Hard Questions

Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. (1 Kings 10:1)

I want to focus for just a moment today on the encounter between the queen of Sheba and King Solomon, and make two simple applications.

The queen of Sheba “came to test him with hard questions.” She heard of his famous wisdom and she came to challenge it. I do not think that was a bad thing. She did not have the hypocritical heart of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They only wanted to test Jesus to find something wrong with Him in order to accuse Him (Luke 11:54). She had an honest heart, I believe. Jesus Himself told us to “Ask, seek, and knock,” which tells me God wants us to investigate and dig into the wisdom of God (Luke 11:9-13).

Solomon’s own advise was to “cry out for discernment, and lift up our voices for understanding” (Proverbs 2:3). That is the very spirit of the Bereans who did not even take the Apostle Paul’s word for it, but “they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). That was the spirit of the queen of Sheba, she came with hard questions, and in Solomon she found God’s wisdom. I always tell my students that “the truth never suffers from investigation.”

Solomon allowed her to test him with hard questions, and he let God’s wisdom guide his answers. Men, as leaders in churches, homes and business, do we create an environment around us where others feel safe to ask us tough questions? Do we get defensive, tense and agitated when others challenge our positions? Solomon trusted in God’s wisdom and allowed this queen to ask anything. The queen of Sheba came with her best stuff; she really threw everything at Solomon including the kitchen sink, and he allowed it. With God’s grace and wisdom, he fielded all her toughest challenges.

God promised us that if we ask Him, He gives wisdom to us freely (James 1:5). Therefore, we should have no fear to allow others around us to ask any question on their minds. Again, the truth never suffers from investigation, so if someone challenges us, we should have the humility and transparency to direct our attention to God’s word. Have the confidence that with the right heart we will all find the truth.

Conflict Resolution: The Church

Today we will conclude our discussion of conflict resolution, still using God as the example, by looking at our leadership within the church. The local church family is such a unique and beautiful community of people. Within it are individuals from so many various backgrounds bringing different insights and perspectives. We differ by education, by economics, by culture, by religious history, by personality, by hobbies and interests, by family situations, and yet we are all called by one God and Father for the same purpose. In Ephesians 5:27, in comparing marriage to Christ and the church, Paul says that Christ gave Himself up for her “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory”. Read Ephesians chapter one and see all the spiritual blessings we have “in Christ” and look at verse 6, 12, and 14 and you will see that all was done “to the praise of His glory”. To put it very simply, we are in the church because we are sinners in desperate need of the blood of Christ so that we can be reconciled to God and all of that work, all the work that has been done in us, is to the praise of His glory. It is when we lose sight of this that conflicts arise.

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?  Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?  You lust and do not have; so you commit murder.  You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.  You do not have because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  James 4:1-3

The source of our quarrels and conflicts is when we stop pursuing the things that glorify God and start pursuing those things that satisfy or glorify us. Successful conflict resolution in all our relationships, and especially in the church family, always starts with our motives.

Our text for the week has been Romans 5:6-10.

“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”     

It all started with love

“God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s motivation for all that He did to resolve the conflict that WE had created through OUR sin was love. He had our best interest at heart not His own. When I am in conflict with a brother or sister what is the cause? My pride and arrogance? Their pride and arrogance? My stubbornness or their stubbornness? My ignorance or their ignorance? Regardless of fault and blame, resolution will only come if I can put myself aside and act and speak in a way that is motivated by love. And not a warm, fuzzy feeling but a love like the Father that is willing to sacrifice to my own hurt in the best interest of my brother or sister. But we must recognize that God did not set aside truth or justice in the pursuit of reconciliation. In fact, the sacrifice of Jesus was absolutely necessary because the truth of our sinfulness and helplessness could not be denied and in order for God to remain just a suitable sacrifice for that sin had to be secured. Conflict resolution in the church is not overlooking sin, ignoring strife, and forgoing accountability for the sake of peace but addressing those things motivated by sacrificial love and a desire to bring glory to God. But what about when our motives are correct and the other party just won’t respond?

God offers reconciliation but doesn’t force anyone to accept it

The vast majority of people will reject the love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Do you think God knew that when He initiated the plan for our redemption?  As Jesus was enduring unimaginable pain on the cross, He watched as the people He was dying for walked by mocking Him with hatred in their hearts. The sacrifice was made for our reconciliation and God has never forced anyone to accept it. I believe that free will amplifies the power of Christ’s sacrifice and the love of God. The reality of rejection is the same for us.  I can do everything exactly right in the pursuit of reconciliation with my brother or sister and they can still reject me. That is why our own motivation is so important. When I’m pursuing reconciliation am I doing it to glorify my Father? The only actions I can control are my own and it is not within my power to control the outcome. It is important to have a goal of peace and unity within the church but we must always remember that the primary purpose of the church is to bring glory to God. Regardless of the outcome of my efforts to resolve a conflict, I can still glorify my Father in the way in which I pursue the reconciliation.

“If possible, so far as it depends on YOU, be at peace with all men.”  Romans 12:18

Distracted with Much Serving, Part 2

Today we are continuing from yesterday’s article to look into how Martha was “distracted with much serving” and how Jesus brought her back to (#1) reality and (#2) perspective (see Luke 10:38-42).

“She approached Him and said, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” When we become “worried and troubled over many things,” we can fall into the same trap as Martha did. Martha became the standard of judgment for Mary, and she even assumed that Jesus would agree with her assessment of the situation.  She could not figure out why Jesus would not order Mary to get in the kitchen. Like Martha, we can begin to view our gifts and level of involvement as the standard of judgment for others.

For example:

  • You go visit someone in the hospital or shovel snow for a shut-in and wonder why every Christian cannot find the time to do what you are doing. I mean, how hard is it to get in the car and go visit with dear sister Smith?
  • You are cleaning the church building and wonder why every person is not as diligent and dedicated as you are. You wouldn’t have such a hard time cleaning if the family the week before would have “done their job.”
  • You stay up extra late or get up extra early to make sure that your Bible class lesson is completed and come to Bible study and see so many adults with nothing done at all. Some have blank pages and blank expressions, some even forgot their books. Why can’t they just spend more time preparing at home?
  • You say to yourself, “Good grief! There comes the Jones family again. Late as usual to service. Running in at the last minute. I mean, come on, Sunday morning comes the same time every week. Why can’t they get it together and set the alarm clock a half hour earlier?”

When we get troubled and worried over many things, our joy of serving and the blessing of using our gifts for Jesus get replaced with bitterness and resentment.  We start grumbling about the work, and complaining (even to God) about others.  It then just becomes a job, a grind, and we really don’t like doing it anymore.

Jesus knows our tendency to get distracted while doing good works, and He is acutely aware of how easily we lose our focus and begin to grumble against God and others.  That is why so many Scriptures are devoted to this very thing.

  • Do not grumble against one another (James 5:9).
  • Be hospitable…without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9).
  • Do all things without complaining… (Philippians 2:14).
  • And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Galatians 4:9).

So then, what is a person to do when he or she falls into this trap?  What further words of encouragement did Jesus have for Martha?

“But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”  Mary took time to focus on the one thing that mattered, so therefore it meant that some very important things had to be set aside for the moment. Jesus was not condemning Martha in any way for being a servant, He was encouraging her to see Mary in a positive light.  He was giving Martha permission to set her apron aside for a moment and to focus on the one thing that truly mattered – His words of life and salvation.

If people had to eat a little later, it was fine. If the guests did not have everything they wanted for supper, it would not be the end of the world.  Jesus seemed to have little concern here if the house was immaculate and spotless. Who was in that house that day and what was said mattered more than who was working and what was being served. All too often we get caught up in the jobs and the ministry and forget the people and the perspective.

Mary was Mary and Martha was Martha.  Jesus did not expect Martha to be Mary, but Jesus expected Martha to use her talents in His service while keeping focused on the one thing that mattered.

I hope this helps, men. For me, I put my name in that verse and hear Jesus saying, “Aaron, Aaron you are worried and troubled over many things, but one thing is needed…” Put your name in the verse, and think about it.

Relationship C.S.I.

I like shows like C.S.I., Law & Order and N.C.I.S. Its about finding out who did it and why. Crime Scene Investigation. They come to the scene of the crime and dig into all the details: the blood, the fingerprints, DNA, etc. In the end the criminal is behind bars.

In the book of James, at the end of chapter 3 and going into chapter 4 is what I call often “Relationship C.S.I.” Why do we fight? Why are there quarrels among us? What is the source? What is the evidence at the scene of the crime?

I wrote about this previously in “Uncovering the Underlying Causes” but I thought it would be helpful to approach it again.

James is pretty straightforward on this one.

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? (James 4:1)

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. (James 3:14-16)

What is the source? When we have quarrels and conflicts among brethren at church or in any relationship, what is the reason? Well, it would not take an hour-long episode to figure it out, in fact we wouldn’t even fill enough space to get to the first commercial!

The culprit is the lust what wages war in our members. I want what I want and you want what you want and we can’t see past our own desires in order to have peace among us. Plain and simple. The fingerprints of selfishness are all over the crime scene. The DNA of jealousy and selfish ambition are on every surface.

When there is disorder in a church; when their are quarrels among us; when we just can’t get along, we need to do some real quick Relationship C.S.I. from the book of James and assess the situation honestly. There is jealousy and selfish ambition, and wherever and whenever those two thugs raise their ugly heads, we have disorder and every evil thing.

It isn’t any more complicated than that.

So, men, do you want to be considered “wise”? Do you want to be known as a peacemaker? James also addresses this. Let’s look at the positive side of Relationship C.S.I. There are two kinds of wisdom in James 3, one from above and one that is demonic. We’ve already looked at the demonic side of this; it is ugly and always causes fights.

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. (James 3:13)

When we see someone acting wisely; when we see a person who is known for diffusing tense situations, what is the source of that? James says this person’s deeds are done in the gentleness of wisdom. Read further in James…

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:14-18)

Take some time today to meditate on the DNA and fingerprints of the wisdom that is from above. Pure. Peaceable. Gentle. Reasonable (willing to yield). Full of mercy. Full of good fruits. Unwavering. Without hypocrisy.

Be the man who sows peace. Be the man whose heart is not full of jealousy and selfish ambition. Be the man who leads others to peaceful resolutions.

Pushing My Way To Jesus

Mark 3:7-10 – Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great number of people heard of all that He was doing and came to Him. and He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him; for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him.

Can you imagine if Jesus lived today in 2016? Specifically what I mean is, what would it be like if we heard that this Jesus was in the U.S. and had the power to instantly heal any disease and even raise people from the dead? How fast would the word get out today? Social media, paparazzi and news networks would be ablaze no doubt. I’m not sure if we can even begin to comprehend just how popular Jesus was. We have a lot of celebrities that people go crazy over, but there really is no one comparable to Jesus of Nazareth.

But what would you do today in 2016 if you knew that this Jesus had the power to heal any disease? Most of us have had a loved one die from cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, AIDS, etc. What would you personally do if your loved one was on the verge of death and you heard about this Jesus?

Would you push through the crowds to get your child to him? Would you spend thousands on plane tickets? Would you worry about being polite in the crowd; would you make sure to say “Excuse me?” Nope.

I can safely say without hesitation that if my wife or my son or daughter was dying that I would stop at nothing to get my loved one to Jesus. Manners and tact would be out the window, just a laser focus and desperation on reaching Jesus. If you read the gospel accounts, you will see that is exactly what happened. People stopped at nothing to get to Jesus, for themselves (Mark 5:24-34), for their family (Mark 5:21-24,35-43), and for their friends.

On one occasion, four men could not get their friend to Jesus in the house in which He was teaching, but that did not stop them, did it? No excuses that day. They climbed up on the roof and removed a section from the roof and let their paralytic friend down with ropes (Mark 2:1-12). Mark records that “Jesus saw their faith.” I love that…I really love that. What did Jesus see? He saw four men who knew Jesus was the only answer for their friend. These four men would stop at nothing to get their friend to Jesus.

Let me ask you, does Jesus see your faith? Does Jesus see my faith? Are we truly convinced deep down in our hearts and souls that Jesus is the only answer for ourselves and our loved ones? If that is the case, that we really believe Jesus is the only way for our friends, what would Jesus see?

Think about it.

We are going to continue this thought in further articles. On Monday (April 25) we will consider the woman with the blood issue who pressed through the crowds to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. We will connect this event to the Beatitudes that we are currently studying on Mondays. On Wednesday (April 27), we will look into the account of Jairus who pressed his way to Jesus on behalf of his dying daughter.

When Asa Heard These Words

Now when Asa heard these words and the prophecy which Azariah the son of Oded the prophet spoke, he took courage and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He then restored the altar of the LORD which was in front of the porch of the LORD (2 Chronicles 15:8).

How powerful are the words you say?

Let’s look here for just a moment in the life of King Asa of Judah. We will not take time to really dig into his life, but what we see in this verse is a powerful thought for us to consider today. A prophet named Azariah was sent by God to encourage Asa. The king was told that if he sought the Lord, then the Lord would be found by him. He was also encouraged to be strong because he would be rewarded by God for his work (please read the first 7 verses of 2 Chronicles 15). Because of these words, verse 8 tells us that Asa was given courage to lead the people in repentance and returning to God. The right words stirred up a national revival.

Words. Again, I want you to meditate upon this, how powerful are the words you say?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21).

Death is in the power of the tongue. So is life. See the power you hold in that little muscle behind your teeth? Power to bring life and healing, and power to tear down and discourage.

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad (Proverbs 12:25).

A good word makes it glad. What “good word” can you share with someone around you today? Our Christian friends around us have struggles, weaknesses, temptations and trials just like we do. Don’t you like a good word at times like these? Why not share the same with someone else today?

Think of the power that a few words had with a king and how that influenced the whole nation. If you share a few encouraging words with someone around you today, what impact can that have down the road for countless others?

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).

A Shepherd Knows His Sheep

Shepherds and sheep. All leaders of God’s people in Scripture are described as shepherds. Kings, judges, prophets and priests were called the shepherds of God’s people in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 34; Psalm 78:70-72). In the New Testament, the elders of each congregation were called shepherds (Acts 20:17,28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). That’s really what the term “pastor” means, a shepherd of the flock. Even Jesus called Himself the “Good Shepherd” (John 10). Peter called our Lord the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).

Jacob, Moses, Amos and David were among many leaders of God’s people who worked as shepherds in the field. They knew sheep. They knew what it meant to be a shepherd. God called David from the “sheepfolds” to shepherd His people Israel (Psalm 78:70-72). Moses spent around 40 years shepherding his father-in-law’s flock in Midian before God called him to deliver Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1). There must be something to this relationship analogy that God keeps using it over and over in the Bible.

There is really no modern day equivalent that matches a shepherd and sheep. CEO? Nope. Cowboy? Hardly. Boss? Not even close. A shepherd lived among the sheep. A shepherd’s life was the sheep, he was completely invested in them. Take time to read Psalm 23 and meditate upon what a shepherd does for his flock. He leads them to green pastures and still waters. His rod and staff are a comfort to the flock. He stays with them, feeds them, walks with them, talks with them and protects them from predators.

The shepherd even slept among the sheep. At night he would bring them into a pen, a pen without a gate or door, and he would lie down across the opening. He was literally the door or the gate for the sheep. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

A shepherd knew his sheep. The sheep knew his voice. He called each sheep by name. Someone else can come to that flock and call that same sheep by its name, but that sheep will not follow a stranger. Look at what Jesus said about this in John 10.

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:1-5).

Men, if you want to be a leader in God’s church, you must learn about shepherding from a Biblical perspective. You have to know your sheep. It is about relationships, not about getting to tell people what to do and making all the decisions for the church (1 Peter 5:3). You have to be completely invested in people and their souls, because if you want to lead their souls, then you will give an account for those souls (Hebrews 13:17).

Solomon’s advise is, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). Know! Pay attention! Sheep wander. Sheep sometimes get sick. Sheep have needs, and those needs change as the sheep grows. Wolves like eating sheep…they are tasty. Sheep need a shepherd.

That involves time. Ezekiel the prophet was sent to live among the captives in Babylon. He said, “I sat where they sat” (Ezekiel 3:15). Men we need to do the same for others. Sit where they sit, look at life from their perspective. It takes turning off the TV and getting in the car and driving to see someone who needs encouragement. It means that we don’t hang around the same people at church, but we get to know others. Being a shepherd of souls requires that we invite new people into our homes for a meal, or do activities with them to invest in their souls. It means that you are up at night praying for them.

Jesus does this for you. He truly is a Good Shepherd. He knows you. Will you be a shepherd for the souls of others?

Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah (Jesus), “will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young (Isaiah 40:11).

For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:25).

Love the Brotherhood

“Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17; NKJV)

The Times, a daily national newspaper published in the United Kingdom once asked G. K. Chesterton to write an essay on the theme “What’s Wrong with the World?”  Chesterton’s reply took the form of a letter:

“Dear Sirs,

I am.”

Sincerely yours,

G. K. Chesterton.

I bet the folks that asked Mr. Chesterton for this essay were quite disappointed with the response no matter how wise it might be.  I also think the answer to a similar question might be just as disappointing to us as men.  What would my response be if I were asked “what’s wrong with congregation X” or “what’s wrong with your family”, etc.?  I am not sure what my response would be, however, if I was a member of that congregation and/or family, the response should be “I am!”.  I am what is the matter…what is wrong…what needs fixing first.

Is this how you see the congregation…this “band of brothers”…this “Christian fraternity” you are a part of?  If not, how can you truly “love the brethren”?  If we are to love our brothers and our sisters, we have to not look at them to change in order to love us/love them but we must be willing to take a look at the man in the mirror and honestly see what we can do to be a better individual and demonstrate love for our Christian family.

I have sinned!  It is easy to see the flaws, faults, and failures of others.  GOD, however, calls me to see my own sin through His word which is likened to a mirror (James 1:23-25).  As I look into the Word, I see myself as I am in truth.  I see my true self in GOD’S mirror.  The Word exposes me.  I am naked and open before the Lord (Hebrews 4:12-13).  Along with Peter, I can honestly say, “I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8; NKJV).  The heart and words of the Prodigal Son must be my own:  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight” (Luke 15:18; NASBU).  As I examine my flaws, faults, and failures, my heart overflows with thanksgiving for the forgiveness I have found in Christ Jesus, my Savior!

As I deal with the man in the mirror, I must be quick to deal with my own sins before I seek to correct another (Matthew 7:1-5).   If I think myself to be something, when I am nothing, I deceive myself (Galatians 6:3).   Before I ever look to another, I must honestly examine myself (Galatians 6:4).  Like Peter, I must forget about my brother for now (John 21:21).   Jesus will see to him (John 21:22).  I must respond to the call of Christ:  “You follow Me” (John 21:22).  I must be honest about what I see (James 1:24).  I must trust in GOD to mold me and make me into the image of Christ (Jeremiah 18:4; Romans 8:29).  Only then, will I change.

Only with this kind of attitude and behavior, can we truly love the brethren.  Then, as we work together we will each individually determine to be the change and God will be glorified, the body (brethren) will be edified, and the Family of God will grow.  All of that begins with receiving God’s love so that we can grow in God’s love so that we might love our brothers and sisters in a Godly way.

It is important for each of us to remember that we need each other and we are bound together in love.  Together we can “excel still more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1; NASBU), if individually we proclaim, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13; NKJV).  That, my brothers, is love you can hang your hats on.

How do you define abundance?

I heard this true story and I needed to share. There was a lady that decided to personally support a preacher. One hot summer the air conditioner went out on her car and she had to make a decision. She couldn’t afford to fix the AC and continue to support the gospel preacher. So she rolled the windows down on her car and kept on sending monthly support.

“For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance also may become a supply for your need, that there may be equality; as it is written, ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack.’” (II Cor. 8:13-15).

I wonder how we define “abundance”? I wonder how Paul would have defined “abundance”? Once my retirement account is where I’d like it to be, or once my vacation is paid for, or once my kids are through college, or once I get the house remodel done, or once my savings account is at a level that I feel secure, or once, once, once…

Too often we define “abundance” as anything we might have left over after all of our wants and desires are taken care of. The problem is that there is no end to our wants and desires. Would we ever sacrifice our comforts so that the gospel of Jesus might be preached? Would we put off a “nice to have” for the needs of others? This is a challenging thought for me today.

How do you define abundance?

Listen to this great sermon Sharing in all Good Things by Ralph Walker

“The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him” (Galatians 6:6).

Preview for next week’s MDB: We will have 5 articles next week (March 28-April 1) by Shane Blackmer devoted to Love in Relationships.

Great Resolves of Heart

Among the divisions of Reuben there were great resolves of heart (Judges 5:15).

In the days of Deborah the prophetess and judge of Israel, God’s people were harshly oppressed and greatly outnumbered by Jabin king of Canaan. Jabin’s army was massive and equipped with 900 chariots of iron. For 20 years, the Bible said that Jabin and his commander Sisera harshly oppressed Israel. The people of Israel were without weaponry, “Not a shield or spear was seen among 40,000 in Israel” (Judges 5:8).

When Deborah through the Lord called Barak to lead 10,00o men into battle, they went. Yes, they wanted Deborah’s presence with them, but the fact that they went into this battle is amazing to me! 10,000 men may sound like a lot, but keep in mind the enemy they are about to engage is much larger and has 900 tanks (in our terms). Also, remember that those 10,000 don’t have weapons. Not sure what they had…maybe farming implements like pitchforks, shovels and axes. Regardless, they answered the call in faith knowing that God had already gone out before them into battle (Judges 4:14).

But not everyone answered the call. Some just thought about it. Some just stayed home. Some just had good ideas and wonderful intentions. The tribe of Reuben, according to the song of Deborah and Barak, had “great resolves of heart” and “great searchings of heart” (Judges 5:8-9). The tribe of Reuben was located on the other side of the Jordan. They were kind of like Adele’s song…they were saying, “Hello from the other side.” They really thought about it, and I’m sure they had lots of ideas about how the battle should be fought and how the enemy should have been defeated, but they did absolutely nothing.

There are a lot of Christian men like this, sadly. Great ideas for how the church should do things. All kinds of wisdom to give to others about how the church should do better. But where are they when the battle is waging? Where are they when we need their help? Where are they when we need someone to go and visit? Where are they when we need someone to make some calls and reach out to the hurting? Sitting at home thinking about it. They are safely tucked away, separated and aloof from the real problems that people are facing around them. Great resolves of heart…but nothing.

This is why in the song of Deborah and Barak that their hearts went out to the volunteers (Judges 5:9). There were those who didn’t just think about it, they stood up and rushed into battle because that’s where God called them to be. The tribe of Issachar “rushed” at Barak’s heels into battle (Judges 5:15). Both the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali were described as those who jeopardized their lives to the point of death (Judges 5:18). They did not stand aloof and separated from the battle, they rushed at the enemy with full faith in God.

What kind of man will you be? Will you be like a man of Reuben, a man who has all the ideas and intentions but no follow through? Or will you be a man of Issachar, Zebulun or Naphtali? Will you head into the fray with God as your captain? Will you get your hands dirty, your feet muddy, your face sweaty, and your skin bloody for the Lord?

“That the leaders led in Israel, that the people volunteered, bless the Lord!” (Judges 5:2).