Sometimes a deal looks so good it can’t be bad. Or what we stand to gain overshadows any thought of what we stand to lose. At the southern end of Israel sits a seaport with an ancient admonition to be careful.
The biblical city of Ezion-geber, near modern Eilat, served as Israel’s occasional port on the Red Sea. On one occasion, the gulf offered a tremendous opportunity for a lucrative shipping industry for King Jehoshaphat.
As with Jehoshaphat, Eilat parallels many opportunities you have today when your ship has come in:
- The financial deal promises a sure return on your investment.
- The kind, attentive gentleman asks for your hand in marriage.
- The promotion comes with the salary you’ve waited for a long time.
- The new church you’re attending is just around the block.
But in making these decisions, have you forgotten to ask the most important question?
Sometimes finding favor with God makes life much harder. You know the story. Gabriel informed Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. Many thoughts ran through her mind, not the least of which was how she, a virgin, could conceive.
What’s more, Mary knew the social and biblical fallout that occurs for a pregnant woman without a husband. How could she possibly explain that her pregnancy was an of God and not an act of passion?
Finding favor with God meant that she faced disfavor from people. Maybe finding favor with God isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Christmas usually causes us to marvel at the virgin conception—and at the love of our God who would become Man so that He could die for our sins. But there’s another part of the Christmas story that amazes me just as much.
It comes from this amazing young woman.
Think of the places most significant to you. That’s right, the places. What makes them so special? Most likely, it’s not the places themselves but the events that took place there.
- The camp where you accepted Christ
- The old barn where you became engaged
- The park where your firstborn learned to walk
In our lives, events make places significant because of memories. But in biblical times, it was often just the opposite. The place itself often played a major role in causing a significant event.
The lands of the Bible offer more than a mere backdrop for the stories of the Bible. These places played an integral role in shaping the lives of those who lived there. God designed it so.
And for us, understanding how the land shaped its people gives us tremendous insight into understanding Scripture.
Even more, it gives us a glimpse as to how God uses even geography in our lives today.
Years ago my wife bought me a table saw for Christmas, and I’ve enjoyed the first hobby I’ve had in my life. I like what the Canadian born physician, Sir William Osler, once told an audience of medical professionals:
No man is really happy or safe without a hobby, and it makes precious little difference what the outside interest may be—botany, beetles or butterflies; roses, tulips or irises; fishing, mountaineering or antiques—anything will do as long as he straddles a hobby and rides it hard.
But woodworking is more than a hobby. It has marvelous metaphors for your spiritual life.
In an earlier post, I shared the first half of 10 ways I’ve discovered that woodworking affirms your spiritual life:
- You will have to cut cross grain, so stay sharp.
- Good tools save you time and give you better results.
- You can do a lot more than you think with the little you have.
- Following a plan gets you where you want to go with greater success.
- Mistakes always teach you, and they rarely ruin the piece.
In this post, let’s complete the list it’s taken me years to write.
What would you add to the list?
My favorite Jewish carpenter other than Jesus is Norm Abram. I’m a weekend woodworker, and the hobby has done more than just save me money and provide a healthy diversion for my mind.
It’s more than sawdust and saw blades. For me, it’s also spiritual.
(Photo: Completing a recent project)
During the many hours I’ve spent woodworking, I’ve come to realize how much of the craft relates to our walk with God. I’m not alone. The Shakers of the 19th-century viewed the craftsmanship of their unique furniture as an extension of their worship of God.
I want to share with you 10 ways I’ve discovered that woodworking affirms the spiritual life. I’ll do this in two posts.
For fun, I’ll also show you some pictures of stuff I’ve built.
We all need people to influence us. God made us that way.
From the languages we speak to the character we develop—it all begins with those who surround us in our formative years.
It starts with our environment, but it shouldn’t end there. It cannot.
When it does, it’s tragic. That was the case with King Joash.
But it doesn’t have to be that way with us.
I never trust myself with a snooze button.
It’s too easy to tell myself, “Just 5 more minutes,” about 7 more times. Plus, snoozing never helps! I feel just as tired after snoozing as I did beforehand.
I gain nothing. I’ve only lost time.
The problem of “mind over mattress” is one we all face, and we all deal with it in different ways.
- Some people set the alarm earlier to allow for the snooze.
- Others put the clock out of reach so they have to get up to turn off the alarm.
- Others tell themselves, Tomorrow I’ll begin to get up on time; but not today.
Spiritually speaking, we’re often called to “wake up” and get moving.
The problem? We’re tempted to slap the snooze button.
But when we do, we never gain anything.
We only lose precious time.
Not long ago, my jaw dropped as I calculated how much I had spent on tolls that year.
This painful revelation forced me to reexamine my commute. I decided to take the access road to work each morning instead of the highway.
But I discovered I pay either way.
I pay in time or in money. In angst or in cash. Unfortunately, I seem to have more of time.
So I pay my time at stoplights.
After two years of navigating stoplights and memorizing their patterns, I have concluded that someone, somewhere, is smiling at me behind some camera.
Maybe it’s God. (He’s smiling at you too.)
Before I had a family, I had a different car—a black Firebird with T-tops.
Sitting behind those eight cylinders, I could go from zero to too-fast in about five seconds (but, of course, I never did).
After Cathy and I had our first daughter, I decided I needed a family vehicle. Car seats don’t fit in Firebirds.
So I sold the car.
A few months later, I found a spare set of keys to the Firebird, and I thought: I need to get these to the new owner. Even though I could have kept the keys (as insignificant as it seemed), they really weren’t mine to keep. I had sold them, in a sense, when I sold the car.
Living for God is like finding a spare set of keys to a car you no longer own.
In fact, you have a whole lot of keys that aren’t yours.
Tough circumstances of life always change our minds about God.
They either tempt us to doubt what He’s promised, or they draw us closer to Him in faith. But we never stay the same.
God’s plan for your life is revealed and tested in times of struggle.
If you’re struggling today, don’t miss the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of God’s plan for you.
Joseph shows you how.