Self-Destruction – April 9, 2021

As I prepare to preach about Idolatry on Sunday, I’m reading through sermon illustrations and found one that not only condemns idols, but says a lot about the dominant political philosophy of our day! Be warned! Pastor Scott

“In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen retells a tale from ancient India: Four royal brothers decided each to master a special ability. Time went by, and the brothers met to reveal what they had learned.

“I have mastered a science,” said the first, “by which I can take but a bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes with it.”

“I,” said the second, “know how to grow that creature’s skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones.”

The third said, “I am able to create its limbs if I have flesh, the skin, and the hair.”

“And I,” concluded the fourth, “know how to give life to that creature if its form is complete.”

Thereupon the brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate their specialities. As fate would have it, the bone they found was a lion’s. One added flesh to the bone, the second grew hide and hair, the third completed it with matching limbs, and the fourth gave the lion life. Shaking its mane, the ferocious beast arose and jumped on his creators. He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.

We too have the capacity to create what can devour us. Goals and dreams can consume us. Possessions and property can turn and destroy us–unless we first seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, and allow Him to breathe into what we make of life.”

Jesus, as time allows…. April 2, 2021

John 21 begins at least nine days after the resurrection. John records it as Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples. Most scholars believe that John 21 is where Peter is restored; it’s often referred to as Peter’s recommissioning. If you search out Peter’s forgiveness for the three-part denial, you always get the three-part “do you love me” story in John 21, which makes the opening of John 21 that much more interesting. As the chapter begins, Peter takes some of the guys fishing. They are out all night and don’t catch a thing. As they are coming in, a guy calls to them and tells them to cast on the other side, and John recognizes that it’s the Lord. Peter jumps in the water and swims 100 yards to shore! Then, when he gets there he helps haul in the huge load and they all have breakfast.

The thing that challenges me the most is how excited Peter was to get to Jesus. I don’t know if he still had some ‘splainin’ to do or not. He threw himself into the sea and swam to His Savior and Lord, like a moth to the flame. Like Jesus was his PRIORITY!   

In the ‘70s I wrote a story wherein I postulated that an archeologist digging up our homes would assume we worshipped the televisions. Now I wonder if it wouldn’t be our cell phones or our coffee makers. I want to live making Jesus and His Word my priority!

Give ear to my words, O Lord,

Consider my groaning.

Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God,

For to You I pray.

In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice;

In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.

Psalm 5:1-3  

Male and Female He Created Them – March 26, 2021

As a kid in the ‘70s, I rode my bike everywhere. By the time I got to junior high, I still couldn’t dribble a basketball or hit a baseball with any consistency, but because I had put so many miles on my bike, it turned out I could run! Not particularly fast, but for long distances. My junior high PE teacher connected me to the high school cross-country coach, and a month before my freshman year started I was out running everyday with the team. That year I ran three seasons of track in Wheaton, Illinois, and had started to think I had a future in distance running. Then we moved to the desert southwest (Arizona). My sophomore year I ran cross-country for Mesa High School with desert rats and kids that grew up on the reservation. They lapped me like I was standing still. Yet it was cross-country and I was allowed to run with the herd, which brings me to the point of this story.

Mesa High was a big school and late in the season we hosted a state-wide invitational. At this event we all lined up like they do at the Boston Marathon; the boys and the girls ran the same two-mile course. At the two-mile mark, the girls ran into their chute, and the boys ran past it to complete their third mile. After two miles, I and three other pasty white boys were dead last.  About 30 yards after passing that two-mile chute we heard a HUGE crowd roar, like nothing you ever hear at a cross-country meet. I asked the guys I was running with, “What just happened?” and a senior said, “The female state champion is here today; that must have been her finishing her race.”  

This happened in 1978. I thought nothing of it, but recent events have brought this personal experience to mind. To be fair I was a slow cross-country runner, but I was still a cross-country runner. In a boys’ PE class I was far and away the best distance runner every time. So this is not to say that any man could beat the state champ. However, it says something, that the entire men’s division beat the entire women’s division, including the state champ.  

It says that God made us differently.  And that difference is reflected in every cell, from our brains down to our toenails. One to nurture and one to protect. Change my mind. 🙂 

Loving Others – March 19, 2021

A fellow student of the scripture pointed out, regarding the past Sunday’s sermon on 1 John 5:1-5, that I might have missed an important point in connecting loving others and keeping the commandments. I admit I did. Most of the commentators I read are very diligent to keep in mind that the New Testament authors are all of Jewish background and that any scriptures to which they refer must therefore be Old Testament. I fell into that and used Exodus 20 as my example of what John may have been thinking. John, however, knew Jesus and was present!

Jesus said: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

Consider these 14 instructions that the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent, breathed regarding how to love one another well as we seek to “love God and keep His commandments.” 1 John 5:3

#1 – PRAY FOR One Another

James 5:16 (NLT) says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

#2 – GREET One Another

1 Corinthians 16:20 (NLT) says, “All the brothers and sisters here send greetings to you. Greet each other with a sacred kiss.”

#3 – BE KINDLY AFFECTIONATE to One Another

Romans 12:10 (NLT) says, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

#4 – GIVE PREFERENCE to One Another

Romans 12:10 (NKJV) says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;”

#5 – LIVE PEACEFULLY with One Another

Romans 12:16 (NLT) says, “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”

#6 – ENCOURAGE One Another

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT) says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

#7 – ACCEPT One Another

Romans 15:7 (NLT) says, “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”

#8 – ADMONISH & WARN One Another

2 Thessalonians 3:15 (NLT) says, “Don’t think of them as enemies, but warn them as you would a brother or sister.”

#9 – SERVE One Another

Galatians 5:13 (NLT) says, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

#10 – BE PATIENT with One Another

1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NLT) says, “Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.”

#11 – BEAR One Another’s BURDENS

Galatians 6:2 (NLT) says, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

#12 – BE KIND to One Another

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT) says, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

#13 – SUBMIT to One Another

1 Peter 5:5 (NLT) says, “In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

#14 – BE HOSPITABLE to One Another

1 Peter 4:9 (NLT) says, “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.”

Be Of Good Cheers?

“Sometimes you want to go

where everybody knows your name

and they’re always glad you came….”

I’m sure I’m not the only writer to mention that it’s been a year since we first closed down our hospitals and nursing homes to visitors in order to stem the tide of this pandemic.  So, for me, it’s been a year since I’ve visited many of our own homebound members. . . and a year since I’ve walked by the beds or rooms of others who I didn’t know, but who watched me to see if I would come sit awhile with them, too.

I have been thinking about them a LOT since we flew back from Phoenix after leaving my very social mother in a skilled nursing facility during COVID quarantine.  She was lonely within hours.  Some of our own people, who built this church, have been lonely for months.   Because of the pandemic, the ache of loneliness (unmet fellowship needs) has crept into most of our lives.   I remember many years ago hearing the Cheers theme song (see above) and thinking how glad I was that God gave us the church to meet that very human need; because, beloved, it is a need.  It’s not a need all of us feel as quickly as others, but it’s a need all of us have.

It’s harder to connect when there are fewer gatherings.  It’s harder to connect with masks and social distancing. But our texts, phone calls, window visits, even cards and letters mean that much more now, precisely because we have fewer gatherings!

Mamie Adams always went to a branch post office in her town because the postal employees there were friendly. She went there to buy stamps just before Christmas one year and the lines were particularly long. Someone pointed out that there was no need to wait in line because there was a stamp machine in the lobby. “I know,” said Mamie, ‘but the machine won’t ask me about my arthritis.”

Bits and Pieces, December, 1989, p. 2.

Take 30 minutes TODAY and call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile.  Take an hour and drive over to someone’s house and honk outside their window.  I know this thing is stretching out forever and we are getting tired of it, but it seems like God knew that might happen… “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)

Let’s keep loving God by loving each other,

Pastor Scott

March 5, 2021 – Ruth: Loyalty & Love

by guest blogger, John MacArthur, from Twelve Extraordinary Women

Pastor Scott and Dr. John MacArthur may define grace differently, but we certainly align on our views of redemption! Enjoy.

REDEMPTION

The Old Testament places a great deal of emphasis on the role of the goel. There was a significant redemptive aspect to this person’s function. Every kinsman-redeemer was, in effect, a living illustration of the position and work of Christ with respect to His people: He is our true Kinsman-Redeemer, who becomes our human Brother, buys us back from our bondage to evil, redeems our lives from death, and ultimately returns to us everything we lost because of our sin.

Boaz would become Ruth’s goel. He would redeem her life from poverty and widowhood. He would be her deliverer — and Naomi grasped the potential of this glad turn of events the very moment she learned it was Boaz who had taken an interest in Ruth. He was not only a kinsman; he had the means to be a redeemer too. Naomi strongly encouraged Ruth to follow Boaz’s instructions and stay exclusively in his fields. Ruth did this until the end of the harvest season (Ruth 2:21–23).

Naomi saw it as her duty as mother-in-law to seek long-term security for this faithful Moabite girl who had so graciously proven her loyalty, generosity, diligence, and strength of character throughout the hot and difficult harvest season. In a culture where arranged marriages were the norm, this meant doing what she could to orchestrate a marriage between Ruth and Boaz.

Because she was a woman, protocol forbade Naomi from approaching Boaz to arrange a marriage for Ruth. In fact, there was no suggestion that Naomi had spoken to Boaz at all about anything since her return from Moab. Yet from the very beginning, Naomi clearly had an intuition about Boaz’s interest in Ruth. Having watched and waited through the long harvest season, Naomi apparently decided Boaz needed some subtle help to get the ball rolling. The way things finally played out suggests that Naomi’s instincts were right on target.

If Boaz had ever been married, Scripture does not mention it. According to Jewish tradition, he was a lifelong bachelor. He may have had some physical imperfection or personality quirk that stood in the way of a suitable marriage arrangement. At the very least, he desperately needed prodding. Although he obviously took a keen interest in Ruth from the moment he first saw her, it does not seem to have entered his mind to pursue the goel’s role on her behalf. By his own testimony (Ruth 3:10), he was surprised that Ruth didn’t deem him unsuitable for marriage.

Naomi had sized up the situation correctly though, and she instructed Ruth on what to do. Naomi’s scheme was bold and utterly unconventional. Of course, Ruth, as a foreigner, could always plead ignorance of Jewish custom, but if Naomi’s plan had been known in advance by people in the community, the propriety police certainly would have been up in arms. Of course, the scheme did not involve any real unrighteousness or indecency. Naomi certainly would not have asked Ruth to compromise her virtue or relinquish godly modesty.

Still, what Naomi advised Ruth to do was shockingly forward. (Even to enlightened twenty-first-century minds, it seems surprisingly plucky.) Naomi’s plan, in essence, was for Ruth to propose marriage to Boaz! She told Ruth, “Wash yourself and anoint yourself, put on your best garment and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. Then it shall be, when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies; and you shall go in, uncover his feet, and lie down; and he will tell you what you should do” (Ruth 3:3–4 NKJV). By the custom of the time, this would indicate Ruth’s willingness to marry Boaz.

It was the end of the harvest. The threshing floor was a site, most likely out of doors, where grain was winnowed. This involved tossing grain into the air in a breeze so that the light husks of chaff would be blown away. Boaz would work late, sleep outdoors at the threshing floor all night, then arise early and go back to threshing. Thus he both extended his work hours and guarded his grain through the night. He worked well into the night, had a short meal, and laid down next to the grain pile to sleep. Scripture says “his heart was cheerful” (Ruth 3:7 NKJV).

The harvest had been abundant. After years of famine, Boaz was exhilarated at his prosperity.

In accordance with Naomi’s instructions, Ruth “came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down” (Ruth 3:7 NKJV). Boaz was so fatigued that he did not notice her until he awakened at midnight and was startled to find a woman lying at his feet.

He said, “Who are you?”

She answered, “I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a [goel]” (Ruth 3:9 NKJV). Ruth was borrowing language (“under your wing”) from the blessing Boaz had given her (2:12). This was, in effect, a marriage proposal.

This came as an overwhelming and unexpected blessing to Boaz. According to Ruth 3:10–13:

Then he said, “Blessed are you of the LORD, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman. Now it is true that I am a close relative; however, there is relative closer than I. Stay this night, and in the morning it shall be that if he will perform the duty of a close relative for you—good; let him do it. But if he does not want to perform the duty for you, then I will perform the duty for you, as the LORD lives! Lie down until morning.” (NKJV)

Scripture doesn’t identify the man who was Naomi’s actual next of kin. (He would almost certainly have been either an older brother or cousin of Boaz.) Boaz knew immediately who it was, and he knew that custom required him to defer to this other relative. He explained the situation to Ruth, swore to her his own willingness to be her goel if it were possible, and urged her to remain at his feet through the night.

Nothing immoral occurred, of course, and Scripture is clear about that. But Boaz, being protective of Ruth’s virtue, awoke her and sent her home just before dawn. He gave her a generous portion of grain as a gift for Naomi, saying, “Do not go empty-handed to your mother-in-law” (v. 17 NKJV).

Naomi, of course, was anxiously awaiting word of what had happened. Ruth told her the whole story, and Naomi, whose feminine intuition was impeccable, said, “Sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out; for the man will not rest until he has concluded the matter this day” (Ruth 3:18 NKJV).

She was exactly right. Boaz went immediately to the city gate and found Naomi’s true next of kin. The two of them sat down in the presence of ten city elders and negotiated for the right to be Ruth’s goel.

That role involved, first of all, the buy-back of Elimelech’s property. In Israel, land portions were part of each family’s lasting legacy from generation to generation. Plots of family land could not be permanently sold (Leviticus 25:23). Real estate that was “sold” to pay debts remained in the possession of the buyer only until the year of Jubilee, at which time it reverted to the original owner’s family. This arrangement helped keep Israel’s wealth evenly distributed, and it meant that land-sale deals were actually more like long-term leases. Land sold for debt relief could also be redeemed at any time by the seller or his goel. As long as Elimelech had no heirs, the property he and Naomi had sold to pay their debts would automatically become the permanent possession of anyone who acted as Naomi’s goel by redeeming her property. This made the prospect extremely appealing.

Boaz said, “If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if you will not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is no one but you to redeem it, and I am next after you.”

“I will redeem it,” the other relative replied (Ruth 4:4 NKJV).

But then Boaz explained that there was a catch. While Elimelech had no surviving heir, the man who would have been his rightful heir (Mahlon) had left a widow. Therefore, Boaz explained, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also buy it from Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance” (Ruth 4:5 NKJV).

This changed things a bit. Because if Ruth did remarry someone under the principle of levirate marriage, and she produced any heir in Mahlon’s name, rights to Elimelech’s land would automatically pass to Ruth’s offspring. The only way to eliminate that risk would be to marry Ruth. The unnamed close relative was either unable or unwilling to marry Ruth. And he didn’t want to take an expensive risk that might jeopardize his own children’s inheritance. So he told Boaz, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I ruin my own inheritance. You redeem my right of redemption for yourself, for I cannot redeem it” (Ruth 4:6 NKJV).

A formal contract was then publicly sealed in the customary fashion: the relative removed his sandal and gave it to Boaz (Ruth 4:8), in effect granting Boaz the right to stand in his stead as goel for Ruth and Naomi.

And Boaz said to the elders and all the people, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, from the hand of Naomi. Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day” (Ruth 4:9–10 NKJV).

Everyone loves a good love story, and the people of Bethlehem were no exception. As word got out about the unusual transaction taking place in the city gate, the inhabitants of the city began to congregate. They pronounced a blessing on Boaz and his bride-to-be. “We are witnesses,” they told Boaz. “The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman” (Ruth 4:11–12 NKJV).

The blessing proved to be prophetic. Boaz and Ruth were married, and the Lord soon blessed them with a son. At the birth of this child, the women of Bethlehem gave a blessing to Naomi as well: “Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him” (Ruth 4:14–15 NKJV).

All of that came true as well. As Ruth 4:17 explains, “The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, ‘There is a son born to Naomi.’ And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David” (NKJV). In other words, Ruth was David’s great-grandmother.

That is how Ruth, a seemingly ill-fated Moabite woman whose loyalty and faith had led her away from her own people and carried her as a stranger into the land of Israel, became a mother in the royal line that would eventually produce that nation’s first great king. Her best-known offspring would be Abraham’s Seed and Eve’s hoped-for Deliverer.

Ruth is a fitting symbol of every believer, and even of the church itself — redeemed, brought into a position of great favor, endowed with riches and privilege, exalted to be the Redeemer’s own bride, and loved by Him with the profoundest affection. That is why the extraordinary story of her redemption ought to make every true believer’s heart resonate with profound gladness and thanksgiving for the One who, likewise, has redeemed us from our sin.

Excerpted with permission from Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur, copyright John MacArthur. 

Thanklessness – February 18, 2020

As I was internally grumbling this week about the cold air and things like frozen water pipes, the Lord reminded me to the thankful always – which led to this rather pointed clipping abot ingraditute. Take a minute and let it encourage or admonish you.

Pastor Scott

Andrew Carnegie, the multimillionaire, left $1 million for one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie thoroughly because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut him off with just one measly million.

Samuel Leibowitz, criminal lawyer and judge, saved 78 men from the electric chair. Not one ever did bother to thank him.

Many years ago, as the story is told, a devout king was disturbed by the ingratitude of his royal court. He prepared a large banquet for them. When the king and his royal guests were seated, by prearrangement, a beggar shuffled into the hall, sat down at the king’s table, and gorged himself with food. Without saying a word, he then left the room. The guests were furious and asked permission to seize the tramp and tear him limb from limb for his ingratitude. The king replied, “That beggar has done only once to an earthly king what each of you does three times each day to God. You sit there at the table and eat until you area satisfied. Then you walk away without recognizing God, or expressing one word of thanks to Him.”

Ingratitude denotes spiritual immaturity. Infants do not always appreciate what parents do for them. They have short memories. Their concern is not what you did for me yesterday, but what are you doing for me today. The past is meaningless and so is the future. They live for the present. Those who are mature are deeply appreciative of those who labored in the past. They recognize those who labor during the present and provide for those who will be laboring in the future.

Homemade, December, 1984.

It’s Coming – February 12, 2021

You can see them alongside the shuffleboard courts in Florida or on the porches of the old folks’ homes up north: an old man with snow-white hair, a little hard of hearing, reading the newspaper through a magnifying glass; an old woman in a shapeless dress, her knuckles gnarled by arthritis, wearing sandals to ease her aching arches. They are holding hands, and in a little while they will totter off to take a nap, and then she will cook supper, not a very good supper and they will watch television, each knowing exactly what the other is thinking, until it is time for bed. They may even have a good, soul-stirring argument, just to prove that they still really care. And through the night they will snore unabashedly, each resting content because the other is there. They are in love, they have always been in love, although sometimes they would have denied it. And because they have been in love they have survived everything that life could throw at them, even their own failures.

Ernest Havemann, Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, pp. 7-9.

I thought that hit harder, than most anything I could write! Keep loving each other 24/7/365.

Pastor Scott

https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

Apologetics at Home? February 5, 2021

John’s emphasis in 1 John 4:1-6 (last Sunday’s preaching text) is on spiritual discernment of false teaching. However, because we live in the age of the published New Testament and benefit from other New Testament writings (eg. 2 Timothy 3:14-17), I also mentioned making sure our children are prepared to face false teachers (antichrists) in the world.  A “late” text question came in asking, “If we wanted to do apologetics with our teens at home, where would we start?”

First, let me say, THANK YOU for asking!

Second, apologetics is no substitute for devotion.  John’s argument is abide (be so in love with Jesus) that you’ll instinctively know falsehood and be repulsed by it (I can testify that this really happens, and I’m not the least bit pentecostal!)

Finally, I’ll give you some resources.  Generally the older the publication date, the harder your teen will have to work for understanding (something I think is a benefit but something that has to be balanced against potential loss of interest).

  • C.S. Lewis wrote eight books that all help with both common and esoteric arguments against God: Mere Christianity; The Screwtape Letters; The Great Divorce; The Problem of Pain; Miracles; A Grief Observed; Abolition of Man;  and, The Four Loves (adapted from talks he gave in the 1940s).
  • Paul Little’s Know Why You Believe was my go-to as a young Bible teacher. I think he wrote in the 1960s. Intervarsity is now selling his work in a four-book set.
  • Norm Geisler wrote a number of books on apologetics; my favorite is I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.  
  • Lee Strobel wrote The Case for Christ and followed it up with a whole series of books, all really good and well researched.  Lee was a journalist turned pastor and wrote very clearly.  I highly recommend this series for your plainly spoken students.
  • For those who prefer video, you might look to Creation.com. I have a video, for instance, by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati entitled, “Leaving your brains at the church door? The power of logic in defending your faith.”
  • Or https://answersingenesis.org/ where you could get Ken Ham’s Foundations series.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it gets you started.   If nothing jumps out at you, look up Lee’s books. They’re mass marketed, so they’ve been repackaged for all ages; they have study guides and I’ve even heard of some video projects. Keep at it and keep talking about Jesus when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 

Pastor Scott  

When Our Opinions and Feelings Get Us in Trouble – January 29, 2021

by Guest Blogger, Lysa Terkeurst

“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges 21:25 (NIV)I’ll never forget the morning I was walking with a friend, and we passed two huge trees that had fallen during a storm. I was sad to see these trees that once stood so tall being cut apart and hauled away. Stopping, I asked the men clearing the trees why those two in particular hadn’t been able to withstand the storm.

An older man who’d been working with trees his whole life explained that the first tree had incredibly shallow roots for such a big tree. Its roots had grown used to getting surface water from the sprinkler system. As a result, the roots didn’t dig down deep to get water from below. Shallow roots can keep a big tree alive but not stable during storms.

The second tree looked big and strong on the outside, but inside was hollow. At some point, an ant had found a weak spot in the tree and started chewing a tiny little tunnel into the tree’s center. Soon other ants found their way in as well. Then water got in the opening and softened the wood. Over time, the tree rotted away internally.

These scenarios with the trees make me think of the condition of God’s people at the end of the book of Judges. The final words of this book provide such a heartbreaking reality check even for us today: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25). Sadly, the patterns of sin and destruction that felt “right” to them were completely outside what God called right and good.

This is where we discover three things that happen when we follow our opinions and feelings (what’s right in our own eyes) rather than the absolute Truth of God:

1. We mistake opinions as truth.
Just like the tree with shallow roots, if we aren’t digging in deep to seek the source of living water for ourselves, we won’t have the grounding necessary to stand strong when the world’s ways try to pull us down. We must seek and apply God’s Truth every day, so we aren’t easily swayed by opinions that aren’t in line with God’s Truth. Shallow seeking will lead to shallow believing — that dangerous place where we will fall for whatever opinions make us comfortable and make our lives more convenient.

2. We make feelings our false Holy Spirit.
This is like the big tree that was taken down by some small ants. The little ants are like desires that lead to eventual death: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:15, NIV). When we care more about what feels right than what is right, we open ourselves up to the destruction of sin. Feelings are wonderful indicators that remind us to turn to God and let Him direct our desires with His best provisions. But feelings should never be dictators to get our unmet longings and desires fulfilled however we see fit.

3. We will fall when we try to carry the crushing weight of being our own god.
What happens when the king is absent? There is chaos. The book of Judges shows us this reality one story after another, one judge after another. The people are without leadership and direction, and the result is absolute chaos. It makes me think how different the fate of the trees could have been if the tree man had been on the scene years before to help them grow big and strong instead of shallow and susceptible.

We need rescue. We need a king. But not just any king; we need the righteous ruler who will right all wrongs, direct and protect us and redeem and restore all things. We need King Jesus — the perfect Savior who humbled Himself to take on human form and subjected Himself to the cross for the atonement of sin.

We aren’t kingless, like the people in the time of the judges. We have the assurance of knowing our eternal King. We have absolute Truth. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we have perspective from reading in His Word how dangerous it is when people just do what is right in their own eyes.
Let’s not be people ruled by our feelings. Shallow and susceptible people who merely look confident and capable on the outside. Let’s trust our King. Let’s follow our King. Let’s live by the Truth of His Word and become a people with true strength residing within.