Archive | December 2013

Flimsy Walls

“They have deceived my people by saying that everything is alright, but it’s not alright.  When someone builds a flimsy wall, the prophets cover it up with paint.  Tell those who cover up the wall with paint that their wall will fall down.  Rain will pour down, hailstones will fall on it, and stormy winds will break it to pieces.”  (Ezekiel 13:10-11; God’s Word Translation)

In Old Testament times, the people built many walls.  There were walls to protect livestock, and walls around the cities for protection.  The walls kept predators out – wild animals and wilder people who wanted to steal, kill and destroy.

We build walls today to protect our possessions and ourselves.  They’re not walls of brick and mortar, but walls of thoughts, emotions and beliefs.  We have strategies and plans, some of which are quite sound, like financial plans.  But even the soundest financial plan can become a flimsy wall under unforeseen circumstances – the portfolio that loses half its value in the crash. 

Sometimes our walls are not so strategically planned.  Perhaps most of the time they are “flimsy”.  Many times, what we consider a strong wall turns out to be very flimsy.  We think of all the things that will make us secure.  The promotion, that certain salary, that defined amount of money in the bank, the particular house or car.  Idols make for flimsy walls.

We feel that we have to be “happy” and so we build flimsy walls of pleasure and people who will bring us the “happiness” we feel we deserve.  A flimsy wall indeed, for pleasures are fleeting and people can be selfish and unreliable, or just not want to spend their lives trying to please us. 

We believe a certain lifestyle or behavior or ethical code will protect us – enough good works will get us into heaven.  Sometimes we choose to ignore warning signs and believe instead that it couldn’t possibly happen to us.  We refuse to listen to wise counsel and believe instead that the wayward person will change either with our nagging or without our intervention.  Flimsy walls covered with the paint of denial.

God has a habit of showing us just how flimsy our walls are.  He uses His word, other people, and events and circumstances to blow down our flimsy walls, but He doesn’t leave us defenseless.  He comes alongside us to rebuild our walls if we allow Him to.  As we read God’s word, His thoughts are planted in our minds to grow and bear fruit.  The thoughts that God knows the plans He has for us, to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) lead us to the fruit of trust that no matter the circumstance, God can bring some good from it.  Jesus comes into our hearts, filling them with true love.  The love that will never, never, never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) yields the fruit of peace and joy.  The Holy Spirit works to shape our beliefs based on God’s truth – the truth that sets us free (John 8:32) and that freedom bears the fruit of confidence in a God who cares.  God’s walls can become our walls.  The walls of the God who is a solid rock, a safe refuge, a strong tower, and a mighty fortress (Psalm 62:7).  Only surrounded by those walls are we truly safe and protected. 

Before we start building God’s strong and solid walls, we must make sure we have a firm foundation – faith that believes Jesus died a sacrificial death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, rose from the dead, and will return to make all things right and take us to heaven to live with Him for eternity.  On that foundation, and behind God’s walls, our minds, hearts and wills are safe from the rains, hailstones and stormy winds of this life.

The Wheat and the Tares, Part 2

(Matthew 13:36-43)

Jesus sows good seed.  I am His disciple.  I am good seed.

Jesus’ field is the world.

The tares are the sons of the evil one, Satan.  The devil sowed tares in Jesus’ wheat field.

At the end of the world, Jesus is going to harvest the wheat field, the world.  Jesus’ angels will harvest us.  The tares, the disciples of Satan, will be gathered up and burned with fire.  Jesus will send His angels into the world.  The angels will gather all stumbling blocks (planted by Satan).  The angels will gather all those who commit lawlessness, who don’t obey God’s commands, and will cast them into the furnace of fire (hell).  In hell there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The wicked will do a lot of crying.  And in their pain and suffering will gnash their teeth. 

The righteous wheat, disciples of Jesus will shine like the sun in heaven. 

He who has ears, let him hear.  I have ears.  Open them.  Make me hear.  Help me to listen closely.

The Tares among the Wheat

(Matthew 13:24-30)

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to Jesus who sowed disciples in the world.  But the devil came and sowed his disciples among the disciples of Jesus, and went away.  The disciples of Jesus sprang up and bore fruit, the fruit of the Spirit.  The servants of Jesus questioned the crop, and were told of the enemy’s activities.  The servants of Jesus volunteered to gather up Satan’s disciples, but Jesus didn’t want the true disciples to be rooted up with the false disciples. 

Jesus allows us to grow together until He comes again.  We disciples of Jesus must grow with the disciples of Satan.  When Jesus returns, the angels will separate the disciples.  Satan’s disciples will be burned.  The disciples of Jesus will be gathered into heaven. 

I cannot escape Satan’s disciples, but I can identify them by the fruit they bear.  I must live and work with them, but I must not let them overtake me.  I must weed out the seeds they drop into the soil of my soul.  I must be vigilant to keep my vine well watered, fed and pruned, so that I can be stronger than the tares.  Most of all, I must make sure that my branch stays closely attached to the true vine, Jesus.

Joshua

God commands Moses to come up on the mountain so that He can give him the tablets of stone.  Moses takes Joshua with him.  Joshua is called Moses’ minister in the King James Version.  Joshua then ministered to and for Moses.  Like a guardian angel, Joshua kept his eye on Moses and did whatever needed to be done, whatever God prompted him to do.  The New International Version calls Joshua Moses’ aide.  An administrative assistant taking care of details so that Moses could concentrate on bigger and better things.  The Living Bible calls Joshua Moses’ assistance and the Revised Standard Version calls him his servant. 

I wonder how Joshua latched on to Moses.  Looks like the first mention of Joshua is when he’s in charge of the army and they fight Amalek.  That was the battle where the Israelites won as long as Moses held his arms up and so Aaron and Hur hold them up for him.  Looks like God was preparing Joshua then.  God tells Moses to write everything down and “rehearse it in the ears of Joshua” that God will completely destroy Amalek.  God started encouraging Joshua early.  (But then God is always encouraging us – we just don’t always see it.)  So Joshua was on the mountain with Moses and God.  He saw the glory of God for forty days and forty nights.  (Exodus 24)

Whenever Moses went to the tabernacle, Joshua went with and then stayed behind after Moses left.  It seems cute to think of him cleaning up after the glory of God.  Or rather basking in it?  Joshua learned by Moses’ example.  He grew close to God by watching Moses be close to God.  He was chosen from the beginning.  (Exodus 32-33)

Joshua was a positive thinker.  When the other spies saw how large and mean the enemy was, Joshua saw the power of God and the possibilities of the land.  He also had courage enough to stand up and speak against the majority.  (Numbers 14)

Now I’ve done my homework, and gotten Joshua’s background.  I’m ready to read the book named for him.  The question is whether or not I will do the rest of my homework – being a servant, expecting God’s encouragement, basking in the glory of God, seeing (and acting upon) the possibilities God has laid out before me.