When I first got into shooting, I relied pretty heavily on what others believed. There was (and is) a wide range of opinions on which platforms are the best, which calibers are the most effective, or which subcultural group is the worst (mall ninjas, fuds, tacticool operators, etc.). Most hold their opinions with great passion and will advocate for their position vehemently. I never really enjoyed shooting with the platforms and calibers I initially chose because I made all of my decisions based on the preferences of people I respected and admired. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I did not yet feel as if the sport was truly mine. Several years later, countless thousands of rounds, and hours of research, and I’ve found my place. I prefer 9mm, Glocks or Caniks, Combloc, AR platforms, 6.5 Grendel is the best intermediate round, etc. In other words, it’s not an “inherited” faith. I like what I like based on the energy I’ve dedicated to study and practice.
When it comes to elements of our faith, how often do we challenge our personal beliefs? Unlike firearms – which are subjective and spiritually irrelevant – our faith is based on an objective standard. It is difficult to have a strong, personal faith if most of what we believe is based on what others taught us or what others believe. We may even adopt their beliefs because we admire and respect them as people. That’s not a great foundation. Humans are fallible!
Approaching scripture as a blank slate, asking only, “What does God want me to believe about ______?” is the best way to grow. The only opinion that matters is God’s! When we hear something that elicits an emotional response and seems to conflict with our current beliefs, we shouldn’t panic. God’s word determines validity. If we can approach scripture without bias, we’ll grow exponentially. Challenging our beliefs does more than simply refine our understanding – it forces us to take ownership of our faith. Not only will this cause growth, it will also deepen our love for God and our confidence in eternal destination!
A few months ago, Lehman and a bunch of other churches went to church camp. During that week, I got to think about family. A quote I read once by Lisa Weed said, “Being a part of a family means you are a part of something very wonderful. It means you will love and be loved for the rest of your life.”
Let me start off by defining family. According to Webster’s dictionary, one definition is “the group of one or more parents and their children living together as a unit.” That kind of family can be shown through the illustration of a loving husband giving his wife some facial masks on Christmas Morning. As she opened the gift, her 5-year-old daughter asked what they were. The Mom replied, “It’s a present to make me beautiful.” After the mom applied one of the facial masks, the little girl looked at her mom and replied, “Mom, it didn’t work.”
Another definition Webster’s gave is “all the descendants from a common ancestry.” To me, that sounds like the relationship God has with His church. 2 Corinthians 6:18 says, “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. Ephesians 5:25-27 defines the church family as being without blemish. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
Thankfully, God has given us the opportunity to be part of a perfect family. Maybe you’re not a member of the church family, and you would like to put Christ on in baptism or you want us to pray with you and for you so you can get your life on track. Whatever your need, please reach out to God’s perfect family.
The story of Rahab the harlot is one of the better-known stories of the entire Conquest Period. Perhaps it is because it occurs before but is connected with the most famous (and first) place to be conquered, Jericho, but it is also because of who the heroine of the story is. Three New Testament writers mention her, Matthew for her place in the Messianic genealogies (Mat. 1:5), the writer of Hebrews for her faith (Heb. 11:31), and James for her works (Jas. 2:25). But, there is no escaping who she was or how she made her living when Israelite spies paid her a visit. The Hebrew word, ZANA, means “to commit fornication, be a harlot, play the harlot, illicit heterosexual intercourse,” TWOT). They say, “Such persons received hire (Deut 23:19), had identifying marks (Gen 38:15; Prov 7:10; Jer 3:3), had their own houses (Jer 5:7), and were to be shunned (Prov 23:27)” (ibid.). She is not only a Canaanite, but she operated a sordid business.
But from the moment we hear from her in Scripture, we can see that there is much more to her than the aforementioned description. Despite the fact that she needed to do more growing (don’t we all?), she shows the difference God can make in even the most unlikely places. What do we find in Joshua two?
When God conquers a heart, one will be ruled by His authority (2-5). The Bible doesn’t sanction Rahab’s lie, but consider for a moment that she was ordered by the King of Jericho to surrender the two spies from Israel. She feels no allegiance to the earthly ruler, and she will explain that it is because of her faith in Jehovah (9). If God has conquered our hearts, won’t we say with Peter and John, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)?
When God conquers a heart, one will help His people (6-7,14-21). She saved the spies’ lives. She hid them and helped them escape. She recognized these men as God’s servants doing God’s business. She wanted to serve and protect them. Ultimately, she lets them down through her window and enables their escape (15, 20). Those whose hearts God possess are allies of the righteous (Mal. 3:18).
When God conquers a heart, one has faith in God’s provision (8-13). Nothing in the text tells us that the spies preached to her, yet somehow she had arrived at the conviction that she could have hope of salvation. She says she knew God had given Israel the land (9), something these spies’ fathers most likely did not believe (cf. Num. 13-14). She saw how afraid her fellow-citizens were of God’s wrath and power, working through His people (9). She had faith based on the signs and works God had performed from the Red Sea to the Amorites (10). It led her to acknowledge God as “God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (11). Therefore, she asked, in exchange for protecting the spies, for the deliverance of her family and herself (12-13). She hadn’t seen the battle yet, but she believed that it belonged to the Lord. It takes genuine faith to draw a conclusion like that. We’ve not experienced death, the resurrection, the judgment, and an eternal destiny, but do we have faith that God will provide for us through them (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-9)? If God possesses our hearts, we do!
When God conquers a heart, one will meet the conditions of salvation (14-21). The spies made the salvation of Rahab and her family conditioned upon three things: tie a scarlet thread in her window (18), gather all she wanted to be saved into her house (18), and not tell anyone these spies’ business (20). There was no picking and choosing what she preferred to follow. Obedience meant the difference in life and death (5:25). So today, a heart which God owns will not shun to do anything His Word commands. There’s no arguing, bargaining, debating, or rationalizing, but instead a faith that does what God wills.
The spies’ mission was a great success and Joshua was encouraged (22-24). They were ready to do battle, ready to conquer. Back in Jericho, there was a woman born into a life of godlessness who had lived a life of worldliness who now faced the hope of happiness and righteousness. Great things follow when we allow God to conquer our hearts!
Neal’s Note: I send out an email most mornings that I call “The Lehman Learner.” I walk through books of the Bible (in the past I’ve done the Psalms, Luke, 1-2 Corinthians, 1-2 Kings, etc.). This article is from last week. If you would like to receive The Lehman Learner, write to this email and request it. You will be added to the mailing list.)
One of the most intriguing people in all the gospels, to me, is the beggar sitting by the road near Jericho. Mark 10:46 tells us that the man’s name is Bartimaeus. Matthew tells us that there is another man sitting with him, and that man’s name is not given (20:30). This man was shameless in a good way, persistent despite the crowd sternly discouraging him (39). I wonder if there is a more pathetic person disclosed to us in the Bible (maybe Lazarus back in Luke 16). He is needy in at least five ways, according to Luke 18:35-43:
He’s physically impaired (35)–“a blind man”
He’s economically disadvantaged (35)–“by the road begging”
He’s socially outcast (39)–He’s not depicted as a respected member of society, but one to be corrected by the others
He’s emotionally distraught (38-41)–Begging for mercy and longing for sight
He’s spiritually incomplete (42)–When Jesus heals him, He tells the man, “Your faith has saved you.”
I love how the man is so stripped of his dignity, power, and resources that he boldly pleads for Jesus’ help. It may seem strange, but all of us need to get to that place if we will receive what only He can give. He wanted His mercy. When he received it, look at the response. He “began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God” (43). Don’t you want your submissive, obedient life to be a drawing card for others to see their need of God and to glorify Him? God really shows His power when He takes the lowliest and transforms them by what He does with and through them. That’s why I love this account.
It is a well-known fact that apathy destroys whole countries. Wealth lulls people into a state of complacency that avoids conflict at all costs. Government seizes the opportunity to gain power. Oppression always follows. “Hard times create tough people. Tough people create good times. Good times create soft people. Soft people create hard times” (loosely paraphrased from Those Who Remain by Michael Hopf).
Faith is not immune. Hebrews 2.1-4 strongly warns us against apathetic faith. What happens when we lose interest in our awesome spiritual freedom? We put distance between ourselves and God. This isn’t without consequences.
“How will we escape if we disregard our salvation?” (2.3). We won’t! Apathy is scary because the consequences arrive in plain sight and at a slow pace. We can easily see them coming, but choose to ignore them for a few more moments of complacent bliss. Once consequences arrive, they’re miserable on multiple levels.
So, how do we get rid of apathy? Hebrews 2.5ff gives some hypes:
We’re in Charge of the World to Come (5)
God Is Invested in Us (6)
Jesus Is in Charge Now (7-8)
Jesus Rescued Us (8-10)
Jesus Sees Us As Family (11-16)
Jesus Goes to Bat for Us (17-18)
Finally: “How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (10.29).
In 1951, two to three miles off the coast of Point Reyes, California, a military plane went down after battling faulty electrical issues and then eventually running out of fuel. The plane made a crash landing in the ocean and to make matters a little more terrifying, it was a Great White shark haven. There was one Army service man who managed to escape the aircraft, but once in the water he had no idea where to go. It was in the early morning and the fog was too thick to see through. Knowing he had to do something, he simply chose a direction and began to swim. After a couple of miles of swimming he finally, to his relief, reached land. Later on in life he’d go on to become the star of several Hollywood movies, direct his own movies, and even star in movies that he himself directed! His name was Clint Eastwood.
He got lucky. Occasionally, that happens in life. We flip a coin, spin a bottle, or make a random turn and it all ends up working out in the end. Accidental fortune might happen in some areas of life, but not when it comes to our spiritual lives. There won’t be anyone in heaven who says, “I have no idea how I got here. I just randomly went through life and made the right choices, I guess!”
If we’re looking for a deeper faith, a closer walk with God, or directions along the narrow way, we’ll have to be intentional about that.
Psalm 25:5 reminds us that not only does God guide us into all truth, but that this is a path that must be taught.
1 Chronicles 5 devotes a relatively large amount of space to an incident that happened during King Saul’s reign. It involved the sons of Reuben, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh waging war with a people identified as “the Hagrites, Jehur, Naphish, and Nodab” (18-19). The contested area of land was east of the Jordan River in the territory allotted to the Israelites mentioned in verse 18.At least some of the people they fought seem descended from Hagar and Ishmael. The focus was on the large land grab made by these Israelites in battle. They won this war in terms of spoil (21) and casualties (21-22).
Today, we wage war of a very different type. New Testament writers describe it. It is not according to the flesh, but is intense nonetheless (2 Cor. 10:3-5). It is a fight of faith (1 Tim. 1:18). It is against world and spiritual forces necessitating our adorning spiritual armor of God (Eph. 6:10ff). We can feel overmatched and overwhelmed by this enemy. What can help us stay in the fight? There are four statements back in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22 that we can legitimately apply to our spiritual warfare today. Will you remember these?
You Will Be Helped (20).
The chronicler says this of the Israelites. “They were helped against them,” and it is implied in this verse that their help came from above. There is no way we could overcome the world (1 John 4:4; 5:4) without Divine help. God gives His help generously, gently, and graciously (Jas. 1:5). He tells us that all we need to do is ask (cf. Mat. 7:7). God’s help is THE difference-maker!
Cry Out To God In The Battle (20).
If we are striving to be faithful, we will be in a battle. What can be done? These Israelites were helped because they cried out to God in the midst of the strife. I love how Paul says it to the Philippians: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7). Don’t neglect prayer in the thick of the fight. Paul follows up his description of our spiritual armor, urging “all prayer and petition…at all times” (Eph. 6:18).
God Answers Those Who Trust In Him (20).
To me, nothing is more beautiful to consider than an army bowed in prayer to God to help them. As a citizen of this nation, it is wonderful to consider our military filled with men and women doing that. But, the most beautiful picture of all has to be of God’s Holy Nation (1 Pet. 2:9) filled with spiritual warriors who so put their trust in God that they are constantly before His throne in prayerful petition. Revelation 8 describes in beautiful imagery how carefully and preciously He handles the prayers of the saints brought unto His throne. It is likened to sweet-smelling incense. God is a loving Father who is pleased when His children demonstrate trust in His leadership and guidance. The promise of Scripture is that those who trust in Him are delivered and are not disappointed (Ps. 22:4-5).
Understand The War Is Of God (22).
We often sing, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” This passage tells us why the enemy was slain. “The war was of God.” The result was that they settled in their place until the exile, which was over 300 years later.As great as that was, we stand to experience a far greater victory. God disapproves of unworthy battles–“foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Tim. 2:23), “foolish controversies” that “are unprofitable and worthless” (Tit. 3:9), or quarrels and conflicts that are fueled by our giving into the sins of our flesh (Js. 4:1ff). Be careful not to be a foot soldier carrying out the agenda of the foe. But if we are on the Lord’s side, we can be assured that He will gain the victory and we’ll be fighting on the winning side.
Maybe we wonder why God recorded events like this in Scripture. It certainly shows His mind, nature, and power. But it also helps us understand His point of view and His desire in our lives today. The church has “Hagrites” to face. You and I have our own “Hagrites” to battle. How they won is how we’ll win. May the song on our hearts and lips ever be, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world!”
It will make congregations forsake God’s command to practice church discipline, especially in the age of Facebook and Instagram. It will disrupt, cancel, and in other ways impact congregational plans, faced with something that has killed .0004% of the world’s population. It will cause congregations to abandon the biblical position on any number of things that accommodates the cultural point of view. But, biblically speaking, what is particularly the fear of the devil, mankind, or things of this earth?
F-AITHLESS. You’ll find fear and faith contrasted in Scripture (Mat. 14:31; Mark 4:40; Heb. 11:23). Jesus rebukes a fear which hinders faith more than anyone. When we are driven by fear rather than faith, we confess that we believe in something more than we believe in God. Fear is completely understandable, something the Bible’s greatest heroes felt. But, they overcame their fear of men and even the devil by a greater faith in God’s power. The generation of Israel Moses led were the poster children of fear (Num. 14:9), yet what does the writer of Hebrews diagnose as the root cause of their punishment and rejection? “Unbelief” (3:19).
E-PIDEMIC. Have you noticed how quickly and widely fear spreads? The spies sent to Canaan came back afraid and they transmitted it to the whole nation almost immediately (Num. 13:31-33; 14:1ff). The devil has plenty of channels to transmit fear, from traditional to social media. But even pulpits, private meetings, and informal discussions can fan the flames of fear. Fear plays to our flesh, and the voice of fear travels at light speed.
A-MPLIFYING. Have you ever suffered from economic, relationship, occupational, or spiritual problems? Lie still in your bed at night (or wake up in the middle of the night) and those fears grow exponentially. Like worry, fear is often greater than the problem. It’s why the devil finds it a useful tool in his warfare (cf. Rev. 2:10; 21:8–“cowardly” is the word “afraid” in Mark 4:40; 2 Tim. 1:7). The enemy looks bigger and scarier than it is, but giving in to fear can make it seem gigantic.
R-ASH. Jesus makes this clear during His earthly ministry. He says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mat. 10:28). The analogy is definitely disturbing. There are physical and spiritual entities out there with the power to take our lives. We can be so quick to respond to them by retreating or withdrawing. But if the fear of those things replaces or supplants the fear that belongs rightfully only to God, we are in big trouble.
These, are fearful times! Who doesn’t wrestle with fear? It seems that Jesus did (Luke 22:44; Heb. 5:7). God understands we’ll struggle with fear (Psa. 103:14). But His lovingkindness and compassion are “on those who fear Him” (Psa. 103:11,13,17). There is more Kingdom work to do than ever! There are numerous obstacles, but let’s not get in our own way through fear!
Listen! That’s how Jesus starts His lesson in Mark 4:3. He has just stepped out onto a boat so that He could speak to the large crowd that had gathered to hear Him. This was a very special sermon. Jesus is going to give the secret to all of His parables by telling a unique parable about the farmer who goes out to sow on the various kinds of ground. When Jesus said “Listen!” He was talking to a specific kind of person.
He wasn’t interested in the one who would hear His words and then fall away later when called to stand up for their faith. He wasn’t looking for the one who would hear His words and then foolishly decide that this world had more to offer.
Jesus said “listen!” because He knew that some would hear His words and those words would change their lives. They would live out His teachings. They would become those lamps He would later discuss later in the chapter. Those who truly listened to this specific sermon and took it to heart would bear fruit. It’s humbling to think that some only believe they’ve listened to Jesus, but on the last day will find out that they only thought they listened (verse 25).
Are we listening to the Savior? One way Jesus tells us we can know if we and others are listening is by looking at the fruit being planted. This section of scripture is a great reminder that there are many who will not hear the Lord and His life-changing and life-saving message, but there are also those out there in our communities who are willing and waiting for us to share Him with them.