Thursday, November 18, 2010

Called and Equipped

We read about two men, Bezalel and Oholiab, in Exodus 31 and 35-40.  Until Exodus 31, we have not read anything about these men.  It appears that they were essentially unknowns.  They were not leaders of the people of Israel.  But they were known to God.  

The Lord set them apart to do His special work in building the tabernacle and its furnishings.  In Exodus 31 we read: "The LORD said to Moses, 'See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.  And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan.  And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you....'" (31:1-11).  

God called (by name) and equipped these two men, filled them with His Spirit, and set the task before them.  Does this sound familiar, dear Christian?  It should.  We, too, have been filled with God's Spirit and given at least one spiritual gift with which to serve the Lord and His church.  He has a role (or roles) for each of us to fulfill in our local church family.

Bezalel and Oholiab faithfully served the Lord as He had called and equipped them.  The tabernacle was completed, as we read in the last few chapters of Exodus.

But as I read these accounts, I began to wonder: What if Bezalel and Oholiab had said "No"?  

What if they had preferred to use their great skill to create other things besides what God had called them to do?  

What if they had believed they weren't really gifted enough to do what God called them to do?

What if they had held back because people didn't really know them?

What if they had said they just didn't have enough time to do the work?

What if they had said the work was too large for them to do (and it was indeed a huge task!), so they just didn't want to try?

What if they were too afraid to step out and take on the project?

What if they didn't want to do it because they were afraid of what people might think?

The work was vast in scope, time-consuming, and painstakingly detailed.  What if they had decided to give up partway through, because the task was too hard?

Dear Christian brother or sister, far too often we can tend to use excuses like these to delay or avoid serving the Lord with the talents He has given us.  Rather, we want to be obedient, as were Bezalel and Oholiab, and as have been so many of God's people throughout the centuries.  We can each join the "great cloud of witnesses" (see Hebrews 12:1-2) in serving our Lord faithfully in the tasks He has given each of us.

What has God called and equipped YOU to do in your church family?  Will you do it faithfully, in the power of His Spirit?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Fall of Aaron

Moses' brother Aaron helped lead the nation of Israel.  This morning I was struck with the highest point and the lowest point of his life, only a short time apart, and how great his fall actually was.

Aaron's highest point had to be the account recorded in Exodus 24.  "Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel.  There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.  And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank" (24:9-11, emphasis mine).  Imagine that--they SAW the God of Israel and ate and drank in His presence!  That is an honor that only a few people have ever had.

Then we have a number of chapters in which the Lord gives the Ten Commandments to Moses, along with clear instructions for the building of the tabernacle.  If I'm reading Exodus 24:15-18 correctly, after Aaron returned to the people, Moses was on the mountain another 46 days.  

During that month and a half, the people of Israel convinced Aaron to build a new god, representative of one of the gods of Egypt.  Worse, Aaron led in sacrifices and worship to this god in place of the true God of Israel.  We read about all of this in Exodus 32:1-20.

Still more, when Moses confronted Aaron about his sins, Aaron both lied and tried to minimize the sins he had committed (Exodus 32:21-24).  He even said that the calf just magically popped out of the fire when he threw in the gold jewelry brought by the people (see Exodus 32:24)!

Aaron went from being in the very presence of God to worshiping a golden image (and lying about it) in just a few weeks' time!  How high was Aaron's high, and how low was his low!

Reading things like this makes me all the more determined to be ever-vigilant to follow Christ closely EVERY DAY.  I--you--we are all quite capable of committing horrible sins that dishonor our Lord.  Even when we have followed Him closely and experienced His work deeply in our lives, our sinful hearts can deceive us and cloud our memory and lead us into any of a number of sins.  Our enemy, the devil, would love nothing more than to cause God's children to fall into grievous sin.  First Peter 5:8-9 tells us, "Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world."  The devil wants to pull us away from God, but we can effectively resist him as we stand firm in our faith.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, please join me in being faithful to God and watchful against any sin that could dishonor our Lord.  Where we might have a particular weakness for one sin or another, let us be extra-vigilant.  Let's not make the kinds of mistakes Aaron did, nor commit even smaller sins.  Rather, let us stay faithful to our Lord every moment of every day.

Lord, please grant myself and every reader the grace to do this.  Amen.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Can You Help Me?

This summer at family camp, my 2 1/2 year old again climbed to the top bunk.  Kristin and I were nervous every time she was up there.  Several times during the week she had climbed to that same bunk bed, and we had to help her down every time.  

This particular time I asked, "Sweetie, do you want me to help you back down?"

With confidence she replied, "I wanna get down ALL BY MYSELF!"   Without a moment's pause, she followed with a much more humble, "Can you help me?"

Kristin and I laughed at the contrast, and of course, helped her down.

We tend to live our lives in fierce independence.  After all, our society most often values people who are self-sufficient, capable, and successful.  At the same time, our society tends to ignore or look down upon those who cannot do for themselves and always have to ask for help.  Think of your own friendships: to whom are you most often drawn...the strong and successful, or the weak and needy?

Independence is not a bad thing in and of itself.  We should seek to live lives that contribute to the world around us, not drain its resources for ourselves.  

But independence is deadly when we bring it into our relationship with the Lord.  In our relationship with the Lord, we must strive for dependence.  Not "I wanna do it by myself," but "I need You."

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus talks about this kind of dependence.  Verse 33 tells us, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [the daily needs of life] will be added to you."  We spend so much of our lives chasing after things in the world...even good things that we legitimately need.  But Jesus up-ends our priorities and tells us that dependence on the Lord is the most important priority above any of these other needs.  

Psalm 37:3-7 remind us also of dependence.  Verses 4 and 5 say, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act."  

Proverbs 3:5-6 say this: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."

The theme of these verses, and really of the whole of scripture, is that we are to depend fully on the Lord.  It goes against our natural instincts AND against the world around us, and I am finding it to be a lifelong battle to keep a heart of true dependence on Him.  It's not that I don't want to be fully devoted to the Lord, but my independent spirit gets in the way so often.  Yet true joy, true peace, true fruitfulness...these only come when I am fully dependent on the Lord, seeking Him first and foremost above every other thing in life.  

How about you?  How are you doing in expressing your utter dependence on the Lord every moment of every day?  Are you asking Him, "Can You help me?"

May God give us grace to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23) and depend on Him completely!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Breaking Free

This morning I (again) read the account of Isaac in Genesis 26.  Isaac was afraid that ungodly people in Gerar would see Rebekah's beauty, take her for a wife, and kill him.  So he lied and told everyone she was his sister.  As with most lies, he was found out, but in this case he was found out before there was much collateral damage from the lie (see Genesis 26:6-11).

We shouldn't be surprised by this crazy idea Isaac had.  Although he was not yet born when it happened, we have two recorded times when his father Abraham did the same thing (see Genesis 12:10-20 and Genesis 20:1-18).  In Abraham's situations, the lies brought greater harm, though still God protected Sarah from being violated or harmed in any way.  Abraham's lie was at least half true (see Genesis 20:12)--Sarah was his half-sister.  But what he told was still a lie, bringing difficult consequences for him as well as for those who tried (in innocence) to take Sarah for their own.  

When I ponder these three accounts, I remember again the danger of a lie.  But that is not what hits me most today.  The questions now on my mind are these: Why didn't Abraham teach Isaac about the lesson he learned so Isaac wouldn't make the same mistake?  Or what was it in Isaac that caused him to want to follow in Abraham's footsteps in unrighteous decisions rather than righteous decisions (at least, in that instance)?  We don't know, maybe Abraham did tell Isaac about the mistakes he made and warned him not to repeat them, and Isaac still stumbled into the same sin.  Personally, I wish we knew more about these situations so we could learn from them, but the Lord didn't include every detail in His Word, though He gave us exactly what we need to know.  

Today as a father, I think often about the things I have brought into my life from my parents, as well as the things my children will take from me.  I have great parents, who raised me to love and serve the Lord, but I still made some enormous and painful mistakes of my own through the years.  And now I pray daily for my own kids, but realize they, too, will sometimes perpetuate my mistakes rather than the things I most want them to gain from me.  I wish for them to follow only my good examples, but inevitably they will make their share of mistakes in life.

Each of us has a challenge to break free from the mistakes of our parents (mine weren't perfect either (sorry Mom and Dad!)), and pursue the righteous life that our loving Lord has called us to.  And although we will not be perfect parents, we want to let our kids see our God-honoring lives in hopes they will learn more good than bad from us.  Sin is a horrible master, and we are all slaves to sin until we find the grace of God, then we continue to struggle with sin the rest of our lives.  Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages us to "throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, with perseverance the race marked out for us."  Yes, the sin hinders and entangles us, but we--with the strength that Jesus gives us--work to cast it aside and pursue the things that most please the Lord.  

In this we will find great freedom and joy. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Today it has been amazing to watch as miners in Chile, trapped underground for 69 days, have been rescued one by one.  I don't know any of them personally, but I still respond with joyful tears to see them emerge.  

The CNN website has a running tally of "Underground" and "Rescued."  One by one the numbers are decreasing on the left and increasing on the right.

Beyond the amazing details of this particular entrapment and rescue, I think of the rescue of a person coming to Jesus Christ in faith and trust.  One by one, people all over the world are coming to faith in Jesus, and there is great joy in heaven over each one (see Luke 15:3-7).  It is truly a blessing to be a small part of rescuing someone: sharing with them the life-giving gospel message and seeing them come to Christ.  

The Lord is the one doing the most heroic rescue; we're just a small part of the process as we obediently share the Good News.  Colossians 1:13-14 says, "For he [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."

As we celebrate the rescue of each person from their entrapment in the mine, let  us also celebrate our own rescue, and look for opportunities to help free others who are captive to sin, rescuing them with the truth of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Zeal in the Wrong Direction

Like a football player heading for the wrong end zone, I sometimes run in the wrong direction in an area of my life.  I might even go zealously, passionately, but it's useless because it's still in the wrong direction.

I might get distracted by a time-drainer that's really not a priority.  The thing itself might even be good, but it's not the most important thing that needs my time.

I might get sidelined by a sin issue that gets my attention and holds me for a while.  For these there is always forgiveness--1 John 1:9.  And God continually gives me strength to keep resisting.

I might get pulled away from my top priorities--God, family, work, church, and friendships--by any of a number of things I can focus my attention on.  But if these other things--whether leisure, various causes, fads, or whatever--take so much time that I no longer have adequate time for my priorities, then I need to make changes.

I know my tendency to have zeal in the wrong direction, and I pray often that the Lord will help me keep my zeal for the things He wants me to pursue.

How about you?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Through the Bible

This morning I finished another year-long read through the Bible (October 1-September 30).  What a treasure is the Word of God!  And what a treasure it is to read it all!  

I do not say these things to boast.  Rather, I say them to encourage you, dear reader, to likewise find the treasure of reading God's Word every day.  Too many people try to live the Christian life without reading "the manual."  Too many people try to live in relationship with the Lord without taking time to daily listen to what He has to say to them through His Word.  

Let us not be counted among these people I've just mentioned.  Instead, let us faithfully read, study, and live out the Word of God in every part of our lives.

Just as I did, you can develop a personalized plan to read through the Bible at  Choose your own version, reading style (straight through, chronological, old/new each day, etc.), and start date, and this site will give you a list of each day's readings to take you through the Bible in one year.

Tomorrow I will start my first-ever chronological read through the Bible.  I'll let you know how it goes one year from today.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the Burning of Books

Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center are leading the news this week because of their announced plan to burn copies of the Koran (Quran) for the 9/11 anniversary.  Public leaders and media institutions have spoken strongly against this plan.  But the leaders and institutions have it wrong.  I believe Jones's plan is foolhardy, but for a completely different (and biblical) reason.

Muslims are some of the very people we're trying to reach with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Yet Jones's actions will most certainly alienate some of the very people to whom we are to bring the gospel.  There is no redemptive value in this demonstration he's planning.  Much better would be to reach out to the Muslims in his neighborhood and share the love of Jesus Christ.

Protesters like this promote hate, not love.  I widen this comment to include people who protest military funerals, and even some who protest outside abortion clinics (I'm thinking of the ones who speak caustically and hatefully).  Yes, we as Christians must stand AGAINST the wrong, but since I only have a limited number of redemptive hours in my life, I would rather spend them standing FOR what is right.  I will speak the truth, but not in debate or protest: I want to speak it to someone who is listening and who might turn his or her heart to Christ.  Jesus spoke the truth about the Pharisees and the hypocrites, but He spent much more of His time lingering with those who had open hearts for His message.  I should do likewise.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Every Word

One day during church I watched my friend with Down Syndrome as he carefully underlined every single line of Scripture in his Bible.  Line after line, paragraph after paragraph, column after column, he underlined every word.  This continued for the entire sermon.

I found that to be a wonderful picture of how EVERY word of Scripture is important.  Every word is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and we need to pay attention to all of those words.  

Now, I certainly don't want to put down those who selectively underline or highlight favorite verses or passages so they can find them again.  But the words before and after those favorite verses are also very important.  All of those words are delightful treasures from God for His people.  

Will you join my friend, and me, in treasuring every word of Scripture?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Washing Away the Stain

For the last three days I have been staining our two decks, the children's play area, and our wood-sided shed.  Tonight as I cleaned up, I realized how much stain I had gotten on my body, not to mention the stepstool, ladders, and other things that stain wasn't supposed to affect.

As most people know, there is really only one effective way to clean up oil-based stain: mineral spirits.  No other method easily gets the stain off of skin or anything else.

This made me think of the stain of sin.  Much more clearly than in my illustration, there is only ONE way to get rid of the stain of sin in our lives: the blood of Jesus Christ.  Only He can take away the sin and wash me white as snow (see Isaiah 1:18).

As the hymnwriter Robert Lowry penned: "What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!  What can make me whole again?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!"

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Battle Worth Fighting

Far too often we waste our time and energy fighting worthless battles in life.  I know I get sidetracked with many things that are not truly important in the light of eternity.  But allow me to define one of the most important battles we Christians should fight every single day: the battle to read God's Word.

This spiritual battles may indeed be one of the hardest to fight.  But it is vital to our lives as Christians.

At one time in my life I thought I was a bad Christian, because I struggled so hard to get time in God's Word.  I thought that perhaps I didn't love God's Word enough, or that I lacked self-control; the enemy worked heavily on my guilt-ridden mind for far too long.  

Then I realized something that changed my perspective forever.  It will ALWAYS be a battle to get time in God's Word.  Why?  Because the enemy of our souls works overtime to keep us away from this life-giving, life-sustaining, message from God to His people.  The devil doesn't want our minds to be shaped by God's thoughts; he wants to pull us away from God any way he can.  The most important thing the devil can do to accomplish his goals is to keep us away from God's Word.

It will always be a battle.  So we must fight back.  Hard.  

Some days it's truly comical to see how hard the devil fights to keep me away from reading the Bible.  So many days when I get up to read before the kids awake, one of my precious children will stumble out into the hallway inside the first two minutes of my reading time.  Or something in the house will draw my attention as suddenly seeming to be more important than reading.  Or I get into a sneezing fit and have to keep getting up to get tissues (it doesn't happen like that any other time of the day).

I don't think any of us would dispute the value of reading God's Word each day.  We all know scriptures like 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work," and Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  But how do we overcome the barrage of temptations to skip reading the Word?

Speaking from my own experience, I have to employ an element of sheer determination to get time to read my Bible each day.  My alarm goes off insanely early, after which I have to fight the desire to snooze "just a few more minutes."  But if I don't get up before my children awake, I will lose the best possible time to read my Bible.  If they do get up while I am reading, I am trying to train them to wait to ask me things because "I'm listening to God right now."

Then I follow a reading plan.  Personally, I have found tremendous value in reading through the Bible each year, so I follow a reading plan I developed for Highland Community Church, with a checklist for each day's Old and New Testament readings.  Starting in October I plan to begin a chronological reading of the Bible, my first time doing that.  If you want to develop a personalized reading plan and don't know where to begin, I suggest starting with, where you can tailor a reading plan to your Bible version and the way you want to read it in the time frame you desire.

Perhaps you prefer to follow a slower read of the Bible, taking time to read study notes or other aids to help with understanding.  Perhaps you follow a devotional guide like Our Daily Bread or another equally valuable tool to help you get into the Word.  

No matter when or how we do it, we must fight the battle to get into the Word every day.  Pray for God's help in fighting this battle--it's a battle He wants you to win.  

Dear brother or sister in Christ, will you join me on the front lines?

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Wife Brings Out the Best in Me

Kristin and I have been married almost four and a half years.  Our marriage has all of the challenges of a new marriage plus a marriage with a blended family.  But there are many, many blessings along the way.

One of the things I told Kristin just yesterday was that she really brings out the best in me.  I told her about my perspective on a situation last Friday, which I will share here with her permission.

We were at family camp at Camp Forest Springs last week.  Many readers may know they have a swim safety test which they require for anyone, adults included, to go into the deepest part of the swim area with a really huge, really cool, ten-foot inflated slide.  The week saw temperatures in the low 70s, not ideal swimming weather, so we didn't really get our family into the water until Friday (the last day of camp).  So as of Friday, neither Kristin nor I had taken the test.

I was just going to let the week pass without taking the test and trying the slide.  The water was cold, I'm a bit out of shape, we were taking care of our young children in the shallower parts of the lake, and it was the last day of camp.  I thought it might be best to be content with skipping this year.  

Then my wife, one hour before they were to close the waterfront, decided to take the swim test.  Of course, she passed it swimmingly.  

I decided to follow her lead on this one.  I grunted my way through the swimming and treading water they required, and passed (whew!).  From there we had a great time on the slide.

This is just one example of how my wife helps me step out and try things that I might otherwise talk myself out of.  God has given her an adventurous spirit, which I love very much about her, and that spirit rubs off on me and helps me try new things.  Kristin helps me be a better man.

Isn't that the way marriage is supposed to work?  We bring out the best in each other, for the glory of God and the good of our family and others around us.  That's part of God's design for marriage: that the two people together are stronger than the sum of what they would be individually (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  

Kristin, I love you very much.  I'm so glad you're my wife!  

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Toddler-ish Prayers

My precious two-year-old is at the difficult stage of learning how to express what she wants, but not knowing how to hear the word "No" gracefully.  It's challenging for us as parents.  There are many times she resorts to full-fledged tantrums to try to get her way.  If you're a parent of a child age three or above, you've been there too.

Here is a window into our 2:00 a.m. interactions with her last night.

First, she wanted apple juice.  We don't let her take juice to bed, however, we give her a sippy cup of water in bed every night.  At 2 a.m. she wanted juice.  "I want juice."  No, I have given you water.  "I want juice!"  No.  "I WANT JUICE!"  No, you have water.  You can have juice in the morning.  "I WANT JUICE!!!"  Her volume increased with each statement, until she was absolutely screaming her desire over and over.  And the tantrum was in full swing.

As she was screaming about juice, we had to do the next thing that was good for her: putting her back in bed.  "Don't put me back in bed."  It's time to go to bed.  "Don't put me back in bed!"  She stopped waiting for any responses, but just kept repeating, ever more loudly, "DON'T PUT ME BACK IN BED!!!"  Her repetitive, plaintive cries and screams continued for quite a long time after she was already tucked in.

As I was wide awake listening to her, reviewing these interactions in my head, I thought about some of my own prayers and pleas to God.

Sometimes I can be so fixated on what I want (like apple juice) that I miss the fact that He has given me something good (like water) that meets my needs most wonderfully.  I might be so busy lamenting the fact that I don't have apple juice that I fail to enjoy the blessing of the water.  Or I might miss that the Lord has not told me "No," but "Wait until the right time."  Waiting is hard, but the blessing of getting God's gifts at the right time is priceless.

Sometimes I can be so fixated on shouting my will to Him that I don't realize how He has lovingly given me something I truly need (like going to bed).  I don't appreciate the blessing of His gift, and beg Him not to give it to me, rejecting His goodness.  I sometimes fail to follow Jesus' example in praying, "Not my will, but Yours be done."

Sometimes I can be so busy shouting my will to Him that I am no longer listening to His calm, quiet voice explaining His perfect will to me.  

Sometimes my prayers can scarily resemble the demands of a toddler.  

What about you?  Do you (perhaps painfully) see yourself anywhere in here?

My two-year-old will outgrow this phase, and learn to listen better to her earthly parents, as well as to the Lord.  Will I outgrow my toddler-ish ways in my interactions with my Heavenly Father?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I'm thinking about forgiveness.  So much in our lives would be better if we would be quick to forgive.  

Forgiveness is...releasing the person from the penalties I want to inflict on someone for the sins they have committed against me.

Forgiveness is...obedience to Christ's command to forgive others because I have been forgiven of infinitely more.  I liken it to forgiving someone else a droplet because God has forgiven me an ocean.

Forgiveness is...releasing the person to the hands of God, who will make all things right in His infinite justice.

Forgiveness is...a process.  It's almost impossible to forgive someone completely, instantly.  It is a process, and for deeper sin issues, it may take a while to work through the process.  But I should still move in that direction of totally forgiving.

Forgiveness is not...forgetting everything completely.  It IS choosing not to hold it against the person, but completely forgetting is almost too much to ask, especially for a grievous sin.  But every time I remember what someone did to me, I consciously tell myself again that I will not hold it against that person.

Forgiveness is not...saying what the person did was okay.  It was not okay.  Saying "I forgive" clearly defines the action as being sinful.  But now I refuse to hold it against the person.

Forgiveness is...vital to our lives as Christians.  Let's pursue forgiveness in every relationship, realizing that we forgive because the Lord first forgave us so deeply.

One of the best books I have read on forgiveness is Total Forgiveness, by R.T. Kendall.  It's one of the top ten most influential books in my Christian life.  I highly recommend it.

New Blog

I always wondered what I would write if I ever started a blog.  I want whatever I write to point people to the Lord I so dearly love.  I will make the posts on this blog informative, faith-building, perhaps funny, and definitely God-glorifying.  Stay tuned for more, as the Lord allows!