57 – Finish Wisely Every Journey

When you begin a journey, finish it, even the ones you shouldn’t have started.

“Finishing” can mean different things, but it never means “giving up”. Many times our eyes get bigger than our stomachs and we ask take more food than we can eat. “Finishing” in the food analogy does not mean stuffing yourself, but eating the left overs for your next meals until they are gone. If you decide that you can’t eat it, save it for someone who can; don’t just abandon the food and throw it away.

Finish.

Sometimes, we start out on a path leading to death. We don’t know the path will eventually kill us because it seems good and all at the outset. But, later on, we may discover it was a seduction of evil all along. “Finishing” that path might mean turning around and going back, perhaps warning others that the path seems good, but ends in a death trap.

Usually paths that lead to a death trap require us to tell “white lies” and break “insignificant” moral rules in order to star them. Eve was the best example because the fruit looked delicious and knowledge “isn’t that bad of a thing”, right?

My father once started a “selfish” motorcycle trip he shouldn’t have. His motorcycle broke down. Exhausted, he knelt in the desert sand and believed in Jesus. He didn’t finish as planned, but he didn’t take a bus home either; he rode his motorcycle all the way back.

His pastor, who always asked why dad wouldn’t become Christian, never even noticed, possibly because dad didn’t believe in Jesus the “traditional” way. Knowing dad, he probably learned more about Jesus and carrying his own Cross than the pastor learned at Seminary.

When one hasn’t finished hard journeys oneself, however regrettable those journeys are, those who do seem boring.

Dad didn’t finish his journey the way he first intended, but he did “finish” it, taking responsibility for the situation he got himself into. Because he “did the right thing”, Jesus changed his heart.

Learning means finishing. Abandoning the unpleasant is easy, but you’ll never learn that way. When the going gets tough—when your choices hurt—finish wisely.

Genesis 3:6-7, Jonah 1:17; 2:1, 10; 3:1-5, Luke 19:1-10

56 – God the Promise Maker & Keeper

From Genesis to Revelation, God continues to make promises and He keeps every one of them.

After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, God promised that the Messiah would be born of a woman to crush Satan’s head. He promised Noah with the rainbow that He would never again flood the whole earth. God promised Abraham a blessing to his family and to bless all nations through him—which foretold the Messiah, Jesus. God promised David that his family line would never end and that one of his descendants would establish a kingdom that would last forever; also foretelling Jesus, one of David’s descendants.

God made many other promises to Israel and to all people. God made some promises to Israel specifically, but the writer of Hebrews applies such promises to all Christians. Jesus promises he will always be with us. At the end of Revelation, Jesus promises that he is coming quickly with reward for the righteous and to eradicate wickedness from Earth.

God is the Great Promise Maker, but He is also the Great Promise Keeper.

While some of His promises are for Israel specifically—just how prophecy has multiple fulfillments—God’s promises have lasting principles that apply to anyone who follows Him.

When God told Israel that they would go off as captives to Babylon, He promised them that He would return them and “heal their land” if they repent. This was specifically for Israel. But, that does not mean God will turn away everyone else who repents just for not being part of Israel; God didn’t say that. By demonstrating His conduct with Israel, God demonstrates His conduct in redeeming anyone.

God’s promises to Israel secondarily apply to all people because Jesus, a Jew and descendant of King David, died at the Cross for all people.

Each promise from God has multiple levels of fulfillment. Jesus does not only save us, but he continues to “save” us all the rest of our lives.

The time has not come for every promise’s fulfillment, but in time, God keeps every promise.

God’s promises are a reason why we can trust Him. To know God is to trust God as the Great Promise Keeper.

Genesis 3:15; 12:1-3; 15:12-16; 17:1-8, 8:20-22, 2 Samuel 7:1-17, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 27:1, Isaiah 41:11-13; 43:1-7; 54:9-17, Matthew 18:20, John 3:16, Hebrews 13:5, Revelation 22:6-21

55 – Be Like A Grandparent

Grandparents have rapport with the entire family.

They don’t always receive absolute loyalty and pure love from everyone in the family, but they have a level of unanimous respect. When the grandparents talk, everyone listens.

Grandma and grandpa raised the kids and the grandkids. They love each and every child and grandchild—and great grandchild—in the entire family. Grandparents understand and know each child. Grandkids visit grandma and grandpa’s house on weekends, holidays, or while mom and dad are busy.

When the kids or the grandkids have a dispute, they will listen to the grandparents because everyone loves grandma and grandpa—and everyone knows grandma and grandpa love everyone. They don’t need to be particularly smart or wise, but, if nothing else, the family will work together because of their common love for grandma and grandpa. Grandparents can settle disputes, or at least help everyone smile and “make it okay”.

But, grandparents also have experience, insight, knowledge, and some level of wisdom. Whether the grandparents gained their wisdom by chasing after it or by the university of hard knocks, they still have wisdom to offer the family. Even if the grandparents were foolish for much of their lives, they have experience that can only be gained with time.

Grandparents are more patient with children. They are less easily aggravated, more understanding, and more inclined to “drip” little nuggets of wisdom to enlighten the children as they learn on their own—children both adult and young.

In Jewish culture, as in many Asian cultures, three generations will live under the same roof. While mom and dad tend to the family trade, the grandparents will help keep the house in order and raise the children.

Grandparents know how to raise children because they have seen the process all the way through. First-time parents, however, can be arrogant “know-it-alls”, even more than teenagers—which may be where teenagers can get the attitude from. By having watched the entire birth and life process, grandparents can provide better guidance for the children.

An “old soul” will seek wisdom; it is a choice. The more you can learn from the elderly, the more helpful you can be, like a grandparent.

Leviticus 19:32

54 – What is ‘Wisdom’?

As time goes by, we look at events in life and we glean principles from them. These life lessons could be called “nuggets of wisdom”.

The older we grow, the more nuggets of wisdom we acquire, both from our own histories and from others’. If we don’t gain these nuggets of wisdom from others then we only gain them as time goes by. This is why older people tend to seem “wise”, but it’s not because they are wise as people.

There is a difference between acquiring wisdom and being a wise person. A wise person learns from other people’s history rather than one’s own.

Wisdom is the choice to learn from the word rather than the rod.

Too many people learn through the “university of hard knocks”. It is a personal choice to learn so slowly, nothing genetic or personality-based. Learning wisdom earlier in life will save a person from much trouble.

Waiting to let old age catch up with you before you accumulate wisdom isn’t wise at all, it’s quite a foolish thing to do. People who gain wisdom through old age aren’t wise, they are just old.

When young people are wise, they will work to gain as much wisdom from others as they can. We often refer to these wise, young people as “old souls”. It is the love for wisdom that marks an old soul.

Love for wisdom is a lifelong pursuit. It is a virtue of the heart and a core framework of one’s worldview. Those who love wisdom will reach for it, even at the cost of less success than those around them. Wisdom is among the godly virtues that prioritize Eternal and Heavenly things above carnal, temporary things of the physical world.

All the success in the world will do you no good if you lack the wisdom to wield it.

God possesses all wisdom, all wisdom comes from God, and all wisdom leads back to God.

Wisdom begins with fearing God. This means that fearing God will unlock your ability to gain wisdom. It also means that learning to fear God is the first nugget of wisdom learned. In other words, godliness and wisdom are inseparable.

Proverbs 1:7; 2:2; 4:20; 9:10; 16:16; 22:17-18, Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36

53 – Brother’s Keeper, Earth’s Steward

Help.

When you see trash on the ground, pick it up. You don’t always need to, but if there’s something in the road and it’s not normal—and if it’s safe to do so—get it out of the road. If you can’t, call the local police and let them know so the right people can handle it.

This is your world. God is watching your stewardship of it. If you want to be responsible for more things then act like it!

Wanting responsibility isn’t bad; God made us to have responsibility. Our human desire for power starts out young, but if we put that desire to good use then we will mature into kind, caring, compassionate leaders to whom God gives authority and influence so that we can help many more people.

After Cain murdered his brother Abel, God questioned Cain as to his brother’s whereabouts. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain answered sarcastically—and likely from shame of his brother being dead at his own hands. The answer to Cain’s rhetorical question is, “Yes, we are our brothers’ keepers.”

If you take responsibility to help wherever you can, then God will see that you took that responsibility and He will let you keep it.

We should help each other, and accordingly help keep Earth clean. We did not create Earth and we cannot destroy it. But, we can make ourselves sick.

Interestingly, many of the things we do to pollute Earth—not all, of course—only make humans sick. Look at Chernobyl and arsenic for example. Oil spills destroy local areas, but the ocean has microorganisms that eat oil to sustain their lives.

Caring for Earth is not about loving Earth, but simply being good stewards—helping other people in need of air that won’t make them sick. Love each other, worship God, and, as an outflow of those two, keep Earth tidy and clean. This is the Biblical perspective of a godly ethic called Stewardship.

There are many movements within humanity to address the environment and charity. The Bible already has a teaching on this and it is both unique and supreme: God gave us Earth and we all belong to Him.

Genesis 1:26-31; 4:1-16, 1 Thessalonians 5:15

52 – God the Governor, Savior, and Executioner

Few things offer comfort like knowing that God is still on His Throne.

If you have not seen things in this life that scare you, then you have been living in a dream world. Many people are afraid to wake up from their dream world for fear of having no hope. People do things to us or we see evil things done to others. This can drive us mad, even insane. Anyone who hasn’t seen this is sleep walking through life with their eyes open.

But, God remains on His Throne. He permits and orchestrates everything that happens. God sees all. He allows great evil to plan and execute heinous deeds, but then at the last minute He swoops down to deliver us.

Everyone dies at some point. When someone is murdered by evil Men, that does not mean God “lost the battle” or that God didn’t save the person. We don’t know all the conversations and thoughts in that person’s last moments; God does. Though none of us get out of here alive, Jesus is thankfully our resurrection.

Though God allows the time of death for some to come at the hands of evil, God does indeed deliver humanity from all evil. The devil is God’s devil. In fact, God will save you, honor you, celebrate you, even pay you back a thousand fold, and He will make the devil pay the entire bill—and the devil will do so willingly, even though he doesn’t want to, because of how much more brilliant God is.

When we see great evil, if we do not remember that God is on the Throne—both to govern all that happens and to save humanity from evil—then we are tempted to take revenge into our own hands. Don’t let this be you. Encourage others who need this reminder as well.

God will repay all. In the next life, when all humanity and all angels good and evil stand before the Great White Throne, we will see God’s justice. We will weep with joy at the ingenious plan God crafted from the beginning.

You will know neither fear nor hatred, the more you remember God is in control.

Deuteronomy 32:35, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, Hebrews 10:30, 1 Peter 3:9

51 – Carry Your Own Cross

When Jesus taught us to take up our crosses, he meant that if we want to follow his teaching, we must carry whatever daily burden is unique to us.

There are three things about his teaching to remember:

1. Context is everything. Read the entire paragraph in both Gospels; in Greek, both start with verse 21.

2. Following “behind” someone symbolizes following a Jewish rabbi as a teacher. When Jesus says, “For any who would follow me,” he refers to someone being his student. When Jesus tells Peter to “get behind” him, he is telling Peter to know his place and not argue with the teacher. (‘Satan’ was a reference to both the fallen angel’s agenda and a sarcastic reference to Peter considering himself an expert to advise Jesus; it did not mean that Satan had possessed Peter’s body and taken over his mouth. ‘Stumbling block’ did not mean that the Almighty God could trip and fall, but that Peter was small, young, and shouldn’t act like a rug rat around the fully-grown teacher who knew what he was doing; and, for that matter, Satan shouldn’t either.)

3. Jesus talks about suffering; that’s what a cross implies.

Luke’s version includes “take up his cross daily“, which has some beautiful vagueness encompassing many ideas, including take it up daily and the cross of the day.

Each day has its own problems just as each person has his own challenges.

Some of our problems come from messes we have made. When we make a mess, Jesus forgives us, but we must love others and not leave the mess for others to deal with. At the same time, forgiveness is difficult; if you need to forgive someone then try as hard as you can since forgiveness, like love, is a choice; if other people need to forgive you, remember that it is hard to forgive and try to make it as easy for them as you can.

Our own messes aside, Jesus has tasks for us.

Sometimes we must be patient and exercise perseverance, longsuffering, and forbearance; other times we must work beyond exhaustion—any of these burdens could be ours for any reason.

Following Jesus means carrying each day’s personal cross.

Matthew 16:21-28; 6:34, Luke 9:21-27, Romans 14:4, 7

50 – ‘Fence Laws’

About 600 BC, the Babylonian empire took Israel into captivity. God allowed this because Israel kept disobeying the Law He gave through Moses. That Mosaic Law had temple and sacrificial laws for spiritual strength, basic moral laws for a happy society, and other general government laws to help Israel survive in a world without soap.

(God did not teach Israel sciences, such as how to make soap, because we humans must learn science on our own. The fallen angels taught sciences before the Flood, which only empowered murder and made Earth such a terrible place to live that we could not imagine it today.)

One of these laws was the Sabbath. It comes up frequently throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, Israel often ignored it. In the New Testament, Israel enforced it too much…

…because of the rabbinic “fence laws”.

We don’t know God’s good reason for being so serious about the Sabbath in the Old Testament. It does prevent an oppressive, slave society.  Any dictator could easily slaughter Christians since he knows when and where they go every week. God could have some spectacular event planned to save Christians one day, yet it might only help Christians who rest on Saturday and plan to work on Sunday. That said, we only know that the Sabbath is important to God, that we remember the correct day, and have any one day of rest for ourselves.

Israel obeyed none of this.

By Jesus’ day, not wanting to repeat Babylonian captivity, Jewish rabbis had created extra laws—not from Moses—as a “fence” to keep far away from possibly breaking any Mosaic law. They behaved as if these were equally important to Moses’ Law, but God cared nothing for their “fence laws”.

Many of Jesus’ arguments with the Pharisees were about their fence laws.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says multiple times, “You have been told…” which reference these fence laws.

Jesus blatantly ignored these fence laws, especially about the Sabbath. Fence laws made it nearly impossible to do anything on the Sabbath, including heal people through miracles!

Jesus’ life teaches us many things, including the priority of Heaven’s morals over our own made-up rules.

Nehemiah 13:15-22, Ezekiel 20:10-13, Matthew 5:17-22, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43; 12:1-8, Mark 8:11-13, Luke 11:37-54, Romans 14:1-12, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13

49 – How to Do

How do you do something? Seriously, don’t do anything half-baked. The only exception is a steak roasted to medium, but that’s a part of perfection.

There is no shortage in this world of things done badly.

Many times, people’s problems were inherited from other people.

Most of my own problems are from a domino effect of other people not doing their jobs correctly. Things break, those broken things break other things, the chain continues until it reaches my stuff.

At times, I think all of life is a swim through a river of problems from upstream. Don’t complain about the problems you get and don’t complain about other people’s problems unless you can explain that they are upstream from you.

There is a marketable demand for things finished not badly and not half-finished.

The need for excellence extends to thought itself. Many things would not be done so badly if the people doing those things would not only do a good job of what they were doing, but also do a good job of thinking about what they were doing.

God is the Master Craftsman because He makes stuff and He doesn’t make it badly—including you.

Your problems are a consortium of interferences from rebellious angels, your ancestors, and your own stupidity. As for God’s work to create and redeem you, just the fact that you’re alive is a miracle and testament to the fact that He’s not only awesome, that He’s not only ain’t finished with you yet, but that He’s only just gettin’ started.

You are God’s work in progress and, all things considered, you’re doing quite well—especially in light of your problems.

God likes nice things. He celebrates factory workers and hard laborers. Jesus himself was a carpenter. With nearly 2,000 years of work on New Jerusalem, that just makes sense.

The pastor, prophet, apostle, and theologian do not understand God more than the good, hard worker. Their studies away from craft can inhibit their ability to understand and identify with the Master Craftsman. Paul moonlighted as a tentmaker, not only for ethical and financial reasons, but also theological.

To understand our Most Excellent God, do a most excellent job.

Proverbs 22:29, Ecclesiastes 9:10, Colossians 3:23-24

In loving memory of “Uncle Dave” Eckman

48 – God the Redeemer

Since the Beginning, God has always been the Great Redeemer.

Adam and Eve were tempted by the Serpent—the rebellious angel, Satan, also known as the Dragon. When they ate the forbidden fruit, the very next event in the story was the sound of the Lord walking in the Garden of Eden. God was right there to deal with their situation and help them through the mess they made.

Through the Flood and Noah’s Ark, God saved all Humanity from the disaster caused by rebellious angels and wicked Men. God saved us again from an evil, worldwide empire when Babylon united in rebellion and God changed our languages. He brought Abraham out of the Chaldeans, then sent him to rescue Lot. He was with Jacob to save his relationship with his brother Esau, guided Israel to Egypt, then delivered Israel through Moses. He redeemed Ruth who became the great grandmother of King David. God protected Israel through judges, kings, and counselors in Babylon like Esther, Daniel, and Nehemiah. In the New Testament, God saved all of humanity through Jesus Christ.

In the End, humanity will judge and condemn the rebellious angels at the Great White Throne Judgment. This means that humans—before we were made—were always part of God’s plan to eradicate evil, not only from Earth, but from Heaven as well.

Whenever God saves people from a dark situation, He could just throw them away, but he doesn’t.

At the Flood, God did not merely punish evil—He redeemed humanity.

God brings people out of darkness and despair. He doesn’t leave us there and He doesn’t merely punish us for getting ourselves there. He rescues and restores us to a place of strength and importance.

We are and always have been treasured by God.

When we end up in dire straits—almost always from our own idiocy—God helps us, in a sense “salvaging” us, masterfully exploiting our trouble to refine and perfect us.

It is no oxymoronic mystery that God would save us. His redemption is amazing, undeserved, and unfathomable—but God does not contradict logic in redeeming us; logic dictates that His choice to redeem us demonstrates our value to Him.

Genesis 3:8, Deuteronomy 7:8, Job 19:25, Psalm 78:35, Isaiah 47:4, Zechariah 10:8, Luke 21:28, Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:18-19