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Part 6 of 6
This passage of Scripture is about obedience. When we do what God wants, that is always good. But, when we fail to complete God’s will that is not good. Partial obedience is NOT obedience.
When Israel could not remove the Canaanites completely, they subjugated them to serve the Israelites. That is not what God directed His people to do. Now, the enemy was living among them with an influence that God never intended His people to have.
God wants His people to assess their abilities and trust Him in total dependence to give us success in our obedience. He will make possible what we cannot do on our own. Total obedience is the only obedience that God accepts.
Is there something that you have started for the Lord but have not finished it? Did you give up too early when a task became too difficult? Have you been living with the justification that what you have done is “good enough”?
Recall God’s instructions to you. Pick up the tools and finish what He wanted you to do. Never quit early. He will be all you need to accomplish His tasks.
Thanks for joining me on this journey through the Scriptures.
When I was invited to serve as the professor on one of the Insight for Living buses during a tour of the Holy Land, I was ecstatic. It was an honor and privilege to teach people what it meant to be in the Land of the Savior. During my early morning hours before work and late night moments after coming home from work, I poured over the itinerary and studied the Scriptures pertinent to the journey.
Then, in the mail my wife and I received a list of names. These would be the pilgrims who would be travelling with us on Bus #11. We were designated the Caramel bus.
We scanned the names on the list. Also, we noted the cities and states that they called home. During our initial exposure we tried to guess families and individuals by their last names.
There was not much information to go on as we formed in our minds who these travelers were and what they would be like. Since we had no pictures or descriptions we did what we could do. We prayed for them.
Everyone needs prayer. Few people turn down that service by others on their behalf. Besides when we pray for others we start to remember their names.
Then, the date of meeting arrived. We were in the hotel at Tel Aviv. Our team had been there a day in advance.
Hotel hospitality, tour company personnel, bus shepherds and bus professor couples lined up at the entrance. Guests arrived by the bus load. We greeted our pilgrims with smiles, handshakes, delicious beverages and sweets.
Most of those who entered were a bit shell-shocked. They were surrounded by mostly strangers. These were friendlies but strangers, nevertheless.
Many conversations and introductions were filling the quiet air with laughter, enthusiasm, stories and hopes. Endless questions were scattered in those moments and answers were plentiful. We achieved our goal to orient everyone to the next steps and get them situated comfortably in their hotel rooms.
Dinner was exciting. The travel team expertly had everyone’s attention. Musicians and worship leaders were brilliant.
The anticipation of a well-run, sharp and spiritually minded lead team was firmly established in all of our minds. Now, it was off to bed. A few night owls kept the rumble of new-found conversations and the beginning of new friendships flourishing.
Now, half way through the tour, we knew each others names. We easily expressed our awe at the places we visited. Tears, smiles and teasing we now common since we had been transformed from strangers to friends.
photo credit: brucefong photography
Part 5 of 6
So many who live outside of the faith take potshots at the Scriptures. They accuse God of showing favoritism toward men and against women. Selectively, they point at events that give men favorable treatment.
Few ever point to this section in Joshua 17. Here God reveals that He is the best thing that ever happened to the honor of women. Divinity is not chauvinistic but gracious.
Zelophehad had no sons but only daughters. During the distribution of the land, what was to become of his offspring? The girls did not remain silent.
They took the initiative and went to the leaders including Joshua. In careful recollection they quoted the words of Moses and the promises of God. An inheritance was to be theirs.
Joshua did not make an exception. He simply did what was right in God’s eyes. Land was given to these daughters. They embraced the gift.
These women did not protest or whine. Deliberately, they made their case and the leadership of Israel granted their request. God demonstrates His favor toward women.
It is not about equality. There is nothing about fairness. Everything in this episode is about doing what is right. Righteousness is always God’s will.
Part 4 of 6
In contrast to Caleb’s securing his borders and expanding his territories, Judah is not as successful. The description for the large tribe is disheartening. Here the Scripture simply says “Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites.”
Some may sympathize and justify Judah’s effort as being their best. Yet, the lingering consequences of this failure impact Israel’s future. Jerusalem as a city is impacted for generations.
The subtle truth is that Judah could not dislodge the enemy. A stubborn enemy is not overcome by our own efforts but how we depend on God to work through us to achieve His objectives. If Judah had come before the Lord and sought His strength instead of depending upon their own strength, the outcome would have been different.
Failure in faith is contagious. What we choose not to do or overlook in our faith efforts discourages others from trying. Remember those who are watching and depending on your initiatives to exemplify faith living.
That day thirty-seven years ago was a massive blessing that would grow into enormous proportions. Over three decades later and closing in on four our wedding vows launched us on an amazing adventure together as husband and wife. Together we committed ourselves not only to each other but to our Lord and His calling of ministry.
We packed up all of our earthly belongings and loaded it all into my 1973 Toyota pickup truck. It was the basic model. The transmission was four on the floor with no radio or A/C.
It would be 18 hours of driving from Hayward, CA to Dallas, TX. Without air conditioning the trip would seem to be much longer, much much longer. We melted together in that searing Texas heat and humidity.
Nevertheless, our last year at Dallas Theological Seminary was one of our best. We grew spiritually as individuals and blended together as a couple. Memories and friendships became foundational for us.
Over the next three decades we lived the adventure of being shepherds of God’s people, training those whom He called into ministry, traveling overseas for the rigors of theological postgraduate education and reveling in the joy of ministry on a personal scale with people from all over the world. Three amazing children joined us on the adventure. Together we laughed, cried and rejoiced through Oregon, Scotland, Michigan, California and back to Texas.
Two of our children found spouses who loved the Lord, our last child finished his graduate school, Yvonne completed her Masters degree, a grandchild was born and we loved and wept our way through several family pets. Our legacy in five children are scattered throughout the West. My bride and I are honored to be in Houston.
The seminary that trained me for ministry brought me back to be a part of its leadership team. Team Houston is the second campus of Dallas Seminary. I serve here as the Dean.
My bride and I live in Katy. Together we soak in the Texas mystique. We have downsized our lifestyle as couple to match living on the other side of the hill.
Whatever God wants we are pleased to do. Wherever He has sent us we have gladly gone. Whatever burden or trial we were called to bear, we trusted Him without balking.
37 years of blessing is a long time but it promises me that He will give us more years to come as we keep on walking in total obedience and immediate obedience to His leading. Happy Anniversary, Yvonne! I love you!
photo credit: brucefong photography
Part 3 of 6
Israel had completed the major battles to take the Promised Land. Now, the tribes were receiving their allotments of real estate. Caleb sets the example.
He accepted his designated land with relish. His first reaction was to finish driving out the enemy on his own. He did not complain that it was dangerous, too hard or infested with the enemy. Instead, he assessed the challenge and took it on with a full frontal effort.
Caleb did not end there. It was not enough to secure what was given to him. He expanded his territories with continued courageous effort.
When he needed help, he called on his family and friends. They joined him to widen their borders. Othniel his nephew joined in on those swashbuckling ventures.
When God makes His will clear to us, do we moan about how difficult it will be? Do we look for the easy way out? Or do we jump at the opportunity to choose trust in God to continue His faithful work in us while we take and multiply what lies in front of us?
Part 2 of 6
During one of my forays into making money as a single guy, I was putting up sheet rock. The skilled craftsman that I was assisting taught me a valuable lesson. He pointed out that the job of dry walling is made so much easier when the rough carpenter before us built walls that were square.
In my history readings the Colt Firearms Company designed the amazing M-16 weapon that was introduced during the Viet Nam War. Quickly it was criticized for jamming during battle. The company soon learned that training was necessary for the soldiers carrying the weapon so that they knew how to clean the gun. Once the soldiers were taught how to clean the rifle it lived up to the hype of being the modern dependable weapon that it was.
These two lessons converge on the same theme. Make good choices now for the lingering affects later. Those affects not only impact our lives but the lives of many who follow.
In the spiritual realm the same truth applies. Our choices today as they relate to our walk with Christ will have severe implications on our tomorrow. Decisions on morality between a young couple, choosing to be honest in testing, consciously selecting which friends to influence our lives, acting on conscience not to steal or meddle in the privacy of others sets the course for our tomorrows.
Part 1 of 6
For over 20 years I was part of the Portland Trailblazer NBA Rip City “fanmania”. It was the only professional sports franchise in the city. That alone qualified all the citizens of our city to concentrate their passion for sports on this collection of giant athletes.
1984 was smack in the middle of those cheerleading years. All of us learned about the lingering effects of yesteryear’s decisions. Decades after those choices were made Blazer fans cringe when they hear that year mentioned.
First, after the Bill Walton years, the Blazers believed that they needed a dominant center to repeat as NBA champions. In that 84 draft they tried to persuade Patrick Ewing to leave Georgetown early so that the Blazers could select him. That is a league violation that precipitated a $250,000 fine. Groan!
Second, a coin flip would determine which team chose first; either the Houston Rockets or the Blazers. The Blazers decided to call “tails” but the coin landed on heads. Consequently, the Rockets chose Hakeem Olajuwon who became a nemesis to the Blazers during his whole career. Another “groan”!
Third, the Blazers stuck to their priority of drafting a center. When they chose second they picked Sam Bowie. The Chicago Bulls chose next with the 3rd overall pick selecting Michael Jordan. That may have been the biggest groan heard around the world.
Make your choices today with care. They have an affect that lingers into the future. Discernment in our spiritual lives is very much a part of that lasting impact of today’s choices.
This is a special day. We stop whatever we are doing and pause to remember. It is an honorable recollection.
For some of us the BBQ grill is fired up. Guests are making their way over to our home. Food is brought out from the pantry and lining the counters.
Games are scattered throughout the backyard. Little ones will fill the inflatables, pool or field the badminton court. Space will be occupied by special lives.
Sounds will overwhelm the space. Laughter and talking will test our sensory overload limits. Smiles and hugs will dominate our day.
Others will have a traditional journey in their day. They will drive to the family plot at the community cemetery. There fresh flowers will decorate the headstone of a dear loved one.
Next to the flowers an American flag will be inserted into the ground. This was not just a family member that is remembered. Here lies one who died for his or her country.
Yes, Memorial Day is about family and friends. Yes, it is about a day off to relax from the rigors of our labor. Yes, it is about celebrating with food and fun.
Nevertheless, at the heart of this day is why all of these moments for fun and partying were made possible. Those in our armed forces who fought and died for our freedoms is the meaning behind this day. Liberty is a costly privilege.
Some time during this special day, we can deepen the meaning behind our gatherings when we take a moment to look at our American flag and be grateful. Our thankfulness for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us would give meaning to our day. It would inject great value into the remembrance of those who died on our behalf.
Then, our gratitude would be a treasured moment. Suddenly, it is not just a day-off but a day of meaning. Life is much more than a time about doing what we want instead of what we have to do.
Listen to a patriotic song and feel your spirit leap. Consider the lyrics of our national anthem and be grateful. Treasure the sight of Old Glory waving in the skies above.
When the red, white and blue come into view, be a thankful citizen. Smile at the thought of those who courageously squared off with the enemy and beat them in battle. Remember the warm tears of loved ones who buried those brave soldiers in the soil that they won for our liberty.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography
Part 6 of 6
Flintlock weapons use a system to strike a piece of flint against steel. The sparks that are created cause the gunpowder in a pan to ignite. Then, the initial gunpowder that lights up sends its fire through a hole that leads into the primary firing chamber at the end of musket barrel. In the compression chamber, the charge explodes and sends the lead ball firing out of the end of the barrel.
If the hole to the firing chamber is clogged or if the gunpowder is corrupted then there is no ignition. The only thing that happens is the fire occurs harmlessly in the firing pan. The phrase “flash in the pan” came from this phenomenon.
Today we say someone who has a noteworthy beginning but never “pans out” or is unsuccessful in meeting people’s expectations is nothing more than a “flash in the pan”. No one wants to fail at meeting up to the expectations of others or even a person’s own self-claims of success. We want to live up to all of our potential and especially our own promises.
The story of Caleb is a testimony of consist faithful obedience. He is not one who just cries out his intentions in the beginning only to falter in the end. Caleb is not a “flash in the pan” but one of those lives up to his claims.
Caleb’s life is a lesson about trusting God with courageous faith. The combination of our Almighty God and His obedient servants is a spectacular conclusion. God will accomplish a lot through His servants who trust Him.
Thanks for joining me on this journey through the Scriptures.