality.
God ordered the extermination of Canaan’s seven nations when Joshua led the invasion. That protected an incipient nation-in-the-making from the depravity the seven regularly practiced as essential to their religion, resulting in ever worse public behavior.
It also recognized the inability of Israel’s Law-based religion to resist and eventually convert heathen. Indeed, brilliantly-gifted ancient Israel never approached basic success in mastering the science of obedience into an art. They never ceased being attracted to the gods and goddesses of satanic religions. Throughout their history, a bare minimum of kings, covering a bare minimum of years, conscientiously sought God’s will.
Jesus himself dramatized and inspired in his believers an entirely new concept. He actively associated with, and as willingly ate with, those even Judaism proscribed: tax collectors, demon-possessed, lepers, women of various groups, Gentile officials, etc.
He always concentrated on what those people, and even the upper-classes would have, gained, had they not been so religiously arrogant. He knew how they would profit by his being with them, not what it cost him to get involved. He never feared personal contamination because... while he identified with sinners, he mentally, morally and spiritually divorced himself from their practices and perversions.
Therefore, heirs of an all-conquering faith established by the all-overcoming Christ, Christians should cultivate relationships with non-believers. Our very willingness to do so will develop opportunities to bear witness to and evangelize the unforgiven.
We need be aware only of this caveat. If the association increases faith in the unchurched, continue it. If it weakens ours, discontinue it. It is of no value to lose our soul while trying to save another person’s.
In The Federalist Papers Alexander Hamilton critiqued the critics of the proposed Constitution, who decried its lack of a bill of “rights.” Hamilton trenchantly noted that the absence in such a “bill” in several states’ constitutions didn’t prevent avid support by its citizens.
States’ defenders claimed that state constitutions had implied rights which meant the same as a “bill” since the constitutions were broadly based on British rules and laws. To which Hamilton replied that the U.S. Constitution also had such implied rights, and named several Articles. The Federalist Papers, 532
Nevertheless, only the addition of the first Ten Amendments—the Bill of Rights—to the Constitution guaranteed its passage.
Unlike America’s Constitution, God’s Biblical Message has never been amended, Old or New Testaments. Nor does it need amendments; nor will it tolerate amendments. Jesus resolved that issue when he declared that any plant God hadn’t planted in his word would be deracinated Matthew 15:13.
His glaring defiance of human additions to and subtractions from Bible teaching hasn’t stopped human additions and subtractions. But it does emphatically warn us that ONLY God’s WORD remains after Judgment. Which also explains how perfect unity exists in God’s new Heaven and earth.
Since God obliterates all religious belief that disagrees with his revealed word, any such belief now embraced WILL NOT exist. The devotees of such beliefs will find them “burned up,” and themselves “saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” That is, fortunate that God graciously accepts them though rejecting their mistaken doctrines.
The same principle applies to individual opinions now held. Some doubt Jesus performed “such and such a miracle,” or taught “such and such a doctrine.” Anyone who remains unconvinced about anything the Gospels’ say Jesus said or did may be saved, but again, only “as if miraculously escaping from a fire.”
Nothing, Jesus declared in Matthew 15:13, exists in God’s Presence, that doubts, disagrees or compromises God’s Word. He has given us NO BILL of RIGHTS to protect our individual opinions! Only his Word remains in the end.
The same principle applies to any personality trait that’s now negative, unproductive and anti-Christian. All such will vanish from us, as if we’re escaping with our lives from a vast fire.
Now...if we don’t want to live in such a world. If we insist we can’t be happy if someone we have loved won’t be there because he wouldn’t live in such a world. If we persist in holding any position though God says he won’t accept it. If we demand the right to a belief that satisfies us, though it opposes God and Christ, God tells us: We Can Go To Hell!
Dean Acheson, who served as President Truman’s Secretary of State, wrote about the difficulty of interacting with Russian diplomats. This with the cold war raging after WWII. He said that any conversation ended with either sardonic or ridiculous comments from them. And any discussion ended in frustration and boredom.
Acheson surmised one of two reasons. First, the diplomats dared not speak what they really thought. Second, they so deeply believed what they parroted as a party line that they considered all opposing views blind to truth.
In either case, no personal relationship could be established. The Russians had nothing to say in private, in social conversation, over cocktails, around a table, that differed from their public statements. They were NOT persons, thinking, but robots spouting artificial intelligence.
Which leads to a spiritual truth. We may communicate with many people, but we have meaningful fellowship only with our companion disciples of Christ. Who accept their humanity with its flaws, failures, mistakes, sins and limitations. We grant patience to other Christians in their ordeals since we need unquestioned loving support through our trials. Christians never need to take themselves seriously. We have multiple reasons NOT TO.
But that only begins our fellowship in Christ. For our trust lies in the Christ who: insists we look beyond ourselves to HIM in every situation Hebrews 12:2. (Note: the writer urged us to look steadfastly at Jesus, not at the crowd of witnesses in Hebrews 11. They, like us, are but mortals.) Jesus alone as the WORD of God made flesh makes the difference in us being merely sinful mortals without hope of ever being anything more. AND being forgiven sinful mortals blessed with inevitable growth in discipleship now and promised NO LIMITATIONS in our perfected humanity in God’s new world. Amen.