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Uphold my steps in Your paths, That my footsteps may not slip Psalm 17:5

Elected to what? Seeing Luke 4:26-30 in Context

Menominee Grace

A friend of mine recently posted something about Luke 4:26-30 being an early presentation of Calvinistic election, and I struggled to see how he deduced this. The only way anyone could see this as a calvinistic message would be to completely ignore the context as well as the Old Testament stories the Lord was referencing.

When Jesus spoke these words, he was responding to the disbelief of his hearers. He is not explaining to them why they weren’t “chosen” but that their refusal to chose Him was not unique.

In the Elijah story, from I Kings 17, the widow of Zeraphath was not elected to salvation, but to service. We can’t believe that no widows in Israel were under the grace of God, as in chapter 19 God informs Elijah there are 7000 Israelites who have remained faithful to him, and it seems impossible none of them were widows. God…

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This City Will Fall

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Joshua 6:14 — And the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. So they did six days.

Can you imagine what it was like for Rahab and her family as they waited under the scarlet cord — the symbol of their redemption — for Israel to conquer the unbelieving city and deliver them? Remember what the victory of Israel meant for this converted Canaanite family: a new relationship with God, a new people, a new position, deliverance from the rejection and scorn of those around them.

I can feel with them the anticipation as the news flooded through the streets that the Jordan at flood had just stopped — just completely stopped flowing! — and allowed a wide road for Israel to come right to the walls. I can’t imagine anyone in her family spent too much time in commerce or amusements among their neighbors. They wouldn’t want to be far from the scarlet cord when the battle commenced.

And then, several days later, the criers are calling the warriors to the walls, “Israel is on the march! Prepare for attack!” This faith filled family I’m sure gathered their things, dressed the children for travel, and huddled together, anticipating. They hear the trumpet blasts and the sound of the thousands of feet of God’s army on the move right outside the walls! And then — nothing. Israel went home. Then the second day was the same. Then the third. Let’s remember that Rahab and her father’s household had no idea of the battle plan. All they knew was God was coming with His army, and they had been promised deliverance. Six days of unfulfilled anticipation!

Do you think they began to have “expectation fatigue”? Can you identify with the disappointment and dampening hope of seeing the world around them continue in ungodliness, when they knew the army was just on the doorstep?

How glorious it must have been on that seventh day, when the marching didn’t stop! How sweet the rescue when it finally came!

I see a picture of the church here. We are in the city, but cannot allow ourselves to be part of it. We are under the scarlet redemption, and dare not stray too far. We read the Scripture and we can almost hear the trumpeters tuning up — but we are yet left waiting. We know redemption is coming, but God has shared so little of the battle plan with us. Sometimes, we tire of waiting. We know He’s coming for us, but we lose the edge of anticipation. We must remain faithful, patient and prepared, just as Rahab’s family did!

Did God Elect Trump?

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

All over Facebook for the last few weeks I have seen Christians posting that Donald Trump is God’s chosen candidate, that he his God’s anointed, that God has raised Trump up for “such a time as this”.  We seem to feel that somehow winning this election signals some sort of national salvation or that a Clinton victory would have thwarted God’s design.

I agree that God has ordained Donald Trump to lead our nation. This does not mean that we will like the outcome.  Don’t get me wrong — I strongly support Trump’s proposals and I voted for him with joy.  But how many times have we seen a politician say everything we wanted to hear and then once elected do either nothing or the exact opposite of what we’d hoped (I’m looking at you, George W. Bush)?  Should Trump assume the presidency and then repudiate all his promises and continue leading our nation away from the Biblical principles that made us great in the past, does that mean God has forsaken us?

Let’s remember that Nebuchadnezzar was an instrument of God’s will just as much as Cyrus. God promised a kingdom to idolatrous Jeroboam just as personally as He promised a kingdom to godly David.

I will pray for my president. I will write to my congressman. I will defend my principles in the marketplace. I will remain hopeful President Trump keeps his word.  I will seek God’s blessing for my community. But God chooses the direction. If He makes President Trump a source of blessing and prosperity, I will gratefully praise Him. If He uses President Trump as a rod of chastening, I will humbly seek Him. If he calls our nation to further greatness, I will challenge my people to use God’s blessing to expand the gospel reach.  If He allows our country to sink into the obscurity of history, I will trust His glory is more important and more glorious than the greatness of our nation.

Public Faith

In Generamheadsis 22:2, God commands Abraham to do the unthinkable, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”  We know the story of how Abraham was obedient, even when the command made no sense, and how God accepted his submission as sacrifice and provided a ram in the thicket as a substitute for Isaac.

What is interesting to me as I read this story again is the location of the sacrifice.  In all the Sunday School pictures I saw as a child, Abraham and Isaac are walking out through the windswept wilderness, not another person to be seen. I’d always thought this was some sort of private devotion, between Abraham and God alone.  The only other mention of Moriah in Scripture seems to contradict this notion, however.  In I Chronicles 3:1, we are told Moriah is the mountain on which Solomon built the temple of God, the land that David had purchased from the Jebusites.  We know the site of the temple, and we know it was placed centrally in the city of Jerusalem.  We also know that this city existed during Abraham’s time, and that Abraham and their king, Melchizedek, were friends and allies from Genesis 14.

So then Abraham’s submission to God’s command, and God’s substitutionary sacrifice, were not done in the middle of the desert, but in the middle of a city.  This was no private devotion, but a public declaration, of Abraham’s faith and obedience and of God’s mercy and atonement.  God wasn’t just teaching Abraham, but the whole world through Abraham. Imagine if Abraham had backed out at the last minute. How would that have reflected on God in the eyes of the Jebusites surrounding him?  They would have left there doubting God’s goodness without ever seeing the ram He’d provided.

Sometimes God calls us to publicly endure tests we don’t understand.  Often we wish to deal with these times out in the desert, but God places us right in view of the world as we struggle with just how real is our faith and how firm is our submission.  God isn’t being a bully or treating us unkindly, he is using us to teach others that by trusting and obeying, we see His miracles.

Menominee Heritage Days

 

dwight draws

Menominee Heritage Days! Come join us and learn something about the history of our community. Fun games, cool crafts and great snacks (Hot Dogs and Ice Cream on Wednesday!!!) Chalk Artist Dwight Haynes will be drawing every day. Henes Park Pavilion 3 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 4 to 6pm. Event is free and all are welcome.

A Word On Police Shootings

I have recently seen several Christian blogs, in what seems to be an attempt to be relevant or empathetic or “culturally sensitive”, explaining how the church must recognize the injustice and tragedy of the recent deaths in Baton Rouge and Minnesota equally with the murders of the police officers in Dallas.  Yes, the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterlings are tragedies, in that human lives were needlessly lost. It seems from the information that is trickling out slowly they are not morally equal with the murders of the officers in Texas.

We are learning that Sterlings was not approached by the police for selling CDs, but that the police had received a 911 call that he had threatened another human being with a gun.  Now we know that he was a multiple felon and was permanently barred from owning a gun, but had purchased one illegally anyway.  His friend has stated he purchased the gun to protect himself (because he didn’t want other people robbing him although he himself had multiple larceny convictions) but we know that he threatened to end another human life with that gun because he was annoyed.  Then, when the police approached him, knowing he was armed, he refused to comply and violently resisted arrest.  Was the shooting justified? I don’t know.  There are multiple investigations and we must wait to draw that conclusion until they are completed.  Was his shooting preventable by him? Absolutely.  he could have complied with the consequences of his lifestyle and not had a gun.  Since he did have a gun, he could have respected human life and not threatened another person with it.  Having done that, he could have complied with the officers, allowed them to peaceably disarm him, and faced the results of his choices.  Whether or not his shooting was justified, he himself bears the greatest responsibility for it’s occurrence.

We have learned that Castile was not pulled over for a broken tail light, but rather because he matched the description of an armed robbery suspect.  Was he the suspect the police were looking for? We don’t know.  Assuming he was not, was it fair to pull him over to check? Yes.  I myself have been in this situation.  I was pulled over because my car matched the description of a vehicle used in a robbery.  I cooperated with the officers, and after they confirmed I was not the suspect they sought, I was allowed to safely continue on my way.  It would seem that Castile was not shot while complying with the officer’s orders, but rather while defying them.  In the latest video, his firearm is clearly seen in his lap, apparently unsecured.  Was this shooting justified? I don’t know. Was it preventable by him? Probably.  While there is much about this situation we don’t know, it is probable that if his gun had been secured rather than loosely stuffed under his shirt – or even completely in plain sight – and he had held his hands on the steering wheel until the officer could remove and secure the gun, the most he would have been facing would have been arrest.

The police officers who were shot down in cold blood in Dallas were working to provide a safe and controlled environment for a large unruly crowd of people who were gathered to accuse them, both personally and corporately, of attitudes and actions of which most were innocent.  They had chosen to offer comfort and protection to a group of people who disrespected them.  They were fired upon with no warning from a position of relative safety for no other cause than that they wore blue.

It might feel nice to express solidarity with those families and protesters in the name of seeking justice, but it simply isn’t true.  While we weep with the hurting parents, we do not excuse their sons from the responsibility of their choices.  If we really believe black lives matter, then the African American culture that glorifies violence, devalues human life, exalts rebellion and vilifies authority must be opposed.  Isaiah 5:20 reminds us there is a stark contrast between good and evil and we are not to ignore it.  We cannot excuse wickedness with cultural relativity or sensitivity.

The ultimate answer is the Gospel.  Christ died for these young men.  They must be told.

 

True Bread

breadandwineJohn chapter 6 is a heartbreaking chapter.  It begins with one of the most famous miracles. Jesus was overtaken by a large crowd, probably families on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. He had compassion on them, and healed those who were sick.  Seeing their hunger, He chose to feed them. Taking a young man’s lunch — five barley loaves and two small fish — He blessed and broke it, commanding the disciples to distribute it among the five thousand men and their families.  These people were happy to follow one who could meet their physical needs so readily and with so little effort on their part.  They were so excited, the crowd sought to force Him into kingship.  Who doesn’t want a government that provides free health care and food?

In verses 26-27, Jesus, as always, redirects their attention from the immediate to the eternal. “ Jesus answered them and said,Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.  Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.'”   What does He mean, “not because you saw the signs, but because you ate … and were filled”?  Isn’t eating more convincing than seeing? Isn’t being filled more important than understanding? Isn’t satisfaction a more worthy goal than commitment?

What a clear example of what Paul meant in Philippians 3:19, when he says “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.”  These people had been on their way to a glorious celebration of God’s grace, love and redemption — a festival of renewing the covenant God had established with His people and recommitting themselves in worship and consecration. After one meal, they changed their route completely, traveled around the lake seeking a free meal.  It is our way to let our bodies control our decisions. We serve our desires, and seek Christ mainly as an easier way to earthly satisfaction.

Jesus urges them to seek a higher life. His imagery is bloody, stomach churning and demanding. He tells us we can’t just enjoy the benefits of a relationship without partaking in who He is.  We must consume Him.

In the cafeteria of my middle school, there was a large banner across the wall with the food pyramid, and slogan, “You Are What You Eat”.  It reminded us that our choices of food determined much of our life course.  If we ate well, we would have health, strength and energy — that our food provided the building blocks of our body. We literally lived in a shell of our consumption.

Spiritually, the same principle holds true. Christ calls us not to simply acknowledge Him, but to partake of Him.  If we are to have life, it must be His life.  We must build our lives from His life.  We cannot simply accept Him for what He offers, we must submit to who He is.

This call to commitment was too much for the crowd.  Even some of the disciples refused this level of surrender. A king who provided was one thing, a king who commanded is something else entirely.

I’m sure it was with a broken heart and disappointment that Jesus saw them leave. I think we see this in His words to the Twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”  These men, though, had not only eaten, but had seen. They were not simply looking for bread, but for Life.  Peter’s answer is a challenge for us, and when the demand is hard and commitment is tested, we must ask with him, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Decisions – help in making right decisions

Excellent direction on an important topic!

Sjbjburke's Blog

Decisions
How many of you enjoy making decisions that will have a serious impact on you, your family, friends, or colleagues?
Making important decisions (or for that matter, any decision) can be difficult because the rules of decision making are so arbitrary. Yes, there are rules for making decisions!
Mr. Sproul tells of the difficulty in setting guidelines according to Stodgill’s Handbook of Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research. Out of five thousand studies on executive decision making, they were not able to find one set of factors, traits, or processes that identified the qualities of effective leadership.
While business leadership is highly individualistic, a formula has been developed to guide the average person.
1. Take the challenge. Many of us decide not to make the decision!
2. Seek the answers.
3. Evaluate the alternatives. (Positive and negative aspects of each).
4. Make a commitment.
5. Stick with the…

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The Objective Or The End?

hotsun Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel:“Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still,And the moon stopped, Till the people had revenge upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.  Joshua 10:12-13

After defeating Jericho, Ai and Bethel and placing the Gibeonites under subjection, Joshua and Israel were forced into battle with a confederation of five Canaanite kingdoms.  The previous battles of the Conquest were fought on Israel’s terms and at the time they chose.  This battle was brought to them.  I’m sure if Joshua had his way, he would have continued taking city by city, one at a time with rests in between, but, as often happens in life, the time and place of labor was not his.  Of course, it was his decision to trust the Gibeonites and make a treaty with them without consulting God that put him in this position — the five kings were attacking his allies and it was the sworn word of Israel that brought them to the aid of their poorly chosen friends.

Since the sun was in the east and the moon in the west, we can see that it was early in the fight that Joshua recognized there was more work here than could be accomplished in one day.  He knew that if they did not conclude the matter decisively, the Canaanites would return to their cities, re-arm and attack again and again and again.  So Joshua asked God for the time to finish the job — however long it took. An it took time — probably between eight and twelve hours more than a normal day’s work.

Imagine how the soldiers were feeling as the day went on, and on, and on and on.  In battle there is no coffee break, no time for a nap, no dinner or even the chance to grab a Snickers and Coke.  They were winning, God was giving decisive victory — but it was long, slow, tiring, repetitive work.  I imagine God’s blessing and answer to Joshua’s prayer began to feel like a trial and punishment toward the end.

I’ve never fought in a battle, but I’ve worked some long days. I’ve faced tasks I knew must be done before I could rest that took much longer than I had planned. I’m sure you also can feel the frustration, exhaustion and temptation to lay down your tools and rest to face the consequences tomorrow.

Joshua’s eyes were on the victory.  He and Israel, instead of watching the clock and holding out until “quitting time” were seeking God’s objective in this battle.  They knew accomplishing God’s purpose was worth the sacrifice and labor, and a long, better and more productive rest would be the result of sticking it out.

When we face a battle, it is often tempting to focus on “how long?” rather than seeing what God is seeking to do in our life.  In order to have the determination to see it through, we must remember that war has an objective. God is working, bringing us to the place he has promised.

Instead of looking for an end, let us seek God’s objective.

 

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