The way we were?

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Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region. Mark 5:17

It’s one of the stranger stories ever recorded about Jesus. He and His disciples had just crossed the Sea of Galilee and witnessed Jesus calming the winds and the waves (they still didn’t know who He was), when they were met on the other side by a crazy man who lived among the tombs of a graveyard and could not be controlled. Whatever the authorities of the town tried to bind him with — even chains of iron — he would break, and so he wandered the tombs, night and day, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When Jesus asked the man his name, he said his name was Legion, “for we are many.” Jesus knew the man was inhabited by demons, and the demons knew who He was and that He had the power to send them out of the man. But, not wanting to be disembodied, the demons pleaded with Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs that were grazing on the hillside. So Jesus granted their wish, and as soon as they entered the pigs, the whole herd ran headlong into the lake and drowned.

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God’s welcome home





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Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing ’til you leave it for awhile…

My good friend and mentor, Ron Ritchie, sent me a picture yesterday of the Christian rock group, Love Song, and Phil Keaggy, taken at an awards event a few years ago in Nashville. They’re all looking pretty good for their age, albeit a little paunchy here and there. Ron must have been thinking about the first time we heard Love Song when we “auditioned” them before letting them sing at our Sunday night Body Life service at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California in 1970. They sang “Welcome Back,” for us that Sunday afternoon, crammed into Ron’s back office, and when they finished, we were all literally weeping due to the sweetness of this song, the unique blend of their voices and the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. At a time when many of the gospel songs were rock and roll screamers about avoiding hell and getting right with God, here was something sweet, warm and inviting. This song was clearly penned by the Lord. These guys were brand new Christians with no training. They just wrote what they heard, and they heard the Spirit calling. It’s for this reason that I’ve always believed that this is the way the Spirit of God does evangelism. No scare tactics. No head thumping. No Bible bashing. No end of the world proclamations. Just the invitation of the gospel of welcome: God’s welcome home to the prodigal.

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What we were created to do

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by Marti Fischer

One of my favorite authors, Dorothy Sayers, never found her Christian life dull. “Perhaps it is no wonder,” she wrote, “that women were first at the cradle and last at the cross. They had never known a man like this Man — there never has been such another.”

Her answer to Sigmund Freud’s question, “What does a woman want?” is to call the question “frivolous.”

“What is unreasonable and irritating,” she continued, “is to assume that all one’s tastes and preferences have to be conditioned by the class to which one belongs.” For Sayers, the question was not, “What do women want?” but rather, “What does this woman want?”

“Are all women created do the same thing?” she asked.

The obvious answer is no, of course not. Never in the course of history were women created to all do the same thing, and least of all Christian women today. We, as Christian women, are created to do several special things in the world. Our task is to find what those special things are, and then do them.

Which brings me to the Old Testament story of Jael and the unique thing she was created to do.

Background

Jael, a tent-dweller, was the wife of Heber the Kenite (Judges 4:17-22; 5:2-31). They were tinsmiths who made farming utensils, domestic items, and weapons. During the Israelites never-ending struggle with the surrounding Canaanites, the Kenites were regarded as being neutral. They were descendants of Jethro, and hence, had the confidence of the Israelites, while at the same time benefitting from a formal contract of peace with the Canaanites. Heber, a sensible Kenite businessman, benefited from the neutrality by making and supplying weapons for both armies without either party knowing.

Within this setting, Heber’s wife Jael emerges from obscurity and is singled out to perform one deed. The history of this event spells that out clearly.

For twenty years, Jabin, the Canaanite king, had oppressed Israel, and in large measure, the instrument of their control had been Sisera, the king’s general, the “man of the iron chariots.” Deborah, a prophetess of Israel who, like Gideon, was a courageous and wise Judge of the Israelites, had aroused the tribes of Israel and convinced her military general and heroic leader, Barak, to unite the tribes of Israel for greater strength. Unfortunately, only two of the twelve tribes, Zebulun and Naphtali, sent men to the battle. No matter; that was enough for the Lord. And because God had gone before him, Barak defeated Sisera’s Canaanite army at Mount Tabor. The defeat was complete except for Sisera, who fled on foot to save himself. He ran away north toward his command post and came upon the “oaks of the wanderers,” where the Kenites lived. Here he was invited to take shelter in the tents of Heber by Jael (Judges 4:17-18). Under the cloak of her neutrality, Jael seized the opportunity to strike a blow for the nation of Israel.

Jael’s Task

The writer tells the story with elaborate detail: Jael invites the general Sisera in, and gives him “thickened milk” — a yogurt style drink that was mildly sedative — and hides him under a blanket where the thoroughly frightened and exhausted man drops off to sleep, a sleep from which he never awakens. “Stand in the doorway of the tent,” he had told Jael. “If someone comes by and asks you, ‘Is anyone in there?’ say ‘No.’”

But while he slumbers, Jael takes a tent peg and the mallet with which the pegs were driven into the ground and hammers the stake through Sisera’s head!  Later, Barak, the Israeli commander pursuing Sisera, is met by Jael, who brings him to her tent, lifts the flap and shows him the gory sight. In silence, Barak turns and walks away. The honor of the victory is not his because he had hesitated in obeying the Lord, but as Deborah predicted, the Lord delivered Sisera into the hands of a woman (Judges 4:9). Jael listened and obeyed.

Deborah’s poetic version of Jael’s deed is sung as follows:

Deborah’s Song

Judges 5:24-27

Most blessed of women be Jael,

the wife of Heber the Kenite,

most blessed of tent-dwelling women.

He asked for water, and she gave him milk;

in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk.

Her hand reached for the tent peg,

her right hand for the workman’s hammer.

She struck Sisera, she crushed his head,

she shattered and pierced his temple.

At her feet he sank,

he fell; there he lay.

At her feet he sank, he fell;

where he sank, there he fell — dead.

Jael’s savage sledge was a hammer of justice. From that day on, “The hand of the Israelites grew stronger and stronger against Jabin, the Canaanite king, until they destroyed him” (Judges 4:23,24). Her heroic act was the beginning of the end of Canaanite control. Thus Israel, the repository of the “seed” of the Messiah, was spared to the end that it might bring salvation to the world through Christ the Messiah (Genesis 3:15).

“Blessed are you among women,” Deborah sang of Jael, a phrase that recalls Elizabeth’s blessing of Mary. And what did Jael do to merit such praise? What lay before her — the thing she was created to do.

Our Task

Perhaps some of us are called to carry out such history-changing acts. Most obedience, however, comes in the ordinary affairs of everyday life. But we never know what heroism lies in quiet obedience to God; and there is no biblical reason why you or I, in our obedience, may not play an extraordinary role in the unfolding drama of world redemption.

If Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” we must obey, and “Go!” with all the force of which our spirit is capable, and with all of our eagerness, mixed with fear, for there is an immense need in our world for the gospel. Jesus is not offering a pleasant party invitation. “Go!” is His urgent demand. You never know what He may be calling you to do.

Seek that which distinguishes you, and follow Jesus, always knowing He is “able to do immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within you.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Therefore, do not curb your God-given gifts and creativity, or restrict your service. In terms of God’s call to discipleship, there is “neither male or female” (Galatians 3:28). While I think there will always be a mystery involved in how and why God created humankind “male and female,” we are “joint heirs” of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). Each of us, male and female, are created to do a special thing in the world. Each of our tasks is to find out what God has fitted us for, and, through the power of Jesus Christ our Lord, be faithful and do it.

Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force. – Dorothy Sayers

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My Valentine

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For purpose of themes for the Catch, I’m going to stretch Valentine’s Day into one more day. I’m sure you can still find some hearts around the house, or in some of the local businesses you will visit today. Aside from Presidents’ Day, and not everybody honors that, it’s the only thing in the otherwise dreary month of February to celebrate.

Yesterday we looked at this from the standpoint of you and me being God’s Valentine. We were reminded of the fact that beauty resides in the eye of the beholder, and how that is a good thing for us since many of us are beauty-challenged. You definitely don’t think of beauty when you think of me.

But as for my Valentine to whom I’ve been married for almost 45 years now, it’s a different story. She doesn’t need any help in the beauty department. For me, you’re going to need some help from the eye of the beholder to see any beauty; for Marti, it’s common knowledge — there for all to see. So let me tell you a little about her in case you didn’t know.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

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We are living in the most incredible love story ever told, every day of our lives. It is all about God and His vast, unchanging love for us that took Him to the cross to remove the barrier of sin between Him and us, and then set about the task of making us spotless and blameless in His sight as His Bride. All of this is to present us to Himself at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, from which we will reign with Him forever.

We are His Valentine, and our appeal to Him has nothing to do with our intrinsic beauty. As a matter of fact, in our sin, which is where He found us, we are pretty ugly and undesirable. But this is where God’s love is so unique: We become beautiful through His love. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” the saying goes, and that is exactly the case with us. God turns our ugliness into beauty through His love.

This is hard for us to believe because we have a tendency to not love ourselves. This can be for all sorts of reasons. We sell ourselves short, or put ourselves down. We refuse to believe our forgiveness. We punish ourselves. We hesitate to let go off our guilt because in spite of what Christ has done for us, we think we have to pay for our sins. At least we think we feel better if we do. This is twisted and false. It is a lie of he devil.

When all along, all we need to do is accept His love. Believe what God sees us to be — lovely and worthy of His love. His love makes us that way. Learn to love yourself because God loves you completely, unconditionally. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that God not only loves you … He finds you lovely. He desires you. He’s thought about this and planned for you from before the beginning of time. He has worked this out. He’s invested all of history in making His relationship with you possible.

So believe it. You are His Valentine. Receive this gift from Him today. It’s our day. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Through our own two eyes

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Rain can ruin your weekend

Or rain can spare your life;

Depending on who you are and what your thirst is like.

                      – Mark Heard, from the song, “Some Folks’ World”

I awoke early this morning to the sound of distant thunder. Thunder is very rare for southern California except for this year which so far has been full of exceptions. It’s been a wet winter and the weather App on my phone is calling for three more days of rain. The storm forecast for today and tonight looks especially problematic for some. We’ve already gotten Weather Watch text alerts to prepare for possible flooding overnight.

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How to tell people what God is like

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“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Exodus 34:6,7

How does God describe Himself to us? How does He wish to be known? Don’t you think that would be pretty important piece of information to know? What if the way God wants to be known is not, in fact, the way most people perceive Him? Shouldn’t that be a concern to those of us who know, love and follow Him?

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The little box that fear built

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by Marti Fischer

Fear, in my opinion puts us into a little box. Even though it is entirely too small for us to fit in, I think that, like a bully, fear chases after us until we jump into the little box to try and get away. The problem is, we don’t fit. We try to squeeze in whatever way we can, but however hard we try, we leave an arm or a leg, or our head sticking out.

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