Typical scene. You owe a friend five bucks for lunch. You promise, “I’ll pay you back Friday!” They quip,”Don’t worry, I know where you live!”
It sure sounds like a stalker statement doesn’t it? Like some criminal element attempting to terrorize a juror to influence their vote. Isn’t there a movie like that? Did you know that these words are in the Bible as well? Hmmm. Doesn’t sound likely does it?
I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Revelation 2:13 NIV first part
That’s not exactly confidence building is it? Let me try an off the cuff paraphrase: “I know you are living in hell, buddy!” That doesn’t found like positive reinforcement to me. Fortunately the context and the next sentence clear things up.
I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. Revelation 2:13 NIV
This is Jesus speaking to those in one of the early churches. They lived in an evil, perversion-focused city. Jesus says,” I know where you are. I know you have great challenges and temptations all around you. I pay attention to you. I am watching you. You are mine and I care about you. It makes me feel so joyful to see you staying true to me in the midst of all the evil around you.”
Do you ever feel alone, isolated, trying to do right, but feeling like you are just bucking the tide? This message is for you too! “I’ve got my eye on you,” Jesus says. “I see you struggling and you are not alone! You are mine. I’ve got you and I won’t let you go except by your choice. Don’t think that no one notices your hard times. I notice and I care. I know just how much you can handle with My help.”
No matter whether you fill out one of those address change/mail forwarding cards or not, Jesus knows where you are. He sees your bullying coworker, your fractured marriage, your wayward child, your temptation to … you fill in the blank. He keeps track of you even if you don’t care about Him.
Rest easy today, knowing that Someone always knows where you are!
The man was bewildered. As a member of an elite branch of his country’s defense forces, his frequent away from home time gave him time to think. Married to his childhood sweetheart, he had been overjoyed when she became large with child just a year after their marriage. Coming from generations of men known for their fighting skills, he had hoped for a son, someone to train and groom to join the family legacy of bearing arms.
While certainly joyous at the birth of his firstborn, his bewilderment grew as not only his first, but all successive children were beautiful little girls! His family grew until he was outnumbered six to one in the household! His lovely wife and five screaming, giggling, chirping, cooing, cuddling little girls! What to do? How could he relate to them? Who would carry on the family name, the family reputation and tradition?
The unorthodox view from his back yard the next spring was evidence to the fact that he had figured some things out. His wife shook her head as she watched their ten year old stick fighting vigorously with her dad back and forth across the grass. As the girls grew, numerous hiking and camping trips returned the girls, now ranging from toddler to preteen, sunburned, sporting a few scratches and bruises, and smiling from ear to ear!
The girls, trim, toned, and tanned, turned into beautiful, confident young ladies. Taught not only fighting skills, but smatterings of business and law at their father’s feet, they grew wise and independent, scaring off the more easily intimidated of their would be suitors. They took over more and more of the household duties as their mother, suffering from consumption, became weaker. When she finally drifted into sleep for the final time, the daughters clung to their father, wondering what would become of them.
When he left on his next mission, the girls were greifstricken, fearful of being alone. Speaking words of encouragement, reminding them of their training, he gently tore himself from their grasp. With each succeeding mission, the girls gained confidence and realized that they could indeed run the household together, managing the large garden, handling the livestock, even negotiating for fieldwork with local hired help.
One sun-filled day became dark as they watched a military courier bring his galloping horse to a stop in front of the house. They knew. The occasional words filtered through their sorrow,”regrets to inform you”, “grateful nation”, “great valor”, and they felt all alone again.
Before the week was out, the trusted friend their father had assigned to handle his estate paid a visit. The girls listened to his halting words, horrified to learn that the law did not allow female descendants to hold property. Their farm would revert to the community. How could this be? Weren’t they capable of managing their property? The absence of a male heir, was that their fault? What was to become of them? Their grief soon turned to rage and they pushed their way into the presence of the tribal leader, demanding to be heard.
Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” So Moses brought their case before the Lord, and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them. “Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. Numbers 27:4-8 NIV.
And so the law was changed in a male-dominated middle eastern culture hundreds of years before Christ. My Bible relates story after story of strong and capable women blessed by God. While it teaches roles for a man and a woman in a relationship, those roles are centered around a man loving and sacrificing to the death for a woman, even as Christ sacrificed Himself for us.
As a laboratory director, my working life is filled with committed, professional women. My home is centered around a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. God has placed a high value on you since the beginning. May my words and actions do no less.
Note: While my imagination shared the story, the key facts are a matter of historical record, mentioned in three different books of the Bible.
“The PR department does it all the time!”
“Suzie hit me first!”
I’m sure all of us have heard a coworker or a child… or even ourselves, justify behavior based on the actions of those around us. It’t's a trait that is inherent to humans. Something about not wanting to be any better than we “have” to be. Whether it is part of your faith journey or not, the Bible contains powerful principles critical to life and living.
There’s a text in Ephesians that many of us men, secretly or maybe even publicly, love to quote. It goes like this:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife. Ephesians 5 NIV
Yeah. Well… we sorta stop there and conveniently don’t get to the text further down the page that says-
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
And yes, that does mean that when you use the porcelain meditation throne, you put the seat UP at the right time and put it back DOWN at the right time! If you’re not a husband or wife, don’t feel left out. I’ll find a text for you, too. While slavery is not as prevalent in this country in this century, do you ever feel that the term “involuntary servitude” could apply to you and your job? Then listen up.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, Ephesians 6
Did you notice the hint about your performance even when your boss isn’t watching? That covers a lot of territory doesn’t it?
Not a husband, wife or slave? Here’s the last one. Maybe this will fit:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6
Now, before you get too far off base about abuses at work, modern roles in marriage, and so on, that’s not where I’m going with this. In fact, how you relate to roles you feel are not ideal, that’s what I want to dig into. Do you ever feel like not obeying your parents because they aren’t fair, they don’t treat you as an adult, they ask too much of you? Did you notice that the text didn’t say,”obey your parents when it seems reasonable and fair”? No. God’s reason in this text is simple…”for this is right”. That’s it. Simple. Direct. No qualifications or excuses.
If you feel at least one hackle starting to rise, comb it back down. Let’s think about this for a minute. Focusing on what’s fair, giving as good as you get, not doing anything that “they” haven’t already done to you, these are all justifications for joining in a never ending spiral of negativity that causes heartbreak in homes and joyless jobs.
Words and actions whose whole justification is “for this is right” often don’t seem fair. This philosophy was promoted by a leadership guru two thousand years ago. Jesus Christ. No matter that the concepts were spoken in different culture and time, this philosophy still works. I dare you to try “for this is right” today.
Successful. Charismatic. Powerful. He redesigned his country’s judicial system from the ground up. He personally led his people in a nationwide spiritual revival. He commanded a standing army that dwarfed that of the United States. He would have been a serious contender for Time’s Man of the Year!
In spite of all that, the instant his recon squad made their report, he knew that he was in over his head. They reported that the combined armies of three neighboring countries had already invaded his country and were dangerously close to the capitol city. Alarmed, he hired a team of consultants….. No. Alarmed, he reinstituted the draft and considered weapons of mass destruction…… Uh.. No.
Alarmed, he called all his people to join him in the capitol- men, women, children. He asked them to fast and then led them in prayer.
“For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 1 Chronicles 20:12 NIV 1984
And “they stood there before the Lord.” verse 13
The answer came from an unexpected place. A man addressed the king and said he had heard from the Lord.
This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’” verses 15-17
Early the next morning, they looked down across the valley and the enemy camp. Not one man was left standing. They had slaughtered each other to the last man. The victory was more far-reaching than just the outcome of that day’s battle.
The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side. 1 Chron 20:29-30
Jehoshaphat knew a few things.
He knew about mission. He devoted his life to making his country one where people had high value and his Lord was central.
He knew about vision. He knew that only by focusing his eyes solely on God could he hope to be successful and to be successful at the right things.
He knew about humility. He knew that he was totally dependent on the power of God in his life.
He knew how to listen to those God sent to support him.
I face challenges today. Do you? 2012 still looms large, a year filled with uncertainty. My job. Staffing. Expenses. Revenue. My family. Distance. Separation. I don’t have all the answers yet. But I know Who does.
I know that with His power I can live and lead in a way that will please Him.
I know that if I keep my eyes focused on Him, everything else will become clear and in a way that makes Him look good.
Unlike the character in the fable that rhymes with the title of this post, Jehoshaphat was not deluded into believing foolish falsehoods, but kept his eyes focused on his Lord, enabling him to recognise and follow truth when he saw it. How about you?
Glass Beach is a fascinating bit of sand tucked between rocky cliffs on the Pacific coast. For decades, early in the twentieth century, local residents dumped trash over the cliffs and into the ocean. From time to time, fires would be lit to reduce the size of the pile. Everything from household trash to old cars was dumped into the ocean with no thought given to the environmental damage it caused. In the late sixties, dumping was prohibited and cleanup efforts were initiated. Unfortunately, they were only partially successful.
As the decades went by, nature accomplished what man could not. Through the pounding waves, the ceaseless shifting sands, the unending cycle of tides, the beach was purified. Garbage gradually washed away or decomposed, and broken glass reduced to polished jewels littering the beach with colorful sparkling light.
The amazingly complex creation that we call the ocean was designed by God to do so many things for us. The water cycle purifies and moves water across our world. The oceans moderate our climate and affect the quality of the air we breathe. In fact, the design is so robust that it minimizes the effects from the damage we have done and continue to do to the world around us!
This Christmas Eve, just at sunset, I stood on Glass Beach, my family clustered around me, feet in the glass, waves lapping just a few feet away. As we looked across the waves, the last light allowed us to glimpse the glass jewels mixed with the sand and pebbles beneath our feet. I marvelled aloud, amazed at the power to re-create, the power to turn dangerous garbage into something uniquely beautiful.
A piece of broken glass laying on the beach is nothing but dangerous trash, waiting to slash the feet of unsuspecting passersby. We do so much damage to our hearts and minds, filling them with trash, letting evil corrupt and control, crowding out the good, making us, just like the broken glass, dangerous and hurtful not only to ourselves, but to those around us.
The powerful action of sand and surf turning the glass over and over changes it into something very unlike its former self. Something that is no longer harmful but a thing of beauty. And just like that glass, God can clean and polish us, changing that which was harmful and ugly into something sparkling and beautiful, something that brings joy and light to those it touches.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 NIV
One week ago today, I enjoyed spending a beautiful, fall day hiking with family and friends. Talking and laughing, we reveled in the fresh air and sunshine. The air began to cool as we reached the end of our hike. Rounding a bend, we came upon an abandoned ammunition storage bunker. Wisely, the door had been left open to reduce unsatisfied curiosity.
We entered the bunker, a large, round, concrete room, it’s domed ceiling completely buried in the surrounding hill. The first word spoken echo-bounced around the room. We all joined in hollering and making all sorts of strange and wild noises, enjoying the booming sound. Someone suddenly said, “Guys, we have to sing in here!”
And so we did. With our two dogs watching with rapt attention, four couples, three young and one more seasoned, lifted our voices in praise and worship to our Father! We let our voices lift without restraint. Strong male voices leading and lifting, clear female tones echoing. Joining in melody, completing with harmony, we let it all out. No audience but Him. No critic or censor, no restraint of convention or tradition.
The sound lifted higher and higher, filling the room, the sound flowing out of the open door and down the trail. We sang hallelujahs to the Lord. We sang about the sweet sound of amazing grace. We sang our plea for Him to abide with us, even as the day faded into night.
Then some … stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 2 Chronicles 20:19 NIV.
Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; Psalm 66:8 NIV
The last time you sang your praise, did you do it with your chin buried in a hymnbook, hoping that your voice would be drowned out by those around you? Did I mumble the words out of habit, letting the meaning slip through my ears, not stopping in my mind to register?
If someone heard my voice, would they believe that the sweet sound of grace is truly amazing? Would they really trust that my heart knew one thing, that Jesus loves me? Or does my lack of enthusiasm and passion tell a different story, one that contradicts my words?
Whether a dark and dusty bunker or a soaring cathedral shot with sunlight,
Whether eight voices or eight hundred,
Whether voices perfectly modulated and pitched or throats straining to reach unfamiliar notes,
Whether the simple melody of a praise song or the swirling melody of a traditional hymn,
Lift your face heavenward,
Lift your voice,
Lift it long and loud,
Pour your heart as a living offering,
Through the sound of your voice.
I recently enjoyed sitting with a group of teens around a roaring campfire. We ate, we laughed, we talked, we laughed! We sang praise songs together and we worshipped together. I asked them a question. “How could you best show love someone you meet on the street, someone you don’t know?” Several felt that hugging the person would be the best way to express love. Another thought that listening to them would be a good way to show love. Great answers, I thought.
God, the Father asked Himself the same question. How do I show love for people who don’t know Me? Worse than that, how do I show love for people who hate Me? How do I communicate the simple equality, that Me = Love, to them? How do I share with them a picture of what unselfish love really looks like?
In my Bible, I read many stories of God showing grace, mercy, love to a rebellious people who kept running away from Him. Over and over, He welcomed them back. Did more than that! He ran after them!
A couple of weeks ago, I viewed The Passion of The Christ, the 2004 film directed by Mel Gibson. In a very graphic and violent way, the film let me experience the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life. It was the best of films. It was the worst of films. It forced me to experience Jesus in a way that I had never done before. Although the spoken language is either Latin, Aramaic, or Hebrew, even without the supplied subtitles, the message comes through loud and clear.
What message is that? Our Father God sent His Son, His only Son, to live, and then to die in the most vicious, violent and degrading way known to man. And this death was at the hands of the very ones for whom the message was intended!
This movie is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t want to be affected to your very core, don’t watch it. Yet, I urge you to watch it and let the message wash over you, pierce you, trouble you, sadden you, anger you, amaze you. And change you.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5 NIV.
Father, I am amazed at Your message of violent grace and love. How could you give that way? How could you love that way? Help me to love that way. Help me to look more like Your Son.
A work colleague came to me recently, confiding that she had a problem with her boss. When congratulating her for winning a contest, he had put his arm around her waist for a picture. She had felt uncomfortable saying anything at the time because it occurred in public, but it had made her feel very ill at ease. She had seen a fleeting facial expression from a coworker in the same situation once that suggested she was not alone in her discomfort. I asked her if she had spoken to her boss about the incident.
A young student friend of mine shared that during school lunch breaks, a friend of hers would push tables apart so that only certain mutual friends could be included in the group eating lunch together. It made her feel embarrassed and ashamed to see some excluded. I asked her if she had decided what to do about it.
So often, we find ourselves irritated and upset by friends or acquaintances who have wronged us and yet we say nothing. Afraid of confrontation, we keep our concerns bottled up inside. They simmer, growing hotter until they boil over in an angry attack. Or, we just work out our frustrations by sharing the issue with anyone and everyone but the person directly involved!
Does God care about relationships? If so, is there anything practical in the Bible that can apply to situations like this?
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” Matthew 18:15 NIV.
Yes, the principle found in Matthew 18 has direct application in the workplace and at school. Healing can take place only when the wound is exposed and cleaned. I can hear you saying, “But it’s so hard to confront someone! I feel awkward and scared!” Well, yes, that is true. We don’t seem to balk at cleaning out a bad cut to prevent a worse problem through infection. Why wouldn’t we want to expend energy to heal something more important than a cut?
God wants to bring healing to our lives and this includes our relationships. In fact, healing our relationships with others, and with Him, is His greatest desire for us.
But what does a person say when they confront? Making personal attacks won’t help. Finding a way to honestly, directly and gently share feelings is critical. Here’s a few sample sentences to consider:
“It makes me feel very uncomfortable when you touch me that way.”
I feel sad when you leave out some of my friends. Let’s push some tables together!”
“I’m not comfortable with you putting your arm around me.”
“Yesterday when you put your arm around me, I felt embarrased and ________. Please don’t do that again.”
No matter what you say, you will feel better doing something active and positive about it. Don’t let another day go by without choosing to confront, not for the purpose of putting someone in his place, but for the sake of mending a damaged relationship.
Does Matthew 18 apply in the workplace? Is there a place for God’s healing principles outside of the church building and the New Testament? Oh, yes. Start the healing today.
Grape. That was the color of Pete’s new bicycle. Metallic grape with shiny high rise handlebars and streamers from each handle and a banana seat. Jet black knobby tires and red reflectors. A basket between the handlebars and even a pretend lisence plate with his name on it! Pete just turned six and this was his birthday present! Sitting on the grass in the back yard, he stared at it, resting in all its glory, the kickstand keeping it upright.
“Pete,” his mother called from the back door,”are you ready to ride?” He nodded vigorously. He could hardly wait for it. Almost flying, he thought. It must be almost like flying. His mom came out the door and called to his dad to join them. She walked halfway down the gentle hill in the back yard and waited.
Pete felt his dad lifting him onto the seat and placing his feet, one on each pedal. Kicking the kickstand up, he held the bicycle upright by the back of the seat. Suddenly the ground seemed to be very far away! He couldn’t even touch it with his toes unless the bike was leaning. He started to tremble and looked behind him to make sure his dad was still holding on. The handlebars jerked sideways as he looked.
“Don’t look back, son,” his dad said. “Look at your mom!” Pete looked across the yard to his mom waving at him with reassurance. He looked at the ground, seemingly so far beneath him and the bike tilted to the side. “Don’t let go, Dad!” he hollered. “I’m right here, son,” he heard his Dad’s voice behind him. Push on the pedals!
Pete pushed on the pedals and felt the bike move forward. Looking back, the bike began to wobble. “Look at your Mom,” his dad repeated, “Don’t look back and don’t look down!”
Have you ever had someone tell you that you just needed to have more faith? How do you do that? I don’t know about you, but I’ve struggled to figure out how to “have” more faith. Somehow I needed to find a generator inside me somewhere to make some. Then everything would be ok.
Wrong, wrong, wrong! I can’t make more faith anymore than Pete could make his bicycle stay upright! Listen to the words from Hebrews 12:2 in four different versions.
Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. Good News Translation
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. The Message
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. New Living Translation
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, New International Version
We don’t need to focus on the ground, on the bike pedals, or on who’s holding the seat. Just like Pete, we need to keep our eyes glued to Someone ahead. We need to keep focused on Jesus who not only gives us the very faith we need to trust Him, but makes it grow in our hearts as long as we keep our eyes on Him.
We had decided to spend the day at the farm. So many things to do. Horses to catch, pasture to bush hog, fences to fix. We pulled the truck into the yard, close to the old farm house and a couple of old, barely standing sheds. Piling out of the truck, checking for boots, bug spray, sunscreen, the works. We looked forward to spending time working and playing outside together.
Suddenly, ,my youngest daughter heard some unexpected rustling noises from one of the sheds. She went to investigate, peering deep into the dark shadows at the back of the old building. She started hollering when she finally discovered two tiny puppies cowering in fear, pressed against the back wall of the shed.
They were black and tan bundles of filthy fur. Covered with huge, swollen ticks, ribs showing like washboards, they whimpered, fearful of every movement. They were so pitiful, so disgusting, so unbeleivably filthy.
She and her sister gathered them into their arms, loving them into calmness and peace. They slowly pulled each tick from their irritated skin. Cuddling them on the way home, the pups began to whine pitifully, their little bodies crying out for food.
A vigorous, warm and sudsy bath washed the dirt from their skin and fur. The girls scrounged food for them and they ate their first meal in days. Exhausted, they crashed, falling into a deep sleep.
They had been abandoned days before, obviously wandering through woods and grass in search of food and shelter, finding only dirt and ticks along the way. How could someone desert them like that? Leaving them defenseless, unable to care for themselves in any way.
Why did my daughter choose to find them, choose to rescue them, choose to heal and feed them? We could have found cleaner, healthier puppies. We could have chosen their breed, their age, their background, their genetics.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. Matthew 18:12-14 NIV.
Why did my daughter choose them? They were lost and she found them. It was as simple as that.
Do you feel lost, unsaved, unloved, unclean, unworthy? Not clean enough to come back to the fold. Not worthy enough to be loved, to be searched for, to be valued? Your Father will cry out with joy when He finds you, not because of your cleanliness, not because of your health or your nutrition. He will celebrate just because you are found. He is not willing to let you stay unfound! It is as simple as that.