Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Ruth 3:1-18 (Part 3 of 3)
Ruth Follows Naomi’s Plan

Sometimes in our lives when we look back on the person that we were before we came to know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we go “wow, how could I have been that kind of person!” How could I have been that kind of person and think that it was OK to be that kind of person. I grew up in the church. I heard the gospel. I knew the Bible stories, in general. My dad was a preacher. So, it wasn’t like I was a person who did not grow up knowing right from wrong, moral from immoral, and so on. But growing up in a parsonage does not guarantee that you will be immediately a follower of Jesus Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I was not necessarily a bad kid or bad seed. I was just a regular kid. I did well in school. Rarely got in trouble. I was just one of those kids that was a good student but wasn’t a nerd. I was a kid who danced on the edge of getting in trouble with parents and teachers on occasion. My trouble in life was always feeling less than. My trouble was always feeling like an outsider. My trouble was always feeling like the guy who got to the party but just went the party was about over. Never felt like I was in the know.

It was these feelings of being an outsider, a step behind, late to the party, catching a trend just when everyone has moved on to the next trend that kind of defined my pre-salvation days. I was always trying to fit in. I was an approval seeker. I wanted validation that I belong and that I matter to other people. It is still something I struggle with even after salvation but not like in my pre-salvation days. In those pre-salvation days, I would do whatever it took to win approval of others to the point of committing sins that grieve my own soul now. My moral compass fell off the table and broke into pieces over the years. And my word became worthless as I shucked and jived so as to keep all the people happy in my life from who I desired approval. My finances were a shambles from all of that too. So my word meant nothing when it came to financial matters and certainly my creditors probably felt my word meant nothing. My self-image of myself as a decent, moral person was far different from my daily practices of situational ethics. Then, there comes a day when you look at yourself in the mirror and say who have you become. There was a time when people thought you were a good kid and respected you for being a young man of your word. Now, look at you. You would lie to save your ass in a minute. You would lie to get out of trouble. You would lie to make yourself seem more important than you are. Looking in the mirror, who is this man? I don’t know him anymore. He acts as though there is no judgment because he lives according to his own gospel which is not the canonical Gospel of Mark. The ends justified the means for this guy looking in the mirror.

When I look back at the man I had become in the months and weeks before I accepted Christ as my Savior, I didn’t think of myself as a desperate sinner in need of a Savior. I thought I had become something that I didn’t wanna be but I thought I was still good enough to get in heaven if God made a few exceptions for me. I thought I was good enough to get in if God look at my good deeds vs. my bad ones. I figured that being a martyr in my divorce, trying to keep two families happy (my exwife and my daughters on one hand, and my second wife and her boys on the other) and feeling like a martyr in that, working hard, etc. All that would make up for my moral failures and my situational ethics. It was not until that play that night at Abundant Life Church in December 2001 where my life was lived out in a play right before my eyes on the stage at church. The central character thought the same kind of mindset. It wasn’t until he spent 30 minutes in hell during that one hour play that he realized that his sins no matter how small are enough to sentence him to eternity there. No matter the good deeds we do to make up for our bad ones, our sins prevent us from living with our Father in heaven in eternity. That was the final mirror in my face. The Holy Spirit broke my soul that night. Since then, it has been a long and winding road and a difficult job for the Holy Spirit to sanctify me and He still has a ton of work to do.

However, one thing that is important to me now is my word. I want to keep my word even if costs me something. I want to do what the Bible says is right no matter if it costs me something or not. I desire to please God in this way. I want to be a person who honors his commitments. I want to be a person who is known to tell the truth. I want to be a person that is known to have integrity. I want to a person that will give the cashier at the Wal-Mart the money back when she mistakenly gives me too much change. I want to be a person who does not try to return goods that I broke and pass it off as defective goods. I want to be a person of honor. In many ways, I am getting better at that each day because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my soul. I look back at the man I was before salvation and I am disgusted at him. In the process of being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, when I look back even in the years after salvation, I am disgusted by the man I was a the day of my salvation. I am disgusted by the man I was 10 years ago and even 5 years ago. I know too that as I progress deeper in my walk with Christ that the man that I am right now will disgust me in 10 years. As we grow in Christ, the Holy Spirit wins battles with the sins and habits and thoughts that we think are OK right now. Over time, though, the Holy Spirit shines the light of God on those things in our lives that are not holy. It takes a lifetime for the Holy Spirit to do this and He does not have his final victory over our ego-driven selfishness until we arrive in heaven and join our Savior there. As a Christ follower, sometimes we really do need to sit down and think about the person we used to be compared to now and marvel at the work, the tireless work, of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Are you not disgusted by the person you used to be before Christ, about the person you were just after salvation, and the person you were just a few short years ago? It’s funny how we think we are at the apex of our spiritual maturity until the Holy Spirit shines the light on something that we thought was acceptable all along til then.

Let us always remember who we used to be before Jesus Christ. Let us remember who we are now and where we will be in just a few short years down the right. We are a work in progress under the construction of the master remodeler, the Holy Spirit.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through this passage for the second of three times that we will write about it – how Boaz and Naomi had reputations as being trustworthy and upright people to the point that people took them at their word (when they said something you could trust it like gold in the bank). Let’s read the passage together for the last time this morning, Ruth 3:1-18, before we move on:
3 One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. 2 Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.”

5 “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.

7 After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. 12 But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”

14 So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” 15 Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops[a] of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he[b] returned to the town.

16 When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, 17 and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

18 Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”

In this passage, we see that, as a foreigner, Ruth may have thought that Naomi’s advice was odd. However, Ruth followed the advice because she knew Naomi was kind, trustworthy, and filled with integrity. Each of us knows a parent, an older friend, or relative who is always looking out for our best interests. Be willing to listen to the advice of a person who is older and wiser than you are. The experience and knowledge of such a person can be invaluable. And then there was Boaz. Naomi knew that Boaz would follow through on his promise at once. He obviously had a reputation for keeping his word and would not rest until his task was completed. Such reliable people stand out in any age and/or culture. Do others regard you as one who will do what you say? Keeping your word and following through on assignments should be high on anyone’s priority list. Building a reputation of trustworthiness takes many years but losing your reputation can take just minutes.

I want to be like Naomi and Boaz. I want people to be able to trust what I say. I want to be a person who says what he means and means what he says. If I make a promise to you, you should be able to bank on that promise. I want to be that guy who is seen as one who has integrity. I want most of all to be an honorable representative of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I want the person that I am on Sunday morning to be the same person who, when given the opportunity to do something unethical, will do what is right even if it costs my success or advancement according to earthly treasures. I want to be a guy like Boaz where it is known that I will not rest until I have kept my promise. I want to be a person like Naomi where, even if you think my advice is strange or odd, you will follow it anyway because you consider me a completely trustworthy source. I want to continually look back at my life and see growth in Christlikeness. I want to be a big kid Christian someday. I want to be like Christ. I also want to remember what that man in the mirror looked like in the months before salvation back in 2001. I never want to be that man again. I want to be God’s man. Again, as I said just a second ago, it is my desire more than anything else to be an honorable, trustworthy, reputable, representative ambassador of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I don’t ever, never, never, never, never, ever want to go back to being the man that stared in the mirror in 2001 and had that meltdown moment of horror at the person that I had become. Thank God for my salvation. Thank God for the joy that I have found there. Thank God for the Holy Spirit and His kicking my butt around these last 16 years. Thank God!

 

Amen and Amen.

Judges 13:1-20 (Part 1 of 3)
The Birth of Samson

Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, Manoah’s wife, among others in the Old Testament, and Elizabeth in the New Testament. All three are women who had been barren (unable to conceive a child though she was married) for many years. All become pregnant after years of barrenness.

With Sarah, God told her husband, Abraham, that he would father descendants who would outnumber the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). Sarah knew all about the prophecy and as she became old and still no baby arrived, she encouraged her husband to be with her maid, Hagar, so he could have children with her. Sarah utilized Hagar as a sort of surrogate, giving her the opportunity to bear children with Abraham. However rather than expressing gratitude to Sarah, Hagar taunted Sarah and demeaned her for her inability to conceive. “When [Hagar] saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes (Genesis 16:5). Three angels and one miracle later her son Isaac arrived (Genesis 21:1).

Sarah’s daughter-in-law Rebecca (Rivkah) faced a similar trial, she did not conceive for the first twenty years of her marriage to Isaac. Prayer worked for the couple, and Rebecca conceived. Though having to bear a difficult pregnancy, Rebecca was awarded with twin sons Jacob and Esau, who became patriarchs of the Jewish and Edomite nations, respectively.

In the next generation, the complexities of fertility vs. infertility were played out between two of Jacob’s four wives, the sisters Rachel and Leah. “And when God saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb and Rachel was barren.” During biblical times, generations after that and even in certain circles today, women were valued for their ability to bear children – especially boys. Leah gives birth to four boys, and Rachel is consumed with envy. She pleads with Jacob: “Give me children or else I die” (Genesis 30:2). To encourage Rachel to pray to God Jacob responds “Am I in the place of God who has withheld from you the fruit of your belly.” God does finally listen to Rachel beseeching prayers as she has to first bear the shame of not only her sister having more sons, but their respective maids as well. “God remembered Rachel and God heard her and God opened her womb” (Genesis 30:22). After giving birth, Rachel says: “God has taken away my shame.”

After years of prayer, an angel appears to Samson’s mother and says “Now you are barren and have not given birth. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son.” There are conditions and stipulations associated with this promise. The angel leaves explicit instructions on how this child is to be raised, as well as how the mother is to behave during the pregnancy, since that too would affect the growing fetus. The angel returns at Manoah’s request to verify what he had told his wife, and shortly thereafter the woman conceives and later bears a son she names Samson. “And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the child grew and the Lord blessed him. And the spirit of the Lord began to move him…” (Judges 13:24-25)

Why do you think that there is this theme of barrenness and then miraculous pregnancy among these important moms of the Bible? That was the question that struck me this morning. How these stories of barren women who became mothers of children of great promise each one. Let’s ponder on that issue as we read through today’s passage, Judges 13:
13 Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years.

2 In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. 4 So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food.[a] 5 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”

6 The woman ran and told her husband, “A man of God appeared to me! He looked like one of God’s angels, terrifying to see. I didn’t ask where he was from, and he didn’t tell me his name. 7 But he told me, ‘You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. For your son will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the moment of his birth until the day of his death.’”

8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, saying, “Lord, please let the man of God come back to us again and give us more instructions about this son who is to be born.”

9 God answered Manoah’s prayer, and the angel of God appeared once again to his wife as she was sitting in the field. But her husband, Manoah, was not with her. 10 So she quickly ran and told her husband, “The man who appeared to me the other day is here again!”

11 Manoah ran back with his wife and asked, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife the other day?”

“Yes,” he replied, “I am.”

12 So Manoah asked him, “When your words come true, what kind of rules should govern the boy’s life and work?”

13 The angel of the Lord replied, “Be sure your wife follows the instructions I gave her. 14 She must not eat grapes or raisins, drink wine or any other alcoholic drink, or eat any forbidden food.”

15 Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please stay here until we can prepare a young goat for you to eat.”

16 “I will stay,” the angel of the Lord replied, “but I will not eat anything. However, you may prepare a burnt offering as a sacrifice to the Lord.” (Manoah didn’t realize it was the angel of the Lord.)

17 Then Manoah asked the angel of the Lord, “What is your name? For when all this comes true, we want to honor you.”

18 “Why do you ask my name?” the angel of the Lord replied. “It is too wonderful for you to understand.”

19 Then Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered it on a rock as a sacrifice to the Lord. And as Manoah and his wife watched, the Lord did an amazing thing. 20 As the flames from the altar shot up toward the sky, the angel of the Lord ascended in the fire. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell with their faces to the ground.

21 The angel did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Manoah finally realized it was the angel of the Lord, 22 and he said to his wife, “We will certainly die, for we have seen God!”

23 But his wife said, “If the Lord were going to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted our burnt offering and grain offering. He wouldn’t have appeared to us and told us this wonderful thing and done these miracles.”

24 When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he lived in Mahaneh-dan, which is located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol.

When I think of these women and the shame felt in a society that measured women by their ability to bear children, I cannot help but think of that great song by Jars of Clay from their Grammy winning 2001 album, The Eleventh Hour, called “Something Beautiful” and the lyrics go like this:

If you put your arms around me
Could it change the way I feel
I guess I let myself believe
That the outside might just
Bleed it’s way in
Maybe stir the sleeping past
Lying under glass
Waiting for the kiss
That breaks this awful spell
Pull me out…of this lonely cell

[chorus]
Close my eyes and hold my heart
Cover me and make me something
Change this something normal
Into something beautiful

[verse]
What I get from my reflection
Isn’t what I thought I’d see
Give me reason to believe
Never leave me incomplete
Will you untie this loss of mine
It so easily defines me
Do you see it on my face?
And all I can think about
Is how long
I’ve been waiting to feel you move me

[chorus]
Into something beautiful
Into something beautiful

[bridge]
And I’m still fighting for the
Word to break these chains
And I still pray when I look
In your eyes, you’ll stare right
Back down into something beautiful

[chorus]
Into something beautiful
Into something beautiful
Into something beautiful

When we think of taking nothingness and making it into something beautiful, we must think first of God and his universe. There was nothing. I mean nothingness. Grasp that. There was no universe. Only God existing in His eternal trinity. There was nothing else. Blankness. Nothingness. And God did not need anything to be complete. He existed in community and among Himself with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They have co-existed in community since always. They trinity of God pre-exists everything including the universe. Thus external to God there was nothing. Nothing at all. But God created the universe out of nothing. He was the catylyst, the spark, the cause for the big bang. He spoke the universe into being. At that moment, the grand explosion that began the universe happened and SOMETHING was created out of NOTHING. Think about that. That is the miracle of the highest order. Think of the complexity of the universe. Think of how everything exploded outward from that finger of God and voice of God that created the spark that created the universe. Everything shoots out from that spark and the mass of energy from the finger of God that exploded into the massive universe that is so big that we don’t even know how big it is. It exploded forth and has created such a complex universe that we are just now beginning to understand it. Even our planet is so freaking complex that we understand more about outer space than we know about our oceans. We think we know so much but we know so little and what we know is only what God has allowed to be revealed so that we can handle it with our feeble minds. Amazing universe out of nothing. That’s my God!

When we think of barrenness and making it into something beautiful, we must think of what these women being renewed and giving forth new life. Just as God created a miracle of a universe, God miraculously gave life to a barren desert of a female womb and caused it to become fertile ground that gave forth life. This reminds us as well that there will be dry seasons in our lives. There will be barrenness. There will be times on our lives where we think nothing good will ever come of the desert in which we find ourselves. We are parched and weary and just want some water. We are dry. We are crawling on the ground. And by all indications there is no relief in sight. These barren woman were given fertile wombs by God after much prayer and supplication. They humbled themselves before the Lord. These women remind us of the power of prayer. These women remind us that even in the toughest times, God will give us the miracle we need in His timing. He listens to the prayers of those who seek Him. God will deliver us from our desert dryness. He will deliver us from our shame and oppression. He will deliver us when we seek Him, especially in the difficult times. We must remember that it is in the hard times, our barren times, that we can learn the greatest lesson of all – dependence on God. We can learn thanksgiving as well. Without the desert, dry and barren times, how can we ever adequately appreciate the mountaintops that God sets us upon when He delivers us. These women remind us that God never fails.
Finally, these women remind us of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Man’s greatest purpose for why he is here is to give God glory. We are designed by God to give Him glory. We are wired that way. That is why we seek to fill our souls with something, we know not what, until we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. That emptiness that we try to fill with things, people, idols, lusts, sensual pleasures, as our reason for being, but none of it works in the end. Only God fills the God hole in our lives. We call it something else, our yearning for meaning of life. God put that yearning there to make us want Him. But the fall distorted it such that we try to fill the hole in our soul with anything and everything other than God – the purpose for the hole in our soul. It is meant to be filled by God. We are barren without God in the womb of our soul. We are barren because sin is the endometriosis of the womb of our soul. Sin makes us barren an unable to find life. Sin makes us barren and empty inside. We are barren and empty. We are nothingness. We are a wasteland and there is no life. We are nothing but decay and death with sin. It is only through the miracle of salvation that we are changed. Jesus dresses our womb in new life. Jesus makes our womb be capable of fulfilling its purpose. Jesus gives us new life. After salvation, the womb is made clean and holy. After salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell. Through the Holy Spirit, our womb comes alive to bring forth fruit. Through the Holy Spirit’s work, we bear fruit and our womb gives forth life to the world around us. We are made whole and complete. We are now fulfilling our purpose – to give God glory. We were once barren and lifeless and now through the miracle of God through the covering of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, we are full of life. We bring forth the promise of God to the world around. Instead of nothingness there is something beautiful in the saved soul. Turning nothing into something beautiful. That is a mighty miracle of God.

Amen and Amen.

Judges 12:1-7 (Part 1 of 2)
Ephraim Fights with Jephthah

As you know, I am a big Clemson Tiger football fan. This past Saturday, Clemson passed one of what will have proven to be one of the toughest games of its season by season’s end. They defeated the Auburn University Tigers by the score of 14-6. It was an old-fashioned slobber-knocker of a defensive struggle. It was a throwback to an era gone by in college football. Nowadays, with changes in defensive rules and in offensive philosophies, offenses reign. Nowadays, a defense that averages giving up 17 points a game or so is considered a great defense. Back before wide-open offenses, a team that scored 17 points a game was considered a pretty good offense. So, this game was a throwback to times gone by. Clemson and Auburn have two of the best defenses in the country this year. Everyone knew that it was not going to be your typical 35-31 type game that you see nowadays. Everyone knew it was going to be a struggle. No one expected that there would be only twenty points scored by the teams combined and no one expected Clemson’s defense not to allow Auburn into the end zone at all. If you like defense and I do, this game was treat. Clemson did just enough more on offense than Auburn did to post two touchdowns (one on its last possession of the first half and one on its first possession of the second half). Clemson’s defense was spectacular as Auburn did not cross midfield except once after its first drive of game (and that one time was because Clemson fumbled the ball on its own 10 yard line). Auburn’s defense seemed to have Clemson’s number as well, except for giving up those two long drives for touchdowns.

And if you are a college football fan, you know that after winning the national championship last year, Clemson lost a lot of its star offensive players to graduation and to the NFL. Clemson had to, this year, replace almost 80% of its offensive yardage production from last year. That’s a lot of talent gone. So, this year, the offense is young with a lot of new skill players everywhere. So, after scoring only 14 points in the game against Auburn, there are critics in the press now and even among fringes of Clemson fans that are saying that the Tigers are in trouble offensively. After watching the team play what seemed very conservatively after getting an 8 point lead, many are criticizing the offensive coordinators for calling such a lame game in the second half of the contest. Last year, this team averaged nearly 40 points a game and over 500 yards of total offense per game so the critics are out. Clemson has lost its offensive mojo. They are going to get creamed by the offensive juggernaut that is Louisville this coming weekend (with its all everything defending Heisman trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson). They are saying that the defense might have won the game against Auburn but Lamar is going to light our defense up and our offense will be putting along with 14 points again.

All I can say is wow to these critics. Yes, Clemson was amazing on defense this past Saturday. Probably one of the best defensive performances I ever seen. Auburn could do nothing, I mean nothing, after their first drive. They made Auburn’s new and highly touted quarterback seem like a pee-wee football quarterback who did not know what to do. But, yet, at the same time, Auburn’s defense had as much to do with Clemson only scoring 14 points in the game. Auburn’s defense was almost as good as Clemson’s. Running lanes were small and passing windows were smaller. They have a great defense just not as good as Clemson’s. All teams are going to struggle to score against Auburn this year, plain and simple. But listen to the critics out there, Clemson is in trouble. They blame the offensive coaches for calling a conservative game. They blame the new kids on offense for not being ready for the big stage. They are saying that it was the talent on the field the last few years that made Clemson great not the coaches. Wow. Just wow. Clemson over the past 7 years now have gone through now what is the third offensive transition from one group of talented players to the next group up and they’re still winning. This group of new kids showed toughness and grit in scratching out two touchdowns against a highly rated defense. Let’s just wait and see before we say the sky is falling. The game was won in a mighty defensive struggle. Not flashy but effective. Let us wait until this week before we criticize this young team and its veteran coaches. If the Clemson offense struggles against a lesser defense this week and loses a game to the highly powered offense of Louisville then OK we got problems.

That idea of always being the critic, that armchair quarterbacking, that happens among football fans is similar sometimes how we complain in the church about how the preacher does things, about how we didn’t get asked to participate and how we could have done it better. Let’s read through the silliness of the Ephraimites in this passage:

12 Then the people of Ephraim mobilized an army and crossed over the Jordan River to Zaphon. They sent this message to Jephthah: “Why didn’t you call for us to help you fight against the Ammonites? We are going to burn down your house with you in it!”

2 Jephthah replied, “I summoned you at the beginning of the dispute, but you refused to come! You failed to help us in our struggle against Ammon. 3 So when I realized you weren’t coming, I risked my life and went to battle without you, and the Lord gave me victory over the Ammonites. So why have you now come to fight me?”

4 The people of Ephraim responded, “You men of Gilead are nothing more than fugitives from Ephraim and Manasseh.” So Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and attacked the men of Ephraim and defeated them.

5 Jephthah captured the shallow crossings of the Jordan River, and whenever a fugitive from Ephraim tried to go back across, the men of Gilead would challenge him. “Are you a member of the tribe of Ephraim?” they would ask. If the man said, “No, I’m not,” 6 they would tell him to say “Shibboleth.” If he was from Ephraim, he would say “Sibboleth,” because people from Ephraim cannot pronounce the word correctly. Then they would take him and kill him at the shallow crossings of the Jordan. In all, 42,000 Ephraimites were killed at that time.

7 Jephthah judged Israel for six years. When he died, he was buried in one of the towns of Gilead.

Here, in this passage, we see that the people of Israel had just won a great battle, but instead of joy, there was pettiness and quarreling. The tribe of Ephraim was angry and jealous that they had not been invited to join the fighting (although Jephthah said he had invited them). They wanted to kill Jephthah and his whole family as a result. This is not the first time the men of Ephraim complained about being left out or given what they perceived as something lesser than. In Judges 8, they complained that they were not given the best job in the attack on Midian. They complained there that they were relegated to “mop up” duty of capturing the escaping Midianites. Some people are quick to criticize it seems, especially when they have risked nothing or risked less than others.

Are you jealous because the pastor did not hand pick you for a project or a position at church? Do you criticize everything that goes on at church, even in the victories? Do you want a spot out front in an event or be on stage instead of operating behind the scenes? Do you get mad because you are not given a star role in a ministry? Do you criticize the church staff but yet you did nothing? Do you think you could do it better but never do anything? Do you criticize how the church is falling apart but never give a dime to the church? Do you complain that the church is not doing enough in the community but do not tithe? Do you spend a great deal of time justifying not tithing so that you don’t have to but yet throw the word tithe around as if you do? Do you criticize the fact that the church is doing nothing for disaster relief but do not (1) give to the church or (2) have the willingness to lead a disaster relief ministry?

Just as critics of the Clemson offense need to check how well they really did against the second best defense in the country, so too should we as Christ followers need to check ourselves before we start in-fighting within the church? We need to check our pride. We need to check our hearts of service. We need to check our love for our Lord and Savior. He calls us to be a unified body. He calls us to work together for the good of seeking and saving the lost and edifying the saints already in the church. He calls us to love another as an example of what Christ looks like. That is the distinctive for us according to the Lord himself – how we love another.

There are those that think that no matter what we do in leadership at churches that they could have done it better. They often don’t know the facts and are often those who stood on the sidelines when action was required. It’s easy to criticize. It’s harder to actually be in the game. Let us build up and not tear down. Let us set our egos aside and do what is best for the church. Let us focus on the things that we need to focus on. Let us focus on being unified so that people are drawn to how we love one another. Let us focus on seeking and saving the lost. Let us celebrate the victories of when we have played our role in supporting the Holy Spirit drawing people unto Christ. Let us major on the majors! Let us celebrate together and love each other as we call on the Holy Spirit to drench our church and our people in His power. Let us be united in calling on a Holy Spirit revival in our church and in our community! Let us be united in our efforts to support the spread of the gospel to the point that our churches are full of people seeking God!

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 25:13-16

Honest Weights & Measures

My stepdaughter, the middle child of my three girls, only three months younger than my oldest daughter, works in retail. She is the general manager of one of a chain of popular women’s beauty products stores. She loves it. She loves the managing of a store-full of employees, the purchasing and logistic of product supply, the marketing and so on. She, I think, even loves the wacky hours and holiday work. Some people are just built for retail and Michelle is so. One of the things that I found odd though when talking about retail with her was that they do what they can to prevent theft (shoplifting) but they are not, by policy, to pursue someone once they get outside the store with stolen property. It is simply part of the business in retail.

 

Inventory loss due to shoplifting, employee or supplier fraud and administrative errors cost U.S. retailers an estimated $44 billion in 2014, according to a survey by the National Trade Federation (NRF) and the University of Florida. The survey, which during March and April interviewed 100 senior loss prevention executives from various retail sectors, found inventory shrinkage, or loss, averaged 1.38 percent of overall retail sales, which stood at $3.19 trillion in 2014. Shoplifting accounted for the largest portion of the loss at 38 percent, followed by employee theft at 34.5 percent, administrative and paperwork theft at 16.5 percent, vendor fraud or error at 6.8 percent and unknown loss at 6.1 percent, according to this study. Wal-Mart, the retailing giant whose annual gross revenues rival some small nations, alone, loses $3 Billion a year to shoplifting and employee theft. Theft is just part of the game in retail and guess who pays for the additional costs created by theft, you got it, the overwhelming majority of shoppers – the honest shopper.

 

Fraud and dishonesty (theft in all its forms, embezzlement, kickbacks, dishonest gains, etc.) cost our American economy over $200 Billion annually. Retail losses are only a quarter of the dishonesty cost in the American economy. Law enforcement agencies are having to reallocate resources or add staff to combat the growing wave of unethical business behaviors. It seems that the problem has become so rampant that it is simply an accepted part of business. You have to build in a certain percentage of your sales prices to cover the cost of fraud and theft whether you are selling merchandise or you are selling services. Cheating on our taxes, both at the personal and corporate levels, cost the federal government an estimated $300 Billion in lost tax revenues. Even churches are not immune to theft and fraud. In the United States, the estimate of the extent of fraud against churches perpetrated by employees works out to around $9 Billion annually. US churches spend more on theft and embezzlement than they do on community outreach activities at the local church level.

 

It is the lack of honesty that seems to permeate business dealings these days that I thought of when I read today’s passage. Let’s read it now together:

 

13 Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. 14 Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. 15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 16 For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

 

God’s displeasure at dishonest business dealing is stressed throughout the Old Testament (Lev. 19:35, 36; Prov. 11:1; 16:21; 20:10, 23; and Mic. 6:11). The Bible has nothing good to say about those who cheat or are dishonest in their dealings with others. God is the embodiment of truth, and dishonesty is a insult both to God and our neighbor. This was a law of commerce dictating that you could not have one set of scales where a pound, say, equaled only 14 ounces and another where it equaled, say, the normal 16 ounces, for the purpose of cheating people. It teaches a broader principle that we must be fair and consistent in every area of life. We must have integrity in our dealings with other people.

 

How are we to live in a world like this where honesty and virtue seem to be liabilities to an employee? There is no advantage on earth as it descends generation by generation into the world mentioned in Revelation. There is absolutely no advantage. In fact, it is a liability to be honest in today’s world. It often angers me that I have more in taxes taken out on me than some people preachers make just out of seminary serving their first church. It angers me that I get back about ¼ of what I pay in taxes while others cheat like crazy and get big refunds. There is no advantage on earth for being honest.

 

However, there is eternal significance. There is eternal advantage in being honest. God is truth. Truth is honesty. To be honest is to be like one of the qualities of our eternal Father. We most likely all have moments where our flesh kicks in and we are dishonest too many times to count. However, we should purposely try to root our penchant for dishonesty and the Holy Spirit works on us about that very fact. When we can be honest when no one is looking is practice for being honest when everyone is. By being different from a world where theft and fraud are a natural part of life, we draw people unto Jesus Christ. By being ethical people in an unethical world, we draw people unto Christ. When we have opportunities “to take advantage of the system” but do not, we draw people unto Christ. When you can pad your expense account (and nobody will know) but do not, we are learning the discipline of honesty in our dealings with others.

 

We want to please God first and foremost. He will honor our integrity. He will bless it either here on earth or in eternity or both. He will bless it for sure. God has no deception, no lies, no untruth, no unethical qualities. We want to please Him by being truthful and honest. Second, as Christ followers, we are commanded to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ. The best way to do that is to be examples of Christ. Honesty, integrity and ethical behavior are rarities in our world today. The way we live our lives with honesty, integrity and ethical behavior make people ask questions. Being little Christs as we are, we must stand out as different so that people will look at us and ask questions. That is our opportunity to speak of the different way of living known as a relationship with Jesus Christ. Through our accepting Him as our Savior and He sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, we are changed. We are different. We have a different agenda of loving God and loving people. Being honest and forthright in our dealings with other people is how we love God and love people. Let us be quirky and different. Let our integrity and honesty draw people unto that which is so different from the common ways of man today.

 

There is no advantage in this world of being honest. There is an out of this world, eternal reason to be honest – to please God and to draw people unto Christ. Be different. Be honest. Stand out. Let people see your integrity so that they will be drawn unto Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 19:14-21 (Part 2)

Concern for Justice

Have you ever been blamed for something that you did not do? You see it all the time with kids. They will blame things on other kids and particularly their siblings if it will get them out of trouble with their parents, teachers, or other adults. We learn how to sin pretty quickly as children. Self-preservation is the rule of the day when it comes to kids. I think it was Bill Cosby who once said that you are not a real parent until you have more than one child. He said that with one child, you knew did it. With multiple children, you have weed through the accusatory finger pointing and the not-me’s to get to the truth of who did what.

 

I would see this all the time in my second marriage when we had the kids, all five of hers and mine, living together under the same roof. That did not last long, one year, before I allowed my girls to go live with their mother. It was probably one of the worst years of my life when looking back on it. It was impossible to enforce discipline on the boys even though their behavior was worse and more rebellious. There was this perception that I would not punish the girls but would punish the boys. My second wife fanned these flames with the boys and would confront me with it. The girls were simply better behaved than the boys and they did not intentionally challenge my authority. The boys were jealous of the girls and would blame things on them when they got the chance. Because of the geopolitics of nations that was going on my household, me trying to keep my second wife happy and keep the bedroom approval that I desired and coveted, the jealousies that are ever-present in a blended family, rebellious boys who never were disciplined before I met them, my girls who didn’t want to be living with us, the blame game between the boys toward my girls was an easy, effective way to ensure that nothing that the boys did got punished.

 

When I look back at that “year from hell” now, I cringe to the point of nausea at my lack of being the leader of my home. I ceded my authority in pursuit of my idol, which in the nicest term possible was bedroom approval. How I did not have the kahunas to stand up for what was right and true (because I feared loss of bedroom approval) was the cause of an unruly household. I truly felt sorry for my girls having to live in a house where at any moment they could get blamed for something and the boys would get away with whatever they did without punishment. I should have been more of man. My solution was to let the girls go live with their mom to get them out of the pea soup of accusations and jealousies that existed at my house. I should have. I would have. I could have. These are things that we say when looking back our past as the re-runs of memories pass by in your head. The sad part is that the opportunity of those situations has passed and the actions taken back then are etched in stone now and cannot be changed. Oh, though, to think of how I have matured as a Christian man since then. Knowing what I know now about being the spiritual leader of my house. What I know now about where my value comes from! How I wonder at how I would have responded to these punishment situations where false accusations were being made. May I be able to discern false testimony going forward!

 

Those painful memories of the past where I failed to act against false accusations was the thing that I thought about this morning as we return this passage, Deuteronomy 19:14-21, a second time. Let us refresh our memories and read through it together once more now:

 

14 Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

 

15 One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

 

16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

 

Here, we see that a false witness was to receive the same punishment that the accused person would have suffered. When I looked back at trying to raise a blended family, I did a disservice to everyone involved for not ferreting out false accusations and getting to the truth of matters. I was too concerned with my own bedroom approval needs than I was about justice and doing the right thing.

 

Have you ever blamed someone else for something that you did? It’s not just children that do it. We do it as adults and we often get away with it. We either directly blame someone else for what we did or we sit silently and let someone take the fall that we should be taking. We also blame others for our own troubles as if we did not have a hand in the lot that we have in life.

 

We can get away with things such as these here on earth. We can blame others for actions we have taken that were wrong or that hurt others. We can blame others for our mistakes. We can blame others for how we have become who we are. We can spend our whole lives doing that and doing it successfully. But at the end of it all, we will face the Righteous Judge. The Righteous Judge, God on His throne, is the one guy that we can’t BS with. We cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the Creator of All Things. He is full of wisdom and truth. He knows all knowledge. He sees all things. He knows the hearts of men, and women. He knows the truth that we have covered with lies. He knows our sins that we have kept hidden all these years. He knows the truth about who and what we are. He knows your deepest, darkest secrets.

 

Who will you blame then? Who will I blame then? These arguments that we successfully used on earth to cover up our sins will not be valid arguments here. He already knows it all. All the stuff we did. All of it! Alllllll of it! He knows about all the big ugly things we have done down all the way to that box of paper clips that we stole from our office. He knows it all. We cannot BS our way around our sins. They will be on full display before the Righteous Judge. We will not be able to “shuck and jive” Him. We will not be able to explain anything away! We will be condemned before Him. None of us is righteous. Not even one! None of us is pure before the One Who Knows Our Heart.

 

There is only one course of action that we have when our case is heard before God’s throne (and it will be, let me assure you) is to have fallen on our faces before God and asked him to forgive us of our sins (and knowing that God in His purity does not have to do that) and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and is our Savior. When our case is heard, He is our city of refuge. He covers up all of our ugliness, darkness and sin in His purity. Jesus says to the Father, this one is mine. I have taken the punishment for this one already. He is my follower. Jesus says to the Father, this one is most assuredly guilty before you for the past that he has but He has proclaimed Me as His Savior and His Lord and He has been living for me under the direction of the Holy Spirit for some time now. He still sins, yes, but his own sins revolt him and make Him nauseous about himself and that drives him to his knees daily calling out to me to indwell him and make him more holy day by day. Father, Jesus says, this one is mine. Let him pass into heaven.

 

Where do you stand this morning? Are you still covering up your lies? Are you still blaming others? Are you afraid of what will happen when you die and meet whatever comes next? Even non-believers think that there is some karmic justice after death. We are wired by God, believer or not, to believe that there is justice in the afterlife. As a believer, we know that the Righteous Judge is the one-true God who created the universe by speaking it into existence. Ignoring the existence of God does not make Him not exist. Come to Him now and fall before Him. He knows your stuff. All of it. He knows all the stuff that you keep hidden. Fall before Him. Beg for His forgiveness. Ask Jesus Christ to be the Lord of your life. So that at this life’s journey is at its end and we face the Righteous Judge, Jesus can say, this one…this one is mine.

 

Amen and Amen.

Deuteronomy 1:19-25

Scouts Explore the Land

I remember a short time ago as far as eternity goes, how things were extremely different than they are now. It was a mere twelve years ago. My second marriage had ended. As I have stated before, I allowed myself to get so wrapped up in maintaining my second marriage that I forsook all things including my children. Just to keep my wife happy I would do only what was necessary for my kids and no more. I do not blame my second wife anymore for these things. I allowed it to happen. She knew she had power over me and who wouldn’t take advantage of that? I had made her my god and all else was secondary to making her happy. I lost my soul in maintaining access to her female charms to the point that I lost who I was. Any behavior was acceptable to me to maintain approval so as to maintain access to what a woman can give a man. So, when the trajectories of having to support my child in college (beyond what was required of me by child support order) and my need to maintain the approval of my wife collided, the marriage ended before it ended. My second wife began staying out all night with her buddies from work and would not come home until late in the evening. The marriage was dead and beyond repair. We split up. I had to walk away.

 

When things came to a head and she left me no alternative but to leave after three weeks of bickering and three weeks of silence that was not to change, I called it quits. When I finally got the kahunas to do that, I think I actually heard the earth split into inside my head. Those first months after the breakup were the hardest. The weeks were hard. It was hard to even get out of bed, but something made me go to work in those days. It was a diversion from my depression that was always there in the background. It was like I felt that people could see how lousy I felt about myself and I had to work hard to hide my warts all day. However, if it were not for work, I do not know what I would have done. It was a temporary time to focus mostly on something else other than my loneliness and depression. The evenings and weekends were the worst. I was so depressed those first few months that there was no way for me to get out in the world. I was so self-conscious. It felt like people could see that my second wife was out there living it up with her party girl lifestyle and that I had nothing. It made me withdraw. Weekends were long and painful as I would hardly leave my apartment from Friday evening to Monday morning. Each tick of the clock was excruciatingly long and painful. Each tick was loud and palpable as time slowly, ever so slowly marched forward. I used to look forward to weekends but during those first few months after the breakup, I dreaded the weekends. The march of time on the weekend was audible. There was a time that I just wished I would stop living. I never considered suicide. That’s just not who I am. I did however wish that the pain would go away fervently. I was in a hole and did not know when and if it were to ever end. That’s what happens when you make a person your god and then that god is removed.

 

Even though a natural death would have been welcomed those first few months, there was always that hope that things would get better. It was a small sliver of hope that was microscopic back then, but it was a hope nonetheless. There was a dream of a life that was better. There was a slight point of light that said you will have joy again. It was a battle against the overwhelming depression that I felt in those days, but it was there and that little tiny, infinitesimal, faint light of hope that kept me going. Things would get better. Things would get better. Things would get better. Like a drug addict coming off drugs thinks the world is going to end, I was coming off my drug of making a person my god. It was the most painful experience of my life. There was a hope, however small, that pulled me through. I think that it was the Holy Spirit maintaining my sanity so that I could get to where I am today. That sliver of hope carried me through. I have been through the valley of darkness and I have survived it. If you only have a sliver of hope that things are going to get better, you still have hope. Cling to it. It is a life raft offered by the Holy Spirit.

 

It is that idea of clinging to hope instead of letting the overwhelming sense of doom overtake you that I thought of this morning. We all need that life raft of a bed frame to cling to like in the movie Titanic when all things around you are sinking. Let’s read the passage together today, Deuteronomy 1:19-25:

 

19 Then, as the Lord our God commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful wilderness that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea. 20 Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. 21 See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

 

22 Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”

 

23 The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. 24 They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshkol and explored it. 25 Taking with them some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, “It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.”

 

The scouts had been sent out to determine not whether to enter the Promised Land but where they should enter. Upon returning, though, the scouts concluded that the obstacles were too large. God would give them the power to conquer the land, but they decided that the risk was too great and they let fear overtake them. God gives us the power to overcome our obstacles but we often let our circumstances control our lives. We can let our circumstances define us and defeat us and drive us into the ground. When we have trust in the Lord, no matter how bleak the situation looks, we demonstrate courageous, overcoming faith.

 

Don’t let anyone tell you that you do not have doubts about whether God is listening and caring when we go through the depths of the valley. Sure, even the strongest have doubts. Even, Jesus in the flesh on the cross asked the Father why He had forsaken Him, as Jesus felt the weight of the punishment of God for all sin for all time. We, too, will have doubts as we go through our valleys. But Jesus never lost faith while suffering on the cross. He clung to the obedience of doing His Father’s will. He knew that His objective was greater than His momentary pain. We too must cling to hope when we go through our valleys. I am witness to tell you that your resurrection is coming. It will get better. I am a living example. I am now standing on the high, dry ground. He has blessed me with a resurrected life that is firmly planted in Him. I have a great wife who loves me unconditionally no matter what. She is the wife that He intended for me. I have a great job in the secular world and I am serving the Lord at my church part-time on staff and full-time in any way I can. I am blessed. Jesus pulled me through those dark early days. I survived. I made it to the other side. Jesus was that faint light that I walked toward when I was surrounded by darkness.

 

Keep you eyes on Jesus and not your circumstances. Things will change if you trust Him no matter how hard it seems right now. You will make it. Hold Jesus’ hand!

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 11:16-30 (Part 3 of 3)

Moses Choses Seventy Leaders

I may have spoken about this before, but it was a profound moment in my life that I will not soon forget. We were on our first mission trip to Haiti, our first mission trip altogether. The getting to Jacmel, Haiti was an ordeal. Leaving the church at midnight to drive to Atlanta. The hauling of our baggage and supplies that we taking to Jacmel. The arrival in the hottest city on the planet, Port-au-Prince. The chaos of baggage claim and customs that is Port-au-Prince in the stifling heat inside what would be best be described as the equivalent of a tobacco aging warehouse in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Old and rickety with very little ventilation. Then after walking out there you walk through the equivalent of those haunted house where hundreds of people are reaching out to touch you. It was intimidating and scary. All of these people are trying to “assist” you with your luggage. Once they “claim” you, you are expected to pay them for this valuable service of pushing your luggage cart out to the awaiting van from the church in Jacmel with whom our church has a relationship. Church vans are not always top-notch as you know. Church vans in Haiti are rugged and show the rough life of a vehicle in Haiti. Then, there is the long three-hour drive to Jacmel from the P-a-P airport. Not only is it blazing hot but you are driven through what has to be the poorest big city that you have ever seen as you drive through Port-au-Prince. Dirty. Nasty. Trashy. After you escape the sensory overload of Port-au-Prince, you still have two hours to go over twisting, turning narrow roads through the mountains of Haiti to get to the other side of the island where we will find Jacmel. Then, in Jacmel, our room has no air conditioning that first year we were there. Where it was situated in building, there was absolutely no airflow into our room. It would get so hot in our room that the sheets would stick to you because of being dripping wet with sweat. The days were hotter and sweatier and the work was hard. It began to make me wonder why I came. I felt no particular spiritual uplift from hauling cement from one place to another or from digging holes for fence posts. I enjoyed being with my friends on our mission team, but, hey, I could have enjoyed that back home in Duncan.

 

Then, Tuesday night came. We were invited to come to the prayer service at the church. At first, when we got there, not but a few parishioners were there. Then, they began to pray out loud each one. There was no agenda for this meeting just prayer. There was no preacher just prayer. As the evening continued, more and more people filed into the church. Prayers being offered up by all. All at the same time. In French Creole, their prayers were offered up to God. Have you ever heard 100 or so people praying at the same time? It was a cacophony of sound. You could hear the rising power of emotion in prayer and the coming down from the high of emotion. The power with which each one was praying was something to behold. Although I could not understand the creole dialect of French, I could understand the intensity with which they were praying to God. In this land where Christianity battles with voodoo for hearts of people, these prayers seemed more intense than any prayers that I had heard ever back in America. I simply closed my eyes and just allowed my auditory senses take over and the walls of sound of 100 people praying with great fervor all at once. I swear that night I could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in that room. His presence was palpable. Your heart could feel it. The rest of the mission trip was put into perspective by this night. No longer did I view it as a struggle. No longer was it something that I just had to get through. It really helped me see that in the simple lives that these people lead, they are more in tune with the moving of the Holy Spirit than we are as Americans. We have so much noise that we let into our lives that we do not sometimes sense the power of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

 

In that prayer service, these people were in touch with the Holy Spirit in their lives, that indwells in them and in us. However, there was a fervor and a sense of real need of God’s help in their prayers that I have never sensed before or since in the prayers of American people including myself. We do not pray in the same way as these Haitian Christians do. Our prayers are passionless by comparison. We would be made to feel uncomfortable here in our country, if we prayed with the same passion and fervor as these members of Restoration Ministries Church in Jacmel, Haiti. I long to feel the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit as I did that night back some four (4) years ago now. Do I have too much noise and clutter in my life to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me each and every day? Do I need carve out time to feel Him, to hear Him speak to me, to taste Him in the air, to sense His presence fully?

 

It is that idea that we have an advantage over pre-Pentecost people of God in that we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives daily, but yet we do not sense it sometimes that came to mind when I read through today’s passage, Numbers 11:16-30, today for the third and final time.

 

 

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

 

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

 

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

 

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

 

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

 

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

 

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

 

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

 

Moses’ reply in v. 29 was looking forward to the day when all God’s people would experience the pouring out of God’s spirit. The prophet, Joel, recorded God’s promise to pour out His Spirit on all believers in Joel 2:28-29, which was fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21). Believers today can be sure that they have the Holy Spirit when they become Christ followers (Romans 8:9). We also can pray to live by the Holy Spirit’s power (Galatians 5:16-26). If you desire to have the full throttle of the Holy Spirit’s power in your life, pray for Him to fill your life with His presence and strengthen you to follow Christ more closely.

 

Moses says, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!” It is only through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord that we can have the Holy Spirit dwell in us. In the absence of Jesus’ imputed perfection to us, we are not holy and thus the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in us. Christ gives us our perfection and it is through that perfection that our souls become a holy temple in which the Holy Spirit can reside.

 

Is that not amazing. That same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in us, as the song by Jeremy Camp states (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NcEkEeghYQ) . That same power that commanded Lazarus to wake from his death slumber is the same power that resides in us. That same power that causes a raging sea to calm on His command lives in us. We have God’s power living in us. Yet, we do recognize it. We clutter our lives with toys, concerns of how to pay for this and that, concerns over first world problems, such that we cannot sense the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in our lives. What Moses could only wish for is a present reality for all believers. However, we do not sense the power of the Holy Spirit in us at times. How going to poorest country in the Western Hemisphere made me realize that these people who live with so much less clutter in their lives actually realize and sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

 

We are the children of Jesus Christ! We can call upon His name through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and we can conquer anything that troubles us through that power. When we realize that we really do not need any more than that and rely on that is when we really start to grow in Christ. The Holy Spirit lives in us. We are more than conquerors. There is nothing that we cannot overcome when we call upon His name. Let us begin to understand the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us declutter our minds and souls and hear His voice. Let us pray with fervor. Let us pray with passion. Let us taste the presence of the Holy Spirit in the air. Let us sense His presence.

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 7:89

The Cherubim Above the Ark

Have you ever noticed as a parent that you can pick out your child’s voice, your child’s cries among many voices? When you child is a baby and is in their crib in another room in another part of the house, maybe even on a different floor of your house and you wake up instantly when that child begins to cry in the night? We as parents know our children so acutely that we can pick out their cries among a din of voices or from a distance. We are in tune with our flesh and blood. We know our children intimately. We spend a great deal of time with them. We know the difference between tones of their voices when they need us. As they grow older, we know from their tone of voice as to whether they are telling the truth or lying. We know from how they look as to whether they are happy or sad, sick or healthy, hungry or full. It starts when they are babies. As you learn your child, you know which cries are hungry cries and which cries are just fighting sleep cries. We know which cries are bad dream cries. We learn our children. I was discussing with my wife the other day that when my girls need something from me, they put multiple a’s in the word, daddy. So, it becomes daaaaaady. It is a matter of tone as to knowing whether it’s a “daddy I need money” daaaaady or whether it’s a “please fix this for me” daaaaady. As my oldest child went through a grueling 18 hour labor from Sunday afternoon into Monday morning this week, there were the “please fix this for me” daaady cries. I know the difference. By their voices, I know when my daughters are happy, sad, in need, angry, and so on.

 

When I read this final verse of the passage/chapter of Numbers 7 again this morning, I was about to move on to the next passage, Numbers 8:1-4, but something struck me about this final verse of this passage that I had to circle back to and write about. The idea of Moses hearing the audible voice of God was what struck me. Just as I know by the sound of my children’s voices what was and is going on with them, Moses actually heard the voice of God on frequent occasions. What was that like? Was it an actual, audible voice that could be heard through Moses’ ears that could possibly have been heard by others if they were standing beside or near where Moses was?  Or was it something that Moses perceived as audible in his mind but was not an auditory sensation through his ears? Either way Moses got to hear the voice of God. That is a privilege accorded only a few in the Bible. Let’s read again what this verse says:

 

89 When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.

 

To hear the actual voice of God! Wow, what an honor that must have been! To hear God speak words! To hear Him say words where there was no mistaking what He meant. No trying to figure out what God is telling us. No discerning what His message is to us. Just plain out hearing and understanding. How awesome would that be! That got me to thinking though. Why is it that you and I do not hear the actual voice of God? Was Moses actually that much better of a person than we are? What’s the deal here?

 

Imagine hearing the very voice of God. Moses must have trembled at the sound. But why do you and I not hear an audible voice of God like Moses. Do we not have the voice of God available to us? Yes, we do, in fact. We have the Word of God recorded for us in the Bible and we should have no less reverence and awe for it as Moses would have had for the audible words going forth from God. He sometimes spoke directly to His people to tell them how to live. The Bible records these conversations to give us insights into God’s character. How tragic it is when we take God’s Word lightly. Like Moses, we have the privilege of talking to God, but God answers us differently – through his Written Word and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. To seek God’s voice and to understand God’s Word in ways that give us answers to our life questions, we must seek to know God intimately so that we can discern his voice through the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives just as Moses did.

 

According to gotquestions.com, it says, on this issue:

 

To hear God’s voice we must belong to God. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Those who hear God’s voice are those who belong to Him—those who have been saved by His grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. These are the sheep who hear and recognize His voice, because they know Him as their Shepherd. If we are to recognize God’s voice, we must belong to Him.

 

We hear His voice when we spend time in Bible study and quiet contemplation of His Word. The more time we spend intimately with God and His Word, the easier it is to recognize His voice and His leading in our lives. Employees at a bank are trained to recognize counterfeits by studying genuine money so closely that it is easy to spot a fake. We should be so familiar with God’s Word that when someone speaks error to us, it is clear that it is not of God.

 

Just as we know our children’s voices and know what each and every inflection of their voices mean (because we spend so much time with our children over the years). Just as we know how they different inflections of using the very same word means different things, we know this. We know this because we know our children on an intimate level. We know our children better than anyone in the world with, maybe, the exception of our spouses. When you live with a child for all those years as they grow up, you know them almost on a molecular level. You know them intimately in a way that you do not know other people who live outside your home.

 

We can know God intimately through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. It is only through that act and Jesus sending us the Holy Spirit that we can truly begin to understand God. It is through His Holy Spirit that we can discern God’s Word that once seem folly to us. It is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we can begin to apply the truths of the Bible to our lives. We have God’s Word and we have the Holy Spirit. These are the materials for an intimate relationship with God.

 

I am not saying that God cannot or will not speak audibly to us or someone else now or in the future. He is God. He can reveal Himself to us the way that He wants. However, He has given us His Word and He sends us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. These are the tools that He gives us. We must become intimate with the Holy Spirit by listening to that voice that tells that which is right and wrong and guides us toward God’s will. We must. We must study the Word of God, not just read it. We must become so immersed in the Bible that we devour it. We must study it daily. We see it as essential to our lives. We must also spend time with the Lord in prayer. Being intimate with Him where you focus is totally on Him. There are so many things that we put in the way of spending time in His Word or in specified prayer time. We do not think it is important and then we wonder why it is difficult for us to discern God’s will.

 

What if you did not spend time with your kids? What if you did not spend countless hours with them over the course of their home years? The only way we know our kids is the intimate time, the intimate years that we spend with them. It is the same way with God. We learn everything about him through making Him our Lord, studying not just reading His Word, and spending specific times of prayer with Him. We learn his traits and his characteristics this way and thus learn to better discern His will. Maybe one day we will be so in tune with Him that we will actually hear His voice like Moses did, but that will only come if we focus on and be intentional about being intimate with God. Then and only then will we recognize His voice in the same way that we can hear the small voice of our baby in a crib in a different part of the house as if the baby were right in our ear.

 

Amen and Amen.

Matthew 7:21-23
True and False Disciples

Have you ever had someone just get up in your face and tell you the truth? Often, it is the truth that you do not want to hear? When other people either won’t tell you the truth because they fear it will hurt your feelings or they just want to avoid the conflict. But, there is that one friend. You know! The one who really cares about you and is willing to risk your friendship to set you straight. Jesus is being that friend in this passage. He is in our face. He is telling us the truth. He is willing to risk our friendship with Him to set us straight.

As we draw to the close of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets more and more direct and to the point with his commentary. No parables. Just straight up, in your face words of spiritual reality. Words of authority and his place as judge. In this passage, Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me: you evildoers!’

What is Jesus saying to us here? Let’s bottom line this thing. I think Jesus is saying one central thing…only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter God’s Kingdom on judgment day. This passage is all about obedience to God, the master of the universe. As Matthew Henry says in his textbook series, “Commentary on the Scriptures”, when speaking of this passage, “He shows, by a plain remonstrance, that an outward profession of religion, however remarkable, will not bring us to heaven”…

Henry goes on to say, “He is an excellent Christian on the Sabbath. As soon as the sun shines upon the earth on the first day of the week, all his religion is awake, but, alas, he is a very queer Christian on a Monday, and a remarkably bad Christian on Saturday nights. Many people keep their piety folded up and put away with their best clothes, and they only give it an airing on the Sabbath. Their Bible is to be seen under their arm on Sunday, but on a Monday, where is that Bible? Well, not at the man’s right hand, as a perpetual companion. Where are the precepts of Scripture? Are they in the shop? Are they in the house? Alas the golden rule has been left in church to lie dusty in the pews until next Sunday. Religion is not wanted by some people on a weekday, it might be inconvenient. Many there be who sing psalms of praise to God but confine their praises to the congregation; as to praising Him in their heart at home, it never occurs to them. Their whole religion lies inside the meeting house walls, or comes up at certain times and seasons during the day, when the family is called in to prayer.”

Wow, can’t put it any plainer than that. After reading Matthew Henry’s Commentary it is very clear that Jesus is saying that we have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Jesus is saying that only the only who does the will of my Father will enter into heaven. There is no list here of things you have to do in life. No need for flashy public displays of your “love of Jesus”. Do the will of the Father. That’s it. Plain and simple. Without that, you are not in the Heaven club!

How do we do the will of the Father? What is the will of the Father? I think that we must answer the second question first and answer it this way. The will of the Father is different from our own human fleshly will. Thus, to do the Father’s will is to give up our own will. To give up our own will, our own control over our lives, is an act of obedience led by faith. Just as a child obeys his parents out of his faith that his parents will not let them come to harm so is giving up our will to that of God. The will of the Father is to love Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love others more than we love ourselves. We are to do more for others than we do for ourselves, love without expectation of return, loving the unloveable, being selfless instead of selfish, serving others without expecting a reward for it, never being ashamed of placing God at the kingship of our lives, being willing to die for our belief in God. These are the things of God’s will. These are the things of a full-on commitment to God. These are the hard things.

Charles Spurgeon, the great theologian, wrote this on the subject, “Do believers ever always do God’s will? Sadly the answer is no. We are not yet glorified. We still possess the fallen flesh. Clearly, genuine believers from time to time choose their will over God’s will, but when they do, as disobedient children of God, they subject themselves to the disciplining hand of their Father. In contrast, those individuals that Jesus is describing in this passage continually, habitually and as their “normal” pattern of life choose their will over God’s will. In short, what Jesus is describing is not “perfection” but “direction” of one’s life as evidenced by one’s daily thoughts, words and deeds – believers while not perfect (perfection) in this life are headed toward heaven (direction), although from time to time they do live like they are headed in the opposite direction!”

Taking Spurgeon’s thought a little further, if we are from fallen flesh, then what hope do we have to continually do the Father’s will. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, then we are hopelessly unable to complete a life of doing the Father’s will. Going back to Romans, Paul goes on to say in Romans 3:24, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Thus, as our parents punished us for living outside their will, we suffer the results of our own living out of alignment with their will. We suffer the results of our sin. However, through the redemptive love of Jesus who died for our sins, we can be reconciled to God. Just as our parent’s wipe our slate clean and reinstate us to their favor, so does the redemptive grace of Jesus.

So, what does all this mean? To me, it means intentionality. It is choices. It is a mindset change. We must intentionally seek to do the will of God. To intentionally seek to do the will of God, we must give up our will. Willful children suffer when they purposely live their lives outside the will of their parents. So, we as God’s children must give guidance of our lives up to God. We must willingly seek His favor and His will. It is only when we see how lucky we are to be given good standing with God through Jesus’ redemption that we willingly take our own will off the table. We want to do God’s will. We live our life in that direction. Our actions of compassion, love and forgiveness and mind choices that demonstrate that direction. Any child no matter how angry and willful ultimately wants their parent’s approval and will glory in it when they get it. So, are we as God’s children! We willingly submit to his leadership of our lives. We want to represent him in the world. We want the world to know that through the covering of His Son that we have new life. We are so happy in that we want to do more, we want to be more for God. So happy in the new lease on life we have been given – taking us away from the life of selfishness and the pit that it dropped us in. Just as the Prodigal Son found himself in a pit with pigs (willing to eat the husks that people had rejected) realized that he could return to his Father. When he returned to his father, he was willing to be a lowly servant to just be in his dad’s house. His father rather gave him his place back in the house as his son. Although the Bible does not go on with the Prodigal story, but can you imagine the immense joy felt by the son who days before was in the pit. That’s how we feel as a true Christ follower, yes, father I want to do your will … anything you ask I will do … whatever you say I will follow it … I know from my life experience that you know best for me.

Those who say, “Lord, Lord” but yet live in a different direction are deluding themselves. We may think that going to church at the coolest church in town is enough. We may think that listening to and singing along with the most modern music with concert quality sound systems is enough. We may think that listening to a message by the hippest pastor around is all we need. However, if there is no salvation, there is nothing. If there is no life change, there is nothing. There is an old saying that goes, “They praise heaven on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week.” Just sitting in church on Sunday at the “in church” in town without life change, without salvation, without living a submitted lifestyle is just saying “Lord, Lord” and Christ will say He never knew us. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” How do we do this? We must truly accept Christ as our Savior and He will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Nothing can replace or imitate salvation. The Holy Spirit then puts on His work gloves and begins to work in us daily. We must begin daily, hourly, minute by minute, make the mental choices to listen to the Holy Spirit. We must renew our mind. We must make choices that are consistent with God’s will as expressed in His Holy Word. It is hard work, this renewing of the mind thing. Sometimes, our flesh cries out against the Holy Spirit and it is a real struggle to do what the Holy Spirit says. Sometimes, what the Holy Spirits says for us to do is so very much in contrast to our nature and our culture! It is a choice to follow the Holy Spirit. It is a renewing of the mind. It is submitting our will to the will of God. How hard it is to let go of our will! There is no list or prescribed checklist here. Our faith is not about doing all the right things and not doing all the wrong things. That is legalism. That is meaningless in God’s eyes. What God wants is our heart, our allegiance, our undying devotion to Him, our willingness to give Him glory and not ourselves. What God wants is all of us. He wants us leave our will at the door and follow Him, trust Him, believe in Him, and allow Him to change us from the inside out.

Sometimes a hard dose of reality is what we need. That is what Jesus gives us in this passage. It is not hard to figure out. It is not a story that we must figure out the meaning. Jesus could not have put it any plainer. Even a child could figure out what Jesus is saying to us here. Direct language. Plain and simple, Jesus is direct. He says it straight out…do the will of my Father in Heaven and you will be there when your time comes! Do the will of the Father. Doing the will of the Father will show through our Prodigal son-like thankfulness for having been saved from the pit. Doing the will of the Father, Jesus says, is more than public displays to be seen by other men…it is actually living a life that is actively seeking to do the things that the Father wants us to do…really wanting to. As they say on American Idol, we need “to be in it to win it.” In it to win it…all in…thankfully joyfully seeking our Father’s favor by doing his will… His will not ours…Plain and simple.

1 Corinthians 13 — Yesterday, we talked about how pretty much every gift given from God is meaningless unless we love, unless we show love, unless we act in love. Then, that begs the question, What is love? In this next paragraph of this chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul describes love. It reminds you of that scene from the movie, Forest Gump, when he asks Jenny to marry him for the first time and the speaking parts of the scene end with Forrest saying, “I might not be a smart man, but I do know what love is!” Paul, in this paragraph, tells us what Forrest already knows. Since love is the central theme of Christianity, we will spend a few days here on these definitions of love. Just think how patient Forrest was with Jenny. That was patient love. That was abiding love. We can learn a lot from how Forrest loved Jenny.

The first definition of love is that love is patient. Right out of the gate, Paul uses patience to describe love. It must therefore be a primary characteristic of love. Just as food labels are required by law to list the ingredients of food you purchase in their order of relative content in the food. If patience is listed first, it must mean that Paul sees it as the most important ingredient in love. What is patience then? Dictionary.com defines patience as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like. It goes on to define patience as an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay. Patience is also quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence. To be patient is to have these qualities and to live out these qualities. Love is patient.

According to gotquestions.com, patience is noted as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is also mentioned there, revealing the close connection between these two attributes. Both love and patience are products of the Spirit’s presence in one’s life. Without patience can we truly love? The lack of patience in relationships means that we are not willing to invest in them. Lack of patience with others means that we see our agenda as greater than theirs. Impatience is the fruit of selfishness.

Patience means setting aside getting my needs met. That is where impatience is born is in our selfish, depraved, sinful desires to get what I want and I want it now! We start out young being impatient. Babies that do not get their needs met immediately shower us with their curdling cries and screams. We come into this world wanting what we want and wanting it now. Patience only comes when we care about the needs of others more than our own needs. Think of the wife how suffers through decades of her husband’s alcoholism but still loves him. She still sees the best in him.

Patience gives us hope. Patience believes in the best in others. Just think of the joy that she has when her husband finally admits his problem, joins Celebrate Recovery, and begins his sobriety journey. Impatience would have ended that marriage decades ago. Patience is rewarded in this scenario we are talking about. Often the strongest marriages are those that have survived devastating setbacks, pain, and troubles. When marriages come out of the valley, one or the other or both see the godly love that has been shown them by their spouse and it deepens their love for one another. Without patience that would never happen.

Patience sees potential in others. Patience allows us to nurture that which is good in others. It allows us to invest in another person even though right now that person is so annoying. Patience allows us to give them space to be themselves. Patience concentrates on that which is good in others rather than that which annoys us.

Patience allows us to grant others grace, the same grace that we have been shown by Our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. In a world where Christians are bombarded by a world now that sees what is wrong as right and what is right as wrong, patience can be in short supply. We want to wash our hands of a world gone mad. We may find it disgusting and it may turn our stomach and make us nauseous to watch Bruce Jenner in an evening gown being rewarded for his courage. We can lose our patience over things like this because it just seems that the world now glorifies everything that is the opposite of what we think is right. But weren’t we ourselves ones who used to shake our fist at God by the way we lived our lives in opposition to Him. Unless you were one of the lucky ones who accepted Jesus as your Savior as a child, then, you and me have lived lives that grieve the heart of God. It was not until God allowed circumstances in our lives to bring us to our knees before Him that we quit shaking our fist at God. We must be patient with those whose lifestyles are in opposition to God’s Word. We must offer them the same grace that we have been given.

Patience allows us to be like Jesus. When we are like Jesus, it means that we don’t write people off as beyond redemption. We don’t write people off because what they do makes us sick to our stomach, literally. Jesus would have encountered Bruce Jenner not rejected Him. Jesus would have ate dinner with a same-sex couple. He would have not waffled on God’s truths with them. He would have told them like it was, but He would have done it in a way that made them think. He would have done so in love. Imagine the patience of Jesus with us sinners. He loved us. He sat down with us in the midst of our sins. He went to the cross and died for us and patiently waits for you to accept Him as your Savior even now while you shake your fist at Him.

Jesus, The Holy Spirit and The Father are one. In Scripture it says God is patient. According to gotquestions.com, since God is love (1 John 4:8), He is necessarily patient. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6; see also Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Even in judgment, God’s patience is evident: “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20).

If we are to be like Christ, if we are to be little Christs, we must have love in our hearts for others. We must be able to set aside our need to have our needs immediately met. We must have godly patience with others. We must love them to the cross. Sometimes that takes long-suffering patience. Patience is the hallmark of love. Patience means never giving up, never writing off, always hoping, always seeing a child of God in others even when they are shaking their fist at us and everything that we hold dear. God, grant us patience daily! OK. Let’s go watch Forrest Gump again!