Monthly Archives: October 2015

Get A Shovel

In Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, Mayflower, he described a time when the early Pilgrims were exploring the southern New England area in the summer of 1621.  They came across circular foot-deep holes in the ground.  From the Indians they had befriended they learned these holes where dug when “any remarkable act” had occurred.  As he describes, “It was that persons responsibility to maintain and inform fellow travelers of what once had happened at that particular place.”   The Indians dug these memory holes so “that as a man travelleth his journey will be less tedious by reason of historical discourses that will be relateMayflowerd to him” as quoted by Edward Winslow, one of the Pilgrims on this inland expedition.

As I read about those “memory holes” I couldn’t help but be reminded of Psalm 84.  Here the Psalmist says “Blessed are those whose heart is set on pilgrimage.  As they pass thru the Valley of Baca (Valley of Weeping) they make it a spring.”  Those traveling thru that place would dig wells for others to be refreshed when they find themselves in that same dark place.  The Psalmist goes on and says the pilgrims would go from “strength to strength” begin encouraged as the travel.

In the Book of Joshua, the Children of Israel were told to build a “memorial to the LORD” after they crossed the Jordan River.  The memorial was made of twelve stones and it was to serve as a reminder for coming generations of what God had done for them – stopping up the Jordan River allowing Israel to cross on dry land.

Whether it’s a pile of stones or a hole dug in the ground, we need these type or reminders in our life.  Items that remind us of something God has done in our life.  These are good for our memory of God’s work in our life, but shovelthey also serve to let others know what “remarkable act” occurred.

I tend to make many notes in my personal study Bible.  Many times, I have read a passage in my Bible and have been encouraged by something I wrote many weeks, months or years before.  Those personal memorials have been helpful.

It might be something that you own that brings back a memory of how God worked in your life or worked in the life of something in your family.  It might be a family story that is told at holiday times or family reunions.  Do whatever you can do to remind yourself and/or those around you of how God worked in your life.  Tell stories, look at pictures, read from an old Bible – just set up those markers, dig those “memory holes.”

Maybe it’s time for you to buy a shovel…and dig a hole.

Blessings My Friend,

-jm

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Don’t Go In The Ditch

Not all that long ago, I saw a story about another person in ministry who needed to step aside because of a moral failing.  Sometimes it’s over abusing church funds or terrible leadership but most often it involves sexual misconduct in some form.  Someone who had been in ministry for many years, who lead a staff and had a substantial public platform, ends up losing their position, testimony and often times their family, because of a moral failure.  It is hard to understand how this happens.  But it does way too often.  Their life seems to have run off into the ditch.

I realize God can redeem these situations.  He is a God who forgives and there can be some great stories of grace, forgiveness and restoration with situations like I’ve described.  But I’d rather people not get into these situations in the first place.  I’d rather people not ever run their lives into the ditch.

You’ve seen cars abandoned alongside the road.  For no apparent reason, a car is off the road, in a ditch.  It’s stranded and you may wonder, “What happened?”  To the owner of the car, it’s embarrassing and it takes time and money to get the car back up out of the ditch.  Clearly, going into the ditch is a bad thing.

It’s the same with people.  We see them alongside the road (so-to-speak) in the ditch and wonder, “How did this happen?”

I often think of this when I consider the Children of Israel in Exodus 32.  These people had seen God do great things over and over again, yet they so badly failed Him.  They ended up worshiping a “golden calf” with various sacrifices among committing other grievous offenses just months from their exodus out of Egypt.

I see a four step process in their sin progression leading to their downfall – their path into the ditch.

When the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who lead us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him. – Exodus 32:1 NKJV

Step 1 – They had a WRONG Perspective.

The “saw” Moses delayed, but did he?  Was Moses really late in coming down from the mountain?  Or did they get themselves looking at their situation wrongly?  Their perspective was completely off.  There was nothing wrong Moses, but the way they were looking at the situation was completely off.

We can do this when we begin to look at everything in a negative aspect.  “This will never get better” or “Everyone hates me” or when we can only see problems and never how God has blessed, protected and provided for us.  This is also happens when we are offended over every perceived slight.  Our perspective is wrong.

Step 2 – They went to the WRONG Source

They gathered around Aaron.  We know Aaron was Moses’ older brother and we know he was a good speaker.  God tells us that in Exodus 4:14.  He was there for all the big events.  But he wasn’t Moses.  He wasn’t the leader of the people.  He wasn’t the man God was communicating with directly. He was the wrong source for the people to seek wisdom and counsel.

While not trying to be over-simplistic, we so often go to wrong sources.  Like Aaron, these sources seem right, but they aren’t.  God’s Word is the ONLY source for wisdom, direction, encouragement etc.  If we need help with our marriage, our finances, our relationships, our career paths and any other life decision, we need to go to the book.  Sure, we can gain help from friends, family, professionals etc, but unless that advice is rooted in His Word, it too is a wrong source.

Step 3 – They came to a WRONG Conclusion

“We don’t know what’s happened to Moses” is another way of saying, “He’s left us and isn’t coming back.”  When you are thinking wrong, and looking for help from the wrong sources, you end up coming to wrong conclusions.  Things like, “This marriage will never work out.  I’d be better off without her” or “God’s abandoned me.  I’d be better off dead.”  Sadly, when an individual reaches this stage, the car is fast approaching the side of the pavement and will soon be plummeting off the road into a ditch.

Step 4 – They committed WRONG Actions

In verse 6, the wording tends to be cleaned up a bit and made more family friendly, but this is a really offensive situation they are participating in as people.  This was a drunken sex orgy.  These people are in the ditch.

When you are in the ditch this bad, it is impossible to get yourself out of it.  You’ll need help.  It’s embarrassing.  It will take time and it probably cost you money, just like when you run into the ditch with your car.

Rather than go through all that hassle, don’t  go into the ditch in the first place.

Here a verse to close with, Psalm 119:133

Direct my steps by Your Word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.

Do you want to keep yourself out of the ditch?  Be in His Word.  His promise to you is that if your steps are directed by Him (which means we are totally submitted to Him) we will not be controlled or ruined by sin.  In other words, we’ll stay out of the ditch.

Wrong perspective, leads to wrong sources, allows us to make wrong conclusions which result in wrong actions.

Don’t go in the ditch.

Blessings my friend.

-jm

Well, Isn’t That Precious

Reading 2 Peter the other day I was struck by how we look at certain words and came upon this gem, “precious” as used in 2 Peter 1:1.  Here is the entire verse….

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ – 2 Peter 1:1 NKJV

The word “precious” isn’t one I use too often in my normal day-to-day vocabulary.  In fact, I have not heard too many guys use that word, unless it is be used sarcastically or in some-sort of derogatory manner.

The idea is our faith is of equal honor or of equal privilege of Peter’s.  He indicates his words are to those who have obtained the same faith as his.  It is of high value, high honor, high esteem etc.  While valuable, it isn’t weak or delicate – like we tend to use the word “precious.”  But later on he does use a different Greek word that we also translate as “precious” in verse 4 that tends to mean what one usually thinks of as “precious.”

…by which have been given to us exceeding great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. – 2 Peter 1:4

Something of high value and honor.  The first use has an idea of generality to it or commonality while the second seems more delicate and fits what we might think of as “precious.”

Our faith is not unique or to put it another way, the faith of Peter, Paul and the other Apostles isn’t any different than ours.  Like us, they had to trust Jesus for salvation.  They were full of human frailty just as we are and their saving faith was no different than ours.

Yet for both the ancient church leaders and for us, our faith is precious.  It is of high value.  Those promises of His Word are so valuable they are able to equip us to deal with sin that has corrupted the world around us.

Yet I wonder, do we really consider His Word “precious?”  Do we really value it and treasure it?  Or is His Word thought of by as a nice book full of good moral lessons?  Do we really see His Word as the way to combat “the corruption that is in the world” as Peter describes it?

You see I am of the opinion that God’s Word has been under attack from the beginning of time, but the enemy’s tactics have become more brazen and more bold over the past few decades.  There has been, even from within the church, a general apathy towards His Word.

I expect those outside the church to be distrusting of Scripture.  I don’t expect the world to claim the bible is inspired or true or right.  But I am highly disturbed when those comments come from within the church.  I believe we are living in a time when, as Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 that there will be a time when the Word is “out of season.”  I don’t mean to indicate this concept has never occurred before, but most definitely is occurring now.  The Word is out of season.  The preaching/teaching of the Word in churches in increasing rare and I am concerned that few people sitting in our church auditoriums would describe God’s Word as “precious.”

His Word is true.  His Word is right.  His Word is pure.  It is precious, of high value and worthy of our respect.  Mostly, it is worthy of our obedience.  So, obey His Word.  Get in it and find what God has for you – it is His precious and highly valued message to us.

Blessings My Friend

-jm

He Said What?

Every so often I see a quote thrown around on social media attributed to C.S. Lewis that sounds so unlike him.  While I am not a C.S. Lewis scholar and really can’t say I’ve studied or read great quantities of his work, I find it hard to believe it originated by him.  Additionally, I can’t actually find where he allegedly said (or wrote) this quote, but it is purported to be his.

We are what we believe we are.

Really?  If I just ‘believe’ I am, say an NBA player, then I am one?

I do understand many individuals need encouraged to think beyond their failings and push themselves.  Setting a high goal and aspiring (believing if you will) to succeed and overcome setbacks, failures in spite of less than optimum circumstances is a worthy endeavor.  I would say it’s quite biblical (Joseph, David, Ruth are just a few examples) for one to look for and be inspired by those stories to improve their attitude about themselves.  That improved attitude combined with a dogged determination to follow God wholeheartedly can propel you to higher success.

However Lewis did say in Mere Christianity, Chapter 7 of part 4;

What is the good of pretending to be what you are not? Well, on the human level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending. There is a bad kind where the pretense is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretence leads up to the real thing. When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already.

That makes sense… and it’s biblical.

Here is the problem for the first quote.  Jesus says something totally different.  In John 15:5, He said

Apart from Me, you can do nothing.

That’s a real motivational quote.  Jesus is the main ingredient to our success.  While well meaning, we do people a great disservice when we don’t put motivational messages on their proper context.  Apart from Jesus, there really isn’t much good in me – or you for that matter.

It is He who gives me intelligence, abilities, resources, wisdom.  In His sovereignty, I was born in relative wealth (compared to most of the rest of the world).  I’ve lived in an area the and a time frame when war didn’t destroy my home and my health has been fine.  In fact, when I really think about it, all my success (however that is defined) I can attribute to Him.  Sure, I’ve had to work hard, pay attention, persevere, learn new and varying tasks, but in the end, it is because of Him that I have lived.  My belief in my own abilities is near abysmal.    But I believe in the One who can do anything!

So, if you want to believe you are something you aren’t, that’s your choice.  I prefer to rely on Jesus.  Since apart from Him, I can do nothing.

Blessings my friend!

-jm

(And remember this quote.  Not every quote you read on the internet is true. – Abraham Lincoln.)