Posted in Personal Helps, Proactive Faith, Stories & Studies

I Hear You… But I’m Not Listening

“And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me…” (Ezekiel 20)

The Lord has just finished warning Israel, through the prophet Ezekiel, that He would wipe out the very land because of their sin. It’s some serious reading. They professed to worship the God of heaven, but they worshiped like pagans, enforced some arbitrary traditions and ignored other laws altogether, were eager to impress surrounding godless nations, oppressed the poor, sacrificed their children on their own altars to idols. Sure, there were individuals scattered throughout the nation that did sincerely seek the Lord, who were doubtless horrified at the way things were – but the vast majority paid them no heed.

Ezekiel delivers this dire rebuke to the elders, but he returns to the Lord fuming, “Ah, Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?” “They nod their heads and holler Amen at everything I say because they think I’m being figurative!”

Read the news. Listen to the powerful warnings from the pulpit. Hear the concerned voices of government watchdogs, law enforcement, and Christian legal groups. What they are saying is getting tangled up in the threads of what we’re hearing – not what the media is twisting, not what news outlets choose to release, but in how we choose to hear the message. We shake our heads at the state of the nation, but we get up the next morning and live precisely the same way with the same worldview and the same level of spiritual detachment that we did the day before.

Ezekiel’s message hit the ball out of the park while Israel nodded and clapped politely and watched it sail right over their heads. What he said was very little like what they heard. They stood for truth, all right! – and did absolutely nothing about it.

Take the message literally. Be hyper-specific. Apply it to YOU.
I am a wimpy, inconsistent witness to my coworkers.
My unproductive and worldly browser history is destroying the nation.
My soulwinning efforts are the hope of America.
I’m bringing my country closer to judgment because I’m a prayer slacker.
My failure to voluntarily help with others’ needs is a reproach to my God.

It’s not enough to say that someone else is responsible for what goes on; I have to do all I can in my own sphere of influence to prevent it. It’s not Facebook politics where talk is cheap, it’s not what I say I believe, it’s not comparative morality, “us vs. them”. It’s my own practical, lived-out-in-realtime actions – and changes – that make a difference.

It’s time I read the Bible asking the Holy Spirit to show me – not what “the church” needs – but what I need… and take it literally enough to yield, instead of holler “Amen” and walk away unchanged.

Posted in Personal Helps, Proactive Faith, Stories & Studies

In the Real Hero’s Shadow

Caleb’s name has been passed down through the ages as a courageous hero. His beloved Hebron is immortalized on thousands of church signs. You sing “I Want That Mountain” in church, inspired by his story. You know at least a few people named for him. But what if Caleb was… your dad?

You know the story. Joshua and Caleb were among those spying out Canaan, and would be the only two adults in faithless Israel to get to enter. Fast-forward 45 years: Joshua is now Moses’s successor, and is busy conquering Canaan. Caleb is now an old man, trying very hard to be patient as his tribe waits their turn for land allotments. He tells Joshua, “Moses promised me Hebron. I have been faithful to God and He’s kept me going. I’m still ready to fight. Can I please just have it now?” And Caleb the 85-year-old giant-killer charges into Hebron and possesses that thing.

Achsah (pronounced “ak-sa”) is Caleb’s daughter. Imagine growing up in Caleb’s shadow. You’ve heard him talk about giants and victory and Hebron your entire life. He spends his evenings telling you – again – about the amazing things he saw there. He’s ingrained it into you that fear, disobedience, and complaining are all roads to failure and misery. He’s stubbornly supported everything Moses and Joshua have ever said or done. You never get home from the tabernacle before dark because Dad’s volunteering the family for everything. But for all his annoying cheerfulness, you know unquestioningly that he is the greatest man you’ve ever known. He’s a hero to you – especially when he finally gets to defeat the sons of the giants and claim his beloved Hebron.

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Posted in Ministry Helps, Personal Helps, Stories & Studies

The Eutychus Syndrome

Confession: I have dozed off in church at least a couple of times since reaching adulthood. Yeah. I’m a preacher’s kid. So sue me.

Paul was pulling an all-nighter in the first-century church of Troas. Eutychus, bless his heart, couldn’t take it any more. Around midnight, despite the “many lights in the upper chamber”, he dozed off in his seat and schlumped right on out the window, falling two stories to the ground. Paul, after checking for a pulse like the problem-solver he was, simply resumed his talk and carried on until sunrise. All the folks clucked and fussed over Eutychus, who doubtless protested and blushed and looked for a table to crawl under. I mean, come on. Imagine having your name recorded for thousands of years’ posterity as “that guy who fell out the window while Paul was preaching”, by none other than the visiting preacher’s personal blogger, Luke.

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Posted in Encouragement, Personal Helps, Stories & Studies

Moving On (After You’ve Moved On)

Finances. Relationships. Work. Vehicles. Faucets. Rifts of every description, from a breakup to a church split. By this point in our lives, most of us are resigned to the fact that things don’t always run smoothly. In fact, “Things” are a lot like the pigs in Matthew 8; they’ve got a bad tendency to absorb every evil entity out there and go charging off a cliff with no regard to our opinions on the subject.  “Things” are as unpredictable and prone to trouble as first-graders on a field trip. We’re prepared to admit that. We feel we’re strong enough to hang on when the storm winds blow. We’re psyched up enough to just accept it and get on with our lives. That’s good, right?

Continue reading “Moving On (After You’ve Moved On)”