I myself am going

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'”
(Zechariah 8:20-23)

We all need someone to follow. God says we are sheep. Really, whether or not we like it and accept it, we are following someone. The passage above from Zechariah shows us that when someone is walking confidently and humbly toward God, that there will be others who will grab on to your robe and want to go with you. People will follow someone, sadly even if that leader is going in the absolute wrong direction (Matthew 15:14). Are you and I leading others to the house of God in Jerusalem, meaning are we leading others to Christ, to truth, and to His family?

God wants us, as His men, to walk purposefully, confidently, passionately and humbly toward Him and toward His house. When we do that, others will follow. Not everyone will follow, in fact, Jesus tells us that most won’t. But we need to have a Joshua-like attitude that says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). We are going to God. We are going to God’s house. Do you want to come with us? That’s the mindset God’s men must have.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
(Revelation 22:17)

Be Careful How You Walk

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

My lower back has caused me problems for well over ten years.  When I was younger it would just flare up every now and then and remind me of my mortality.  I know this is cliché, but ever since I turned forty I’ve had a constant ache that won’t go away.  Somedays are better than others but every morning I’m immediately reminded of my weakness.

Saturday I worked all day in the yard clearing part of our property and cleaning out the flower beds in the front of the house.  I spent about eight or nine hours bending over swinging a machete, shoveling old mulch and pulling out plants and weeds.  I also loaded 47 bags of mulch (30 pounds each) in and out of the car and into the flower beds.  Not surprisingly, I’ve been in pretty severe pain since Sunday.  Just about any movement hurts and I almost pass out when I try to bend over and put on my socks.

Now my movements are very deliberate.  If I drop something I don’t just bend over and pick it up, I position myself properly, making sure there is something sturdy around in case I need to pull myself back up.  Then I bend at the knees, focusing on keeping my back straight the entire way down and back up.  If I’m sitting at my desk and I need something just out of arms reach, I don’t just stretch and reach.  I make sure to roll the chair closer so I can keep my back straight and avoid leaning forward.  When walking up or down stairs my focus is on each step, being sure to keep my foot in the center to avoid slipping or jarring.  Anytime I get in a hurry and fail to pay attention I have an instant reminder in the form of sharp pain in my lower back that will take my breath away.

The letter to the Ephesians focuses a great deal on our “walk”.  Chapter two verse two refers to our former walk, focused on sin according to the course of this world.  In verse ten, Paul tells us that we are His workmanship, created for good works so that we can walk in them.  In chapter four verse one, Paul implores us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling and goes on to describe the characteristics of that walk.  In verse seventeen, we are told to no longer walk like the Gentiles, darkened, ignorant, callous and focused on sensuality, greed, and impurity.  Chapter five verse two encourages us to walk in love just like Jesus and verse eight tells us to walk as children of Light.  And sort of like a summary, verse fifteen tells us to be careful how we walk, making the most of our time, understanding the will of the Lord.

God has gone to great lengths to teach us how to walk.  He has described what a life dedicated to Christ looks like and He has provided encouragement as we leave behind our life of sin and rebellion and start walking with Him.  He has also, in His great wisdom, provided painful reminders when we take a wrong step, head down the wrong path, or try to revert back to walking with the world.  The consequences of sin should provide those sharp and pointed reminders that we are not in line with the will of God.

Our job is to be careful, to be watchful, to be observant in our walk.  Who do we surround ourselves with in this life and what kind of influence do they have on us?  What do we fill our minds with and is it leading us closer to God or farther away?  What are we pursuing?  How do we spend our time?  What are our priorities?

When we get up every morning and start our day, what deliberate steps do we take to ensure we are walking with God?  Do we direct our paths or do we allow the world around us to push us along in whatever direction it happens to be heading at the moment?  Are we living life at such a rapid pace that we fail to consider the consequences of the decisions we make and the path we are taking?

Slow down.

Walk with a purpose.

The Calling and The Walk

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,”  Ephesians 4:1

I’ve been listening to a series of lessons by Andy Cantrell on the letter to the Ephesians.  I’ve provided the link below if you’d like to take a listen.  Among other things, Andy did a tremendous job in identifying and simplifying the structure of the letter.  I believe that if you can get an overall picture of a book it allows you to understand, and apply, the more specific instruction in a powerful way.

Andy looked at chapter four verse one as the pivot point in the letter.  Paul implores the Christians to “walk…worthy of the calling.”  Chapters one through three describes the “calling” and chapters four through six describe the walk.

When you think about the “calling” of the Christian, what do you think of?  Do you think of our behavior, our language, our attitude?  Do you think of being kind and generous and loving?  Maybe you think of the things we are not to do, avoiding sinful behavior.  That is how I used to think but in reality I was thinking of the walk.  Paul implores us to walk worthy of the calling, meaning the walk and the calling are two different things.  The calling is the “why” behind our walk.  In other words, our behavior, our language, our attitudes, avoiding sin is because we have been called.

So how does Paul describe our calling?  Well, we’d have to discuss all the amazing things in Ephesians chapters one through three and we don’t have time for that in this short article.  I’d like us to consider one of the recurring themes or phrases from the first three chapters.

“to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”  1:6

“to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.”  1:12

“who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” 1:14

In addition, notice how often God’s glory is referenced.

“the Father of glory” 1:17

“according to the riches of His glory” 3:16

“to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” 3:21

One of the essential attributes of our calling is God’s glory.  The Greek word for glory (doksa) literally means “what evokes good opinion, i.e. that something has inherent, intrinsic worth.”  The mercy and grace and kindness and love that God has lavished upon us should result in praising God’s glory.  The planning and execution of our redemption should result in praising God’s glory.  Our entire purpose is to generate praise of His glory.

So why do I walk a certain way?  Why is my behavior and language and attitude different than the world around me?  Why are my relationships with my wife and kids and co-workers and neighbors different?  Why should I try to live up to a certain standard, trying to understand what pleases God?  Because I’ve been called to bring praise to the glory of God.

This understanding of my purpose, of my calling changes things.  All that I do in my walk is not about me.  It is not about being better than those around me.  It is not about avoiding eternal punishment or securing my place in heaven.  My walk is about God’s glory and when I conduct myself in a worthy manner I will help generate praise to God.

As we get up and get ready to go out and face the world this morning, let us consider what our walk says about our Father in heaven.  Do our lives praise the glory of God?


Household Idols

“So Michal let David down through the window, and he went out and fled and escaped.  Michal took the household idol and laid it on the bed, and put a quilt of goats’ hair at its head, and covered it with clothes.”  I Samuel 19:12-13

This is one of the many occasions when King Saul is trying to kill David.  Michal helps David escape and uses the “household idol” to deceive her father.  It must have been a fairly large object for it to pass as a full grown man.  This is one of those passages that is frustrating in its lack of detail and generates more questions than answers.

What is this thing?  Is it supposed to represent Yahweh or some false pagan deity?

Why does God’s anointed King have a household idol?

Why does godly David allow this thing to exist?

Is this household idol evidence of the extent of Saul’s departure from God?

I don’t have the answers but this passage got me thinking about my family.  Do we have any household idols?  Are there things that we prop up and put on a pedestal, knocking God out of His proper place in our home?  Entertainment, hobbies, a comfortable lifestyle are always a focus in my home.  These are things that might be harmless on the surface but can quickly start to suck up our time and resources and pull us away from God.

The scary thing is that even family its self can become a household idol.  We have all seen the destruction that a broken home causes and the culture around us bears witness that there is a great need for fathers to be more involved.  But what is the focus of our involvement?

I spend time with my wife and kids.  I’m involved in their lives and their interests.  I support their dreams and provide the foundation and skills so that they can be successful and become productive members of society.  But to what end?  Is all my time and attention and effort simply so they can be good citizens, secure a good living, and continue in the lifestyle that I have provided for them?  Is my goal to love them so that they are psychologically healthy and don’t have to spend a fortune on therapy in the future?

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”  Psalm 127:3-4

When a warrior shoots an arrow, where does it go?  Exactly where the warrior wants it to!  What am I aiming at with children?  What are my goals for my family?

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Ephesians 6:4

“Bring them up” means to nourish, to nurture, to “feed to the desired outcome”.  What am I feeding my kids?  What is my family growing up to become?

The solution is not to cut all the entertainment, recreational, educational, and sports related activities out of your family life and replace them with around the clock bible study.  The solution is to more fully understand our purpose.  We were created to bring glory to our God.  That purpose should be reflected in everything we do.  Every family activity can focus on who God is and what He has done for us.

The ride to baseball practice can be a discussion about the wisdom of God and how he designed such an amazing body.  The family vacation can involve the power of God reflected in creation and the importance of rest as we remember the story of creation.  Cleaning up and doing chores can focus on the blessing of being able to work and satisfaction of doing all our work for the Lord.  Struggling over school work can be combined with a short bible study to emphasize the education with eternal rewards.  Dealing with the heartbreak of boyfriends/girlfriends and broken relationships is an opportunity to show God’s comfort.  Waiting at the bus stop is the perfect opportunity to thank God for the goodnight of sleep and pray for a productive day.  And showing love to our wives and our children in so many different ways should be a reflection of the love the Father has shown to us.  In all things we can bring glory to God.

“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”  Deuteronomy 6:7

Out of all the gifts and blessings that God has bestowed on me, my family is one of the only things that I can take with me into eternity.

For when dreams increase

Because much talk comes from dreams and things of no purpose. But let the fear of God be in you.
(Ecclesiastes 5:7, Bible in Basic English)

For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.
(Ecclesiastes 5:7, English Standard Version)

You and I may have all kinds of ideas and “dreams” that come to our mind, but that does not mean they are all good ideas or great directions we should travel. Those ideas and dreams can lead us in a thousand different directions, and we have to develop discipline in how we deal with those ideas and plans.

There are many directions we can go in our business and in our homes, and many new things we can buy or try. What can happen is that we can dive into 20 or 3o things that sound like a great idea to do, and we end up not doing anything well at all.

We could learn a lesson from Nehemiah. It seems that in chapter 1-2 he spent months praying and developing a plan for rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. And when he returned home, he did several days of surveying Jerusalem with just a few people (Nehemiah 2:11-15). He wasn’t talking to a lot of people. He developed a firm plan, and then spoke to the leadership.

Nehemiah didn’t just stroll into Jerusalem, stand on the rubble, and confidently proclaim to all that he had an awesome idea about rebuilding the walls. He was disciplined and formulated the details of the plan in prayer before he started talking much about it.

Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode.
(Nehemiah 2:12)

Again, just because you have a good idea that pops into your head doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to share with others. That good idea might take you and others in the opposite direction from the last great idea you had. Take time to be silent, take time to pray, take time to plan. Ask wise counsel from a very select few.

The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.
(Proverbs 16:1-3)

Christians Rebuild, Raise Up, and Repair

They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.
(Isaiah 61:4)

At our congregation we just wrapped up a special series of lessons by Andy Cantrell on Finding Our Purpose from the Past. Andy did such a marvelous job of opening our eyes to what God prophesied about the Christian in the Old Testament. In those passages we were shown what God was going to do for us and what God was going to do through us.

One of those passages we looked at last night was Isaiah 61. Andy helped us to see through Isaiah 61:4 that the mission of the Christian is to rebuild, repair and raise up. We are helping to rebuild and restore the broken lives of others. God has taken us out of darkness and brought us into light. Just like Jesus, He raised us up from the dead to walk in newness of life. Jesus came to preach good news to the afflicted, to heal the brokenhearted, and to free the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1-3). All of this of course was intended in a spiritual sense.

So if God did this for us, what can God do through us? If He rebuilt our broken lives, what does He want to do with us? He wants us to see the broken lives of others and help those poor, brokenhearted prisoners turn to the saving and healing power of Jesus.

Do we see the poor and the brokenhearted and the captive all around us? Do we see them at work? Do we see them at school? Do we notice them in our neighborhoods? Do we care enough for them to help them see Jesus? Are we going to take our calling seriously as re-builders and repairers?

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
(Isaiah 61:10-11)

Finding Our Purpose from the Past

This coming weekend, we are having a guest speaker, Andy Cantrell, to come and give a series of lessons around the theme:

“Finding Our Purpose from the Past”

Old Testament Images of New Covenant People.

May 6-9

South Macomb Church of Christ

18551 Eastland, Roseville, MI 48066

Click here for pdf of meeting flyer


Here is a link where you can listen to these lessons that Andy presented at another congregation.

If you are in the area, we’d love to have you with us!


God Has Given Them Work To Do

For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:26)

We all have work to do, whether we are righteous or wicked. God keeps us busy. But in the Scripture we see that God keeps the wicked busy preparing money and things that will in some way end up in the hands of righteous people. This is not to mean that we as God’s people sit around on our duffs and wait for God to take away money from others and give it to us. Nor is it to mean that because we are Christians we are going to be blessed with tons of money.

What it does mean is that God will take care of His people, and sometimes that means He takes care of His people by “transferring funds” from the wicked. How the Lord does that is up to Him, but we see lots of examples of this in Scripture.

What it also means is that the wicked think they are busy taking care of themselves and heaping up riches, but they are only busying themselves in vain. Their purpose in life is selfish and focused merely on getting more stuff. All that stuff eventually goes away, and it is through the merciful hand of God that He directs it toward caring for His children.

Though he heap up silver like dust, and pile up clothing like clay, he may pile it up, but the righteous will wear it, and the innocent will divide the silver.
(Job 27:16-17)

Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
(Proverbs 13:21-22)

Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
(Proverbs 28:8)

The Israelites walked out of Egypt with the wealth of the Egyptians. It looks like a lot of that wealth ended up being used to build the Tabernacle (Genesis 15:14; Exodus 12:35-36; 35:21-22). God’s house was built with the wealth of the Gentiles (compare with Isaiah 60:5,11). Moses’ mother, Jochebed, was paid wages from Pharaoh’s house to nurse her own son (Exodus 2:1-10).

Let’s end with two more passages, one from Deuteronomy and one from the Psalms. Why did God pour out the wealth of the Gentiles upon Israel? Look at the following passages.

He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness. He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, and they inherited the labor of the nations, that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws. Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 105:43-45)

Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest–when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end–then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 8:11-20)

Let’s not forget our purpose! Let’s not forget why God put us on our earth. If we are busy, let’s remember God in the busy-ness! Otherwise, we are just busy heaping up stuff that will go to someone else.

Created With Purpose

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10)

When God created water, it was given a purpose, and that is to water the earth. When God said, “Let there be light,” it had a purpose. Because of light we have life, growth, seasons, years, etc. Everything God created had a purpose.

The Christian is a new creation. We are His workmanship. God took what was dead and lifeless and breathed new life into it (Ephesians 2:1,5). He spoke into the darkness of our souls and said “Let there be light” (2 Corinthians 4:6). He turned a valley of dry bones into a massive spirit-filled army (Ezekiel 37). We are that army (Ephesians 6:10-18). God created us as new creatures, but just like light and water, we have a purpose. God created light in our souls because He wants us to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). God didn’t create water just to sit in a lake, nor did He do such amazing things within us so that we fail to fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

So, thinking of all this, why did God create marriage? What is the purpose of marriage? How is God glorified through marriage?

Marriage is to be held in honor among all (Hebrews 13:4). By living in a relationship that God created and supports, we are honoring God and teaching the world about God’s ways and how His ways are best.

Marriage mirrors the relationship that Christ has with the church (Ephesians 5:21-33). In marriage we learn so much about love, respect, and submission to each other in very similar ways to how the church interacts with Jesus.

In marriage, God wants us to enjoy the marriage and grow old joyfully together (Ecclesiastes 9:9). It’s sad to see Christians be so miserable in marriage. When those who don’t even believe in God have better relationships and communication in marriage than those who should know better, it doesn’t say much for the Christian’s claim that God’s ways are best. God’s name is reviled when God’s people don’t behave as they should in the home (Titus 2:5). Sometimes the Christian couple is just miserable because they don’t like each other, but can’t divorce. God wants better for you, and that isn’t pie in the sky religious talk, it’s true. Marriage, God’s way, should have joy and peace. When we are miserable in marriage, then we are not fulfilling the purpose for which the relationship was created. Get help from godly Christians who can sit down with you and guide you into a better marriage.

God seeks godly offspring. One way God is glorified through marriage and one way we accomplish the purpose for which marriage was created is to bring godly children up in our homes (Malachi 2; Psalm 127-128). Just as water is created to help bring life into the world and  continue to nurture that life, we are given the blessing of marriage to water our precious children’s souls.

A Song of Ascents. Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.
(Psalm 128:1-4)

It’s All About Perspective

What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
(Ecclesiastes 1:3)

I’m preparing right now to teach a class on Ecclesiastes at our congregation, so I’ve been reading it quite a bit and trying to get the flow of the writer’s thinking. I’m assuming the writer is Solomon, but I know there’s debate about that. Solomon begins with a question, “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”

In the first two chapters, Solomon goes through all the things he has tested, seen, experienced and observed. He tries everything including, wisdom, work, wine and women. It all leaves him wanting. By the middle of chapter 2, he gives an answer to his question…there is NOTHING to be gained.

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 2:11)

Where does this leave this great and wise king?

So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
(Ecclesiastes 2:17-21)

He hates life! He hated all his toil! He gives his heart up to despair! “What’s the point?”, he asks in anguish.

But then at the end of chapter 2, Solomon seems to completely contradict himself and say that you should enjoy your toil.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
(Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)

What? Are you barking mad, Solomon? You just said you hated it and life, now you told me to enjoy it?

Go back and read through chapter 1:1 through chapter 2:23 and look for what you don’t find there. What you don’t find there is God. There is one reference to God in 1:13 but it is not a positive outlook on God. God is basically missing from the first two chapters. Why was Solomon’s conclusion about his work so despairing and negative? Because he was doing all this without a mindset of connecting it all to his relationship with God.

If life only consists of going to work, getting money, building stuff, going places, being entertained and getting in and out of relationships, then yes life is quite the unhappy business! Is it any wonder why the suicide rate is so high? Solomon’s question answers that with Spirit-filled wisdom and accuracy:

For apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”

When Solomon turned his perspective to God and looked for God’s involvement, then things turned around in his mind. When the great-old-wise king began seeing God’s purpose and God’s working in things, the enjoyment came back. Brightness comes back to his eyes, and a spring comes back in his step. There is meaning to all of this, and yes, we can enjoy this fleeting life, because God is here with us.

It’s all about perspective. You can go to the same job and do the same work, but have two very different attitudes about it. We can live with the same wife and kids, and have two very different perspectives. As you look around the house and property and see all that you have and all you have to do, you can look at it as a curse and drudgery, or you can see it as a blessing.

So which will you be? Will you be the Ecclesiastes 2:18 Solomon that hates work or the 2:24 Solomon that loves work and finds enjoyment in it? It all comes down to where your focus is.