Your Eyes Reveal It All!

This is the 4th post on the 2018 Blog Tour. I first ran into Jonathan many moons ago when we were both involved in campus ministry. Now we both preach for churches in neighboring states. I hope you find his thoughts encouraging, and take a few moments to visit his blog.

2018 Blog Tour cAs soon as I heard the theme for this year’s blog tour, my mind immediately went to a short passage in Matthew 6.  I love this passage.  First, I like it because the ancient conceptualization of the human eye as a “lamp” is intriguing to me.  Second, the passage is really about the notion of focus and the idea that what you seek is ultimately what you find.  So, let me share the passage with you, taking into consideration the overview provided by Matt in his post pertaining to the Sermon on the Mount.

6:22 The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

So, let’s have some fun!  It only seems right to share some pictures with you and ask what it is that you see in the picture?

Here is the first one…

And the second…

And one more…

Now, to the passage.  The eye was seen as the body’s lamp because just like lighting a lamp allowed you to see the room in the dark, so to opening the eye allowed you to see the world.  So, if you had a healthy eye, you could see pretty well.  However, if you have a “bad” eye, that is an eye that is unhealthy, then you can’t see very well.  Blindness was a condition in which the eye couldn’t be “switched on” and so the body could not move about in the light…but stumbled around in the darkness.

In context, sandwiched between the warning not to store up materialistic treasures where moth and rust destroy, and thieves steal; and the reality check that a servant cannot serve two masters at the same time—our eye as the lamp passage serves to tell us that the ability to see and to focus on what is right in the sight of God is extremely important.

In the pictures above, there isn’t a right answer!  Congrats!  You saw a duck or a rabbit in the first picture based upon the aspects of the picture you focused on.  In the second picture, you either saw a young woman or an elderly woman again based upon the aspects of the picture you focused on.  In the third picture, you either saw a vase or two side profiles looking at each other depending on your eyes’ focus.  It is a fun experiment to do, and perhaps you saw both options in each picture. (Or you can go back and try to see the other option)

When it comes to the eyes of faith that Jesus asks us to develop in his Sermon on the Mount, the aspects of life you focus on really do matter.  Jesus asks us to focus on people and relationships instead of stuff and possessions…heavenly treasure that makes us rich in the ways of God.  Jesus continues that we cannot serve money and God.  Our eyes must be healthy, they must be focused, and they are a gateway to our, “shining before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

So, what are you seeking?

  • If you were to evaluate what your eyes tend to watch, what would it be? Another way to say it, what catches your eye?
  • Would you say that you have “blind-spots?” What are persons and things that you might fail to see?
  • When people use you as a “lamp” to light up the darkness…what do they see from your good works?
  • How healthy are our eyes of faith?

Your eyes may just reveal it all!

Jonathan Woodall - picJonathan Woodall is the minister for the GracePointe church of Christ in Elizabethtown, PA and blogs on the church website and on his personal page at  He is the spouse of Hayley and they have two children–Brynn and Aidric.  Jonathan has also served as a worship minister, campus minister, and adjunct instructor of communication.


Seeking the Good of Others

You can listen to the sermon this blog post derives from, HERE.

My attention was captured by a phrase in the last verse of the book of Esther. How does the book end? With Esther living happily ever after as the hero in the story?

No. It concludes with the summary that “Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.

mordecai haman 01

“The Triumph of Mordecai” by Pieter Lastman (1583-1633)

Mordecai may have worked for the good of his people, the Jews, but he wasn’t the Jewish Ambassador to Persia. Mordecai was the second in rank over the entire Persian population. He may have advocated for the Jews, but he would have only kept his position by being a responsible ruler for all people.

In accepting his promotion to second in rank to King Xerxes, Mordecai was choosing to work for an ungodly king. Persia may have treated the Jews and Jerusalem better than the Babylonians (who destroyed the city), but it didn’t make them godly. Paganism would still infiltrate all areas of palace life.

Mordecai was choosing to work with an empire that expanded rapidly and destroyed nations in their path in a manner similar to the treatment Judah received.

Mordecai chose to work for and with the enemy.

Yes, his niece, Esther, was married to Xerxes, but she didn’t have a choice in the matter. That’s pretty much the point of the whole book!

Mordecai provides an example of living out the counsel the prophet Jeremiah had given years earlier,

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  ~ Jeremiah 29:5-7

That last verse is a tough one. Seek the peace and prosperity of the city you land in. Pray for the city, the pagans, the people who burnt your city, the soldiers who carried you in chains to Babylon. Pray for your enemies. Your prosperity is tied to theirs. Jeremiah’s thought is a precursor to the saying that “a rising tide lifts all boats”.

Most of my readers haven’t been exiled to your current city, but this verse should challenge us. It sounds nice and fuzzy to seek the peace and prosperity of the place I live. Perhaps I’ll get to experience some of that prosperity. Then I realize that I’m to pray for the peace and prosperity of the WHOLE city.

I naturally want to limit that prayer. I want to pray that the government makes wise decisions for the good of the citizens. I want to pray that my church will expand. I want to pray that the good people will be recognized and rewarded. I want to pray that crime will decrease. I want to pray for people I like: people like me.

But when Jeremiah says to pray for the city, he’s referring to the Jew’s enemies. He wants the Jews to pray for the people who’ve captured and brought them to this place. He wants the Jews to pray that the pagans may experience peace and prosperity. He wants the Jews to pray that the cruel king may live in peace and prosper.

SW city 02

What does that look like for us?  Maybe, we also need to pray…

  • that followers of other religions in our city will experience peace and safety.
  • that the homeless and destitute in our city will find security and prosperity.
  • that supporters on the other side of the political divide will live in peace and that they will prosper.
  • that those intent of crime and violence will find peace and a constructive object for their energies.
  • that those in leadership will prioritise the peace and prosperity of their citizens while pursuing it in their personal lives also.
  • that those in captivity may return to their families and experience peace and well-being.

As Christians, we believe that ultimate peace and fulfillment in life comes from Jesus. We should certainly pray for the expansion of his kingdom in our city. We also need to recognise that Christians have a responsibility to contribute to our communities in a way that “sinners” will benefit from our presence. God doesn’t give us the discretion of choosing who receives our kindness. This illustrates why Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” is still so radical and fundamental to our faith. God’s children are to seek the good of the whole city.

The Search for The Search

2018 Blog Tour c

God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes. – Ecclesiastes 7:29

In one respect I think we can say that people are always searching for something. There’s some unmet need, some empty place that needs to be filled, some missing component that has left our hearts lacking. Epic poems and long novels have been written about the search for that unidentifiable something. So I do stipulate that this is a realistic expectation for many. Most? I don’t know.

Overstimulated and Overwhelmed” is how one article describes the condition so many are facing today.

This overstimulation can come from a variety of sources including excessive noise, multitasking, and cluttered surroundings.  Overuse of electronic media is a modern phenomena particularly linked to issues of anxiety, depression, and isolation.  This is unfortunately wide-reaching, as the average American spends most of their waking hours (about 11) on electronic media and internet.

Can we make the case that we are so intent on searching for meaning and connection with God that we’ve exhausted ourselves? Or could we make the case that we’ve exhausted ourselves and the search is no longer interesting to us. We’ve given up.

…There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. – Romans 3:11

Maybe it’s just me, but American Christians (some? most?) are suffering a slump of sorts. Any search we can identify seems to be on hold while we explore some of those ‘many schemes’ the wise man wrote about in Ecclesiastes. Sometimes I feel that the spiritual search has fallen off of our radar while we seek fulfillment and excitement elsewhere.  If that’s true, why is this?

Could it be that we have taken our eye off of the Savior? Instead of intentionally being committed disciples of Jesus, we sought to have bigger, better, brighter experiences in life, in relationships, in worship. Something to make us feel something.  Have we chased after the experience but forgotten to love and serve the people around us in the name of Jesus?

I began to wonder if what we were doing in evangelical circles had more to do with redeeming ourselves to culture than it did with showing Jesus to a hurting world, a world literally filled with outcasts.

― Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What

God has promised that if we search for HIM, He will be found. Jesus said that if we seek the Kingdom first, our other needs would be met.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.- Jeremiah 29:13

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. –Hebrews 11:6

For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. – Luke 11:10

If you are feeling empty these days, look in the mirror and ask that person if they have been searching for God with their whole heart. I can’t prove it, but I think there are many people suffering from a spiritual emptiness they cannot identify. It’s not that they do not desire God. It’s more than that. It is that somehow the noise and distraction of life has kept them from desiring to desire God. The search for the Search has been put on hold. Indefinitely?

boy telescope searching - teddy-kelley

How do we break out of spiritual disenchantment and renew the search for the Search? How do I learn once again to be captivated by the beauty of the Savior and in awe of the power of the Father and feel the fire of the Holy Spirit? I hope you’re not looking for something to dazzle you here. I can’t offer you more of the stuff that has us numbed to the Spirit’s call. I can only think we must go back to basics.

Have I been spending time in the Word? I’m going to suggest paper, not screen. Too many distractions and temptations when we’re staring at the glow. Break free.

Have I asked God to reignite the passion for Kingdom living in my heart? Am I talking to Abba about the distance between us?

What have I done for someone else lately? Not for pay, not for recognition, not for anything except the opportunity to serve.

Have I been quiet? No TV, no small screens, just me and God and… no words. (It’s ok if you fall asleep… fall asleep in His presence… He loves you. You can grow in this area of listening prayer.)

Am I walking alone or do I have fellow disciples to serve, study, pray and love alongside?

Contemporary Christian music group, Building 429, sang a song about The Space In Between Us. That’s what we’re trying to bridge. Regaining the search for the Search is my desire for us.

God, for the days when I’m so distracted by the world around me and in front of me, give me the energy and strength to turn it off, turn away, and turn toward you. Grow within me the burning desire to know you more completely and serve you more faithfully. I not only desire to seek you, I desire to desire to seek you. Thank you for knowing what that means. Amen.

10 - John Dobbs pic

John Dobbs is the preaching minister for the Forsythe Church of Christ ( in Monroe, Louisiana. He can be found on Facebook, followed on Twitter (@johndobbs) and read on his blog ( He’s been married for 31 years to the lovely Maggy. He has two children and two grandchildren.

Seeking Justice

Habakkuk might be the most 21st century compatible ancient prophet in the Bible.
He’s brash.
He’s devout.
He’s determined.
He cares about his community.

Habakkuk demands justice.
Justice for the victims of violence.
Justice for his city.
Justice on the international stage.
Justice against corrupt leaders.

Habakkuk has a very clear concept of right and wrong.

The quest for justice should inspire us. We all want to live in a world of justice. We want to believe that our highly evolved justice system gets it right 98.5% of the time. We want to believe that we go through life on an even playing field and that our individual talent and attitude will lead us to a deserving place in life.

Sadly, thousands of years after Habakkuk, we still live in an unjust world.

Rich and poor still exist. Their economic status reflects nothing of their moral status. Some good people still live in poverty. Some corrupt people live in opulence. Those who are rich often use their wealth, power and opportunity to create greater wealth for themselves at the expense of the less powerful.

The justice system still gets things wrong. It exists to apply laws without asking if the laws themselves are just or unjust.

There is no level playing field. People with traditional European names get more callbacks to their job applications than those with traditional African-American names. The NFL controversy about kneeling during the national anthem intends to draw the nations attention to an injustice in the number of people of color shot by law enforcement. Incarceration rates in the United States also reflect a stark racial disparity.

Living in a western nation, we all face the quandary that we benefit to some extent from injustice. In many cases it’s impossible to quantify the benefit we receive. We consume diverse products in ways that conceal their source and methods of production from us. Consider your own consumption…

  • Do you know where your clothes were made? Do you know the wage paid to those workers in Bangladesh? Do you know their age, or their living conditions? Do you know where your fabric was produced?
  • Do you know where your coffee originates? How do you decide if the farmers were paid a fair price? Is it even just that their life is dedicated to providing you a morning pick me up?
  • Can you state confidently that the produce flown around the world to your grocery store was harvested and packed by people treated justly?
  • Do you know where the electronic device you’re reading this on was produced? Can you name the minerals and metals in your device? Is there any way of telling where those materials were mined and the working conditions of those mines, or whether traditional landowners were justly compensated for those mining rights?

When we march and protest against injustice I believe we represent a cause close to God’s heart. When we join Habakkuk on the watchtower appealing to God for justice, I believe he hears us.

But we live in an unjust world . While we work for justice we must also recognise our limitations. We cannot make the world a 100% just place. However, we must not allow our limitations to discourage our participation in the quest for justice.

When we see an opportunity to speak up for the oppressed, speak up.

When we encounter a choice to spend a little more to buy a fair trade product, spend it.

When we encounter injustice, shine light upon it.

When we despair, talk to God about it.

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
     Habakkuk 3:2




The Seeker’s Heart

I’m glad to share the first guest post on our 2018 Blog Tour. Matthew challenges us to examine our hearts, our motives and our priorities. While the Sermon on the Mount is not a checklist, it does encourage us to examine our hearts. HERE is one guide to an introspective self-examination based upon Jesus’s words in Matthew 5-7. ~ Peter

“You are what you love.” That’s the title of a book by James K. A. Smith that has challenged my life, particularly my heart. I’ve learned that my heart isn’t always focused on what it should be, regardless of what my actions show. This realization led me to the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus’ longest teaching passages in Matthew 5-7. Some view this passage as a checklist we need to keep to please Jesus. But viewing the Sermon on the Mount as a checklist shows you’ve missed the point.

Take a look at this summary of the teachings in this passage:
– Attitudes (5:1-12)
– Actions/Witness (v13-16)
– Righteousness (v.17-20)
– Conflict (v. 21-26)
– Marriage and Adultery (v. 27-30)
– Divorce (v.31-32)
– Honesty (v.33-37)
– Revenge (v.38-48)
– Giving (6:1-4)
– Prayer & Forgiveness (v.5-15)
– Fasting (v.19-24)
– Worry/Self Dependence (v.25-34).

That’s a lot of topics! It seems Jesus has something to say about nearly every part of our lives. But Jesus isn’t addressing a bunch of topics here. In reality, he addresses one topic and applies it to many different areas. What’s the one topic? The heart.

Let’s look at one two more statements. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus says “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Yet chapter 6 starts with “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.

ID 59657877 © Alexandr Sidorov |

How are we supposed to keep both of these? There’s no way to check these off a list. Logic says you cannot do both, but it all boils down to what our heart is seeking. Are we honoring God and glorifying Him, or showing off and honoring ourselves? If the heart is in the right place, we are doing exactly what Jesus wants. It all boils down to 6:21- “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Smith puts it this way: “…if the heart is like a compass…then we need to regularly calibrate our hearts, turning them to be directed to the Creator, our magnetic north.” In other words, what we do shapes us into who we become. The life of a Christian should be drastically different than a non-Christian. So how are we doing? Do we have a heart seeking God, or are we chasing after the world? What you love shapes your life. So, what are you seeking?

It’s time for a heart check. If we orient our heart toward seeking God, our attitudes will be God-focused when we’re mistreated (5:1-12). If our hearts are right, we will be salt and light (both of which are elements that change every situation they enter) for God’s glory (v. 13-16). If our hearts are seeking Christ and his righteousness, we will want to be righteous in our actions (v.17-20). If our hearts are seeking the Father, we won’t mistreat our brothers and sisters (v.21-26). If our hearts are centered on the covenental Creator, we will honor our spouses by remaining pure and committed to each other (v.27-32). If our hearts are on the God of justice, we will show love and honesty, and not seek revenge when we are wronged (v.33-48). If our hearts are pure we will give generously, not for our own glory, but to honor God (6:1-4). If our hearts are right we will pray heartfelt prayers that lift up others and don’t glorify ourselves…we’ll forgive others as we’ve been forgiven (v.5-15). If our hearts are right we’ll focus on God because of our want of relationship with him, not to impress others (v.19-24). If our hearts are right we’ll rely on Him for our needs without worry (v.25-34).

“You are what you love.”

What does your heart seek? Do you seek after the things of God, or chase after whatever the world calls important? Jesus reminds us to “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Keep your heart focused on God. Keep honoring Him in everything you do. Seek him first and foremost. Only then will you have the true heart of a seeker.

Matt Stidham is the Preaching Minister for the East Side congregation in Snyder, TX. He and his wife Jennifer have three beautiful children. You can connect with Matt on Facebook (@matthew.d.stidham), on Twitter (@MatthewStidham), or at his blog –

What Are You Seeking… Really?

Over the last few years I’ve participated in what I call a “Blog Tour”. I invite several other bloggers and guest writers to write articles on a common theme. This year, the theme is “What Are You Seeking?” I always enjoy discovering the different directions the various writers take this topic. I find the process enriching as they raise issues and thoughts that would never occur to me within the bubble that I live. I pray that you find these posts in the coming weeks encouraging to you also.

This week I kick off the Tour with my contribution. As each writer contributes their thoughts in coming weeks I hope you will take a moment to visit their blog and encourage them. You may even find a new habit that you enjoy reading regularly.

2018 Blog Tour c

Several weeks ago I was having a conversation with someone about worship. Suddenly, it dawned on me how much my thought process differed from other worshipers.

  1. There are some people who come to church each week asking “Will they sing the songs I like?” “Will the sermon meet my needs?” “Will my friends by there?” “Will my prayers be answered?” “Will my life be improved?”
  2. Then there’s another group of people who come wondering who God will bring this week. They’re praying for opportunities to speak encouragement into someone’s life. They’re looking around for people they can meet and serve, and hoping that some first time guests will attend this week.

At first glance I hope that #2 seems more spiritual, more godly, more mature. Generally speaking, I agree. But generalisations have exceptions. We should bear in mind that we all have times in our lives where we need to receive rather than give. We need to be served rather than serve. Additionally, at some point almost all of us walked through the doors of a church as guests with a list of questions asking whether this was the right church for us.

We were seekers seeking.

Some of us knew what we seeking. Others found the object of our search only when we stumbled upon it. We were all seeking.

Jesus asked a crowd of people a similar question in Matthew 11:2-15. Jesus’ cousin John has been imprisoned by Herod and sends messengers to Jesus. It seems that John wants confirmation that his ministry and now suffering were for the right reason, that they were worthwhile and that they mattered.

Jesus responds by giving a list of examples from his ministry, such as “the blind can see” that can be connected to messianic prophecies in the book of Isaiah such as Is 61:1-3. But then he turns to the crowd and asks this important question:

“Who did you go out into the wilderness to see?”  Who were you seeking?

Matthew 3:5 records that, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan river.” That’s a lot of people going to see and hear John the Baptizer. Now, some years later Jesus asks, “Who did you go out into the wilderness to see?

He gives some choices: “Was it a reed, blown in the wind, waving this way and that?” “Was it someone in fine linens who’d make your life more comfortable and prosperous?” “Or did you go to see a prophet.”

Jesus knew well that people came to see him for a variety of reasons: Entertainment, financial gain, truth seeking, overthrowing the Romans, or protecting the status quo.

This blog series challenges us to reconsider our motives as we follow Jesus.

  • Do we participate in his kingdom out of obligation or passion?
  • Does our status as adopted children of God seem real to us, or a theoretical concept?
  • Do we worship to please others, or because we love God?
  • Do we desire to participate in expanding the borders of God’s kingdom, or do we like our church the way it is?
  • Do we long to grow our relationship with God, or are we comfortable with our current level of knowledge and commitment?

What are you seeking? Really?StockSnap meeting 01

Imagine you had the opportunity to interview Jesus like you might interview the leader of a church you’re considering attending. What would you ask him?

  • Jesus, will my relationship with God be restored if I follow you?
  • Jesus, will my relationship with my husband be restored if I follow you?
  • Jesus, will my family finally accept me if I follow you?
  • Jesus, how much (or little) money do I need to give you to make you happy?
  • Jesus, will I still get to do the things I really enjoy doing?
  • Jesus, can I keep my friends?
  • Jesus, can you tell me about eternity before I commit?
  • Jesus, how much time will I need to give you each week?

Without putting on your holy hat, what would you ask Jesus? What are you seeking… really? Will you take 10 minutes and make your list? When you’ve done that, pray over it. Read it to Jesus and see how the Holy Spirit moves your mind.

Elijah & Elisha

The account of Elijah’s final days found in 2 Kings 1 -2 tells a story with echoes to other characters and themes of Scripture. This blog post will differ from my usual style as I explore some of these “echoes”.

Elijah 02

ELIJAH = John the Baptizer

Malachi 4:5 predicts that “[God] will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes“.

Jesus himself in Matthew 11:14 says of John, “If you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.

Like John, Elijah spent a lot of time as a lone voice in the wilderness. Even the description of Elijah sounds a lot like John:

  • He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.” (2 Kings 1:8)
  • John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matt 3:4)

Elijah’s primary ministry was challenging the ungodliness of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. John ultimately died for challenging the ungodliness of King Herod and his wife.

ELISHA = Jesus

Unlike Elijah, Elisha spends a lot of time mentoring a large group referred to as “the sons of the prophets”.
Miracles were a mainstay of Elisha’s ministry. In 2 Kings 4, Elisha multiplies food and brings a dead boy back to life. In chapter 5 he heals Naaman of leprosy and in chapter 6 causes an axehead to float on water. Even in death Elisha’s grave gave new life to dead man. (2 Kings 13:20-21)

While John had some disciples, Jesus had his famous group of 12 disciples and his less well know group of 70. He didn’t locate his ministry in the wilderness. He went to the people.
Jesus’ ministry was also characterised by miracles. In Matthew 14 after the death of John the Baptizer Jesus multiplies food to feed 5,000, then walks on water. In chapter 9 he raises a dead girl back to life, heals blind and mute men, and casts out demons. Jesus’ empty tomb promises life top all humanity.

ELIJAH = Jesus & ELISHA = Disciples

  • Elijah calls Elisha to leave his oxen and come follow him. (1 Kings 1:19-21) Jesus calls his disciples to leave their fishing nets and come follow him (Matt 4:18-22).
  • Elisha requests “a double portion of your spirit” from Elijah. (2 Kings 2:9) Jesus promised his disciples the presence of the Holy Spirit after his death. (Matt 14:15-19)
  • Elijah was taken up to the heavens while Elisha watched. (2 Kings 2:11) Jesus was also “taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:9)
  • The sons of the prophets could recognise that “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” (2 Kings 2:15) Likewise, when Peter and John were hauled before the court, the religious leaders “saw their courage… and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
  • Receiving Elijah’s spirit meant that Elisha would continue his ministry. The church as the body of Christ continues the ministry of Christ even to this day.

ELIJAH = Moses

Elijah’s consistent opposition to King Ahab mirrors Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh. When Pharoah was defeated and his son died, Moses left Egypt passing through the Red Sea on dry land.

2 Kings 1 opens with the death of Ahab and his son Ahaziah. With Ahaziah dead Elijah leaves the land crossing the Jordan River on dry land. This was a triumphal kind of “exodus moment” for Elijah.

Both Moses and Elijah’s lives end on the eastern bank of the Jordan River leaving their replacements to complete the mission.

ELISHA = Joshua

Joshua entered Canaan to claim it for God by crossing the Jordan River on dry ground. Elisha also commences his ministry to reclaim the soul of Israel for Yahweh by crossing the Jordan River on dry ground. (2 Kings 2:14)

Joshua’s first stop in Canaan was to destroy and curse Jericho so it could never be rebuilt. (Joshua 6:26) Elisha also headed straight to Jericho only this time God used him to heal the land and provide pure water to the city. (2 Kings 2:19-21)

Joshua’s next conflict was with the city Ai. A close reading shows that the battle took place between the cities of Ai and Bethel. Bethel’s men fought with Ai to resist Joshua. (Joshua 8:9-17) Elisha’s next stop was also Bethel where young men opposed him and challenged his role as God’s prophet. God was again victorious. (2 Kings 23-24)

In light of all these comparisons, the presence of Moses and Elijah with Jesus at his transfiguration make more sense. Not only are Moses and Elijah great men of God, but their lives tell similar stories that came to fulfillment in Jesus. (Matthew 17:1-13)



King Me

Israel seekingIn one of Moses’ final speeches Moses told the Israelites that when they entered the land a time would come where they would seek a king like all the nations around them. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20) Moses then outlines what a godly king looks like and how he should behave.

About 300 years later, the time came. Israel faced oppressive military pressure from Philistia and the prophet Samuel’s sons were corrupt. (This didn’t stop Samuel trying to appoint them as successors.) No obvious unifying leadership was on the horizon. “So all the elders of Israel gathered together… They said to Samuel, ‘You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.

The problem here wasn’t that Israel wanted a king. The problem was that they never specified the type of king. Samuel then describes the character of the king he would appoint: someone ‘like the nations’. The tribal leaders willingly signed on for this leader. They could have said, but didn’t, “Uh uh, we want a king like Moses described. We want a godly king. We want a king who spends time each day studying the Torah.”

I suspect that we often underestimate our inner urge to tell God how to do his job. When desperation drives us to accept God’s will for our lives, we still attempt to negotiate our terms.

The tribal leaders had resisted giving up their power for centuries. Now, in the face of the system crashing down around them they decide a king is the answer. There’s no record that they wanted Samuel to seek God’s direction about appointing a king, or who to appoint as a king. Maybe it’s implied because Samuel was a prophet, but their words to Samuel were simply, “Give us a king.”

As I preached on this topic, Galatians 2:20 kept running through my head.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This sounds poetic and maybe you even here the melody of a popular christian song as you read it. The reality these words describe challenges our faith to the core. Our old selves don’t surrender without a fight.

We want what God offers, but we want it on our terms.

We want Christ’s church, but we want it to accommodate our preferences.

We want to do evangelism, but we want to do without getting uncomfortable.

We seek a king, but a we want a king that fits our definition.

May God forgive us. May God be gracious to us. May Christ reign within us.

Life Throws Curve Balls

Moses seeking

Modern Western Civilization has gifted its citizens a vision of life. The model life consists of a series of smooth transitions from one milestone to the next. We progress through school, find our soulmate and at the right time start a family, launch a career that has us in a senior management by age 50, and then then retire comfortably to travel and spend time with grandchildren.

Thanks to this gift, many of us evaluate our lives and come away with a sense of failure. We don’t measure up.

We can’t measure up.

The gift is an optical illusion.

We often talk of life as a journey. More accurately, life is a series of journeys. These journeys seldom form a straight line. We don’t journey ‘as the bird flies’. Our journeys consist of obstacles, contours, and changes of direction. They’re erratic rather than linear.

Like Abraham, we often think of Moses as seeking a land. Like Abraham, he never possessed the land he spent so much time seeking.

But Moses’ life didn’t have a singular focus.

Bible students often divide Moses life into approximately 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in Midian, and 40 years leading Israel. In the chart below I’ve divided his life into more stages based on the goal he pursued in each stage. Probably more stages could be added.

Moses Life chart 01

When you think of Moses, you may picture him at the burning bush, or before Pharaoh, or watching the Red Sea Part. You may picture Moses walking down Mt Sinai with the 10 Commandments, or smashing them over the golden calf. You might picture Moses as Charlton Heston, or as the cartoon Prince of Egypt. Most of us have an iconic image of Moses in our minds.

However, all those images capture Moses at a moment in time. Moses’ life resembles many of ours. There was no steady career/family/education curve toward success. Whatever our snapshot it doesn’t define his life as a whole. Moses never achieved what many would consider his life goal: entering the Promised Land. But Moses succeeded in reaching many of the intermediate goals he sought.

If your life doesn’t seem to be following the path you expect, toward the goals you’re seeking, don’t panic. Don’t compare your life to culture’s curve. Remember that Moses, the great man of God, continually change his life course and never reached his ultimate goal. It’s more likely that the problem is with your expectations than with you. Trust God and He’ll accompany you wherever your journey takes you.

I believe Moses’ famous words in Deuteronomy 31 speak of his personal experience of walking with God through so many different stages of life.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Moses

Seeking a New World

Abraham seekingThis year my church adopted the annual theme “What Are You Seeking?” Now that it’s September, I’m finally getting around to preaching on the theme, and thus also blogging on the theme.

Over the next few months I’ll be looking at Biblical “seekers”. This cast of characters all share a restless spirit of discontent. In some instances these people demonstrate a ‘holy discontent’. In other cases we’ll look at examples of people reaching for forbidden fruit.

The urge to seek, to keep moving forward, seems built into the core of human nature. From the beginning of Biblical history we find Adam and Eve seeking, and reaching, for more than they had… even when they had everything.

Hebrews 11:9-10 describes Abraham, “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents… For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Verses 15-16 expand this thought, “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.”

It appears to me that the author of Hebrews is attributing some specific thoughts to Abraham that he may not have had. Concepts of life after death steadily evolve throughout the Bible. The quest for a heavenly country seems to come from a time period well after Abraham. However, Abraham’s motivation to leave Ur and travel to Canaan certainly reflects a greater desire to pursue God than material comfort. This urge for fellowship with God is what Hebrews commends.

At first glance, Abraham was obsessed with finding a new land. He left all that was familiar and traveled thousands of miles seeking it. While he traveled up and down the land of Canaan and saw all there was to see, the promised land never belonged to Abraham.

On one level, Abraham spent his life window shopping.

Over time, while Abraham was seeking a new country, he stumbled upon a new world. He discovered God’s world: Yahweh’s reality. Once he caught a glimpse of God he was hooked. He traveled up and down Canaan, not seeking a land, but faithfully pursuing the God who had revealed himself to Abraham.

Christians face the temptation to conclude our pursuit of God the moment we’re saved. Many of us find ourselves wrestling with the question, “I sought and found God. Now what?”

I believe the answer is to keep seeking God. Seeking is built into the core of human nature. Even when we accept our need of God’s presence in our lives, our quest to continue to grow into his image never ends.

We’re not seeking a country. We long for God.

We seek for earth to reflect heaven: a New World.

We seek for our lives to reflect God.

Or do we?

I wonder how often we say that we’re seeking, when really we’re wishing. Just as Abraham lived in tents waiting for his arrival at the city of God, seeking requires movement. Seeking requires action. Seeking God demands that we follow Jesus, that we allow ourselves to be molded and shaped by the Holy Spirit.

Wishing, on the other hand, requires only that we we dream.

Dreaming works best when we’re still. Don’t move. Don’t look. Just sit… and wish.

As you consider your past 7 days, were you a seeker, or a dreamer?

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. ~ Jesus