Who Am I?

I’m starting a new series for “Walking in the Way.” We’ll present different women from the Bible. See if you can guess who they are. Also, beyond figuring out who they are, let’s learn valuable spiritual applications from them. Are you ready? Here’s the first one:

She looks up from weeding outside their dwelling, surprised to hear his voice at this hour in the morning. “What did you say, Sweetheart?”

“Mumble mumble building mumble.”

“I didn’t quite hear you. Did you say something about a building?”

Her husband comes nearer and explains.

“Let me make sure I got this straight. You’re going to build something according to God’s plan.”

“Right.”

“It is going to be huge.”

“Yes.”

“God has already given you precise instructions.”

“Yes, you got it.”

“And, while you build, you have a message for anyone curious about your project.”

“Exactly.”

“Okay, when do you start?”

“Today.”

“That’s great, Honey, but you do realize you’re getting up in age.”

“I’m keeping fit.” He makes a muscle, and she laughs and nods. He does look good.

“You’ll be fitter with this project.” She momentarily turns her head, smiles to herself, and pivots back to face him.” Are you hungry? Lunch salad’s ready, and there are berries for dessert. The kids are already inside.”

Fifty years later, her husband continues to pound pegs, measure, and design stalls, cages, and storage areas. The magnificent structure can be seen from far away, and her husband continues to preach. “God will judge the earth. Repent!” All the while, he prays for revival and keeps on working.

Their three boys grow up, marry, and their wives chime in to help in the work. More than mere moral support, the four women cook, sweep shavings, carry water, and encourage their men. They also share God’s message with their friends, “Judgment is coming. Repent. Come with us. God has provided salvation.”

But no one listens.

Some even mock and laugh.

The old man walks with God. He does everything God commands him to do.

And God says to him, But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee (Genesis 6:18).

One cloudy day, the family enters, along with a menagerie of peaceful animals—some of every kind on the earth. When everyone gets aboard, a hand from heaven seals the door. Almost immediately, the skies and the fountains inside the earth open. The woman looks up at her six-hundred-year-old, still-beautiful man and smiles. She turns into his strong arms and swipes at the tears that begin to flow.

A few hours later, water is already sloshing against the bottom of their brand new dwelling as the sounds of beating the door and screaming assault her ears.

The flood has begun … and all their friends are lost.

Many years later, New Testament writers would mention this man and his family.

  • In Hebrews 11:7, he’s named as a hero of the faith—By faith … being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
  • 1 Peter 3:20Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of (this man), while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
  • 2 Peter 2:5And spared not the old world, but saved … the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.

I’m sure you’ve guessed by now. Who is this Bible woman? What can we learn from her?

Pioneers and Followers: Which are you?

Last year, Lewis Pugh swam the length of the English channel in 49 days, a feat no one else has ever attempted. He famously said, “The world is divided between pioneers and followers; you can’t be both.”

In some way, everyone stands upon the shoulders of those who’ve gone before. This is the mark of progress, the result of family ties, having learned from history, and living in this century instead of the last.

I understand what Lewis Pugh was saying. Either we dare to venture out and be the first—or we follow other people’s successes.

So, what are we? Pioneers or followers?

It’s interesting to think about these concepts in the light of the Bible.

Followers

Jesus said Follow me no less than seventeen times (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 16:24; 19:21; Mark 2:14; 8:34; 10:21; Luke 5:27; 9:23; 9:59; 18:22; John 1:43; 10:27; 12:26; 13:36; and in John 21:19). An angel freed Peter from prison with the words, Follow me.

We are supposed to follow Jesus. We do well to follow Him. The Apostle Paul said, Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) which lets us know we can follow Christ-followers.

Pioneers

By definition, a pioneer is: “1. a person who is one of the first to settle in an area. 2. a person who begins or helps develop something new and prepares the way for others to follow” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

In the Bible, there’s an example of someone who prepared the way: John the Baptist. Even before he was born, he recognized Jesus. His mission in life was to help people be prepared for Jesus’ coming.

The angel told Zacharias: Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:13, 15-17).

So John the Baptist grew up and started preaching. His message was, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight (Matthew 3:2-3).

The people listened to John and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:6). As he baptized, John said, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire (Matthew 3:11).

John was a pioneer. He prepared the way for others to follow …

Christ.

Each Christian has a duty to serve the Lord, to glorify Him with his actions, and to shine as a light in the world.

May we break ground so that others might follow—as we follow Christ. Pioneers and followers: may we be both.

Fiction Review: Above the Fog

Above the Fog, by Karen Lynn Nolan begins with this heart-wrenching prayer from twelve-year-old Coreen: “If there really is a God then let the roof of the mine collapse on Daddy today and send him to hell, where he belongs.”

Coreen and her family live in a coal-mining town down a holler in Kentucky. It’s typical of many coal towns—dirt poor. Or, maybe we should say mud poor. The novel begins with a storm followed by a flood and great danger to all the people in the valley.

Coreen and her mother help Grandma and Coreen’s dog, Patches, climb the hill and escape the flood. Everything they owned, which wasn’t much, was left behind in their ramshackle houses.

Coreen’s mom usually escapes in a different way: into novels. She doesn’t have a life outside of them. As the river rises, she realizes with both worry and relief that her husband hasn’t come home.

Several days later, Coreen’s father is found dead—and not a soul is sorry.

Follow Coreen, her mom, and the townspeople as they find out how her father died and what he, her mother, and many others had hidden for years. Follow Coreen and her mother as they discover the truth, which helps them both rise Above the Fog.

This is a great story, real and hard, lightened with some happy moments and giving people. I loved it.

Because of thematic elements, Above the Fog is for older teens and adults, not children. There is no cursing, and sordid details are not elaborated.

It isn’t fair

How many say, “I dropped out of church” or “I’m not interested in church” or “I can’t trust people in church” or “Just not interested in God” …

because …

someone who claims to be a Christian hurt them?

It’s sad that a Christian didn’t act like a Christian. That someone was a hypocrite. That a person who claims to be a Christ follower acted like a jerk—or worse—inflicting soul-wounds on another person.

But, you know something?

It’s not fair to judge God by something a rotten human being did.

Humans have sinned—since the first two of them. Humans fail. Humans can be hypocritical. They can hurt others. They can be downright nasty.

And humans who are Christians—or say they are—can disappoint.

Some of these hurts are very deep.

They can leave scars.

But people shouldn’t judge God by people.

People are on one spectrum, but God is:

  • love (1 John 4:8)
  • perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4)
  • good (1 Chronicles 16:34)
  • faithful (Psalm 119:90)
  • merciful (Psalm 103:8)
  • kind (Psalm 117:2)
  • full of grace and truth (John 1:14)
  • caring (1 Peter 5:7)

God doesn’t disappoint. He can’t. He wants to save every single soul. He gives light to every person. He wants to have a relationship with us.

He loves you.

Genuinely.

Without holding back.

Forever.

God is infinitely greater than any person.

Don’t reject His house because of sinful people.

And, more importantly, don’t reject Him because some of the people who go to church don’t act like Christians. Someone wisely said, “The church is a hospital.” The truth is that everyone at church is needy, and the Lord is the Great Physician.

Don’t give up on God.

He never gave up on you.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,

that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,

but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

The Sin and the Sinner

Hate the sin and love the sinner. Right?

There’s a difference between the person and his sin.

Yet, we frequently hear:

  • She’s digusting.
  • He’s sickening.
  • I am shocked.
  • How could anyone…?

They’re talking about a person. Yes, this person sinned, but we’re talking about a human being for whom Christ died.

And, except for the grace of God, we might be into the same sickening stuff. Did you ever think about what the Lord might have saved you from?

Over the years, I’ve gained experience. One that’s been proved over and over is the old adage, “He who shouts the loudest has the most to hide.” It’s not always true, but I’ve watched it happen often. Critical people can have their own secret sins. They talk saintly-righteous and look down their noses at others, but they are themselves closet sinners—and many times they sin in exactly the same ways for which they condemn others.

The Bible says, For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:3). Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Some sins are extremely abhorrent to decent people—and they should be. But, I’m afraid we forget that people who have sunk into such horrible sins are just persons who haven’t known the Lord’s grace and forgiveness.

When’s the last time you prayed for:

  • an abortionist to know the Lord?
  • a druggie to get saved?
  • an alcoholic to repent and change his life around by the power of God?
  • the author of a nasty book?
  • a prostitute?
  • a model for pornographic photos?
  • a woman who aborted her child?
  • trafficked kids and adults?
  • your lesbian friend?
  • bosses who trade sex for favors?
  • that person you labeled disgusting or pervert or sickening?

When’s the last time you viewed that person as a soul for whom Christ died?

The root cause of sin is man’s own flesh and its sinfulness. Even saved people have to battle temptations.

Thankfully, there’s help:

  • Jesus said, Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38).
  • There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  • The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations (2 Peter 2:9).

Jesus set the example of compassion. What did He do with the woman caught in the act of adultery? What did he say to her? He didn’t whitewash or overlook her sin, but He was kind and offered her forgiveness. He admonished her, go and sin no more.

When He dealt with Zacchaeus, who was a thief, Jesus went to his house. After Zacchaeus repented, Jesus said about him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

When Jesus was confronted by the demon-possessed young man who was naked and cutting himself, and living among the tombs, He addressed the demons and cast them out. Later, when people came to see the young man sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind. (The complete story is in Mark 5:1-15.)

Jesus is God. He is perfect, and He can’t stand sin, yet He has always shown love and compassion to those in sin. He still changes lives, some as dramatically as we read about in the Bible.

He continues to show mercy.

May we do the same.

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:36).