Recently, while cleaning out an old file, I came across an article written many years ago by my father. His writing reflects upon his age and entering into his retirement years. Today’s posting features some excerpts from that article.
A cup of hot tea and two lemons brought me to tranquility of soul one rainy night in January when I was home alone, pondering retirement form the business world and at the same time mentally scanning the years fled by.
Retirement carried such a dread of uselessness. Filled with self-pity, I moved toward the refrigerator in search of a lemon. I found two–one I had recently purchased, the other, one I had long overlooked.
The newer lemon was soft, smooth of skin with minute pores. Its color was as buttercups in full bloom. How like the days when my skin was clear, my muscles lithe and my hair abundant and yellow as corn silk! I affectionately termed this one my “Memory” lemon.
The older lemon was the “Mirror” which reflected the fruit of refrigerated dormancy–lime green at the base, paper yellow with age, skin tougher and somewhat veined, with scars from the competition for space in the cold storage; hard knocks from butter cartons, hot sauce bottles and tomato juice cans. True, old age and competitive struggles had taken their tol, but were the remainder of my days to be spent “on ice”? I am not an inanimate juice container; I am alive and I want to be useful! I may be shriveling, but I won’t be scrapped!
I reached for the kitchen knife with a sort of determined antagonism to those two lemons. I was going to probe their interiors until I was satisfied I had some answers that were relevant to my state and attitude.
“Memory” bent easily to the blade. My nostrils were promptly filled with a clean, crisp, refreshing aroma as that of the yellow jasmine. Drops of its pale liquid ran through my fingers. It was busting with a mildly fragrant aroma, thoroughly lemon. I squeezed a few drops into my tea-cup. “Memory” served me well.
“Mirror” took the knife with resistance, uttering a crackling sound to the cut. “Memory” had only 1 pit, “Mirror” had 5. Though the crispness and the gush were absent, “Mirror” still had ample fluid and a subdued, mellow fragrance. Aging had subdued sharpness and bitterness.
But there were two attributes in “Mirror” which were lacking in “Memory”. In the very center of the former was a pronounced, white “heart” from which radiated the “spokes” which housed the meat segments. “Memory” had the spokes and segments also but was lacking “heart”.
The other notable distinction was that “Mirror” had ten segments while “Memory” had but nine.
The tea-kettle whistled me to its handle. I gently squeezed a few drops of the aged one’s liquid into my tea-cup, added the tea and hot water, made myself comfortable in the “easy chair” and slowly sipped the blend of the two offerings.
Youth I once had. I was thankful for the memories of vigor and zest and of the abundant provision for body and soul.
Old age I have–and “Mirror” confronted me with reality. Though my skin is tougher, I am still usable. My heart is enlarged to those who have needs: from there the “spokes” of love can enclose the “meat” of other lives to be spent for others in service.
The additional segment? It is that which was missing in my youth–the dimension of the spirit and the realization that without God working in that realm I am only a “lemon”. -Joseph Aaron Lessin
I was sitting in the waiting room for my first appointment with a new dentist. I noticed his DDS diploma, which showed his full name. Suddenly, I remembered a tall, handsome, dark-haired boy with the same name who had been in my high school class some 40-odd years ago. Could this be the same guy that I had a secret crush on, way back then?
Upon seeing him, however, I quickly discarded any such thought. This balding, gray-haired man with the deeply lined face was way too old to have been my classmate, maybe his Dad?.
After he examined my teeth, I asked him if he had attended Morgan Park High School. “Yes. Yes, I did. I’m a Mustang,” he beamed with pride. “When did you graduate?” I asked. He answered, “In 1959. Why do you ask?” “You were in my class!” I exclaimed. He looked at me closely. Then, that ugly, old, bald wrinkled, fat, gray, decrepit old goat asked, “What class did you teach?”
A father was reading Bible stories to his young son. He read, “The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.” His son asked, “What happened to the flea?”
I bumped into an old school friend at the store today. He started showing off, talking about his well paid job and expensive sports cars.
Then he pulled out his phone and showed me a photo of his wife and said, “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?”
I said, “If you think she’s gorgeous, you should see my girlfriend.”
Going back before you can go forward Joshua 8:1-35
Chapter 8 finds Israel facing the same city that they faced in chapter 7. The little city of Ai. The first time Israel went up to do battle at Ai, they were defeated by the inhabitants of that city and 36 of their number lost their lives. The reasons for their defeat are many, but the primary reason was that there was sin in their midst that had not been dealt with. That sin caused them to be defeated at Ai. Now, they are back and it was time for Israel to go and face these people in battle once again.
Before we move into these verses we need to remember that Ai, in the Bible, is a type of the flesh. The word “Ai” means “a heap of ruins.” That is a good way to describe this flesh in which we live. The first mention of this city is found in the book of Genesis in connection with the life of Abraham, Gen. 12:8; 13:3. The Bible tells us that Abraham pitched his tent “between Bethel and Hai.” Now, the name “Bethel” means, “The house of God.” Isn’t it interesting that many saints have pitched their tents somewhere between the house of God and a heap of ruins? Do you see the connection? You can either live in a place of victory and blessing, or you can live in a place of defeat and misery. You can either have a Bethel kind of life or an Ai experience, which is up to you!
Just like Israel, we often lose battles to our Ai, (this flesh), but through the Lord, we can learn how to ambush our Ai and walk away with the victory in our lives. I don’t know the battles that you are fighting with your flesh, but I do know that you can win the victory. These verses tell us how. Let’s look together at these verses and learn how to ambush your Ai.
I. V. 1-2 THE VICTORY IS PROMISED
A. V. 1 A Word About Winning – When the Lord speaks to Joshua, after the death of Achan, God tells him to go to Ai. However, he tells him that things will be different this time. He assures Joshua and Israel of the victory.
It is interesting that the Lord called them to return to the place of their greatest defeat. God knew that they needed to overcome the defeat at Ai before they could move on in the conquest of Canaan. Folks, it’s the same for you and me this morning. How many times have we lost the battle to the flesh? How many times have we been defeated by this old sinful nature’s lust for the forbidden? How many times have we fallen and wonder if we will ever get back to where we were before. Notice what He told Joshua, “Fear not!” To those who have fallen and have lost a battle to the flesh, God says, “Fear not! I am giving you the victory!” I think it is a blessing to know that we do not have to live in defeat as a Christian! It is a blessing to know that we no longer a slave to sin, the flesh and the devil:
Rom. 6:14 “ For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
I am thankful that God has promised the victory in this area to His children – 1 Cor. 15:57 “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Remember the Lord did not save your soul to leave you defeated and beaten by the flesh. He saved you to walk in the victory that He can give to those who will walk in His ways and not in their own ways or in the ways of the world.
B. V. 2 A Word About Waiting – Notice that the Lord tells them that they will do to Ai what they did to Jericho, except for the fact that in Ai, they are to take all the spoils for themselves! If Achan would have waited just a few more days, then he could have had all the riches that he could have imagined. Instead, he ran ahead of God and grabbed for himself that which was forbidden by God and as a result, Achan paid the ultimate price. What a valuable lesson for you and me! We are guilty of the same kind of foolishness aren’t we? If we could just learn top wait on God and let Him lead and bring into our lives the things that need to be there, we would be far better off. Unfortunately, this flesh want what it wants and it wants it now! It doesn’t want to wait. Regardless of the arena you name, you are far better off to wait on the Lord to bring those things into your life that He knows are best for you, (i.e. Mate, sexuality, finances, ministry, etc.), than you are to run ahead of God and mess things up really bad and then expect Him to bail you out! When we can learn to wait on the Lord, we are well on our way to victory in the Christian life,;
Ps. 130:5 ” I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”
Ps. 37:34 ”Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee …”
I. The Victory Is Promised
II. V. 3-26 THE VICTORY IS PURSUED
A. V. 3-17 They Had God’s Plan – God told them in exact detail how they were to mount their attack against Ai. They were to lay an ambush for Ai and they would take the city and all its inhabitants.
Israel had already learned what happens when you do things the Lord’s way. When you fight the battle by following His plan, you cannot fail. They had also learned what happens when they refused to do it God’s way. They learned that failure awaits that person who goes against the will of the Lord.
When we are talking about fighting this flesh that we all carry around. If you are going to pursue victory over your flesh and if you ever expect to gain the victory, then you must go about it God’s way. No other plan will work! I will say more about God’s plan for dealing with the flesh in a moment, but for now, you need to know that if you will win the victory over your flesh, then you need constant contact with the things of God. We are strengthened spiritually when we are exposed to the things of the Lord. There are several that need to be a huge part of our lives:
1. The Word of God – 1 Pet. 2:2 “…desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:”;
2 Tim. 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
2. Prayer – 1Thes. 5:17 “Pray without ceasing.”;
James 4:2 “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.”
3. Church Attendance – Heb. 10:25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,”
4. The Fellowship of the Saints – 1 Cor. 12:14 “For the body is not one member, but many.”
1 Cor. 12:27 “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
None of these things will give victory in and of themselves, but we need each one to strengthen us and to help us grow in the Lord. When we begin to neglect even one of these essential areas, then we are sure to suffer spiritually. You see, when we feed the flesh and ignore our spiritual needs, then we are headed for trouble in our spiritual lives!
B. V. 18-23 They Had God’s Power – Israel fought the battle, but God gave the victory! You see, the first time Israel went to Ai, they went in their own power and they suffered terrible, humiliating defeat. This time they went to battle walking in the power of God and they were victorious.
There is a lesson here for those of us who struggle with this flesh. The battle will not be won by our ability to say “No!” The battle will not be won because we are more powerful than the temptations we face. The fact is, if you try to fight the spiritual battles of life in your own power, you are headed for terrible defeat in your life. There is just one way for us to prevail in this battle, and that is for us to learn to appropriate the power of God in our lives. We need to realize that when we cannot win the battle, He can! When we are unable to fight the flesh, sin and the world, God will fight it for us, the way to fight the flesh: fight it in God’s power –
Eph. 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”;
1 Cor. 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The only way any of us will ever see victory over this flesh is through the power of God!
Romans 8:5 “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:”
C. V. 24-26 They Had God’s Performance – These verses tell us the news that Israel trusted in the Lord and absolutely prevailed over their enemy. God did what He said He would do!
We are serving the very same God that gave Israel the victory. He hasn’t changed one bit! He is still the same God today that He always has been and always will be. You can count on God to keep His Word –
Rom. 4:21 “And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.”;
Psa. 119:89 “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.”;
When we are engaged in a battle with this flesh, we need to be able to count on God, He is all powerful and He is able to help you as you fight the flesh and the battles of life:
Heb. 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
I. The Victory Is Promised
II. The Victory Is Pursued
III. V. 27-35 THE VICTORY IS PRESERVED
At this point in this story, Israel has followed God’s plan and they have achieved the victory. Now, they must maintain their victory. They take two steps that make this a reality for them. In our lives, we can achieve the victory over the flesh! We can walk in the will of God and be alive to spiritual things. However, for us to maintain that victory, the same steps that Israel took, need to be taken by us.
Romans 8:12 “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
A. V. 27-29 Victory Is Preserved By Death – Please notice that they did not leave a single person alive in Ai. No one from the king down to the humblest servant was spared from death in this battle. Joshua knew that this enemy had to be totally eradicated or there would be problems down the road.
Your flesh is still alive and well, but it needs to be put to death! Now, there are some preachers going around telling folks that when they got saved, their flesh was put to death. But I’ve got news for you, they are wrong! Your flesh is as alive today as it ever has been. It still likes all the things that it used to like, and if you turned it loose, it would run to sin like a pig to a wallow. Your flesh is not saved. Your flesh is not holy. Your flesh is rotten and it hates God and everything He stands for! Of course, I am talking about our old sinful natures. Now, we need to understand some things about our flesh if we are to have the victory over it today. Look at some truths about our flesh.
1. Your flesh is alive and is at war with the Spirit of God Who is in you – Gal. 5:16-24 “16 Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
We have been given the divine nature – 2 Pet. 1:4 “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
This is a struggle that the Apostle Paul dealt with in great detail – Rom. 7:14-25.
2. At the same time, your flesh was crucified with Jesus Christ –
Rom. 6:6 “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.”
This is our positional standing. In the eyes of God, our flesh, all it works and everything it stands for was crucified with Jesus at Calvary. God reckoned the wicked, sinful natures that we possess to be in His Son on the cross.
3. We are to put the flesh to death daily- Col. 3:1-10. This is how we are to live practically everyday. Why this list of sins? Because these are things that seem to have a way of dominating our lives. Notice what some of them are:
a. Fornication – Illicit sexual activities. There is only one appropriate place for the expression of the sexual appetite and that is within marriage. I know that is an old fashioned attitude in this day and time, but you can either live to please the flesh or you can live to please God.
b. Uncleanness – Moral impurity. Doing things that dirty and pollute the soul life.
c. Inordinate Affections – Passions and intense arousals for things that are forbidden by God. This is a desire or craving for wrong things.
d. Evil Concupiscence – evil desire, a yearning and an aching for all kinds of evil. It is that within a person that pulls him to desire, grasp, grab, and take hold of all forms of evil that give pleasure to the body and its members.
e. Covetousness – Craving, grasping, grabbing, desiring to have something. It is desiring to have something when it is not needed; it is desiring more than what we need and more than what we should have. Note that covetousness is idolatry.
4. The secret lies in being able to reckon the flesh dead like God does – Rom. 6:11-14;
Gal. 2:20 “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
When we come to the place that we can look at our flesh and its lusts and remind it that it is dead to sin then, and only then, can we expect victory in our lives.
We don’t crucify the flesh by gratifying it! You cannot feed every lust that enters your mind and claim to be living a life that is pleasing to the Lord. The flesh must die today! When tomorrow comes, it must die again. I must reckon it dead to sin and to the lust for sin! We are told to flee those things that tempt us – 2 Tim. 2:22.
5. It all boils down to whether or not you want to please the Lord by the life you live – Rom. 8:8 “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”
6. Thankfully, there will come a day when the battle with the flesh will end. One day, the Lord will deliver us from this vile flesh and we shall be changed to be like Him. You see, positionally, God says that our flesh is dead to sin. Practically speaking it can be, but only as we take the initiative to reckon it dead day by day. However, one day, we will be changed and we will be perfected by the power of God,
Rom. 7:24 “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.”
B. V. 30-35 Victory Is Preserved By Devotion – The Content. After the enemy had been eradicated and victory had been preserved, Israel finished by doing what the Lord had told them to do through Moses, Deut. 27:1-28:6. Half of the nation was to stand on Mount Ebal and the other half on Mount Gerizim. The Levites were to stand in the valley between these mountains and were to read the cursings and the blessings. As they read the cursings, the crowd on Mount Ebal was to shout “Amen.” When they read the blessings, the crowd on Mount Gerizim was to shout “Amen.” This exercise was to remind them of what God would bless and of what He would not bless. They were reaffirming their commitment to live by the Word of God every day! So, in obedience to the command of the Lord, Israel made the 30 mile trips to these mountains and they stood there facing one another across that 2 mile wide valley. As the commandments were read, they shouted “Amen!” Imagine what that scene must have looked and sounded like that day! There’s was a devotion to living by the Word of God.
If we are to ever experience lasting victory over this flesh, then we too must learn to walk in the Word of God. It isn’t enough to fight the war with the flesh and hope to achieve the victory. If we are to win and preserve the victory day by day, then we must learn to live by the Word of God.
“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” Psalm 138:8
This is going to sound harsh so hang with me until I’ve finished: Avoid relationships with people who do not value themselves.
Why would I say such an egocentric thing? I say it because a person incapable of valuing himself or herself is also incapable of valuing you. Build relationships with those who enhance you, not inhibit you; that stimulate your mind and put the wind beneath your wings. When we are around people like that we see our best qualities through their eyes and grow from the wisdom that falls from their lips.
When . . . you encounter someone who tries to tell you that you have nothing to offer, be sure to laugh because it is impolite to hear a joke and not laugh! When God finished His creation, including mankind, He said: “Itwas very good” (Genesis 1:31). So value God’s opinion and pay no attention to contrary opinions. You are full of such potential that the word possibility is written all over you. By God’s grace every one of us can be anything He desires us to be: God decided to give us life through the Word of Truth, so we might be the most important of all the things he made. (James 1:18 “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” ).
While we may regret our past, God is much more concerned with our future. God’s love for us is not based on our performance: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Our God invented second chances! Paul said that there has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish. (Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”). That attitude is what you want in those with whom you build your strongest relationships!
Today rejoice that God has brought you this far, and, if you will let Him, He will take you the rest of the way!
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by Thy name.” Matthew 6:9-10
When you pray, “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . . on earth as it is in heaven” do you realize that this prayer has not yet been answered, but it will be answered?
Jesus Christ is literally, actually, visibly, bodily coming back to this earth. Do you believe that? Do you think that Jesus Christ would have taught us to pray this prayer if it would not have been answered?
His kingdom has not come yet on earth. His will is not being done on earth. But it shall be; it will be because our Lord taught us to pray that.
When you read or watch the news today, how do you see God’s will not being done on earth? Ask the Lord that His will would be brought to earth—praying for the people involved in each story for their welfare and their salvation.
After saving England from Napoleon’s threats in 1815, the Duke of Wellington achieved hero status. One Sunday as the duke approached the altar for communion, a poor man from London’s streets, wearing rags, knelt beside him. The indignant minister whispered for the vagrant to move away. “Don’t you realize this is the great Duke of Wellington?” he asked.
When the duke overhead, he responded, “Leave him alone. We’re all the same here. The ground is level at the cross.”
That’s the spirit in which we celebrate World Communion Sunday on the first Sunday of October. Paul says believers share the Lord’s Supper by partaking of the “one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:17). Everyone at the communion table is equal in God’s sight, needing his forgiveness and grace.
Have you ever been in love? Think back on that initial moment when you knew this relationship was different. It’s alright. Give yourself permission to get sappy for a moment. I knew in February of 1995 that my girlfriend, Hilary, would one day be my wife. I knew then that this relationship was unique and that God was weaving our lives together.
When we exchanged vows in November of 1996, we were forever bound in a covenant relationship with one another. I can honestly say that my love for her has grown and matured through joy and pain over these years. For this relationship to grow, it has required a mutual commitment to continually pursue one another.
We still send each other sappy text messages, or exchange gifts, or experience a dinner date (but I must confess not as often as we should). Today’s blog really is not about marriage, although I encourage you to continually pursue your mate. That being said, our earthly marriage is a biblically supported symbol of the relationship between Jesus and the Church, His bride.
1 Peter 2:4 begins with a significant challenge when it reads, “As you come…” This language and verb tense is a reminder for Jesus’ bride to continually come to Him. Purse Him. Chase Him.
In a similar fashion as I mentioned in my relationship with my wife, we as Jesus’ bride must continually and faithfully pursue Him by careful study of Word. We must continually align our conduct with His character. We must continually walk in unity as one race and one priesthood.
Imagine the impact one our world and the blessings for us individually when we live in continual pursuit of our love relationship with Christ. So much division that we see in our world would dissipate once the diverse landscape of Jesus’ church was seen to be walking in unison. Imagine the power that would be on display.
Imagine the energy that would be experienced in our worship gatherings if each individual represented in the body of believers has been chasing after Him through consuming Scripture already. I’d expect our worship would change and our preaching would even change.
Most of us have a tangible and relatable experience of love in our marriage and dating experiences. Allow your personal experience of pursuing another human to translate into a committed pursuit of a walk with God. He loves us. We love Him. Now let’s show it by our actions!
At a training session in the fire station, the team was assembled around the kitchen table. The training officer was discussing the behavior of fire: “You pull up to a house and notice puffs of smoke coming from the eaves, blackened out windows and little or no visible flame. What does this tell you?” he asked.
Expecting to hear that the house is in a possible back draft situation, a condition very dangerous to fire fighters, he instead heard from one quick wit, “You know you got the right place.”
~ ~ ~
A ship engine failed and no one could fix it, so they brought in a guy with 40 years experience. He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom. After looking things over, the guy reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine burst back into life.
The engine was fixed!
Seven days later the owners got his bill for $10,000. “What?!” the owners said. “You hardly did anything. Send us an itemized bill.”
The reply simply said: Tapping with a hammer: $2; Knowing where to tap: $9,998
~ ~ ~
Grandma and the Bank Teller
The elderly lady handed her bank card to a bank teller and said, “I would like to withdraw $500″. The teller told her, “For withdrawals less than $2,000, please use the ATM.”
The lady wanted to know why as the teller returned her bank card and irritably told her, “These are the rules. Please leave if there is no other matter. There is a line behind you.”
The old lady remained silent for a few seconds, then handed the card back to the teller and said, “Please help me withdraw all the money I have.”
The teller was astonished when she checked the account balance. She nodded her head, leaned down and respectfully told her, “My apologies Ma’am, you have $5 million in your account and our bank doesn’t have so much cash currently. Could you make an appointment and come again tomorrow?
The old lady then asked how much she could withdraw immediately. The teller told her any amount up to $250,000.
“Well, please let me have $250,000 now”, she requested. The teller did so quickly, then handed it very friendly and respectfully to her elderly client.
The old lady put $500 in her bag and asked the teller to deposit the balance of $249,500 back into her account.
Don’t be difficult with old people, they spent a lifetime learning the skills.