Monday, May 15, 2023

The Dump (part 2)


Apparently one of the best places to find life lessons is at the city dump.  A few months ago, we saw that God can be found at the dump in the Bahamas.  On a recent trip to Norway to see our daughter, I found Him there too.


Our daughter’s father-in-law (Per Anders) and I were commissioned by my son-in-law to rent a trailer and take a bunch of yard clippings to the dump.  (Lesson for another day but how did we get talked into this???)  Bright and early, we dutifully loaded up the trailer, drove to the dump and unloaded it.  While we were exiting, a large commercial trash truck appeared to maybe be flagging us down, but we didn’t stop to see what he wanted.  A few hundred yards later, I suggested we at least stop and see if there was an issue.  As it turns out, a stabilizing wheel that was supposed to be off the ground had slipped and was dragging on the ground.  We attempted to try and lift the trailer to create enough space to put it back in place, but the trailer was just too heavy.  Since we were going to need another strong back, Per Anders went to see if he could find someone to help.  Just then, the same truck driver was also exiting and stopped to tell us that he had seen the wheel dragging and that’s why he was trying to get our attention.  He said he had recently rented a trailer and had the same issue.  He helped us lift the trailer up so we could put the wheel back in place.  We thanked him and were back on our merry way.


Hebrews 2:18 - Because He himself suffered when he was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.


Things to think about:

·       The man at the dump was attuned to our need because he had experienced the same problem.  He knew what to look for and because of his experience, was sensitive to the same need in others.

·       He saw what we couldn’t see

·       He made an attempt to intervene, but we chose to ignore him

·       It was only when we stopped long enough to look at the situation that we understood we had a problem

·       Not only did we need his insight, we needed his strength

·       Jesus understands us because He became one of us

o   Experience

§  He became fully human

o   Empathy

§  He himself suffered

o   Engagement

§  Isaiah 40:29 - He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.

o   When have you felt the power of Empathy and Engagement from someone else?

·       How do we use our past (or present) pains to see the hurt in others and step in to make a difference?

·       2 Corinthians 1:3-4 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Decisions, Good and Bad


Life is about choices and every day we have lots of decisions to make, some big, some small.  We don’t always get it right, and at times we simply make bad decisions.  The incredibly good news though is that God is not limited by our foul-ups, frailties, and foibles.  


Isaiah 30:21 - Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”


Things to think about:

·       The Bible is full of examples of people who made poor decisions          

o   Adam and Eve listening to the serpent and eating the apple

o   Abraham sleeping with Hagar

o   Jacob tricking his father

o   Joseph bragging to his brothers

o   David seducing Bathsheba

o   And on and on and on the list goes

§  In each of these cases, God still did a mighty work through these flawed individuals

§  No matter what you’ve done, God’s not done with you either!

·       In our weaknesses, God’s strength is made all the more obvious

o   But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

·       For some folks, the fear of a mistake can lead to analysis paralysis.  For others, there is a fear of making a commitment, so they don’t commit either way

o   1 Kings 18:21 - Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

o   James 1:6-8 - But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

o   Isaiah 30:21 - Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

§  God doesn’t expect us to have perfect wisdom, that’s His job.  He does expect us though to always be listening and trusting when we do hear from Him.

·       Other times, in our weakness we do make poor judgments

o   Romans 7:21–25:  So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

·       And there is the key, God can deliver us even when we blow it.  While we may have some scar tissue to show for it, it won’t be eternally fatal.

o   Romans 8:1-2 - Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 

Monday, April 24, 2023

The Bridge is Out


We thought we were headed for the airport, but God had other ideas.  On the way to the airport to fly back home from the beach, there is a narrow, one-way bridge.  While it was a little cloudy and rainy, it certainly wasn’t a tropical storm or anything to cause any real concern.  Except for the fact that the ocean was especially turbulent on one side of the bridge and sea surge was making it unpassable.  We thought we were going home that day but apparently God had other ideas.


Proverbs 16:9

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.


Things to think about:

·       God’s ways are not our ways.  We think we have a plan, only to see it thwarted or delayed for unforeseeable reasons. 

·       While this is probably a very incomplete list, here are some of the reasons God may be directing us in a different direction:

o   To protect us

§  We see this in the story of Balaam in Numbers 22:33 -  The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.”

o   To prove our love for Him

§  Job 1:8-12 - And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?  Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”  And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

o   Our enemy is active

§  1 Thessalonians 2:18 -  Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us.

o   To learn to trust Him more

§  Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

o   To wait for His perfect timing

§  Genesis 17:17,19 - Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. 

·       When have you seen God put up a stop sign or roadblock to your plans?

o   If it is a time in the past, how did it ultimately work out?

o   If you are going through one of those times now, what is God teaching you?

·       Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.

Monday, April 3, 2023

It's Not Fair!


Is this not the most classic kid argument ever – “It’s not fair!” (turns out, a lot of us grown-ups invoke it too). Whenever there is something happening that we don’t like, that isn’t convenient, or otherwise conflicts with what we want, our blanket defense is, “it’s not fair.” As is so often the case, this argument has been around for a long, long time.


Ezekiel 18:25 - “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair?”


Things to think about:

·       I used to think the word fair wasn’t in the Bible until I ran into this passage.

o   Is there anything going in in your life right now that doesn’t feel fair?

·       In this case, the Israelites thought that God’s judgement was passed on from father to child, or in some cases, the sin of a child reflected back on judgement to the father.

o   Some folks believe that being part of a good family or being a member of the right denomination / organization qualifies them for God’s approval (or the converse, “I’m part of a cursed family/culture, etc.”)

o   Sometimes, we might carry a guilt burden that mistakes we have made are irrevocably passed on to our children. 

§  Does this resonate with you?

o   If you happen to be struggling with this, let’s just say that God makes it abundantly clear in chapter 18 of Ezekiel, this is not true.

§  Ezekiel 18:30 – “Therefore, I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways.”

§  Personal responsibility is a key to God’s justice system.

·       So, what is that God requires of each person?

o   Ezekiel 18:30-31 – “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.”

o   How do we get this new heart and spirit?

§  Repent – acknowledge that God is right and that we have made mistakes.

§  Then act on your conviction by “turning from all your transgressions” and “casting away from you all the transgressions which you have committed”. There is a very active sense to this by “casting away” – throw them off like you would a venomous spider crawling on you!  Oh, and “all” means ALL.

·       Ezekiel 11:19-20 –  “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”

o   John 3:3 - Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

§  If you have been born again, in what ways do you see how God has given you a new heart and a new spirit?

·       Ezekiel 18:31-32 – “For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore, turn and live!”

o   2 Peter 3:9 – God “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

·       You know what’s not fair?

o   That in Jesus, God has spared no expense to ensure your eternal salvation

·       Philippians 2:6-8 - Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, He made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    He humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!



Monday, March 20, 2023

God's Ringtone


Do you have special ringtones for family and friends?  As soon as you hear the first note, you know exactly who it is that’s calling you.  How can you know when it’s God calling you to do something?  Many people have said something like, “I just wish He’d call me on the phone, then I’d know for sure!” For the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, God worked in his life in four distinct and dramatic ways that were unmistakably His ringtone.  These notes may sound familiar to you: Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength.


Ezekiel 3:10 - And He said to me, “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you.”


Things to think about:

·       When God calls you to do something, He equips you in everyway that you will need.  In Ezekiel’s case, he had been called by God to preach judgement to the Israelites.  Several times He says to Ezekiel, “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.”

o   We aren’t responsible for the outcome, that’s God’s business.  Our role is to obey.


·       Ezekiel was going to need an extra dose of courage

o   Ez. 2:6-7 - And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 

o   We see every day, the open hostility the world has to God and His Word.  But this should not deter us.



·       Ez. 2:1-2 - He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.”  As He spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet…

o   We won’t get into all of it here, but if you read Chapter 1 and get a picture in your mind of what Ezekiel saw, you’ll quickly realize why he needed help getting up!

o   Are you too tired, too old, too afraid to go where God has called you?  If He has called you, He will give you the strength to go.


·       We already know that God wants to renew our minds (Romans 12:2).  We also know that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God.

o   For Ezekiel, it was even more dramatic than that – “And He said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He gave me the scroll to eat. (Ez. 3:1-2)

o   He literally put the words Ezekiel was to say in his mouth!

§  And we need to constantly feed on God’s word too

o   Matthew 10:19-20 – “…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”


·       God endowed Ezekiel with a new character, one designed to combat the stubbornness He knew Ezekiel was going to encounter

o   Ez. 3:8-9 - But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint.

o   I’m not sure what Ezekiel’s personality was like before but God changed him into the man he needed him to be at that time.

What is God calling you to do?  

·       Do you feel inadequate to the task?  That’s probably because you are!

·       But like Ezekiel, God will give you everything you need to accomplish His purpose for your life.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Your Prescription is Ready


Jesus is known by many names including The Great Physician.  He has given us a diagnosis called sin that, if left untreated, leads to eternal death.  However, even when we have been healed from that dire outcome, we still have remnants of the disease in our system.  How we deal with our chronic condition makes all the difference. Let’s look at it from two sides – when we self-medicate and when we follow the Doctor’s orders.


Proverbs 23:20-21: Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat,
 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
    and drowsiness clothes them in rags.



Things to think about:

·       When we are lonely, tired, depressed, angry, hungry, etc., we can be tempted to take matters into our own hands.  This self-medication frequently takes three forms:

o   Food

o   Alcohol/Drugs

o   Sex

·       Each of these can makes us feel better in the moment but can come at a very high cost, both physically and emotionally

o   Food and Alcohol

§  Proverbs 23:20-21 - Do not join those who drink too much wine
    or gorge themselves on meat,
 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
    and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

o   Alcohol

§  Proverbs 20:1 - Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
    whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

o   Sex

§  Proverbs 23:27-28 - for an adulterous woman is a deep pit, and a wayward wife is a narrow well.
Like a bandit she lies in wait and multiplies the unfaithful among men.

·       It’s not hard to see that “there is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death”

·       God’s Prescription

o   His Word

§  Matthew 4:4 - Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

o   His Spirit

§  Ephesians 5:18 -  Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit

o   His People

§  Genesis 2:18 - The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

§  Proverbs 17:17 - A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

·       God’s Way is Better

o   1 Corinthians 9:27 - No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

§  V.25 - We do it to get a crown that will last forever