It’s in the past

There is a scene in Disney’s The Lion King where Rafiki, a baboon, swats Simba, a lion, on the head. When Simba asks what it was for, Rafiki responds, “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!” He goes on to say that you can either run from the past or learn from it. In Joshua, Israel chooses to set up a memorial so that the generations to follow could learn from the past.

These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

Joshua 4:7b (NIV)

On significant occasions, Israel would often build landmarks or altars to commemorate what God had done for them. These stones would serve as a reminder to future generations of their rich heritage.

He did this so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God

Joshua 4:24 (NIV)

Simba had to leave some things in his past, but he also had to remember the past so that he could lay hold of his inheritance—an entire kingdom. Sound familiar? Even after Israel took the Promised Land, they needed perpetual reminders of the fact that they were God’s chosen people, and of how they got to be where they were. Even the painful reminders of past sin would prove to be helpful for generations to come.

Like Israel setting up stones and Simba facing the hurt of the past, we can’t turn our backs entirely on our own history. In many cases, we need to celebrate it. If you needed to be rescued, celebrate and talk about the fact that God brought you out! If you were healed, speak of the Lord’s faithfulness. If you have been made whole, share it with the world.

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness know through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

Psalm 89:1-2 (NIV)

How is the present generation to know of God’s goodness and faithfulness if the previous generation never speaks of it? Our sin is in the past, but God’s love, mercy, and grace endure forever—through all generations. We need to speak of these things and celebrate them as well.

How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Romans 10:14-15 (NIV)

If you need to erect a monument to commemorate God’s goodness, go for it. If you need to share your story, do it. If you want to sing a song of praise, go ahead. Just don’t keep it to yourself!

Read: Joshua 4-6, Luke 2:1-24

Lessons learned

There are many ways that people learn. Some learn in certain ways better than others or by a combination of methods. Some of these methods are:

  1. reading
  2. speaking
  3. hearing

I was homeschooled in my early years. Once I could read on my own, I could go off, read my lessons, and complete my assignments. I still love learning through reading.

Once I began public school, I learned that not everyone could be so easily self-taught. Some of my peers struggled through silent reading time. There were kids in my class who had to hear the lesson in order to retain the information. And there were students who had to repeat main points back to the teacher to ensure that they grasped the concept. And there were some still who used a combination of these things, as well as others, to learn.

In the days of Moses and Joshua, silent reading was almost unheard of. When the Book of the Law was read, it was read aloud.

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

Do you know that only 19 percent of churchgoing Christians read the Bible daily? (A Christian is considered to be churchgoing by attending church just 3 of 8 weeks.) It is no wonder that the Word of God has so little power in our lives.

Consider this, if every professing Christian were to read a portion of the Bible every day, how would you expect the world to change? If we all read the scriptures out loud, would there be even greater change?

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17 (NIV)

If just over 7 percent of Christians read their Bibles daily, it is no wonder the church has lost its influence on society. It is no wonder we are perceived as weak hypocrites.

There is a reason why God was so emphatic about Joshua keeping the Book of the Law near him.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

Joshua 1:7 (NIV)

Our success, both personally and as the body of Christ, I believe, is based entirely on our grasp of the Word of God. Most Christians have never seen a move of God. They don’t even know what it’s supposed to look like because they’ve never read or heard about it. The more I read about all that God has done, all the miracles Jesus performed, the power that came with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the more I crave those things. I yearn to see God move the way He did in the days of the early church.

Our mouths are required for a move of God. We need to open up our mouths and pray. We need to speak the Word of God with boldness and courage. We won’t see the Word come to pass until the Word passes our lips.

Read: Joshua 1-3, Luke 1:57-80

On trial

Read: Deuteronomy 11-13, Mark 13:1-13

I’ve never been on trial. I’ve never been to a trial. The closest I’ve been to trial is walking past the courthouse with my groceries. What I know of court and the process involved in a trial mostly comes from television. I take it all with a grain of salt because I assume that much of it is made to be much more dramatic than real life for the sake of cramming an entire case into forty-two minutes.

But one thing I do know is that, when a witness is to take the stand, a lawyer will prepare that witness. They will go over any and all questions that may be asked of them and refine responses in order to support a certain narrative and press a desired outcome.

Jesus has a discussion with his disciples about standing trial.

Mark 13-11

Notice he doesn’t say, “If you are arrested and brought to trial.” He says, “Whenever.” It’s a sure thing. This life we’ve been called to will most certainly earn us our day in front of a judge.

Right now, our judge is the rest of the world. Christians all around are being put on trial—both in the courtroom and out of it. We are being challenged on our faith and the very core of our beliefs. And the sad part is, in many instances, we’re losing our case.

Why? Because we’re not listening to our lawyer. He’s there prompting us, telling us what to say. Some of us ignore him or block him out. Others don’t even know he’s there, wanting to help.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him, But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

John 14:16-17 (NIV)

Counselor is another term for a lawyer, specifically a trial lawyer. So it makes sense that, if Jesus expected us to be on trial, he’d also provide the lawyer. Like anyone on trial, if we want to win, first we need to accept the help of our lawyer. Then we need to take our lawyer’s advice. He’s the expert. We’re not. In the case of our Counselor, the Holy Spirit, he actually speaks through us. If we let him.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 14:26 (NIV)

Accepting Jesus is the first part of our Christian walk. Accepting the Holy Spirit ensures that we are able to continue that walk and stand firm.

That loud crowd

Read: Leviticus 15-17, Matthew 27:1-31

A crowd is contagious. At the moment, much of the world is currently wrapped up in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Once every four years, I watch winter sports. In the past few days, I have been wrapped up in snowboarding hearing terms like chicken salad, 1440, goofy-footed, McTwist, amplitude, and pretzels. I can talk about the sport like I actually know something about it—which I don’t. But I’m part of the crowd, cheering on anyone wearing a maple leaf whether I’ve heard of them or not. I have jumped on the Olympic bandwagon just like I do every other year.

A couple of thousand years ago, there was another crowd of bandwagoners. Whether they shared the opinion or not, a group of people gathered to shout and, eventually condemn an innocent man to death.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Matthew 27:22-23 (NIV)

I don’t know if the crowd just happened to be there, or if they awaited the annual customary release of a prisoner, or if they’d been paid to be there by members of the Sanhedrin. But they were there. They were loud. And none of them could answer Pilate’s question—at least not loud enough to be heard. They shouted for the sake of making noise and, because they were so loud, anyone who could have been able to speak against them was either drowned out or too afraid to speak out.

Still today, there are a lot of people out there making noise for no other reason than to make noise. They like the sound someone is making, so they join in the cacophony. If asked why they make noise, they just get louder.

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, where were all the people who had welcomed him into the city just days before? Where were all the people who had been healed and set free? Jesus was not to ineffective in his ministry that there would not have been enough people to speak up for him.

But Jesus was passive. He was quiet. We should emulate him.

Yes, we should be like Jesus. As much as possible, we should strive to be just like him. But this moment, during and after his arrest, was the only time when Jesus was quiet. He knew what he had to do and he had resigned himself to it without putting up a fight. At no other point in his ministry did Jesus ever sit down and keep to himself in the face of lies.

If you know the truth that could set someone free, why not shout it out? Even if the crowd is loud, we should be louder because we know why we shout. The Book that we hold in our hands is not mere platitudes, but it is life. If you would only step out of the shadows and speak up, perhaps another person would find the courage to do the same. And then another. And another. And soon, the crowd proclaiming the truth will be louder than the crowd making noise.

Church, we should never, ever let that loud crowd shame or bully us into keeping quiet.

All of my life in ev’ry season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing
I have a reason to worship

Brooke Ligertwood, Desert Song

Sshhh…

Have you ever been in a prayer meeting where everything is quiet and the peace of the Lord is permeating the room and you’re all just basking in the presence of God… then someone just has to fill the silence with what is usually a loud and long-winded prayer? There seem to be those who cannot abide the silence. Well, heaven is one long, unending praise and worship service. Maybe, but sometimes, worship includes silence.

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence throughout heaven for about half an hour.

Revelation 8:1 (NLT)

There are several theories as to the purpose or reason for this silence. Some believe that it is heaven—the elders and the angels surrounding the throne—waiting in expectation for what will follow the breaking of the seventh seal. Others believe that the cries of the saints below were so great that it silenced the heavenly host.

I believe that the silence itself is just as important as the reason.

There is a time for loud, boisterous, joyful praise. And there is a time for quiet contemplative worship. And there is yet a time for silence. How else are we to hear what God is saying if we never take the time to listen? We know from the Old Testament accounts that God can speak through a burning bush or He can speak in a still, small voice. Sometimes He needs to get our attention and other times we need to give Him our attention.

Whatever the reason for the half hour of silence in Revelation, all of heaven stood at attention. They waited. They listened. They prepared. There was a pause. A weighted silence.

Prayer, praise, worship—these things do not necessarily require sound on our part. Sometimes, the silence can hold more weight than words. If heaven can handle silence, so can we.

Daily Bible reading: Obadiah 1, Revelation 8

20 Questions

As I began writing today, my page began to fill with one question after another. So today, take some time and read through these questions. Try to answer them for yourself truthfully.

  1. What kinds of things do you say on a daily basis?
  2. Are they good things or bad things?
  3. Do you believe your words to be neither good nor bad, but neutral?
  4. Are you talking to others about yourself?
  5. Or are you talking about the grace of God in your life?
  6. What are the things that are pouring out of you?
  7. How often do you take the time to reflect on your own words?
  8. Do you examine the things you say as much as you do what others say?
  9. When you think someone else should be correcting their speech patterns, do you apply that same thought to yourself?
  10. Do you ever try to change your thought process so that your words will reflect that change?
  11. In all your daily talk, how much does God come into play?
  12. Do you talk about Jesus like a friend or like he’s a distant relative or a mere acquaintance?
  13. When you tell someone you’re a Christian (and I hope you do), are they surprised or is it just a confirmation of everything else you say or do?
  14. Are your words a result of what you believe?
  15. Do you speak because you believe?
  16. If your words reflect what you believe, listen to yourself, what is it that you truly believe?
  17. Do you believe in yourself?
  18. Or do you believe in Christ?
  19. Do you project your own glory?
  20. Or do you reflect God’s glory?

We don’t go around preaching about ourselves; we preach Christ Jesus, the Lord. All we say about ourselves is that we are your servants because of what Jesus has done for us. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us to understand that this light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (NLT)

But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, and so I speak.”

2 Corinthians 4:13 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 21-22, 2 Corinthians 4

Dainty morsels

Communication drives our world. New and faster ways of communicating are popping up every day. A new phone. A new kind of network. A new app. And it’s all held in our hands. So what are we doing with these powerful tools of communication? Are we using them to seek and propagate truth or are we using them to spread rumors and hearsay—taking pride in being one of the first to pass on the information without bothering to check into the veracity of it?

What dainty morsels rumors are—but they sink deep into one’s heart.

Proverbs 18:8 (NLT)

As easy as words are to share, truth can be difficult to find. Rather than filtering through posts, tweets, blogs, and stories, we often settle on the first account we read rather than the firsthand account.

Any story sounds true until someone sets the record straight.

Proverbs 18:17 (NLT)

Are you know as a person who shares stories or as a person who tells the truth? It is so easy for each and every one of us to get caught up in a narrative that is being driven by someone or something else. Yet, as Christians, it behooves us to search for and spread the truth.

Paul told the church in Corinth, “Now wherever we go [God] uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Good News like a sweet perfume… to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume.” (2 Corinthians 2:14, 16) We are not just to spread news, but spread the Good News. Our words—whether they be spoken, written, or typed—can give life or death. We are called to give life.

A person’s words can be life-giving water, words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.

Proverbs 18:4 (NLT)

Don’t settle for dainty morsels. Search for the life-giving water.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 17-18, 2 Corinthians 2

Thus saith the Lord

If you grew up in church, did prophecy scare you? Were you ever concerned that God would hijack your mouth and force you to holler out a word in King James English? Did you ever worry that, even if you wanted to prophesy that you’d have to start memorizing the King James Bible and learn exactly where to insert your thee’s and thou’s?

There’s nothing wrong with a prophecy given that includes words like thee or thou, but that’s not how it has to be. If you’ve never read a King James Bible, you can still prophesy. If you don’t like public speaking, that’s okay. If you have a quiet voice, that’s fine, too. All you need is love, a willing heart, and a desire to speak God’s word to build up and encourage others.

Let love be your highest goal, but also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives, especially the gift of prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:1 (NLT)

Many people shy away from all things prophetic because they had a bad experience. Maybe a preacher came to town and offered up a whole lot of condemnation in the name of the Lord. Know this—prophecy is not condemning. It is not accusing.

But one who prophesies is helping others grow in the Lord, encouraging and comforting them.

1 Corinthians 14:3 (NLT)

Prophecy is also not a fortune to be told. If it doesn’t already confirm what God has been showing you, write it down and put it on the back burner. The prophetic isn’t a guide to life, it is a confirmation of what God is already doing in your life.

So, you want to ask God for the gift of prophecy. What if I get it wrong? But what if you get it right? Here’s my opinion and you can take it or leave it—if you’ve asked God for a gift and you believe He’s given it to you, you have to start somewhere. And, if you know that prophecy is to encourage and build up and give someone an encouraging word, at the very least, a person walks away lifted up. At the very best, you’ve spoken a word into their life that confirms something God has already been speaking to them. It can be as simple as, “Hey, I was praying for you and this is what I believe God showed me…”

You never know what God will drop into your heart until you take the first step. So put away thoughts of a booming thus saith the Lord and start to entertain (and talk about) the little things that God is showing you. There may yet be a prophet in there somewhere!

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 5-6, 1 Corinthians 14:1-20

Speak out!

There are two ways of learning things: you can learn the hard way and figure it out on your own, or you can seek out an answer or advice from someone who already knows. The concept is not new. It’s existed literally since the beginning of time.

We seek out those who have learned the hard lessons or who have gleaned those lessons from others. It’s how we, as humans have gathered our wealth of knowledge. Each generation (should) learn from the previous. It’s all dependent on the previous generation sharing their knowledge and the current generation listening and understanding what is being passed to them.

In high school, I was a smart kid. I learned quickly. I graduated with the highest honours possible. Nearly straight A’s. A’s in everything but Math 11. I distinctly remember one day in class where I just couldn’t grasp a concept, so I asked the teacher for help. He told me I’d have to come after class if I wanted help. Not possible. Where most student’s days ended at 2:15, I had another class after that. I explained that to the teacher. He shrugged. I asked if he could help me in class (as far as I could tell, he wasn’t doing anything else, and wasn’t it his job as a teacher to teach me?). He looked at the problem and told me I should know how to do that already. Well, I don’t, which is why I’m asking for help. He said I should have learned that the year before. Obviously, I didn’t. I’d have to come to after school help. I couldn’t (I liked band class way better than math anyway). I never did fully understand the concept and my grade reflected it.

That teacher had knowledge that, had he been willing to share it with me, would have helped me to maintain my straight A status. He could have helped, yet he withheld that information. Now, that’s just high school math and, contrary to what every teacher ever told me, I never needed algebra in the “real world”—not even in the fifteen years I worked in finance and insurance. But what about the knowledge we, as Christians, have? What do we know that could help others? Has God done great things for us? Has He come to our aid when we’ve called on Him? Has He loved us? Has He rescued us?

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has saved you from your enemies.

Psalm 107:1-2 (NLT)

If one of the the only ways people can learn is from others, what are we showing or teaching them? Are we silent and withholding like my math teacher or are we vocal and willing to share about the great things God has done in our lives?

Those who are wise will take all this to heart
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

Psalm 107:43 (NLT)

The only way something will show up in history is if it’s recorded—whether we write it down or pass it down orally. The only way history will show the faithful love of the Lord is if we keep talking about it. History doesn’t record silence. It records difference-makers.

Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 107-108, Romans 12:21-33 

The sound of silence

Silence can be one of the most difficult things to endure. For many, a great deal of discomfort is found when all noise ceases. Most of us will feel a need to fill the void of sound with babble, the radio, a YouTube video, or just about anything that will permeate the air with something other than silence.

There are times, though, when God desires our silence. Remember on the mountain, Elijah did not hear God in the wind, the quake, or the fire, but in the whispering, small voice in the stillness that followed the cacophony. With his ears ringing from the violence that had just passed, Elijah would have had to be still and listen closely to hear anything at all let alone a quiet whisper.

Be silent, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honoured throughout the world.

Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

It is in the silence that God speaks to us. If we constantly fill our days with noise, how will we ever learn to hear His voice? If we never hear His voice, we will be more easily swayed by all of the other voices around us.

The Lord Almighty is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
                                                      Interlude

Psalm 46:11 (NLT)

God is always around us. How often do we take notice of that fact? How often do we acknowledge Him? The Psalms are filled with interludes. In many translations, you’ll find selah following a phrase. It is an intentional pause, a time for purposeful reflection. The Lord Almighty is here among us. Here. Among us. Those are certainly words that could use some additional thought.

We should take time every day not to merely endure silence, but to actively seek it out. If it requires removing yourself to a quiet place, so be it. Leave behind the noise and distractions. See what you can learn. Often the sound of silence is far more revealing than the noise.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 44-46, Acts 25