Students from China, India and Japan experienced a flight on a small plane at the Jungle Aviation and Radio Service public day last Saturday, where they saw how JAARS pilots use their skills to serve people’s needs in some of the most remote areas of the world. Following that, they got to attend an outdoor festival where popular bands played and the good news of God’s love in Christ was explained.
We encourage you to “adopt” an international student and invite them to join you in your everyday life, whether you are going shopping, going to a little league ball game, or just having a day of relaxation around your home with family. They deeply appreciate being included in the activities of American families, and having friends that show interest in their welfare. Of course they often don’t have a car, so joining you on a shopping run is a huge blessing to them. This is a wonderful and fulfilling way to show love and share the love we enjoy. Give it a try and don’t be scared! Most universities have an international student office, and they often have a family host or “international friendship” program that they would be happy for you to sign up for. It usually does not require any particular commitment or cost, just a desire to be a friend to an international student. Pray and give it a try!
Judges 8:22-35 (ESV) “Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.” 24 And Gideon said to them, “Let me make a request of you: every one of you give me the earrings from his spoil.” (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.) 25 And they answered, “We will willingly give them.” And they spread a cloak, and every man threw in it the earrings of his spoil. 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family. 28 So Midian was subdued before the people of Israel, and they raised their heads no more. And the land had rest forty years in the days of Gideon. 29 Jerubbaal the son of Joash went and lived in his own house. 30 Now Gideon had seventy sons, his own offspring, for he had many wives. 31 And his concubine who was in Shechem also bore him a son, and he called his name Abimelech. 32 And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age and was buried in the tomb of Joash his father, at Ophrah of the Abiezrites. 33 As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. 34 And the people of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, 35 and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel.”
This is perhaps one of the saddest eras in the history of Israel. Gideon (also called Jerubbaal - which means “let Baal contend with him”) had followed the command of the LORD to destroy his father’s idol, Baal, which he did. Then men of his town were so angry at what Gideon had done that they undertook to kill Gideon for his blatant defacement of their god, the god of the people around them, named Baal (which literally means “master”, “lord”, and figuratively “owner”). This false god named Baal was the “master”, the “lord”, the “owner” of the people of Canaan, and the people of Israel had set up this false god to worship it. They were so committed to worshiping the god of the Canaanites, that when the living God, the true God of Israel commanded Gideon to destroy and cut down this idol, and the command was carried out, the Israelite leaders of that town wanted to kill Gideon. This is how far off the worship of the true God Israel had come.
But Gideon was contending with this false god, and thus he was named Jerubbaal, which means “let Baal contend with him.” Gideon’s father said to those who wanted to kill his son, effectively, “if Baal is truly a god, let Baal contend with him”, meaning, let Baal defend himself against my son Gideon. And thus the men of the city were dissuaded from killing Gideon.
Gideon went on to deliver Israel from the oppression they were suffering under the Midianites (again because Israel had turned away from the LORD and were not following the LORD and obeying his Word). There was a huge victory, and the people wanted to make Gideon their king. But Gideon rightfully said that he would not rule over them, but that the LORD would rule over them. All Gideon wanted was for them to give him some of the gold they had taken as plunder from the victory over their oppressors. The people willingly gave him what he asked for, and Gideon made a golden ephod out of it. An ephod is something like a vest, which the priests of the LORD would wear over their garments when they were ministering in the tabernacle. So it definitely had a religious connatation, and it may have been Gideon’s way of trying to honor the Lord and set up a monument or trophy to thank and honor the Lord for the victory God had given to the Israelites under Gideon’s leadership.
The problem is that somehow that meaning and that purpose seems to have been lost. It was not clear what the purpose of the golden ephod was, and it became in itself something of an idol. Gideon’s golden ephod became an object to which the nation of Israel prostituted itself, and became a snare to Gideon and his family. We don’t know exactly what form that prostitution took, or specifically how it became a snare to Gideon and his family, but we are told that it did.
It appears that Gideon did not want to rule over Israel, he rightly said that the Lord should rule over Israel, but what did Gideon do to use his influence and his position of honor to turn the people of Israel back to the Lord? It appears that he may have had some vague, unclear desire to point people to the Lord by making a golden ephod (remember, an ephod was something that was worn by the priests in their service in the tabernacle), but it seems to have been very unclear, uncertain, undefined exactly what was meant by it. Perhaps if someone had asked Gideon personally why he made the golden ephod, he may have gone into either a short or a long explanation about how he wanted to honor the Lord for the victory that God gave to Gideon and all Israel in their deliverance from the Midianites. Maybe he would have even said something about how God can work through ordinary people who make themselves available to God’s service.
But somehow none of that is clearly known or recorded, and the bottom line is that the people of Israel were not turned more to the Lord because of the golden ephod, they were turned away from the Lord and prostituted themselves to it. And even Gideon himself and his family found it to be a snare. It became a hindrance to Gideon and his family, and a snare, something that tripped and captured, ensared them, enslaved them.
As ministers of the Gospel, we must be very careful that we do not build a monument to our past victory and fool ourselves that we are honoring God by doing so. If we truly want to honor God, we must be very clear and deliberate about pointing others to His ways, living out his ways and his Word.
Guest author: Curtis Sergeant
What are you living for? Hopefully it is more than trying to make as much money as possible or gain as much power as possible for the purpose of living a life of hedonism. There is nothing wrong with pleasure and comfort, but you were made for more than that. God has a purpose for your life. It is to glorify Him. There are lots of ways to do this. In fact, most activities and pursuits can be done in such a way that they glorify God (unless they are inherently wrong in and of themselves).
Glorifying God can also be called worship. There are some ways in which we should all be glorifying God. First, we should acknowledge Him and commit ourselves to following His instructions and guidance for our lives. We should also encourage others in the pursuit of a life of worship. We should continually grow in our likeness to Jesus Christ’s character. We should serve others and look out for their interests as well as our own. We should seek to draw others into a relationship with God if they don’t already know him. Conveniently, these facets of living a life of worship are gathered into a couple of summary statements in the Bible.
One time (Matthew 22:36-40) a Jewish lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This is referred to as the Great Commandment.
Just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave His disciples their final instructions. This was a crucial event because He knew He would never see them again in the flesh. In Matthew 28:18-20 the Bible says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”
This is referred to as the Great Commission.
[My entries in] this blog [are] about the ethos of the "ObeyGC2 Life" which can be summarized as an attempt to help people live out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission as effectively as possible. ObeyGC2 is read as “obey GC squared” and by now you might have guessed that GC squared refers to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. ObeyGC2 is an attempt to expand the Kingdom of God by catalyzing a movement of Christ’s followers working together to bring about greater glory to God and doing what they can to see His will done on earth as it is in heaven. [My entries in] this blog will address my take on what that might look like in practical implementation.
(Used by permission and adapted from https://metacamp.org/blog/)
John 2.23 "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in his name, observing his signs which he did. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them, because he knew everyone, 25 and because he didn’t need for anyone to testify concerning man; for he himself knew what was in man."
This is a very interesting passage. Here people are putting their faith in Jesus, because they are seeing the authority with which he speaks, the authority with which he rebukes people (he had just thrown the money changers out of the temple), and the other signs of his authority through healing and preaching the Gospel.
"But Jesus didn’t trust himself to them, because he knew everyone, 25 and because he didn’t need for anyone to testify concerning man; for he himself knew what was in man."
This is a powerful testimony of how we should think of and relate to those around us, and perhaps one key to why Jesus could be both so loving and kind and gentle and forgiving, and at the same time so forceful and powerful in his words and actions and choices.
Jesus loved people, but he didn't trust them. He knew how weak and fickle and even sinful people are. Even people who loved him and believed in him would abandon him in his time of greatest need. The disciples in Gethsemane, when Jesus was facing the unjust arrest by the Pharisees and the Roman soldiers, fled from him. One of his closest associates, a friend and ministry partner, Peter, not only fled but later denied that he even knew Jesus.
Jesus knew how fragile and weak and self-centered people are. He was not going to trust himself to people, because he knew what was in people.
This is probably why Jesus was so gracious and magnanimous following his resurrection, when he greeted the disciples kindly and warmly and lovingly, and even prepared breakfast for them and invited them to join him. He did not say to them, "I can't believe you abandoned me at my greatest point of need." He didn't resent their fear and self-preservation instincts that caused them to flee and even deny him.
No, he was compassionate and loving. He even helped to restore Peter by getting Peter to acknowledge willfully that he loved Jesus, three times! So he gently led Peter to a place of healing, by getting Peter to affirm his love to Jesus three times following his denying of him three times, and even gave Peter important work to do, saying after each, "Feed my lambs." Then, "Feed my sheep." And finally, "Take care of my sheep."
Jesus was demonstrating the truth about what is in man as revealed in the book of Jeremiah 17.5-10 (NIV 1984):
"5This is what the Lord says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord .
6He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
7"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord , whose confidence is in him.
8He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It
has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
9The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
10"I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."
If we put our trust in man, we put ourselves under a curse; but if we trust in God, he will be a source of continual strength and life. This is a key to vital and effective and consistent long-term ministry and bearing fruit.
We read in Provervbs 4.23 "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the wellspring of life." This is true in both the spiritual and physical sense. A direct wound to the heart on the battlefield could be fatal. That is why even modern warriors wear body armor that protects the area around the heart, a bullet-proof vest, and in ancient days a breastplate. As we wage spiritual war, and as we live in light of the real spiritual war going on around us, we must be sure that our heart, our lungs and other vitals here are protected.
But how do we protect our heart? In Ephesians 6.14 we read that we protect our heart with the breastplate of righteousness. And how do we put on the breastplate of righteousness? Through our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, his death that paid the punishment that we deserved, so that we could become the righteousness of God through faith in him.
In Romans 4.3ff we read "“Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. 5 But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness."
Later in the same chapter we read of Abraham: "22 Therefore it also was “credited to him for righteousness.” 23 Now it was not written that it was accounted to him for his sake alone, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be accounted, who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.
5.1 Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; 2 through whom we also have our access by faith into this grace in which we stand."
So we guard our heart, by holding on to this marvelous truth that we have been made righteous not because of our own ability to always do the right thing, or always choose the way of love, but because we believe in him who died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Our focus for our righteousness is not our on ability and track record to be perfectly righteous, our focus is the work of Christ on our behalf.
This is our breastplate of righteousness. Amen. Praise the Lord!
All truth is God's truth. We are protected when we live in acknowledgement of the truth surrounding us, and make decisions in light of truth. We must educate ourselves about anything that bears upon who we are and what we are called to do in this life. That would include spiritual truth, as well as any other truth. For example, if we are going outside on a cold and snowy day, the truth is that it could be slippery, and if we don't take precautions with where we step, or how we drive, we could end up falling and hurting ourselves or sliding off the road in our car. This is why it is important that we surround ourselves with the truth of God, the truth of scripture, as well as the truth of physical realities in the world where we live.
Remember: "Having the belt of truth buckled around your waist." Ephesians 6.14
When I woke up this morning, I felt the Lord was telling me it was time to get up and seek Him. It was still dark and everyone else was still asleep. Just a few seconds later, walking on the wooden floor, I got a splinter in my foot. Ouch! I was hobbled, and couldn't walk very well. It was amazing to me how such a small piece of wood could prevent me from walking very well, and I knew my top priority needed to be getting that splinter out of my foot. I also knew I was going to need a bright light and some very precise tweezers to get this debilitating piece of wood out of my foot. So I got my phone with it's bright LED light, and I got my good tweezers, and went to another room where I could operate on my foot and restore my ability to walk normally.
As soon as this happened, it seemed the Lord was telling me how critical it is that we have fitted our feet with the preparation of the good news (the gospel) of peace, as it says in Ephesians 6.15, as a critical part of the whole armor of God. As ministers of the good news of peace, we need to be well prepared to proclaim the same. If we are not prepared to teach, to speak, to proclaim the good news of peace with God through the work of Christ on the cross, which gives us access to God, then we will not be able to accomplish all that God wants us to accomplish for his Kingdom. We will not be able to go the places God wants us to go. Can you imagine an member of the infantry, a soldier, wearing no shoes? It is likely that a soldier wearing no shoes would be in great danger of being eliminated by the enemy. He would not be able to make much progress as his feet would be vulnerable to even the smallest irregularities on the terrain. He could be quickly hobbled by his own weight as his feet stepped on a sharp stone, a stick, or some other object on the ground. A soldier that had the most sophisticated weapons in the world, if barefoot, would quickly become immobilized and in danger of elimination or severe injury. At best, he would probably have to hide somewhere, outside of the active battle zone, so as not to be killed or severely injured. He would likely be ineffective at completing his mission, and his very life could be in danger.
Think of it: If we want to be serious about taking the Good News of peace to those who do not know the love of Christ, we must have our feet well fitted with the preparation of the Good News. We need to have the equipment on our feet, infantry boots, that are strong and resistant to unexpected irregularities and foreign objects on the ground, things that could damage the feet and make forward movement difficult if not impossible. We need to be able to explain the good news of how Christ makes us righteous as we put our faith in his perfect sacrifice on our behalf and his resurrection from the dead. We need to be prepared to answer people's questions. We need to find out what it is that we fear about speaking and proclaiming the Gospel, so that we can be prepared to face those fears and overcome them. We need to get a bright light, letting the Spirit of God search our hearts, to show us what are the ways that we are ill-prepared to speak and share and the Good News? Then we need to remove any source of pain in our feet, anything that is hindering us and our ability to keep moving out with the Good News of the peace of God that is available to all through Christ.
There is a command to obey here: "Have your feet fitted with the preparation of the good news of peace." Ephesians 6.15
Matthew 4.17 From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
This is one of the most fundamental messages that Christ brought to the world. Jesus appeared during a time of Roman occupation in Israel, a time that many felt oppressed and abused by the system of rule that was in place. There had been a time in Israel's history, when King David and King Solomon ruled, when Israel had been a sovereign nation, not controlled by any foreign power. But those days were long gone. Now Jesus brings a message that there is a greater power, a greater rule in operation, a greater kingdom operating in the present time, that being the Kingdom of Heaven.
In light of this truth, that God himself is the ultimate dispenser of justice and the ultimate sovereign determining the fate of each individual and of whole nations, we should turn away from unrighteous behavior, and seek to serve the Kingdom of Heaven, living under the laws of God's kingdom, without unholy fear of any earthly kingdom.
Matthew 28.18 Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.19 Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
This famous passage is known as the Great Commission, spoken by Jesus just before he was taken up into heaven following his resurrection from the dead. It was one of his last commands to his disciples, and it captured the assignment he gave to them as to how they were to continue to carry out the ministry of Christ after he departed for heaven.
It is therefore incumbent upon us as those who seek to follow Christ to obey him, and to obey everything he commanded his disciples. We must pay attention to what Jesus taught his disciples to do, both implicitly and explicitly, and seek not only to do it, but to teach others to do it as well.