stories, lessons, and a lot of nonsense

stepping out in faith

I’m reading through the book of Joshua right now, and even though I’ve read that book many times, I feel like I either notice new things for the first time, or at least I’m focusing on things for the first time.  This time through, Joshua 3 has really stood out to me.  In Joshua 3, the people of Israel are heading to the Promise Land, and God instructs them to camp near the Jordan River.  God tells the people to be ready, because He was going to show Himself in a mighty way.

God tells the people that God is going to part the Jordan River, so they can cross it safely as they enter the Promise Land.  The people are told that as soon as the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant come to rest (or stand still) in the river, God would part it.  So the people got ready, watched, and waited.  But there were men who did not wait.  There were men whose faith was required before God was going to move.  The people watching could have been wishy-washy about the situation.  They could have had a “wait and see” approach to the promise.  Maybe God would part the river, maybe He wouldn’t.  There was little investment for them.

The men carrying the Ark of the Covenant had to be fully invested.  They had to step into the river.  Joshua 3:15 notes that the river was overflowing its banks (the river in spring time was significantly deeper, faster flowing, and more treacherous than the rest of the year, due to rain and melting snow).  Stepping in was a big deal.  If God didn’t act in the way He said He would act, they very well could have been swept away by the current and drowned.  But they believed God, knowing Who He was, knowing His character, and knowing His faithfulness, so they stepped out.  And in His character, God protected them, provided for them, and allowed them to cross.

Sometimes God does ask us to step out in faith, and the step He asks us to take is treacherous.  It can be a dangerous step that requires complete faith, knowing that if God doesn’t show up, we’re going to be in a world of hurt.  This is the type of faith God wants from us, and sometimes He will call us to act upon it.  Faith that He will do what only He can do.  Faith to do what we cannot do without His intervention.  If God calls on you to take such  step, would you make that step?  Would you step into the river, knowing it will overpower you unless God intervenes?  I hope that I would.

the opposite of full life

We recently had our 25th anniversary service here at KCC, which was a fun time.  The music was great, seeing videos from people whose lives have been impacted by KCC over the years was encouraging, and I found the teaching to be inspiring.  Pastor Dave spoke about the church’s vision: that we be a body of believers experiencing full life in Christ.  Now, I’ve heard this before.  As a staff member, I’m certain I’ve heard it more than anyone reading this.  So how could something I’ve heard before inspire me again and again?  Well, I’m not living a full life in Christ in all areas of my life yet.  I’m striving for it, but I’m not there yet.  I didn’t have to think long and hard about what to write on my paper when asked what areas you I knew I most needed growth in, because I’m already aware and working on them.  I need to pursue a full life in Christ as much as the next guy.

Anyway, Pastor Dave is speaking on the vision of the church, so naturally he puts up John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and destroy, but I (Jesus) have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”  I really can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that verse, but if you go here, you know it’s someone close to 1,000,000 times.  Right?  We’ve done whole series on full life in Christ, and while looking at different parts of full life and how we can live that out, we always come back and reference this verse.  I know this verse.  I did not look it up.  I just typed it.  It’s ingrained in my heart and mind. And yet, as God often does with passages we’ve read several times, He brought something new to my mind.

We often look at the Full Life side of this verse, as we should.  But God impressed on me, as I listened to Pastor Dave read the verse, that I need to also pay attention to that first part of the verse.  There are two opposite options here: full life in Christ, or death, theft, and/or destruction from the thief, the enemy.  And I pondered that the rest of the day, and well into the week.  And I came to an important conclusion.

Succumbing to temptation is a bigger deal than we tell ourselves when faced with it.  I should probably say than the enemy tells us when tempting us, because the lies are from him.  But we listen, and we repeat the lies to ourselves, so either phrase is fine.  When faced with temptation, we might reconcile it with not being a big deal, it’s only once, wonder what the harm will be, and who it could hurt if no one even knows about it.  We make it out to be a decision without consequences, and since it’s what we want, we do tend to succumb to it.  But the truth is, temptation is presented by the enemy, by the thief.  What’s he trying to do?  Kill you, steal something from you, and/or destroy you.  Sounds pretty serious.

So I took this conclusion and thought about something I had preached about recently, which is being equipped with the Word of God to ward off spiritual attacks from the enemy (from Ephesians 6).  I mentioned that it’s important to memorize Scripture, especially as it pertains to the areas we are most tempted, so that when we are tempted, we can deflect it with the truth of the Word of God.  I believe that.  But maybe you don’t know where to start, or maybe you have too many avenues of temptation you’re fighting off to memorize that much Scripture that quickly.  I don’t know.  But you can start here. Memorize John 10:10 if you haven’t already, and when you are tempted, throw that one back at the enemy.

Rebuke the enemy when you’re tempted.  “I know you’re trying to kill me, steal from me, and destroy me, and I won’t have it.  I want to experience life to the full in Christ!”  I’ve been exercising this the last couple of weeks when I’ve been tempted in different areas.  And then I take time to talk to God about it, and then I wonder what area of my full life is the enemy after?  Is he trying to steal something specific from me or destroy a particular area of my life? Is what he’s tempting me with worth that particular cost?  The answer has been no every time. Most importantly for me, drawing a contrast between what’s being offered and what I have and can have in Christ helped me shrug off the repeat temptations when they come back around.  I already know what the cost will be, I know what he wants to do in my life, and I’m just not willing to give up a full life in Christ – in my relationship with Him, in my marriage, in my family, in my friendships, etc – for a quick fix that’ll leave me worse off.

Choose to overcome temptation for the sake of full life.

no leftovers

Growing up, the worst thing I could hear about dinner was that we were having leftovers.  I know some people love leftovers, but I am not one of those people.  The only time I really enjoy them is post Thanksgiving, and even then, there’s about a one-day window for me.  After that, I just don’t want it.  I’m not even good about eating food I bring home from a restaurant, because it’s never going to be as good as it used to be.  It’ll be second rate at best.

You certainly wouldn’t want to eat leftovers for a special occasion, though some people do eat their wedding cake on their first anniversary (I did not, because I don’t even like fresh cake).  Sarah and I recently celebrated our 15th anniversary, and though we had food leftover in the refrigerator, we did not eat it.  We were on vacation with our sons, so we didn’t go sit down at a romantic dinner, but we did go celebrate (vacationing was part of that, in fact).  We did not spend the day in silence, either.  We spoke to each other throughout the day, we told each other that we love each other, we expressed how happy we were to be married to each other, and so on.  Though we’ve said it all in the past, we continued to say it, because it remains true, active, and central to our lives.

Sadly, many Christians treat God to leftovers and settle for past expressions of love for Him.  I’m included in that.  I certainly have done that and do that from time to time.  I don’t give Him my very best everyday, and sometimes the stories of my relationship with Him are past dated and stale, because I have nothing new to say.  What I find is that when I a not actively investing in my relationship with Him, I still have stories to tell, but I have nothing new to say.  I can always point back to last month, last year, some great time in my past when I’ve experienced Him.  Of course, I can, because He is faithful, and His mercies are new every morning.  And I do not think it’s wrong to speak to God’s faithfulness and presence over time; on the contrary, I think it’s good to recount how God has blessed us throughout our lives.  But we should never be content in our spiritual life based on how we had experienced Him, how we had served Him, how we had sought Him.  We should not be content with giving or receiving leftovers, when there is more to be given, more to be received, and more of Him to be experienced.  Philippians 3:13-16 says:

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

Let’s not hang our hats on what we’ve already done and already attained, but at the same time, we should hold onto the truth of what we have attained while we continue to press on in our walk with Christ.  Don’t settle for leftovers.  Keep pressing on, keep growing, keep seeking to experience full life in Christ, in every area of your life.

This song did not initially click with me.  It didn’t speak to me in any positive way, and I really didn’t feel empowered when we would sing it in church. On the contrary, I would hear this song and feel a little guilty.  I wrestled with it, because I thought, “I can’t sing that.  I get shaken all of the time.”  Because when things get bad – and sometimes they do get bad and even really bad – I feel emotionally shaken up.  I thought that my emotions betrayed me as a person of faith.  I mean, if I really had faith, wouldn’t I be able to handle everything in stride?  The answer is yes and no.  The true answer is yes, but the problem is that the question I asked myself was from an American understanding, not a Biblical understanding.

The American understanding is to conflate shaken with shaken up.  That’s how I heard it as it was sang, and I even sang it while praying quietly that I would get better at this.  But now I understand that being shaken is not the same as being shaken up, and I learned it right on time and right out of the Bible.  There is no shame or lack of faith in having emotions.  Jesus even had them.  He wept at Lazarus’ dying, even knowing He would raise him from the dead.  He was pretty emotionally shaken up when He prayed in the garden.  He was distressed.  But He wasn’t shaken.  Again, there is a difference, and it can be seen in the passage that I assume this song was borne out of.


If it wasn’t this passage, it was one of the several others that communicate the same message, or maybe all of them at once.  I can’t say.  What I can say that reading these two verses and stopping without reading the rest of the Psalm will do you a disservice.  It will give you a wrong understanding.  It may make you think that if someone puts all their hope in God alone, he will never be shaken up, but that wouldn’t be consistent with the words of the author.  For in verse three, he compares himself to a broken down wall or a disheveled fence, and in verse seven, he refers to God as a refuge, which he was in need of.  He was emotional shaky, as I have been, and I assume you have been, yet he says again in verse six that he will not be shaken.

To be shaken means to be moved or greatly moved, to be dislodged, dropped, and overcome.  If a person is rooted in God, in His Word, then no matter what comes his way, he will know that he cannot be moved.  I may feel like a broken down wall, but I will not fall away or drop.  I may feel like a disheveled fence, swaying back and forth, but I will not be dislodged.  The storms of life may beat on me, but they will not wash me away.  Things will happen in my life that leave me emotionally shaken up, in tears, unsure of where to go next, but because my hope, my salvation, and my faith is in God alone, I will not be shaken.  My faith will not be altered.  My joy will not be stolen.  Because these, along with my salvation, is in Christ alone.  And as I wait, sometimes for a while, and sometimes in silence, for Him to intercede on my behalf, my faith will assure me that He will indeed intercede.  He is my rock.  He is my refuge.  He is my source of life.

There’s a Time

One thing I love about living in Michigan is having all four seasons. When we lived in Florida, it did not feel like we had four seasons.    Everything was close to the same to me. If it wasn’t too hot for me at the beginning of the day, I knew it would be too hot for me by the end of the day.   I missed having a crisp fall. I even missed the cold and snow of winter.  By the end of a long Summer, which is usually way too hot for my liking, I really look forward to and appreciate cooler weather. And by the end of winter, I grow tired of the bitter cold and look forward to a little warmer weather. As seasons change, I welcome the change.

Life moves in seasons, too. Some are extreme and uncomfortable, some seem perfect and relaxing.  Some are joyful, while others are sorrowful. Not all seasons of life will be the same, and we shouldn’t expect them to be. I don’t always appreciate the difficult seasons in my life, but when I pass through them into a more enjoyable season, they do cause me to appreciate the next season more. When I am in a difficult time in life, I always look forward to a particular time or season that I know will be better.  I hold out hope for a better time, hopefully this side of Heaven.

I don’t know what season your life is in, but if it’s not going so well, be encouraged. God is not missing in action. He’s moving and working, and hopefully soon you’ll be in the next season, appreciating it even more when you compare it to the last one.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” ‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

sometimes it’s hard

Somehow, somewhere along the way, some people got the idea that by becoming a Christian, life would be smooth sailing.  It could be because there are a lot of pastors who assert as much with great consistency.  But the Bible doesn’t teach that.  The Bible assures us that we will fall into various trials, and we should count it a joy, because of the maturing it brings.  We see anecdotal evidence all throughout the New Testament: we see the persecuted, the prisoners, and even martyrs throughout Acts.  And in our own lives, we’ve seen people of faith struggle, maybe even seen our families struggle, and we might have struggled ourselves.  Modern and historical reality do not line up with this perception, but we sometimes still carry it.

We can tell that we carry it when we begin to ask certain questions.  If something difficult in your life happens, you might begin to ask what you did to bring it on yourself.  Why?  Because you have a perception that walking with God should mean easy street.  When you begin to ask God how He could allow something to happen to you, you reveal that you assumed your walk with Him should preclude you from certain hardships.  And it’s not just personal; sometimes it’s external.  We wonder what that person did to deserve what they’re going through, how they made their life a mess, and so on.

But here’s the reality.  Life is hard sometimes, even as a Christian, and sometimes especially as a Christian. There road God calls you to walk on isn’t always straight, smooth, or easy.  In fact, it’s often the opposite.  Matthew 7:14 says, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  It’s difficult.  Do you know what David called the road God brought him down in Psalm 23?  The valley of the shadow of death.  But David also gives us hope in that same Psalm.  The same verse says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 ESV)

When life is difficult, don’t ask why God is doing something to you.  Do ask Him how He wants you to grow through it.  Don’t feel like God has abandoned you.  He hasn’t! Thank Him for being there with you in the midst of it.  Thank Him for carrying you.


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it pleased the Father

How much do you supposed God loves you and me?  John 3:16 tells us that He loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son, so that through believing in Him, we could have eternal life.  That’s a great demonstration of love.  But was He happy to do it?  Did He only send Jesus, begrudgingly or hesitantly, to die, because it was necessary?  Was He conflicted about it?

I always think of God the Father’s position in this from the viewpoint of an earthly father, which doesn’t really make sense anyway.  I think that He surely must have been conflicted, because there’s no way I could do such a thing willingly.  Then again, I would do it at all.  I wouldn’t give up either of my sons, not to save an entire planet from certain doom.  I’d do what I could to save my boys.  So I’m not a good comparison to God.  And in not being a good comparison, I can’t really attribute my emotions to God or understand His mindset.  I assume He was conflicted, anguished, like someone who was forced into it.  But He wasn’t.  It was absolutely His will, and it pleased Him to do it.  How do we know?  Look at Isaiah 53:4-10.  I have used the Holman Christian Standard Bible, because I think it best conveys the thoughts and emotions behind the sacrifice.

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Now, you may look at whatever version you use and say, “but my version says it was His will, not it pleased Him.”  Most versions say this.  But there are different kinds of will.  I will do that, but I’m not happy to do that.  It may be my will to do this, so that something bad doesn’t happen (especially to me), but take away any fallout, and it wouldn’t be my will.  But then there is my will, which is intrinsically in my heart.  It cannot be changed.  It makes me happy.  I have a will to do it, because to do it would please me greatly.  This is the kind of will we see in Isaiah 53:10.  It was His will, because He took pleasure in choosing to crush Jesus severely.  It wasn’t a will of obligation, because the ends justified the means, and so He would live with the means.  No, it was the will of a Father – our Father – who was happy to do whatever it took to save us, to redeem us, and to protect us.

It’s important to take the whole definition into account when reading the Bible.  I never did with this verse.  I always made assumptions and projected my feelings into the text.  But it’s important, because we get the full meaning.  This is part of studying.  We must take the whole definition into account, how it’s used throughout the Bible, and this will help us arrive at an understanding.  In this case, I understand that God’s love for me was even greater than I assumed, because His pleasure was in my salvation so much so that it even pleased Him to crush Jesus severely. I never thought about it like that, but I will now remember that when I think about Christ’s dying on the cross.  It pleased Him.

If you want to read the Bible and study it more in depth, here’s a great resource: The Blue Letter Bible.  You can look up passages in whatever version you use, click on specific verses to look at them more deeply and see what the original words used actually were, and then you can click on that word to see its full definition, how many times it’s used in the Bible, and how it was used in each passage.  And it’s a free tool!  Below is the screen shot from the exact word in Isaiah 53:10 that lets us know it pleased God to do this for us.

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