I can think of no greater path in life, than to follow Jesus!
I can think of no greater path in life, than to follow Jesus!
Some people say Bird, others say Jordan was their favorite basketball player. My favorite never won a ring, but he did win a lot of children’s hearts. He was Meadowlark Lemon, the star of the Harlem Globetrotters.
As a child, I saw him on Scooby Doo, voiced by the man behind Hong Kong Phooey, Scatman Crothers. In “real life” he was on the show Alice, and on tv displays of his skill. What made him special to me, was I enjoyed watching him. He wasn’t only good at the game, he connected with the fans.
Later on, I knew that he had given his life to God, and became an ordained Minister. Though I never heard him speak, I’ll never forget the impact of knowing, even celebrity kneeels at Calvary. Say what you want, but in formative years, that made an impact.
That’s the word that best honors him. He impacted countless people. Whether it was his skill on the court, the smile and laughter he gave, or the commitment to God, he impacted a lot of lives. To my knowledge he did so without announcing an addiction, using curse words, or worrying the parents who took their children to see him.
No one ever had to worry about what Meadowlark would say. No one had to worry about a scandal. The only thing I remember being sad about with Meadowlark, was when he stopped playing.
He passed away in 2015, after a little over 20 years of Ministry. This included many songs on the Gaither Gospel videos. He used his fame to point to Jesus. I can think of no better use of celebrity than that. He was a champion to me.
For believers, the story is never over, you only transition to another season, one beyond this vale of tears. In this life, Mr Lemon had many a successful season. However no arena of life compares with that of Heaven. It’s where we all aspire to join Heaven’s choir, and sing like a Meadowlark.
Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
The day after Easter, people were still discovering that The Lord has risen. Some, still in their own darkness, had no news of His light. While unaware of it, Christ was moving towards them, and their need, with a commitment to bring life to their gardens.
Mary thought He was the gardener, and while incorrect in one sense, she was right in so many ways. He came into the weeds of this world, plucked a handful from their sorrows, and planted them. Simon the sinner became the Disciple who would inherit the keys. A tax collector became a distributor of the miracle of the 5,000.
Were they perfect, no, but a Gardener doesn’t just plant, He prunes. He cuts out the fear that made Peter deny, Thomas doubt, and the others run. He tells them on Sunday, I forgive you for what you did on Friday.
And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
The day after Easter, The Gardener plants fresh hope, Love, and mercy to those who mocked Him on the cross. Eventually, in Acts, The Bible tells us many of the priests were obedient to the faith. Those who were jealous of Him, those who were willing for Him to die, those who mocked Him, still were given access to His mercy.
A Gardener doesn’t give up on a sick plant. He fertilizes, He fences, He applies things to keep the pests away. He also plants healthy plants to enrich the soul. Where has The Gardener planted you the day after Easter?
Today, in some word or deed, plant some hope in the lives of those around you. Let them see The Gardener in you. Let them feel the light that changed your life. Let your growth, and your love, your hope reach to where their need is. The Gardener wants to show them, that they can also experience new life, the day after Easter, through you and I.
The closer you get to Jesus in the days of sunshine, the brighter your view through clouded times. Every season, even harvest, will have its challenges, but when you’re in step with The Master, each step is easier. Even if the steps lead you into challenging weather, The Light is always with you.
Simon Peter had watched Our Lord die, then witnessed a resurrected King. He was getting ready to see Him ascend, and then the fisherman would go to the upper room. What did The Lord tell him in the midst of this season of blessings? He told him two things.
First, Jesus told Simon Peter how Simon would die. For most of us, that would be like a leaf falling in July, it would change the season. I imagine it wasn’t what the apostle expected either.
Two things made this future trial good news. First, it would happen to Simon because he was following Jesus, and feeding God’s people. That meant he was reassured that he would be close to Jesus in Simon’s journey.
Second, Jesus said that by this death, Simon should glorify God. It may not have seen as news to shout about then, but I guarantee you, when the time came, it made the journey easier. Trials will come, even in harvest, but The Lord Of Harvest, is always present with us.
Following Jesus as closely, in every season, and every trial of that season, will stabilize you through any storm. The Lord Jesus was giving Simon an anchor to store up, for use at the end of his earthly journey. God will never send you into a storm without giving you an anchor in the sunshine.
Advancing in faith, in life, in business, and so many things doesn’t necessarily involve a quick plunge. Instead it happens by consistently fishing in deeper waters. You learn to fish, then to fish in a boat, then where to fish. What we fail to do, is move the boat.
Moving the boat comes in stages. It isn’t instantly packing up everything on a Saturday, and moving halfway across the globe where you’ve never been. It may one day consist of doing so, but only after you’ve moved the boat in preparation.
God often sends us where we are not ready to go, but He never sends us where He has not prepared for us. Paul’s Damascus road was news to Paul, but not to the house God had prepared for Him to wait for Ananias in. Simon wasn’t ready for the nets to break, but the fish God sent to that side of the boat had just been waiting.
Consistently fishing into the deeper things of God, and life, will take you where the large fish roam. To do this, move the boat a little each day, in other words, consistently investing in where you want to go. Spiritually this is done through daily prayer and Bible reading, and consistent fasting.
Every area of life, you must move towards where you want to be, a little at a time, and never give up. There will be days when you feel like no fish are biting, but it’s only because either they, or you, are not yet in position. No it doesn’t take moving across the lake the first day, but to span the ocean, you have to move the boat a little at a time.
I believe we should say thank you twice as much as we say please. I also believe our gratitude should be louder than our request. Ashley and I have just received some incredible news, that we will be thankful for, the rest of our lives. We just pray to make sure we are always reflecting thankfulness.
If not careful, people can forget what it felt like, prior to the blessing, and that is very dangerous. It’s dangerous, not because you could lose the blessing, but because you could lose sight of The One who gave the blessing. The gift, as precious as it is, is never as precious, as The Scarred Hands who gave it!
I am by no means bragging, but reminding myself to cry out in gratitude, for what my tears once prayed for. May we never forget what it felt like, before our prayers were answered. So we’ll never forget to say thank you, and to repeat it continuously!
Second, the same word used to reference the base unit of time, shares its name with a reference to the number two. That is no accident. While time is precious, we must remember that our plans, schedules, and daily lives should be second to the needs of others.
It’s not that our situations aren’t important, no more than a second isn’t significant, but each is only a part of a larger unit. As seconds make up minutes, which make up hours, our lives are meant to partner with others to produce a life that is better for all. Just as a second is closely followed by another, our lives should touch others’ lives.
A smile, a compliment, putting someone else first, all of these seemingly small things, make someone else’s life better. It may only take a second to add value to someone else, but no matter how much time it takes, it’s building something more.
The wonderful thing about a second is, it implies that it is not by itself. It has both followed something, and points to something beyond it. Being second is wonderful because it shows that you value someone higher than you do yourself. It also produces a chain reaction, that multiplies into the lives of others around you. Many times it returns its favors to the one who stepped back, so that others could step forward.
Judges 10:1-3 (ESV)
1 After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim.
2 And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.
3 After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years.
Tola, the son of Puah, of the tribe of Issachar, judged Israel for twenty three years. The Bible says he rose to save Israel, and that he lived in Shamir, in the hill country of Ephraim. Other than the fact, that he rose after Abimelech, we know nothing more of him.
Like him, we know very little about the personal history of his ancestor, Issachar. We know more about his family, and his descendants, than we know of him. We know the events that led to his birth.
We know the things that his Mother Leah said about him. She named him recompense, or reward. She was overjoyed at his birth. We also know that without stopping to share the circumstances that led to Zebulun’s birth, it goes from Isaachar’s birth, to the pregnancy that produced Zebulun. The reward of one son, led to the birth of another.
We know the blessing of Jacob on both boys. Even though we never hear Issachar’s voice in Scripture, we learn about his family. What connects the Judge Tola directly with his ancestor, is his name.
Like Tola the Judge, Issachar’s first son is named Tola. His second son is Puvah, which means the same as Puah, Judge Tola’s Dad. This name, chosen by Issachar or his bride, was very special. So much so, it was repeated generations later.
Although you may not first realize it. Tola, on face value, means worm, or crimson. If you stop at either, you will have missed something amazing. According to the book, Biblical Basis For Modern Science, the name is derived from the crimson-grub, but used only (in this connection) of the color from it, and cloths dyed with it.
The incredible thing, and how it connects with Issachar, is the process that creates the dye. When the female scarlet worm species was ready to go into labor, she would attach her body to the trunk of a tree, fixing herself so firmly and permanently that she would never leave again.
The eggs deposited beneath her body were protected until ready to hatch. As the mother died, the crimson fluid stained her body and the surrounding wood. From the dead bodies of these scarlet worm mothers, the commercial scarlet dyes of ancient times came from them.
It makes you wonder, if this name came from a hard birth? Was Issachar afraid he would lose his bride in the birth of his son? Perhaps she lost a lot of blood, we don’t know. What we do know, is three other sons were born.
While our history is limited, we know Judah and Simeon had children by more than one woman. There is no reference to a second bride in Issachar’s story. Perhaps that is why, his second son is named Puvah, or splendid. There is no reference to sorrow in this child’s birth.
The third son has two names. He is called Yob (Job), and Jashub. One means persecuted, the other means he will return. While I can’t speak to why this child shares both names, I do know this. Persecution does not mean defeat, it simply means we can choose to get back up, and return to win the battle.
The last son of Issachar, Shimron, means watch or guard. This teaches us that, no matter what you have been given, or what victory you have won, there is no room for apathy. We must hold fast the things that are most surely believed among us.
Later in history, the men of Issachar were described as men who knew what Israel ought to do. They were considered men of wisdom, and the reason they had that wisdom, was someone fought for it, to be able to give it to the next generation. That’s why I don’t believe it unusual for the names to be repeated in the line of Issachar.
Tola, the Judge, wasn’t from Ephraim, but Issachar. Yet, when he was called of God to judge Israel, he moved to a particular place on the mountain of Ephraim. Tola didn’t move to a palace, but to a place named after the thorns that grew there.
Commentators believe that he moved there, partially because it was a central location, but more importantly, it was near The Ark at Shiloh. Tola knew that there may be thorns at his current location, but if he was near The Ark, it was worth any difficulty. It should also be said, that the place of thorns was on the mount of Ephraim, translated as double fruit, or double fruitfulness.
Your place of thorns can also be the place of your most productive season. Likewise, your most fruitful times of life, can produce struggle, but if you are in The Will Of God, it is worth the battle. Thorns do not mean there is no victory, only that there will be attacks, but you will still be successful.
This is why Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer;I have overcome the world.” There will be tribulation, but there will also be victory. Focus, not on the battle, but the reason for the fight. Tola focused on the reason for the fight.
Tola died after twenty three years of faithful Ministry. We don’t know of his decisions, his battles by name, or his acts, but we do know that he was faithful. This is the testimony that we all pray to have, faithfulness. If your reputation is that you are faithful, it is the greatest thing that can be said of you.
Strive to be faithful, and everything else will present itself at the appropriate time. God said that He would remember your work and labor of love. He not only sees what you do for Him, but the heart with which you do it, out of love and commitment.
Which brings us back to Tola, the Judge Of Israel. He wasn’t the only quiet, faithful Israelite mentioned. We’ve talked about his Dad, but this passage also mentions his Granddad.
His name was Dodo, which means beloved. There would be other men by this name in Scripture, including two heroes of David’s army, but except for this verse, his child and grandchild, we know nothing of his life. Yet it was important that Dodo’s name is here.
Why is he important enough to be mentioned here, when nothing else is known? What purpose was it? God wanted his name mentioned.
We see many in The Bible introduced with only the name of their parents, if that. Yet this Grandfather is important enough to be referenced by name. Apparently he did something that God was so pleased with, his name was recorded.
Dodo named his son Puah, meaning splendid, mouth, corner, or bush of hair. Only a man who found joy in his family would name his son splendid. We know that he must have raised Puah in a splendid and Godly manner, because he in turn, raised Tola, future Judge of Israel.
We know his children and grandchildren gave him a voice in his name being recorded in Scripture. Had he made the wrong choices, I do not believe he would be in this verse. While there is repentance, we should always remember, one wrong choice can lead to a day of wrongful decisions, and could end if not repaired, with a lifetime of mistakes. That is why choosing the right things is so important in every decision of our lives.
At the same time, Joshua said make your choice for The Lord today, and restart where you are. Don’t let a number of bad decisions lie to you, there is hope, and the opportunity to start fresh. Where there is life, there is hope!
It is important that both be said, because some people will lean to extremes. They will either say nothing matters, or that no one can live up, and both contain lies. We are redeemed by Grace, but God calls us to live a new life. If we sin, we have an advocate, but that’s for mistakes, not a lifestyle of wrongdoing.
Dodo doesn’t appear to have been concerned about drawing attention to himself, he simply did what he was supposed to do. People used to talk about carving out your corner of the world, usually through some big act, but that’s not the way Dodo apparently made his mark. Dodo built his children’s future, and their lives brought him into the view of all who read the Scriptures.
If you consistently do what is right, then as Solomon said, your gift will make room for you. You won’t have to carve up someone else, or destroy their future to make a place for you. He made it through consistent right choices which raised a son, and a grandson who served God.
Because of this, Tola arose to save Israel. He arose from the place directed to his ancestors by Moses, The Man Of God. Before Moses went to the mountain to die, he spoke, like Jacob on his deathbed, Of the future of the tribes.
Deuteronomy 33:18-19 (ESV)
18 And of Zebulun he said,“Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and Issachar, in your tents.
19 They shall call peoples to their mountain; there they offer right sacrifices; for they draw from the abundance of the seas and the hidden treasures of the sand.”
When it came to Issachar and Zebulun, Moses spoke to both tribes in tandem, connecting their work. One was to rejoice in their journey, the other in their tents. Also like Jacob, Moses mentioned the younger brother Zebulun first, and Issachar second.
In Jacob’s case, it’s not surprising that he would mention the younger first. Of course, like Jacob, Moses was a younger brother, but that’s not the reason he did. He did so because the two together convey one complete thought, and the order had to place Zebulun first, and Issachar second.
Zebulun was a seafaring tribe, a trading tribe. Their call was to go out, and share what they had with others, but that was only half of what was needed. While Zebulun was sent to share, and draw attention to Israel, Issachar was to maintain at home. Verse eighteen is because of verse nineteen, to draw all peoples to the mountains of Israel where God is worshipped.
If this were The New Testament verse nineteen would sound like this. “Go out into the highways and hedges…”. “I will make you fishers of men”, and “whosoever will let him come.” Verse nineteen points far beyond the reach of the oceans, to the lost sea of humanity.
Isaiah 2:2-3 (ESV)
2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it,
3 and many peoples shall come, and say:“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
The Prophet Isaiah says something very similar to verse nineteen in Isaiah chapter two.Tola arose from an environment that God had more planned for, than clean places to stay, and fruitful fields. Everything wasn’t in place in Tola’s day, but God had a plan.
God will usually call someone who is in the right environment, but who is far from complete. He calls committed people, not completed people. They are completed in the process, and not before it.
Tola’s tribe would come to be known as those who studied God’s Word. Take note, they were neither Levites, or the line Of David, but they were committed to The Word Of God. Many Christians say I’m not a Pastor, or Minister, or a teacher, and they make excuses to themselves, to not pursue a deeper knowledge of God’s Word. This is not only a mistake, but a dangerous one.
Knowing God’s Word isn’t about position, it’s about relationship. You spend time with those you love. You learn their likes, their dislikes, their thought, and their feelings. The same is true about a relationship with God. I guarantee you, He knows your likes and dislikes, as well as your needs.
Save Israel, the Hebrew word yasa is used here, and it has many meanings. Yes, it means to free or succor, but it also means to defend, avenge, deliver, and to be safe. Salvation is more than the initial experience with God. It is about a relationship with God, where we grow in our walk with Him.
This was the whole purpose of the Judge in Israel. A judge was not meant to punish Israel, but to redeem them, even if it involved correction. This is why Christ is both Savior and Judge. His purpose is to redeem us, but not to leave us in the condition that He found us.
It’s no coincidence, for there are no accidents with God, that following Tola’s death in the place of thorns, “after him arose Jair the Gileadite”. We won’t dwell on Jair, except to say, his name means enlightened, and Gileadite is from the rocky region. Death on a hill with thorns, and enlightenment, or revelation rising, sound familiar?
If it hearkens to mind Calvary, it’s by design. Everything in The Word Of God points to Christ. From a tribe headed by a man whose voice goes unspoken in Scripture, to a seemingly obscure judge on a mountain in Israel. Just as The Word focuses on The Lord Jesus, so should our lives.
In every way, we should make The Lord part of our tents, or homes. Serving God most definitely includes Sunday Worship, for the verse talks about sacrifice on the mountain, but it also involves Monday devotions. Remember Issachar means reward, and every moment of our lives should be a thank you, for the reward of having Jesus in our lives.
My Wife and I are in the process of adoption. After PCOS and Endometriosis led us to a necessary full hysterectomy, we are waiting to welcome a precious child. Because of both our faith, our struggle, and our conviction that every life is precious, we believe in adoption, not abortion.
I’ve seen wonderful people do incredible things to rescue animals in distress in birth situations. They do anything they can to bring a new little animal into the world. Rightfully so, they are applauded. So it is in shock that I see a state applauding the killing of a child right up until the time of birth.
I’m not here to be political, I don’t care how you vote. What I do ask is, how can you applaud any death, whether you believe it’s a fetus or a baby, it’s still ending breathing, beating hearts, and future dreams? Adoption doesn’t do that, it gives both Mother and unborn child a future, and a fresh start.
A popular image right now shows only two letters difference in the two words, the D and P in adoption replacing the b and r in abortion. We believe the D and P stand for Divine Providence. Because it was Divine Providence that caused Christ to make a way for us all to be adopted into the Kingdom Of God. We who were sinners became saints, even though our lives were so complicated.
Pregnancy can complicate a lot of things, but is it worth ending the future days, months, and years of someone else. For all this debate whether it’s a fetus or a child, no one argues that it will be a child. It will have rights, so regardless of where you believe they do now or not, you’re still taking away their voice.
As a waiting Father, whose hoping to hold a little one in our arms and hearts, I beg you, choose Adoption not abortion. Your choice to allow for adoption and not abortion, may put our baby in our arms. Either way, choosing adoption over abortion, will most definitely put a baby in someone’s arms. Also you won’t have to face the memory of ending a future, instead you’re giving them a new beginning.
And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)
Two places besides Sodom and Gomorrah are mentioned in this verse, Jordan and Zoar. It was the allure of the Jordan Valley that led him to Sodom. Notice it wasn’t the river he was drawn to, but what the river benefited from. It’s dangerous to be drawn to things, because things aren’t the source of your prosperity.
It also said that it was in the direction of Zoar. It seems insignificant doesn’t it? Until you realize that Jordan means descender, and it was in viewing these things, that Lot began the descent that would cost him his family. It all began with a decision based on a look.
Fast forward a few chapters to the night before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s angels tell Lot, get out of the entire valley, and escape to the hills. Lot argues, still talking about what he can see.
He says behold this city is close enough to escape too. Close enough can take you on a long and dangerous journey. He says he can’t escape to the hills because he’ll die, even though angels are telling him he will live. They permit him to escape to the little city he asked for, Zoar. That seemingly insignificant place, which by the way, means insignificant.
23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.
24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.
25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
I don’t remember seeing that Lot’s wife didn’t look back, until they came to Zoar. I can’t help but wonder, could Lot’s wife have seen Sodom if Lot hadn’t asked to flee to Zoar instead of the hills? She didn’t look back until they got to Zoar.
Yes Lot saved the city, but he lost his wife, and his daughters fell into perversion. God’s permissive will is never as safe as His perfect will. All because Lot refused to leave the valley for the hills. That valley wouldn’t even look the same after judgement hit it, but still Lot wouldn’t leave it.
He did eventually leave it, after he lost his wife. It was then he took his daughters and fled to the hills. The problem was, by this time, they may have left the valley, but it hadn’t left them.
Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.”
Descending into the valley produced Moab and Ammon, and cost Lot everything. What seemed so insignificant, the mention of a little city, turned out to be the biggest mistake of his life. What decision have you or I made that doesn’t seem important?
A harsh word to your wife because you’re tired. A first glance at something you know you shouldn’t be looking at. Maybe a small wrong choice in front of your kids? They seem so small to our eyes, but how large they can be to little eyes.
What they see, can overflow their eyes and flood their hearts. Be careful today about insignificant choices, they could be more costly than you could ever imagine! They could take you down, if you’re not careful.