Archive for March, 2013

Christ and Death in the Wilderness


I’ve been thinking about death this Holy Week.

The Great Separation. The Dread. The Fear.

 Sinai. Imagine.

Sinai. Imagine.

And I have been reading about the Israelites and the end of their 18-month journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. They are on the border at a place called Kadesh. God says trust Me and go. They say um we’d like to check it out first.

Big mistake.

They decide the large occupiers are bigger than God. They panic. They resist.

What should have been a “short, swift, decisive march,” as one scholar puts it, turns into a 38 year nightmare. It is often called “Wandering in the Wilderness”. Let’s call it “Waiting Around to Die”. Here are some details:

  • The history of Israel is suspended.
  • There is no evidence that the tribes held together during those terrible years, but probably scattered far and wide across the Sinai Peninsula.
  • The rite of circumcision (that mark of the covenant and foreshadowing of baptism) and the observance of Passover very likely fall into disuse.
  • Disease and death revive full force.
  • Idolatry is practiced; there are hints of child sacrifice.
  • There is no purpose except waste of time.
  • There is no end but death.

Doubt and vicious complaining give way to active disobedience one time too many. Death is the new reality.

I’ve been pondering this.

God’s eye remained on the people He loved even as they wasted away in the devastating consequences of their own choices. He provided food, water, and clothing. He provided pasturelands for their flocks.

One day He would provide a Savior, a final sacrifice for our sin, a vanquisher of Death.

 No fear.

No fear.

I’ve been reading:

  •  Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. He died to sin once for all. (Romans 6:9,10)


  • He releases those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:15; there is something very moving about this verse.)


  • I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. And I have the keys of the Unseen Realm and of Death. (Revelation 1:18)

Jesus Christ through His own violent death, once for all of us, removed the bondage, the prison, the sting, the fear, the dread of it.

And now no wilderness can take that away.


What I Used to Think

In his inspiring, high-energy book, Love Does, Bob Goff makes some brief statements at the start of each chapter. Example:                                                                                                                                  SayYes

  • I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.

 My Book Group got going on this exercise recently. Here are some of their thoughts:

  • I used to think friends are forever, but that’s not true. Friends are seasonal. (This provoked a fair amount of conversation.)
  • I used to think God was disappointed with me, but now I know I am secure in His favor.
  • I used to think I knew all the answers, but now I’m sure I don’t.
  • I used to think if you were nice to people, they would like you, but now I know that’s not true.

Take some time to think about this. How are some ways time and experience have altered your opinions or assumptions? Here’s one of mine:

  • I used to try to convince people of the Truth, but now I know it’s better to love them to Christ.

We go through life collecting assumptions and tacking them to our behavior.  Fact is, we can end up with loads of mental junk that get in the way of things like a fresh spiritual perspective or interesting new friendships.

Origami1Goff makes the statement, “We are like human origami. The more creases we have, the more interesting we are.”  The creases of “I used to” make possible the beauty of “but now I know.”

That’s what I think.

Can you share an example of “I used to . . . but now I know”?


Your One Minute Takeaway

60secDave Ramsey, in his first-rate, 9-week course, Financial Peace University, has a great little exercise at the end of each session. It’s called the One Minute Takeaway. A large 1-minute clock appears on the screen. As it ticks down, participants are asked to answer two questions:

  • What jumped out at you in this lesson?
  • How can this affect your story?

Ramsey is acknowledging that you cannot possibly remember everything you hear in 60 minutes. However, writing down what most impacted you helps you focus.

Simple.  Effective.

So let’s all agree that we are in an information deluge of Noahic proportions.

(Thank you.)

Let’s also agree that everyone needs to say what they’re going to say in fewer words.

(Oh, never mind.)

This interests me because of the high value I place on the preaching and teaching of the Bible. Fact is, the amount of instruction you remember compared to how much you hear is miniscule. Research by educationist Edgar Dale shows that we retain about 5% of what we hear. Throw in some visual/video and you may bump it up to 20%.

Think about that in regard to biblical instruction.

However, we’re not just looking for information retention, are we? We’re looking for life change. Well-known pastor and speaker, Andy Stanley, in his excellent book, Communicating for a Change, calls this life change versus information transfer.

Stanley says communicators should ask themselves two questions:

  • What is the one thing I want my audience to know?
  • What do I want them to do about it?

For listeners, these are essentially the same questions Dave Ramsey asks:

  • What is one thing I have learned in this message/teaching?
  • What should I do about it?

So here’s my suggestion. At the end of every preached message or teaching session, ask yourself those two questions.  And write down the answers. Right then. Before you leave.



  • Write them down.
  • Then act on them.

Invest in your One Minute Takeaway. Then take it and make it happen.

Is this something you already practice? If not, would it be helpful?


Shear Necessity

What I finally learned about pruning roses. (They need not dread my approach anymore.)


  • God is a gardener.  You’re reading through Genesis Chapter 2, and there it is: The Lord God planted a garden. One assumes that, since He planted it, He tended it. Tending means pruning. Pruning means you better know what you’re doing.

Which brings to mind a Environmental Horticulture class I took fresh out of high school at the local junior college. The instructor was a energetic fella with a great deal of enthusiasm for his subject. One afternoon he took us for a walk around campus for a pruning clinic, reducing those defenseless bushes to an array of sticks in nothing flat.

 Rose, well, sticks.

Pitiful, but full of potential.

Appalled as I was, I did learn a few things. Although, apparently, too few.

So, I recently asked a friend, a rosebush-pruning-pro, to visit my one rose bush (a long-suffering specimen), and those of my daughters-in-law: 17 lucky  plants in all.

Yvonne patiently taught me:

  • Cut off the dead stuff first. Those knobby pieces of wood will hang around year after year if you let them.
  • Aim for a nice “bowl” shape. This was news to me. I’ve left many shapes behind on rose bushes. Just not bowl ones.
  • Remove much of the interior growth. Branches should ideally be growing out. How did I not know this? I ask, mystified.
  • Anything ugly has to go. Bam. Gone.

Maybe Adam walked around the garden with the Lord God while He pruned. Had he kept his mind on interesting things like the ones I just listed, he wouldn’t have been hanging around that tree.

So he got pruned.

 Yes, He did.

Yes, He did.

I mention this because it is Lent and Easter approaches which is the story of God, so merciful, so full of love, making a way for man to bloom again.

I love that thought. Now that I’m better informed.

Suffering from “dead stuff?” Do you have an “airy” interior? Do you trust that God has a sure hand with the shears?

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