Justice League

Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern. Superheroes. The world longs for them. Always arriving in the nick of time to ward off evil, beat up bad guys, prevent corruption, and promote truth and justice and goodness. The book of Judges is about heroes, the people God used to deliver his people from their enemies.  Don’t think of them as people wearing black robes sitting in courthouse with a gavel in hand.   I like to think of them as unlikely heroes.

Deborah was a woman in a male dominated society.  She was a wife and mother who the nation rallied around for her wisdom and spiritual direction.  She was personally asked by the general to help lead the army to victory.  With no military training she goes with the general into battle to help achieve the victory.  We are referring to her as Wonder Woman.

Gideon was a coward and had to be convinced over and over that God saw a leader, deliver and “a mighty man of valor” when Gideon didn’t see that at all.  He led his nation into battle with overwhelming odds against him but emerged victorious.   Because Gideon overcomes great fear we are referring to him as Green Lantern.

Samson was the strongest man that ever lived physically.  Because of his supernatural strength we are referring to him as Superman.  Sampson killed a lion with his bare hands, tore off the huge city gates weighing thousands of pounds and carried them away.  He killed a thousand enemy soldiers with nothing more than a donkey’s jawbone.  Although he was very strong physically, he was weak morally and spiritually as he regularly made more mistakes than wise decisions. He struggled with drinking and womanizing instead of following God.

Talk about action and adventure!  These people, and some others, were called judges. God sent them to help his people, the Israelites, when they got into serious trouble.  Actually, it was their own fault that they got into trouble. When things were going well, they would get proud and forget God. Sounds a lot like us doesn’t it?  Then their enemies would move in and make it tough on them. Eventually, when things got really bad, they would ask God to help them. That’s when God would send a judge. This happened over and over again.  As we go through Judges, we will enjoy the thrilling stories of action and adventure. But also learn the lesson that God’s people kept forgetting – to always trust in God and obey him.

The people of Israel had become forgetful, stubborn and rebellious. Judges describes them this way: “In those days…people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes”  Judges 17:6

REAL heroes are hard to find these days. Modern research and the media have made the faults and weaknesses of our leaders very apparent; we search in vain for men and women to emulate. The music, movie, and sports industries produce a steady stream of “stars” who shoot to the top and then quickly fade from view.  In our series on the book of Judges we are saying that “Real Heroes Rely on God.”  God’s Holy Spirit is available to all people. Anyone who is dedicated to God can be used for his service. Real heroes recognize the futility of human effort without God’s guidance and power.

Let the book of Judges remind us that God uses normal people to do his work.  We can be an unlikely hero to those around us!  When you love your wife or husband and serve them, you are a hero!  When you teach your children about God, the bible, morality and responsibility you are a hero!  When you take or go with your family to church you are a hero! When you love those who are hard to love, when you forgive those who hurt you, you are a hero!

Let  the book of Judges remind us of the effects of not following God and His word; and let it remind us that, above all, God is merciful to sinful people like the Israelites and us when we ask for forgiveness.

I’m excited about this series and hope that you can join us.


Source:  Life Application Study Bible
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The Greatest Mystery

Do you love a good mystery?   I think we are fascinated by things that tease and tantalize our brains!  It just drives us crazy when all the pieces of the puzzle just don’t fit together.   Many of the most popular books, movies and television shows revolve around the concept of mystery. Mystery is a part of life and we encounter it in many places.  In this post I’m going to share what I believe are two of the greatest mysteries.   Here’s the first mystery…

It was the day before Thanksgiving 1971 and  Northwest Airlines flight 305 was flying through a cold and rainy northwestern sky, towards it’s destination in Seattle Washington.  Just about the time the 727 passed over Portland, Oregon, something happened that had never happened before in this country.   A passenger, going by the name of Dan Cooper, showed a stewardess a bomb that he was carrying in a briefcase and threatened to blow up the plane unless he was given $200,000 in cash and 4 parachutes.

In an effort to avoid what could have been an incredible disaster, the airline company decided to meet the hijacker’s demands.

As the nearly empty flight took off again, flying south, he parachuted out of the airplane with the ransom, and was never seen again.

“It remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the United States, a startling crime that captured the American imagination, inspiring songs, movies, TV shows and books,” according to the New York Times.

But after 45 years in which hundreds of leads were probed and discarded, the F.B.I. said as of July 2016 it was no longer actively pursuing what it called one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in its history.

Who is Dan Copper, how did he pull it off, where is he and why is there no trace of him since 1971?  “Thus began one of the great unsolved mysteries in F.B.I. history,” the F.B.I. said.

There are several theories as to what could of happened to him.

Airline officials later admitted to giving him an unreliable parachute, which means there’s a possibility that he was killed when he hit the ground, a real good possibility. Scientists have suggested that, if that’s what happened, his body would never be identified because the force of the impact would have obliterated his body and his bones.  But there should be traces of the parachute and money.

Another theory is that he might have landed in a huge lake 30 miles North of Portland and that all the weight that he had strapped to his body carried him to the bottom where he would have drowned.

But the most fascinating possibility is that he was successful, that his wild, hair-brained scheme actually worked and that he’ been living ever since on the money he received in luxury and comfort under a new identity.

Since that time books and songs have been written about DB Cooper, a Rock Group bears his name as does a bar in Salt Lake City. Only in America could a criminal become a folk hero.

If you are a parent, you are shrouded in mystery nearly every day!  Many times parents find themselves scratching their heads trying to figure out, and make sense of the things their children do. Often they are a complete mystery.   When things are broken, mud is tracked in, dishes are left out, our kids are quick to say, “I didn’t do that!”  We often joke at our house that,  “I guess a fairy must have done it if no one will confess.”

We tell our child, “Danielle I don’t want you to touch this, and what does Danielle do, she touches it.” Or we tell little Kaleb to stop jumping up and down on the bed, and we walk out of the room and go down stairs, and just as we sit down, we hear squeaking sound coming from upstairs, so we get up, go upstairs, open the door and there we find little Kaleb jumping up and down. He stops when we come in, and we ask him, “didn’t I tell you not to jump up and down,” “Yes” Kaleb replies, And didn’t I tell you that If you jumped up and down on your bed again that you would get a spanking” “A huh” says Kaleb. “Then why in the world are you jumping on your bed?” “I don’t know.”

That’s their answer!   That’s the most popular answer that kids give for all the crazy things that they do. They know that they are not supposed to do it but they do it anyway.  This can drive a parent crazy because it doesn’t make sense.  Are they just trying to make us mad?  Do they like getting in trouble? Or is Bill Cosby’s theory that they have brain damage right?    Some things our children do will forever remain a mystery.

But in reality we can’t be too hard on them because if we’re honest we know that we did the same things to our parents.

The world is full of many mysteries, but all the great mysteries of the world, shrivel in comparison to the last mystery.

We get a peek at this mystery in Judges 2:

The Israelites …abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the LORD… so he handed them over to raiders who stole their possessions. He turned them over to their enemies all around, and they were no longer able to resist them….And the people were in great distress.  Then the LORD raised up judges to rescue the Israelites from their attackers.  Yet Israel did not listen to the judges but prostituted themselves by worshiping other gods. How quickly they turned away from the path of their ancestors, who had walked in obedience to the LORD’s commands.  Whenever the LORD raised up a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the LORD HAD COMPASSION on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering.  But when the judge died, the people returned to their corrupt ways, behaving worse than those who had lived before them. They went after other gods, serving and worshiping them. And they refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. Judges 2:11-19 (NLT)

The Israelites repeatedly went through the cycle of sin, suffering, crying to the Lord and experiencing God’s deliverance.  Why would God put up with such people?  Why would God love such people? Why would God forgive and deliver such people time and time again?  From a human standpoint it’s a complete mystery.

Why would God continue to love a continuously rejecting and rebellious people?   Before we are too hard on them we have to agree that we are just like the Israelites we read about.  We abandon God, we don’t listen, we’re stubborn, we’re corrupt, we prostitute ourselves to anything that will make us happy and we refuse to give up our evil ways.  We get ourselves into trouble, we cry out to God and he listens!  He has compassion on us and he rescues us.

We are oppressed by our stubborn ways and rebellion.  We are shackled in the chains of sin, trapped in the dark dungeons of despair. The doors were shut, the cell was deep, the chains were tight and there was little hope for freedom.  Sin our slave master was cruel and oppressive, he did not care about us, and the wages of our sin was death.

We were helpless and powerless, and we could not save ourselves. But God the Son came in the flesh, and He burst opened the doors and He shattered the chains and they fell to the ground and the light of life, came shining into the darkness.

While we were still sinners, while we were God’s enemies, while we were willingly disobeying God, neglecting God and using God for our own selfish interests, God was in the process of paying the price of pour sins, Himself. While we were rejecting God telling Him to get out of our lives, Jesus God the Son, was beaten, mocked, and nailed to the cross so that you and I could escape the dungeon of sin and the flames of hell.

God demonstrated his own love for us in this while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I can’t understand why God would do that, IT’S PERHAPS THE GREATEST MYSTERY OF ALL TIME.


Sources:  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/14/us/where-is-db-cooper-fbi-ends-45-year-hunt.html, 
Special thanks to Steve Malone, Pastor of Maple Grove Christian Church for some of the ideas contained in this post.
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As For Me and My House

I have this verse hanging in my master bedroom.  It’s one of the first things I see each day when I wake up.  This verse is one of the most popular verses in the entire Old Testament.  It’s part of Joshua’s last words to his family and his people.

As for ME..”   It all starts with me: faith and a decision to follow Christ is a personal decision that I must make for myself.

It’s been said that “God has no grandchildren, only children.” When it comes to the choice to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and then spend your life serving Him as Lord, no one can decide this for you. Your mom can’t decide this for you. Your dad can’t.  Your pastor can’t. It is your decision. You decide.

We need fathers and mothers today who say, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”  “Our primary job is not to be our child’s friend but a parent.  We will go to church on Sundays, read the bible and live out its principles.  Others may skip church because of select sports, we will not! Other kids may have no boundaries and call the shots but not our kids!  We will strive to serve the Lord.”

We need single adults who say, “As for me and my body I will serve the Lord!”  “If you choose to sleep around or live together before marriage that is your choice, but as for me, it’s not going to happen! As for my sexuality I will serve the Lord.”

We need business men who say, “As for me and my business we will serve the Lord!”  “Other businesses may choose to defraud, cheat or lie.  We will not!”  We need more businesses like Chick-fil-a, Hobby Lobby and Mardell’s that will hold to biblical and family values.  They close on Sundays to observe a day of rest and spend time with God and their families. Their businesses are booming.

Personal choice and stance are the first part of this verse.  Joshua also reminds us here that Christian parents have another choice to make.

Remember God’s Words in Deuteronomy 6:6-7?

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

In his final words Joshua says, “I have obeyed this instruction from God. I don’t know about you “but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” If we read on we would see that the people replied saying that “Yes, We will serve the Lord!” but Joshua asked them again and again and repeatedly they said yes. Finally, he accepted their answer and put up a stone memorial to remind them of their commitment to teach their children about God. I’m sure there were a lot of amens as he did so. But unfortunately they did not follow through with this commitment. They didn’t teach their children about God’s loving actions.

In the very next book of the Bible, (which we will look at next week!) in Judges chapter 2:1-2 it says, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, Who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.” So the parents didn’t make this choice. How sad.

The fact is we are only one generation away from a culture that turns it’s back on our faith because all it takes is the failure of one generation of parents to tell their children about God. Moms and Dads, this is our God-given responsibility and don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that children decide to serve God simply by parental decree or that children inherit their faith from their parents like they do their physical characteristics.  But I am saying that if the next generation is to remain faithful to God, parents we must teach them about God.

We must tell them what God has done and what He means to them. The fact is much of the problems in our culture stem from the fact that many parents have not made this choice correctly.

There are many parents these days who say, “My choice is no. I don’t want to influence my child when it comes to religion. When they are old enough they will choose for themselves.” I find it strange though that they don’t follow that philosophy in other important matters. They don’t let their young children decide when to go to bed or what to eat or wear. They don’t let them decide if they want to go to school or not. They don’t say, “Hey play in the street if you want to! That’s your choice.” Why this inconsistency? Why give your child some guidance in life but refuse to give them the most important guidance? Guidance that not only equips them to deal with the heartbreaks that are around every corner in this fallen world of ours, but also prepares them to make their own personal choice when it comes to their allegiance to God.  That choice that will affect where they spend eternity.

The final choice of faith is up to the child but a child needs guidance and encouragement that will help them make the right choice. Think of it this way. If children are allowed to grow up like weeds in a spiritual wilderness, chances are good that they will remain weeds.  We can be sure that our children do not grow up in a spiritual vacuum. If we don’t teach him, someone else will. The only sure hope that a child has when it comes to making the right choice when it comes to faith in God is the home.

Listen to these words,

“The facts show that it is the family which is the main center of maintaining the religious spirit. We cannot and we shall not remain indifferent to the fate of children on whom their parents, fanatical believers, commit an act of spiritual violence. We are not indifferent to the fact that, in the Soviet society, a family is a cell of communist education or a refuge of backward conceptions.”  These words were spoken in 1964 by one of the top officials in communist Russia.  Back then the Russians feared Christianity so much that they forcibly took children from believing parents. Even they were wise enough to know something that many Christian parents apparently ignore. The family is the key to passing on faith in Jesus.

What about you and your house? Like Joshua have you made the commitment to tell your kids all about the Lord you love and serve so that they can make a well-informed decision?

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”


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The Power of Choice

Aren’t you grateful for the choices you have?  I am.  I love the choice to work where I work and to live where I live and to eat what I eat and for Niki my wife.  Also for her mutual choice of me!  I love the Aggies, San Antonio Spurs and turtles.   God in his infinite grace and love gives us many choices, both good and bad.   Our choices guide us and define us. Some choices are temporal and others are eternal.  Choices are powerful.  We are told in God’s word to choose wisely.

As we look at Joshua’s last words we can see that his message boils down to one main statement. He was telling the Hebrew people, “You have a choice to make. You can continue to serve God after I’m gone or not. It’s up to you. But you have to choose.” As for himself, Joshua had made this choice long ago. He had decided that He would serve the Lord, and had lived his long life according to that decision. But now he was about to leave. He would no longer be the leader of this nation, telling them what to do. From now on they would have to choose for themselves. In my mind, he’s much like a parent to their child before college, military or career saying, “Look, you’re on your own now and you face a choice. Serve God with your life. Live according to His Word or not, but choose.”

In a very real sense Joshua was like a parent to these people. He had been with them all their lives. Decade after decade He’d watched them grow up and then fight to conquer the land God had promised them. So perhaps better than anyone else Joshua knew that as the old hymn puts it, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, they had already come.” And Joshua had been with them in all that, guiding them every step of the way. All this “parental” experience had led him to know these people, to know them better in fact than they did themselves and so he knew that they were wrestling with this choice. He knew that at this moment in the history of this nation there was in fact a wavering as to their faith in God. They were wondering, if they still needed God now that this long war was over.  With his final words, Joshua confronted them with this choice–to follow God or not.   I think this text gives us a good chance to re-examine the depth of our own commitment to the Lord.

Joshua encourages commitment based on what God has done in the past.

17  It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled.  Joshua 24:17

Joshua was using some of his precious final words to remind them that they had a decision to make, but that it was really a no-brainer because it was the only reasonable option to take when they considered all that God had done for them in the past. Joshua was saying that surely anyone who took the time to look back and see all that God had done would choose to serve God!

When it comes to our following God, this principle of choice that Joshua referred to is still applicable in our day and age. If anyone today has even a partial understanding of all the ways God has blessed us, if he or she knew of God’s actions in his or her personal history, and if they had any sense, they would indeed choose to follow God.  Anyone who understood God’s past actions on their behalf would decide to trust God with their future.

It’s been said that deciding to follow God involves a “leap of faith,” but the Bible doesn’t teach this. Don’t get me wrong. God’s Word does tell us that faith is necessary for salvation. But there is not much of a “leap” involved because it is a reasonable faith. In essence the Bible says, “Look at what God has done for you in history. It’s all written down here for you. Read it. See all that God has done. Reason about these things and make your decision.”

The Bible does not abandon evidence. It doesn’t leave us with nothing on which to base our decision as to whether or not to give God our life. No. It builds faith on reason. As Josh McDowell put it years ago, the gospel story contains clear “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.”

Massey H. Shepherd writes,

“The Gospel is not presented to mankind as an argument about religious principles. Nor is it offered as a philosophy of life. Christianity is a witness to certain facts, to events that have happened, to hopes that have been fulfilled, to realities that have been experienced, to a Person Who has lived and died and been raised from the dead to reign forever.”

As you evaluate the level of your commitment to follow God in life, I challenge you to review your own personal history so that you can see all that God has done for you! And if you’re having trouble, I would give you a hint. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father Who does not change.” So, if there is anything good or perfect in your life you would be foolish to take credit for it, because the Bible reminds us that God gave all that to you!

God could say, “I gave you that food you ate for breakfast this morning! I gave you the warm bed you slept in last night! I gave you that home with central air and heat! I gave you that closet full of clothes and that refrigerator full of food! I gave you that job! I gave you those cars you drive! I made it possible for you to fill their tanks with gasoline!   I gave you your mind, body, arms, legs and the air in your lungs!   And do you remember that problem you wrestled with a few months ago-that nightmare-that is now only an unpleasant memory? I resolved that for you! I helped you through that tough time and all the tough times that came before it! I gave you that wife! I gave you that husband! I gave you those precious children! And lest you forget My perfect gift to you, I gave you My only Son. I sent Him to die for Your sins so that I could remove the sin barrier that exists between us and give you eternal life!”

Every good thing in life is from God — every good gift. And, if that weren’t enough to base your decision on, of course the perfect gift of Jesus is from God as well.

Will you thank God for all he’s done for you and choose to serve him?   I have made that choice and I hope you will too.


Sources: Life Application Bible Notes, Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – History. and Mark Adams.
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