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Joshua 21,22
Part 5 of 7

 

Before the tribes separate, they openly declare their devotion to specific convictions.  This is not merely a religious rite but a declaration of allegiance to truth.  It is what is most important to them.

 

They vow to keep the commandment and the law.  Together they announce their love for the LORD their God.  In unison they declare their intentions to walk in all His ways.  As a nation they will obey His commands.  They will hold fast to Him.  As a people they will serve him with all of their heart and soul.

 

If those of us who follow the LORD will do likewise then oddities like misunderstandings and human biases will be dramatically lessened.  Instead of churches splitting and Christians ending fellowship, the Spirit will win over human limitations.   Humans clinging stubbornly to their self-centered position that they are right will humbly defer all righteousness to God where it belongs.

 

This stirring national statement of spiritual commitment may have saved Israel from an unnecessary civil war.  Today we who live in the focus of God’s grace have too often been a part of separations that never should have been allowed to fester into something exclusively human.

 

More later…

Dec 2013 031Everyone in this country is wearing a smile or a frown.  Those who voted for the guy who won are elated.  But, surely everyone must also recognize that there are a lot of Americans who voted for the other guy.

Nearly every sports event that we watch or participate in with all of our energy has both supporters for one side or the other.  No one really enters an athletic event and hopes that their team loses.  Competing is about winning not losing.

Yet losing is an essential by-product of competition.  Think about the other half for just a few moments.  No matter what the event there exists the objective to rally ALL the participants into one unified group in order to move forward and make strides together.

One step toward this objective is for each person to adopt a post-competition perspective.  It is easy on one level.  But, on another level it is very difficult.

Here is the Biblical strategy: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12.15) The last half is easier.  When someone is overwhelmed and beaten down, we can show mercy and encourage them.

The first part to celebrate with someone when they are rejoicing is tougher.  Usually that means we have lost.  Our team came up short, our vote was not added with the winner or our opinion will no longer be germane to the future discussion.

The disposition for those who win and those who lose needs to shift.  Of course the winner enjoys a time of celebration. It comes with the territory.  All of us enjoy those moments.

At the same time when we lose and we all will lose some time in something, need to shift as well.  For a time we will be sad, mourn and even sort out our feelings in solitude.  None of us like those times but we have all experienced them.

If we can learn those dynamics in something as simple as sport, then perhaps we can bring those same feelings to real life moments.  It is too bad that our human spirit crowds out the possibility of experiencing something supernatural.  Our personal bias gets in the way.

When someone we do not like gets a blessing we do not feel like rejoicing with them.  Instead, we are annoyed.  If we had our way that person would be hurt instead of helped.  That is sadly our sinful nature expressing itself.  Leave the natural reaction aside and try the supernatural option instead: rejoice with those who rejoice.

photo credit: kristin  photography

 

Israel 2014 IFL 009Tel Aviv is not just a port city for vacationers.  It has all of those amenities without a doubt.  Walk to the beach from your hotel and sunbathers, joggers, fitness fanatics are all over the boardwalk in huge numbers.

The road along the seaside is filled with traffic.  Cars, trucks, buses fill the main traffic lanes.  However, there are plenty of bicyclists, skateboarders, scooters and walkers.  The broad sandy beaches could distract the unknowing eye from the historical significance of this site.

Look south from the shores of the Mediterranean.  Yes, the clean sand and gazebos capture your attention.  A well designed border sets the path off from the beach.  Look further.

Off in the distance there is a hill on the horizon.  A number of structures build out the land mass.  Clearly it is a village of sorts.Israel 2014 IFL 010

A thin tower rises into the sky.  Every time I have been to the Holy Land I return to this same vantage point.  That distant site is the ancient city of Joppa.

Jonah made that location famous.  More accurately, it was made infamous.  This disobedient prophet of God did not like his assignment from above.

God wanted Jonah to preach against Nineveh.  Instead of obeying he tried to run away from the Lord.  Oddly we learned that he hated those people.

He believed that if he preached against it, the people might repent and God would naturally spare them with His grace.  Rather than give them that eternal chance, he ran from God.  That was a choice of poor theology.  God is omniscient and omnipresent.

IMG_3416While sailing to Tarshish, God sent a special giant fish to swallow the wayward prophet. He repented, went to Nineveh and preached against the city.  God’s Word powerfully brought the people to repentance and Jonah pouted.  His fear of God’s mercy on these people whom he hated came true.

God teaches Jonah and all of us that His great mercy for 120,000 lost souls is more important than our selfish biases.  We never know if Jonah “got it” or not. The Scriptures never tell us.

I gaze at the ancient city of Joppa and wonder if I can be more faithful to God’s leading in my life as His servant.  Can I obey Him and overlook the people who I dislike?  Do my selfish merciless feelings circumvent God’s grace that He wants to give to the sinful?

photo credit: brucefong photography and cellphone photography

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