Do You Need Help?

That question is music to my ears – sometimes, but at other times, I hate that question with a purple-passion. Say what? Yes, there are times when I legitimately want and need help, but there are times when I could use some help, but am loath to admit it.

I wrote “Tired Of Being “Tough”” in September of 2017 about my struggles with handling all the losses I had had in the previous several months. That is one time when I am very grateful that help IS available, because since I wrote and posted that piece, I have had several more traumatic-losses, which now brings the number of significant-losses in the last two years to five. The last loss was in April 2018, my middle daughter, but I didn’t find out about it until New Year’s Eve. I lost my brother in July 2018, after a long illness. That is a LOT of losses for one person to process and handle at the same time. I am still seeing a mental-health counselor once a quarter, and I am thankful that he is there for me.

We have all been in stores when we can’t seem to find ANYTHING, at least not what we are looking for. WalMart is infamous for rearranging their stores in a seemingly-random manner, and even if we have been in that same store a hundred times, there is always something we can’t find, and only store employees know where it is. That is when I don’t mind asking, or getting asked, if I need help.

I was in Staples a few months ago looking for a new desktop computer, and one of the employees was there to explain the differences between the various models they have, and make recommendations about which one would best suit my needs. A new computer will have to wait a while, because I have several more important issues to take care of first. Thank you very much!

I called Tire Kingdom a few days later about two tires for my vehicle. The store manager graciously helped me select the tires that would best suit my needs, based on his many years of experience in the tire business, and what he runs on his personal vehicles. His recommendations verified my own gut-feeling, so my new tires were shipped in from their warehouse, and installed a few days later. I also found out that my vehicle’s brake pads and rotors were worn-out, so I had to have them replaced. Thank you very much!

Thanks, but no-thanks…
There are also times when I DO need help, but I am too stubborn to admit it. Maybe, it’s more like, too PROUD to admit it. I have needed those tires for several weeks, but haven’t had the money to buy them, so I have kept putting it off. Now, it is crunch-time, because I just don’t trust them, particularly on the highway, any more. I made the mistake of admitting to one of my church’s deacons that I need two new tires but don’t have the money for them, so he offered help from the deacon’s fund. Thanks, but no-thanks!

2017 was a different story, because my refrigerator died suddenly in March, and I didn’t have any choice about accepting help to buy a new fridge because I didn’t have the money. I was able to maximize the help by getting my new fridge on sale. That helped me be a good steward of the resources God provided through my church.

In the early 90’s, my family and I were subsisting on my very-meager income – $200/week. We certainly would have qualified for food-stamps, but we were too self-sufficient (PROUD) to apply. My wife was the only person I have ever met who could pull something out of an “empty” pantry and an “empty” refrigerator and put a meal on the table for a family of six thirty-minutes later. We could have eaten “better” on food-stamps, but we never went hungry, thanks to her creative-genius in the kitchen. We thought that other people needed that help worse than we did. Thanks, but no-thanks!

Why was 2018 any different? I know that I wasn’t as frugal with my resources in the last year as I should have been, but, then again, I was counting on some income to help pay me extra expenses which never materialized. That left me in a bind as far as taking care of my own needs.

I have been taught to “own” and accept my choices and decisions, for better or for worse, and to deal, as best I can, with the outcomes. Maybe I am too stubborn, or maybe I am too proud, but I can’t accept financial-assistance to buy my tires. Thanks, but no-thanks!

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight
46 Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.” 50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. (Mark 10:46-52)

Bartimaeus couldn’t have descended much lower of the social-scale. He was blind, and a beggar. Only lepers were “below” him, and even servants and slaves “ranked” higher than him because they could at least work for their living. When he heard that Jesus was coming, out of desperation, with nothing to lose, and potentially everything to gain, he called-out to Jesus; “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus’ reputation had been spread far and wide, so Bartimaeus had probably heard many stories about His miraculous-healings. Would Jesus help him? Why did he throw aside his cloak when he was led to Jesus?

Do you detect a bit of “imagery” here?

50 Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51 And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!”

What did Bartimaeus call Jesus when he made his request? “Rabbi” was the typical title for religious leaders, but Bartimaeus called Jesus “Rabboni“. “Rabboni” is Hebrew for “my master“, a recognition of and submission to Jesus’ authority. Who else called Jesus “Rabboni“?

Since Bartimaeus was claiming Jesus as his master, he may have not wanted to appear before Jesus dressed as he was. That cloak may have been all he owned, and was probably little more than a rag. There was no shame attached to nakedness in the Bible, other than the shame associated with extreme-poverty or enslavement, so Bartimaeus’ only “shame” would have been his poverty, symbolized by his tattered cloak.

God commanded Isaiah, in Isaiah 20, to prophesy barefoot and naked for three years against Egypt and Cush. When they were conquered by the Assyrians, they would be led-away as slaves, barefoot and naked. Isaiah’s nakedness symbolized how they would be treated when they were conquered. It was also to serve as a warning to Israel, which had, contrary to God’s command, made a defense-pact with Egypt and Cush. It was not “shameful” for Isaiah to prophesy naked, but they would be shamed in their captivity.

After Bartimaues made his request to Jesus, Jesus healed him immediately, saying; “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

Following Jesus, in gratitude for what He had done for him, was the natural-result of this incredible miracle. There are many other instances when Jesus healed people and they became His followers.

What about us?
We are constantly putting on a “show” for others, and ultimately for God, but why? We try to pretend that we have it all together, that we are self-sufficient, and that we have everything under control, and while we may fool the people around us, we can’t fool God. He sees us naked, as we are, stripped-bare of all of our pretenses, so why do we try to fool Him too?

Regardless of the resolution of my financial-situation, there is one person I, and you, need never be ashamed for asking for what we need – God. He already knows our needs before we ask Him, so why aren’t we willing to take our needs to Him? He won’t ever embarrass us, and He has far more resources than we can ever imagine. Yes, sometimes we need to be more like Bartimaeus, and less like stubborn-me, but we also need to have the wisdom to know when we REALLY need help, and accept it when we do.

Sola Deo Gloria!


The Incarnation – Promises and Prophesies – Part II

When we left Abraham and Sarah last time, God had miraculously-intervened to give them a son. Isaac had been born in their old-age, as God had promised. We are picking up where we left off.

Isaac’s Sons
19 Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham became the father of Isaac; 20 and Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to be his wife. 21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is so, why then am I this way?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 The Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb;
And two peoples will be separated from your body;
And one people shall be stronger than the other;
And the older shall serve the younger.”

24 When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.

27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28 Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (Genesis 25:19-34)

As the boys grew up, Isaac favored Esau but Rebekah favored Jacob, so when Isaac grew old and was ready to give the family-blessing to Esau, Rebekah intervened so that Jacob was able to weasel his way into getting both the birth-right AND the family-blessing from his father Isaac. On the run from his jealous-brother Esau, He encountered God, who would not only change him but give him a new name. That story is told in Genesis 27 through Genesis 28:5.

Jacob’s Dream
10 Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set; and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. 12 He had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on its top. 19 He called the name of that place Bethel; however, previously the name of the city had been Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, 21 and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. 22 This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Genesis 28:10-22)

Notice God’s promise to Jacob; “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Did you notice the Messianic-promise? It was essentially the same promise God had given to Abraham; “in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

In spite of Jacob’s shenanigans, God chose him to carry-on the family-line. What was God thinking?

God’s Love for Jacob
1 The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.

2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the Lord of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.” 5 Your eyes will see this and you will say, “The Lord be magnified beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachi 1:1-5)

The interlude
Was Jacob REALLY a changed-man? Not hardly, because in the next three chapters of Genesis, Jacob pulled even more shenanigans. After marrying Laban’s two daughters, Rachel and Leah, Jacob bilked Laban out of his best livestock after having a dozen children, and then he high-tailed it back home taking his stolen livestock with him. Never fear, God wasn’t done with him quite yet.

Jacob Wrestles With God
24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” 31 Now the sun rose upon him just as he crossed over Penuel, and he was limping on his thigh. 32 Therefore, to this day the sons of Israel do not eat the sinew of the hip which is on the socket of the thigh, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip. (Genesis 32:24-32)

Along with a wrenched-hip, Jacob got a new name, Israel. He became a man of faith after his second-encounter with God, but he was reminded of his shenanigans with every step he took. One of Israel’s sons was Judah. Does that name ring a bell?

When Israel was on his death-bed, he called each of his sons to him to give them their unique-blessing. It is here that we find the first specific-prophesy of the exact-line the Messiah would be descended from.

From the Tribe of Judah…
8 “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s sons shall bow down to you.
9 “Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He couches; he lies down as a lion,
And as a lion, who dares rouse him up?
10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 “He ties his foal to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine;
He washes his garments in wine,
And his robes in the blood of grapes.
12 “His eyes are dull from wine,
And his teeth white from milk. (Genesis 49:8-12)

This blessing promises an Eternal-Ruler who would ultimately rule over all the peoples.

The Son of David…
When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, 15 but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’” 17 In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. (2 Samuel 7:12-17)

3 “I have made a covenant with My chosen,
I have sworn to My servant David:
4 Your seed will I establish forever,
And build up your throne to all generations.”
29 His seed also I will make to endure forever,
and his throne as the days of heaven. (Psalm 89:3-4, 29)

Both of these Promises speak of an heir to David’s throne who will reign forever. This brings us to three well-known Prophesies from Isaiah.

From Isaiah…
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Emmanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

6 For a child will be born to us; a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And He will delight in the fear of the Lord,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

From Jeremiah…
‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’ 17 For thus says the Lord, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; (Jeremiah 33:14-17)

Closing thoughts…
As much as we would like to think that all the patriarchs were “saints“, they weren’t. When God didn’t provide the promised son soon enough to suit Abraham, he took matters into his own bedroom with another woman. Jacob was a master of dirty-dealing, bilking Esau out of both his birthright AND his father’s blessing. While we didn’t look at the chapters dealing with Jacob’s marriages and his dirty-dealings with his father-in-law, he was no “saint” there either. David, in spite of being called “A man after God’s own heart“, committed several atrocious-sins, including adultery and murder, yet God never rejected him. These things should remind us that “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called“, and as inadequate as we may feel to do the work of the Lord, we have His sure-promise that He will be with us all the way.

Our “grand-finale” will be to celebrate the Birth of Christ, as told in the Gospels.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Tough Times…

I’ve had them, you’ve had them, even the Apostle Paul had them, and some of you may even be going through tough-times right now. Maybe you are going through financial-difficulties such that there is “too much month at the end of the money“, health issues for which there is no “cure“, relationship issues, or are in a spiritual-slump, and while it may be hard to imagine anything “good” coming from them, we aren’t abandoned in our struggles. Paul reminds us that “we are not alone“.

The Apostle Paul was certainly no stranger to pain, suffering and tough times, and as he wrote the letter to the Romans, he knew that more sufferings were ahead of him. He had been beaten many times, imprisoned, and stoned and left for dead. While the exact date of this letter is unknown, we do know that Paul hadn’t been to Rome yet, but that there was already a vibrant church there. He wrote Romans 8 out of those experiences, combined with the assurances he had received from the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 also contains some of the most “difficult” verses in the whole Bible because they are counter-intuitive to us and our experiences. With that in mind, I want to look at verses 18-27. I have covered Romans 8:28-39 in a previous post entitled “Good?” which was posted in August, 2015. I invite you to read and study that post as a “follow-up” to this treatise.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Paul kicks-off this section by comparing the significance of his sufferings with the glory that awaits him after his journey is over. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. As much as Paul had already suffered, and as many sufferings were still on the horizon, they paled in comparison to the glories of Heaven.

While it is not “wrong” to ask, “When will this all end?“, or, “When will I get some relief?“, if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, your spirit should be buoyed by the fact that your suffering will end when you take your last breath, and when you wake up in Heaven, you will have the perfect health and have the perfect body which you may have even been denied at your birth. Yes, I am looking forward to seeing perfectly with two good eyes, hearing perfectly and not having my body riddled with arthritis, the true glory will be seeing my blessed Savior face-to-face and having perfect fellowship with God and with His people.

Paul then reminds us that we are not alone in yearning for when all things will be made right, for when all things will be made new. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

When God created mankind, He gave us custodial-responsibility over all of His creation. When Adam and Eve fell, God placed a curse on the rest of His creation as well. However, rather than being good custodians of God’s creation, mankind has exploited and raped God’s creation in our endless greed for MORE, MORE, MORE. While I don’t know how much of “climate change” is man-made and how much of it is really climate-cycling, I do remember the days when coal-fired power-plants belched acrid black smoke twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week, and when diesel trucks left a plume of acrid black smoke in their wake. I don’t miss those days, but at that, we should be doing a much-better job of tending God’s creation. Yes, even creation eagerly-waits that time when all things will be made right, and all things will be made new.

23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. While some false religions are looking forward to the time when our spirits are “liberated” from our bodily-shell, Christians are looking forward to our bodily-resurrection. Christ’s resurrection was more than merely Him coming back to life; it serves as the iron-clad assurance of our own bodily-resurrection. To be “humanmeans to have a “human-body“, and that is what God created us to be for all eternity.

Our Victory in Christ
26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Have you ever thought that you NEED to pray, and may even have urgent things to pray for, but really couldn’t put your thoughts into a coherent-prayer? Have you ever tried to pray, but all you did was sputter and stammer? Did you ever stop and remind yourself that the Holy Spirit knows what is on your mind and is praying with and for you? Maybe you have read these words before, but their significance still hasn’t sunk-in yet, if so, read them again and let them sink-in to the depths of your heart. 26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We have an intercessor Who knows how to make our petitions known to God the Father even better than we ever could. The Holy Spirit never sputters or stammers. Take comfort in that glorious-reality!

From Isaiah 40:
Eight centuries before Paul wrote his letter to the Romans, God addressed His exiled-people through the prophet Isaiah. As they struggled to endure the hardships of their exile, they asked “Has God abandoned us?”, a question we may be tempted to ask when we are struggling with tough times. God’s answer to them, and to us, should give us comfort and assurance that we are NOT abandoned.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?

28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.

29 He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.

30 Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly,

31 Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:27-31)

God, through Isaiah, asks: 27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? As they yearned for their homeland, they may have wondered whether God had abandoned them, or God was “on vacation” and had forgotten their plight. Do we ever have those thoughts?

Notice God’s answer to their immediate-question: 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. God tells them, AND us, that He NEVERtakes a vacation” or even “goes to sleep“. God is ALWAYS on “high-alert“.

In the aftermath of 9-11, many people wondered where God was on that fateful day, and even more recently, where God was during the Pulse Nightclub massacre, but God has assured us that NOTHINGescapes His notice“.

In the midst of our tough-times, we may ask “WHY?” many times, but God reminds us that we may never understand His reasons for our struggles. His understanding is inscrutable. There are many times in my life when I have asked “WHY?“, only to be met with deafening-silence, and it would only be many years later before I finally caught a glimpse of “why” those things happened.

Have you ever wondered, as you struggled through tough-times, how you were able to keep putting one foot in front if the other? Tough-times wear us down and wear us out, but God concludes His message with one of the most amazing promises in all of Scripture.

29 He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. 30 Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, 31 Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Some of you may have read “Footprints In The Sand” before, and I can’t think of any more fitting way to close this treatise.

Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, You would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. “Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”

If you are going through tough-times, or know someone who is, my prayer is that your spirit will be buoyed by these precious promises from Romans 8 and Isaiah 40. I need to be reminded of them too, because my life isn’t exactly “smooth” right now either.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Have You Seen Jesus?

If you painted a portrait of Jesus, what moment in His life would you try to portray? If an artist were to try to capture the complete essence of His life and ministry, it would be a collosal project. What is your favorite “snapshot“?

As a baby in the manger?

Presented in the Temple?

Talking in the Temple with the teachers?

Baptized by John the Baptist?

Confronting Satan?

Calling His disciples?

Turning water into wine?

Feeding the multitudes?

Raising the dead?

Healing the sick?

Walking on water?

On the mount of transfiguration?

In the Garden of Gethsemane?

Nailed to the Cross?

Risen from the dead?

Ascending into heaven?

Over seven-hundred years before His birth, Isaiah the Prophet penned the last of his four “Suffering-Servant” Songs, and he captured the essence of why Jesus came to Earth in just a few, short verses. Isaiah 53 is the most-quoted Old Testament prophesy in all of the New Testament.

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)

Forget the pasty-white complexion, the elegant flowing robes, the dainty, manicured hands and the flowing-locks. Who was the REAL Jesus?

Had John the Baptist not known who Jesus was, He would not have stood out in the crowd of those who came to hear him preach and get baptized. Jesus didn’t have a stately-stature or kingly-appearance. Throughout His ministry, He was often identified by people around Him as “the son of Joseph and Mary” because He looked like “one of the boys“. He was born into an ordinary working-class Jewish family, so He looked like any other Jewish man, and as much as artists would like to portray Him in “regal” attire, He told some of those who wanted to follow Him that He didn’t even have a place to call His own. He is recorded as having spent time in the home of Peter and Andrew in Capernaum, and that may have been His “headquarters” when he was in that area.

The hands that touched the eyes of the blind were strong, tough and calloused from working as a carpenter for most of His life. The arms that embraced little children and swung the whip when He cleansed the Temple were strong and muscular from hefting heavy pieces of wood and swinging a hammer. Heavily-muscled legs and calloused-feet carried Him all those miles He walked during His earthly-ministry. He was a man’s-man, strong yet gentle.

The only thing that made Him stand out in a crowd was the power and authority with which He spoke. He baffled the Jewish leaders of His day with His wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures. He was the Son of God, the eternal Word, Immanuel, God with us, the Messiah, the Son of Man, Jesus.

Have YOU seen Jesus?


Bible Study – John’s Testimony

The Word Made Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14-17)

The core of the Apostle John’s Christology is that Jesus Christ is both the Eternal Word, who he affirms as being our Creator, and a man, displaying all the hallmarks of being human. No one was closer to Jesus than John. John had spent three years with Jesus. They may have been cousins, and Mary lived with John and his family after the crucifixion.

The most profound marvel of the Incarnation is that the sinless Son of God was able to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves, fully-atone for our sins. If we die for our sins, we die, never to be raised again. Jesus died the death we could never die and was raised again so that we might be raised again also.
And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22)

Jesus, in His incarnation, was Emanuel, God with us, and unlike previous times when God dwelt among His people, Jesus, God, was approachable, touchable, with no strings attached. He wasn’t separated by a curtain, approachable only once a year, and only by the High Priest with a blood-sacrifice. God, in bodily-form, dwelt among His people for several years. God came near. The Holy One of Israel got His hands dirty so that we might be made clean and new.

Only begotten” is one of the great mysteries in the Bible, because it would imply to us that the Word had a beginning, however He could not have been Eternal if He had a beginning. It is our language and word-usage which trips us up. If “unique” was substituted for “begotten“, it would give us a much clearer sense of what and who the Word was. Sometimes translation and our word-limitations make for less-than-clear understanding of the original thought.

Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am frequently amazed by how many Christians have bought into lies, with pastors even preaching those lies from their pulpits. Just because colleges and seminaries teach it, and much of Christendom believes it, doesn’t make it true. The Protestant Reformation was started to confront and correct the rampant-heresy in the Roman Catholic Church. Lies enslave us, while truth sets us free. Jesus came to speak truth into our fallen world, to set us free.

Was John the Baptist demeaning himself by saying the Jesus Christ ranked higher than him? Absolutely not. He simply recognized that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, was God, and he wasn’t.

The author then contrasts Law and Grace by contrasting its authors. Moses was the great law-giver, but keeping the law never brought-about a righteous life. We have all experienced religious-legalism, and the Scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law had raised religious-legalim to a fine art. The problem was that even if a person kept 99% of the law perfectly, they were still condemned by that 1% they didn’t get quite right. Another problem was that the law only exacted penalties for failure to keep it but it didn’t have any rewards for compliance. A person may have a perfect driving-record for twenty years, but when they finally get a speeding-ticket, their otherwise-perfect driving-record doesn’t diminish the penalties for that ticket. Even though my only speeding-ticket was over thirty years ago, that ticket, and that I paid it, is still on record somewhere in Illinois. I would never get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” because I don’t have a perfect driving-record.

That is where Grace comes in. God gives us what we don’t deserve, a right-relationship with Him, rather than what we DO deserve, eternal-punishment. Christ has the perfect record we could never attain, and through His perfect life, shed-blood and finished-work, God gives us what He earned for us. Grace goes far-beyond just keeping us out of Hell. Grace also gives us a place in God’s eternal kingdom, with all the rewards that go with that blessed state. I get inducted into the “Safe-driver Hall of Fame” based on His perfect record, not kept out based on my flawed-record.

Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, came to reveal who God is in an intimate way. He didn’t merely “represent” God, He WAS God.

The Testimony of John
19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ 31 I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.” 32 John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. 33 I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:14-34)

Why did the religious-authorities question John the Baptist? Didn’t he have the “right-stuff“? Didn’t he have the right “pedigree“? His father, Zacharias, was a priest, and his mother, Elizabeth, was a “daughter of Aaron“, so he certainly had the right “pedigree“, but our answer comes in the “who” that questioned him, the religious leaders. They didn’t believe that he had the “authority” to do what he was doing, specifically, baptizing people. John the Baptist had not graduated from the “Jerusalem Theological Seminary“, nor had he gone through the proper steps to become “ordained” by the “powers that be“. John’s “ordination” came from God, not from man. In a nut-shell, he was operating outside their “system“, and they didn’t like it.

John the Baptist did recognize that he was fulfilling the prophesy from Isaiah:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

When John the Baptist said that he was not worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandal, he wasn’t demeaning himself, rather he was recognizing the greatness of the very Son of God.

Where have we seen the promise of God’s provision of a lamb before?
6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”

And he said, “Here I am, my son.”

Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:6-8)

Abraham believed that God would provide the lamb for the sacrifice and his faith was rewarded with that provision. God’s provision of that lamb that day was a powerful symbol and foreshadowing of the perfect Lamb of God. Animal sacrifices could only cover-over sin, but could not take it away. Only the perfect Lamb of God could actually take upon Himself our sin and truly take it away.

Even though Jesus and John the Baptist were related, John knew very little about Jesus or His upcoming ministry until God revealed it to him. The clincher was when John baptized Jesus and the Holy Spirit descend on Him in the form of a dove, combined with the Voice from heaven.

When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, all three members of the Godhead were revealed, Jesus, the Son of God, God the Father by His voice, and the Holy Spirit as represented by the dove. God had never revealed His fullness in this way before, which led John to say: I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:34)

What a marvelous testimony!

Wishing you God’s richest blessings in 2016!

Wait For It…

We hate to wait for ANYTHING! We make appointments so that we don’t have to wait, and hopefully the person we have the appointment with values our time as much as we do. We look for the shortest checkout line at the store so we don’t have to wait. We fuss and fume when we have to wait, and sometimes even get beligerant with whoever is making us wait. We fidget when a red-light is too long or when highway traffic slows to a crawl. We selfishly believe that our time is worth more than anyone else’s. Do you relate?

Recently I was in an “Express” checkout line at WalMart but the people ahead of me weren’t making it easy for the cashier to keep the line moving. The person behind me was loudly and beligerantly berating both the cashier and the other customers for the line being so slow. Did he have an appointment he was going to be late to? Not hardly. He wanted to buy cigarettes and that was the only line where he could buy them. He thought that he should get VIP treatment. Patience wasn’t his long-suit and he really seemed to have lost it long ago.

We drink instant-coffee with our instant-breakfast. The microwave-oven has largely-replaced the stove and conventional-oven. Grocer’s freezer-cases are filled with microwave-meals which can be ready to eat in under five minutes. McDonalds has put the FAST in fast-food by precooking almost everything before it is ordered. We prefer buffets to having our order taken and waiting for our meal to be prepared. Ironically, however, some of my favorite meals are cooked in a SLOW-COOKER.

We have become addicted to instant-gratification, because we want what we want, when we want it, and that is NOW. Why save up to buy something when we can pay for it with a credit-card and pay for it while we are enjoying it. Many parents are still paying off last Christmas’s credit-card debt when it is time to start buying for this coming Christmas. That is insane…

Abraham got impatient when God didn’t fulfill the promise of a son soon enough to suit him, so he took matters into his own bedroom – with another woman. His children are still fighting each other to this day. Moses got impatient with God in the wilderness and only got to see the Promised Land from afar.

Why is patience in such short-supply? Are there not enough hours in the day to allow us to slow down a bit? Are we really THAT self-centered? We wear ourselves out with our striving, but there is an answer. God says:

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. (Isiah 40:28-31)

Are we willing to wait for the Lord’s timing? If we do, He has promised to supply all that we need.

In Christ,


We all love our family traditions, particularly those traditions that we observe during the major holidays. We dress in our finest spring outfits for Easter. We have a big family cookout before popping of a lot of fireworks for 4th of July. We gather around the family table for Thanksgiving. We go to a candle-light service on Christmas Eve before polishing off a couple of rounds of spiked eggnog. Our kids wake up early on Christmas morning to open a mound of presents before we gather around the family table for another feast. We stay up late on New Year’s Eve to watch the great ball in Times Square drop signaling the ringing-in of a new year. These all seem like beautiful traditions, but what if there was a dark-side to each of these events? Would we really still love these traditions in spite of the dark-side?

Two thousand years ago, our Lord’s favorite pests, the scribes and Pharisees, came to Him and asked Him why His disciples didn’t keep their traditions. It seems that they “forgot” to wash their hands before they ate. He pointed out an even bigger problem with their traditions to them.

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
8 “‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
(Matthew 15:1-9)

The Pharisees…
The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect that emphasized “personal-holiness” based on law-keeping. God had given a fairly-detailed set of laws through Moses known as the Torah. The Pharisees weren’t content with merely keeping the laws in the Torah, they thought that God had left quite a few “important” things out, so they compiled an even more detailed set of laws known as the Oral Torah, alias “the traditions of the Elders“. A couple of problems with “the traditions of the Elders” was that the Pharisees thought that their laws were on par with God’s laws, and if there was a conflict between “the traditions of the elders” and God’s laws, their “traditions” always won out. They saw no problem with disobeying God’s law to keep theirs, and this is the problem Jesus pointed out in this passage.

They would count out spice-leaves for their tithe while their brothers and sisters went hungry, and they expected Jesus and His disciple to wash their hands before dinner while their ignored their responsibility to take care of their parents. Neither counting spice-leaves nor washing their hands before dinner were in God’s laws, but feeding the hungry and taking care of their parents definitely was.

The Pharisees are still alive and well today, although very few are Jewish. They can be found in almost every Evangelical church and they have made their presence felt even in the chambers of city councils and county commissions. I grew up in a very legalistic church environment, and since my dad was a pastor, I saw the worst of it. Do any of these ring a bell?

Ladies – Keep your necklines high and your hemlines low.

Ladies – You may only wear a skirt or a dress to church.

Ladies – You must wear some kind of head-covering in church.

Girls and ladies are forbidden to wear any type of two-piece bathing-suit, and all bathing suits must be “modest”. Swimwear from would fit their prescription.

Men – You are expected to be in a suit and tie, or at least a sport-coat and tie when you come to church.

Members may NOT drink any alcoholic beverage. The ONLY exception is the Communion wine.

Members may NOT use any tobacco product.

Dancing is sex standing-up.

Playing pool is sinful.

Gambling is sinful.

Rock music is evil.

If you think that I am making this stuff up, this was just the tip of the iceberg when I was growing up, and many church have an even more extensive set of rules. The anti-nudity ordinance in Polk County, Florida, where I live, even has a “bikiniregulation” which specifies how much of a woman’s anatomy must be covered up to be “legal“. The purpose behind all these rules and regulations is to enforce/protect the “morality” of either church-members or county residents. Churches and county commissions have taken it upon themselves to be “morality-police“, and all of this is based on “the traditions of the elders“, because none of it is in the Bible.

Final thoughts…
I am thankful that I belong to a church which affirms that the Bible is our ONLY guide for faith and life. Legalism never brings about true holiness. Only God, working in our lives, can truly make us holy.

Which is more important to you, “the traditions of the elders“, or the Bible?

In Christ,

Whose Glory?

What do the Oscars, the Emmy’s, and the Golden Globes have in common? What about the Walk of Fame? What do the World Series, the Superbowl, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup have in common? What about the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Gatornationals? What do the Master’s, Wimbledon and the Tour de France have in common? How about the Heisman Trophy?

They all celebrate human achievement, whether in entertainment, team sports, auto racing or in individual sports. We crave recognition, because the satisfaction of a job well done isn’t quite enough. We want someone to pat us on the back and say “Congratulations!”. We want GLORY!

Since the dawn of human-history, mankind has had an insatiable thirst for glory. When Adam and Eve took Satan’s bait, “You shall be as gods“, the die was cast, and the pursuit of glory has been in the forefront of mankind’s minds ever since.

The Tower of Babel is a classic example of building a monument to and for man’s glory, but after God intervened, all that was left was a pile of useless rubble. Are we still building “Towers of Babel“? There are a few in my home-town, monuments to human-achievement.

Why do race-car drivers risk life and limb for one more checkered-flag? Why do pro football players risk a career-ending injury for one more Superbowl Ring? Why do boxers risk their lives for one more title bout? Why do professional athletes take perfomance-enhancing drugs, when they risk ruining their careers if they get caught? Why do many entertainers sell their souls to Satan for fame and fortune? Is it really worth it? Robin Williams met a gruesome end, in spite of all his success and fame.

Fame comes, and fame goes, but no earthly-fame lasts forever. There is always someone waiting in the wings for the star to slip up or wear out. There is always someone with an even-bigger ego waiting to take the star’s place. Is it really worth it?

Why is a little fame never enough? Is the thirst for fame so insatiable that a person will risk everything for a little bit more fame?

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
40 “He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”

41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God. (John 12:37-43)

Do the last two verses of this passage catch your attention the way they caught mine? Whose praise was more important to them, God’s or man’s? They wanted to be in the spotlight NOW. They wanted their praise NOW. They wanted their glory NOW, and they were willing to sacrifice their eternal destiny on the altar of human glory.

I worked with a man in Search and Rescue for several years who was a magnet for the news media. He was the “public face” of Search and Rescue, and he LOVED it. Even though many other people did the hard work of finding and rescuing lost people while he sat in base-camp directing the action, he got the GLORY.

A few years ago, I received an award that I really deserved – NOT!!! I was picked as the Firefighter of the Year by the Chief of the volunteer fire department that I was a part of. There were many other members who contributed far more than I did, but some of them had already been recognized in previous years, so I received the award. My mom still has that award and a picture of me with it in her living room. It really wasn’t my award, even though it was presented to me, because without the rest of the team all pulling together, we would have had fallen apart as a department long before that. Every member of that department deserved that award.

There is one award that I am looking forward to, but not because I deserve it. I look forward to hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” That is the only award that has eternal-significance, and the only one that matters to me.

In Christ,

Honoring A Commitment

Divorce courts are full of broken commitments, but it hasn’t always been this way. Honorable people kept their commitments, even if that commitment was to someone who had died several, even hundreds of years earlier.

Did Abraham ever see his offspring settled in the land that God had promised him? Of course not, but that didn’t keep God from honoring His promise to Abraham.

Did Abraham live to see the day when all nations would be blessed by his offspring? Of course not, but that hasn’t kept God from honoring His promise to Abraham, a promise that God is still honoring today.

Did Isaiah live to see the day when his Messianic prophesies, God’s promises to send a Messiah, were fulfilled? Of course not, but that didn’t keep God from honoring His promises to both Isaiah and to the children of Israel.

There was another very special commitment that the person to whom the commitment was made never saw it fulfilled. David developed a very special bond with King Saul’s son Jonathan, and David made a very special promise, a commitment, to Jonathan.

Jonathan knew that he would never be king, because God, through the prophet Samuel, had already anointed David as the next king. In those days, it wasn’t unusual for the new king to “eliminate” any possible threats to his kingdom by the previous king’s heirs. Yes, “eliminate” means SLAUGHTER. So, Jonathan asked David to spare him and his children when he became king, and as we will see, David went way above and beyond in honoring that commitment, but, before I give too much of this story away, let’s look at it from the Bible.

The promise…
12 Then Jonathan said to David, “I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father intends to harm you, may the Lord deal with Jonathan, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15 and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. (1 Samuel 20:12-17, 42)

The fulfillment…
9 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

2 Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”
“At your service,” he replied.

3 The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”

4 “Where is he?” the king asked.
Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”

5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.

6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.
David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“At your service,” he replied.

7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”

9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)

11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.

12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mika, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth. 13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table; he was lame in both feet. (2 Samuel 9)

Mephibosheth spared…
21 During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.”

2 The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) 3 David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?”

4 The Gibeonites answered him, “We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” David asked.

5 They answered the king, “As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, 6 let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and their bodies exposed before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul—the Lord’s chosen one.”

So the king said, “I will give them to you.”

7 The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the Lord between David and Jonathan son of Saul. 8 But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. 9 He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the Lord. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning.

Final respects…
10 Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night. 11 When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, 12 he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had stolen their bodies from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) 13 David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.

14 They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land. (2 Samuel 21:1-14)

What if?
What if David had ignored his commitment to Jonathan and slaughtered all of Saul’s and Jonathan’s families anyway? Would anyone have blamed him? Who would have even known about that promise?

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town. (1 Samuel 20:42)

Jonathan and David had called God as their witness, so in honoring his commitment to Jonathan, David was honoring God also. How many commitments do we make to one another before God?

Our commitments…
Have you taken marriage vows and called God as your witness?

Have you taken church-membership vows, calling your fellow church-members and God as your witness?

How many other commitments have you made?

How far are you willing to go in honoring your commitments?

In Christ,

Great expectations…

Most, if not all, of us go through life with great expectations…great hopes…big dreams. However, for most of us, those expectations get dashed, often sooner, rather than later. Shouldn’t we expect, dream, hope? Only if they are the right expectations, dreams and hopes.

In “The ‘Winter’ of Life“, I introduced two disciples, whose expectations, dreams and hopes had been dashed. They were in their way to Emmaus after their Lord had been crucified. Sadly, they were in the majority, because the concept of “Conquering King” was far more appealing than “Suffering Servant“. Instead of getting cushy jobs as ambassadors for an earthly kingdom, they were commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ’s heavenly, eternal kingdom. They didn’t understand that “Conquering King” wouldn’t come for many centuries, and that His kingdom would be over a spiritual Israel, not one literally descended from Abraham, although there will be many of Abraham’s children in that coming kingdom.

I remember many years ago, when my first wife and I were expecting our first child. Jokes were going around about me wanting twins. She wanted a girl, and I wanted a boy, and we had names picked out for both. We took Lamaze classes in preparation for our first labor and delivery, which were taught by a nurse-midwife. All our wanting and wishing got a huge reality-check one evening when our instructor came into class with her own children, a boy and a girl. Both had been born with serious birth-defects which caused both of them to be seriously crippled. Our wants and wishes turned to “Lord, we just want a healthy baby!“. I will never forget that moment when our healthy baby girl was born. We were blessed with three more children, two girls and a boy. When we asked for the right thing, God answered our prayers.

No one gets married with the expectation of failure, because marriage is expected to be “Til death do us part“. I would certainly never get married if the vows were “Til death or disconvenience do us part“, but all too often it is the disconvenience which parts couples, rather than death. My first marriage did last “Til death do us part“, however it wasn’t the kind of “natural-causes” one would normally expect, unless massive head trauma and blood loss from a bullet to the head counts as “natural-causes“… Suicide is a horrible way to end a marriage…

The next two marriages ended in divorce, after I was no longer “useful” to them. My fourth marriage hasn’t ended in divorce – yet, but she moved out less than six weeks after we got married, because she was no longer “happy” living with me. She had found another man who makes her “happy” and moved in with him. So much for the commitment in marriage which binds a couple together “Til death do us part“…

Marriage is only one of many places where we have great expectations. How about the child who is an academic-overachiever through-out grade school and high school. and has the potential for great academic achievment, but marries right out of high school and barely finishes college? Or maybe that child goes into the military, rather than going to college? My dad was an academic over-achiever, and I went into the military. I went to college after my time in the service, but only achieved an associates degree. My oldest daughter was an academic overachiever, but only finished her bachelors degree after getting married right out of high school. Were my dad’s great expectations for me justified, or were they a pipe dream, hoping I would follow in his academic footsteps? Were my expectations for my oldest daughter reasonable? Her life got turned upside-down by the death of her mother…

As children, we grow up with grand dreams and great expectations. I grew up during the early days of the space program, so I dreamed of becoming an astronaut, until I learned that they only take people with perfect vision for the space program. I had started wearing glasses while I was in the 1st grade…

I had a modest amount of musical talent, and did well in band and orchestra. I dreamed of being a professional musician, and playing in a symphony orchestra, but the closest I got was playing in an Army band and performing in a community orchestra. While in the Army band, I rubbed shoulders with guys who had been professional musicians but couldn’t make a living at it. I didn’t have what it took to make my dream a reality, so I had to settle for what I could achieve, being the section-leader in an Army band.

Do you see a pattern here? These were MY aspirations, MY great-expectations, which depended on MY talents and abilities, and they all got dashed. I had my aspirations were for all the wrong reasons. They might have brought glory and fame to me, rather than to God. God doesn’t honor selfish aspirations.

Several months ago, when I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to start writing this blog, I had no idea where it was going. All I knew was that I wanted to write about life in the ditches of life, and apply the Word to it. I had no grand plan, no great expectations, just a committment to write whatever the Lord laid on my heart. I dusted off a couple of moldy-oldies to get things going, including “The Old Knight“, in which I laid bare one of my greatest fears – to come to the end of my life alone and unloved. I have trusted God for my topics and my content, and He has guided my hand at every turn. There are always new articles in the pipeline because God is the Lord of infinite supply.

I certainly never envisioned having a world-wise audience. That has been the Lord’s doing, not mine. From Isaiah 55:11 we read, “So shall My word that goes out of from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” That is a promise we can take to the bank because it was given by God, and He always does what He says He will do.

Great expectations – mine were dashed, but God’s are always fulfilled. What is beautiful to me is that God is allowing me to be a part of fulfilling His great expectations. I am His humble servant, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. May His kingdom come, and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen!

In Christ,