Monday, October 30, 2023

Same Trees, Different Day


I’ve been walking in our neighborhood over the past couple of weeks as the fall foliage has been in its full glory.  I took the first picture when all the leaves were a dazzling array of brilliant colors.  About a week later, I took the second picture due to the stark contrast in external beauty.  Same trees, just different days.  It got me thinking about how the underlying qualities of the trees haven’t changed, just the season.  Our lives can be very much the same way.


Ecclesiastes 3:1 - There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens


Things to think about:

·       The thing with the trees is that to the outside observer, one picture looks like a postcard and the other like something in the delete file.  But the reality is those are the exact same trees.  Same roots, same trunk, same limbs.  The trees didn’t do anything wrong, they aren’t being ravaged by a disease, they haven’t been damaged by a vandal, they are just experiencing the ebbs and flows of life.

·       We can often mistake the natural rhythms of life as reward or judgement.  In fact, it may just be there are seasons as found in Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes. Here are some typical seasons we go through:

o   Job

o   Health

o   Relationships

o   Mood

o   Feeling of closeness to the Lord

·       But there a few unchanging things that are vital to focus on.  Think of these as the roots, trunk, and limbs.  Even though the beauty of the leaves fell to the ground, the core value of the tree is unchanged:

o   Our value

§  Genesis 1:27 - So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

§  The world may not value you as much when you’ve lost your leaves, but you are still made in the image of God

o   Our place

§  Colossians 2:6-7 - So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

·       Our roots hold us firmly in place and we grow stronger in the Lord as out trunk adds more rings of experience and wisdom each year

o   Our eternity

§  Romans 8:38-39 - For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

·       Our circumstances may make us look a little worse for wear and tear, but there is no storm, cold snap, or pest that can uproot us or tear us down.  Once we are planted in God’s Kingdom, we’re there to stay.

·       The seasons and circumstances will change, but whether things are going really well or not so much, your value, God’s love for you, and your place in the Kingdom are never in jeopardy.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Love Hurts


The problem with love is it makes us vulnerable.  Only people we love can truly hurt us.  Since we are created in the image of God, then why would it be any different for Him?  Turns out, it’s not.


Judges 10:13-14 - But you have forsaken Me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

Things to think about:

·       Judges 10 is just another verse in the same song that goes something like this:

o   God rescues His people

o   They become complacent and replace Him with false gods

o   Judgement ensues and they pay for their sins through hardship

o   A crisis brings the situation to a head

o   The people admit they are in the wrong a cry out for help

o   Initially, God said No 

§  But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

§  God is hurt and because He is righteous, it is His prerogative to tell them No

o   Persistence with their plea

§  But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.”

o   Repentance

§  They turned from their sin - then they got rid of the foreign gods among them

§  Turned to God through obedience - and served the Lord. 

·       Mercy

o   And He could bear Israel’s misery no longer.

o   One of God’s most distinguishing qualities is His mercy (us not getting what we deserve)

o   He loved them too much to take a hardline, even though He was fully in His rights to

o   The relationship is more important than being right.

·       What applications can you see in your own life?

o   When you have been shown mercy by someone

§  If you are a believer this is an easy question

o   When you have shown mercy to someone (or could show mercy in a current situation)

o   Matthew 5:7 - Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Bonus Content

·       Deliverance

o   Judges 11:32-33 -  Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into his hands. He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon.

o   Uses those who are available to be used, not the most distinguished

§  Son of a prostitute

§  His brothers drove him away

§  Psalm 118:23 - The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;

o   God regularly uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise

§  Maybe He could even use you and me!

Monday, October 16, 2023

Give That Man a Hand!


Sometimes when I do a good job, I just don’t get the credit I think I deserve.  The hero of our lesson today, Tola, knows a little bit about that.  After Abimelech, a really evil ruler died, he was succeeded by Tola.  If all you looked at was how much Scripture real estate is used on each, you might think Abimelech was wonderful. For context, Abimelech gets 56 verses and 1,441 words going into great detail about all of the terrible things he did.  Compare that to Tola, who received two verses totaling a mere 46 words.  Abimelech tormented the country for just three years and Tola “saved Israel” and led them for twenty-three years.  Thankfully, his (and our reward) is not here but in Heaven!


Judges 10:1-2 - After the time of Abimelech, a man of Issachar named Tola son of Puah, the son of Dodo, rose to save Israel. He lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. He led Israel twenty-three years; then he died and was buried in Shamir.


Things to think about:

·       If I empty the dishwasher or pick up the disaster after our grandkids go back home, you can be sure I want to get some praise for it.  In fact, if my wife doesn’t step up to the plate in a timely enough fashion and with the proper level of adulation, you can be sure she’s going to hear about it.

o   OK, let’s be honest – do you sometimes feel you get the shaft for getting recognized when you do something you’re proud of?

o   And, if I don’t get the credit I think I’m due, I’m more than happy to fill the void

§  Proverbs 27:2 - Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.

·       So, who are we trying to please, men or God?

o   Galatians 1:10 - Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

o   What can drive us to feel the need for human approval?

§  Pride, insecurity, acceptance

·       When we do take matters into our own hands, it completely negates whatever eternal reward we may have had coming our way.

o   Matthew 6:1-4 - “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.


·       Our time will come, it’s just not now

o   1 Peter 5:6 - Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you

o   I’ll bet Tola is one happy guy in Heaven!

·       And when our time comes, it will be for eternity

o   Daniel 12:3 – (The archangel Michael speaking) - Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 

Next time you’re tempted to toot your own horn, remember God wants to give you so much more than fleeting recognition here. 

·       1 Corinthians 2:9 - “What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love Him

Monday, October 9, 2023

I Got It!


Life can be very heavy sometimes.  Carrying the responsibilities and cares of this world can be exhausting.  The problem is it was never designed to be this way.


Matthew 11:28-30 - Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”


Things to think about:

·       Can you imagine waving off a tow truck while pushing a dead car to the repair shop and telling them, “I got it!”?

·       How about unloading a truckful of bricks from Home Depot and refusing to let your neighbor help - “I got it!

o   Of course, these scenes are ridiculous (or are they?)

·       Don’t we sometimes find ourselves carrying more of our burdens than we should?  Here are some of the more common ones I tend to pick up:

o   Finances

o   Health concerns

o   Fractured relationships

o   Work problems

·       There are other ones too that are a bit harder to see but maybe even heavier:

o   Craving significance and purpose for our lives

o   Wanting acceptance from others

o   Not offering or accepting forgiveness

·       Do any of these loads ring true for you? Why do we sometimes refuse Jesus’ promise of His easy yoke and light burden? 

o   Are pride or stubbornness keeping you from receiving His free gift of help?

·       How do we practically take up His yoke?

o   Prayer

o   Change in our attitude (renewing our minds) about who owns our wellbeing

o   Asking a close friend for help


·       For some of the heavier loads, here are some suggestions:

o   Significance and Purpose

§  We don’t need to seek significance and purpose from others, we have it in Christ

§  Ephesians 2:10 - For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

o   Acceptance

§  We don’t have to measure up to anyone else’s standard. 

§  Ephesians 1:7-8 -  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace  that he lavished on us.

o   Forgiveness

§  We are free of the guilt and shame we feel for our own shortcomings OR the folly of laboring under the weight of the  boulder of bitterness when we have been wronged

§  Colossians 3:13 - Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

 Let’s be honest with ourselves – we don’t got it! We have His incomparable power, the power God exerted when he resurrected Jesus, to help us in all of our needs.  All we have to do is accept His help and that’s something we can do today!

·       Ephesians 1:19 - His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead