The day the crowd laughed at Jesus

(From Matthew 9:18-19, 23-26) A broken hearted father knelt before the Master. “My daughter has just died, but You can bring her back to life again if You just come and lay Your hand on her.” It was a request that demonstrated a simple faith – an unwavering faith. Jesus, You are able to do this thing – no matter how much it doesn’t make human sense. Jesus, You alone can do this thing. i have no one else to turn to and no one else i can ask. And Jesus, i believe with all of my heart that You will do this thing – if You will come.

Throughout His earthly ministry, many came to Jesus, but only a few had the blessing of Jesus coming with them. And when He did, it was because of the faith they had demonstrated – faith that glorifies the Father – faith that He saw in the heart of the one He was willing to go with. Faith that says – no matter how impossible the request may seem, “Jesus, if You are willing, this will occur.”

A timeless word

Last week i, together with the other members of our ministry leadership team, had the privilege of being challenged by two brothers; one a dear friend for almost twenty years – Elbert Smith, and the other, a new friend – Steve Wright, now serving at the church that was my home for many years. These two men “book-ended” our time as a ministry leadership team as we gathered and sought the Lord for His continuing direction for the days ahead for the church family we have the awesome privilege to shepherd. Interestingly, the two men have never met, though they do know of one another. So they hadn’t compared notes, and we had not coached them on what the other was speaking about. But the voices we heard from were really one voice – and though it was “still and small”, it resonated loudly in our hearts, our souls and our minds. It wasn’t a new word – but it was a timeless word.

Well done, good and faithful servants!

Today i had the bittersweet experience of hugging the necks of many dear friends that i hadn’t seen for at least a year. They are gifted and godly men and women who years ago responded to God’s call to go wherever He sends and do whatever He commands. Some have served overseas for multiple decades; some for less. But all of them have endeavored to walk obediently and serve faithfully. Today, having accepted the voluntary retirement incentive (VRI) offered by IMB, many of them are standing at an unplanned crossroad in their journey waiting on the Lord expectantly for His next assignment for them.

One God Beats Five Kings Every Time

Having heard of the cunning way that the Gibeonites had deceived Joshua and become allies with the Israelites after the destruction of Jericho and Ai, King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem was afraid. His plan was to form an alliance with the other Amorite kings of the hill country – King Hoham of Hebron, King Piram of Jarmuth, King Japhia of Lachish and King Debir of Eglon. And his plan was not to attack the Israelites; he feared them and their God too much. Rather, his plan was for this alliance of the hill country to combine their forces and attack the traitorous Gibeonites. He would deal the Israelites a setback by defeating their new ally, Gibeon, and at the same time communicate to all the Canaanite peoples that an alliance with the Israelites and their God would not be tolerated.

A Tough Week

This is a tough week for my IMB family. Plans are in full force to reduce the number of missionaries and staff that are serving by 600-800 people. The process has begun with a voluntary retirement incentive offered to all workers over 50 years of age and 5 years of service. Many are stepping into “retirement” this week at a time well in advance of what they ever anticipated. Some are stepping away from decades of faithful service. i spoke to a dear brother recently who shared that serving overseas is all that he and his family have known for twenty-seven years, and he wasn’t really sure how best to pursue God’s next step. As we spoke, i heard him express the deep sadness that so many are experiencing. The sadness extends to those who remain. It is hard to say farewell to co-laborers. Hearts have been knit together through their passionate pursuit of God’s call for the sake of the gospel and the advance of His Kingdom. There is no higher calling. There is no greater purpose. And each member of this family has given his/her all. So when family members leave, there is loss – and it is deep.

Whose Fame Do You Seek?

At that time Joshua invoked this curse: “May the curse of the LORD fall on anyone who tries to rebuild the town of Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn son, he will lay its foundation. At the cost of his youngest son, he will set up its gates.” So the LORD was with Joshua, and his reputation spread throughout the land. (Joshua 6:26-27 NLT)

Before the Israelites showed up, Jericho was known for its walls. Moses himself had told the Israelites, “Listen, O Israel! Today you are about to cross the Jordan River to take over the land belonging to nations much greater and more powerful than you. They live in cities with walls that reach to the sky!” (Deut 9:1). It is believed that the wall around Jericho was in fact a design of three walls. First the mound, or “tell”, was surrounded by a great earthen embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. That wall was 12-15 feet high. On top of the retaining wall was a mudbrick wall six feet thick and 20-26 feet high. Then from the crest of the embankment was a similar mudbrick wall also six feet thick that started at 46 feet above the ground level (outside the retaining wall) and also arose an additional 20-26 feet into the air.1 So from ground level these walls projected approx. 70 feet into the air. At a timeframe of roughly 1450 BC, that would have been viewed like we would look at The Empire State Building today – “reaching to the sky”. The builders of the city of Jericho had taken great care and great pride in building a virtually impregnable fortress.