Monthly Archives: March 2009

HIS BLOOD BE UPON US. . .

   “When Pontius Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands and said: ‘I am innocent of the blood of this Just person.  You see to it.’  And all the people answered and said: ‘His  blood be upon us and on our children.'”  (Matthew 27:24-25)

         Let’s think for a while about the personalities and the forces driving the events leading to the trial and crucifixion.

         From the very beginning, it was the “Establishment” which drove the events.  The well-established RELIGIOUS establishment which first viewed Jesus as a nuisance, then a threat.  But as their suspicion and fear grew it developed into hatred and when hatred is full grown it frequently leads to murder. The sadness and travesty in this case was horribly multiplied because it was sanctioned and propelled by the “best” civilized society had at that time.

         If you see similarities between that “system” and any other ever devised by man, your powers of observation are acute and accurate.  The self-seeking, self-serving, greedy, self-preserving motive never has real “good” as its objective.  And who’s to say that, given similar circumstances in our power hungry and power-polluted system we would not have arrived at the same conclusions?  The same outcome. Who among us can honestly say we’d not have been driven along by the same tidal wave of hatred and evil?

         If something big. . . really big. . . were happening downtown right now, would you stay home?  Really?  If you just ambled in and everyone was screaming something at the top of their voices, would you bravely step forward, calm them down and suggest a more reasoned approach?  Even if that same angry crowd turned on you and told you to “Shut up, or Else?”

         Don’t kid yourself.  If any of us get caught up in the “herd mentality,” any one of us. . . and every one of us . . .can easily become subject to mass hysteria.  I read a book some years ago entitled Rumour, Fear, and the Madness of Crowds.  The central thesis was that, under the right circumstances, with the “right leader” any crowd is subjected to being manipulated.  Whipped into a hysterical, insane frenzy.  You don’t have to go far back into history to encounter Adolph Hitler and his monstrous Third Reich.  Somehow, I cannot believe every single person who got swept along by that tsunami sized tide of evil was actually evil.  Bit by tiny bit, they bought into a huge lie.  They fell hook line and sinker for a line vomited from the mouth and mind of maniacal madman.

         As you read the stories about Jesus’ life, you will recognize that early on he aroused the suspicion and ire of the religious leaders.  “The Common People heard Jesus gladly.”  Some of them said: “No (mere) man ever spoke like this Man.”  He performed miracles, in addition to being a compelling speaker.  He intimidated the “powers that be.”  Then, He started saying things pretty clearly that people interpreted as Him saying He was the Son of God.  Or even God (“He that has seen me has seen the Father.”).  And he messed up one of their “profit centers,” turning over their tables, sending the synagogue profiteers scrambling for cover.  The people must have loved it.  And I have to confess I’d have been impressed seeing Jesus snortin’ fire and chasing religious thugs from the temple.

         Admittedly, the ringleaders in this plot to do Jesus to death were the Jewish leaders.  Admittedly, from their standpoint at least, they had reason to be upset.  He was “messing” with their way of living.  Encroaching on their “turf.” (Believe it or not, ministers can become very territorial!)  Upsetting the people in general, and maybe attracting too much attention from the Romans garrisoned there.  Israel was, you may recall, an occupied country at the time.  An unruly, almost ungovernable country.  They hated being under the boot of Roman authority, and also feared that any uprising on their part would be cause for the iron fisted, full fury of Roman wrath to fall upon them.  (In 70 A.D., their worst fears were realized.).

         As you follow the career of Jesus, you can see these guys (or their spies) stalking Him constantly.  Taking notes.  Gathering false testimony. Exchanging knowing glances.  Finding the one weak link in that original Band of Brothers, then bribing Judas to help them ‘take Jesus down.”  Making plans which would find culmination on Golgotha’s brow.

         In light of this it is no wonder that Annias and Caiaphas were the architects and engineers of the farce of a trial, under cover of night, and before “normal office hours” on the Friday  morning of the day Jesus was legally murdered.   They were the jeer leaders.  They, and their plants, worked the crowd very effectively until they were chanting feverishly: 

“Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  

“We will not have this Man rule over us!”  

“Barrabbas!  Release unto us Barrabbas!” 

         If you’re inclined toward prejudice, and if your reasoning powers are limited, you might be able to psych yourself into believing this was a “Jewish thing,”  Before you seek to place blame, perhaps you should take an honest look in the mirror at the person whose face you wear.  When I view the cross, I see very little occasion for pointing an accusing finger.                 

         In fact, in answer to one of Pilate’s proposals, trying to wriggle himself off the hook the Jewish crowd seemed to have been led in a self-incriminating shout  “His blood be upon us. . .and upon our children.” This is one of those statements some people use to judge and condemn Jews.  That is not a rational conclusion.  Prejudice of any sort is emotional. It is wrong to hate anyone whom God created.  Do you remember that later that same day Jesus prayed and said:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

         Now this raises a question.  Not simply a rhetorical question.  It deserves a carefully considered answer:  “If the Person against whom the sin is committed asks forgiveness for the offenders. . . what room is left for anyone else to pass judgment?”  Even if we think our claim is valid, what gives us any right to judge and condemn when the injured party says: “I forgive the offenders.  They did not realize the gravity of their offense.”

         Another unreasonable reason some people offer in attempting to justify anti-Semitism is the way they (the Jews.  The entire nation of Israel) “hang together” so tightly.  Even a casual observer of history can discover this.  My personal opinion is they’ve had to do that for self-preservation.  Through millenia  no other nation o has ever been able to erase their identity.  Not the snide, cutting remarks we make.  Nor the holocaust.  Other peoples migrate and assimilate into almost any and every culture.  We’ve prided ourselves in calling America the “Great Melting Pot.”  While there are pockets of people here from every place on the planet, and while it may take generations for assimilation to fully take place, most are eventually absorbed in our culture and adopt our ways of thinking.  The lone exception is the Jews who cling tenaciously to their faith, their distinctive, unmistakable Jewish identity.
 

          Once I worked with the parents of Autistic Children.  One of the things which impressed me early about them was that they were their own best and only friends in lots of instances.  The enigmatic disorder their children had was so demanding, so cruel, no one really understood what caused it.  Much less could others understand the difficulties the families of autistic children had to face.  In addition, a nearly Neanderthal German scientist had concluded the problem of autism was caused and promoted by what he called “Refrigerator mothers.” He was a “scholar.”  And he stated his “findings and theories” so emphatically they were accepted by many as absolute fact.  So, in addition to the incredible demands placed upon the families by the children, they were now faced with the added burden of feeling the problem was of their own making.

         And every consideration they gained required that they fight.  Hard. Together. Can you wonder why they drew so closely together, held tightly to that, and seldom allowed “outsiders” to see their pain.

         Other minorities have endured the same kind of isolation.  Often shut out of mainstream society, they had to find ways to preserve their way of life, as well as their very lives.  What we view as arrogance or isolation may, in fact, be their means of self- preservation.

         If you think the Jews in this scenario are evil, take a long, good, honest look in the mirror.  The “sins” of which they were guilty are the same kinds of things we do every day.  Every one of us.  Every day.  The Bible teaches that sin is what made Jesus’ death necessary.  Not Jewish sin.  Not White sin, or Black, or American sin.  Sin. The same kinds we commit.

         Just as Christ died so all may be forgiven, so all of us…and each of us…is culpable in His crucifixion.  Why would anyone and everyone need to be “forgiven” if, in fact, they’d committed no offenses?  The truth is it was the sinful human nature (Jew,Greek, Presbyterian, Baptist, etc., etc.) which did the Son of God to Death.

         I believe it’s important to think about that.  The Jews were no more the reason for Jesus’ death than I am.  No more than you are.  Their “sins” were no more, and no less, sinful than mine.  Or yours.  The truth of the matter is that He died for all of us because all of us “have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

         Think about the kinds of sins they committed.  They were “religious” people.  Not a murderer among them probably.  Certainly none who’d committed financial thuggery of the AIG and Madoff proportions!  They were the very best that their society had to offer.   They were preserving their jobs.  Their religion, their thought.  Their traditions. Their way of life.   And they fought the only way they knew how to fight. 

         If a light shines too brightly and hurts your eyes, you either adjust to it, or put it out.  In this case, the Light of the World was simply so bright they had to adjust to the Truth.  Or kill it.  Being Jewish had little, if anything, to do with it.  Being human, and therefore sinful, had everything to do with it.

         Would you and I have handled the situtation differently?

          Do we handle it differently today?

         Really?

God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student,

~donkimrey

 

 

 

IN THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS

        In the last few days I’ve gotten some very good news, which I’ll probably share with you later.  In addition, since last we spoke, I spent a bit of time in a hospital…Nothing very serious, apparently.  They ran me through a battery of tests, woke me several times in the night to help me sleep, and dressed me up in one of those obscenely unstylish, backless gowns.  They confirmed a decision I made long ago that I’m not one of the world’s leading sex symbols!  No one should have seen me back against the wall, edging down the hall on my way to the the men’s room!  I met some really nice, caring people, and they finally declared that I’m alive and don’t need to get measured for funeral attire right soon.  From start to finish I give Wilmington’s New Hanover Hospital an A+ rating for their care of a lifelong hospital avoider! 

         For quite some time, I’ve been reflecting on the crucifixion.  Just reading what Scripture says, thinking and praying about it. As before, my study was directed to the Scriptural accounts, not what great, devout thinkers have observed.  Nor the masterpieces the Old Masters put on canvas and on the walls in the halls of my memory. I wanted to look again as objectively as possible at what happened, first hand, like I’d never heard the story before: who did what and what their motives and methods may have been…I also wanted to consider the criminal rush to judgment…The cruelly barbaric method of execution, the gawking, spitting, cursing, taunting crowd and the shattered little band of first believers.

         Admittedly, this is a bit of a departure from the kind of work we’ve been considering with “God’s Comeback Kids.”  While my commitment is still devoted to discovering and offering hope, the approach in this “lesson” is not like what I’ve done before. 

         This, though, is central to Christian faith.  The Crucifixion of Messiah!  The events of that first Easter weekend brought into clear focus the extent to which “little”  “ordinary” sins can go when left unchecked and unforgiven.  The things those people did that fateful day are the exact same kind of “sins” which you and I commit.  Routinely.  With little thought, and less guilt.  Every day.  If anything we say or think or believe about God and Christ is true, then here at the mock trial and incredibly inhumane execution we are witnessing simultaneously the worst that man can do.  Ultimate sin. Rebellion against God the Father that will not stop short of murdering His Only Begotten Son!  And, of course, conversely, we witness the extent to which the marvelous grace of God will go to redeem His lost, rebellious, sinful subjects!

In order to get your own view…not something heavily and perhaps unduly influenced by any other. . . why don’t you go get your Bible?   Read it, without first reading what anyone else has to say.  Form some of your own conclusions.  It is, I believe, the Word of God for everyone in the world, including YOU.  PERSONALLY.  And you’ll never really know what YOU think about it unless YOU THINK ABOUT IT!

God’s servant, your brother, friend, and fellow student,

~donkimrey 

SUNRISE SURPRISE!


Luke 24:41 International Standard Version (©2008)  Even though they were still skeptical due to their joy and astonishment, Jesus asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  New American Standard Bible (©1995)
While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995)
The disciples were overcome with joy and amazement because this seemed too good to be true. Then Jesus asked them, “Do you have anything to eat?”  King James Bible
And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat  American King James Version
And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said to them, Have you here any meat? American Standard Version
And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here anything to eat?

Bible in Basic English
 And because, for joy and wonder, they were still in doubt, he said to them, Have you any food here?  Douay-Rheims Bible
But while they yet believed not, and wondered for joy, he said: Have you any thing to eat?  Darby Bible Translation
But while they yet did not believe for joy, and were wondering, he said to them, Have ye anything here to eat?

            “They believed not for joy.” 

            That phrase in Luke’s account captured my attention.  I’ve printed it out above, using several different translations.  Doesn’t it seem interesting to you that the earliest skeptics regarding the Resurrection were Jesus’ own disciples and other close followers?  When you read all the accounts about the resurrection, it’s obvious the disciples were not expecting that.   The rising of the Son came as complete surprise!  As the events unfolded early on Easter, you can see everyone grim and glum at first, doing funeral things.  Then things started happening and you see them scurrying around, going back and forth to the tomb, talking with angels and with each other. . . and not seeming to have a clue as to what had just happened.  Mary even had a brief encounter with Christ at the tomb, but didn’t say anything to the others for fear they’d think she was nuts! 

            Read the accounts and you can see it for yourself.  Everyone was scratching his/her head, trying to figure out what was going on.

            Talk about emotional roller coasters!  Talk about a sudden, unexpected turn of events!  How could anyone have been prepared for this? The pendulum of human events seldom swings that widely. That dramatically and quickly.  Would you and I have acted differently in those circumstances?  Would we have believed?  Do you really believe in the truth of the Resurrection today?  What evidence is there in your life to substantiate that you do believe?

            Incidentally, that isn’t a “test question.”  Nor is it a “rhetorical” one.  It simply seems to me that this is evident:  When facts and truth are stated in the Scripture, a response is expected of us.

            The Resurrection caught the early believers completely off guard.  Sounds to me as if the disciples and the other followers were completely overcome by their grief, and at the same time fearful of what might happen next.  To them!   So that weekend they huddled together in that little room…for some reason, I had a feeling it was the place where they had their last supper together.  From the time the sun sank below the horizon on “Good Friday” until it rose again that first Easter morning, the first followers of Jesus must have plummeted into darkness.  Their dreams had turned to nightmares.  Their hopes had been crushed.  All they had invested (and, apparently, they’d invested “all” they had) was lost.

            Why don’t we believe today?  There is certainly ample eyewitness evidence . . . by credible witnesses. . . that some incredible explosion of reality burst upon human history that morning!  Is it because we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t?”  That’s what almost tripped up the little group of beaten believers.  Can it be that you’ve never really believed the truth of the Resurrection?  Perhaps you’ve given intellectual assent.  But it lies, unused like a lot of utterly irrelevant and useless information you’ve accumulated along the way.  In cold storage in some remote place in the back of your mind. That’s one of those things about which we think we really can’t be too certain.   If you feel your hesitancy is new, or unique to you, take another look.  THE DISCIPLES and all the others who mourned the death of Jesus. . . to the very last person . . .DID NOT BELIEVE A RESURRECTION HAD OCCURRED. 

            It all sounded too good to be true.  Thomas (ever claim kin to him?) said: “Huh!  Resurrection my foot!  Are you people out of your minds!?  I won’t believe it till I can stick my hand in his wounds!”  Talk about a hard-crusted, hard-nosed, confirmed unbeliever. . . how does that sound?  No wonder we’ve called him “Doubting Thomas.”

            Jesus’ life, work, and words are hardly matters about which we can be casual or indifferent.  From a believer’s point of view, the fact of the Resurrection has singular significance to the Faith we say we hold.  Paul, the brilliant first century theologian and author. …take away that fundamental truth, the truth of the Resurrection, and the entire structure of Christianity would collapse like dominoes or a house of cards.

            What about those three days between the crucifixion and the resurrection?  What was happening?  While the little band of believers were dealing with their grief and disappointment, hiding in fear for their own lives. . . what was happening out of sight?  Do you think any of them had the slightest idea of what might take place in just a few hours?  It seems they’d forgotten Jesus’ promise to vacate the grave.  The Jewish leaders hadn’t.  They wanted a guard placed on duty to be sure.  Behind the scenes.  Out of sight. 

            Could it be that God is planning something for you at this very moment?  It’s happened before.  It’s probably happened under much more difficult circumstances. 

                        They believed not for joy!  They thought the entire idea of the Resurrection was just too good to be true.   And while they were still trying to process the information, guess what Jesus did! next!

            He said, “I’m hungry.  What do you have to eat?”  It’s almost as if he felt the feat He’d just performed was almost routine!  That struck me as extraordinary.  Absolutely extraordinary! 

            And, considering myself one of the world’s better breakfast chefs, I couldn’t help but wonder if He walked into our house some morning and asked me “What’s on the menu?”   I apologize if that strikes you the wrong way.  I just cannot help but be amazed that He’d do something so incredible, and then ask for “some chow!”  I reckon one of the reasons why I’ve come to love Him so is that very kind, down-to-earth way He has when dealing with us.  I admit to you that if He did ask for something to eat at my place, I’d be more nervous than if Emeril, all the Iron Chefs, that cute little Rachel Ray, Julia Childs and all her protégés and all the culinary queens of Conde Nast and Good Housekeeping showed up at once expecting to be fed by me! 

            But you can rest assured I’d do my dead level best to be sure He didn’t go away hungry!

            Be Joyful!  In the Name of the Risen Christ, you are Blessed!  Blessed, indeed! Through the eyes of faith, we can declare:  It IS True.  Christ is risen!  Alleluia!

God’s servant, your brother, friend, and fellow student   

><>  donkimrey

 

(Post Script:  You probably know the appreciation and respect I have for those of you who visit this blog. . . and especially when you “weigh in” and  share your own observations.  Some who write have their own sites, and just by “clicking” on their icons in the comment section, you’ll be whisked away to a whole new scenario.  It’s “magic” that I don’t know how to perform!  I’ve told you about that in order to let you know again of the work being done by our friend, Robert Sutherland, one of God’s “frozen people” up in Northern Canada.  If you click the icon on the right, he’s made it possible for us to view his book on Job.  It’s one of the primary references now in the textbook used in the U.S. for Bible courses in our high schools.  It is a recognized and respected examination of the ancient book from the perspective of an attorney.  It’s yours.  Free of charge, thanks to Robert!)

What’s next…and a prayer request

            My next post is going to be entitled  ‘Sunrise Surprise.”  As you might imagine, it is going to deal with the Resurrection.  We aren’t very far from the studies having to do with Peter’s denial the night before the mock Trial.  Then we briefly thought about the insane, evil, illegal rush to judgment and the humiliation and agony inflicted upon Jesus in Pilate’s judgement hall, through the streets, and then on the hill called “Golgotha” just outside the city of Jerusalem.   Then, of course, we followed the steps of Peter completing his “comeback.”

            What I’m trying to do in Scripturestudent is set aside all my previous notions, try not to consult other sources and have my thoughts perhaps heavily influenced, even if unintentionally, by what they have written.  I wanted simply to read the Biblical accounts first hand…as though I’d never heard them before… and listen and think prayerfully.  I try to read fairly widely, and also have enormous respect for every honest effort others have made to help us understand Scripture better.

            But, it occurred to me that the early followers of Christ had few, if any, of the advantages we have today.  There simply were no secondary sources.  There were no Christian bookstores where they could go get the latest “book du jour” on the Christian bestseller list.  Or the tapes, translations, commentaries or one of the fantastic study guides hot off the press.  There were no places where they could go and leisurely sip a cup of latte while they browsed through an almost endless variety of books, cds, dvds, etc.   Many of the early disciples may have been nearly illiterate.  As if there were that many “books” to read!   They didn’t even have Christian television to inspire them along their journey.  All they had was what they heard, read aloud perhaps, in small huddled gatherings~often meeting clandestinely, fearful of being captured and perhaps executed. 

            However, they were electrified by what they heard!  How is it that we, with all our “advantages,” have become so blasé?  We’ve heard the story so often, perhaps we’ve  developed  a ho hum attitude about the entire affair.  All the early believers had were these documents written by eye witnesses to the events and then read aloud in their “meetings.”

            Do you suppose, if we were to suspend judgment, and try to listen to the Crucifixion narratives  and the reports of the Resurrection that began to trickle in, that our own minds might be captivated?  Or that our spirits might be ignited as theirs were?

            I’d really enjoy hearing what you discover in your own first hand study, and will shortly share with you some of what I think. 

            In the meanwhile, I want to ask you to pray for those who serve our country.  Earlier today, at the grocery store, I had an opportunity to meet and chat with one of them.  He was getting ready for deployment to Iraq.  Lance Cpl. Justin Getz is one of many for whom I’d encourage you to pray.  He’s just twenty years old.  He must be really talented. As we talked (has been “pitcher” to a stellar one), I discovered he had a 68 ~ 1 won lost ratio in high school!  Soon after he’d enlisted in the USMC, his mother said three major league teams had contacted him, including the New York Yankees!

            I told Justin I’d just completed the study of General Joshua and the “orders” he received before he engaged Jericho in battle and quoted Joshua 1:9.  Told him he could have that as a gift, and I want to ask you to pray…specifically, and often, by name…for this young Leatherneck and his fiancé, Chelsi.

            In editing the blog, I often look for quiet places where I can work without distraction.  Often that’s in the library here near the Marine base. Today I met another fine young “Leatherneck” who’s already had tours of duty  Afghanistan and Iraq.  And he’s barely twenty-two and a native of Michigan.  Add Neal and Kristin Brace to your prayer list, please.

            God bless him, his colleagues whoever they may be or wherever, especially those who are in harm’s way for our sake…and, Please God, bless America.

God’s servant, your friend, brother and fellow student,

~donkimrey                        

THE PROMISE. . .


Joshua 1:9 “The Lord, your God, is with you everywhere you go.” 

God never requires of you more than His grace can provide. 

       If anyone thinks the Bible is dull, boring, and uninteresting, I believe it is because they have not read it thoughtfully.  With just a bit of effort and exercise of common sense and imagination, it throbs with life.  Of course, it will remain uninteresting unless some effort is made to understand what is said. . . much less will it interest a person who has no intention of applying the truth to their lives and who doesn’t prayerfully seek guidance from the Author. 

       That must be true of every discipline.  If someone just looks at words, and never considers meanings or possible implications or applications, it is understandable that they’d claim: “It doesn’t make sense to me.  It is so dull and boring!”  Such superficial dismissal of any great document reveals more about the “reader” than it does about the work.

       For my part, each serious effort I invest in really contemplating Scripture yields some invaluable insight.  And that is without my coming to the site with a set of conclusions already formed and simply seeking confirmation for what I already think I know!  When I read, trying to be open and honest, I find some of the stories to be absolutely hilarious.  I don’t ever intend to be irreverent, but some of those whom we hold in high, holy esteem really “blew it” on occasions.  Then there are times when, like us, they face humiliating defeat and haunting memories of failure,  or grief, or guilt that gnaws at their conscience, or loneliness.  In examining Scripture,  I do not see everything through stained glass.  I see men and women of flesh and bone, angry, hurting, lost, searching, frightened, lonely, estranged from God, from each other, and even from themselves!   They felt all the things you and I feel.  And shining through all the clouds created by sin, there is the magnificent grace of God!  Standing sovereign above all the chaos and confusion, the Lord God omnipotent reigns! 

       In the last post, we considered a Command which God gave to Joshua.  It had some clear, specific instructions, each of which seemed to be unobtainable, unachievable if Joshua had been left to his own devices.  I wish I could recall the details of a story I once heard about a minister who was speaking with a high-ranking military officer about the “Great Commission.”  “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. . .”  The minister was lamenting the enormous size of what seemed to be an impossible, unreachable, unachievable objective.  After listening briefly, the officer said: “Sir, what are your orders?” 

       I’ve always been a “stickler” for giving credit where it was due and trying to be accurate and authentic in using such illustrations.  Whether this story can be verified by Snopes, I can’t say for certain.  It does, however, illustrate my point.  Orders issued from Supreme Command, especially when they’re that clear, are not given to be discussed or debated.  They are given to be obeyed. 

       Joshua isn’t given a lot of information.  I’m not certain if he even knew what the outcome of the battle of Jericho would be before he undertook the assignment.  That wasn’t his responsibility.  His responsibility was spelled out clearly: “Be Strong, and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.”  That was it!!  Without putting it into words, it is as if God says:  “The outcome isn’t your responsibility.  I’m perfectly capable of handling that.  What I expect from you is faithful obedience.”

       Now, an interesting thought occurred to me:  The demands of the command are out of our reach.  We may huff and puff, flex our muscles, and strut and preen and pretend . . . but the truth is no rational person could look at such circumstances and the human resources and not feel it’s time to abandon ship.  Run for cover! 

       Which brings me to consider something I discovered upon closer examination.  Against what appears to be a hopeless backdrop, here’s a PROMISE: “THE LORD, YOUR GOD, IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO!

       Clear as a bell.  Perhaps that was God’s way of showing Joshua exactly “HOW” he could face an impossible circumstance. . . as well as the reason why he should.   I’ve heard people say that God never commands you do anything without making provision that will enable to carry out the assignment.

       Does this make sense to you?  Do you understand what I’m trying to say? 

       There are so many instances in Scripture where we’re told that God is with us.  Christ said “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you…Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  And when David wrote what we now know as the twenty third psalm, he declared he wouldn’t be afraid. . . even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death. . . (Because) you are with me.”

              I struggle at times for words.  The limitations of my vocabulary simply won’t permit me to state this profound, simple, incredibly beautiful realization as convincingly as it deserves to be stated. At the risk of sounding redundant, that truth is said so often, in so many places, in so many ways, to so many people that it is certainly one of the most distinguishing characteristics of our Father who is in Heaven.  He promised.  He, who does not and can not lie, has promised to be with us always!  It is a promise God has made to those who serve Him and seek to obey and follow Him. 

       That reminded me of another statement in Scripture: “Be content with such things as you have. . . for He has said: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”  This doesn’t seem to be a time to try to be clever, but I can’t help thinking:  “It is not important what you have in the way of challenges, or disappointments, or possessions.  What matters most is who has you!  If He really is with you, you can go out courageously and face what you have to face.  You aren’t alone.  If He really is with you, then it does not matter who’s against you!  If He really is with you, you can stop running and hiding from Him.  You can “Come Home” spiritually.  You can face anyone or anything you must, and do it with hope and confidence if you really grasp that promise:  “THE LORD, YOUR GOD, IS WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO!”

       The demands at times may be more than you can meet, humanly speaking.  Your problems may be insoluble, humanly speaking.  The pain (of loss, or betrayal, or failure) may weigh so heavily upon you at time it seems unbearable.  Identify the fear you face.  The enemy which seems to have a stranglehold upon you.  You may be absolutely correct in recognizing they’re too much for you.  But not for Him!  Every setback can set the stage for a comeback!

       At the risk of sounding redundant, that simple, profound truth is said so often, in so many places, in so many ways, to so many people that it is certainly one of the most distinguishing characteristics of our Father who is in Heaven.  It is said in Scripture so often, in fact, that God must have really wanted you to know that.  Not theoretically.  Not as something experienced by a Biblical character long ago and far away, or someone in secular history or fiction at a remote distance in space and time.  This is YOUR truth, as much as it has been the strong foundation on which others stood. He promised.  He, who does not and cannot lie, has promised to be with us always, everywhere! 

Amen.   Class dismissed.

God’s servant, your brother, friend, and fellow student

~donkimrey

 

 

       

. . . YOUR ORDERS?

(Before continuing the study, I wanted to give you an update on my friend, Bill Fiege, who underwent open heart surgery yesterday.  I’ve been told the operation was successful and now begins the long process of healing.  Several have responded to my request that you pray for him and i wanted you to know what has taken place, as well as thank you for your prayers.  One of the really valuable outcomes of  my effort in the “blog” has been getting “connected” with friends like you.  Let’s continue praying for each other. Stay close to Christ!  ~don)

 

                      Living here on the beautiful North Carolina Coast, we’re also just a couple miles away from one of the largest military bases in the world, home of the brave, the proud, the few, Marine Camp Lejeune.  Daily we hear the choppers overhead, and can see the jets streak across the sky at the edge of the ocean on their training flights.  The big, lumbering armored truck convoys are a common site, transporting young recruits to and fro on maneuvers.  And sometimes there is the sound of thunderous weapons pounding some practice target not too far from here.  Almost daily we see the young marines, some of America’s brightest, bravest, and strongest.  We often have occasions to meet them in the grocery stores, our church, and out on the beach when they have time for a break. They are well trained.  Well supplied.  Disciplined, and willing to “lay their lives on the line” for our country.

          They have also learned to follow orders.  They have a chain of command, and each Marine is conditioned to carry out his (or her) assignment.  Without debating or hesitating.  Everyone who’s ever served in the military knows how essential it is that the troops stand as one, united, under the direction of the Commander in Chief.  They are under orders.  Every Marine knows orders are to be obeyed.

            When I’ve been considering the dramatic events leading up to the now famous “Battle of Jericho,” I’m certain Joshua spent a lot of time in deep thought.  And prayer.  As it began to be clear what was going to be expected of him, that would have made anyone with any sense stop and think.   And sweat bullets.  And pray.  We aren’t certain of all that occurred before the battle, but we’re told Joshua was given some very clear instructions.  Since I’ve never heard God speak out loud to me, I don’t know how Joshua received this information.  But however it came, it certainly was burned into his consciousness.  It has been engraved in the history and hearts of the Jewish nation. 

            It is also a model which we can adopt for our own challenges and difficulties and adapt to our situations.  It is clear to me that what we’re examining is both a Command and a promise. 

            Let’s examine this a bit more closely.  Even if I forgot almost every rule of grammar Mrs. Latta tried to teach me in high school, I still understand the “imperative mode.”  The way that first sentence is constructed makes it clear this isn’t a question, or a suggestion.  It is a command.  Among other things, Joshua is ordered to:

            BE STRONG.”  Now that sounds good.  But, given the circumstances, doesn’t it also sound next to impossible?  You got any suggestions?  Doesn’t it sound like a good idea to think about what kind of “strength” we’re considering here, and where it can be obtained?  When I’m already worried out of my mind over terrible circumstances, (real or imagined), perhaps looking for a place to hide, knowing my weakness is no match for the monsters I may have to face. . . you’re telling me to “Be Strong?”

            Do you suppose I could be pardoned if I replied:  “Surely, you jest!”

            “BE OF GOOD COURAGE.”  Yeah. Right! With my knobby knees knocking together, Joshua is told that no whining is allowed.  No growling and grumbling under your breath.  He’s not told simply to have courage, grit his teeth grimly, grin and bear it.  Like a good soldier.  Oh, no!  More is required.  He’s told to be of GOOD courage.  God loves a CHEERFUL giver.  Not just a “giver.”  A CHEERFUL giver. . . one who actually enjoys giving and does more than is required of him.

            As I reflect on ideas such as this, and view the way the Apostle Paul (especially, Paul) stacks adjectives one on top of the other attempting to describe the abundance of God’s mercy, I become even more convinced that God expects more from us than just “getting by.”  Just barely meeting expectations which are not too stringent or demanding.  In fact, it appears quite clearly to me in this situation and many other places, that He expects of us a quality of conduct which will forever elude us.  The standard He sets is so high it is forever out of our reach . . . unless something else is factored into the equation.

            “BE NOT AFRAID.” Right again. As my teeth chatter.  That’s sort of like you putting a wiffle ball bat in my hands in the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two men out and everything is on the line and sending me out to face Roger Clemens or some other flamethrower who hurls high heat at batter!  No pressure, you understand.  Just get in there and get a hit.  And win the game!  When you have a few minutes, look up the story of the time Gideon was singled out for service.  He was sneaking around, hiding, grinding grain in a clandestine manner when out of nowhere popped an angel greeting him “Hello, you man of valor!”   Check out how many times God called cowards, turned them into brave warriors, and won significant battles against all odds.

            Something which sometimes seems to me to escape us is that God really knows the truth about all of us.  He sees through us, our braggadocio, our pretenses, and overlooks our weakness.  He sees us. . . not just for what we are. . . but for what we may become through His Grace.

            “NEITHER BE THOU DISMAYED.”  The situation already sounded about as bad as it could get.  But this looks even worse.  When I think of “dismayed,” for some reason I picture in my mind a glob of something that’s been slammed against the wall, slid down to the floor slowly, and lies there now.  Quivering, perhaps.  But totally flattened and destined to stay there.  Or, I think of Humpty Dumpty of nursery rhyme fame.  Once he fell off that wall, we could all safely say: “That egg won’t ever be hatched into a little chicken, and you sure can’t use it in an omelet.”  That’s how I visualize being “dismayed.”         

            Now, if you take the words of that command seriously, Joshua’s situation sounds pretty dire.  That’s a classic understatement if I ever uttered one!  All the things God commands him NOT to do, are the very natural, understandable reactions of any normal person to such a situation as the son of Nun had at hand.

            Have you ever really been ‘between a rock and a hard place?”  Ambushed?  Surrounded?  Impossible demands placed upon you?  No way out?   At your wit’s end, and the end of your rope and wondering what to do?  Your situation seems to be totally lost?  You have no resources?

            Do you wonder at such times what God’s orders might be for you?

TRIBUTE

           We just recived word that a friend, Sarah Smith Mercuri, died earlier today.  Sarah was one hundred years and eight months old  (100 3/4 years.)   Up to ther last days she remained one of the sweetest, dearest ladies I’ve ever known.  Bright, alert and always cheerful, she was an inspiration up to the end for all who had the privilege of knowing and loving her and being a subject of her affection in return.  She was the embodiment of a Christian, the epitome of all a Southern lady should be, and an example for all to follow

            Linda and I first met Sarah  when she was in her early nineties.  We were spending several days in a place her daughter owned on the Inland Waterway on Topsail Island.  She and Barbara stayed in the upstairs while we rented the bottom floor.  From the screened in back porch where we sat safely out of reach of the droning mosquitoes and “no-see-ums” and watched fish and birds play and boats float by,  the walkway in our backyard led to a pier out back, where we fished.   Ever the delightful “Hostess,” Sarah often visited with us and we chatted.  She told me she had wanted to fish, but had never learned how.  So, I offered to teach her.  Expert that I am!  On her first cast, she got a bite, almost immediately, and excitedly reeled in her first catch.  Honestly, she was as excited as any schoolgirl you ever saw going out on a first date! And, of course, she was immediately “hooked.”  We spent a while together in the rain, that afternoon (that’s her in the yellow parka) and had many other enjoyable visits in the years that followed.  Another thing I really liked about Sarah is that she once told me I make “great samwiches” when I had the honor of preparing lunch for the ladies. 

            To this hour, meeting her and teaching her the fine art of fishing remains one of my proudest accomplishments. . . and one of my fondest memories.  

            She was, indeed, as John Ruskin once described a friend: “The vanilla of life.  She flavored everything.”

            In saying a temporary farewell and offering a loving tribute to a cherished friend, I also request your prayers for the family whose grief is so great because the “Gift” was such a treasure. . . but whose sadness will surely turn to joy as they reflect on a life well lived and the promise of a glad reunion one day.

                                                            ><>        ><>          ><>          ><>

            In my studying, I’m still considering Joshua’s orders (Joshua 1:9) received just before he “fit de battle of Jericho.”  And, I’m also considering the amazing events of that first Resurrection morning.  Hope you’ll “weigh in” with your insights and comments on either, or both, subjects.

Your friend, brother, fellow student and God’s servant, . . . and also the proud friend of Sarah Smith Mercuri

~donkimrey