Sally Edwards is a highly esteemed third grade teacher at Jacksboro Elementary in Texas. She was preparing her students for the TAKS test and compiled an exam to prepare them for it. There were twenty questions. Number eleven on the test was this question: “List in any order the four seasons.”
A whopping 67% of her 3rd grade students answered: “Dove season, deer season, duck season, and turkey season.” 1
I don’t know what season of life you are in, but I do know this. God has something for you to do. He did for Jeremiah. He told Jeremiah he had a work for him to do. His assignment? Stand in the rubble of Jerusalem and weep. He was also told the people would not listen to him.
That was it. And oddly enough, Jeremiah did it. As the people of Judah were leaving Jerusalem in single file as captives, Jeremiah stood weeping and reminding them that God would bring them back with these words: “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).
God had something for Jeremiah to do. And he has something for you to do too. In the New Testament book of Ephesians the apostle Paul writes to the church, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God created in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10).
In God’s employment contract for us today, he does not ask us to be successful by the world’s standards but rather to be faithful to him to do good things. God is not so much concerned about your ability as he is your availability.
Just like Jeremiah, God is calling you to play a role in his Grand Story. It may be that this is your time to change the direction of your family. Turning from a focus on you alone to a concerning yourself with the things of God. It may be that God is calling you to reach out to a neighbor. Perhaps he is laying on your heart a ministry where there is a need you can’t even see at the moment.
Whatever season of life you are in God is calling you to make a difference. And he is desiring to equip you to make that difference. Right now. Today. Are you available for his purposes?
_______________________________________________________________1 Story told by Randy Frazee in The Story sermon, Chapter 17.
In the early formation of our nation George Washington had the opportunity to become king of the burgeoning nation. But given the young nation’s experience with England and because he had a robust prayer life he knew there was only one King, so he declined the offer.
The people of the land apparently knew the same. “In a 1774 report to King George, the Governor of Boston noted: ”If you ask an American, who is his master? He will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ.”
The pre-war Colonial Committees of Correspondence soon made this the American motto: “No King but King Jesus.”
The story of God’s chosen people might have gone very differently had they chanted the same motto. Instead, they wanted a king. Over the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah there were thirty-eight kings. Only five of them were good. Of the others a refrain heard throughout the Old Testament goes like this: “They did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”
Prophets appeared exhorting the people to turn back to God. God spoke through one prophet—Isaiah—to tell the people of Judah that they would be captured and deported to Babylon but afterward he would bring them back home. The purpose? “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed. Then the whole human race will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:23).
In Isaiah 53 the prophet depicts the coming Messiah. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53: 2, 3).
God did not want the people to miss him. But they did. And still do.
Our nation would have gone a much different route had Washington agreed to be king. But he seemed to know what many others didn’t. When we displace God on the throne of our lives, the outcome will go horribly wrong. But when we put God on the throne in our lives, we put ourselves in the best possible position for godly success.
Maybe our American ancestors knew the best way to start a revolution. Adopt the motto “No King but King Jesus” in your life. See what changes that ignites in your life.
Verizon Wireless created one of the most memorable marketing campaigns ever in 2005. In their commercials a so-called “test man,” accompanied by a crowd of network engineers, travels the country asking the simple question, “Can you hear me now?” in an ongoing exercise to determine the reliability of the mobile phone carrier’s network.
The “catch phrase” caught on. The company’s market share went up and employee turnover went down. It seemed people could relate to the struggle to connect. Folks were tired of dropped calls and unreliable communication systems. And Verizon sent a message that they wanted desperately to connect with its subscribers and wanted its subscribers to be able to connect with each other.
At the risk of selling him short, God has done the same. Even when the Kingdom had split in two, he kept sending his message. He gave the people of the Divided Kingdom some 208 years to decide whether they would “accept” or “reject” his call. He sent his own “technicians” to get the message out. We call them “prophets.”
The job of the Verizon technician is unique. But not nearly as unique as the task given Hosea. Hosea, himself a prophet, appeared in a down time in the nation of Israel. The reality is that people often hear best when things are at their worst. So Hosea signed on with God. But God gave him a most unusual assignment. Hosea’s life would be his message. He was to marry a prostitute named Gomer and love her.
What an incredible request! (Just imagine a young man with a seminary degree in hand trying to explain that one to a pastor search committee.) The tough assignment was made even more difficult as Gomer left Hosea. She would conduct her ‘transactions’ with customers and all the time in her mind believing they were the ones supporting her.
In reality, though, it was Hosea who continued to care for her and provide for her necessities even during her times of unfaithfulness.
God tells Hosea to go and demonstrate his love for her, so he does. Now picture this scene, as ugly as it is: Hosea pays some Hebrew “pimp” for some time with his wife, Gomer. When she enters the room expecting her next customer, she comes face-to-face with her husband. It is then that Hosea tells her again he loves her and wants her to come back home.
It’s the lived-out message that Hosea later gives in words. And it’s the same message God sends today. He loves us—even in our extreme unfaithfulness. And he wants us to come back home, even though we have abandoned him. But much like a call on your cell phone, you can hit the “accept” button or the “reject” button.
You have the power to send God to voicemail and make him wait. Or you can answer his call today. The people of Israel had 208 years to pick up and they never did. The network is clear.
The message is reliable. Can you hear him now?
The decisions you make and the actions you take affect those around you.
Rehoboam learned that lesson the hard way. Rehoboam followed his father Solomon to the throne of Israel. Solomon had exacted harsh labor on the people. A delegation, led by Jeroboam, went to the new king and asked him to take away the harshness.
In private, Rehoboam asked his elder council what he should do. They advised that he become a servant to the people, lighten their load, and the people would always be faithful servants to the king.
His circle of younger friends gave him just the opposite advice. They told him to work the people harder. He liked that idea, told the delegation his plans, and wound up with a divided kingdom.
At one time or another all of us are impacted by someone else’s decisions or actions. When we sufferthe negative consequences of another’s wrongheaded decision, God can redeem the situation. Although Rehoboam wound up ruling only two tribes—Judah and Benjamin (as opposed to Jeroboam’s rule over ten tribes)—it was through Judah that Jesus came to us. God can work, and often does what seems to us as his best work, in situations that seem the most difficult.
We should always consider how our decisions and actions affect those around us. In “systems thinking” it is said that “you are the highest leverage point in any system you are in.” More simply stated, you can make a difference. You are more “powerful” than you think you are––no matter your station in life.
Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s use of the South African rugby team to help heal a nation divided by apartheid. In one scene of the movie he explains to a team member, “Reconciliation starts here. Forgiveness starts here.” He knew his actions would have a ripple effect on those around him. Eventually the blessing of that “ripple” washed across the nation.
Rehoboam made a bad decision, but it was really his father Solomon’s actions that divided the kingdom. He forsook the one true God and chased after other “gods,” he neglected to serve the people and instead forced them to work harder, and he was focused on himself, as reflected in his accumulation of wives, gold, and horses in direct disobedience to God’s counsel. His son Rehoboam was merely living out consequence of those decisions and actions.
Learn from Solomon’s mistake. Love God first. Love others second. And serve those that do not yet know God. You will be surprised to see how far your ripple will travel.
Here’s something that might bring back memories for some of us. Think back to Christmases of our childhood: what was the symbol of all our Christmas wishes? How about the Sears Wish Book? Do you remember it from when you were young? We would hopefully page through the giant catalogue, circle our choices in pen, and pray that Santa would deliver our requests on Christmas morning.
The first Sears Wish Book was printed in 1933. Over time it has diminished in size and was even discontinued at one point. It was revived in 2007, but the current books are nothing in size compared to the books some of us can remember from our youth. Children today don’t really need one.
They have the Internet and their high tech toys to cruise the information highway to identify their holiday “wants.” But “back in the day” the Sears Wish Book helped us answer the seasonal question: “If you could have anything for Christmas, what would you ask for?”
You may not need the Sears Wish Book today, but you have some wishes too, don’t you? Next Christmas how would you answer the question, “If you could have one thing in the world, what would it be?”
Solomon had to answer that one. He asked for wisdom. And God gave it to him. But by the end of his life he had accumulated more and more: more gold, more horses, more wives. He had it all and wanted more. In the midst of all these gifts he lost sight of the Giver. He turned away from God and lost it all.
Another King gave us another path to follow. He had it all and gave it all . . . for us. In the Christmas season, or any season for that matter, you can guard yourself from the tyranny of too much stuff by giving.
Simply give so that others can simply live. That’s what the King born as a baby in the manger did.And my wish? That you visit the manger and find him.
When Pope John Paul died, a man named Rogers Cadenhead quickly registered the web addresswww.BenedictXVI.com, thinking this might be the name chosen by the new pope. When CardinalRatzinger was elected Pope, he did choose the name Pope Benedict XVI, causing some to question what the Vatican would do to get the rights to that domain name.Cadenhead didn’t ask the Vatican for money. Instead, in a humorous manner on his blog he suggested a few things he would trade for: 1. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel. 2. One of those hats (referring to the bishop’s hat). 3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.1
Wonder what Rogers did the third week of March in 1987? Me too, but does it really matter? Most of us have at least a week for which we’d love to have total forgiveness.We discover in The Story that David did. One day when the army is at war, David, who is the commander of the nation’s military, neglects his duties and stays behind. He sees Bathsheba, seduces her, gets her pregnant, murders her husband, and tries to cover up his actions by deceiving his general and soldiers.
Then he marries Bathsheba and she bears their child. It looks as if David will get away with all of this. But he doesn’t. God sends his prophet Nathan to confront David by telling him a story about a poor man with one lamb. David knows something about sheep and shepherds, so he listens. Nathan says that the poor man has a rich neighbor who needs to slaughter a lamb to feed a guest, but instead of taking one of his many sheep he steals the poor man’s one lamb.
David is incensed and says that man should be put to death. Nathan then declares, “You are the man!” At that moment David must have wished he had bought a domain name that he could swap for absolution.
He may have wanted to make excuses. Explain things away. Blame it on Bathsheba for takinga bath in broad daylight where he could see. But instead of making excuses, David confesses. “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13). And God did with David’s sin what he will do with yours and mine. He put it away (Psalm 103:12-13).
You can do what David did. Whatever your “third week of March” might be, sit down with it, yourself and God. Confess your sin. And then let another shepherd from Bethlehem forgive it. That’s better than any domain name you might secure.
Imagine the scene: a scrawny sixteen year old shepherd boy takes out a 9’9” tall giant with one rock and a sling.
You may not have a gigantic giant taunting you to come out and fight. But you are probably facing a few giants of your own. Giants like the stack of past-due bills glaring at you. Like the divorce papers waiting on your signature. Or the depression that looms over you like the Hulk. It could be low self-esteem or insecurity or child abuse in your past. But you have your giants. And so do I. And we would do well to learn from David.
He could face his “giant” because he had spent time in the quiet with God. When he arrived at the place of the standoff between the Israelites and the Philistines, he talked about God. He told Saul that “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1Sam.17:37). He did not hesitate to confront Goliath, saying he came “in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel.”
David was God-focused instead of giant-focused. He mentions Goliath two times and God nine times. He knew the giant was there and recognized his presence. But his thoughts were twice as much on God. That focus led him to confront his giant rather than run away. For forty days Goliath continued to challenge Israel’s army. And for forty days everyone hoped he would just go away. But giants don’t typically go away until we face them. So David stepped into the gap and slung one well-aimed stone at him. It helps to have someone in your corner that believes in you.
David had his Jonathan. You need yours. You need at least one person who believes in you and that also believes in God. Someone who can encourage your faith—give you courage—when you most need it. And you will need it. Because after you slay one giant, there will be more. You may wonder why David picked up five stones from the river bed. Was he afraid he might miss? Not likely. He was skilled in his use of the sling.
2 Samuel 21:18-22 hints that Goliath may have had four brothers. David was ready. He could take on one giant. You might say knew how to get a head of his giant. And then he was ready for more.And you can too. Just follow the shepherd from Bethlehem
Ever since Peter Stuyvesant visited the Palace of Versailles the world has had a distorted view of itself. Peter was the governor of New Amsterdam—later to be renamed New York City—beginning in 1647.
He was visiting France to discuss colonial land agreements. While at Versailles he was awed by the Hall of Mirrors. Peter was determined to bring a similarly amazing showcase to his city. In 1651 he founded the Peter Stuyvesant’s House of Mirrors. He charged one Dutch gulden for admission.
This house of mirrors eventually morphed into what we know as a Fun House of Mirrors seen at many carnivals. For a few tickets the fun begins by walking into a maze of mirrors, both convex and concave.
We amuse ourselves by looking at distorted images of our figure.
Today you don’t even have to go to the carnival for this experience. A laptop with a webcam and a silly photo feature will allow you to take a picture of yourself that you can manipulate to look odd.It’s all fun. But sometimes distorted pictures can cause trouble. It did in Israel during the time of the prophet Samuel. One of the major distortions was found at the Tabernacle, that portable place of praise for God’s people.
It was parked at Shiloh and was meant to be a clear picture of God’s holiness and grace. A system of sacrifices had been established that foreshadowed the coming sacrifice of the Messiah. Yet anything but holiness was found there.
Eli the priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonored God in their treatment of the sacrifices and also engaged in immoral sexual activity with women at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:16, 22).
Because the picture of God they were giving was distorted, these two were killed in battle against the Philistines. When news of their death reached Eli, he fell over in his chair, broke his neck, and also died.
Just like Eli and his sons we are representatives of God. We represent Jesus to others. You may have heard it said that you may be the only Bible those around you will ever ‘read.’ The question is, “Are you giving a clear or distorted picture of the One True God?”
Anyone with college-aged kids knows the inundating routine that is college applications. Visitcampuses. Choose a few schools to focus on. Make applications. Fill out forms. Write essays.For anyone who hasn’t “been there, done that,” the filing of the application and financial aid forms is nothing compared to the waiting. It’s like the first time you look at your girlfriend or boyfriend and say, ‘I love you.” You’ve made the first move. And then you wait. You wait to see if they respond in turn.
For the college applicant, the end of the waiting is signaled with a letter in the mailbox – hopefullysaying “You have been accepted.”
We all have a desire to be accepted, don’t we? In fact, that desire made it into Maslow’s well-known hierarchy of needs. He theorized that acceptance is basic to our nature and to our psychological health.
Ruth had the same need as we do. She was a Moabite living in Bethlehem who we meet in The Story. She ended up there with her mother-in-law Naomi when her husband died. And she found herself picking up the leftovers after the harvest in a field owned by Boaz.
Boaz discovered she was an outsider—a Moabite—the same people who would oppress his nation for eighteen years. You’d expect fireworks when they met. Instead, Boaz tells Ruth, “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
His acceptance of Ruth goes a step further. Ruth finds him asleep on the threshing floor and lies down at his feet. When he awakens, Ruth asks him to “spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a family guardian.” The word for “garment” is the same Hebrew word for “wings” in the blessing Boaz had pronounced over Ruth. God’s acceptance came to Ruth through Boaz.
Your acceptance did too. You see, Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David.
In Matthew’s genealogy the lineage of Jesus is traced through David. Boaz is there too along with
his mother Rahab (Matt. 1:5). Yes, that Rahab. The prostitute that lived in Canaan and sheltered the two spies Joshua sent into the land.
Have you ever had to own up for something you did wrong? Maybe you remember sneaking out to see an R-rated movie or go to a party as a teen and then confessing the truth to your seething parents after you crept in the house past curfew. Or maybe, more recently, you lied to your boss and had to face the consequences once you were found out.
We have all had to come face-to-face with an authority and own up to what we’ve done wrong. Palms sweat, stomach twists and turns. It can feel like you’re going before the judge in a court martial.
Judges elicit a sense of fear, don’t they? They never call you in for something you have done right.We think of them as someone who harshly tells us what we did wrong. And they seem to be everywhere these days on television. There’s Judge Judy and Hatchett. Mathis and Christina. Judge Brown. Then there are some judges you may not know. They even have a book in the Bible with their name on it. Judges. These judges appeared on the scene to help sort out right and wrong.
They also helped people get out of trouble.
God’s people kept putting themselves into a never ending cycle of disobedience, discipline, declaration of wrong, and deliverance. Judges like Deborah and Gideon and Samson helped them find their way back to God.
What did the people do that was so bad they needed judges? Two things. First, they failed to put God first in their lives (Judges 1:28). And secondly, they did not teach their children to know God (Judges 2:10).
These two “sins” led to their downfall and ruin.
Are you making the same mistakes they made? If so, you have a judge that can help you––Jesus.The good news is that when he “calls” you into his office after you’ve messed up, you will look up to see your judge’s face and see your savior there.