Who Can Rescue A Child?

Exodus 2:5
Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it.

It’s Christmastime and the phrase spoken in stores all over America is “I need that.” Everyone has needs. Even Pharaoh’s daughter, someone who had all she ever wanted, still had a need. As soon as she saw Baby Moses in the Nile, she thought to herself, “I need that.”

Pharaoh’s daughter found Baby Moses riding in a basket in the reeds along the Nile. She knew the boy was one of the Hebrew babies. She knew she was saving his life by pulling him from the water. Because of her authority as the daughter of Pharaoh, she could have whatever she wanted. She wanted to keep the baby and raise it as her own. Moses was adopted by a woman who picked him out as someone she could save.

If you could have whatever you wanted, whom would you save?

My sister raised her daughter and enjoyed her daughter’s wedding. Now that her house is empty, she rescued an abandoned dog. She received the dog from someone who was looking for a good home for the dog. Not just any new owner would do. You see, the dog is deaf.

Pharaoh’s daughter had to adjust to her new circumstances when she adopted Baby Moses. My sister and her dog had to adjust to each other and give each other time and patience. When you accept someone new into your life, love makes the road less rocky. The give and take of getting used to new circumstances requires mercy and forgiveness. Moses grew up with a mother who loved him and protected him. She could’ve let him float down the Nile and die, but she wanted him.

If you saw someone who needed to be rescued, would you have anything to give?

You don’t have to adopt children to save someone, but it’s a good option. You don’t have to rescue a dog to show love, but that might be a good decision for you. It doesn’t take money and prestige to deliver slightly used blankets to a homeless shelter. If you found out about a family who was having trouble making ends meet, could you give a hot meal or a gift card to them?

This is a good time to inventory the many blessings we have and see if there are things we could give away among them. This is a good time to help someone else have a very merry Christmas.

A Reunion of Children

Genesis 45:6-7

For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

In Genesis, chapters 37 through 50, Joseph’s story is told. In chapter 42, Joseph recognized his brothers after a long absence. He remembered his dreams about them and questioned them, using an interpreter so they wouldn’t know he could understand them. He sent them after the youngest brother who had stayed at home with their father. When all the brothers had come back, Joseph revealed himself to them and wept over seeing his youngest brother again.

After telling his brothers about the famine that should last a few more years, he sent them to get their father and bring him so no one in his family should be destitute. Joseph’s father, Jacob (aka Israel), was shocked that Joseph wasn’t dead as his brothers had claimed many years ago. The brothers told their father all that had happened and he answered, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”

When all his family arrived, Joseph helped them get settled in Goshen where they could tend their sheep. Jacob (Israel) was 130 years old when he moved to Goshen. He lived seventeen more years there knowing God had taken care of all his sons, even the one he thought had died. Joseph was glad God brought his brothers to him to begin this last season with family.

Is there someone you want to see again before you die? Is there something you must do or say while you still have the chance?

The days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are opportunities for many people to reconnect with loved ones they haven’t seen in a long time. This is the season to say or do what you’ve been meaning to say or do. If you haven’t had the chance to see that older relative, make time for that in your busy holiday schedule.

Joseph had another seventeen years with his father. You might not have that long. Give love today while you have the chance.

Children Hear From God

1 Samuel 3:19
The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.

When Samuel first began hearing from God, he was just a boy. He didn’t know what was happening. He went to Eli to ask why Eli was calling his name. Eli caught on after Samuel came into his room the third time. He said, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” When Samuel heard his name being called again, he obeyed Eli. Then the Lord told him about Eli’s family. When Eli asked him what God had said, he told Eli. But Eli wasn’t angry. He knew God would do what he’d said.

Samuel grew up hearing God and obeying him.

If we’ll spend as much time as Samuel in worship, dedicating ourselves to God, we can hear from God too.

Another Devoted Mom

1 Samuel 1:10
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.

How do you get what you want?

Throwing a fit doesn’t work very often. It only makes onlookers put more space between them and you. Those tears a wasted.

But the tears of the devoted are never wasted. One who is devoted to something important sheds tears only when they cannot be held back. The face of the devoted shows strength and wisdom. Tears power down those cheeks, determined to leave tracks, determined to change what has been.

Can a strong woman stay strong when she’s being teased and irritated by an opponent? Hannah could. She went to God and trusted Him. After years of being barren, Hannah wept before the Lord and diligently prayed without a sound. Such a scene was so odd that she was seen as a drunken woman, not a prayerful one.

Hannah told the priest that she was praying out of her anguish and grief. He answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” Hannah’s tears were powerful.

She stopped weeping and trusted that God had heard her prayers. In verse 27, she told the priest when she presented her son to him, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” Then in chapter two, she gave a ten-verse prayer in praise of God. The Lord also gave Hannah three other sons and two daughters. And she saw her firstborn son, Samuel, as he grew up in the service of the Lord.

Hannah’s devotion paid off for her and for Samuel.

Devoted to Prayer

Daniel 6:13
Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.”

Daniel was one of several young men taken into the service of the king of Babylon after the king of Judah had lost a war. The young men chosen to serve the king were smart and strong and easily learned the Babylonian language.

However, Daniel was also one of the young men who was wise enough to get permission when he wanted to depart from the king’s plans. He had understanding, wisdom, and a pleasant persuasiveness that showed the king that Daniel and his friends were special. The king made it possible for Daniel and his friends to continue worshipping their God.

When the king found out that Daniel was able to help him understand his dreams because God told him what to say, the king rewarded him with gifts and high position in the kingdom. After the king died and his son became the ruler, Daniel interpreted a mystery for him and was promoted to the third highest position in the kingdom. When King Darius took over, Daniel was given high rank, with many administrators and satraps accountable to his authority.

These men found that Daniel was praying a different way, diligently praying to a different God. They encouraged King Darius to throw into the lions’ den anyone who prays to anyone other than the king. The king agreed, but was distressed to find out that Daniel had been praying to his God three times each day and had not stopped. Even though he wanted to, the king couldn’t stop them from throwing Daniel into the lions’ den, according to the king’s decree.

When King Darius found out the next morning that Daniel had survived his punishment, King Darius let Daniel out and had the men who had accused Daniel thrown into the lions’ den.

Daniel had experienced a lifetime of praying to God. He knew of God’s power and mercy. No one could do what Daniel did unless they had an intimate relationship with God. Most people don’t rely on God’s wisdom and guidance if he’s a stranger to them.

Prayer was a necessary part of life for Daniel. He knew God was with him. So if God was with him, why not talk to him? Why not access the wisdom that was involved with the creation of the universe?

When you and I are devoted to prayer as Daniel was, our relationship with God will improve. And no matter what comes against us, we can stay in contact with Almighty God. Daniel went through several threats against his life, but never doubted God’s power to save.

We can bring God’s light and life to our communities. We can be as steadfast as Daniel. But we must keep seeking God.

Devoted Builders

Genesis 6:8
But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Noah was devoted to building the ark. It was his getaway vehicle in an evil world. God gave Noah clear instructions for building the ark, using cypress wood and pitch. The ark had to be big enough for all the animals and all the food they would need for an unusually long rainy season.

Because he was righteous and diligent, Noah not only got a chance to ride in the biggest boat he’d ever seen, but he also got to make it. A lot of guys these days spend hours in the garage, working on projects. Noah’s garage wasn’t nearly big enough for his project. God told him, “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

I read that section of the chapter and immediately compared my packing list for our family vacations. If we go camping, we generally don’t take a TV or computer. We have to amuse ourselves with checking out our surroundings. My guess is that Noah and his family probably made pets of some of the animals. They didn’t have any board games for family night. They didn’t have time for it since they spent much of their time shoveling and cleaning the animal pens. I can’t imagine what they used as a garden hose to wash down the place and keep it smelling livable.

I think God took all that into consideration and gave Noah a lot more instruction than is in the Bible. Noah was successful at his enormous carpentry project because, as it says in Genesis 6:22, “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” His obedience paid off in a big way.

It’s easy to see that Noah was a devoted builder, but it’s also easy to see that God is a devoted builder.

God has been devoted to building up his people for a long time. He’s dedicated beyond measure. He’s been patient with our weaknesses. He’s brought us back from our distractions. And he won’t stop until he sees the finished product he’s been building toward.

God cares deeply about us, and is probably waiting for us to turn to him with a heart like Noah’s and start doing everything “just as God commanded.”

A Devoted Mother

Matthew 15:27
“Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

In Matthew 15:21-28, I read the story of a woman who cried out to Jesus instead of trying to find the name of a good therapist or giving up on her daughter. She’d heard about Jesus. She knew from the reports of others that he was kind and generous. He would help her daughter.

When she finally had the opportunity to speak to him, I imagine she was a little emotional. I would’ve been. I’m a mother too. I sometimes get emotional when I want the best for my children and find getting their needs met is a little more of a struggle than I’d anticipated.

Jesus didn’t make it easy for her. He didn’t even answer at first.

The woman was determined. This opportunity was not going to pass her by. She was going to keep after it until she accomplished her goal. All she wanted was for her daughter to be well and whole. That’s what any mother wants.

When she answered him with the line about eating crumbs from the table, that got my attention. She wasn’t asking for a personal appearance from him. She didn’t moan and whine and say, “If only Jesus would come to my house and lay his hand on my daughter and speak to her and pray with everyone in the family, then everything would be okay.” She didn’t ask him to do a miracle in front of her to reassure her that he was the right one to talk to. The mother just wanted his word.

Whenever Jesus found someone who had the wisdom to simply believe what he said, he was always thrilled.

Good, Bad, and Ugly

This weekend at Blogging Domino, I’ll post my review of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. It’s a really long movie from 1966 with memorable music and extreme close ups. When I think of the movie’s title, I think of three people in the Bible.

Matthew chapter 8 tells the story of when Jesus went to Capernaum and a centurion told Jesus his servant was suffering. When Jesus offered to go heal the servant, the centurion said to him, “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Matthew 8:10 tells us, “When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.’” The centurion showed the kind of faith Jesus was looking for in his own followers. Can you imagine having the kind of faith that would astonish Jesus?

At the crucifixion of Jesus, two robbers hung on crosses beside him, one on his right and one on his left. In Luke 23:39 we read, “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’” The second criminal fussed at the first and reminded him that, unlike them, Jesus had done nothing wrong. The second criminal believed what he’d heard about Jesus. The first spent his last hours hanging next to the Savior who would receive all who believed in him, but the criminal insulted him and passed up his last chance to change his mind. Can you imagine seeing Jesus face to face while he’s taking on the sins of the world – and saying no to him?

Jesus met a demon-possessed man who lived in the tombs. The man had been chained, but was too strong for anyone to keep him bound. So he went among the tombs and hills crying out and cutting himself. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he knew immediately who Jesus was. The demons spoke through the man and begged Jesus not to make them leave the area. At the command of Jesus, the demons left the man and entered a herd of pigs until they drowned in the lake. The man wanted to stay with Jesus, but Jesus wouldn’t let him. Mark 5:20 tells us, “So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”

What did these three have in common? They each saw Jesus and had the opportunity to speak to and receive from the one who was God in human form. But they all responded to him differently.

I don’t want to ask whether you are good, bad, or ugly. However, I do want to ask a more important question.

How are you responding to God?

A Time To Hate

Ecclesiastes 3:8
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

There is a time for everything. A specific time. We teach our kids to love and not hate, but the Bible clearly shows us that there is a time for hate.

The wrong time to hate is when God has given direction and we want to do something else. Psalm 50:17 “You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.” We need to find a way to love God’s instruction and change our selfish priorities. When we hear God’s correction either through the Holy Spirit or through a loving person who sees that we need to be redirected, we should thank them for correcting our steps so we don’t fall. Proverbs 12:1 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”

Those who refuse to accept instruction and correction may turn a whim into a firm habit of sin. Firm habits are ruts, and ruts are hard to get out of. We make excuses for ourselves. We rationalize and justify our sin until it becomes hard for us to see. We become so blind to it, it’s hard for us to admit it was ever sin. Psalm 36:2 “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.”

We should remind ourselves everyday that we are not perfect, but God is. We should keep our ears ready for God’s correction so that we don’t end up blind to sin and hating God and all who love Him. Psalm 81:15 “Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever.”

The time to hate is when we are tempted to sin. If we would allow ourselves to hate the sin every time the sin invites our participation, we would dig a rut of righteousness by standing firm and not following after sin.

In Romans 12:9, we are told plainly, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

The Desert

Exodus 16:3
The Israelites said to them, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death."

The Bible never tells us how many times Moses rolled his eyes at those he was supposed to lead. Their grumbling, disobedience, and lack of faith tested the patience of both Moses and God.

Moses was different and surprisingly bold, and he was familiar with his enemy. A triple threat. He knew what God wanted him to do and say, so he obeyed God. The miracles he performed didn’t go to his head. He knew without God’s hand on him, he wasn’t able to impress anyone. Not the way he needed to impress the Hebrew people. God gave him a way to lead those people out of Egypt, even though they later complained that they at least were able to eat while in Egypt.

When Pharaoh ceased being the enemy, the people became their own worst enemy. They caused problems for themselves in the wilderness. But God kept his hand on them and helped them defeat the armies that came against them.

Are we still grumbling against God? Are we still trying to justify our disobedience today?

And yet, God has helped us too.

Rebuilding

Nehemiah 2:17
Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace."

When something important to you is damaged, you find the energy to rebuild. You find the materials and the creativity to put things back the way they’re supposed to be. You find the determination to complete the project.

What you don’t do is give up. Ever.

God gave Nehemiah the energy, supplies, and determination to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. They had to fight off the temptation to quit. They fought distractions, but couldn’t quit until the walls were complete. They knew God was with them, and He knew what the enemy was up to.

I keep thinking that our God-given jobs and gifts and talents should make it easy for us to be successful. Could it be that God allows us to fight for the right to complete what he told us to do?

If someone mocks you while you exhaust yourself in the process of rebuilding, what is your response? Does the command of God to do the work fill you with a powerful peace that comes with the knowledge that God is with you?

Nehemiah went through a lot to complete the project. You might have to put up with a lot, but that doesn’t mean God’s not in it.

Even in the hard times, God is with you. So don’t quit.

Jesus on the Road to Emmaus

Luke 24:27
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

After Jesus had been crucified, a few men were walking down a road on their way to Emmaus. Jesus came to them and asked what they were talking about, but they didn’t know who he was. They figured he was from out of town and had just arrived, so he couldn’t know what had just happened. But after they gave him an overview of the local news, Jesus reminded them of things they already knew. Before he explained everything to them, he asked, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

Jesus was patient with them and taught them that what they were witnesses to had been prophesied by men of earlier generations. He didn’t call them fools and walk off in disgust. He persevered and built up the disheartened men and gave them reasons to believe the truth. Because of the passion and tenacity of Jesus, the men didn’t want him to leave when they arrived where they were going. So Jesus surprised them with a creative way to take his leave.

No one could’ve talked them out of believing what they’d experienced. They’d encountered the risen Lord who took the time to help them understand the context of what they’d been through.

Going to church is one way to seek God. Reading the Bible is another way to seek God. But I recommend doing everything you can do to help your mind to understand the bigger context of what you’re going through. The men on their way to Emmaus knew the scriptures and discussed the possibilities of what God was doing, but needed Jesus to tie it all together for them. Without God’s input, our foolish minds won’t get the big picture.

Luke 24:45 shows how we should begin our Bible reading time. “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” We should begin by asking God for understanding. There are a lot of things in the Bible that I need God to explain to me. He will have to open my mind to some things I don’t understand. And while I wait for him to open my mind in those areas, I will keep seeking Him.

Jesus in the Temple

Luke 19:47
Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.
Did Jesus teach like the religious leaders of his day?

No, he did not. He did things differently and got the attention of his target audience. He also got the attention of his “competitors” and their crowd.

Did Jesus teach his disciples in such a way as to encourage them to do things they’d never dreamed of doing?

Yes. He prepared them to heal people, raise the dead, and make friends out of enemies.

From Mark 12:35, “While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked…”

From John 18:20, “'I have spoken openly to the world,' Jesus replied. 'I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret.'”

From Matthew 21:23, “Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him.”

From Matthew 26:55, “At that time Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me.’”

It seems the religious leaders of that day were not interested in learning from Jesus as he sat in the temple, teaching all who would stop and listen.

A willingness to learn and a lot of effort will take you a long way. For instance, learning a new language may be difficult, but anyone can learn a new language if the willingness to listen to good instruction and obey it is there. When you think about it, the disciples that followed Jesus were learning a new language, the language of faith and love. They already knew the language of their past jobs: fishing, tax collecting, etc. Jesus taught about being a peacemaker, having compassion for strangers, forgiving your enemy, and believing God can use you as an instrument of healing.

If anyone doesn’t grow up around love, learning about God’s love is like learning a new language. It may be daunting at first, but if there is a diligence and determination to understand, Love can be learned.

So that’s what Jesus taught. He taught to all ages, both genders, whether they were religious or not. He wanted to spread the message from his Father, the message of “peace on earth, good will toward men”. The same message the angels brought on the night of his birth.

God has been trying to get through to us that same message all this time. Even today God wants us to know His hand is stretched out to us with peace and good will. We can accept him if we will stop fighting him.

The question is: are we willing?

Jesus in the Boat

Mark 4:9
Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 4:1-20 is where you find Jesus teaching a crowd by telling the parable of the sower. Farmers understand planting seeds, so the story about a man sowing seeds was a way to talk about spiritual things to the average guy.

When I’m being taught a concept or a principle, I like to use analogies in the conversation to make sure I’ve understood what the teacher was trying to say. I’m not a farmer, but most school children are taught about how seeds produce roots, stems, and leaves. I think the average guy could understand what Jesus was trying to say.

Verse one explains the setting. Jesus was in a boat, and the people gathered at the edge of the shore. I’ve been in a setting like that, and it’s really amazing how well I could hear the person in the boat. When Jesus said “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” in verse 9, I understand (from parenting) that not everyone who has ears is listening. Some people have ears to hear, and some just have ears.

Something else that affects our ability to hear is our openness to believe what we hear. There are those who hold on to wrong beliefs and miss out on a life-blessing encounter with Jesus.

Of course, the disciples later asked Jesus to explain the parables he’d been teaching the crowd with. I don’t think they were unbelievably dense, just curious to see if there was something deeper. There was.

I’m not sure they understood the deeper things because they had a hard time believing everything Jesus taught. They were average guys too. But Jesus expected a lot from them because they were going to Jesus School everyday. They should’ve understood a lot more than they did.

It makes me wonder if I would’ve been as teachable as the disciples. How about you?

Jesus on the Mountain

Matthew 5:11
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Matthew 5:1-12 is where you find Jesus teaching a crowd gathered on a mountainside. We call this section of the New Testament, the Beatitudes. His teaching on that mountain continues into chapter 7 and covers several topics.

Many kinds of people were on the mountain with Jesus that day. I imagine most of them were listening to find where they fit in the descriptions of those who were blessed. Jesus listed various categories of people (poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, peacemakers, etc) and gave a specific reward for them to look forward to. I think that crowd listened as we do today. “Am I going to be comforted?” “Am I going to be shown mercy?” “Am I going to see God?”

However, I also think they had a hard time with verse 11 which tells of being blessed because of insults and persecution. I have a hard time with that. I understand it, but it takes some adjusting. The people who are being lied about because of their relationship with Jesus probably don’t feel all that blessed. Insults aren’t fun. But Jesus wasn’t talking about the temporary feelings of this world. He was taking a long-term look at the kind of person who would endure the persecution and not fall away from him. He loves it when people don’t fall away.

That person is blessed.

Couples: Joseph and Mary

Matthew 1:19
Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Joseph loved Mary. He planned to marry her until he learned she was pregnant. Fully aware that the child was not his, he could have announced her condition and joined with the crowd that would’ve turned on her. But he didn’t.

Because he loved her, and because he was an honorable man, Joseph did what he thought was right. He decided to end the relationship quietly and let her retain her dignity.

However, this was the child of God, and Joseph was given assurance from God that Mary had not been with another man. When he woke from a God-given dream and realized that this baby was the fulfillment of prophecy, he did what the angel in the dream told him to do. He was able to enjoy a long marriage to a faithful wife.

Couples: Boaz and Ruth

Ruth 2:10
At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, "Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?"

Ruth, a widow, followed her mother-in-law Naomi to the land of her family to take care of her since Naomi's sons were dead. Ruth went out to get food and found out the field she was working in belonged to Boaz.

Gathering grain behind the harvesters, she caught his eye. He couldn’t help himself. He had to inquire about her.

Boaz let her know she was welcome to continue working in his field. Impressed with her faithfulness to her mother-in-law after her husband’s death, he made sure she was fed and had plenty to drink.

Ruth’s faithfulness attracted him. Boaz’s kindness attracted her. But their relationship only had a chance because of Ruth’s relationship with Naomi. Ruth and Boaz noticed each other because of the nudgings of God.

These two were a match made in heaven. They had plenty of reason not to be together. She wasn’t from his country, so the only thing that put her in the right place at the right time was her faithfulness.

He could’ve ignored her, but his kindness wouldn’t allow him to pass by her when she had no one else to look after her. He wanted to be the one to offer her protection.

God sometimes works out the problems in life to get us where we need to be for our next victory. Our journey to success doesn’t have to make sense to man, as long as it makes sense to God. Because of her faithfulness, Ruth, a foreigner, was picked to marry into the right family. She was King David’s great-grandmother. And in the lineage of Jesus.

Couples: Samson and Delilah

Judges 16:15
Then she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when you won't confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven't told me the secret of your great strength."

There is a love story in the Bible that I cannot figure out. Why did Samson fall for Delilah? Was she that beautiful? He seemed to be a smart guy, but somehow his love for Delilah got the best of him.

As soon as Samson fell in love with Delilah, she was told by her people to lure him into captivity. Samson knew she was with him in order to trap him, but he loved her anyway.

Time after time, she tried to get him to tell her how he could be tied and controlled. Samson wasn’t stupid, nor weak. He gave her false answers to see how far she would take this plan of attack. Every time the men hid to take advantage of this new way to subdue Samson, Delilah woke him up with the news that the Philistines were there. After each failure, she twisted the event to try to make him feel bad that he’d lied to her.

I felt sorry for Samson. He’d had woman trouble before Delilah. There was another woman who had done this same thing to him. She whined. He told her the answer to his secret riddle. She told the answer to others. She betrayed him. And Samson knew Delilah would betray him if she found out the secret of his strength.

I cannot imagine why did he not just throw Delilah out.

Apparently, he really wanted to be with her. Despite her flaws.

She was helping her people find the secret to restraining the man who was stronger than any other. I have no idea why she didn’t leave her people and run off with Samson. He would’ve been great protection for her.

Instead, she whined to him that he didn’t really love her since he wouldn’t tell her the secret to his strength. She nagged and whined until he finally gave in. As soon as she heard the truth, she told the Philistines how to capture him. The men tried again to subdue him, and this time they succeeded. Judges 16:21 tells us, “Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison.”

Not a happy ending. I think God expects us to protect our gifts so that we can use them. But sometimes God uses people and their gifts differently than we expect.

Maybe someday I’ll understand Samson better. For now, I’ll keep seeking God.

Couples: Hosea and Gomer

Hosea 1:3
So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.

I’ve heard of women who went up to men they haven’t dated and told them that the Lord said they should get married. It seems to me that’s definitely a way to scare someone off. But that could’ve been what Hosea said to Gomer when he took her as his wife.

God actually told Hosea to find an adulterous woman and marry her. This is not something God does very often. He was trying to use Hosea the prophet as an example of his love. God wanted to show the people that even though he knew of their adulterous heart, he still loved them.

Isn’t it funny that those you love have the ability to hurt you the most. When God’s people turned from him and worshipped other gods, their unfaithfulness stung God’s heart. He wanted them back, but it was necessary to get their attention through the words and actions of a prophet.

He sent Hosea to Gomer as a sign of his enduring and patient love. He made it clear that the relationship was a love relationship. It was broken and needed mending. Hosea emphasized to Gomer that she would be a wife and not a prostitute. The Lord told Hosea in chapter three, verse one, “Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods..."

God requires that we learn faithfulness so our weak love can grow into a strong, pure love. Gomer was able to learn about love and so can we.

A Good Battle Strategy

Exodus 17:9-11
Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.
In order to defend themselves in a battle against the Amalekites, Moses kept his hands raised with aid from Aaron and Hur.

How is this a good battle strategy? Did Gen. MacArthur ever do this?

The “raised hands” battle strategy isn’t what it looks like to the enemy. From the enemy’s perspective, there was an old man on a hilltop with a staff raised in his hands. It may have seemed like a strange way to view a battle. He certainly wasn’t fighting.

From Aaron and Hur’s point of view, the staff in the hands of Moses must continue to be raised in order to triumph because whenever Moses lowered his staff, the enemy was winning. Moses was unable to stand for as long as the battle raged. Aaron and Hur got a stone for Moses to sit on. When raising the staff became difficult for Moses, Aaron and Hur each took one of Moses’ arms and steadied him.

The extra strength Aaron and Hur brought to the battle was exactly what the warriors needed. The warriors fought with swords, face-to-face with the enemy, but they didn’t need Aaron and Hur to pick up weapons and join them. They depended on Aaron and Hur’s cooperation with Moses for their victory.

Moses was simply obeying God. His obedience was a sign to the warriors that violence alone doesn’t win a war. This may have been the event that persuaded Joshua to win the battle of Jericho by simply obeying God.

Sometimes our plans seem like the smart thing to do, but without obedience to God, our plans will not help us win.

Gideon and the Few Men

Judges 7:7
The LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place."
Is too many men in an army a problem? It was for Gideon.

The Lord hand-picked Gideon’s army. The fearful and those who knelt to drink with their heads next to the water were sent home. The only men left to fight were those who were brave and observant. Gideon saw God’s lesson in army-building. True warriors know what’s going on around them, and they rise to the challenge.

Out of the thousands of Israelite men, only 300 made the cut. These men didn’t get to use state of the art weaponry. They used trumpets, empty jars, and torches.

All Gideon had to do was listen to God’s guidance and obey. But he wasn’t a courageous warrior, so God gave him something to do to build his courage. He sent Gideon to his enemy’s camp to listen to them.

When you’re preparing for battle and you overhear your enemy confessing that God has given you the victory, that would certainly build your courage. You’d shout with joy – at the appropriate time, of course.

Gideon followed God’s instruction and the enemy fled. Obviously, you don’t need a large army if the enemy runs away at the shout of 300 voices.

Even though I know they only had swords to fight with, my imagination has that terrified army running away and shooting behind them, not looking to see who they pointed the gun at. The enemy lost a lot of soldiers with friendly fire.

Gideon’s army was small but very effective because of God’s guidance. The lesson to learn in this battle is that the size of your enemy doesn’t matter, the size of your army doesn’t matter, but listening to and obeying God is everything.

Do you have a battle you need to win?

Unusual Battle at Jericho

Joshua 6:10
But Joshua had commanded the people, "Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!"
In the thirty-third chapter of Numbers, the Lord said to Moses that the Israelites would have to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan and take possession of the land. Over the next several chapters, the Lord explained in detail how the Israelites should divide up the land and how they should live in the land the Lord would give them. So the Israelites knew that this land was theirs if they would obey the Lord and take it.

Moses died in the desert and didn’t go into the promised land, but he laid his hand on Joshua so that he was given a spirit of wisdom. As the new leader of the Israelites, Joshua had to send out spies to see what lay ahead. In the second chapter of the book of Joshua, Rahab gave shelter to the spies and told them her people had already heard about how God was taking care of them and had given the land to them. In return for hiding them, she asked the spies to remember her and her family when the Lord gives them Jericho. For three days, Joshua and his officers went to the Israelites and instructed them to carry out detailed orders about their trip into the promised land.

The Lord built up everyone’s confidence in Joshua when they crossed over the Jordan River on dry ground just as they crossed over the Red Sea under Moses’ command. After the leaders constructed a memorial so that generations of children would ask and be told about how God sent them across the Jordan on dry ground as a sign to all people that they should fear the Lord because he is powerful, they circumcised all the Israelite men in obedience to God. They remained in their camp until they were healed, without fear of the Canaanite kings along the coast because no one had enough courage to face the Israelites after hearing how God had dried up the Jordan.

The king of Jericho had closed the city so that no one came in and no one went out. He thought Jericho’s city walls were enough to protect them, but he did not know the Lord. Joshua gave instructions for the unusual battle plan. The people marched around the city for six days and on the seventh, they shouted in obedience to God. Joshua instructed the spies to go into Jericho and get Rahab and all her family, but no one else was to be spared.

The Lord prepared the people and their leaders to obey his commands and find great success in their battle. When they took the city, they were proving what God had said. The Canaanites had good reason to fear the Lord. He’s powerful and mighty and can take care of his people.

The Lord proved that no wall was a problem for him. The mighty walls of Jericho fell without the use of dynamite or other explosives. The battle was successful because of the obedience of Joshua and his people.

The Trouble With Daniel and the Lions' Den

Daniel 6:20
When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
This story stands out to me because of the universal idea of getting an innocent person into trouble. It seems wherever you find innocent people doing what God wants them to do, you’ll also find someone trying to make them seem less than innocent. Evil people want to be supremely powerful. When they find that people who choose to obey God have power over them, they get upset. This story of Trouble looking for a place to happen is a recurring story through the ages.

Daniel was doing everything he was supposed to do. He was obedient to God and to the king. People tried to catch him doing something wrong, but they couldn’t. When the king’s advisors couldn’t find any way of getting Daniel into trouble, they tricked the king into making a law that he couldn’t repeal. It was a law which stated that nobody could pray to anyone but the king for the next month. With that law in place, Daniel was sure to be found guilty because he prayed to God every day without fail. He didn’t even hide or deny what he was doing.

Nobody was more worried about Daniel than the king. He sat up all night worrying. He couldn’t sleep knowing he’d sent an innocent man to the lions’ den.

But Daniel wasn’t worried. Why would he worry when he was watching an angel shutting the lions’ mouths all night?

After the king raced to the den to check on Daniel the next morning, he breathed a sigh of relief as he listened to Daniel’s voice saying he was okay.

However, Daniel’s accusers were not relieved. In fact, they were breakfast.

The king knew exactly what to do with hungry lions who were tired of having their mouths shut all night. Feed them a meal of well-rested trouble-makers.

The king’s question to Daniel makes me laugh, only because I know the answer. He asked if Daniel’s God was ABLE to rescue him.

Yes. God is able. God has always been able.

The Trouble With David and King Saul

1 Samuel 18:12
Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with David but had left Saul.

After reading the story of David and Goliath in chapter 17 of 1 Samuel, I found King Saul strangely against the small hero. David had become quite popular and Saul was jealous. When an evil spirit came into the picture, Saul threw a spear at David twice.

It seemed David was invincible. He’d killed a giant, tens of thousands of men, and eluded King Saul’s spear. But did Saul have a right to be afraid?

David hadn’t done anything to harm or to even threaten King Saul. David stood up for his people and the king. What brought trouble on him was the fact that Saul wasn’t seeing what was before him. God had sent David to help out Saul and his army, but Saul saw him as a threat.

When you find yourself in trouble and you’re pretty sure you haven’t done anything wrong, ask God a few questions. Find out if you’re being seen as a threat. Find out if you’ve inadvertently made someone jealous. Find out if someone set you up to fail, but your success made them angrier.

David wouldn’t harm King Saul even though the king tried to kill David. If we leave the confusing retribution question to God, He’ll take care of it for us. God sees behind the scenes and looks at the hearts of men. If we’re careful to withdraw our judgment, but only obey God, we’ll see more successes come our way.

The Trouble With David and Goliath

1 Samuel 17:32
David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him."

David left his job as a shepherd to do an errand for his dad. He took food to his brothers in the army and checked on the battle with the Philistines. When he heard Goliath spouting challenges to the Israelites, he wanted to know what would be the reward for standing up to the giant everyone was afraid of.

King Saul, who had heard about David, sent for him and tried to talk some sense into him. David was told he was too young and inexperienced to fight the giant. However, David set the king straight by telling him details of his own battles. He’d killed both a lion and a bear, so a mere giant should be no problem.

Saul couldn’t send out a boy against a giant without at least some protection, so he put his own armor on him. But David refused to wear the king’s armor because he wasn’t used to wearing man-made protection. He was used to having God as his protection. The only reason David succeeded in battle with the lion and bear was because God was with him.

When David went out to kill Goliath, the giant cursed him. So David let him know by whose power he’d be killed. Verse 46 details what David said. “This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.”

I think Goliath was shocked because the Israelites had been cowering at his defiance. Every eye must have been on David as he ran to the battle line with his sling in his hand. David’s courage became an epidemic among the Israelites. They joined in as soon as they saw that God had given them the battle.

The trouble with giants is that they don’t believe you when you tell them God determines the outcome. Giants tell us that we should run, but they mean run away. When God tells us we should run, He means toward the victory.

Goliath caused trouble, but because David was used to calling to God and listening for God’s guidance, David won the battle.

When you and I hear God’s instruction and we obey despite the obvious challenges, our courage and obedience affects others. When you obey God, you just might start something good that will spread to many others.

Getting Into Trouble

Genesis 37:5
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.

Joseph and his brothers never would have thought their future would turn out the way it did. It seemed Joseph was always getting into trouble, so it was surprising that he ended up being liked by so many.

From reading about Joseph, you might think that he was a power-hungry schemer. The dreams he told to his brothers only brought trouble on himself. He was sold into slavery, but rose in power until he was the second in command. However, the fact that he obtained positions of power didn’t speak negatively about him.

The good thing about Joseph was that he always believed God.

His rise to power was due to his consistent dedication to honoring and obeying God. His stubborn faith in God helped him receive positions of power to minister to those in need.

He was an example of how God can use someone to help large populations by giving him the power to make decisions that affect many.

Staying out of Trouble

Proverbs 4:14-15
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.

Have you ever been pressured by a friend to do something you wouldn’t normally do? There are people who would challenge you to do things that bring satisfaction and enlarge your world, like eating a new food or trying a new sport. These are good challenges, and they don’t lead to sin.

On the other hand, there are those who would dare you to try something, but deep down, you know it isn’t the right thing to do.

How easy are you to persuade? Can you stand up to the pressure? Is it easier to accept a challenge if you know it’s not bad? Or are you so competitive that you can’t turn down a dare, whether it’s good or bad?

God gave everyone a sense of right and wrong. It’s our job to be discerning about what we participate in. When we see evil men doing what we know is wrong, we can avoid copying them. We can choose our actions. God gave us the ability to turn from wrong choices.

Is there anyone who hasn’t been tempted? No. Even Jesus was tempted. But he overcame by the words of God.

We have the same opportunity. We have the Bible, and we can fill ourselves up with its goodness and its wisdom. The scriptures we feed on daily will strengthen us so we can stand up to even the most persuasive tempter.

Angelic Reminders

Luke 24:6
He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”

If you read Luke 24:1-8, you’ll find women bowing in fear in the presence of an angel. The angel who spoke to the women at the grave of Jesus told them something they already knew, but had forgotten.

How many times do we gather information from what we read, hear, or experience, and then we forget it? I believe God has sent angels from time to time to remind us of what was right in front of us.

Do we sometimes forget important things when we let situations change our emotions? These women at the grave were caught up in the emotional experience of seeing the one they love die on the cross. In that situation, it may have been difficult for them to keep repeating to themselves, “He said he’d rise again. He said he’d rise again.”

God wanted his message of hope to continue through their mouths to the others, so sending an angel was a great way to make sure the reminder was memorable. I imagine the experience with the angel stayed with them until they saw their risen Lord.

When you are in a situation that looks hopeless, remember that God may have given you a message of hope already. What do you do when you hear from God?

A good way to remember what God has already spoken to you is to keep a journal of where God has taken you. Journal entries can mention how God has led you in your prayer times, specific scriptures that have stood out as important for your life at that time, or a direct word from God.

We all forget things from time to time, but keeping it written down will help you find those important messages again.

Angels Speak God's Message

Luke 2:10
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

The angel who spoke to the shepherds about birth of Jesus had to calm them down so they would listen to the good news. Angels in the Bible were constantly telling people to stop being afraid. Even today, seeing an angel is a little out of the ordinary. Those who have seen angels don’t generally tell everyone they know.

The shepherds heard the angel mention a sign that this baby was the Christ: “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The shepherds left to go check out the sign. If they couldn’t find any babies in Bethlehem in a manger, then they probably would’ve headed back to the sheep quietly, wondering about what they’d seen.

They knew the baby they saw in the manger was the one the angel told about, so they went to tell others and praised God for all they had seen and heard.

Often, we keep things to ourselves when we aren’t sure if we believe what we thought we saw. But when we see something spectacular, we tell everyone. We want to share our joy just as the shepherds did.

This description of that angelic visitation is found in Luke 2:8-20. The event is memorable to many people today, even people who have never read the Bible. People who don’t go to church can hear some of these Luke 2 Bible verses sung in shopping malls during the Christmas season. People who don’t go to church or shopping malls can hear these Bible verses spoken by Linus on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special which is on TV every year.

Angels are memorable. God uses them to bring messages that He wants remembered.

Mary, who had just given birth to the Savior of all mankind, thought about all that had happened that day and treasured the memories in her heart. Can we be like her? Can we treasure the message that God wants us to remember?

We don’t really need an angelic visitation to get God’s message. We have the Bible which tells us plenty about God and about ourselves. We also have the Spirit of the Living God. God can speak into our hearts to guide us to His message for our lives.

When you finally really hear the good news of God’s message for you, will you tell someone?

The Sword of an Angel

Genesis 3:24
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

After Adam and Even were banished from the Garden of Eden, God assigned an angel to the pathway to keep them from entering again. The angel who kept Adam and Eve out of the Garden had a flashing sword. Even though I wasn’t there, I can imagine that it was a scary sight. I figure the angel probably did his job pretty well. We don’t ever hear about Adam or Eve trying to have a sword fight with that angel.

Can you think of times in your life that it felt like God had placed that angel in front of something that tempted you? I think God gives us opportunities to walk past temptations without putting an angel there to bar the door. But I also think that there are times when he makes sure we aren’t able to fall to a certain temptation.

As a parent, I recognize that my kids can handle a certain amount of temptation successfully. If the temptation is too great, I usually step in and help remove the source of the problem.

God doesn’t set us up for failure. He wants us to succeed in everything we do.

Like it says in Deuteronomy 30:9 “Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land.” And in Psalm 1:3 “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”

He wants us to prosper, but God also knows that we humans can be a bit stubborn sometimes. I know there have been times in my life where I felt drawn to do something, but I knew I shouldn’t, but I also knew I was going to do it anyway. See? He had a good reason for the scary angel with the sword.

Most of our temptations are things that we can walk past, but we don’t. We have the ability to control ourselves and turn away, but we want God to put an angel with a flaming sword in front of all our temptations.

He’s not going to do that.

He holds out his hand and offers his strength. In our relationship with God, we can overcome any temptation, not by avoiding a sword-wielding angel, but by submitting to God. According to James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

If anything in your life seems overwhelmingly tempting and you can see yourself being sucked into the black hole of temptation, fall to your knees at that moment and submit to God. He lifts up those who are down. He strengthens the weak. With your hand in God’s, you will be able to rise up and resist the devil.

Then watch the devil flee.

The Cross

John 19:14-16
"Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews.
But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!"
"Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked.
"We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.
Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.

The cross is a well-known symbol of Christianity. We see it often, but do we really remember its significance when we look at it?

Since I wasn’t an eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus, I have to rely on the accounts in the Bible and try to imagine what Jesus went through for me. From what I read, it was an ugly, messy scene. The real cross was nothing like the sanitized version we put in our art. It feels truly awful to imagine myself standing there on that day, watching an innocent man going through the torture that was rightfully mine.

In Hebrews 9:22, we find that “the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Without the cross of Christ, we are hopeless.

But Jesus knew it was necessary. He knew the one thing standing between us and our freedom was that cross. He knew he couldn’t back out. I’m so glad Jesus was willing to go all the way to the cross for me that day.

Now I can reflect on the cross as part of the victory Jesus gives to all who come to him. We are no longer slaves to sin, but because of the blood of Jesus and because of the cross, we are overcomers. As it tells us in Revelation 12:11 “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

Not only does the cross have significant impact on our eternity, it also affects our daily lives on this planet. Because of the cross, we have access to the powerful blood of Jesus which helps us live for God right now. Hebrews 9:14 reads, “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

Feeding the Five Thousand

Mark 6:41
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.
Before Jesus fed the 5,000 people who followed him to a remote area, he and his disciples were already hungry. They were trying to get away from the crowds and get some rest. But the crowds wouldn’t leave them alone. Jesus challenged the disciples to think of the followers rather than themselves. The disciples couldn’t figure out how two fish and five loaves would go very far in feeding the enormous crowd.

People have always underestimated God’s love. Because of the stories of Noah’s flood and Sodom and Gomorrah’s fires, we think big when we remember how God clears out evil. Have we become oblivious to the signs of God’s love? Far too often we forget about how God has met our needs and the needs of others with simple multiplication miracles.

God didn’t stop multiplying food for people with that one 5,000-mouth feast. I’ve been a witness to a multiplication miracle. I was working in the kitchen of a women’s retreat when we came very close to running out of green beans. Seeing that many women hadn’t been fed and the bean count was quite low, we prayed for God to make beans remain in the pot all the way to the last plate. We pulled many more beans out of that pot. If I remember correctly, there were a few beans left over when all had been fed. Today, there are many overlooked clues that would lead us to God if we’d only notice them.

We thanked God for that miracle, but we didn’t put an article in the newspaper about it. It was just one of the many times we’d seen God come through for us. We see God showing His love and generosity in so many ways that we forget to tell others about how He surprises us with unexpected provision and protection. You don’t hear about God’s miracles on the news broadcast very much these days, but that doesn’t mean miracles are in short supply.

God still does big things. When we seek His presence, we can be sure He’ll bring the miracles too.

Noah's Ark

Genesis 6:22
Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

This month, I’m focused on Big Things on my Blogging Domino blog. I posted a review of the 1956 film The Ten Commandments, and later this month, I’ll post a review of another Charlton Heston film, Ben-Hur. These were the record-breaking, outstanding films of their day. They’re still classics.

I’ve carried that theme over to this devotional blog with my earlier post about the Red Sea and today’s post about Noah’s Ark. I think the "big" theme fits with this blog about seeking God because sometimes as we seek an intimate connection with God, we have to stop ourselves from thinking small. We’re not looking to connect with a tiny or weak God. He is definitely big.

When God asked Noah to build the ark, it was no small task. It took a while to complete, and I’m sure he had to battle all the voices of his “friends” who told him he was crazy for attempting such a ridiculous feat. It took a big God to come up with such an unusual plan.

You and I get into situations where we need big ideas from a big God. More than likely, God won’t tell us to build another ark, but he may give us unexpected instruction. He’s good at that.

The Bible is full of examples of people following God’s instruction to do something unusual. Naaman was healed by obeying unexpected orders. Peter paid taxes by getting money out of a fish’s mouth. Not only does God take care of us, but he also shows his love in creative ways.

If God speaks to you unexpectedly, don’t hesitate. Obey. And watch for something big to happen.

The Red Sea

Exodus 14:29
But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

I recently viewed the Cecil B DeMille blockbuster movie The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston. I saw a love story, an adventure, and heroic characters standing up for what was right. I saw what was outstanding, state-of-the-art special effects in that movie, for a 1950s film. Don’t get caught in the trap of comparing those special effects by today’s standards. That was a top of the line movie in 1956. Today, of course, it would certainly look different – and be offered in 3D.

No matter how our technology advances and improves what we see on the big screen, they’ll never be able capture what actually happened. The Red Sea really did split into two walls of water. The Israelites really did walk across the sea on dry ground.

To us, that sounds like a movie because we can’t imagine that actually happening. Today, we’re so used to relying on our technology to bring us new ways of producing medicines, entertainment, weaponry, and transportation. We sometimes have a hard time relying on God because we see a lot of amazing things on movie screens.

We think that, one day, man will be able to do more than we ever could’ve imagined. What we’re missing out on is the reality that God can do all that and more – and He can do it right now. God’s miracles are way better than man’s tricks. Moses proved that to Pharaoh many times before Pharaoh let God’s people leave Egypt.

Today, we’re like Pharaoh. We see a real miracle of God and think that it has to be a trick. How many times does God have to prove himself to us through signs and wonders? He’s waiting on our belief. He’s been waiting a long time.

If you’re waiting on a miracle from God, don’t give up. He has a timetable. He left the Israelites in Egypt until the time was right for the appointed messenger, Moses, to do what was necessary to move millions of people out of bondage.

The question is not “Can God free you?”, but rather, “Will you believe it’s a miracle from Him?”

Secret Things

1 Corinthians 4:1
So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and those entrusted with the secret things of God.

Man’s wisdom is futile in the Lord’s eyes. If we find blessing in a relationship with God and if we rely on Jesus as our Savior and Lord, then we can stop competing with men over spiritual things. We are of Christ and that means we are to be faithful to God.

Trusting in our own wisdom moves us away from trusting God. Instead of trying to prove how wise and spiritually powerful we are, we should be about the work of servants. We are to prove ourselves faithful to God by acting out His love.

In our servant-hearted actions toward man, we carry the message of God’s love. Power comes from that love. If we want power, we must remember that we’ve been given secret things from God. Secrets are powerful things. The secret things of God are in His message of love to us. We can unlock secrets as we grow in our relationship with Him.

Being consistent and patient helps us grow beyond the immature relationship we once had with God. We can be known as servants of Christ and those entrusted with the secret things of God if we’ll continue seeking Him.

Hiding From God?

Jeremiah 23:24
“Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?”

I was away from my computer last week. Did you know where I was? No, of course not. But God did.

God always knows where I am. I cannot run away from Him.

As a child, I was told not to run in church because it was God’s house. I wasn’t supposed to run in anyone’s house, especially not God’s house. But I knew God wasn't confined to the church. God was in the church and at the beach and on the football field. I knew God was everywhere.

He sees me when I’m at home or when I’m on vacation. If I go on a family vacation, we can camp in tents in the deep woods and still worship God together. We don’t have to find a church to worship in. We are members of God’s family, and He is with us. Always.

As God dots the earth with color this spring, remember Him. Remember that He can see in the dark, and there is no darkness that can cover Him. There is no secret that He doesn’t know.

Esther's Secret

Esther 2:20
But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai's instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.
The month of December is difficult for me because that’s when we buy presents and hide them until Christmas day. I have to work to keep quiet about my kids’ presents. I can’t wait to give the gifts, so I try not to giggle about the way I think they’ll react when they open them. Over the years, I’ve learned to be patient. It’s hard, but I can keep a secret.

I admire the way Queen Esther could keep her secret before and after she became queen. She went through a year of preparation before she was chosen by the king. After she received her crown, she waited until the right moment before she said anything. That must’ve been hard.

She notified the king of an assassination plot and made him aware that Mordecai was the one who discovered it. But she didn’t reveal her secret.

Mordecai was her uncle, and they were Jews. But Mordecai taught Esther to wait until the time was right to tell the king of her heritage.

Because of an evil man named Haman, the king was persuaded to issue an order for the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai told Esther to go before the king and plead for mercy. He reminded her that she would be found out and executed along with all the other Jews if the order was carried out. She knew her crown wouldn’t save her, but God would.

She risked her life by appearing before the king, but he was glad to see her and didn’t mind the interruption. Instead of falling at the king’s feet and begging for mercy, Queen Esther invited Haman and the king to a banquet. That night, she invited him to a second banquet and promised to explain why she was doing this.

The king was outraged when she finally told him that Haman had convinced the king to order the deaths of all the Jews, including herself. A servant told the king that Haman had erected a gallows to put an end to Mordecai, who had been faithful to the king and had saved the king’s life by alerting him about the assassination plot. The king made sure Haman was hung on his own gallows.

Then Esther asked the king for mercy since the order to kill the Jews had already been issued. Mordecai was allowed to write a decree to cancel the first. The king gave his signet ring to him to use on the decree so it couldn’t be revoked.

Esther, because of her wisdom, saved her people by revealing her secret at the right time. The Jews promised to celebrate every year at the same time so they wouldn’t forget how they got relief from their enemies.

That’s worth keeping a secret for a little while.

Rahab's Secret

Joshua 2:14
"Our lives for your lives!" the men assured her. "If you don't tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land."

Joshua sent spies to check out the walled city of Jericho. They met Rahab who kept their secret. She helped them escape because she’d heard about their God. She asked them to promise that she and her family would be unharmed. At their instruction, she tied a scarlet cord in the window she helped them escape through. She and her family were saved because they could keep a secret.

When your best friend confides in you, do you keep the secret?

Most people will keep the secret entrusted to them based on their opinion of its value. If it’s a valuable secret and you value the friendship more, you’ll keep the secret. If you don’t value the friendship as much as the secret knowledge they gave, you’ll use the secret to benefit yourself and ruin a friendship in the process.

How you keep secrets tells people what kind of person you are. I can’t imagine enjoying a friendship with someone who gives away my secrets. I want to trust my friends. I also want my friends to trust me.

Trust is a two-way street.

I believe a good relationship with God has to have this two-way trust. Can God trust you to do what you tell him you’ll do? Do you trust God to do what he said he’d do?

People who are misinformed about what God said he’d do end up not trusting him because they trusted the second-hand information. Rahab trusted the spies and they trusted her because they were getting the information directly from the source. There wasn’t any confusion in the communication.

This is why each person needs to seek God on his own. There’s nothing better than hearing from God. That way it’s one-on-one and we don’t get misinformed by second-hand information. When a person develops a personal relationship with God, there’s a better chance that two-way trust will be developed.

Can God trust you enough to tell you a secret? Find out. Seek Him today.

Justice for the Arrogant

Psalm 12
Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men. Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue that says, "We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips —who is our master?"

“Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise," says the LORD. "I will protect them from those who malign them."

And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.

O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever. The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.

Those who deceive are out there. They want to get away with as much deception as they can. Are they getting away with it?

No. God sees them even when men do not. God sees their victims even when the deceptive do not. God sees, and He will arise. He will protect the oppressed. He will lift up the needy. He is not surprised or unaware.

When the wicked strut around in arrogance, thinking they’re getting away with their deception, they must realize that their time is short. They are on this earth for a moment, and then comes their reward. Some call that reward their just desserts. Some call it h-e-double-hockey-sticks.

God will protect the weak. And if the wicked turn back to God in true repentance, they too will be among the protected. And hell will not touch them.

Protection

2 Peter 2:9
“the Lord knows how to rescue godly men”

God recognizes those who fight against the temptation to sin. He recognizes those who take pleasure in unabashedly carousing in broad daylight. Those who never think to stop sinning are dealt with in one way, and those who are distressed by sin are dealt with in a different way.

2 Peter 2:4 through verse 8 gives us examples of how God has dealt with sin in the past.

Verse 5 tells how Noah stood out: God “did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others…” God sets apart those whose intentions are to please him. He wants to rescue us.

He sees the world we live in. He knows all about the corruption we deal with, the pits set up to capture the unaware, and the lies we are told. He doesn’t expect us to rescue ourselves when trouble knocks on our door.

Verse 9: “if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.”

God always makes a way of escape for us. Noah wouldn’t have thought to build a boat on his own. He obeyed God’s instruction. Daniel stayed connected to God in the lions’ den. And God shut the mouths of the lions for him.

There is always something we can do to act on our faith in God. When we can’t rescue ourselves, we can obey God whose hand is already at work steadying our feet so we can walk out of the dangerous situation alive.

Instead of crying out in terror, “God, where are you?”, we can calm ourselves with the knowledge that he is there and ask, “God, what can I do to obey you in this moment?”

Stay With God

Psalm 97: 10
Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 97:7 reminds us that those who worship images and boast in idols are put to shame. If you trust in paper, what do you do after it burns? If you trust in beauty, what do you do after it fades? When the lightning strikes, where do you run? When the mountains tremble, to whom do you look for protection?

Is there anyone more powerful than God? He is the creator of the universe. He commands, and it happens. If God is for you and you are for God, you have connected with the one person who will never fail. Stay with him. He can guard and protect you.

Houses are destroyed in earthquakes and money burns in a fire, but God will never leave you. You never have to be distressed. God is with you.

And He is enough.

What's the Blessing?

Psalm 24:6
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah

Do you want to sin?

Many people are tempted to do things that aren’t right. When they’re caught in traffic and they’re in a hurry, temptation sits in the front seat with them, urging them to cuss and wave their fists and build up into a fabulous road rage. But if you ask them, even in a time of great temptation, “Do you really want to sin?” They would say no if they belong to God.

God’s people have to face temptation. We have the ability to sin every day. But we’d rather not.

We look forward to our heavenly home where there is no darkness. No one in Heaven is trying to get us to sin. However while we’re on the Earth, we have to pass up opportunities to sin as if they were shoes that were too small and out of style. We can encourage each other in times of temptation by asking, “Do you really want to wear that shoe? Yeah, I didn’t think so.”

While reading Psalm 24, I found a riddle of sorts. Verses five and six tells us that those who seek the Lord receive blessing from him. What’s the blessing?

Earlier verses remind us that we are all God’s creation. But not everyone can stand in God’s holy place. So who may stand before God? Verse four gives us the answer.

“He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”

Those who do not intend to sin receive blessing from the Lord. In other places in the Bible, we find out that if we do sin, we can receive mercy and a second chance. It’s our desire for sin that causes us to lose our way. It’s our desire for sin that keeps God out of first place in our lives.

If we want God more than we want to sin, we will run to him instead of away from him. He will hold back danger and darkness if our grip is on him and not sin.

So what is the blessing we receive when we keep our hearts filled with desire for God?

His presence.

In his presence are all other blessings. In his presence is the protection we call out for in our little emergencies. In his presence is the security we need when we’re challenged.

Those who seek God will find God. He is the blessing.

Famous: Solomon

1 Kings 1:47
Also, the royal officials have come to congratulate our lord King David, saying, “May your God make Solomon’s name more famous than yours and his throne greater than yours!”

When Solomon became king, God answered his prayer for wisdom. Solomon began using his God-given wisdom and attracted a lot of attention. According to 1 Kings 10:1-5, the queen of Sheba came to test him because she’d heard about his wisdom and his relation to the name of the Lord. He answered all her questions with ease. When she finished examining him and all that he did, she was overwhelmed.

It’s hard for anyone to compete with Solomon and his wisdom, but if every Christian developed and used their God-given abilities out of obedience to God, more of the curious unchurched would be overwhelmed by what God can do through His people.

I would be thrilled to hear people say that they see the love of God in me and my family so much that they are driven to be a part of the family of God. I would love to overwhelm others with the love of God as I use my gifts.

Maybe we can’t all be as wise as Solomon, but using our individual gifts is something we can do. Whatever talent God has given you should be used to bring the presence of God to the people He wants to reach – even if you don’t get famous doing it.

Famous: Benaiah

2 Samuel 23:20-23
Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab's best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty men. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.

Benaiah was famous for killing. Even though God gave us the commandment “Do not kill”, we honor killers. Why? The commandment never said “Do not defend yourself.” The commandment really meant “Do not murder.” The killers we honor are people who defend others.

God told many people to kill. They obeyed God, saved their people, and were honored for it. This makes me think of the war movies that show men doing whatever is necessary to defend and protect their people by killing their enemy. From Band of Brothers TV miniseries, Captain Ronald Speirs showed courage by running through a town the American troops were trying to take. His run took him in front of the enemy soldiers who couldn’t believe what they were seeing. He ran right past enemy, delivered a message to American troops hiding behind a wall, and then he ran back to his company. Both times he ran, he looked unbelievably crazy and, at the same time, more courageous than anyone in the area. He did what was necessary to protect others. He did what no one else would do.

Capt. Speirs reminds me of the story of Benaiah. Courageous acts are done without a lot of thought and planning. Benaiah was crazy enough to use a club to go against a huge Egyptian who had a spear. After he got the Egyptian’s spear away from him, Benaiah killed him with it.

Benaiah was rewarded for his courage when David put him in charge of his bodyguard. David was smart. I’d want Benaiah next to me too.

Famous: Abishai

2Sam 23:18-19
Abishai the brother of Joab son of Zeruiah was chief of the Three. He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three. Was he not held in greater honor than the Three? He became their commander, even though he was not included among them.

David’s three mighty men were brave and loyal. But they were not the leaders of all the other men. They had a commander named Abishai who earned even greater honor than the three men who risked their lives to bring David some water from Bethlehem.

When all seems to be against you, do you give up and go home?

Abishai didn’t. He didn’t give up when he encountered a little discouragement. He didn’t give up when he had to fight for his life. He didn’t give up when three hundred men came to kill him.

He fought off those 300 men with a spear (not a tank) and lived to tell about it.

David rewarded valiant soldiers with positions of authority over the other soldiers because they were trustworthy. He knew what to expect from them. He showed them honor because they were obedient to his will.

Christians who have truly earned great honor have been obedient to God’s will. They know what they’re supposed to do and they do it with great bravery and loyalty, without hesitation.

God is looking for those who want to obey him like a soldier obeys a good commanding officer. If we trust God and obey Him, we know He will lead us to many victories.

Famous: David's 3 Mighty Men

2 Samuel 23:16
So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David.
Read 2 Samuel 23:13-17

Once during the battling days of David, the Philistines were in Bethlehem, David’s hometown. Three of David’s men went to him at the cave of Adullam and heard him say, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”

My guess is that David was tired and homesick. I imagine he inspired such loyalty that when these men heard David pining over the distance between him and the sweetness of home they couldn’t resist surprising him with a taste of the water he longed for.

These three mighty men broke through enemy lines to get water for David to drink. It took bravery, cunning, and determination to get the job done. They must have had a fire in them to get to the well of Bethlehem and back safely – with enough water to make the journey worth it.

I don’t think they were trying to be heroes. I think they were driven to serve David the unexpected blessing of the one thing he longed for. What a great example of a servant’s attitude. They knew they could do it. And because they took the risk, made the effort, and accomplished what they were driven to do, they became heroes in David’s eyes.

When they approached David with the water, he couldn’t believe they did that. David took the water from the men, but he refused to drink it.

He poured the water out before the Lord. David, who had shown enormous bravery and who had accomplished many dangerous exploits by himself, was amazed at these men who put their lives at risk for a simple drink of water.

The men were valued beyond the water. Because they were driven to take that one trip behind enemy lines, they received the honor of a mention in the Bible as David’s “three mighty men.”