Scripture's no video game

I'm thinking about the conquest of Jericho (Joshua 6). The people marched around Jericho a bunch of times, then an earthquake shatters the wall and the city is conquered. If this were a video game, you'd say "Great. I love this level! I'll use the earthquake in every battle from now on."
The people are overconfident when they march against Ai in chapter 7. One might think that after Achan's sin is exposed and he confesses and is judged, the people can go back to marching around the enemy until the earthquake pulverises them. But that isn't what God does -- Ai is defeated by a battle plan that doesn't involve earthquakes or any other miracle. And the rest of the battles don't involve earthquakes. There is one more miracle in Joshua, the day the sun stands still, but the rest of the battles all involve hard combat without miracles. I think God wants us to understand how He is powerful enough to enable a miraculous victory at any moment, but he also wants us to understand he often chooses not to display that power.

I dislike happy endings -- a paradox

I like Christian fiction, but I dislike when writers give you a nice happy ending with all the character's problems solved. This is a paradox. For isn't the Gospel of Jesus Christ the mother of all happy endings?

But a real Gospel story would show the ending has not yet come. We are always in the middle of the story, still needing hope for what we do not yet see. We are blessed by God here and now, but the ultimate happy ending, happy beyond all we can ask or think, is yet to come.

Blog moving

I've moved my blog. It is now part of a larger website, I created this website as a web home for the book I've begun to publish.

The book is available in Kindle, Nook and other digital formats here:

Paperback version should be available soon.
New direct address to this blog:
The old address, should still work as well.

The Spirit, our drill sergeant?

Is this a familiar story? It feels like I'm remembering it from a classic war movie, but I'm not sure. Maybe from Sands of Iwo Jima.

Here's the story. A young man joins the army and arrives at basic training. It feels like months of hell, since the tough, demanding drill sergeant is on his case all day and all night; telling him to run faster, keep going, clean his rifle faster, try harder and never give up. He endures, telling himself that once basic training is over he hopes never to see this brutal taskmaster of a sergeant again. He finally makes it through training and goes into battle. In the reality of combat, he realizes the necessity of all the drill sergeant had insisted he learn. The sergeant wasn't overly demanding at all, he knew what skills soldiers really needed. Then finally the soldier meets his former drill sergeant and thanks him for being so tough on him in boot camp.

Is the Holy Spirit is like this drill sergeant? He knows we have far to grow in Christlikeness and that we won't be thoroughly happy anywhere short of Christlikeness. He doesn't shout at and insult us, like a stereotypical drill sergeant. But there is a lot we have to learn and he faithfully keeps at us to not stop learning. One day, we'll appreciate all we have learned. Maybe we already appreciate things we have learned, even though learning them was far from present at the time. Hebrews 12 reminds us that God disciplines those he loves, let us be properly appreciative of God's discipline.

Some spiritual lessons

Some spiritual lessons from recent years:

  • When it looks like God hasn't kept a promise, go to him and ask for wisdom and help. Messy circumstances that suggest that the promise isn't really true may be the arena where God wants to demonstrate again how true the promise is. 
  • Lay my raw emotions before God in prayer. There is no point in pretending I'm not feeling what I'm feeling. There isn't much point in thinking I can stop feeling something just by deciding that it is wrong or inappropriate to feel that way. A negative emotion laid before God in prayer loses much of its power to perturb God's peace in my heart.
  •  Life may not have given me what I most wanted, but do I really have something to complain about? If I can't be content with what I have, can I be content with what I want? 
  • Change is normal. Don't think of the current change I don't like as something I can get past and never be bothered with again. 
  • Don't judge the wisdom, integrity or competence of others just by whether they make my life harder. Many times life needs to be complicated. 
  •  The purpose of life isn't to make us happy but to make us holy. (Adapted from Gary Thomas' book about marriage).