Category Archives: Newsletter Excerpts

“Along the Journey” column for @wieuca newsletter

The Value of Inheritance

There is an interesting story in 1 Kings 21 about a man named Naboth. He lived in ancient Jezreel and was a subject of King Ahab of Samaria. He owned a vineyard that was adjacent to a palace of the king. Ahab wanted the vineyard for himself and tried to convince Naboth to either exchange the land for another parcel or sell it to the monarch. Naboth refused: “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.”

Ahab returned to his palace and sulked: “So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth’s answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat!”

Really?  He didn’t get his way so he threw himself a pity party? You may remember his wife, Jezebel. She was vain, ruthless, power hungry, and vengeful. After scorning her husband, she told him she would take care of things. She had Naboth stoned to death and seized the vineyard from his heirs. That wasn’t the end of the story.

God sent the prophet Elijah with a chilling warning and prediction. Eventually, Jezebel would suffer a horrible death on the very spot where Naboth’s vineyard was located. In 2012, archaeologists discovered the large winery complex that was at the center of Naboth’s vineyard.

In a day like ours, it seems that everything and everyone has a price. Naboth paid dearly for refusing to surrender his inheritance but his murder did not go unpunished. There are things in our lives that should not be for sale … convictions that we will not compromise … principles that will not be forfeited.

We claim to be people of the Book. Today more than ever, we need to stand on the truth of God’s Word. Truth is not for sale.

What we leave out

On a hospital medical chart, a doctor wrote: “I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.” What a strange place to have therapy! Obviously, the ‘e’ was missing.

We are guilty of leaving things out from time to time. Perhaps that’s why our mothers continually reminded us to say “please” and “thank you.” We can miss the moment and not notice that something is missing. A word of encouragement that is never spoken … an act of kindness that never happened … an expression of gratitude that remained unsaid.

We are busy people, too busy. We can be overcome with the press and pressure of our schedules and not notice the moment that just slipped by.

C.S. Lewis was addressing students at Oxford University in the fall of 1939. Nazi Germany had just invaded Poland. The young men in the audience were beginning to feel tremendous anxiety as the storms of war threatened.

In part, Lewis said: “Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment as to the Lord. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present time is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”

We cannot change yesterday and we have little to say about what the future may bring. We can live this day. We can practice His presence this day. We can open our eyes and hearts to the divine appointments on our daily calendar.

Regret comes when we could have or should have, and we didn’t. “Lord, thank You for this day. Help me to live in this moment in time with anticipation of great possibilities!”

And Jesus had compassion

Over and over, the New Testament bears witness to how Jesus viewed those He came to save. In Matthew 9, we are told: “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” In Mark 8, Jesus spoke to His disciples: “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with Me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat.” In Matthew 25, we are given a picture of judgment when Jesus acknowledged those who had compassion on the “least of these.”

When the Lord gazes over our world today, He sees this poor, the despairing, the grieving, the confused, and the misguided. These past weeks have been horrific. The ravages of fierce storms have wrecked so many lives. The senseless violence in Las Vegas has taken a devastating toll among so many. We are staggered by the disruption and discouragement.

And Jesus had compassion.

A man was complaining to his pastor, listing all the events and circumstances that caused pain and loss. “Why doesn’t God do something?” The minister thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t believe God needs me to defend Him, but I think He is doing something. He is sending you and me into those moments when we can show the compassion of Christ.”

We don’t have all the answers, perhaps very few of them. But we can impact our world with our attention and care. An elderly man, affectionately known as Mr. Ben, who lived on their street had recently been widowed. A mother was explaining to her six year-old what had happened. He sat silently for a while and then left the room. The woman got busy with some chores and realized that she hadn’t heard anything from him for a few minutes. She went looking for him. When she couldn’t find him in the house, she stepped out her front door. He was walking up the sidewalk toward her. “Where have you been, honey?” The boy’s face was streaked with tears. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” she asked. “I’m okay. I just went over to Mr. Ben’s so I could cry with him.”

And the followers of Jesus had compassion.

You don’t have to pay for me

As the ushers passed the offering plate, a young child being taken to church for the first time watched the proceedings with intense interest. As the ushers approached her pew, the little girl said to her father, “Remember, Dad, you don’t have to pay for me. I’m under five.”

I’m at that age now when I look for discounts. I may not like standing in line behind someone with a fistful of coupons, but I seldom go to the store without checking to see if I have any. Who doesn’t like a bargain? I don’t want to think of myself as cheap, but I don’t mind being frugal.

While I don’t equate cheap with frugal, there is one thing that bothers me – church on the cheap. There are some chilling words in the last book of the Old Testament. Through His prophet Malachi, God had a case against His own people: “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: ‘A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where is the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for My name!’” Later in the book, God also had stern words for the people: “You have wearied the Lord with your words.” God wasn’t satisfied with cheap.

We know our God is generous and gracious, bountiful in His blessings. We also know that the proper response to His goodness to us is not simply measured by an offering plate. We have too long associated stewardship with our financial resources alone. The One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) isn’t wringing His hands over what we give. He knows there is much more at stake.

Does my life reflect a grateful, joyful stewardship? Am I looking for spiritual discounts or going deeper in my walk with Him? Malachi’s narrative is a bridge to the New Testament. The prophet Elijah in the person of John the Baptist would come to prepare the way for the Lamb of God. God was preparing to invade a broken, dark world with the light of Christ. He has given so much. How will we respond to His overture of love?

From the creation of the first humans, God offered a partnership to those He entrusted with His world. He has made us trustees of our time, talent, and treasure. There is great joy in faithful stewardship!

Scars

“Presumably [Jesus] could have had any resurrected body he wanted, and yet he chose one identifiable mainly by scars that could be seen and touched. Why? I believe the story of Easter would be incomplete without those scars on the hands, the feet, and the side of Jesus. When human beings fantasize, we dream of pearly straight teeth and wrinkle-free skin and sexy ideal shapes. We dream of an unnatural state: the perfect body. But for Jesus, being confined in a skeleton and human skin WAS the unnatural state. The scars are, to him, an emblem of life on our planet, a permanent reminder of those days of confinement and suffering. I take hope in Jesus’ scars. From the perspective of heaven, they represent the most horrible event that has ever happened in the history of the universe – the crucifixion – Easter turned into a memory. Because of Easter, I can hope that the tears we shed, the blows we receive, the emotional pain, the heartache over lost friends and loved ones, all these will become memories, like Jesus’ scars. Scars never completely go away, but neither do they hurt any longer. We will have re-created bodies, a re-created heaven and earth. We will have a new start, an Easter start.”                                                                                                                       Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew.

Friday comes before Sunday every week … just like the cross comes before the tomb. We cannot truly celebrate if we do not understand the cost of the victory Christ won for us. “Jesus fought the battle, but it would be against the forces of evil, corruption, and death itself. Jesus came to believe that the only way one could defeat death itself, and thereby launch the new creation was to take on death itself.”

He bore the wounds of the battle. He carried the scars. The cross is not a piece of jewelry; it is a stark reminder of a cosmic contest that used the most powerful weapon against our most powerful enemy. With His love, Jesus killed death, robbing it of its power.

Easter is about new beginnings, renewal of life, hope, and joy. But the scars … don’t forget the scars. His scars make ours bearable. He is risen! “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again” (John 11:25).

And so it began

No, it did not begin with palms waving and coats thrown on the ground as Jesus passed. It did not begin with planning to secure the right animal upon which Jesus rode. It did not begin with the swell of public excitement and anticipation or the dread and angst of the Jewish authorities as Jesus approached the holy city.

“As Jesus was going along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. When He came to the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began to celebrate and praise God at the top of their voices” (Luke 19:36,37). “This was the moment they’d been waiting for. All the old songs came flooding back, and they were singing, chanting, cheering, and laughing. At last their dreams were going to come true. But in the middle of it all, their leader wasn’t singing.” “When He came near and saw the city, He wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

Why did He weep? Prophecies were being fulfilled. The Passover festival annually carried the hope that this was the year that Messiah would appear. Messiah did appear, but He was not chosen for an earthly kingdom. He came for a higher purpose. His tears flowed as He saw a people looking for another kind of king. He cried because of the cost of redemption. His sorrow overflowed because many would reject Him and every prophecy that hailed His coming.

It began at the foundation of the world. A plan had been formed to restore a broken world and to reclaim a lost humanity. It began with the Creator’s determination to save His creation from the ravages of sin and death. It began with a mission to save the world, not condemn it.

Holy Week acknowledges, mourns, and then rejoices over the plan that would send the guiltless to pay for the guilty. The perfect Lamb of God would be sacrificed on the cruel altar of the cross.

Jesus had set His face to Jerusalem. He had told His disciples what would happen when He came to the city. He was not surrendering to His fate; He was taking charge of the arrangements. Just as He set in motion the parade on the day we call Palm Sunday, He would make preparation for the Passover meal where He would share His last supper. He would see it through – blood, sweat, and tears. The King had arrived …

Spring brake

No, I didn’t spell it wrong. During this time of year, people need a brake. Kari Myers wrote an article entitled “Being good when you feel bad.” Here are some of her thoughts.

“Sickness, stress, and sleep deprivation are three things that can really do a number of a person’s disposition. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do. Maybe you know it, too. When we feel bad, physically or emotionally, we tend not to handle things as well as we would on a good day. Bad days can tempt us to focus inward. If they persist we can fall into self-pity or become obsessed with improving our situation. We can be self-absorbed, self-serving, or just plain selfish. But it does not have to be so. Jesus showed us another way. At the moment of His betrayal to an angry mob who would take Him to a cruel death, He healed the servant of His enemy. On the worst of days, as He was unjustly arrested and threatened, He responded with compassion. In the midst of His own pain, He took notice of and tended to the pain of another. Jesus loved in good times and bad.”

We need a brake. We need to stop striving so much. We need to inventory our busy-ness. We need to honor Sabbath keeping, as Bryan Brock taught in the Gathering last week. We cannot run on empty without damage to us and others.

He had been neglecting his young daughter. He knew it, but what could he do? Work was crazy. Meeting one deadline after the next required immense investments of time and energy. His wife had reminded him often that he was missing a lot at home, with her and with their 3 year-old little girl. He promised he would come home early and spend time with her. He left work only to bring work home. But he could take a few minutes. “What would you like to do with your dad?” he asked her while glancing at his watch. “I wanna take a walk.” Simple enough. How long could that take? One quick turn around the block. Only it wasn’t one quick turn around the block. Every few steps, she stopped, bent over to examine a bug or a flower or a crack in the sidewalk and exclaim, “Lookit!” His exasperation was evident. Passing them by was an elderly neighbor. The old man whispered to the dad, “You’re missing it.” Trying to be polite, the father responded, “I’ve seen a bug. I’ve seen a flower.” The neighbor stopped and said, “That’s not what you’re missing.”

 

Apply the brake. Don’t miss life. “Lookit!”