Mistakes…

The men believed the evidence they were shown, but they did not ask the Lord about it. – Joshua 9:14 (GWT)

Mistakes. We all make them. Hopefully, as Christians, we make fewer of them -and when we do, we find ways to use them to our good. However, whether we find ways to produce some positive outcome or not, we will have to deal with consequences. Those consequences can be minor and brief or major and lengthy — it depends on the mistake we have made.

In the story being told in Joshua 9, people came to him from a nearby land and deceptively posed as people from far away, hoping to make a pact with the Israelite people.  Evidence was there to show that they were not who they claimed to be, but the Israelite people did not recognize it, nor did they inquire of the Lord as to what they should do before swearing an oath. When I fail to consult the Lord before making a serious decision I am saying I know as much as God about it. Once I rely on my own ego and human intellect, I open myself up to the possibility of catastrophic failure with dire consequences. I suspect we’ve all been there.

The person who rushes into a marriage without first consulting the Lord and one day wakes up to realize they are stuck with the wrong partner has made a bond -and swore an oath before the lord that should be honored. The Bible says that God hates divorce. “For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” – Malachi 2:16 (NLT). By the way, I’m not saying there are not legitimate biblical reasons for divorce — but just saying “oops! I made a mistake. Let’s undo this uncomfortable situation right now” is not a reason to violate the commitment you have made. Now you must live with it. Part of being a Christian is living with the consequences of our actions, secure in God’s grace for forgiveness of our sins, but responsible [nonetheless] for our actions to others and our commitments made before God. So what does a discussion of divorce have to do with the story told in Joshua 9? Read on.

As divorce is often the result of hasty decisions made between two people without first consulting the Lord, so was Joshua’s resulting dilemma the product of a decision made without consulting God -but involving Him by invoking His name in an oath. When the Israelites discovered they had been deceived, they were nonetheless bound by the vow they had made in the name of the Lord not to harm their enemies. The deception of their enemy did not invalidate the oath the Israelites had taken. Our commitments to others, made before God, are not to be taken lightly and are not disposable because we don’t like the consequences or think we have somehow been tricked. Often that trickery would have been exposed had we first consulted the Lord before entering into some agreement – be it a marriage or any other form of contract between people.

I shall leave this post here with [what some may consider] not the happiest of endings. There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is Jesus. There is a power that comes to us that enables us to live with the consequences of our mistakes and [better still] stop making them! That power is the Holy Spirit. We’ll get into that more in future posts. In fact, my next posting [unless God leads me elsewhere] will be about creating positive outcomes from some of our mistakes. There are always ways to glorify God! Read on through the end of Joshua 9 and you will see how Joshua made some good out of  a poor decision. We’ll get into that next time. May God continue to bless you as you study His Word.

I wish to express my gratitude to the Tree of Life Ministries and credit Pastor Mike Dodson, Sr. for a recent broadcast where he preached on the subject of mistakes and their consequences and referred to the story in Joshua 9.

He made it right!

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. – Romans 3:21-24 (MSG)

I know there are some people who don’t like “The Message” by Eugene H. Peterson, but I do. Perhaps not every passage as paraphrased is totally on the money, but he nails it on this one.

Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. – Matthew 5:9 (NASB)

Sometimes, sadly, I think Christians can be the greatest hindrance to evangelizing. We get too caught up in doctrinal differences (which are often petty) and forget it’s about spreading the gospel message provided through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord.

Recently I attended a church where they use the King James Version of the Bible and no other. In fact, to them, reading anything else is basically heresy, as they believe the King James to be the inerrant, inspired and infallible word of God. So those who read other versions are avoided, in terms of fellowship at least. How sad. Don’t get me wrong, I was brought up hearing verses from the King James Bible, told that memorizing scriptures from it is easiest and also it is the most accurate. So I was told by well-meaning, believing Christians such as my father. I love the King James and Bible and have several copies of it today: the Old Scofield Study Bible, the Master Study Bible and other assorted copies. I think it is the most beautiful and not as hard to understand (for the most part) as some would have you think. But I also read the New King James, English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, New International Version and even the Message from time to time. I like to get different perspectives and see how they word different verses. Some fundamentalists might accuse me of looking for wordings that fit my theology or somehow change basic biblical doctrine. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just fun to look at things from different perspectives -and sometimes very enlightening. Besides, there are some occasions when what I think a word in English means is not what it meant when the text of the king James was penned over 400 years ago. However, aside from my difference of opinion with the preacher on the “KJV-only” issue, his preaching that night was right on. I would love to associate with him and his congregation more in the fellowship of the spirit and brotherhood of Christ, but that would mean adopting certain attitudes toward other Christians and beliefs that are contrary to what I feel in my heart is right and I refuse to do that. I have had enough ‘legalism’ for one lifetime. I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression: there are lines I will not cross. There are versions of the Bible I will not read, such as the “New World Translation” widely used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are versions that I think go too far and I don’t recommend (but I won’t disassociate myself from a brother or sister who prefers it). However, there are beliefs I hold that are basic to my Christian faith, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, that I will not budge on. There is one path to God — through my Lord Jesus. His sacrifice is so great that there need be no other. I’m not a “universalist” who thinks there are several paths to salvation — I only know of one and it works for me. I don’t judge those of other faiths, I leave that to God. I believe His word and will tell people about it when the opportunity arises. I owe it to those who do not know Jesus to tell them how great He is and of God’s plan for them. There’s too much at stake to keep it secret!

All too often we separate ourselves from each other over petty differences that [I suspect] may matter more to us and they do to God. I wish we could focus more on the love of almighty God our Father as shown to us through Jesus and through the gift of the Holy Spirit that continues to empower our faith. I know how desperately I needed to find out about that grace — available to me simply by placing my trust in His love and accepting the wonderful gift of salvation available through the blood of Jesus as atonement for my sin.

If you’re reading this because you’re searching for something, I hope you give Jesus a chance and make Him the Lord of your life. If you have done so, I hope that I have given you things to pause and ponder in your daily walk with Him.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40 (NASB)

Stumbling, but not falling…

though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.-Psalm 37:24 (NIV)


There are many times in my Christian walk I have stumbled. As I have aged, I have come to realize in a way such as never before how totally dependent I am on the grace of God. If not for the blood of Jesus, there is no way I could ever be acceptable to God. One of the reasons I attend the Calvary Chapel that I do is because the pastor frequently reminds us of that fact in his Bible teaching. Jesus picked up the ‘stumbling’ sinner, often breaking the established rules and customs of the day by doing so.


I have attended churches that are more fundamental in their teaching and seem to disallow any viewpoints other than their own established ones, insisting upon separation when encountered. I can respect some of that to a degree, but think it sometimes works against the body of Christ and its mission when we become divided over petty doctrinal differences and see conspiracy in every Bible translation. It is all too easy to fall into a “Pharisee’s view” of the world and hide the light of Christ. I recall reading an article online by somebody who was chiding Joel Osteen for not saying whether people of other religions were going to be saved or wind up in hell. He would not answer that, leaving it instead to the providence of God. Personally, I agree with his response. I say that, not as a devoted follower of Joel Osteen or the style of ‘prosperity doctrine’ he espouses, but as a Christian who knows that God alone is the judge of our condition. Sure, I am required to warn people of what the Bible says about the end that awaits those who deny God’s love and gift of His grace in the presence of Jesus — but whether or not they accept it in the end is entirely up to them. The condition of their soul when they leave this world is known to God, not to me. Jesus clearly warns us in Matthew 7 not to judge or receive the same judgment in return,. I would not want to be judged by the same criteria I have often used to judge others! (see Matthew 7:1-2)


I shall leave you with this morsel of scripture to think about, perhaps asking yourself if it relates in any way to yourself?

26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.  – Matthew 23:26-28 (KJV)

Pay Your Taxes

1 Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. 2 So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. 4 For government is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. 5 Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath, but also because of your conscience. 6 And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants, continually attending to these tasks. 7 Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor. -Romans 13: 1-7 (HCSB)

I found these verses to be especially fitting today, since it is President’s Day and also the day Karen and I went to see about getting our taxes done. Living in Connecticut, it is particularly fitting that I read these verses often! Happy President’s Day! God bless the United States of America!

For President’s Day: A Prayer From George Washington For Guidance

O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul . . ..

Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the gospel; give me repentance from dead works; pardon my wanderings, and direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation; teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments; make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber, but daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life bless my family, friends, and kindred.

The Best Foundation

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Matthew 7:24-27 (KJV)


We have a rather old house (163 years) with a foundation made primarily of rock. I was comparing [in conversation] our foundation to one of a friend who had a rather expensive home built a few years ago -that is already exhibiting cracks in its foundation. His house cost nearly three times more than we are paying for ours and, yet, in less than ten years of life, repairs to his foundation are needed. Of course, the contractors who built the house had the blame and excuses for its imperfections at the ready — but that does not change the fact that the foundation that holds up his 2700 sq. ft. house has seriously flaws. Ours, built on rock, will need nothing more than the occasional cement applied to fill some gaps and keep the moisture down. It won’t go anywhere. Those stones are anchored by their weight and proven by the test of time. I thought of that when I read our Lord’s advice on what type of foundation to build our faith upon. The Word of God carries much weight, is proven by time, and makes the best anchor.
My life was once built on that sand that would shift and buckle during times of discomfort or pain. Collapses were routine. Continuous study of God’s Word, which we call the Bible, and fellowship with other believers [who I grow and witness with] are essential to laying a foundation of ‘rock’ that is eternal and able to withstand life’s storms –which I know are always coming and going. I strongly advise any believer, new or otherwise, to get into a good Bible-based Church and delve into His Word. There you will find instruction on how to build the best foundation for your spiritual home with Jesus.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4 (KJV)