You can get very creative if you are bored enough. Observe: When I was a kid, binoculars could be used for all sorts of things – watching the road while driving in the car (guaranteed to make anyone over the age of 12 carsick), spying on the neighbors (an oldie but a goodie), and of course, you could always look through them the wrong way and walk through the house feeling 10 feet tall! That one was always good for a few laughs and a new perspective.
We all understand the importance of perspective (at least when ours is untainted). We understand that things that are truly important today will matter in five years, 10 years, and 50 years. Some of us who are visionaries believe that very important things will matter in 100 and 500 years – just as historical events are important to us today. But the lens of history is not “far-sighted” enough.
Secular historians view King Omri as a “good” ruler? God disagrees. “Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all who were before him.” – 1 Kings 16:25
Authorities on the subject have dubbed King Jeroboam II a successful king. God says otherwise – He declared that that Jeroboam did evil and failed to repent of the sins of his predecessors (2 Kings 12:24).
Current experts look back on Manassah’s rule and approve. God doesn’t. He said that he shed “very much” innocent blood and seduced the people to do evil (2 Kings 21).
It didn’t matter that these three men expanded their country’s impact, improved their economic standing, kept peaceful relations with their powerful neighbors, or made ground breaking treaties and trade agreements. Regardless of the opinions of historians, these kings were weighed and found wanting. Eternal God said their life choices were blind and short sighted (2 Peter 1:9). And His opinion is the only one that matters today and tomorrow, a decade and a millennia from now, and for eternity.
Perhaps I am not as far sighted as I had thought.
Are you sitting down? If not, prepare yourself for a shock. I found myself last night thinking of a career politician (that shall remain unnamed) and the harm “he” had done to our children, our families, and our country. He is doubtless in the later years of his life. He is closer to hell than he has ever been. And still I cringed inside thinking that he could trust in Jesus, repent of his sins, and die and go to heaven.
In my mind and heart – it should be too late for him. The children he has killed will never live again. The women he has scarred will never be made whole again. The marriages he threw away and the futures he squandered are never going to be restored. He will never be able to pay for great evil he has brought to our people and our land. Never.
That attitude is precisely why Jonah ended up at Nineveh against his will and by way of a whale of a taxi. Have you ever heard a sermon that empathized with Jonah? I didn’t think so. And have you read his book and thought, “O, poor Jonah.” No. We are very hard on Jonah.
But the truth is: Get the right sinner in my crosshairs and I cry out with Jonah when he looked on that sinful city and literally yelled at God, “I knew You would do this! You would have mercy on them! And if you are going to spare them, what good is it to live? Just kill me now!”
The Divine answer? God never said they were worthy of grace. Because they weren’t. He never said they would be able to provide reparations for their sins. Because they couldn’t. He merely said, “You pity the plant that I gave you for a day. Why don’t you pity these people who are so ignorant they get lost between their right and left hands?”
And that is where the book of Jonah ends. It doesn’t say how Jonah responded – because that doesn’t matter. What matters is our response. Will I let my Jonah heart be broken and remade before the God Who has been so gracious to me?
You probably are not an “Amazing Book” fan (the children’s cartoon that explores the Bible), but the title comes from one of its songs. The song speaks of how people use and read the Bible for different purposes. The lonely find comfort in it. The bored have a diversion. The believer is ushered into the presence of God. And the scholar achieves knowledge.
I am currently reading a book written by a Biblical scholar who is not a Christ-follower. Somehow the words of this Book, which have brought me alive and given me peace with God, seem to be only a fascinating academic exercise for him.
He is me without Christ.
What he learns stays in his head rather than taking root in his heart. What he reads remains on the paper – and changes nothing. What he discovers goes no deeper than the ink instead of infiltrating every aspect of his life.
The author has clearly made the Bible his life’s work but not his life’s book. He has found knowledge of facts and figures but not knowledge of the Truth. He benefits from the principles of wisdom in the pages of Scripture but not from the wisdom of the fear of God. He is stunted spiritually – and mature in cynicism – because even though these Words of Life are before him every day, he has rejected them. And as I realized this, I was distraught for him. For where else can he go (John 6:68)? And then my eyes turned inward. These Words of Life are before me every day, which ones have I rejected in my heart? In my mind? And in my life?
That author is indeed me…but for the grace of God.
The first Sunday in February should be an American holiday. Not only would it celebrate an American invention and tradition but it would highlight our shared belief that grown men should basically kill each other over an inflated pigskin. Now, of course, this year (as a Bills fan through and through) the best outcome of the game would be a double loss but I have found the silver lining: As you watch this game – notice what the guys on one side of the field have in common.
Underneath the uniforms, not much; they are from different parts of the country, went to different schools, have different goals in life, and different opinions on life in general. One thing keeps them together on that sideline. They are one the same football team. They may not agree about anything else -- but on that field they live and die for each other and for the game they love. The game is the main thing.
Now, before you watch the game – notice what the people sitting around you in church have in common. Underneath their faith, not much; they are from different walks of life, different backgrounds, their education is different, and they have different opinions on the church carpet and the pastor. One thing keeps us together in that church. We are on the same spiritual team. We may not agree about much -- but we love Jesus, our Savior and our God, and want others to love Him too. The King in the main thing.
As much as I love it, football is not forever and the unity a team once had is always left back in the glory days. This weekend two teams will come together with great determination and unity of purpose. They will play their hearts and souls out to win a game that – ultimately – doesn’t matter. But our faith in Jesus Christ is eternal and our glory days are ahead of us. The “game” we are playing for the souls of men and women matters forever – why can’t we come together with unyielding fortitude and unity of spirit?
When I was a kid I got growing pains in my legs especially at night when I had nothing else to think about. At first my parents gave me tums (for the calcium). Then my mom heard from someone that a shot of apple cider vinegar and honey (and maybe something else) would help.
It helped. Even if I did hurt, I stopped complaining to keep from having to drink that vile concoction. But what really helped was time – I stopped growing.
Physically that is good. But to stop growing spiritually is disastrous.
Your body is not meant to be 10 feet tall or 500 pounds. But we are all designed to be spiritual giants. People do all sorts of things to keep growing physically – like eat green veggies and avoid the sweets, drink milk and avoid caffeine. Maybe the strategies to grow taller work, and maybe they don’t, but what is our strategy to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? What should be seeking out in our spiritual diet? And what should we be avoiding?
Maybe it is time to give it some thought. But, I promise, apple cider vinegar and honey won’t work.
I was signing a card for my nephew’s seventh birthday yesterday. It has a maze on the front (don’t tell him because he hasn’t seen it yet!), and inside the maze was blown up for the background print. The problem was the inside maze was enlarged so big that you couldn’t see the beginning or the end.
That is what living life without God is like. It’s a maze but you don’t know where you began or where you are going. So you wander around finding lots of dead ends, and even when you seem to be going the right way…it could be the wrong way because…where were we going again?
But in the maze of life God makes all the difference. He is the starting point: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5), and He is the ending point, “I will ransom you from the power of the grave…” (Hosea 13:14) and “thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
Sure, life still has messes and dead ends and crazy U-turns, but in Jesus life has peace and purpose and unbelievable joy because the maze is passing away and the allure of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17).
At church this morning, I visualized the bronze snake in Exodus being raised up – just like Jesus was. God is and has been giving us clues throughout human history on how to escape this trap of sin and death and hell.
Maybe God feels like me sometimes when I plan an escape room. I make clues and think, “Oh, I’m sure they’ll get this.”
And sometimes they get it right away, but often it takes much longer than I expected.
Maybe God feels like that – “Surely, they will understand this! Jesus is total fulfillment of the sacrificial system. He is the only Son, the Son of promise, slain – like Abraham’s son. Jesus Christ is the ultimate completion of the bronze snake.”
The snake was the embodiment of the curse. Jesus became the curse for us. Those who looked toward to the snake were healed. Those who believe in Jesus are spiritually healed. The snake was the only way to be saved. Jesus is the only way to be right with God. Now that’s a clue.
Lord, help us take it.
How long has it been since you did a science experiment?
I didn’t mean to do one, but I was taking a bath and noticed a strange shadow on the bottom of the tub. It looked like curly yarn (and I am not in the habit of knitting in the powder room). Then, I saw it – there was a hair floating on the surface of the water; and as it broke the surface tension, it cast a much bigger shadow than I would have ever expected.
One hair made a difference.
And if it could make a difference, how much more could God use you to make a difference?
Your voice may be quiet. Your gifts may be small. Your influence may be limited. But even a single hair casts a shadow.
I saw an article a few weeks ago that proclaimed it had found the secret to what all 3-year-olds want for Christmas. I didn’t read it because that is not a secret! Everyone knows what 3-year-olds want for Christmas.
Leave off the expensive tech and toys because everyone three (or maybe four) and under is just as happy with the wrapping paper and the plastic mold the toy came in. Their Christmas is complete if they get sugar and shiny things.
Actually, that is what most people want – things that taste good and look good. But the best gifts don’t always meet those criteria. Getting a fancy watch that tracks your elevation change is a “great gift” but sock are “boring”. But which one will last longer? Which gift will be the most useful? Which one says “I love you” – the expensive gift you could give to anyone or the one that the person knew to get you because they’ve watch your socks grow more and more holes over the last year?
We seem to do this a lot with God’s gifts. We pray for the big, shiny things even while taking the “socks” for granted. Sometimes we even grow angry because the sweet gifts of life go to someone else. Other times we get discouraged because we aren’t getting what we want. So quickly we forget that even during the hard times: we never ran out of socks.
So here’s to 2021, the year we learn to be grateful for socks!
Today we celebrate that day when the Creator entered the world as part of creation. We rejoice that the King became a peasant. We remember God Almighty lay helpless, cradled in the arms of a virgin. We commemorate the day God was born. The One Who formed time and placed His world inside it – joined us within its confines.
These concepts boggle the mind and stir the heart into ceaseless worship -- because Christmas has eternal purpose.
Man was made for God, to have relationship with Him forever. But we are rebels who are at war with the Creator. We have refused His loving instructions and we are estranged. All rebels against God will die. It is the only just penalty for refusing the One Who makes and gives life. Every human is born with the seal of death on his forehead as one who has rejected the Life (John 14:6).
All lived under this curse. Mankind appeared unsalvageable.
But what if Someone Who never did any wrong – Who had a perfect relationship with God – died in their place? Could that Perfect Sacrifice take the punishment for men? Could infinite perfection cover all finite sins?
At Christmas God said, Yes. Mankind can be saved. But I’ve got to do it -- personally. And all who believe in Me will have everlasting life and will not come into judgment but will pass from death into life (John 5:24).
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.