Glorious Crown

A crown is a form of headwear worn by a monarch or by a deity. Traditionally, crowns have represented power, legitimacy, victory, triumph, honor, and glory, as well as immortality, righteousness, and resurrection. Based on this description, it is no surprise that the prophet Isaiah describes Jesus as a glorious crown in the following passage.

In that day the Lord Almighty
will be a glorious crown,
a beautiful wreath
for the remnant of his people.
He will be a spirit of justice
to the one who sits in judgment,
a source of strength
to those who turn back the battle at the gate
(Isaiah 28:5-6)

Throughout the Bible, Jesus physically and figuratively wore several different crowns. Consider the significance of the following:

Crown of thorns

The crown of thorns placed upon Jesus’ head before his crucifixion symbolized Israel’s rejection of her King. To the Roman soldiers, the crown of thorns was meant to mock Jesus’ as the King of the Jews. In reality, it was truly a symbol of power. Only Jesus had the ability to ultimately conquer sin and death through his death, burial and resurrection.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5-6).

Crown of glory and honor

Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. He has been crowned with glory and honor as he sits the Father’s right hand.

The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool (Matthew 22:44).

Crowned of triumph

The final chapters of Revelation record Jesus’ return to earth and his final triumph over sin and death. Immortality.

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16).

Jesus Christ – glorious crown, King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s.

“Crown Him with many crowns, The Lamb upon His throne. Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns, All music but its own! Awake, my soul and sing, Of Him who died for thee, And hail Him as thy matchless King, Thro’ all eternity.”

Matthew Bridges (1851)

Jesus – Brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon

Mark 6:3 tells us Jesus had four brothers – James, Joseph, Judas and Simon. I’m guessing this was a lively household. Do you have brothers? My brother is five years younger than me. I don’t remember much strife between us.  He hit adolescence just about the time I went off to college, so I probably just got lucky!

As a result, I tend think about Jesus being a brother though the lens of my own children.  As many of you know, I am the mother of a 15 year old boy and a 13 year old girl. Raising teenagers is hard. Because this is my current reality, my mind goes straight to my kids’ relationship with each other. Our house is currently full of “sibling rivalry”. My kids do not get along at all. Freddy (my 15 year old) loves to push Annika’s (my 13 year old) buttons. She reacts with the disdain of a typical teenage girl and the situation quickly spirals out of control. Generally neither of them is 100% right or 100% wrong in any one confrontation, so most days I just want them to stay away from each other.

What do you think Jesus’ relationship was with his brothers? As the perfect and blameless son of God, did he have wisdom he could impart to his brothers? I’m sure he did, we just don’t know much about it. Luke 2 ends when Jesus was 12 years old, and Luke 3 begins when Jesus is 30 years old and ready to begin his ministry. The gap between these chapters covers the pivotal years of growing and maturing through adolescence. Because Jesus was fully God and fully human, I have to believe he experienced the awkwardness of adolescence and ordinary sibling rivalry with his brothers. I wish the Bible gave us more insight into this period of his life. I think it could be helpful for me right now!

As I was cleaning out my closet this weekend, I came across the book Preparing for Adolescence by James Dobson (1978). This book is so old that I wasn’t even an adolescent when it was written! The last chapter of the book contains Dr. Dobson’s final messages of encouragement.  These are timeliness!  While he originally wrote them to teenagers in the midst adolescence, I found them incredibly encouraging as a parent this week.

  • Today is not forever – …just hang tough – things will change. That fact is one of life’s certainties, and understanding it can help you cope with an uncomfortable circumstance. Tomorrow will be different (page 187).
  • Normality will return – In some ways, adolescence is like a tunnel that has a beginning and end. As long as you stay on the road and keep your car moving forward, you can expect to emerge at the other end (page 189).
  • Your very best friend – The final (but most important) advice I can give you is to remain friends with Jesus Christ during the years ahead. He loves you and understands all your needs and desires. He will be there to share all your brightest days and darkest nights (page 189).

The book Preparing for Adolescence was hidden in my drawer under a bunch of papers and other junk. I didn’t remember I had it, and have no idea where it came from. I am positive, however, finding it this weekend was God-ordained. He knows just what I need when I need it.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:6-7).

Banner for the People

Today’s reading:  Isaiah 11

In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious (Isaiah 11:10).

When I was growing up in children’s church, we used to sing a song called “His Banner Over Me is Love”.  The first verse went like this –

The Lord is mine and I am His,
His banner over me is love.
The Lord is mine and I am His,
His banner over me is love.
The Lord is mine and I am His,
His banner over me is love.
His banner over me is love!

Like many worship songs, this one had a thousand verses where the first line changed but the second line (His banner over me is love) stayed the same.  The song went on and on as we used to sing through many verses like – He brought me to his banqueting table (His banner over me is love), He lifted me up in heavenly places (His banner over me is love), He is the vine and we are the branches (His banner over me is love).

I must admit, when we used to sing this song in children’s church, I had no idea what the song meant.  I hadn’t thought about this song in years until I was preparing for today’s post about the attribute of God – A Banner for his people.  Honestly, I still had no idea what this really meant until I went digging into the scripture this week.

The first time this attribute of God shows up is in Exodus 17.  Moses had just led God’s people out of Egypt.  They were free, but in the desert they were grumbling because they didn’t have enough to eat.  God solved their problem by providing manna and quail for them to eat every day.  Then – they grumbled about being thirsty.  God solved their problem again by providing water from a rock for them to drink.  Then – the Amalekites came to fight against the Israelites.  God solved their problem again – as long as Moses held up the staff of God in his hand, God’s people had the advantage.  Whenever he lowered his hands, however, the Amalekites took over.  Remember the story?  Moses’ arms eventually got so tired that Aaron and Hur held up his arms for him until the battle was eventually won.

When the battle was over, Moses built an alter to God and called it “The Lord is My Banner”.

In Biblical times, armies and/or tribes had flags or banners that identified who they were.  They often had images of idols on them.  In Exodus 17, Moses’ altar declared that God was the identifying symbol for the Israelite army.  His presence and protection were the source of their power.

In our scripture for today, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah was describing Jesus, the promised Messiah.  Verses 10-12 describe him as a banner of salvation for all the world, a flag among the nations for Israel to rally around when he comes again to triumph over sin and death at the end of the world.

Ok, so now I had a better idea about what the word “banner” meant in the Bible.  I understood that Jesus was, and is, a banner of salvation for God’s people.  But I still didn’t really understand the song “His Banner Over Me is Love”.  So I kept digging until I connected the dots.

Consider Jesus words –

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

The Banner, or identifying symbol, of Christfollowers is love.  God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to save us from our sins.  Because God loves us, we then can love others.  In most circumstances today, we don’t carry around flags or banners to identify who we are.  But showing love to others is not common in this world.  If we consistently love and serve others, people will recognize we are different.  Because we have Jesus in our hearts, our banner is love.

My question for you today is this – do you consistently show love to others?  Would those you come into contact with every day describe you as loving?  Is it your banner?

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8).

 

 

 

 

Anxiousness

Today’s reading: Philippians 4

When I arrived home from the office around 5pm today, I found my son napping (he was supposed to be studying for finals). Turns out, he wasn’t feeling well because he and his friends each drank of can of Bang® energy drink this afternoon. I snickered. In order to keep myself from saying, “Duh, are you stupid?” or “How many times do I have to tell you those things will make your belly hurt”, I asked him how it made him feel. He said it made him feel great for the first hour, but then it left him with a bellyache and feeling anxious the remainder of the afternoon. (I could barely talk to him as he was dancing around the room trying to get his nervous energy out!) I don’t know about you, but I hate the feeling of uncontrolled anxiousness (or anxiety).

The Oxford English Dictionary defines anxiety as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. Sound vaguely familiar to feelings you’ve experienced before? Let’s take it a step further, anxiety disorders differ from normal feelings of nervousness or anxiousness because they involve excessive fear or anxiety. Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common of type of mental disorders? According to Psychiatry.org, they will affect nearly 30 percent of adults at some point in their lives. This is an epidemic in our society.

Like I said, I hate the feeling of uncontrolled anxiousness.  Historically, I’ve always described myself as a pretty logical, objective (and mostly boring) person. There have been times in my life I’ve fought a lot of stress, but I didn’t often struggle with anxiousness (or sleeplessness). Unfortunately over the last three years or so, I’ve wrestled with these things more than I remember at any other time of my life. (And no, I do not drink those energy drinks!)  While I’m far from having an anxiety disorder, I still don’t like it. And though I can point to several things that often cause my feelings, I’d like to focus our study today on what the Bible has to say about being anxious. God is pretty clear –

Do not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6)…

…but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

What is the opposite of anxiety, fear, nervousness or uneasiness? Peace. Not the absence of conflict, positive thinking, or simply feeling calm. The peace Paul is talking about in verse 7 is the confident assurance that God works all things together according to his divine plan. A comfort that he has every situation under control. The cure for anxiousness is the peace of Christ, and it is only obtainable by turning my problems over to God and submitting to his will.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever (Philippians 4:19-20).

This is just the reminder I needed today.

Epaphroditus

Today’s reading:  Philippians 1-2

But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me (Philippians 2:25-30).

 

My assignment for today’s post is to write about Epaphroditus.  References to his life are appear in Philippians 2, as referenced above.  Paul wrote the book of Philippians (a letter to the church in Philippi) in about 61 A.D. from his jail cell Rome.  After hearing of his imprisonment, the Philippian church put together some kind of a care package to assist with Paul’s needs.  Biblical scholars believe Epaphroditus was probably an elder or a deacon in the Philippian church planted by the Apostle Paul.  He was also the person who delivered the Philippian church’s care package and stayed to help with the ministry Paul was carrying on from prison.  While Epaphroditus was in Rome working with Paul, he became very sick and almost died.

That’s it.  These five verses (and one honorable mention in Philippians 4) are the only references to Ephaphroditus in the entire Bible!  Since that wasn’t much to go on, I went looking for some additional information on this servant of the Lord.

My search led me to the work of Tony Campolo, a sociology professor and religious advisor to former president Bill Clinton.   Campolo tells about a study conducted with people over the age of 95 where each was asked what they would do differently if they were given the opportunity to live life over again.  Study results revealed three common themes.  If they could go back and do it again, these elderly folks said they would –

 

  • Reflect more
  • Risk more
  • Do more things that will live on after they are gone

So simple, yet so profound.  While I don’t know enough about Epaphroditus to know whether or not his life was marked by a healthy dose of reflection.  From the five verses about him in Philippians 2, however, we do know he risked a lot in service to the kingdom of God.  This kingdom has lived on for thousands of years after his life, it is a kingdom that will never end, and is definitely worth our investment.

Today I challenge you to reflect on your own life.  Are you risking enough?  Are you invested in the kingdom of God?  Could you do more?  I suspect if you’re like me the answer is yes, I could do more.

Doubting Thomas

Today’s reading:  John 20:1-29

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:24-25).

These two verses in John 20 earned Jesus’ disciple Thomas the nickname “doubting Thomas”. Are you familiar with Thomas and his doubting ways? I am. I’ve read this passage and heard the nickname hundreds of times. But honestly, until I studied it a little closer this week, I always thought it was negative and/or condescending. That because Thomas declared his desire to see physical evidence before he believed Jesus had risen from the dead, he was tagged as a contrarian or naysayer.

In reality, Thomas’ doubt wasn’t received by Jesus as a negative attitude. Let’s take a little closer look.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:27-29).

In verses 24 and 25, Thomas told his fellow disciples that he wasn’t going to believe Jesus had risen from the dead until he got some evidence. When Jesus appeared to the disciples in this setting (verse 28), he didn’t have to wait for Thomas’ skepticism to show up, as he knew Thomas’ heart before any words were spoken. Here is the kicker though – Jesus didn’t respond like I would have responded. My human nature has a desire to be right. While I probably wouldn’t have said, “I told you so”, I would have found a way to kindly remind Thomas that the story was playing out just like I said it would. And that if he’d paid attention a little closer, he could have avoided the fear, uncertainty, and potential shame he was feeling.

As you know, Jesus didn’t (and doesn’t) operate like this. He was steadfast in his goal and his motives were always pure. Jesus didn’t reprimand Thomas for doubting. Rather, he calmly offered the evidence Thomas’ heart needed to believe that he was God and had conquered death through his resurrection.

Did you notice how Thomas responded in verse 28? He didn’t begrudgingly or casually say, “You’re right Jesus, I get it now, thanks for the reminder”. Rather, he responded with one of the most powerful confessions recorded in scripture. He declared his unwavering belief and complete submission. I picture him bowing or throwing himself at Jesus’ feet in worship as he declared,

“My Lord and My God” (John 10:28).

My takeaway from today’s passage is this – God doesn’t necessarily view doubt a bad thing. If doubt or skepticism leads us to question until we find answers, and the answers lead to a deeper faith in Jesus, there is goodness in doubting. When doubt turns into stubbornness produces unwillingness to pursue the truth, or unwillingness to accept the truth when it is revealed, then doubt is a bad thing and can harm our relationship with Jesus and with others.

My advice for us today – when we doubt, we should doubt out loud. We need to keep talking about our doubts, and/or the doubts of others, until we find answers. Then, we must be open to God’s truth as it is revealed to us.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness

(Lamentations 3:22-23).

The Rich Fool

Today’s reading:  Luke 12:13-34

In 1980, Jeff Keller finished law school, passed the New York bar exam, and began his profession as a lawyer.  This was all he’d ever wanted since he was a teenager.  After 10 years of practice, however, he found himself unfulfilled and unhappy, dreading to go to work every day.  Through resources he ordered from a late night infomercial (remember this was back in the olden days…before we had the World Wide Web at our fingertips), he began to study the Bible and the writings of well-known authors and motivational speakers.  Eventually he left his law practice and embraced a career as an author/motivational speaker himself.  As the title of his book, Attitude is Everything (INTI Publishing, 1999) suggests, Keller built his second career on the following principle –

Your attitude has a substantial impact of your quality of life. 

Our scripture for today in Luke 12 is the story of the Rich Fool.  Jesus tells the story of a man who, after yielding a successful harvest, found he had no place to store his crops.  He set out to build bigger barns.  His goal was to store up enough that he could take it easy – eat, drink and be merry without a worry in the world.  This man’s attitude about wealth accumulation was completely focused on storing up treasures for himself.

Does this goal sound familiar?  To me it sounds like every wealth management/retirement planning commercial running these days (Close your eyes, do the orange Voya origami animals come into view?).  In 21st century America, we are inundated with the belief that putting enough money away to retire, to eat, drink and be merry without a worry in the world, is the way to happiness.

Honestly, this picture is VERY alluring.  At least until you get to see God’s response in verses 20 and 21 of today’s text –

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21-21).

So let’s go back to our attitude.  Wealth accumulation in and of itself is not wrong.  Our attitude towards it the determining factor.  Just like the Rich Fool in this story who died before he could begin to use what he had stored up for himself, if we are focused on accumulating wealth only to enrich ourselves, we will enter eternity empty handed.  Our goal should be to see how we can use our money for God’s purposes.

Are you putting money away for retirement?  Do your financial goals include giving generously to others?  What about using your money to serve God and further his kingdom?  If your goals do not include furthering God’s kingdom and helping those in need, you better stop and check your attitude.

Jairus

Today’s reading:  Mark 5:21-43

Our text for today in Mark 5 is the story of Jarius.  Jarius was the manager of the local synagogue.  He was responsible for overseeing worship and taking care of the building. When Jesus arrived in his town, Jarius threw himself at Jesus’ feet with a plea to come heal his sick daughter.  He begged Jesus to come lay hands on her, as she was on the brink of death.  He was desperate.  Verse 24 tells us –

Jesus went with him (Mark 5:24).

As Jesus was following Jairus to his house, he was detained by a woman with a bleeding disorder.  While Jesus was still speaking to the woman, messengers from Jairus’ home came to tell him that he was too late.  His daughter had already died.  They suggested that there was no use bothering Jesus with the situation any longer.   Verse 36 tells us –

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just trust me” (Mark 5:36).

At this point, Jesus turned the crowd away.  When they finally arrived at Jarius’ house, he only let 5 people come with him into the girl’s room – Jairus, his wife, Peter, James, and John.   Jesus commanded the girl to get up, and she immediately came back to life.

This amazing miracle story is the only passage the Bible has recorded about Jairus.  What can we learn from his life?  As I studied and prepared for this post today, three key lessons spoke to my heart:

Following Jesus requires that we take risks – because of Jairus’ role in the synagogue, he likely had a close tie to the Pharisees.  His outward display of faith in Jesus was risky, as the Pharisees would have pressured Jairus and other synagogue leaders from following Jesus.  Like any other parent, however, Jairus was desperate for his daughter to be healed.  He knew Jesus was capable of healing her.  He was willing to display his faith and risk his position in the synagogue for it.

God is in control – in the first part of the passage, Jairus was trying to get Jesus to follow him to his house.  Did you notice that by the time they arrived, however, Jesus had taken control of the situation?  He already knew the need and he led Jairus, his wife, Peter, James and John into the room so they could witness his miracle.

God’s timing is not our timing – Jairus was trying to get Jesus to his house to heal his daughter before she died.  When messengers came from his house to announce her death, they all assumed it was too late.  It wasn’t.  God has all power, even over death.

Today I ask myself, is my faith really in Jesus?  Do I really trust him?  If the answer is yes, I need to remind myself he knows my needs.  Instead of running ahead and asking Jesus to follow me, I need to slow down and get out of his way so he can take the lead.  He has every situation under control.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

A Love Like No Other

Today’s reading:  Hosea 1-3

Last week B.J. and I celebrated 25 years of marriage.  (Wow that is a long time!)  We dated for several years before getting engaged, so I thought we knew each other pretty well when we finally tied the knot.  Ha!  We’ve learned more about each other than I could have imagined through 25 years of shared experiences.  As a result, I’d say that no one in the world knows me better than B.J. Armstrong (something I’d have never dreamed when I first met him in 7th grade).  Kind of scary.  Our marriage has had its ups and downs like most, but fortunately it has stood the test of time.  Why?  Because it is built on a foundation of mutual trust and a common faith in Jesus Christ.  Without these two things, there is no way we’d still be together today.

Our passage for today is the story of Hosea.  The plot begins right away in verse 2 when the Lord spoke to Hosea and told him to marry a “promiscuous woman” who would be unfaithful to him.  This defies logic.  I know people who have entered into a marriage with someone the rest of us predicted would be unfaithful, but I don’t know anyone who entered into marriage with an expectation of infidelity.  How could you / why would you marry someone you didn’t trust? It would be like asking for heartache.  It makes no sense.

Hosea, however, married a woman he knew would be unfaithful to him simply because God told him to.  God spoke the command and Hosea followed through and married Gomer.  After a period of time, Gomer lost interest in Hosea and began to pursue other lovers.  This was just what God said would happen.

Why would a fair and just God, who designed the sacred covenant of marriage to last a lifetime, send Hosea down this path of heartache?  God was using Hosea’s experience to illustrate his love for his people.  Just like Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, the nation of Israel had been unfaithful to God.  They were mixing worship of false gods (Baal) with their worship of God, and they were pursuing military power through forbidden relationships with Assyria and Egypt.  In other words, just like Gomer, they had lost interest in their mate and had begun pursuing other “lovers”.

Chapter 3 starts much the same way as Chapter 1.  God told Hosea to do something absurd and Hosea obeyed.  Hosea went and found Gomer, bought her from the man she was with, and reconciled with her.

The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you (Hosea 3:1-3).

Does this sounds like love to you?  This is a beautiful picture of how God loved the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, but also how God shows his love for you and me.  Like the nation of Israel, it is easy for us to lose our interest in relationship with God.  By pursuing dreams and goals that do not include him, and by adopting the ways of the world, we are being unfaithful to him.

Our perfect God, however, sent his son Jesus to buy us back.  Jesus’ death on the cross paid the price for our unfaithfulness so that we could be reconciled to God.  In spite of our wicked ways, he has never stopped loving us or pursuing us.  This is a love like no other.

Phineas

Today’s reading:  Psalm 106, Joshua 22:10-34

Have you ever heard the phrase, “the eyes see what the mind wants to see”?  “Scotomisation” is the psychological tendency in people to see what they want to see, or what they are expecting.  Similarly, perception involves seeing and processing information through the filter of our personal intellect and emotions.  So, scotomisation sometimes shows up as a false denial or a false affirmation of our own perceptions.

In Joshua 22:10-34, our text for today, scotomisation almost caused a war.

It’s been a few weeks since we studied Joshua, so let me remind you of the setting – a good portion of the book of Joshua details how the Promised Land was divided amongst the nation of Israel.  The tribes of Rueben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh were the first to receive their land allotment on the east side of the Jordan River.  Before they could get settled, however, they had to help the remainder of the tribes conquer the land on the west side of the Jordan.  When they had fulfilled their duty and were finally able to head home, they stopped on the west side of the Jordan to build and altar to the Lord.  If you go to Eastview, you should remember this scripture. This is what Witness Rock, on the north side of the building, is modeled after.

When the remainder of the Israelite tribes saw the altar, they automatically assumed the tribes of Rueben, Gad and half of Manasseh had started their own pagan religion.  Why did they think this?  The altar, combined with their recent experiences in Canaan, led to scotomisation.  Remember, while God gave the Israelites the Promised Land, he didn’t just serve it up to them on silver platter.  Instead he made them work for it by fighting battles and taking the land city by city.  In the course of their battles, the Israelites had seen many altars to pagan gods.  So when they came upon the altar Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh had built, they automatically assumed the worst and were ready to take out their unfaithful relatives, just like they had conquered the pagan-worshipping Canaanites.

One man stopped them – Phineas, the Priest.  Instead of jumping in to join the eastward-bound march to war, Phineas asked the Israelites to wait while he investigated what was really going on.  He assembled a small delegation of representatives from each tribe and went to east side of the Jordan to find out the truth.

“The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now” (Joshua 22:16).

Fortunately, he found out the altar was NOT what they thought…

On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings (Joshua 22.27).

Does this story sound familiar to you?  Do you struggle with jumping to conclusions or making incorrect assumptions?  How do you overcome this tendency?  Slow down.  Seek to understand before taking action.  Even if done for the right reason, acting on wrong assumptions still brings hurt.  Heed the advice of James the brother of Jesus.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20).