Friday, February 28, 2014

28 Stories - Study 25: Promised Land

Fundamental: The New Earth

Bible Story 

Joshua and Caleb headed to the rendezvous point at the edge of the Jordan River. They walked at a fast pace, talking as they went.
“I can’t believe we were both selected!” Joshua said.
“I know,” Caleb answered, “all of our hint dropping must have worked!” Both young men laughed.
They had been chosen to represent their tribe on a special mission. The people of Israel were just a stone’s throw away from Canaan and the elders had decided to send a party of fit men to spy out the land. Each of Israel’s 12 tribes provided one man for the mission.
“It’s going to be so much fun!” Caleb continued.
“Yeah,” Joshua replied, “but it will be dangerous, too. We are going to need to be very careful.”
“To be honest,” Caleb’s voice quieted to a whisper as they walked through the rows of tents, “I don’t really understand why this mission is happening.”
Joshua glanced over at his friend to see if he was serious. “Because the elders want to know the strengths and weaknesses of the land before we go in. It’s a smart military move. Know your enemy!” Joshua answered, studying the face of his friend, intrigued. “You don’t want to take our wives and children across the river if there’s a huge army just inside the walls of Jericho, do you?”
“Well,” Caleb chose his words carefully, “God led us here from Egypt. And Moses keeps calling the land across the Jordan “the promised land” because God has promised to give it to us. Why are we questioning what God has promised?”
Joshua stopped walking. Caleb slowed to a stand still and then turned to face his friend. The look on Joshua’s face was a combination of respect and wonder. “You are amazing, Caleb,” Joshua said. “Your faith is unlike anyone I have ever met. And, I think you make a very good point! Do you think we should talk to the elders and ask them to reconsider the mission?”
“No,” Caleb shook his head seriously, “They are God’s chosen leaders and this mission is where their prayers and planning have led them. Let’s go on the mission with the intention of finding every blessing the land has to offer. Let the other 10 worry about the power of the enemy. We’ll focus on the promise and power of God!”
“Genius!” Joshua laughed and playfully punched Caleb in the shoulder. “You’ve got a sanctified devious streak, my friend. That will make the entire mission great fun! God is good!”
“All the time!” Caleb continued the familiar phrase loved by the children and then added, “All the time!”
“God is good!” Joshua finished.

40 years later

Joshua and Caleb stood together on the shore of the Jordan River peering across to Promised Land. The silence deepened as they both remembered the unfortunate result all those years ago.
They had spied out the land. They had brought back a glowing report. They carried back samples of the land’s bounty to win the hearts of the people of Israel. But, the other 10 spies had nothing good to say about Canaan. The Giants were too big. The walls were too strong. The land God had promised was a horrible land, they said.
And God had become enraged. He threatened to destroy every last one of the Israelites. It was only the brave heart and words of Moses that saved them. He reminded God of how much He loved the people he had called out of Egypt. He had set them free not because they were worthy but because He was gracious. God listened to Moses. And forgave the people.
But they didn’t go into the Promised Land. God let them wander throughout the desert on the wrong side of Jordan for 40 more years. He allowed Israel time to recognise their mistake.
God’s promise to give His people the land “flowing with milk and honey” still stood. And now, all these years later, they had returned to the Jordan River, this time fully intending on taking the land promised to them.
They were not the same people they had been 40 years before. As a nation, they were older and wiser. And a new crop of young families now lived among them that did not remember Egypt -— they only knew what they heard in the stories told by parents and grandparents. All, old and young alike, were tired of the desert and ready to accept God’s promise.
“It seems like a lifetime ago,” Joshua said peering across the river.
“Yes,” Caleb replied. “But I’m still excited about it! It really is a glorious land.”
“True,” Joshua said. “Do you realise, of the twelve who spied out the land, we are the only two who will enter it?”
“Oh my,” Caleb said, “Have they all died? All ten of them?”
Joshua nodded his head, “Living with such bitterness and negativity clearly shortens one’s lifespan.”
Caleb gave a little laugh in response. “Indeed. And a complainer’s life is not much of a life, anyway.”
Joshua nodded. “I’m not sorry for them. They were nothing but trouble since that trip into Canaan. But I am sorry for Moses. He would have crossed over with us.”
Caleb placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder, “He is at peace now. No more leadership stresses for him. They are all yours now!”
“Oh thanks,” Joshua said, turning to look at Caleb. “And just like always, you will be my right-hand man!”
“Lead on, fearless leader!” Caleb said with a smile. “Take us into the promised land!”

My Reflection

Imagine the different emotions that would have gone through the minds of people as they re-approached the Jordan River — 40 years after their first visit. Consider what thoughts and emotions would have been going through the mind of:

Moses (standing on a high mountain looking into the promised land, realising this is as close as he will ever get):

Joshua (the new leader after Moses):

Caleb (having stood beside Joshua since they were children):

The people of Israel (knowing they had rejected God’s leading last time they reached this place):
My Story
Consider the response of your heart when you consider this statement: “Jesus is coming soon to take us to Heaven. This earth will be changed. Our lives will never be the same again.”

How would you encourage someone (maybe yourself?) who says, “There is so much I still want to do before Jesus comes”?

It is easy to think, “What was wrong with those Israelites? They were in a barren desert and thought the Promised Land wasn’t worth the effort!” How are we like them in our thoughts about the land God has promised us?

My Assurance

The eternal Kingdom God has planned for his people is similar and yet different to the world in which we now live. How do the following verses give you confidence in God’s plan and purpose?

2 Peter 3:13 ~ But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

Revelation 22:4-5 ~ No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 11:15 ~ Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.”

My Commitment

There are very few verses which tell us what we “must” do once we are in the new Earth. What do you notice in these verses about the actions that we are called to participate in? How would it impact others if we did them now?

Isaiah 65:17-18 ~ “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy.

Matthew 5:5 ~ God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

Isaiah 35:4 ~ Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”

My Outlook

If you could imagine a perfect world, what would it look like? How do the following verses reveal the future existence God has planned for His people?

Revelation 21:1-5 ~ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

Isaiah 35:8-10 ~ And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. . . . Only the redeemed will walk on it. Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.

My Response

The following statement is the 28th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

The New Earth

On the new earth, in which righteousness dwells, God will provide an eternal home for the redeemed and a perfect environment for everlasting life, love, joy, and learning in His presence. For here God Himself will dwell with His people, and suffering and death will have passed away. The great controversy will be ended, and sin will be no more. All things, animate and inanimate, will declare that God is love; and He shall reign forever. Amen.

Bible Story

The Bible story of the 12 spies going into Canaan is in Numbers 13 and 14.

Further Reading

 Isaiah 35, Isaiah 65:17-25, Revelation 21 and 22.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Story of Wyang Kancil

Adapted into English for kindergarten children by David Edgren
This is one of the many stories told by Indonesian Shadow Puppeteers when performing to children. I rewrote this story for Kindergarten teachers who are hosting Sumardi and Gamelan in the next few months. 

Little Kancil: Lesser Mouse deer – A mouse-deer is a small deer-like creature that lives mostly in Asia. The Lesser Mouse Deer is the smallest of the species and adults grow only to 45cm tall and weighs 2kg. They eat plants. In this story Little Kancil’s smallness is characterised by cunning and naughtiness.
The Farmer: Farmers plant and protect their crops. This farmer has a healthy crop of cucumbers, until our cheeky antagonist comes along to nibble them in the night. The farmer comes up with an ingenious way of catching the small but wily thief.
 The Farm Dog: Every good farmer needs a great farm dog. 

The Story:
One day as Little Kancil explores the land near a village he discovered a field full of his favourite food – cucumbers! He looks to the left and the right and sees cucumbers as far as his little eyes can see. In the middle of the field, Little Kancil sees the farmer working hard – caring for his cucumbers. Not wanting to get caught, Little Kancil creeps back into the forest and plans to come back in the darkness of night.
That night, after sunset, Little Kancil quietly tip-toes into the far corner of the cucumber field and eats until he can’t eat any more. His little tummy is the fattest little mouse-deer tummy you’ve ever seen. Satisfied, he wanders back into the forest.
The next morning, the farmer comes to look after his cucumbers and is upset to find one corner of the field is destroyed. Studying the ground, the farmer sees tiny hoof-prints and knows exactly who ate his cucumbers.
That afternoon, Little Kancil is hungry again. He remembers the field of cucumbers with such happiness and bounds out of the forest and into the delicious field. In his excitement, he forgets to look left and right and suddenly realises he is being watched. There standing not a meter away is the farmer! Little Kancil jumps backward in fear and bounds toward the forest. Looking over his shoulder, he realises the farmer is not chasing him. Little Kancil stops and turns around to look at the man who is still standing in the same place and the same pose as before.
Little Kancil realises the farmer is not real! It is just the farmers clothes, somehow propped up in the middle of the field. Bravely, Little Kancil tests the fake farmer and approaches carefully. He gets close enough to see the straw poking out of the farmer’s clothes and knows he was tricked. This is not the farmer but just a silly scarecrow. In his new found bravery, little Kancil kicks the scarecrow.
His leg sticks fast to the scarecrow. Little Kancil tries to pull his leg back but it is stuck. The farmer knew that a deer-mouse was a cunning and brave little creature and would not be scared away by a scarecrow. So, the farmer covered the scarecrow’s pants with glue. The trap worked and Little Kancil was stuck with no hope of escape.
The farmer sees the scarecrow jiggling in the field and knows he has caught the little cucumber thief. When he gets to the scarecrow, the farmer wraps his big hands around Little Kancil and pulls him free from the scarecrow. Then, the farmer puts Little Kancil into a cage for the night.
In the dark of night, Little Kancil is startled by a big farm dog who comes to visit the cage. The big dog looks at Little Kancil and begins to laugh. He says, “You thought you were so smart! Eating cucumbers in the farmer’s field! Look at you now! Tomorrow my master is going to have deer-mouse stew for lunch!”
The dog expects his words to upset the deer-mouse and is frustrated when nothing he says seems to work. Little Kancil just shakes his head and says, “You are wrong.”
“Wrong?” the dog laughs. “We will see about that!” But, in time the relaxed nature of the little deer-mouse really starts to bother the dog. Finally, the dog asks, “Ok, why? Why don’t you believe the farmer will eat you?”
“Because,” the deer-mouse says with a sigh, “I am going to become a prince. Don’t you know what this cage does? It turns you into a prince overnight! Tomorrow I will be a prince and I will marry the farmer’s daughter! Now, go away and let me get some sleep.”
The dog is not happy about this new information. “How do you know this?” he asks the little deer-mouse.
“Everyone knows,” Little Kancil says, “that a farmer’s cage makes you into a prince overnight! All this time, you’ve been the farmer’s faithful helper and he’s never let you sleep in the cage. He doesn’t want you to become a prince! He wants you to be his hard working farm dog! But a cute little deer-mouse, well, that’s a perfect prince to be!” Little Kancil turns around three times and lays down to go to sleep.
The dog thinks about the cage late into the night. Finally, he lifts the latch with his nose, opens the door and wakes Little Kancil. When the little deer-mouse sees the huge dog’s teeth so close to him he jumps in fright and runs for his life! Out of the cage and into the night.
The dog laughs at the deer-mouse’s misfortune, curls up inside the cage and pulls the door closed with his paw. Tomorrow he will be a prince.
In the morning, when the farmer comes to the cage, he is confused to find his dog trapped in the cage and no deer-mouse. His dog’s tail wags expectantly. The farmer shakes his head with wonder at the way life always seems to surprise him, and let’s his dog out of the cage.

Friday, February 21, 2014

28 Stories - Study 24: 300 Men and God's Help

Fundamental: The Remnant and its Mission

Bible Story  

Gideon and his 32,000 men moved toward the enemy. Although greatly outnumbered, they knew God was with them.
“If God is for us, who can stand against us?” the men said to each other. As they marched toward the inevitable battle, encouraging comments moved from one soldier to the next. God was surely with them. He called Gideon. He formed them into an army. And He would help them defeat their enemy.
What happened the next morning came as a huge surprise to the men of Israel. Gideon came out of his tent looking ashen faced and bewildered. He called the men to assemble. When they had done so, he shouted, “God spoke to me last night.”
Murmurs rippled through the crowd. Every time God spoke to Gideon, something big happened. What would it be this time?
“God told me...” Gideon chewed his lip for a long moment scanning the masses of men. “Well, God told me our army is too big.”
A few men laughed. It couldn’t be true. God wouldn’t say such a ridiculous thing. There were 10 times as many well-armed men in the Midianite army. 32,000 was a big number, but not when compared to the sand on the seashore—and that’s what it looked like when you saw the camels of the Midianite forces.
Gideon continued, “I argued with Him. We are outnumbered as it is!” Men nodded and murmured their agreement. “But God assured me, there are too many men in this army—His army. He said this battle would be won by the Lord’s power not the power of men. If we have too many men, we will claim success for ourselves—as if we had won the battle by our own strength.”
Gideon paused, willing himself to say what God required, “So, God wants all the men who are afraid for any reason to go home.”
In the hearts of many of the men, where yesterday there had been only bravado and cheer, now a wave of panic pounded from inside their chests and butterflies were loosed in their bellies. A sudden cacophony filled the camp as 22,000 men dropped their swords and shields and fled for home. Only 10,000 men remained.
Gideon shook his head sadly and looked up at the sky. Is this what God had expected? Only one third of the army remained. Surely God knew the beginning from the end but this made no sense. What kind of army sent perfectly healthy men home?
Gideon consulted God and was dumbfounded when God repeated His message from the night before, “You still have too many men.” Then God devised a test—a way to reduce the army that would show it had nothing to do with the strength of the men.
They walked to a stream and as they crossed, God told Gideon to separate them into two groups—those who drank using their hand as a scoop and those who knelt to drink. Gideon watched as every man drank. When the two groups were finalised, God told Gideon, “Keep the ones who drank out of their hands.”
To Gideon’s dismay, only 300 men had used their hands to drink. The other 9,700 were sent home. All that remained was a ragtag band of 300 men. But it was as God had commanded.
That night, camped just over the mountain from the enemy, Gideon tossed and turned in his sleep. It made no sense. Surely God needed some help! He couldn’t win the battle without at least a small army. But 300 men was nothing. Fitfully, Gideon woke every few minutes to find that it was not a bad dream—this was reality. He was about to face an army of hundreds of thousands with just 300 men.
In the middle of the night, God spoke to Gideon yet again, “Are you scared, Gideon?”
“More scared than I have ever been!” Gideon cried.
“If you truly are afraid,” God said, “Take your servant Purah and sneak over the mountain into the camp of Midian. Listen to the first voices you hear. You will be given courage!”
Gideon reached over and shook his servant. Purah sat up quickly and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Yes, master?”
“Come with me,” Gideon said. “God has told me to sneak into the enemy camp.”
When they reached the camp of Midian, they heard a man wake with a scream. Another man in the same tent asked, “What is it? You nearly scared me to death!”
“I just dreamed that a huge loaf of barley bread rolled into our camp and flattened all of our tents!”
The second man, in a moment of inspiration, answered, “Surely the army of Gideon will sweep in and destroy every last one of us!”
Gideon punched Purah in the shoulder with joy. When they arrived back at their camp Gideon shouted, “Get up! Tonight God has given us victory over the Midianite hordes!”
He gave each man a trumpet and a torch with a jug over it, so it’s light could be seen only at the feet of the man carrying it.
“Do we need our swords?” one of the men asked.
“Yes,” Gideon laughed, “You best bring those too.”
Gideon divided the army into three groups of 100 men. “Each group will go to a different part of the mountain surrounding the Midianite camp,” Gideon said. “And when you see me and my 100 break our jars and hear us blow our trumpets, you do the same. Now move out!”
In the cover of darkness, Gideon’s 300 surrounded the camp of Midian. They watched quietly for the signal. Gideon broke his jar and blew his trumpet followed immediately by the men with him. The other two groups saw and heard the signal and did likewise.
The camp below came to life. Men rushed from their tents still caught in sleep’s stupor. Seeing soldiers running out of every tent, they assumed Gideon’s army was upon them, and they ran their swords through each other. In only a few short minutes nearly all of the Midianite army lay dead in the valley—felled by their own swords.
From the mountainside all around, accompanied by torchlight, a shout rang out, “For the Lord and for Gideon!” And Gideon’s 300 men rushed in to finish what God had started.

My Reflection

What emotions do you think went through Gideon’s heart and mind when there were only 32,000 men and God told him there were too many men?

Then, when there were only 10,000 men God said, “There are still to many men!” How do you think Gideon felt now?

What about when he stood with just 300 men?

Why do you think Gideon did what God said, even when it seemed impossible that God’s plan would work?

Why did the dream of the Midianite give Gideon such courage?

Imagine watching a massive army destroy itself without an enemy fighting it. What must that have been like? What do you think the 300 men thought of God during and after that amazing “battle”?

My Story

Tell of a time when you felt like you were on a spiritual roller coaster—not sure what God was doing as things went from good to bad to good to wherever next. Tell the story. When did you know God was truly with you?

When you look back over your life, can you see God’s leading? Are their times when you felt alone or forgotten by God that you now recognise as God’s strategy for focusing your life?

My Assurance

Although at times it is hard to comprehend God’s leading, He has a plan. Sometimes His plan seems to make no earthly sense. When we are at our weakest, He is strongest among us. How do these verses give you courage to follow Jesus even when things seem impossibly hard?

1 Peter 1:18-19 ~ For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

Revelation 21:5-7 ~ And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

My Commitment

As the second coming of Jesus draws closer, God’s people will stand out more starkly from the rest of the world — His remnant of believers will become clearly visible. How do these verses challenge you to be bold in your faith?

Revelation 18:1, 4 ~ After all this I saw another angel come down from heaven with great authority, and the earth grew bright with his splendor. He gave a mighty shout: “Babylon is fallen—that great city is fallen! She has become a home for demons.” . . . Then I heard another voice calling from heaven,    “Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her.”

1 Peter 1:16-17 ~ For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.”

Jude 1:3 ~ Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.

My Outlook

When we look around us we see only what is taking place in the physical world. The Bible tells us there is a great spiritual war raging behind the scenes with eternal realities that we will see clearly. The unseen will become seen! How do these verses challenge you to see life through spiritual lenses rather than just physical ones?

Revelation 12:17 ~ And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.

2 Peter 3:10-14 ~ But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

Revelation 21:1-5 ~ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

My Response

The following statement is the 13th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

The Remnant and its Mission

The universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ, but in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This remnant announces the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heralds the approach of His second advent. This proclamation is symbolized by the three angels of Revelation 14; it coincides with the work of judgment in heaven and results in a work of repentance and reform on earth. Every believer is called to have a personal part in this worldwide witness.

Bible Story

The Bible story of Gideon can be found in Judges 6-8.

Further Reading

Revelation 14:6-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Jude 1:14, Revelation 21:1-14.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Zeek The Leper

Free eBook

Zeek stared through the hole in the city wall. It wasn’t a big hole. Not big enough for the enemy to get through or even for an arrow to shoot through. But it was big enough to see through. And that’s all Zeek needed.
Every day Zeek came to the hole and looked into the city. He couldn’t go in. Not any more. But he could look. And, if she came, he could talk to her.
She usually came.
“She’s usually here by now,” Zeek shouted over his shoulder as he turned away from the wall to address his three friends.
Zeek’s friends were like him. They were “outsiders” too. They could come to the wall, but they couldn’t go in the gate. They could call out to people as they passed but they couldn’t embrace them. They could look, but they couldn’t touch.
Zeek turned and looked furtively into the city of Samaria through his tiny peephole.
 “Doesn’t look like she’s coming,” one friend said.
“Do you think she’ll bring food today?” another asked.
“I hope so,” Zeek said, studying the people passing inside the city.
“I’m hungry enough to eat a horse,” the third friend said.

Zeek and his friends lived outside the city. They were outcasts. Cursed by God. Rejected by their people. They were lepers. They lived in a grove of trees not far from the city. Far enough to appease the law but close enough to reach the city each day. To look. To hope. To eat, if someone brought them food.

Zeek and his three friends had lived outside the city for years now. While they couldn’t go in, the people could come out to them. But that had all changed when the army of Aram had arrived. The army didn’t attack the city. They just blocked the roads. They didn’t allow caravans to enter and they killed any person who tried to leave with a volley of arrows. Nobody came in. Nobody went out.
Day after day. Week after week. Months passed. Slowly the people in the city ate their food and drank their drink. Soon there was just water and whatever food the people could scrounge up or grow on their city terraces.
It has been too long and things were not getting any better. The lepers were accustomed to getting left overs – day old food – but now… now they were lucky to get anything at all.

An eye appeared at the other side of the hole. It was her eye.
Zeek shrieked for joy, “She’s here!” Then putting his mouth to the hole he said, as clearly as he could, “Hello, my love! How is my Zara?”
Yes, Zeek and Zara. It had been a laughing point for years. It’s like you two were meant for each other! Your names are a perfect match! And, like their names, Zeek and Zara had known love and life like few others. They were a perfect pair, a matchmakers dream. Until the curse. Until the wall. The wall that had once protected them inside the city now separated them from each other.
Zeek pressed his ear against the hole and listened.
Zara spoke. “Hello, my Zeek.” There were tears in her voice. “Not good. Things are worse than ever in here.”
Zeek returned his mouth to the hole. “Step away from the wall so I can see you.”
Zara obeyed and Zeek peered at his wife through the peephole.
He returned his mouth to the wall, “Where is Izreal?” He asked.

They had thought long and hard, trying to find a “Z” name for the boy when he was born. They had tried so hard to have a child. It had taken years. Then, finally, Zara was pregnant. When they came upon “Izreal” it wasn’t their idea. It didn’t start with a Z. As the prophet passed by their home one day, they told him of their years of longing for a child and difficulty finding a name. Old Elisha said, “Yours is a story of struggle. If there was ever a name for struggle it was God’s chosen name for his leader, Israel. God wrestled with that man all night! Jacob was such a good fighter that when the sun rose, God laughed and renamed him ‘God struggles here!’ – Israel – that’s what it means, you know.”
Of course they knew. Every Hebrew child was told the story of Jacob as often as they were told the story of Moses. It was who they were. The name stuck in their minds. And when it was a boy, they stuck a ‘Z’ in the middle and said, “We were part of God’s struggle for this one to be born.”
Zara said, “He’s not with me today, Zeek.”
“Where is he?” Zeek was anxious. “I miss him so much!”
Tears were running down Zara’s cheeks. “Things are bad in here, Zeek. People are starving.”
“I know that,” Zeek said. “We’re starving out here, too.”
One of his friends grabbed his shoulder, “Did she bring any food? Ask her! Did she?”
“Did you bring us any food?” Zeek repeated into the hole.
Zara stepped away from the hole, shaking her head. She mouthed the word “no” as she held out her hands, showing they were empty. Usually their conversation would end with Zara climbing the wall, lowering food with a rope, tied in a bag. But, not today.
Zeek didn’t tell his friends the answer. “Can you go get Izzy? I want to see Izzy. Please!”
Zeek’s friend tugged his shoulder. “What did she say? She didn’t bring us any food, did she?”
Zara put her lips close to the hole. “There’s no food left, Zeek. There is no meat. There’s no bread. There’s nothing. Yesterday, the last donkey’s head was sold at auction for 80 shekels!”
“80 shekels?!” Zeek exclaimed, “That’s enough to buy an entire horse!”
“Not anymore,” Zara said, shaking her head, “The only horses we haven’t eaten are the five that belong to the King’s guard.”

As if saying his title was enough to summon him, the King of Isreal appeared, walking on the wall above Zeek and Zara. Someone shouted, “The King! I see the King on the wall!”
Zeek and Zara stepped back from the wall and stared up. Zeek noticed sackcloth under the kingly robes. “The King has given up,” Zeek whispered to his friends. “He wears the sackcloth of morning – the clothing of one who is defeated!”
Zeek heard Zara’s voice come over the wall, it was too faint to make out what she said, but it was undoubtedly hers. He pressed his ear to the hole.

“Oh, King!” Zara shouted as she threw her hands into the air, “Help me!”
“If the Lord doesn’t help you,” the king muttered from above, “where can I get help for you? There’s no flour to make bread. There’s no grapes to make drink. I have nothing for you!”
“Your word is law,” Zara cried. “Make a ruling in my favour!”
“What might I say,” the King laughed, “that would help? Can my words feed you?”
Zara continued, “Yesterday, my neighbour said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. Today I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she has hidden him! Help me!”

Zeek lost his strength and slid down the wall. His eyes bulged wide with rage and fear and insanity. He couldn’t blink. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard. Izzy. Izzy was gone. Zara had…
The King, between Zeek and Zara on the wall, tore his robes. Now everyone could see that he had given up. A king wearing sackcloth was devastating for his kingdom. A king who tore his clothes was no longer worthy of leadership.
“Bring me the prophet,” The King shouted with rage. “Today he dies! His God did this.”
A king who denies his God is no king at all.

Moments later Elisha stood below the King, who still raged on the wall. “This disaster is from the Lord,” The King spat each word as tears ran down his dusty cheeks. “Why should we not give up the city? Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” His strength was gone. The King leaned on the shoulder of his leading officer.
The prophet stared up, shading his eyes against the glare of the afternoon sun. “Hear the word of the Lord,” the prophet shouted with force beyond his years. He pointed at the gate in the wall, “See this gate? Be here tomorrow. Tomorrow, at this gate, when the sun is about as high as it is right now, a large bag of the finest flour will sell for one shekel and the biggest bag of barley you can imagine will also cost just one shekel!”
The officer supporting the King started to laugh. When he regained enough control to speak, he said, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of Heaven, what you say is impossible!”
Elisha glared at the soldier. In a stone cold voice, he said, “You will see it with your own eyes but you will eat none of it!” Then, spinning on his heals, Elisha hurried away.

Zeek lay against the wall, where he had fallen when his mind broke. His three friends stared at him, unsure of what to do or say. His eyes flicked from friend to friend. He searched for some word of kindness, some sensible explanation for the madness that had descended upon him.
Slowly a new truth settled on him. There was no sense left. There were no answers. There was only loss. The loss of the life he once had. There was only pain. The pain his body could no longer feel because of this dreaded disease but that his heart throbbed with. There was only death. The death of… The death of…
Zeek rose to his feet and dusted himself off. “I’m hungry,” he said. And he started walking.
His three friends were startled as he pushed through them and stumbled away from the city. Zeek didn’t head toward the grove of trees they called home. He didn’t head toward the well outside the city where they went to drink. He walked directly down the road toward the camp of the enemy army.
“Zeek!” One of his friends shouted, “Stop, you’re going the wrong way!”
“I am not,” Zeek said. “I am hungry.”
His friends had caught up with him now. He wasn’t that fast, but neither were they. Together, the four walked as fast as a group of lepers, missing bits and pieces, could manage.
“Zeek,” another friend said, struggling for breath, “slow down. You’re going to get killed!”
“Perhaps,” Zeek grunted. “Killed or fed.”
“What?” A leper asked, “Fed? You know where there’s food?”
“Yes,” Zeek said pointing at the smoke of distant cooking fires in front of them. “Fed by those men, cooking their meat, roasting their potatoes, toasting their bread!”
Struggling to keep up with their stumbling comrade, another leper said, “Zeek, they are not going to feed you. When you are close enough, they will shoot you.”
“They may not waste the arrows,” Zeek said. “They may wait for us to get close enough and chop us to pieces with their swords.”
“That’s reassuring,” one of the lepers said. “You’re not thinking clearly!”
“I’m hungry,” Zeek said again, as if they hadn’t heard.
“Yes,” a leper said, “we are all hungry.”
“Starving, actually,” Zeek said. “And we are all going to die. Just like Izzy.”
“You’re talking nonsense,” another leper said.
“I don’t care about sense,” Zeek said. “I am going to eat or I am going to die. They can decide. UNCLEAN!” He shouted as the smoke resolved into visible fires, surrounded by tents, benches and tables. “UNCLEAN! Lepers! Cursed! UNCLEAN! Feed us or kill us!”
The motley crew of lepers lurched slowly into the enemy camp. They were not greeted with a volley of arrows. They were not chopped to bits by angry soldiers. The enemy camp was more camp and less enemy.
The fires were glowing embers with meat-laden spits hovering above them. Empty tents revealed beds, clothes and even treasures like gold, silver and weapons. Horses and donkeys were tethered to posts. When they reached the cooking tents, the four lepers discovered the jackpot. Tents filled with jugs of wine, waiting for thirsty soldiers. Tents filled with salted meat, waiting for meals. Flour. Barley. Bags and bags of it.
It was awhile before they discovered the treasures and food tents. First they ate. They ate the meat on the spits. They moved from fire to fire, amazed by their luck.
Then, when they couldn’t eat another bite, they started exploring. They loaded up their robes with as much food, treasure and clothing as they could manage and carried it back to their grove of trees where they buried it.
Then they returned to the enemy camp. Again they loaded their robes with everything they found and took it back to bury in their grove of trees.
As Zeek and his three friends rummaged through the enemy camp, loading up their robes for a third trip to the trees, Zeek’s voice stopped them.
“Come!” He shouted. “Friends! Come here, now!”
They joined him by a smoky pit that now held an empty spit. Night was approaching and the glowing embers radiated light and heat toward the four lepers, though they couldn’t feel it.
“We can’t do this,” Zeek said.
“Do what?” one of his friends asked.
“Keep this to ourselves,” Zeek replied. “And keep burying it!”
“What else are we going to do with it?” another leper asked out of the darkness.
“Our families are starving,” Zeek said, almost in a whisper. “We need to tell them. We can save our people. It’s our turn to feed them.” The lepers laughed at this thought.
“We can feed our families!” One of the lepers said, “What a beautiful night this is!” And they ran, through the darkness, leaping and jumping and praising God all the way back to the starving city.

 When the group of lepers reached the city, the gatekeeper was waiting for them with his bow drawn.
Although they had thought they were moving quickly, they had taken some time to reach the gate. Lepers are not known for their speed. Their voices, however, carried far ahead of them. Their words were unclear, but their joy was a sound unheard for months. Their happiness had saved their lives. “You four are making a ridiculous amount of noise,” the gatekeeper said, “You’re lucky I didn’t shoot you. What has you so filled with joy?”
The lepers gave their report. The gatekeeper sent a message straight to the King.

Soon, the King and his guard were at the gates.
“What is the meaning of this?” The King said as he reached the darkened gate.
Zeek approached as close as he dared, “UNCLEAN!” He shouted, “CURSED!”
“Yes, yes,” the king said, “We know all that. What else is wrong with you lot? You’re happy! What’s going on?”
Zeek said, “We went into the Aramean camp and no one was there—not a sound of anyone—only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.”
“Nonsense,” the King said.
Zeek and his friends dumped the contents of their robes in a pile before the King. The torchlight revealed gold, silver and food.
“FOOD!” one of the soldiers said, unable to hold his composure.
The King shook his head with sorrow. He knew a trick when he saw one. “I will tell you what the Arameans are doing,” the King said. “They know we are starving. So they have left the camp to hide in the countryside. They think we will come out, and when we do, they will rush into the city.”
The soldier who had been excited a moment before said, “Have some men take the five horses and ride out to see if it’s true. If it’s a trick and they die, it’s no worse for them than us. We are all going to die. So let us send them to find out what happened.”
The King agreed. Two chariots each led by two horses followed a lead horse and rider. The King commanded them to explore the enemy camp and then follow the trail of the soldiers to find where they had gone.
As the people woke in the city, they gathered at the gate waiting for the chariots to return with their report. When they returned, they told of a trail of debris strewn between the enemy camp and the Jordan River.
The Arameans had run as if for their lives. Which, as the story would be told by Aramean bards in years to come, is exactly what had happened. The enemy had heard a massive army approaching at speed. Chariots. Warriors. Voices of thousands – all descending on their small besieging camp. And so they had run for their lives, leaving everything they couldn’t carry.
When the people heard the report and that the camp truly was empty of soldiers but filled with riches and food, they rushed toward the enemy camp. In the people’s haste to leave the city, one soldier – the king’s leading officer – was knocked over and trampled to death beneath the feet of the hungry hordes.
The people of Samaria gathered the plunder in the Aramean camp. That afternoon, at the city gate, a shekel here and a shekel there bought food beyond belief.

The following morning, as the sunrise lit the wall of the city for which God struggled, four lepers sitting in a grove of trees, passed around a jug of wine and gnawed on salted strips of meat as they played checkers with coins of purest gold and finest silver.


The historical details behind this fictional retelling can be found in the Bible in the book of 2 Kings chapters 6 & 7.

Friday, February 14, 2014

28 Stories - Study 23: All Who Would Come

Fundamental: Unity and the Body of Christ

Bible Story  

The sun beat down on Gideon’s neck as he threw the final bushel of wheat into the winepress. Carefully he climbed down the dry walls of the old pit and began threshing the wheat.
Threshing wheat in a winepress, he mumbled to himself as he worked, what if the Midianites find me? I think the embarrassment of being caught hiding would be worse than any punishment they could give. But, we need this wheat.
The Midianites had been tormenting the Israelites for seven years—not letting them keep any of their harvest. Every cluster of grapes, every bushel of wheat, every olive picked from the trees was taken by raiding parties from Midian. You had to hide like a coward just to survive, or die of starvation.
Gideon paused from his work to study the sun. It was high in the sky, nearly time for lunch. He turned back to his work and picked up another armload of wheat. I’ll thresh this lot, and then I’ll go home and eat.
Moments later, focused on his task, a voice nearly gave Gideon a heart attack: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” Gideon didn’t look up. He knew a joke when he heard one. He was no warrior. He was a coward, if anything.
“Yeah?” Gideon shouted over his shoulder. “If God is with us, why am I in a winepress instead of on the threshing floor? If God is with us, why are we being decimated and humiliated by the Midianites? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, ‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’?”
The voice above him took a stern tone, “I am sending you, Gideon. I want you to rescue Israel from their oppressors.”
Gideon stopped what he was doing and looked up. The sun brilliantly backlit the head and shoulders of a man. Slowly, Gideon climbed out of the winepress. When he stood, facing the unknown visitor, he noticed the man was still glowing. It hadn’t been the sun. Realising he was in the presence of a spiritual being, Gideon began to shake and stammer.
“But Lord,” Gideon said. “How can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!”
“I will be with you,” the man said. “And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.”
Gideon replied, “If you are truly going to help me, show me a sign to prove that it is really the Lord speaking to me. Don’t go away until I come back and bring my offering to you.”
   The man answered, “I will stay here until you return.”
Gideon rushed home, cooked a goat, made some special bread and broth and brought it back to the winepress. The visitor stood next to a large rock. Seeing what Gideon had brought, he said, “Place the meat and the unleavened bread on this rock, and pour the broth over it.”
Gideon obeyed. Once the offering was on the rock, the visitor touched it with His staff and fire leapt from within the rock and devoured the offering. A thick cloud of smoke billowed from the rock and enveloped Gideon. Moments later, when the smoke had cleared, Gideon, realising he was alone, fell to his knees in fear at what he had just seen. He cried, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, I’m doomed! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”
“It is all right!” The voice of the Lord filled the air around him. “Do not be afraid. You will not die.”
Gideon built an altar to God on the spot where this amazing event had taken place. He understood this was a special moment in time and he had been chosen for a special work.
That night, God spoke to Gideon again. He was commanded to destroy the altars in his father’s front yard—the altars the entire town worshipped—an Asherah pole and an altar to Baal. In the cover of darkness, Gideon and a couple of servants did as God commanded.
In the morning the townspeople saw the destruction and were irate. It didn’t take long for them to discover Gideon was responsible. When they demanded that Gideon’s father turn his son over to be punished, Gideon’s father had an inspired comeback, “Does Baal need you to do his dirty work? If he is a God, he can punish Gideon himself!” The people were so impressed with this answer they gave Gideon a new name. They started calling him Jerub-baal, which means “Let Baal deal with him!”
The story of Gideon—the god destroyer—spread quickly and the enemies of Israel combined forces and prepared to attack. The very fact that Gideon was alive and well mocked their gods and angered their priests. Gideon must die.
The spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew a ram’s horn—calling the people of Israel to battle. From every corner of Israel an army emerged. Farmers and laborers of all kinds began training to become warriors in the Lord’s army. Plows, pitchforks and metal objects of all sorts were melted down to make swords and shields.
When all the Israelites willing to fight had gathered together and stood before Gideon, there were 32,000 men and boys prepared to fight for the Lord and for Gideon. They were tired of being beaten down, mocked and robbed. They had cried out to God in their time of need and God had answered by providing a hero from within their midst—God had called Gideon. And Gideon had called them.
The energy in the camp was a physical thing. Gideon could feel the swell of momentum building as men joined together from all over Israel. Things had dramatically changed compared to when he was hiding alone in the bottom of a winepress. God had showed up. Gideon’s father had stood beside him. And now, an army was amassing that would surely accomplish the will of the Lord. It was only a matter of time.
And from the signs all around them, time was very short.

My Reflection

Imagine you were Gideon at various stages in this story. How would you have felt when:

You were carrying wheat to the winepress to harvest in secret.

You heard someone mocking you, calling you a mighty warrior, while you worked in the bottom of a pit.

You realised God was speaking to you, calling you to lead a revival.

You father protected you after you knocked over his altars.

All of Israel turned out to fight in the army you were building for the Lord.

My Story

Have you ever felt completely alone and believed no one cared about you? Describe that feeling. What did it take to make you feel differently?

Have you ever been asked to be part of something big—a member of something new and exciting? What was it? How did you respond? What effect did it have on your life?

What would it be like if everyone who knew God worked together to accomplish the work Jesus left for us to do? What impact would that unity of purpose have on the world? What effect would it have on the church? On you?

My Assurance

Read Jesus’ prayer in John 17. When Jesus prayed, He asked God to help his people (that’s us!) to think and act as one. Instead, Christianity is the most fragmented religion in the world. How do these verses give us encouragement as we strive to embrace our fellow Christians in obedience to Christ’s prayer?

John 17:20-23 ~  “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one. . . . May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 ~ So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Matthew 28:20 ~ And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

My Commitment

Jesus commissioned His followers to be disciple makers — connecting people to God by building bridges between them and us. How do these verses challenge you in your actions toward the people in your world and beyond?

Matthew 28:19-20 ~ Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Ephesians 4:1-6 ~ Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

My Outlook

It is hard to move outside of our comfort zone, especially our religious comfort zone. How do these verses broaden your view of what a true follower of Jesus would look like to the people who do not know Him?

Romans 12:4-5 ~ Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Psalm 133:1 ~ How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!

Acts 17:27 ~ His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.

Ephesians 4:14-16 ~ Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

My Response

The following statement is the 14th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

Unity in the Body of Christ

The church is one body with many members, called from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. In Christ we are a new creation; distinctions of race, culture, learning, and nationality, and differences between high and low, rich and poor, male and female, must not be divisive among us. We are all equal in Christ, who by one Spirit has bonded us into one fellowship with Him and with one another; we are to serve and be served without partiality or reservation. Through the revelation of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures we share the same faith and hope, and reach out in one witness to all. This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as His children.

Bible Story

The Bible story of Gideon can be found in Judges 6-8.

Further Reading

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, Galatians 3:27-29, Colossians 3:10-15.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Lonely and Misunderstood

By Janet Edgren
a Restory Life post

Tim sits in his wheelchair watching his daughter dance at her wedding. Friends and relatives walk around him. They pass by as if he’s not there. The pain is clear in his soft blue eyes. He cannot talk. But his mind is clear. What is he thinking?

Tim drools, he appears to make others uncomfortable, they leave a distance around him.

The night continues late. Tim is worn out, slumps in his wheelchair. No one notices. They are all too busy dancing, enjoying the wedding, to think about him.

His wife does notice, wheels him to his daughter, who kisses him goodbye, tears in both their eyes. Because she cares. Thanks Dad. Tim softly cries as he is wheeled to the car, he should have been the one to dance with his daughter at her wedding.

 As his sister, I witnessed all this, not understanding his feelings.
Until the disease attacked me, a year later.

I watched Tim go from a handsome active thirty something – a painter, who had a large business – to a lonely, drooling, misunderstood man who is dying slowly.

The fear of it all hits me full force. Will my family and friends treat me this way?  Will I too be misunderstood?

Now I’m in the drooling stage. Will I loose my voice, too? Will I sit alone in my own wheelchair wishing for a hug, a smile, someone to speak to me, look in my eyes, to care?

 Am I going to be able to go to my grand kids’ weddings? Will I be the one in the wheelchair that no one notices? I wonder?

I have a wonderful husband who does care, as did Tim’s wife. But she got so worn out with his care, will my husband?

This is written for those in contact with Parkinson's. Friends, family, and sometimes strangers.

All people need a smile and a kind word, from time to time, especially the person who has a disease which changes them from what they once were.

Don’t just walk past them. Acknowledge them. Look them in the eyes. Show them you care about who they are.

None of us know what is around the corner. Live a compassionate life now. Don’t wait until you are sitting in a wheelchair.

I have Parkinson’s, and by the Grace of God, on the outside I look fairly normal. But my insides are changing. I am slowing down. I drool. I loose control of my bladder. I have a soft voice. I can’t sleep.

What is next? Who knows?

Fear sets in. What is life going to be for me?

A lonely wheelchair?

Please read this and know:
YOU can make a difference in my life or the life of someone else you come across.


I was born 1949 in Evanston Illinois. I was one of five children, the rest boys.
My Dad was a painter. He could not make up his mind about California or  Illinois, we moved a lot. 
I went to high school at NewBury Academy, in California, then to Loma Linda to become a licensed vocational nurse nurse. 
I got married, moved to Redding, California, and had two children. Then I went on to become a registered nurse and worked in the Operating Room for many years.
I remarried fourteen years ago.  
The last six years, I have had Parkinson's disease.
My brother Tim died two years ago.

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...