“Things I’ve Learned from my Children.”
A mother once recorded, “I’ve learned that a king size water bed has enough water to fill a 2000 square foot house four inches deep. I’ve learned that a three-year-old’s voice is louder than two hundred adults in a crowded restaurant. I’ve learned that double-paned windows are not strong enough to stop a baseball that has been hit by a ceiling fan. Brake fluid mixed with Clorox makes smoke and lots of it. Playdough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence. Superglue is forever. No matter how much Jell-O you put in the swimming pool, you can’t walk on the water. Marbles in gas tanks make lots of noise when driving.”
Maybe this mother could relate to the phrase found four times in the book of Judges, “The anger of the Lord was hot against Israel” (Judges 2:14, 20; 3:8; 10:7). It comes as no surprise when you read through the flawed leaders and fickle people. Judges is a complicated book because you aren’t certain how to classify the personalities. During childhood, the stories we cut our teeth on train us that there is a good side and a bad side. The good side is always good and the bad side is definitively bad. However, Judges debunks the theory and actually shows us the raw material God uses to accomplish His will. You want to classify Barak as a hero, but he wanted Deborah to hold his hand. You want to think Jephthah is a self-made man, but he was a leader of outlaws and offers his own daughter on the altar in order to fulfill an unnecessary and rash vow. Gideon may seem meek and noble especially when he refuses to be crowned king. “And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23). However, look out later when he takes the spoils of war and makes a golden ephod which the people went “a whoring after it” (Judges 8:27).
The power of Biblical stories is what at first is a picture becomes a mirror. What begins as a story becomes a biographical sketch. “There is none good but one, that is, God,” but, as for the rest of us, we are like the fickle people and flawed leaders (Mark 10:18). After reading today’s passage, it is time for a helpful reminder, “Charity suffereth long” (1 Corinthians 13:4). We all need God’s longsuffering. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psalm 103:8).
So, today, give thanks for the Lord’s longsuffering and remember the grain of human frailty runs in us all.
My youth pastor taught many memorable lessons when we were growing up in the youth program at my church. One of the most startling was a sermon on dating. He taught us one of the qualifications to take a young lady on a date was protection. “If something tragic were to happen on the date,” he said, “you had better be ready to die protecting her!” Dating ratcheted up a few levels of seriousness after that statement. Then you read Genesis 26 where Isaac, following in his father’s footsteps, tells a lie about his wife. “She is my sister,” he said (Genesis 26:7). The wise king Abimelech happens to see Isaac flirting with “his sister,” Rebekah. He questions Isaac, “Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister” (Genesis 26:9)? Isaac’s pitiful response, “Lest I die for her” (Genesis 28:9).
Read throughout these chapters and you will find self-centered people everywhere. We naturally focus on our needs. We think we are the Cat’s Meow, A-1, out of this world, first class, like wow, top-drawer, sensational…and the other 318 million people in our country. We are surrounded by a bunch of people who naturally love themselves. Isn’t it interesting, when the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write a letter to Ephesus, he chooses to define the quality of a husband’s love for his wife as “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The story is told about a little boy named Timothy. His sister was suffering from an ailment which Timothy once had but overcame. Her only chance for survival would be a blood transfusion from her brother, who shared her blood type. “Would you give your blood to help save your sister?” the doctor asked Timothy, leaning over close to the young boy’s face. At first, Timothy hesitated. His chin began to quiver as he fought back tears. Then with a solemn strength, he forced a smile. “Yes, I’ll do it,” he said. Timothy watched the blood flow out of his arm and into the tubes. Quiet for most of the procedure, he finally asked, “Doctor, when do I die?” That’s when the doctor realized Timothy thought to give his blood for his sister meant he would have to give all his blood. Timothy was willingly offering the greatest sacrifice out of love for his sister.
If you are saved, then you know of this sacrificial love and you are called to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us” (Ephesians 5:2). Isaac didn’t win the “Best Husband Trophy.” Before we are too hard on him, take some time to reflect on every drop of God’s love poured out for you on the cross.
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.
Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
Probably one of the least favorite events that happen to us is to be woken out of a deep sleep, particularly if it is in a very loud and sudden way. As part of my job, I have to be a part of an on-call rotation and about once every few months I will get a call in the middle of the night. Everyone can probably relate to the “who am I”/”where am I” thoughts that initially go through my head while I try to gather my wits enough to answer the phone.
Our reading this morning brings us to a passage that challenges us to “Wake Up!” Romans 13:11 reads, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.”
Paul is reminding these believers that because their (final) salvation was nearer now than when they believed, they needed to wake up or “snap out” of their current situation and mindset. Paul goes on to explain what they needed to address in their lives. Verse 12 states they needed to, “cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”
This stark reminder is also very relevant to us today as well. All too often we allow sins to creep into our lives, sins that sneak in with an “I’m not that bad” label to them. Whether it be anger, bitterness, dishonesty or jealousy, these and other sins can easily take up residence in our hearts if we aren’t careful.
Paul’s admonition is to not sleepwalk through the Christian life but to instead get serious about the things of God. Whether we are young or old and even if Christ should tarry, our lives will be over in a “vapor” as James reminds us and we need to be vigilant about making sure our lives are count for Him. Perhaps there is an area of your life that you need to “wake up” about?
I heard the question hundreds of times from my children. It’s hardwired into their development. Studies show children ask hundreds of questions a day, and I believe it! However, by the age of 18, the volume of questions has tapered down to only two or three questions a day. Do we know everything there is to know after adolescence?
“Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, And broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7, 9)
Have we exhausted all there is to know at such a young age? The answer is, “No”! So why do we stop searching? The answer to this question is an indictment of our pet God.
In 2017, a joint research effort aimed to discover whether practicing Christians had a Biblical worldview. Simply put, do they answer life questions with Biblical answers? The results are shattering! Barely 1 out of 5 practicing Christians (17%) has a Biblical worldview. Nearly 2 out of 3 (61%) have a blend of the Bible and what is called “new spirituality” which is a conglomeration of eastern religions, New Age, and paganism! To demonstrate such wayward thinking among believers, the researchers asked some questions. One such question was whether they agreed with the following statement: “All people pray to the same God or Spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” It’s a shocker, but nearly half (49%) of practicing Christians agree!
Another statement was presented: “If you do good, you will receive good, if you do bad you will receive bad.” Almost 1 out of 3 (32%) agreed. This is the karmic statement Job already laid to rest early in his struggle. “What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). When we stop exploring the ways of God, we start accepting contrived notions about God. The itch of a question is scratched with worldly reason, and we are satisfied. Like Job’s friends, we think we have the answers, but we are terribly heretical and dangerously simplistic when we fit God into a man-made box.
His ways are past finding out! This means we have much to learn. Take all you know about God and fact-check it with the Word of God. Start asking questions again and find the answers in His Word. Stop accepting the world’s fabricated assumptions as truth. Explore the wonder of God’s ways. At times, you may not understand His plan, but you can always trust His longsuffering hand.
“Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.” (Job 11:6)
“LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill” (Ps. 15:1)? This verse gives me a strong sense of the omnipotence of God; after all, He spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1:1). I am reminded of life as a young boy. Back then small things were big stuff to us. We were enamored by the simplest of things. We had no electronic games, cell phones or social media (I pray our children/grandchildren could know of a simpler life).
We made snow caves, forts in the woodlot, made mud pies, skipped to school (not skip school) and loved using our imaginations. One playtime favorite was king of the hill. Whenever we found a large construction-site dirt pile, we would make the top of it the most treasured place in our world. Who was to abide on top of this hill?
Notice the use of the word, “abide” as in the aforementioned Bible verse. To abide was to stay temporarily. Not one of us could hold the title of “king of the hill” long. Everyone would climb to the top, pushing and shoving their way past each other. When, and if, you made it to the top, you would begin tossing the intruders off as they tried to dethrone the current king. Bodies were constantly rolling down the “mountain.” We boys (and a few girls) would then go home full of dirt.
I remember my mother washing the dirt out of my hair; all the while giving me the dickens. I was “the” king a few times, but each time I went home, it was not long until I realized that Mom was my king and she sat on the throne. But her reign only lasted until we found the next dirt pile.
Nowadays, I recognize the King of the Bible as the One who reigns supreme. The One who sits on the Heavenly Throne (Is. 6:1). The Bible asks, in our Scripture reading today, two important questions: Who shall abide and who shall dwell? Abiding pertains to a temporary nature as our life here on earth and dwelling would be speaking of our eternal resting spot, after this life.
Here is the picture, we all get soiled by the unrighteous things of the World. Every one of us is contaminated by worldly dirt (Ecc.7:20, Rm. 3:10). So the first steps are to ask God’s forgiveness, be cleansed from sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He will lovingly cleanse us and forgive us (1 John 1:9), and will not scold us as our earthly parents so rightly did. Moreover, we must follow the admonitions found in the remainder of Psalm 15. In so doing, we can be assured of His protection here on earth and an everlasting dwelling place, with Jesus, when we slip the bonds of our earthly tabernacle.