Tag Archives: Christian

The List

44200771._SY475_The List, by Buck Storm and Bill Perkins is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  The novel falls into the Christian fiction genre and captures the essence of what life must have been like in Israel under Roman occupation at the time of Christ.  

The storyline follows the lives of Joseph of Arimathea (a Saducee) and Nicodemus (a Pharisee), both of whom were part of the Jewish religious council called the Sanhedrin. The unlikely pair become friends and secretly set out to prove/disprove that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah.  They accomplish this by creating a list of prophecies Messiah must fulfill.  

My favorite part of the book was how the authors  managed to capture the tension between the people’s love for Jesus and the religious leader’s loathing of him.   A must read for people of faith. I was excited to learn there will be a sequel.

Joshua 16-19: Possess your inheritance

photoshop-2845779_960_720Joshua chapters 16-19 go into great detail of how the tribes of Israel received their inheritance beginning with Caleb (from the tribe of Judah) and ending with Joshua (from the tribe of Ephraim). Lots were cast before God’s presence in the tabernacle in Shiloh (Joshua 18:6). Casting lots for land distribution involved God in the process. Today’s equivalent would be casting dice or picking a slip of paper out of a hat with a choice written on it. How many of us today would attribute the casting of lots to divine providence?

Joshua 16

Ephraim is given land before Manasseh even though the latter was the oldest child. This follows the order of Jacob’s blessing pronounced on Joseph two sons is found in Genesis 48. Jacob (old in years and blind) knowingly reverses his hands placed on the heads of his grandsons by Joseph and blesses Ephraim first. Jacob said, “his younger bother will become greater than he.”

Joshua 17

This chapter chronicles the land given to Manasseh, which includes the daughters of Zelophehad. Back in Numbers 27:1-11, the inheritance of Zelophehad is in jeopardy because he has no sons, only daughters. Zelophehad appealed to Moses to grant his daughters their father’s inheritance. God instructed Moses to honor their request.

“Do we as Christians lack the boldness, assurance and confidence to lay hold of God’s provisions?” D.R. Davis

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

The opposite of bold faith is complacency.  We find complacency clearly demonstrated by Israelites when they fail to completely possess the land, allowing the Canaanites to remain.  The Canaanites worship of Baal would become a cancer to the Israelites and eventually cost them their inherited land.

Should Christians be complainers if, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Joshua 18

A fair amount of grumbling and complaining occurred as the land was being distributed by the casting of lots. It became necessary to have the lots cast before God’s presence in the tabernacle.  Joshua exhorts the remaining seven tribes to stop procrastinating and possess their inheritance.

Joshua 19

The last allotment taken was for Joshua. He received the town, Timnath Serah, which is what he asked for.

Judges 2:4, “The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua…”

The territory dispersed began with Caleb and ended with Joshua, two of the twelve spies who gave a good report when the Israelites spied out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13-14). The remaining spies gave bad reports.  The same pattern continued after the Israelites entered the promised land and possessed it.

Christians are not perfect and need to go about the business of giving a positive report to the dying world around them. True believers will one day receive their inheritance. In the meantime they should not see themselves as the “elite,” rather, humbly live out their lives in a manner pleasing to God.

Growing faith

“Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.”  2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 NLT

Growing faith leads to abounding love. How does faith grow? One way is through persecution or trials, when we are forced to fully rely on God. How can we as followers of Christ, abounding in love, help those who are embroiled in such a predicament? Several years ago I began the practice of praying for someone who seemed to be wandering in a proverbial “desert wilderness.” I reasoned, if Jesus’ wilderness experience lasted forty days, then hat should be the measure of my commitment.  My forty day commitment to praying for someone is often done without telling them.  It builds up my faith to see God answering prayer in the life of another person.

praying-1319101_960_720Dear God, strengthen my faith by your mighty power. Remind me my strength comes from every word that comes out of your mouth. Guide my words and deeds to bring glory to your name. Show me someone who may be suffering, whether they’re facing a trial or struggling with doubts about their faith.  

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”  Thessalonians 1:11 NLT

 

The First Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-2903166_960_720When I mention Thanksgiving, what thoughts come to mind? Are there memories of a family gathering, or a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings? At my parent’s house we watched football games on TV (before and after our meal).

According to my smart phone, the word Thanksgiving is defined as an “expression of gratitude, especially to God.” When I looked up the definition of gratitude, my phone said, it is a quality of being thankful. Notice how the words “thanksgiving” and “gratitude” describe each other. Thanksgiving is showing gratitude and gratitude is being thankful.

When was the first thanksgiving? Most people would say it happened several hundred years ago in Plymouth, Mass. when the first pilgrims came to America and gathered around a table with their Indian guests. Was that really the first thanksgiving, or did one occur much earlier in history?

According to David Mathis in his article, “The True Story of Thanksgiving,” the first thanksgiving began thousands of years earlier. Genesis 1:27 us that God created man and woman in his own image. God created us to show Him gratitude, to give Him thanks and to worship Him. The first thanksgiving occurred in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve thanking and praising their Creator.

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.” Psalm 148:13

We all know the story of Adam and Eve. They were created perfect. Death had yet to come into existence. They had everything they could ever want provided for them in the Garden of Eden. That is, until the tempter, began spreading his venom around Eden. Satan, being full of pride and love of self, showed ingratitude towards God. Ingratitude is a form of rebellion. It is through ingratitude towards God that sin abounds. The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:21 puts it this way, “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Ingratitude would lead Adam and Eve into sin.  Satan brought to their attention one thing they did not have.  They began to believe his lie that God was holding something back from them. God must not care about them. They began to covet the one thing they couldn’t have, to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They stopped being thankful for God’s provision and gave in to rebellion. When they ate the fruit, God’s judgment fell on them. Sin separated them from God and death followed sin.

From that day forward, humankind has been self-centered and materialistic creatures believing they can do a better job than God at providing for their needs. We want to determine what is right and wrong in our own minds. People are concerned more with their deprived physical needs than about their spiritual, eternal well-being. What people fail to realize is that God knows us better than we know ourselves.

Isn’t it reassuring to know God didn’t abandon us to our foolish darkened hearts? God sent his son Jesus into a thankless, ungrateful world. Here on earth he lived a flawless life, showering God with gratitude, thanksgiving and praise. Jesus exemplifies the word “thanksgiving.” The Gospels are filled of examples of Jesus giving thanks to God:

When Jesus fed the 4,000, “he took the seven loaves and the fish and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples. (Mark 8:6)

Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he lifted up his eyes toward heaven and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” (John 11:41).

The “Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said this is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way after supper he took the cup, saying this the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

Communion is sometimes referred to as the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from the Greek word Eukaistos, which actually means “Thanksgiving.”

Jesus didn’t just model thanksgiving for us. He died on the cross for our ingratitude, for our failing to exalt God, to praise him and worship Him as Lord. When we place our faith in Jesus, he redeems us from a life of ingratitude and restores us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created: to be thankful and grateful to God.

This is why it is important for us to be constantly striving to be more like Jesus, the only person who lived a perfect life of gratitude, honoring his father, God.

When we pray we need to remember to be thankful.

“Don’t be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6  

When we worship God we need to be thankful. The book of Psalms is full of thankful worship verses.

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Psalm 95:2

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30

When we walk with God we need to remember to be thankful.

“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7

But we’re human aren’t we. There are times we fail miserably at being thankful, like when things aren’t going well for us. We can easily be overcome by hurt and tragedy. When we face trials we have a tendency to blame God.

When we face those trials we need to remain especially thankful.

But how do we do that? First, we can remain thankful by standing on the promises of God. Second, we should remember past and current blessings God has bestowed on us. Yes, count your blessings name them one by one!

My wife visited her family in North Carolina recently. When it came time to fly home, I prayed God would give her an uneventful and safe return. Her fight home, which should normally take about 3 hours turned into quite an ordeal, lasting well over 9 hours. I thought I had covered all my bases with my prayers and found myself having a tough time coping with her having to change planes, miss a connecting flight, and endure hour after hour of delays all caused by bad weather.

The ordeal continued to spin out of control at a time I needed God most. It became increasingly difficult for me to believe God was listening to my prayers. Thoughts like, “Does he really care about my wife and me” crept into my head. It wasn’t until she and I were safely together again that I learned just how involved God was guiding her every step. I felt ashamed when I considered my feelings of ingratitude. My heart turned to repentance and thanksgiving.

From now on I will always think of this incident in my life when I come across the verse:

“And we know (there’s a promise in those three words). And we know that in all things God works for good to those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

My wife will likely remember the promise I texted her in the midst of her ordeal :

“Be still and know (the word “know” is a promise) that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.

grateful-2940466_960_720

May this Thanksgiving be a special time of blessing for you. Remember to give thanks to the God who created you, to the One who sustains you, and to Him who will never leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 13-15: Live by faith

Joshua chapters 13-15 begin an account detailing of how the land of Canaan was to be divided among the 13 tribes of Israel (Joseph received a double portion). Each of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh are counted as a tribe. Though this material may seem dull to the modern reader it chronicles the fulfillment of Israelite inheritance.

Inheritance – biblical inheritance in the literal sense is a possession or piece of property that is linked to the promises of God (i.e. Promised Land). It’s transcendent meaning holds that God himself is our inheritance.

Levites – the tribe of priests didn’t receive a swath of territory like the other tribes. Instead they received cities, which included the surrounding pasture lands. The Levites received the sacrifice offerings brought by the other tribes to the Lord. God was to be their inheritance. The twelve cities they received were scattered throughout the new land of Israel (see Joshua 21).

While Joshua chapters 1-12 chronicle God’s great victories fighting for Israel, much of the land still needed to be taken.  God himself would continue to fight for Israel if they remained faithful and followed his instructions. The areas yet to be secured included some of the coastland occupied by the Philistines, and areas to the north and south of the lands already conquered.

When the Israelites began to enjoy the Promised Land, they made compromises to speed the process along, permitting people who served other gods to live among them as slaves.  Ironically this would lead to the Israel’s undoing.  They would become slaves to idolatry and eventually to the Canaanites.  The book of Judges chronicles this.

Like the Israelites, how many of us have proved faithful to God in times of great crisis (during the storms of life) only to lose our resolve to remain faithful in the little everyday things?  Faith prizes the gifts god God gives us. Great faith sees beyond the gift and remains faithful to God who gave it.

saint-2356564_960_720Caleb stands out as an example of how Israel’s tribes ought to be living out their conquest of Canaan. He remained faithful to God.  He wanted the complete portion God promised. His faith wouldn’t let him make compromises.  At age 85, he set out to claim the land promised to him.  The same land his feet trod 45 years earlier when he and 11 other Israelites first spied out the land of Canaan under Moses’ leadership (See Numbers 13).  He approached Joshua and said, “Give me the land God promised through Moses.” It didn’t matter to him that the land was occupied by giants.  Caleb’s faith in God allowed him to conquer the land.

Our faith in God can sustain us.  Great faith remembers what God has done and is grateful.  Even today, Jesus is preparing an inheritance for those who are his faithful followers.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  John 14:1-3 NLT

Devoted

IMG_0892

One creature stands out from the others when the subject of devotion is mentioned.  Man’s best friend is a model for humankind.  Our furry beasts aren’t controlling and they don’t harbor hidden agendas; ever loyal, ever faithful, ever loving…

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  Romans 12:10

 

Rust

car-wreck-3183452_960_720I’m guilty of not washing my car as often as I should.  Maybe it’s because I regard vehicles as transportation and not a stylish reflection of who I am.  In the northeastern United States we use salt on the roads in the winter.  So, after ten to twelve years of ownership, my cars invariably show signs of rust.  At this point it’s a little late in the game to be putting more effort into washing my car.

I want to be one of those people who invests their time and energy into imperishable things like relationships.  I know this will require regular housecleaning to keep my heart from forming rust-bearing thoughts that can corrode the relationships I hold dear.

“Store your treasure in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not bread in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”  Matthew 6:20-21 NLT