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“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me (John 15:13-15).” 

We were ready to sit down to dinner on Easter Sunday.  My brother Mark and his wife Christine were awaiting the arrival of some close friends whom they were hosting, along with me.

The couple and their daughter came in and there was this joyous reunion. Then something surprising happened.

The guest wife and mother came over and gave me a big hug.

Later, I commented to Christine about this event. I told her that it was amazing that this woman who didn’t even know me would come over and give me a warm greeting like that.

Christine replied,”Your Mark’s brother. That’s all that matters.”

I learned a big lesson at that moment. I knew intellectually that when God the Father viewed me, He saw me as Jesus’s brother.

However, in that couple seconds when I was being hugged by this lady, I experienced what that meant. I was valuable to her because of my relationship with Mark. She joyfully embraced me because I was connected to him in a close way, and this gave me value in her eyes.

I thus gained an understanding of how valuable I am to God the Father. I am an adopted son, the brother of Jesus, His beloved.

While Mark is my brother, an official, legal status that in our case is based on having the same mother and father and the same genetics and blood, he is also my friend.

I think of how my parent’s viewed my close friends when I was growing up. They were always welcome at our house.

My friends were important to my parents because they were important to me. I had a tight relationship with those boys, and that gave them worth in my parent’s eyes.

God the Father not only sees me as Jesus’s brother, but also as His  friend. Therefore, I have double the value to Him.

The wise man of Proverbs gives us some idea as to what it means to have a close friend in his writings in the book’s 27th chapter.

The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume (v. 9). Furthermore, a true friend will never abandon you, even when disaster strikes. In fact,  it is better to ask a nearby friend for help at such times than to run to a brother far away (v. 10).

Finally, Proverbs 27 tells us that two friends will sharpen each other, as two pieces of iron give each other a fine edge (v. 17).

A good friend’s heart-to-heart is like a sword which can pierce through all the muck in my soul and spirit and help me get to the heart of the matter. The Word of God has the same function,  although it is infallible and my friends definitely are not! (Hebrews 4:12)

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson has gone down in history as one of the top military leaders in American history.  Jackson was known not only for his prowess as a soldier, but also for his complete dedication to God.

He once said,”We are all children of suffering and sorrow in this world. Amid affliction, let us hope for happiness. However dark the night, I am cheered with an anticipated glorious and luminous morrow. No earthly calamity can shake my hope in the future so long as God is my friend.”

Jackson was tested on this statement when his young wife and first child died in childbirth.  He said at the time,”I do not see the purpose of God in this, the most bitter, trying affliction of my life, but I will try to be submissive though it breaks my heart.”*

How do we know these words? He said them to a friend.

Stonewall Jackson hit on something here. He understood the nature of friendship with God.

Jesus wants to be my friend. However,  being Jesus’s pal has requirements not seen in most close friendships.

My buddies don’t expect to have to do what I tell them to do to keep my friendship. Likewise, I would be shocked if one of them thought I would obey their orders as a private would an officer.

A friendship with Jesus, on the other hand, comes with the understanding that I will obey Him. It’s taken me a whole lifetime to get this.

Jesus doesn’t confide in everyone. He only divulges his secrets to His friends.

I’ve always struggled with having to obey anyone, God included. Having a tight, transparent friendship with the Lord of the Universe is worth it the blind obedience it takes to get it, though.

* The life of Stonewall Jackson is eloquently written about in James I. Robertson’s work “Stonewall Jackson: The man, the soldier, the legend.”

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“My heart has heard you say,’Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming’ (Psalm 27:8).”

Gregory House has had many relationships over the last eight years of the TV medical drama that bears his surname. He has had several girlfriends and even a trumped up marriage meant to get a woman her green card. Dr. House has also had complicated relationships with the members of his medical team.

However, the most important connection he has had is the one forged between him and his best friend, Dr. James Wilson. They have been so close that some critics of the show have termed their friendship a “bromance”.

The pair met at a medical convention in New Orleans. As both recounted to a police officer in another state who was holding them on old charges,  Wilson had been arrested for assault and vandalism. (He threw an object through an antique mirror in a bar argument.)

House thought Wilson had spunk and was interesting, so he bailed him out. Thus began an enduring friendship.

Their relationship has hit the skids at times, however. An almost fatal rupture occurred when House indirectly was involved in the death of Wilson’s girlfriend. House didn’t cause the death, but his dysfunctional behavior led to Wilson’s flame Amber being in the situation which led to her demise.

Healing occurs when Wilson becomese part of a plot to make sure House goes to his father’s funeral. The ole curmudgeon has no intention of going because he despises the man and he believes he isn’t  his biological father anyway.

House is drugged by his boss.  When House wakes up, Wilson is driving him along the highway to the funeral location.

They have not seen each other in two months, as Wilson  quit to get away from House’s damaging and self-seeking  influence. When he notices House reviving, Wilson looks at him and says,”This doesn’t mean I care.”

After House confronts Wilson about his dumping him because of Amber’s death, Wilson becomes angry and throws an object through a stained-glass window at the church where the funeral is held.

House’s response? “Still not boring.”  On the way home House provokes Wilson as they discuss a current case:

“This is fun, isn’t it?”, House says, smiling knowingly at Wilson.

Wilson decides to take his old job back. When he tells House in the office, the latter says wryly,”If you’re coming back just because you’re attracted to the shine of my neediness… I’d be okay with that.”

Wilson tells House why he is truly coming back:

“I’m coming back because you’re right. That strange, annoying trip we just took was the most fun I’ve had since Amber died.”

Fast forward a couple of years. House drives his car into the front window of his girlfriend’s house (his girlfriend is also his boss) after she finally has had enough and ends it. In the process Wilson, who is a bystander, is injured.

Eleven months later House is paroled from prison and returns to the hospital. Wilson never visited and is cold as ice to him.

House reaches out to Wilson, telling him that he likes him, has fun with him. “Do what you have to do to get over this”, House says, suggesting a couple of acts of physical violence Wilson could perpretate toward him.  Wilson replies,”The thing is House, I DON’T like you.”

After House solves the case of Wilson’s dying patient, pushing Wilson in the process and making him a better doctor, Wilson walks into House’s office and punches him in the face, flooring him. “Dinner later?”, asks Wilson.

Fast forward in time to what is now the end of the series. The writers of “House” have chosen to sum up eight seasons by focusing on the relationship between Gregory House and James Wilson.

House learns that Wilson has cancer and has five months to live. Wilson refuses any further treatment after a dangerous chemotherapy experiment he requests House to perform “under the table” doesn’t get results.

Wilson is an oncologist and does not want to go through the slow death that he has seen from his patients. House, on the other hand, does everything he can to get Wilson to change his mind. “I need you” he tells his friend.

House is so frantic to keep Wilson around that he conducts a series of hospital pranks aimed at getting Wilson to give in. One collapses a bathroom, injures some doctors and damages an expensive medical instrument.

Wilson in the meantime is upset again with House. Even his own fatal disease is all about House, it seems.

In the meantime, House finally accepts Wilson’s wishes and their relationship is “good”.  However, House is told the vandalism has violated his parole and he will have to go back to jail.

“How long?”, he asks. “Six months”, the hospital lawywer tells him. House will miss any remaining time his friend Wilson has on this earth because of his hijinks.

House apparently collapses from the strain. He goes off to a warhehouse, does heroin with a dying patient. 

Wilson tracks him down after two days. However, the warehouse is now burning and as Wilson stares at House through the window of a blazing room, his friend is buried under the collapsing buillding.

However, House in typical fashion has had it all planned. He has faked his death.

House sends Wilson a text message as the latter is blasting his friend in a eulogy. “Shut up you idiot” the text says.

Wilson now knows House is alive.  He meets up with House, telling him he has thrown his life away. House replies,”I’m dead. What do you want to do with your remaining five months.”

The series ends with House and Wilson sitting on motorcycles. Wilson tells House,”Uhh..when the cancer gets bad..”.

House interrupts, looks at Wilson and says,”Cancer is boring.” They drive off together, presumably doing what Steppenwolf sang about: “looking for adventure and whatever comes our way.”

What a friendship! Despite its ups and downs, the relationship between House and Wilson is an enduring one.

They both get fulfillment and complete satisfaction in it. This is despite the trials.

I was sitting at home a few days ago not feeling particularly close to God.  I believe this was because I hadn’t really met God’s expectations, just as House and Wilson did not fulfill each other’s wishes at times.

I understand, however, that  even though the closeness of these two men is admirable and even to be emulated, a relationship with the my Lord and Master Jesus is of a different kind on one important respect. Jesus told his disciples,”You are my friends if you do what I command (John 15:14).”  If we want God to confide in us like a friend, we need to fear Him (Psalm 25:14).

As I sat there on my couch, trying to have a quiet time, I missed the fellowship with God. There is nothing on this earth like it. 

I asked Him to take me back into His confidence.  He did.

There is nothing so precious as friendship with God. No experience, work, hobby, or any other relationship can replace it.

I was pretty scared when I thought that I might have lost His friendship for good. It gave me a clear perspective on what is important in this life and how to live.

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“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ (Matthew 9:36-38).”

The World Cup women’s championship game this weekend went back and forth. One team went ahead, it seemed for good.

Then, a defender for the winning team gave the other squad a gift. She kicked it right to her opponent standing in front of the goal.

Of course, the alert opponent obliged. She kicked the ball into the net and saved her team from a sure defeat.

With the score now tied, the team that had given away a goal scored again. They were jubilant and seemingly on their way to victory.

However, with time running out the losing side scored again. Once more, the teams were tied.

As the rules required, the game was decided on a shootout. The team that had outplayed their opponent on paper most of the game unbelievably missed most of their penalty kicks.

As they had the whole match, the team that had been outplayed took advantage. They made the needed shots in the shootout. They were world champions.

The emotions on the faces of the losing team told the whole story. During the game, as they made one key mistake after another, the ladies’ expressions reflected shock, sadness and heartbreak.

The British TV announcer during all this mayhem described the game with one of the cleverest statements I have ever heard during a sporting event. He called the happenings of this championship  a “19th nervous breakdown”.

This reporter got this phrase from a hit of the 1960s by the Rolling Stones. It describes a girl who is flighty and unstable due to a terrible childhood.

In his novel “Bleachers”, John Grisham describes a gathering of former high school football players who remember their own past glories on the field. They show up in their old home town because their old football coach is on his deathbed. They hold a vigil in the bleachers at their old field, now named after there coach, Eddie Rake.

Rake put their small town of Messina on the map. In 34 years as coach, his Spartans won hundreds of victories and many state titles.

However, Neely Crenshaw, the main character of the story and the quarterback of one Rake’s best teams, wishes he had never seen a football. Playing for Eddie Rake was a nerve wracking and even physically harmful experience.

Rake finally was fired after one of his players died during a practice after Neely Crenshaw had graduated. The coach had pushed his players to run the bleachers on an extremely hot day and the boy, Scotty Reardon, died of heat stroke.

While sitting in the bleachers reflecting, one of Rakes’ old players produces a radio broadcast of the state championship game in which Neely Crenshaw had played.  Many of Rakes’ former players gather around to listen.

They skip the first half because their school was behind 31-0. The broadcast they listen to begins after halftime.

The broadcaster notes two key points. First, he expresses his belief that in all of his years of doing the team’s games, he doesn’t remember them ever being so far behind at the half. Second, he points out that the team’s coaches are nowhere around.

As the men listen, during the second half the Spartans slowly come back. The game is full of bone-jarring hits, astounding plays and extreme excitement.

What is curious is that Neely Crenshaw doesn’t throw one pass. While he is on the sidelines, his throwing hand is in an ice bucket.

Crenshaw replaces his coach as the field general since the man is absent. He calls running play after running play.

With seconds left and his team behind by a touchdown, Crenshaw leads the Spartans down the field. On the final play of the drive, he falls into the end zone and wins the state championship for his team, sans coaches.

What doesn’t come out until later is that the team had played so hard because they were enraged at their coach, Eddie Rake. He had come in at half time and hit Neely Crenshaw so hard that he had broken his nose.

Crenshaw retaliated on the spot. He slugged Rake right in the face and knocked him cold in the locker room.

One of the defensive players, an extremely brutal player named Silo, mades the coaches leave. They show up in the vicinity of the field only as the game is coming to its conclusion.

The fictional state championship game of the Messina Spartans was similar to this week’s women’s World Cup in drama. The whole episode was one big “19th nervous breakdown”.

For 15 years Neely Crenshaw has harbored bitterness toward Eddie Rake. Even though Rake visited Crenshaw in his hospital room after a career-ending injury in college, and asked his forgiveness, Neely has refused to let what the players call an “altercation” go.

At Eddie Rake’s funeral, a message from the coac is read to the huge crowd. In it, he tells of two regrets.

One is the death of Scotty Reardon. He has already sought and been granted the forgiveness of the family, and has been buried next to the boy.

The second regret is his actions toward Neely Crenshaw during the state championship game. In the message he apologizes and asks for the team’s forgiveness.  

Crenshaw is surprised that he is one of three former players to be asked to read  a short eulogy. Struggling with his feelings toward Rake, he finally tells the crowd he has now forgiven the coach.

This is a watershed for Neely Crenshaw because he himself needs forgiveness, which he has found hard to come by. He is divorced and estranged from his ex-wife, whom he misses.

In addition, Crenshaw is kicking himself that he dropped the love of his life in high school for a promiscous fling with a loose girl. On the visit to Rakes’ funeral, he has sought forgiveness from the girl, Cameron, with only a small result.

Cameron was devastated for 10 years because of what Crenshaw did to her. However, she has moved on and is happily married and a mother. 

Crenshaw, though, is full of regrets. He calculates the life expectancy of Cameron’s husband, and tells her that when he dies, to give him a call.

The Bible is full of such messy stories. One is that of Jepthah, a judge in Israel.

Jepthah’s origins are a little awkward. His father Gilead, the tribal sheikh, fathered him via a prostitute.

When Jepthah comes of age, his brothers, the sons of Jepthah’s wife, throw him out. Jepthah, the Bible says, begins to hang out with a group of scoundrels.

However, Jepthah may be a bastard, but he is quite a fighter. Thus, when Israel needs someone to take on their enemy the Ammonites, they call on Jepthah.

 Jepthah responds as you might imagine. “Oh, before you had no use for me, but now you need my help when it’s convenient. Take a powder.”

The leaders of the Gilead clan  finally convince him to take on the role of leader of his people. He does so, and gives the Ammonite king a history lesson.

The Ammonite king claims Israelite land, indicating that Israel took it from him. Jepthah reminds the Ammonite leader that Israel had been peaceful toward his people, but were provoked. In addition, he refreshes him in the fact that what took place occurred hundreds of years ago.

None of this matters to the king of the Ammonites. He ignores Jepthah.

Jepthah talks big, but he doesn’t seem to have much confidence. He is about to  have his “19th nervous breakdown”.

Before taking on the Ammonites, Jepthah makes a rash vow to God. He tells the Lord: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands,  whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering (Judges 11:30,31).”

After Jepthah defeats the Ammonites, who should greet him at his door but his flighty teenage daughter, dancing with a tambourine in her hand. She can be best described by the opening lyric to the Stones’ song “19th Nervous Breakdown”:

You’re the kind of person
You meet at certain dismal dull affairs.
Center of a crowd, talking much too loud
Running up and down the stairs.
Well, it seems to me that you have seen too much in too few years.
And though you’ve tried you just can’t hide
Your eyes are edged with tears.

You better stop
Look around
Here it comes, here it comes, here it comes, here it comes
Here comes your nine-teenth nervous breakdown.”

Her father is distraught.  Jepthah obviously loves his daughter, his only child, but  tells her the bad news that she is to be a sacrifice.

Jepthah’s daughter consoles her father, but asks for two months leave to go off on a camping trip with her BFFs so she can reflect on her life. He grants her this request.
 
When she returns, Jepthah does the deed. In those days, the girls of Israel held a 4 day backpack trip each year to remember her.
 
Now, being a male and a father, I can imagine Jepthah playing the blame game over all of this. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote a lyric for him in “19th Nervous Breakdown”:
 
Oh, whose to blame, that girls just insane.
Well nothing I do don’t seem to work,
It only seems to make matters worse. oh please.
Au contraire, Mr. Jepthah Gilead. James Dobson notes the empty headedness of today’s girls in a recent letter to his constituents, and puts the blame where it belongs.
 
Introducing his thoughts about today’s girls, Dobson desribes how a Christian leader was invited to a high school football game after he retired, but snuck away at halftime. He was so “profoundly burdened” over the kids around him that he went home to pray for them.
 
Dobson writes:

We see evidence of this vacuity among the girls who contact us to seek advice. They are very different from those who wrote us twenty years ago. Teens used to inquire about the “right” thing to do, which usually reflected a Christian foundation of some variety. Even those who had no faith seemed to know that some things were simply wrong. That has changed dramatically. A significant number of the teens who ask for our counsel now are not interested in what is moral but rather how they should deal with the messes they are in and whether or not they should act on their impulses and desires. Not all adolescents think this way, of course, nor do the majority of them. But we are hearing from more and more youngsters who are greatly influenced by moral relativism. For them, absolute truth does not exist. There is no reliable standard of right and wrong because they acknowledge no God who can define it.

This is why so many young people today are pursuing alien theologies and pleasures, such as New Age nonsense, the “hookup culture,” substance abuse, and raw materialism. They are searching vainly for something that will satisfy their “soul hunger,” but they are unlikely to find it. Meaning in life comes only by answering the eternal questions that are addressed exclusively within the Christian faith. No other religion can tell us who we are, how we got here, and where we are going after death. And no other belief system teaches that we are known and loved individually by the God of the universe and by His only Son, Jesus Christ.

Moses instructed parents to talk about these spiritual truths continually at home. This is what he wrote to the Children of Israel more than 3,500 years ago.

Dobson goes on to offer several suggestions concerning what parents can do to introduce their children to Jesus Christ.

Life is messy and we humans are a mess. We are constantly having our “19th nervous breakdown”.

Too many of us parents are creating our own Eddie Rake and Jepthah stories. Too many of us are no better than Gilead or Neely Crenshaw.

Is it any wonder that among the last words of Jesus was the statement,”Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Dads, we’d better stop, and look around. It’s halftime boys. 

 
 
 

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“One thing I ask of the LORD,  this is what I seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the LORD  all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD  and to seek him in his temple.  For in the day of trouble  he will keep me safe in his dwelling;  he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle  and set me high upon a rock (Psalm 27:4,5).”

Last night the fam sat down to watch  a movie, as is our custom on the weekends.  Since we were celebrating the Independence Day holiday, we decided to watch a flick we picked up from the library called “In Search of America”, a 1971 made-for-TV film.

The movie is the story of a 1960s era family whose oldest son Mike convinces to go on a journey to find themselves. The vehicle for this trek is an old 1928 bus which is to to take them throughout the land.

With the title, you would think the viewer would be treated to scenic sights, large cities and beautiful nature in an ongoing travelogue.  Yet, the bus stops fairly close to the beginning of the trip at a Woodstock clone, complete with hippies, marijuana and “love”.  The bus doesn’t leave the place until the end of the flick.

Frankly, the movie was a bomb. My oldest son, at the closing credits, said, “I want my hour and a half back.”   

When the bus arrives at the rock concert site, the family parks next to people hitting the self-destruct button. For example, Nick and his pregnant significant other Anne are attempting to have the baby on site  based on what they read from a book.

The worst case, however, is Kathy.  Her real name is Susan Chandler. Nineteen=year old Susan has run away from home because she  doesn’t want to face a lifetime hooked up to a kidney dialysis machine.

As the story develops, Mike’s mother Jenny tries to convince the resistant expectant couple to seek a doctor’s help.  In addition, Susan’s parents hunt all over the camp for her. She needs her dialysis, or she will die. Yet, Susan refuses to come to them.

In the meantime, Mike is falling for Kathy/Susan.  He eventually aids and abets her deluded attempt to run from her trouble and her parents, almost until it is too late.

Finally, in the climax to the movie, Nick allows Jenny and Mike’s grandmother to help deliver the baby when things get dicey. Furthermore, when Susan deteriorates to a dangerous point, Mike seeks help for her.

All’s well that ends well.  Mother and child are fine.  Susan is in the hospital recovering, and receives a visit from her new friend Mike. And the fam is off in their old bus for a new adventure, which history never records because the pilot was so bad no network in its right mind would pick it up.

Despite being a travesty, the film did have some lessons to teach.  One is that we need our families, and that the “evil parents” actually do want to prevent us from ruining our lives. In fact, the flick teaches that they may actually have some wisdom.

Another lesson is that when we feel like dropping out, there is the Lord.  My wife commented during the movie that the characters were “sheep without a shepherd”.  This is of course the view Jesus had of a large crowd of people as His boat landed.  When He saw them, He was moved with compassion. The Scriptures say Jesus “began teaching them many things (Mark 6:34)”.

Some people would be better off if they listened to what Ma and Pa  and the Lord had to teach.  For example, our parents and the Scriptures tell us to get off our rears, get to work and stay out of trouble.  If we don’t, the Bible says instant, incurable disaster will strike (Proverbs 6:6-15).  Now that’s a warning to heed!

Pharoah was warned repeatedly by Moses and God that ultimate disaster would strike if  he didn’t let the Israelites leave Egypt.  It took the death of all the firstborn of Egypt and the resulting loud outcries to get him to obey God (Exodus 12:29-32).

Pharoah had his finger on the self destruct button, and he was determined not to take it off. God did it for him with the death of his own child, yet Phaorah later put his finger back on the self destruct button again, resulting in further chaos (Exodus 14:26-28).

When we’re lost, we don’t need to tune in, turn on and drop out like the characters from “In Search of America”.  Usually, our families are there, but even if they aren’t, God is there to catch us as we fall. We can let Him stop us from self destructing and learn what He has to teach us (Psalm 27:10-11).

Probably the most important lesson we can learn from God is that He is the Truth we should be seeking.  The answers to life aren’t to be found traveling across America or any other country.  

In fact, we don’t even have to leave our couch. We just need to look up.

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“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-5).”

We learned it as at an early age: the need to share, that is. Our parents tried to drill it into our heads. 

As kids, we were to told share our rooms, share our toys, share our desserts.  It was our parents’ efforts to keep us from becoming selfish, and unruly. Fights break out when people don’t share.

There’s an old saying first used in the 18th century novel “Robinson Crusoe”.  In the book, one of the mates on a ship of starving men says about his shipmates that he “went share and share alike with them in every bit they ate”.  The phrase entered the common English tongue to mean that it’s a good thing to share things fairly and equally.

In an earlier version of the phrase (“share and share like“), a 1566 comedy used the idiom as a legal word meaning to share the spoils of a venture. It was later broadened to include sharing the costs of a project as well.

On the other hand, there are certain things we are told not to share. In an MSN  article I read this morning, the author explains that it’s not a good idea to share common items like pens, cell phones and TV remotes. Germs can spread when  people share those things.

The Pharoah of Egypt was one of these people that never grew up, who probably never learned to share. This was evidenced by his response to God’s plagues on his country. 

God has told Pharoah through Moses to let his people leave Egypt so they could worship Him.  Pharoah had refused and suffered God’s rebuke in the form of  pestilence, disease, death of their animal herds, and hail.

Now, God was threatening to send a swarm of locus upon Egypt that would destroy whatever crops were left. His advisors told Pharoah, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the LORD their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined (Exodus 10:7).

However, Pharoah didn’t listen to his advisors, or Moses when he came for an answer. He threatened Moses and drove him out of his sight (Exodus 10:8-11).

If Pharoah could have a theme song during the time of the plagues, it might be one by “The Fortunes”, a 60s pop group from the UK.  They had a hit song called “You’ve Got Your Troubles”. It’s about a guy so preoccupied with his lost love that he couldn’t  possibly focus on someone else’s issues.

“I see that worried look upon your face
You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine
She’s found somebody else to take your place
You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine
I too have lost my love today
All of my dreams have flown away
Now just like you I sit and wonder why
You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine
You need some sympathy, well so do I
You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine
She used to love me, that I know
And it don’t seem so long ago
That we were walking
That we were talking
The way that lovers do
I too have lost my love today
All of my dreams have flown away
And so forgive me if I seem unkind
You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine

I’d help another place, another time
You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine
You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine
You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mi-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ine.”

Who knows why Pharoah didn’t want to let the Israelites go, despite the catastrophe God had brought upon his land. Perhaps he was preoccupied by a snub from a girlfriend. All the Bible says is that he had a hard heart (Exodus 10:20).

His heart was so hard that he didn’t even want to pay the price to save his people.  It wasn’t share and share alike with Pharoah.  It was,”You’re on your own guys.”

A person will go to great lengths to avoid doing God’s will.  A man or woman like that has no interest in following God. They don’t follow God because, like a little child, they “don’t wanna!”. They don’t want to share their lives and hearts with him. It might be too costly.

Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).”  It’s a great paradox, but it’s the truth. We get to know God by sharing it with Him.

In fact, this principle not only applies to a relationship with God, but to relationships with other humans as well. If we want to get to know our wives, children, friends and others, we have to share our lives with them.

It’ll take some blood, sweat and tears, but the effort will be worth worth it. Share and share alike.

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 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Revelation 3:20).”

Murray K was a famous disc jockey in the 1950s.  He bet Bobby Darin that he couldn’t write a song that began with the words “Splish Splash, I was takin’ a bath”.

Darin took him up on his bet, and ended up with a big hit. Here are some of the lyrics:

“Splish splash, I was taking a bath
Long about a Saturday night
A rub dub, just relaxing in the tub
Thinking everything was alright

Well, I stepped out the tub, put my feet on the floor
I wrapped the towel around me
And I opened the door, and then
Splish, splash! I jumped back in the bath
Well how was I to know there was a party going on..”

Pharoah must have felt like Bobby Darin when the plagues started.  Moses told him they were coming, but Pharoah had a hard heart and didn’t believe him. 

I gave myself a challenge similar to the one Murray the K gave Bobby Darin, except the song had to start with “Ding Dong, boy I was wrong”.

Here’s my attempt:

“Ding dong, boy I was wrong
thinkin’ about Moses and the plagues
A jib jab, I was really mad
When I sat down to eat my eggs.

Well, I put down my fork and I started to puke
I jumped up on a chair
And I danced a juke, and then
Ding Dong! It  was Aaron at the door
Well how was I to know they could really bring it off.”

(Back to Darrin’s lyrics) They was a-splishing and a-splashing, reelin’ with the feelin’
Moving and a-grooving, rocking and a-rolling, yeah.”

The frogs Moses had promised had shown up at Pharoah’s breakfast. As a result of this first plague, Pharoah gave in to Moses’s request to allow Israel to leave town and hold a worship service to the Lord. Moses prayed and the frogs all died.

However, after Pharoah saw that the frogs had been removed, he changed his mind and stopped listening to Moses and Aaron. In effect, he also stopped listening to God (Exodus 8:1-12).

The Bible describes Pharoah as a person who generally had a hard heart (Exodus 7:3; 8:14).  What causes this heart condition?

Daryl R. Coats says a hard heart comes from a chain reaction cause and effect which begins with unbelief.  This leads to sin.  The person then refuses to repent of the sin, and is then affected with a destuctive pride.

Coats’ analysis sure applies to Pharoah.  He had already told Moses he didn’t believe in his God (Exodus 5:2).

Pharaoh also was committing grievous sin, killing innocent Hebrew children and oppressing the Israelites (Exodus 1:15,16; 6:4-18).  His ongoing refusal to heed God and Moses revealed that he was unrepentant and prideful.

With the beginning of the plagues, Pharoah could no longer claim ignorance. He couldn’t say in relation to the planned Israelite festival in the desert, “How was I to know there was a party going on?”. God was ringing Pharoah’s chimes and telling him he would suffer grave consequences and if he did not listen to Moses’ plea to let His people go.

Some things we can plead ignorance about. For example, a friend told me he was chastized by a doctor for bringing his wife to the hospital almost too late.  She almost died. He couldn’t have known her condition was that serious.

When it comes to obeying God, though, many things are pretty clear in the Bible.  For example, we know we aren’t to lie, steal, murder, commit adultery, covet other people’s stuff and worship other gods (Exodus 20:1-17).

The Ten Commandments are just the basics.  The Scriptures are loaded with spiritual food for believers to grow in their faith.

We don’t have to live in unbelief.  When Jesus rings the doorbell, we can listen, open the door and fellowship with Him over breakfast. We’ll save ourselves a lot of plagues in this life if we do.

Breakfast with Jesus sure beats breakfast with a bunch of frogs.

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“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).”

As an American,  I called it an “indescribable gift.” Clint Dempsey of the USA side kicked a soft shot toward goal.  The ball bounced toward England goalie Robert Green, who cupped his hands to block the shot. 

Incredibly, the ball caromed off of Green’s hands and rolled toward the goal.  Green frantically turned to his right, and slapped at the ball with his right hand.  The ball kept rolling, and the goalie turned backwards,  and lunged toward the ball and the goal. Too late.  The ball rolled across the goal line and into the net.   The score was now 1-1.

That result held up and the heavy underdog USA squad lingered on the field to celebrate. The English team made a quick exit.

The goal will go down in history as one of sports’ greatest muffs.  It ranks up there with “Wrong Way” Riegels fumble return in the wrong direction in a college football game and Bill Buckner’s error in baseball’s World Series which allowed the winning run to score.

Riegels and Buckner were at the top of their game.  They were excellent players performing for the top teams in their sport. Yet one mistake defined their careers. 

Media accounts show that Green is taking his misfortune in stride at this point. The goal hasn’t destroyed him. However, I don’t think he has the same perspective as I do and sees his blunder as a present.

It’s tough to see the bright side when bad things happen to good people.  There is something in us that makes us think that only the evil get the short end of the stick. 

As Christians we see ourselves as the good guys.  Therefore, when suffering hits we wonder why God is punishing us.

The fact is, we believers in Christ do suffer regardless of our efforts at righteousness.  Job is the poster child for this truth.  God called him “blameless”, but allowed Satan to afflict him (Job 1:8-12).  Joseph did everything right and resisted severe temptation, yet he was falsely accused and thrown into prison (Genesis 39;2-20).   

It just doesn’t seem fair.  However, we might have a different take on our pain if we understood another truth besides the one which says we suffer despite our serious attempts to follow the Lord.  This maxim says that trials are a gift.

Our suffering is a process which is getting us ready for some good things from God, either in this life or the next.  Job’s trials despite his righteousness gave him a unique faculty, the ability to really know God (Job 38:1-40:5).

Joseph understood after his enslavement and time in prison that God’s hand was in it all.  After he became the Pharoah’s right hand man, he told his brothers who had sold him into slavery,” “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:19-20)”.

In the eternal scheme of things, God is using our difficulties to prepare us for heaven.  We may be groaning now, but the purging of our fallenness gives us hope for the forever we will have with God (Romans 8:18-25; I Peter 4:12-19).

I used to think that God’s gifts were such things as a wife and kids, a car and a decent place to live.  While these are truly good things from God, they don’t compare with what he has in store for us.

Last night our pastor discussed how a diamond is made. He talked about how a big lump of carbon is grinded and scraped.   Our pastor said that if the rock could talk, it would complain about its treatment.

The proof of the benefit, though, was in the before and after pictures he showed us on the data projector.  The first shot showed a gray, lumpy, rock of carbon.  The second shot showed the results of all the abrasive treatment: a shining, beautiful, lustrous diamond.

I’d rather be  shiny a jewel for God in heaven then a craggy stone left behind to rot.  So thanks God for your indescribable gift of Jesus Christ and also the present of  suffering you use as the process to allow me to hang with Him forever.

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