Sunday, April 25, 2010

Confronted By The Truth

He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."
(John 4:3-15, NKJV)


Suppose you were going about your daily business, not thinking about anything in particular. You go through the same routine – get up, get dressed, and get out the door to work. Yet, as you run through the same routine day after day, a part of you is empty … so empty that you keep trying to find or invent something new to shove into it, hoping that the hollow, aching feeling will finally go away, or at least dull down a little bit. To most people, you are just an Average Joe, but to yourself and those who know your story, your life is just a shell and a lie. And, somewhere deep inside you, you find you resign yourself to things always being this way.

The Gospel of John shares a story very much like this in the fourth chapter. Jesus, for some unknown reason, has led his disciples on a slight detour through the slums – He has taken them through Samaria. And, even worse, He has had them stop there for provisions. While they are off on their chores, a village woman comes to the town well to draw out her daily supply of water. We don't know what she was thinking, but we do learn a few things about her. Jesus, of course, knew them all along. She was His very purpose for this little side trip in the first place.

So along comes our villager and a strange man (a Jew at that) asks her for a drink. The conversation goes back and forth until the Truth begins to confront her. He can see into her soul and He sees the dry, longing to be free and loved. He sees she has searched for something to fill the void and is currently on her sixth man. She has sold her self-worth for a little companionship, but she ends up just feeling used over and over again. And then He offers her what she really needs – Living Water!

Of course, she doesn't grasp this at first (how many of us do?) and she plainly tells Him that he doesn't have so much as a ladle or a bucket. The Truth pierces the veil of her understanding further and tells her, in so many words, that He can quench that longing for love and acceptance she so desperately wants. She still doesn't completely understand, so the Truth further reveals that He knows her well and is still willing to make the same offer. In the end, she is so elated that she goes and finds her closest friends and tells them of her encounter. In the dialogue that follows, she speaks with hope of having been confronted by the Messiah, and somehow we know she will never be the same again.

In our lives, we often tend to wear various masks or use other devices to conceal who we really are or to convince somebody else to believe what we want them to believe. We go along our way, silently crying out inside, afraid that if somebody every got close enough to know us deeply, they would reject us in a New York minute. Our fear reinforces the cycle and we continue to hide from our family, our spouses, our friends, and anyone else who may cross our path. If we really believe in Christ as our Messiah, we don't have to live this way any longer.

The Truth has already confronted us and offers us the same Living Water that He spoke of to the Samaritan women almost 2,000 years ago. The Water has not gone stale and it is never in short supply. It is ours to draw out whenever we need it and drink deeply. As we travel along our Crooked Path, we do so confident that our Savior has placed that well spring of Living Water within us … and we don't need to hide from the Truth any more. He isn't going to condemn us or run away from us. And that, my friends, is a truly liberating thought.


  1. What are you hiding or who are you hiding from? And, while we're at it, why are you hiding in the first place?
  2. Do you fear that if people really got to know you they would reject you? Is your own self-image damaged, or have you seen your soul reflected in the pool of the Living Water?
  3. Are you ready (and willing) to take off your masks, tear down your walls, and live fully and freely knowing that you have been confronted by the Truth and not condemned by Him?


NKJV - Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did what was evil in the Lord's sight, following the detestable practices of the pagan nations that the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. He rebuilt the pagan shrines his father, Hezekiah, had broken down. He constructed altars for the images of Baal and set up Asherah poles. He also bowed before all the powers of the heavens and worshiped them.

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they ignored all his warnings. So the Lord sent the commanders of the Assyrian armies, and they took Manasseh prisoner. They put a ring through his nose, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon. But while in deep distress, Manasseh sought the Lord his God and sincerely humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed, the Lord listened to him and was moved by his request. So the Lord brought Manasseh back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh finally realized that the Lord alone is God! (2 Chronicles 33:1-3 & 10-13, NLT)


OK, I get the title. And the passage is somewhat familiar. But what does one have to do with the other? Why tie the beginning of the story of Judah's most wicked (and long-reigning) king to thoughts about what we wish for? Where is the connection? The answer, lies in what the late Paul Harvey would have termed "the rest of the story." And for that, we have to go back in time fifteen years. But before we do that, perhaps a little recollection of a great literary short story might help.

In 1902, W.W. Jacobs published a short story he titled "The Monkey's Paw". The story echoed the proverb about the two great tragedies in our lives were never getting what we wished for ... and getting it. The older couple in the story is presented with a mystical talisman that would bring them three wishes. Of course, they wished for money first ... and find it came at a price - the payment of an insurance settlement for the loss of their son. Things go from bad to worse until, with their final wish, they undo all they had asked for and return to their lives wiser, but definitely changed.

The broader story that brings us to the passage for this entry starts with Manasseh's father. King Hezekiah was told by God's prophet that he needed to get his house in order for he would not recover from his current illness. Hezekiah had been, from all accounts, a righteous man. But instead of accepting God's message, the rolled over in his bed and cried. He decided he did not want to die as God had told him. Before the prophet had left the royal house, God sent him back with a message that Hezekiah would live another fifteen years. Hezekiah had gotten what he wished for - he didn't die after all.

But in his extended life, do you think Hezekiah made good use of the time and struck out for God and to secure the future of Judah? The sad truth, from what we can glean from the text, is that he did not. Some three years after this change, little Manasseh was born. And if Hezekiah took an active role in passing on the godly heritage he had known and lived by, it must have been missed in the young boys lessons. More likely, Hezekiah, now certain of this lifespan, just neglected to do anything about the situation. And at twelve years old, Manasseh ascends the throne and the kingdom of Judah dives back into the pit of idol worship and debauchery the likes of which had not been seen before.

Manasseh erected pagan idols and images everywhere. Most notably, he put them within the confines of the temple ... God's own special dwelling! To say God is displeased would be an understatement. God repeatedly warns the king to give up his evil ways, but Manasseh ignores every one of them. And at the height of his rebellion and wickedness, God apparently had seen enough. The Assyrians came in, put a ring in Manasseh's nose, bound him in chains, and hauled him off to Nineveh. In the end, Manasseh repented, but the damage had already been done. Not long after this chain of events, God would allow the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and carry the nation into exile.

Imagine what might have happened if Hezekiah had "manned up" and accepted God's original edict. We may not be able to project all the events, but we know one thing for certain - Manasseh would not have been born, let alone become king. So, what about us? Are we ready to accept what God says at face value, or are we going to roll over, cry, and ask for something different? As I walk along the Crooked Path, I need to trust that God has my best interest at heart at every turn. He knows me and will give me what I need to live for Him. I don't need to rely on some wishes or wants - and if I did get what I want, it might just be one of those two great tragedies. I think I'll try to trust Him more instead.


  1. What do you wish for? Do you temper it with a solemn rest in the God who has promised to provide what we need?
  2. How are you doing in the "1 Peter 5:7" category? Are you casting your cares, heartaches, and headaches on Him without trying to reel them back in?
  3. Are you willing to live a contented life and trust God? Do you really even know what that looks like?


NLTScripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Searching for Yes Men

And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, "Inquire first for the word of the LORD." Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, "Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?" And they said, "Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king." But Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?" And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil." And Jehoshaphat said, "Let not the king say so." Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, "Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah." Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them. And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, "Thus says the LORD, 'With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.'" And all the prophets prophesied so and said, "Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king." (1 Kings 22:5-12, ESV)


I don't know about you, but I generally like hanging around people who agree with me. I enjoy it when the discussion flows in the way I am heading it. I like to have my opinions and thoughts and reasoning validated. It makes me look like a "strong thinker" and everybody wins. But oh the pitfalls of such an attitude, especially when that's all you pursue. You see, it is one thing to seek out like-minded people with whom you can have good discussions. It is another thing (and not a bad one) to passionately argue your point of view in an attempt to persuade others. However, if you surround yourself with only "yes" men, you will come to a point where you fall off the cliff.

The story surrounding the passage for this entry is tucked away neatly in the First Book of the Kings of Israel. One of the more wicked and ruthless rulers of the Northern tribes was Ahab. You remember him, don't you? They guy who could only be trumped by the wickedness of his own wife, Jezebel. At some point in his reign, he had King Jehoshaphat of Judah pay a visit to him so he could put a bug in his ear about a joint-effort battle. The target was city that kept falling into the hands of Syria and no Israelite king ever did much about it. Ahab wanted it back.

Wise Jehoshaphat asks Ahab to inquire of the Lord via his prophets. He's used to asking God what to do, while Ahab regularly does whatever comes to his wicked little mind. But, Ahab consents and the palace cadre of prophets are summoned to make a ruling. However, it seems these prophets will always validate what Ahab wants to do and not contradict him. Jehoshaphat smells a rat and calls Ahab on it. He asks if there is another prophet in the area that they could ask. And here are where Ahab's true colors rise to the surface. Ahab admits there is another prophet, but he never asks him about anything because "... he never prophecies good concerning me, but evil."

If you know the rest of the story, you will recall that the prophet is summoned anyway, first gives a rather sarcastic response, gets slapped, and then tells both kings plainly and simply that the end is near. And not just the end for Ahab, but for the Northern Kingdom as well. Ahab and Jehoshaphat go up, Ahab tries to pull a fast one, and in the end only one king returns from the battle ... and it isn't our boy Ahab. His days of seeking out a "yes" man are over, just like the prophet said.

Back to the beginning of this entry. I may like it when I throw out some brilliant remark and hit a target of "yes" men ... but it isn't what I need to grow. I need to regularly put myself in the position of studying what God has to say and earnestly seeking out the truth among others who are like-minded, but won't automatically validate me regardless of who I am. God wants us to challenge each other, especially if we see a brother or sister truly straying from what He calls the truth. It may not be the warm, fuzzy environment that our nature says it wants, but it is an opportunity to grow closer to God.

As I walk the Crooked Path, it is a pleasure to be accompanied by others who are seeking the same thing and share a commitment to God. No, we won't always agree on every single point, but as my one brother's pastor said about certain aspects of a recent service, they aren't a "kingdom matter" and won't be given audience as such. There are far more important things to do than seek out "yes" men to validate me anyway. I would be wise to choose those things over the easy stuff.


  1. Do you find yourself seeking out the "yes" men in the world around you? Or, worse yet, are you in the habit of being a "yes" man yourself?
  2. When you seek God's response, where do you turn? Do you sulk and whine if the response isn't in line with what you wanted to do in the first place?
  3. Are you willing to trust somebody else enough to take his or her criticism as something constructive, something to grow on? Do you look for God to speak to you through what others say?


ESV - Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

God's Master Stroke

You'll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God's master stroke, I didn't try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did — Jesus crucified. I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate — I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it — and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway. God's Spirit and God's power did it, which made it clear that your life of faith is a response to God's power, not to some fancy mental or emotional footwork by me or anyone else.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5, The Message)


In a message a few weeks ago, our passionate associate pastor Micah gave us more than a little to think about on the subject of the cross. As I looked across the translations in my Bible, my eyes fell on the highlighted phrases above from The Message. Based on my current line of thought that God's revealed Word to us is a continuous story, I came to the conclusion that Paul was so passionate about the cross of Christ (as was Micah) because it was the climax or turning point of the entire plot. It was, as Peterson puts it "God's master stroke". And it is a stroke of passionate genius, if you ask me. Oh, by the way, I'm writing this entry on Resurrection Weekend ...

Right from the beginning (at least what we know as the beginning), God's holiness demanded a sacrifice. The model He had Moses write down was an intricate system of works and behaviors that demanded a perfection we could not possibly achieve. But behind and through it all, there was the promise of a Messiah who would come and rewrite the whole script. And so, Jesus fulfilled that need, ultimately giving up His own life on the cross that first Good Friday. God's master stroke had been played - Jesus was crucified as the ultimate sacrifice.

Immediately after that, the prideful self tried to take over once again. Early Christians separated into factions, aligning themselves with Peter, or Paul, or Apollos, or the party of the circumcision. God's master stroke was still there, but the power of the cross was diminished by the reintroduction of works-based doctrines. And in attempting to add to the cross, they took away from it and changed the message entirely.

But we don't do anything like that, do we? We're not guilty of draining the power of the cross, are we? We never add in our own rules and standards, nor do we attempt to make our way equal to (or even higher than) the cross ... oh but how many times we drift that way. Somehow, we want to claim that we believe the cross was enough, but our actions and attitude speak something vastly different. And just like those early Christians, we run into the same kind of trouble. God's master stroke is diminished.

As we reflect on Christ on the cross this Easter weekend, I would ask that God remind us of several things:

  • The cross kills our self-reliance. Our self-reliant acts are, in essence "anti-cross" - they attempt to drain its power.
  • The cross makes alive our God-reliance. He alone is the one who has provided the way to avoid His judgment.
  • The cross matures body-reliance. Our Christian brothers and sisters are to be our constant traveling companions. We were never meant to go at this alone.
  • The cross is the only source of hope to restore our severed relationship with God. He remains holy and nothing we can do on our own will overcome the gap.

The Crooked Path always begins at the cross. I need to remember that constantly so I don't lose sight of what was done for me there. I am instructed to carry my part of the cross with me as a reminder, not of my current problems, but of what Christ did. And as I walk the path from the cross through an empty tomb, I am reminded that God's master stroke was done for me. Easter isn't just a once a year event ... it's the very essence of life today and every day. Christ is risen ... He is risen indeed!


  1. Are you adding to the cross in any way? Can you see how that actually attempts to drain its power rather than enhance it?
  2. What are you boasting in today? Is it in God's master stroke - the cross of Christ alone?
  3. Is Easter just an annual thing for you, or do you keep it in your heart all the time? Are you willing to change the way you think about the cross one final time and accept it as all you ever need?