PROMISES, PROMISES Joshua 21: 43-45

I’m learning to be careful with what promises I make.  For some have memories like elephants!  Not good to let anyone down by breaking my word.  Not a barrel of laughs when it happens to me.  I can easily drum up decades-old broken promises without batting an eyelash.  That’s why I’d better be cautious opening my big mouth.  Promises made require promises kept.

Once again our Lord God embodies all the best.  You can hardly count His promises recorded in the Bible.  All have been or will be kept.  Guaranteed more than death and taxes!

When God’s people possess the lands promised them, they discover how trustworthy He is.  Stronger than the Rock of Gibraltar.  He minds the store and carries the load.  I know that at times it appears He’s disinterested or distracted.  Like He doesn’t care.  Head perched up in the clouds of heaven.

But it’s not true.  Not at all.  Only a few verses to read today.  If you tend to skip the suggested Bible reading, don’t even think about it.  I promise you’ll be sorry.  A promise which will be kept!  Only three verses in Joshua 21.

Anyway, not that I don’t trust you, but here they are!–‘Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers.  And they took possession of it, and they settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers.  Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.  Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed;  all came to pass’ (Joshua 21: 43-45).  See?  Told you so!

Could there be something pushing at and weighing down your heart and mind today that needs some heavy trust lifting…by the Lord?  Something way beyond your ability?  That only Jesus can deal with?

Why not bank on God keeping every word of His abundant promises…in His time…in His way…for His glory.  Promise?

Father, you are so good and faithful to me.  I love you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

WHAT WAS THAT? Proverbs 3

Recently I’ve noticed that the volume on our TV set needs to get louder.  Maybe it’s on the fritz.  But even talking with neighbors greater than socially distanced six feet, I’m straining to hear them.  Piecing together a word here and there, hoping my responses are not too off the wall.  What gives?

You know.  So does my wife!  Hearing loss, which must be premature in my case!  Wrong.  I remember a singer at a Christian conference center announcing before his solo that ‘everyone here has aids.’  I’m going to jump out of my seat fleeing this infected bunch until I realize he means hearing aids!  Now I can remain seated as one with aids. Thankfully, only the hearing type.

Proverbs 3:11-12–‘…do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.’  It’s only natural to wonder why things go wrong.  Why Lord?

Like this infernal pandemic.  Illness…death…job loss…fears abounding…plans shattered…businesses shuttered.  Wake-up call from the Lord?  Why Lord?  To wake us up to Him?  To stop pushing Him to the very edge of our lives?  Why?

You know what C.S. Lewis writes in ‘The Problem of Pain’?–‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, and shouts in our pains:  it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’  He’s right.  Our world, our culture, many pastors and churches, are willfully deaf to God’s Word.

Bible literacy ebbs lower and lower.  Even God’s people are not exempt.  Awhile back one of my Moody Bible Institute professors whispers to me about how little today’s Bible school students know… of the Bible!  Is that possible?  Seems so.  If true of them, then the rest of the world can’t win for losin’ with nary a snowball’s chance anywhere.  Is it time to dust off you-know-what?  Could that be what Jesus is saying?

So, when God shakes you up with whatever it is you don’t need or want, what do you hear?  Anything?  Time to get closer to Him?  Confess and repent?  Look up to Him more than downward navel-gazing?  Exercise your weakened trust muscles?  Is that what you also hear?

Lord, I want to hear you loud and clear.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


To speak my mind and heart remains an uphill battle for me.  Especially in the face of attacks targeting the Bible’s truthfulness and even our Lord Jesus.  Why so difficult?

Unfortunately, I’m a people-pleaser, which doesn’t please the Lord at times.  I logged in as a Country Club Manager on a seminary vocational test.  ‘More peanuts, anyone?  Pretzels?  Everyone happy?  Everything hunky-dory?’

But at times, I need to speak my mind and heart.  Don’t chew on my fingernails fearing flak with someone’s nasty thumbs-down hurled my way.  Getting the old heave-ho.  Thrown on modern culture’s junk heap.   It’s part of the territory in this day and age, isn’t it?  Probably always has been.

Paul and Barnabas minister on Cyprus, Barnabas’ home island.  The Holy Spirit leads them there.  They encounter someone named Bar-Jesus, who dabbles in occult, magic arts, along with being a confidante of Cyprus’ Roman political leader, Sergius Paulus.

Bar-Jesus means ‘Son of Jesus’.  Sounds like a good name to me.  But it isn’t and he isn’t as he tries his level best to keep Sergius Paulus from embracing the faith and becoming a true ‘son of Jesus’.

But Paul has something to say about this.  Better fasten your seat belts!  Acts 13: 9-11–“But Saul…filled with the Holy Spirit…said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?  And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you,  and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.'”  Nothing meek and mild or Caspar Milquetoast about Paul.  Forget the peanuts and pretzels.

No people-pleaser, like you-know-who!  Gives him a huge piece of his mind and heart.  With both barrels.  If I were in Paul’s shoes, I’d feel a bit weak in the knees.  All shook up and freaked out– ‘Please Lord, use someone else.  Give me a break.  Cut me some slack.  Leave me out!’

But God calls His own to step up to the plate.  ‘Stand up, stand up for Jesus’ like Paul did.  Be the odd one out, if necessary.  Risk unwelcome glances and whispers.  Even in your face howling and bellowing.  Speak up.  Doesn’t that sound more like what it means to take up the cross and follow Jesus?

“And (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it'” (Luke 9:23-24).

Lord Jesus, give me your courage to stand up for you.  Amen.

A WORTHY MENTOR Acts 11: 19-26

Years ago I determined to preach annually about the early church leader Barnabas.  Why Barnabas?  What makes him special?  Let me count the ways!

He’s born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus to a Jewish religious family of Levites, Temple assistants.  He’s named Joseph, but later the apostles nickname him Barnabas, meaning ‘son of encouragement’.  He earns that moniker by being exactly that.

Barnabas becomes a missionary partner with the Apostle Paul.  Pretty good company!  Paul doesn’t rub shoulders with just anyone.  Later these two duke it out over having Barnabas’ nephew Mark go on another mission journey, because on an earlier one Mark deserts them, fleeing home prematurely.  Homesick?  Couldn’t take the trials and troubles?  Who knows?  Barnabas wants to give Mark a second chance, but Paul puts his foot down, refusing to risk Mark’s deserting ways once again.

Acts 11:19-26 gives kudos to our man Barnabas.  Wouldn’t you love similar words said about you?–‘…for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith’ (Acts 11:24).  If only.  I’ll take any one of the above!

When the mother church in Jerusalem gets wind of Gentiles becoming believers in Messiah Jesus, they’re flummoxed and incredulous (see, I still use my Thesaurus!).  They send Barnabas to check it out.  Who better?  He gets to the bottom of it, and it’s good news indeed!

What about those toxic rumors of that archenemy, the persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, becoming a believer in the Lord Jesus?   Who should they send to smoke out the truth?  Who pulls the short straw?  When most shake in their sandals fearing Saul, it’s Barnabas who introduces him to the Jerusalem Church head honchos (Acts 9:26-27).  Second chances are second nature to Barnabas.

And his faith?   Simply contagious.  Countless others become followers, not of Barnabas, but of Jesus.  Barnabas then grabs hold of Saul, now called Paul, to have him teach those new Gentile believers.  He’s a connector.  Joins people together without putting his own name up in lights.  No grabbing the headlines, or demanding naming rights to that new church in Antioch.

Can you see why I’m drawn to Barnabas?  He’s a worthy mentor.

Thank you, Lord, for leaders who are your followers.  For your sake.  Amen.