Monday, December 28, 2009

God is our Shield


"He (God) holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones." Proverbs 2:7-8

Proverbs chapter 2 has three parts to it: One, the writer, known as "the Sage," encourages young people to seek wisdom and a relationship with God. Two, he encourages the development of moral sensitivity, or a conscience. Three, he encourages wise choices in our selection of friends, with the promise that with wise choices we will avoid evil and will be rewarded by God.

The problem is, how many of us consistently do all of these good things? Attaining Wisdom is a life-long pursuit. It involves hard work and consistent effort. It means we have to think, ask hard questions, study and always be open to learning. Sometimes it is exhausting, and when we fail it can be so frustrating. And, along the way, we often stumble and fall. The truth is, we sometimes pick the wrong friends, make bad choices, and get ourselves into trouble.

If we are not careful we can despair of ever living the righteous life that God wants for us to lead. The righteous life doesn’t mean a perfect life, it means a life that is living in the direction God wants it to go, being molded and shaped by God’s spirit and truth. To be righteous means we try to live as God wants us to, being shaped by the Bible and making ethical choices. For example, if we have the opportunity to make a lot of money fast but illegally, we will choose not to. Making money illegally or immorally is against God, so the righteous person won’t do it.

A young man was arrested for dealing illegal drugs. At the time of his arrest he had several thousand dollars stashed away. After his release from custody, and a stint at rehabilitation, he was going to go back to his stash and get it for himself. But, while he was in custody he began to realize that the money he had hidden was illegal and immoral. He made that money selling drugs to other children. His conscience began to develop to the point that he didn’t feel it was the right thing, the Christian thing, to enjoy the money that he had obtained immorally. He decided to let the money go, along with the friends and lifestyle from his drug-using and drug-selling days. That was a righteous decision.

Making righteous decisions is not easy. But there is good news for those trying to live righteously: we are never fully alone. Even if we stand alone, even if we stand apart from friends or classmates because we have different interests than they do, we are never truly alone. God holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless. We have God as our shield to help and protect us when we are trying to live righteously.

In ancient times warriors would carry a shield into battle. Defensively a shield protected a soldier from arrows or swords. He could hide behind his shield and protect his body from being hit. Offensively a soldier could use it to push against an enemy line or even strike an enemy soldier. It was an indispensable part of a soldier’s equipment.

This piece of military equipment is used as a metaphor for the kind of protection God offers us. God will protect us against attacks from enemies and he will go ahead of us to strike at the temptation waiting to engulf us.

Interestingly, the word used for shield actually means, resource, defined as "an inner power that helps one escape a fix." (Fox, 1:114). God is our resource to protect us and guide us as we seek to live righteously. He guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.

How is God a shield or resource for us against evil companions or temptation to sin? One, remember God’s promise that he will never allow us to be tempted above what we can bear. (1 Cor.10:13). Secondly, the wise counsel of parents and spiritual friends is a valuable ally in finding the strength to do what is right. (Proverbs 27:9-20). Thirdly, having the Word of God in our hearts and trusting it above our own opinions is one of the greatest resources God gives us to shield us on the path of righteousness. (Proverbs 3:1,5).

Warren Baldwin

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Soul Glorifies the Lord


The angel said to Mary, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary may not have felt highly favored at that moment, for the Bible says she was "greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be." I think we can excuse Mary’s disturbed state. Anyone of us would be deeply moved if an angel suddenly appeared and engaged us in conversation!

The angel continued, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." Since Mary was a young girl, engaged but not yet united to her husband, bewilderment and astonishment overwhelmed her.

"How will this be," she asked, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."

May’s humble disposition can be seen in her response to the angelic announcement: "I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said."

Mary probably needed some assistance processing this unbelievable proclamation that she would be the mother of God’s son, so she rushed to her cousin Elizabeth with the story of the angel’s visit and announcement. The baby in Elizabeth leaped for joy; Elizabeth announced the exalted state of Mary: "Blessed are you among women," she exclaimed.

Having a little time to process all of this news Mary was moved to sing praises to God. She sang, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant." (Luke 1:28-48)

Mary’s emotions ranged from shock and fear to joyous exhilaration. She, a humble peasant girl, would be an instrument in God’s redemption of mankind. She would give life to the one who would ultimately give her life.

(Picture: An ancient manger, such as Jesus may have been placed in).

God often surprises us with his person and presence. At times in the Bible he made his presence known through personal appearances, as with Moses. At other times he mediated his presence through an angel or inspired prophet. At other times his presence was manifested in the preaching of the Gospel, which stirred the souls of people and moved them to obedience. God’s appearing often produced fear. But to the heart open and receptive to a visit from the Holy One, his appearing also produced life, love and joy, as with Mary.

God still appears to his people. He still makes bold announcements that "The Son of God is here!" He makes those announcements through us when we worship, share a meal, enjoy fellowship, help someone in need and proclaim the Gospel. God still inspires in his people the bold confession, "My soul glorifies the Lord!" I hope he inspires that in you, especially during this season. Merry Christmas.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lonely Shepherds and a Baby

Luke 2:8-14

I remember three announcements of births about to happen
- one at a friends house
- another when we woke up one morning
- another when I was painting an outside door jam.

Each episode is burned in my mind. Certainly everyone here has similar recall of the day the special babies came into your home.

This birth announcement in Luke 2 has some unusual features to it.
1) It is the announcement of a king’s baby. This was a special announcement in ancient times. Nearly everyone had children that they birthed or adopted, but only rarely was their a birth from a kingly family. That was news.

2) The announcement of the king’s baby was not delivered in the usual places. Normally the announcement of a king’s baby would be made in prominent places to prominent people. This announcement is made to shepherds living and working in obscurity.

3) The king had messengers to make his announcement, and they were always human. This messenger is an angel.

4) After the announcement of the king’s baby, there would be cheering and celebration. Think in our own lifetimes of the announcement of royal births in England. It was a cause for immense celebration for the people of that country. In the Luke 2 story there is celebration, also, but notice who does the celebrating: "A great company of the heavenly host" (v.13)

Here are four similarities with some differences between the birth announcement of this baby and the birth of any king’s baby. But there is something that stands out as unique in this story: the angel and the heavenly host praised the baby. They sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests." (V.14). This was truly unique.

And don’t forget the shepherds.

The shepherds were standing by watching all this. I can only imagine their reaction. They were normal guys watching sheep. Late into the night they probably muttered something about being hungry, wishing they could be at home, and even making a career change. Then, without warning, the glory of the Lord appears, an angel appears and makes his announcement about the King’s baby, a great company of heavenly host appears praising God, and then the angels left.

If you were a shepherd there, what would you think? What would you do?

When the shepherds heard about this special birth they did three things.
1) They went to investigate. V.15-16

2) They told others about baby Jesus. V.17

3) They worshiped God. V.20.

The shepherds learned something about this special child: he was the son of a king, but not any king. He was the son of the King of Heaven. This was God’s son. And that changed everything. It changed the shepherds. It can change us.

I worship a crucified and resurrected Jesus. Paul told the Corinthians, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3-4). This is the Jesus I worship.

But this isn’t the Jesus the shepherds saw that night, not yet. They saw a baby, and the baby led them to worship God. Matthew 2:11 says that when the Magi, or Wise Men, saw baby Jesus, they worshiped him, the baby.

We may feel uncomfortable today worshiping the baby since we have the crucified, resurrected and ascended Jesus.

But let’s not forget the miracle of the birth, and let’s not forget to marvel at what God has done.

When the angel and heavenly hosts praised God they said, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Peace. The very presence of Jesus, either as a baby or a crucified savior, is to bring peace.

In ancient times the announcement of a king’s baby would often mean a cessation of hostilities between warring parties. The announcement of Jesus’ birth came with the announcement of the ending of hostility. Peace.

It is the death, burial and resurrection that ushers in our salvation.

Of this Charles Hodge wrote: "Salvation is atonement not attainment! Man is spiritually bankrupt! He cannot even pay the interest let the alone the principal!"

We need the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus to save us. We have not a prayer with out it!!

But we also need this story of how Jesus came into our lives. As a baby. In a manager. To poor parents. Because this story brought such hope to lonely shepherds. And it can bring hope to lonely people today.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Warren Baldwin

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two Meals


Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment. Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed." Proverbs 9:1-5

Food serves our bodies and our relationships. The nutritional value of the food sustains our bodies and gives them strength. The relationship value of food sustains our bond with family and friends when we dine together. Mealtime provides opportunity for being vulnerable, sharing stories, enjoying fellowship, healing past wounds, and eagerly anticipating future banquets together.

So important is this latter function of sharing a meal together to build and sustain relationships that the Bible draws upon the experience to illustrate higher realities beyond the meal itself. Proverbs 9:1-6 is an example of that.

Two meals are served in Proverbs 9, the first by an industrious host commonly referred to as Woman Wisdom. This woman built a house requiring seven pillars, indicating it is wide and spacious, thus able to accommodate many guests. She set a luxurious table of meat and wine. Meat was a special treat for many ancient people, and the wine was mixed, meaning she probably added special spices to create a unique and satisfying flavor. After the meal was ready Woman Wisdom sent her servants out to the highest point of the city to cry out, "Let all who are simple come in here ... Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed." Those who attend this banquet will find nourishment for their bodies, but they will find even more. The fellowship value of this meal means that those who dine here will be able to "walk in the way of understanding."

Meanwhile, another woman in Proverbs 9 is inviting guests in to her meal as well. This hostess is known as Woman Folly. Unlike Woman Wisdom, this second lady in not industrious with her house or her meal. In fact, she is loud, undisciplined and foolish. Instead of working hard she sits in the doorway of her house and calls out to those passing by, "Let all who are simple come in here!" She invites the same people Woman Wisdom does! In fact, they both proffer their invitations at the highest point of the city, a place of great significance, and they invite the same people, those who are simple and gullible. But whereas the first lady served fine meat and wine, the second serves stolen water and food. "Stolen water is sweet," she says, "food eaten in secret is delicious." The enticing element of this second meal is not the nutritional value of the food, but the excitement of the erotic and forbidden nature of the meal. It is secretive, and those who dine here do not nourish their bodies, but revel in pleasures that are improper. In fact, any pleasures experienced by those who fill themselves on this meal will be short lived. "Little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave." (Prov. 9:13-18).
Obviously, something is taking place here that is larger than the meal itself. The Sage is using food and meal as a metaphor for paths of life. Woman Wisdom, the grand and industrious lady who serves a fine meal and whose diners become wise, is issuing her call from God. She is inviting the simple to come follow the ways of divine wisdom and godly ethic. She calls the gullible to leave the world and enter relationship with God.

Woman Folly, on the other hand, represents any competing thought, personality or system to the great God of heaven. Like Woman Wisdom, Woman Folly is positioned at the highest point of the city, the place where temples were built in ancient society. Whereas Woman Wisdom represents God, Woman Folly would represent the false idols and religions that plagued Israel. Today, she would represent anything that calls us away from godly living with its promise of sweet, forbidden drink and pleasure.

God has served a meal, rich, succulent, hearty and nutritious. It feeds more than our bodies; it feeds our lives, character and souls. In the immediate context, the meal is the wisdom of Proverbs. In the larger context, the meal is the whole Bible, from which we learn of the invitation to salvation in Jesus and a relationship with God.

The father calls us. "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have fixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding (Prov. 9:5-6). Dinner is served. Will you come?

Warren Baldwin

Note: Please read Laries review of Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs on her blog, My Heart Speaks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009



"Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." Proverbs 16:18

Bill and Karen were blind to their own weakness and hypocrisy. They felt very comfortable acting as the judge and jury of their congregation as they ruled on doctrinal soundness, member behavior and moral performance. Bill and Karen exuded confidence to the point of pride. It was inconceivable to them that they could be wrong in their judgments or in their own personal deportment.

One of Bill and Karen’s chief problems was a poor memory. When Jeremy, a young man in the congregation, was arrested for possession of an illegal substance at a party, Bill and Karen turned their full attention to his case. They followed his arrest and court proceedings. They wondered if Jeremy showed enough remorse when he came back to church. Even his parents seemed a bit too casual about the whole problem. Bill and Karen didn’t like what they saw and expressed their concern and dismay to a number of members, but managed to restrain their full displeasure. But when Jeremy was asked by someone to help pass the collection plate, Bill and Karen couldn’t contain any longer.

"What is this church coming to? Here is a young criminal coming back to church before his sentence is even announced, and we welcome him back as if nothing happened? Shouldn’t something be said at church? Shouldn’t he have to make a statement of apology to all of us? When Simon the Sorcerer sinned publicly, wasn’t he publicly condemned by the Apostle? Should we do any less? I mean, we still love the boy, that is why we are so concerned. If we treat his sin too lightly, other kids in the church might start taking drugs, too. We can’t believe the church is doing this. Somebody needs to do something!"

Much of what Bill and Karen say is true. God does want confession for sin (1 John 1:8). Peter did severely castigate Simon. A bad example can lead others into bad behavior. Can anyone argue with these biblical principles?

But here is where Bill and Karen have a problem that is even more severe than that of Jeremy and his parents: they can be right in their judgment but totally wrong in their attitude and disposition. Having played the role of judge and jury for so long has deceived them into thinking that they are fit for that role by some kind of moral superiority. They simply cannot conceive that their judgment would be wrong. They cannot conceive that they could be wrong.

And they can’t remember their own past.
Twenty years ago, in this same community, Bill and Karen’s son was arrested for possession of an illegal drug. Further, he was arrested for drug use, underage drinking, and dealing. He was even guilty of repeat offenses. Over a period of several years and a couple of treatment programs, their son gained his sobriety, paid his debt to society, and began living cleanly. Today he is in a healthy marriage and is involved in his church.

But Bill and Karen forget that. They also forget that the church, the same church they are attending now, forgave their son and encouraged him in his first steps of sobriety.

Members of the congregation are speechless that today Bill and Karen would be so harsh and judgmental toward another young man guilty of a lesser offense than was their own son. Can they not remember?

How can Bill and Karen be so judgmental? Can they not remember their own families struggle years ago? Of course they can, but they choose not to. To remember would require humility and admission of their own family’s failings. Bill and Karen do not have the internal strength or moral integrity to make such an admission. Pride is so much easier. And a natural function of pride (not self respect, but haughty arrogance) is that we sit in judgment of everyone around us. A haughty spirit makes us feel safe and secure. It insulates us from moral assessment by other people and steels us to our own moral ineptness and hypocrisy.

That is why pride eventually leads to a fall. Haughty pride that sets us above others to judge and evaluate them also puts us in competition with God. The proud and haughty person is in essence trying to unseat God and do his job for him.

Does all this mean that we can never judge the attitudes or behavior of others? Of course not! We must recognize sin and name it (Rom. 1:18-32). We must call people to repentance, confession, baptism, and faithful living. But, we must remember four things as we minister to those in sin.

One, the Bible calls us to put off ungodly dispositions and actions from our own lives (Col. 3:5-9). The person who condemns sin in another while ignoring it in himself is sinful and invites God’s judgment upon himself (Rom. 2:3). His haughty spirit will lead to a fall before the throne of God.

Two, judgment must be done with a view toward restoration, reconciliation and peace (James 5:19,20). Even if the proud man’s judgment against another sinner is true, his arrogant disposition ruins any opportunity for real healing and peace to follow. "Pride only breeds quarrels ..." (Prov. 13:10), not friendship.

Three, the Bible calls for us to exercise mercy. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matt. 7:1-2). How can Bill and Karen read these verses and not feel a twinge of guilt that the same mercy and kindness that was extended to their son they now deny to another’s son? Oh that they could hear these words from Jesus: "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?" (Matt. 18:33).

Finally, Proverbs is very clear about how God feels about pride: "The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished." (Prov. 16:5). How ironic that in condemning another with a haughty spirit (even if the judgment itself is correct), the proud person threatens his own spiritual security.

Bill and Karen have enough biblical foundation to what they are doing to convince them and many of their close friends that they are right, always and without fail. Yet they can only maintain that posture by exercising an excessive degree of pride to mask their sin and keep their critics at bay. Yet all they while they are inwardly hoping no one will have the temerity to ask, "Ah, what about your son? Remember twenty years ago? Can you not extend a little compassion to Jeremy and his family?" No, they can not extend compassion. That is one of the pitfalls of pride, and one of the reasons it sets us up for a horrible fall.

Warren Baldwin

Tuesday, November 3, 2009



A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself. Proverbs 11:17

As a kid, I remember strangers knocking on our door in the country. City folks, many of them. They were usually lost, out of gas, or broken down. Mom and Dad always helped them with a few gallons of fuel or some makeshift repair on their automobile. I even remember one couple breaking down and staying at our house all night. In all those years, I never remember my parents taking any of the money that was offered to them for the help, service, or gasoline they gave. Never.

"Here, take a few bucks for the gas," someone would offer.

"No," Dad would say. "I’m just glad you appreciate it. But if you want to pay me back, next time you see someone broken down or in need of assistance, help them. That is how you can pay me back."

"A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself."

A kind man benefits himself . . . maybe a man like Abraham? Abraham had his character flaws, but he also had his character strengths. Remember when his nephew Lot was captured in battle? Forsaking his own safety, Abraham raised a band of men and went after Lot and rescued him. Even earlier, when Lot’s herds and Abraham’s herds grew too large for the land to support them, Abraham in his kindness allowed Lot to select the land he would like to move into. That was kindness.

That kindness paid off for Abraham. He was richly blessed by God. That’s not to say, of course, that every time we do something nice for someone we can expect a flood of blessings from heaven in reciprocation. As Christians, we have already received an abundance of blessings from heaven, including our redemption. But in a general way, acts of kindness tend to generate other acts of kindness, and at least sometimes, they come back to us. A kind man benefits himself.

A cruel man brings trouble on himself . . . maybe a man like Ahab? Ahab was the king who wanted the vineyard of Naboth. Naboth was living on land he inherited from his ancestors though, and he wasn’t willing to sell it to the king. Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, wasn’t one to let a simple citizen disappoint the aspirations of a king! She conspired with some lowlives to frame Naboth on trumped-up charges and had him executed. Ahab was a cruel man who was later killed in battle. Jezebel was a cruel woman who was later thrown to her death from an upper-story window. A cruel man brings trouble on himself.

A proverb is a truism or principle. A proverb should not be thought of as a rule that always works itself out in the same way in every circumstance. It is a principle that says, "In general, this is a statement that reflects my experience in life."

Somewhere in Solomon’s life, he experienced this truism: "A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself." Perhaps it was a kindness passed on to him he consciously passed on to another who passed it on to another who . . . well, you get the point. Whether it is sharing gasoline with a stranger knocking at your door or sharing food with a hungry child across the street, acts of kindness have a life to them that keep on living and enriching the lives of others.

In my many travels, especially as a college student driving old cars, I have been the recipient of a kind gentleman stopping to offer a hand to a kid who looked like he was in trouble. At times, I’ve offered a few bucks as a thank you. I’ve heard these words echoed from my childhood: "If you want to pay me back, next time you see someone broken down or in need of assistance, help them. That is how you can pay me back."

Warren Baldwin

This article is from my new book, Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fitting Speech


"The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse." Proverbs 10:32.

Children can sense when decency has been violated. I was driving Wes and Jenny home from school when Wes asked me what a certain phrase meant. He was eight years old and had never heard that term before at home. I asked, "Where did you hear that?" "On the playground," he answered. "I’m glad you asked me what the phrase meant before you started using it. It’s not very nice, and I’ll have to explain it to you later when your five-year old sister isn’t around. She doesn’t need to hear about that yet."

Jenny had been sitting in the middle of the pickup seat during this conversation. Her eyes were big with curiosity and her head swivelled back and forth between Wes and me as we talked. When she heard that she would be denied the explanation until she was a bit older, she covered her ears with her hands and said, "Go ahead and tell him Dad, I can’t hear anything." "You can’t?" I asked her. "No, I can’t," she replied. I waited until later.

Children may not know what a vulgar term means, but they can sense if it has the ring of impropriety about it if they have never heard it spoken before in the home, church or other social gatherings of family and friends. They sense that an order has been violated and they are curious, even uncomfortable, about what it might mean.

This order or appropriateness is what Proverbs 10:32 is about. People who are righteous or wise in matters of godliness and propriety speak words that are fitting and pleasant; people who are not wise or righteous speak words that violate sensibilities and offend. The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse

It seems strange to speak of lips as having knowledge, doesn’t it? "The lips of the righteous know what is fitting." Can lips know anything? This is an example of a common figure of speech in Proverbs known as metonymy, where one object is used in place of another object it is related to. Here, lips are used in the place of a heart that is attuned to God and his will. Such a heart is filled with a sense of God, his moral teaching, and his high regard for other people. The lips of this person express the substance of a heart filled with godly wisdom and righteousness, uttering words that are fitting and pleasant.

The lips or mouth of the wicked, however, speak what is perverse. Perverse means to "turn upside down" (Roland E. Murphy, Proverbs, p.76). It implies that proper order has been completely disrupted and upended. Instead of an atmosphere of appropriate speech characterized by intelligent discussion, respectful tones and encouragement for one another, perverse conversation is distasteful, even ungodly. The effect of such speech is to "confound the moral judgment of others, and to overthrow God’s rule" (Waltke, Proverbs. 1:480).

Do Christians take the subject of appropriate speech seriously enough? Are we occasionally lured into conversation or humor muddied by base innuendo or course language? Do we engage in negative, slanderous putdowns of other people? We may regard such offenses as inconsequential, but Proverbs 10:32 challenges our casual disdain. The mouth of the wicked (speak) only what is perverse. Another proverb threatens that such a tongue shall be "cut out" (Prov. 10:31) by God himself. Such a warning constrains us to examine our hearts and temper our tongues.

To be perverse means to turn God’s order upside down. It means to reverse the intention God had for the heart, purity and innocence, and fill it with filth and degradation. It means that when a heart that is impure speaks, wickedness flows forth. That wickedness may be gossip, slander, lies, course jokes, crude expressions or threats of violence. All of these manifestations of perverseness give evidence of a heart in need of cleansing. Even small children with tender hearts sense this. If only Christian adults had such spiritual orientation!

Our words reveal the substance of our heart. The lips of the righteous know what is fitting because they speak from a heart influenced and shaped by the Creator.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, October 2, 2009



Story of guy who has hard luck (in file). Can you blame this guy for being "down in the dumps?"

Feeling down in the dumps generally means we
1) Have had a bad turn of events. Even a string of them.
2) We have internalized those bad events and we feel bad inside.
3) We make ourselves the center of everything. Focus on ‘self.’
4) We engage in self-pity. This can lead to feeling mildly depressed if it lingers.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?

These same feelings can happen if we feel "up in the dumps." Ok, I coined that term. I am referring to when things go tremendously well for us. Ironically people can have the same negative emotions as when everything goes bad! Maybe they fear the good things will end and worry about something bad happening. If they have a negative disposition they can’t feel good even when things are fine!

Elijah might relate to this. This great prophet faced 450 prophets of Baal and beat them. He purged Israel of the leadership of an immoral cult. Any preacher would have been pleased! But with success, even good and spiritual success, comes attacks. Elijah’s attack came from the queen who threatened to kill him.

Elijah was afraid of Jezebel’s revenge and he fled. 1 Kings 19:3. Eventually, Elijah found his way to a cave and tried to hide. 1 Kings 19 gives some insight into Elijah’s emotions.

Woe is Me

1) Elijah cried out, "I have had enough." 1 Kings 19:4
Enough of what? Perhaps having to deal with a wicked king and his wife. Maybe having to deal with the false teachers and false religion of Baal. He may have been tired of dealing with his own countrymen for turning from God to paganism. I think he was just tired of ministry.

"I can’t take anymore!" We all have a threshold of pain that we can tolerate. We can only take so much criticism, annoyance and disappointment. Eventually we will burst. Elijah was at that point.

If you are ready to cry out, "I can’t take anymore!" remember two things. 1) Yes you can. Most of us can take at least a little more. If nothing else, we can often decide to calm down and get away for a bit. That’s actually the second point. 2) Take a break. Step back. Rest. Most of us quit to soon: our marriages, our friendships, our jobs. Take a break, yes, but hold on and hang in there! Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t cry out, "I’ve had enough!" Someone else may be hanging on our faithfulness.

2) Next Elijah cried, "Take my life!" (19:4)
Does he really believe his life is not worth living? He has just experienced a great spiritual victory, and now he is giving up?

Several things may be coming to bear on Elijah. He has been under a lot of stress. His spiritual reserves have been tested to the threshold. Just think about it! How many of us like having one person oppose us? Elijah has had the king, the king’s wife, and 850 false prophets opposing him. 450 of those prophets he faced in one encounter. He challenged them to a test and Elijah won, because God was with him. Then the queen threatened his death. He fled into the desert. He was tired, hungry and thirsty. In this weary, defeated stated, he fell asleep.

Have you ever been so stressed you despaired of life? So tired you didn’t want to go on? So scared you were afraid of what another day would bring? Then you know Elijah felt. "Take my life!"

Elijah’s spirit at this point was "Woe is me." But that revealed something in Elijah that we all have: a flaw. Elijah’s flaw was "Look at me."

Look at Me

God didn’t leave Elijah alone. He sent an angel to minister to him. The angel didn’t challenge Elijah or reprimand him in any way. The angel came to minister to him, even offering him food and water. Then God came to Elijah and simply asked, "What are you doing here?" (V.9). There was no challenge or reprimand. But Elijah felt compelled to offer a defense of his actions. He was saying, "Look at me! Look at all I have done!"

1) Elijah said "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty." (19:10)
The truth is, he had been very zealous. He was preaching, confronting the king, taking on 450 false prophets. Elijah was very busy! And he felt very alone.

2) Next Elijah complained, "I am the only one left." (19:10)
When we are down in life, all we can see is our work, our good intentions, our contributions, our sacrifices. We don’t see what other people are doing and appreciate their good work. Everything is about us.

Elijah just knew he was the only faithful one left. I’m not sure if he meant he was the only faithful prophet, or the only faithful Israelite, but he was certain he stood all alone. But he was wrong. In chapter 18 of 1 Kings Elijah talked with Obadiah, another faithful prophet, who was hiding 100 faithful prophets in caves. Now, in his fear, exhaustion and self-obsession, Elijah has forgotten Obadiah and the 100.

Woe is me and Look at me. Two attitudes that are self-defeating. They do not promote faithfulness or healthy community. They are attitudes of self-pity and self-concern. And they derail us.

But God wouldn’t let Elijah remain in this state. One thing I love about this story is that God uses a flawed man to do his work. I like this story because it shows that God can use even me. God can use all of us! Are we imperfect? Flawed? Do we sometimes feel sorry for ourselves? Feel like we are alone? Feel like no one cares? Wonder how long we can go on?

Good news! That’s ok! That doesn’t mean God has given up on you. There can still be a lot of wear on your tires and steam in your engine. You just need to reconnect to God and your brothers and sisters. You need to get back into the thick of things. Get involved. That is what God did with Elijah. He said, "Hold on, Buddy," and sent him back into battle.

Hold on, Buddy

God did several things to revitalize Elijah.

1) He made him take care of himself. He fed him and let him sleep.

2) God talked with him. "What are you doing here?" (19:9) God asked. It was a question. God didn’t start out pushing Elijah. He conversed with him.

Elijah then went into his "Woe is me" mode again. "O Lord, it’s hard down here! I’ve done what’s right. I’ve been zealous for you. Plus, I’m the only faithful one you’ve got! But I’m tired!" Part of what he said was right; part was wrong. But God let him talk.

When you are down, down, down, are you tempted to withdraw from God and people? God calls us out of ourselves and says, "Talk to me. Pray."

3) God made his presence known. In this story, he made himself known in a whisper (19:12,13).
In our lives, he may makes himself known through assurance in prayer, through the counsel of a friend, through a scripture.

4 God gave Elijah an assignment. He put him to work. Elijah was to go anoint a couple of future kings (19:15-16).
When you are down, do something!

5) Finally, God said, "Remember, you are not alone. I have seven thousand in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal." (19:18).

What has this got to do with us?

Elijah placed himself at the center of the universe and at the center of God’s work. His attitude was "I am." Sorry, but "I am" is God’s role. God is always at the center.

Because of his self-absorbed attitude Elijah was unable to process disappointment and fear. He viewed everything from his perspective and not God’s. His question was not, "Is God doing good work here," but "Am I doing good work here?"

Elijah’s negative spirit, his depression, grew out of his self-centeredness. And here is the good news - God still worked with Elijah.

Listen, if God waited for perfect people to do his work, nothing would get done! God works with the down and out!
- with a self-absorbed and depressed prophet in 1 Kings
- with a five-time divorcee in John 4
- with a persecutor of the church in Acts
- with immature and unspiritual apostles in the gospels.
God puts his treasure in clay jars, easily broken pots. And we are those pots.

I’m thankful that ministry is for failures. Ministry is for people who look in the mirror and say, "I don’t have much to offer. Thank goodness God can use me as I am."

Today God asks us the question he asked of Elijah, "What are you doing here?"

What are we going to say?

Warren Baldwin Oct. 4, 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Respecting Parents


"Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old" Proverbs 23:22

It disturbs me to hear a child yell at his parents, call them names, tell them to "shut up," and even slap them. But I do see and hear these things on occasion.

Parents who tolerate this kind of disrespectful behavior from their children are not only hurting the children, they are unraveling the fabric of their family and all of society. Churches, schools, the work place and even society at large must practice respect for one another and for the leaders within these communities if they are going to function in a way that is healthy and beneficial for the members. Training for that kind of respect begins at home, and where it is taught by the parents and appropriated by the children. Children must be taught to honor mom and dad.

Why should children be respectful toward their parents? I can think of at least three reasons. One, the parents have earned it. The Sage says, "Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old" (Proverbs 23:22). This verse has a parallel structure where the second part builds on the first. Part one emphasizes listening to your father who gave you life, and part two emphasizes loving your mother when she is old. The second part builds upon the first, meaning that mom deserves respect because she, too, gave you life. You wouldn’t have a life if it wasn’t for the love of your mother and father who birthed you.

The phrase "do not despise your mother" has an interesting parallel to Genesis 25:34 where it says that "Esau despised his birthright." That doesn’t necessarily man that he hated it, but that he didn’t regard it with proper honor. Because he didn’t honor his birthright he traded it for a measly bowl of beans. What a tragic loss. The injunction to not despise our mother doesn’t mean we are showing her proper honor if we don’t hate her; it means we should not ignore her needs or treat lightly her position as the exalted matriarch of the family.

Mothers and fathers spend years investing their time, energy and love into the lives of their children. The Bible honors that great work and says the children should as well. The command to respect parents is one of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:12; Lev. 19:3).

Secondly, children need to honor their parents because it is right. Respect is like the concrete in a wall. Concrete is hard and firm so it can uphold the building. Remove the firmness from the concrete and the walls will collapse, crushing everyone inside the structure.
In the same way, remove respect from a child’s relationship with his parents and the walls of the family will collapse. Children will not listen to and obey their parents if they don’t respect them. If they don’t listen to their parents then their leading counsel becomes the immature reasoning of their own minds or that of their friends. It is only through giving their ears and hearts to their parents that children learn wisdom and proper behavior and can hope for a meaningful and prosperous life (Prov. 3:1-2).

Finally, children need to honor their parents because it is biblical. "Honor your father and your mother" (Ex. 20:12). God emphasizes the importance of respecting parents when he ties it to his own personality. After saying in Lev. 19:3 that "Each of you must respect his mother and father" he adds "I am the Lord your God." There shouldn’t be any doubt about how seriously God regards this command! In fact, in ancient Israel a son who showed flagrant disrespect for his parents could be stoned.

Parents, our children will not naturally or automatically show us respect. They will not show politeness in speech nor decorum in behavior unless we teach them to. Their natural inclination will be to do their own thing, disobey us, talk back, yell and scream, throw a temper tantrum, even slap us. Many parents laugh when their children do these things. Perhaps they are embarrassed when it is done in front of others. Or, the parents may even think it is cute when coming from a tiny child. "Do you see how mad he is?" and then they laugh. But I tell you, if we tolerate that behavior, we are teaching our own little kids that they do not need to respect us. We are teaching them that our ideas, our values and our rules as the parents do not matter, and they can do whatever they want to. That might mean jumping on the sofa and making a face at mom at age 4; and it might mean shoplifting, drinking, and robbing from the neighbors when they are 14. Remember the stern warning from Proverbs that "a child left to himself (that is, untrained and undisciplined) disgraces his mother" (Prov. 29:15).

Do your children an immense favor! Teach them to respect you. Respecting you means they listen to and obey you in everything. It also means they don’t talk back to you or speak in fresh tones. Further, practice corrective discipline when they disobey, even when they are very young. If they are old enough to break the rules, they are old enough to have obedience enforced.

Respect will continue to be an issue in families even as children grow up and leave home. But if we can at least build a healthy base when they are 18 months to 3 years old, it makes the teenage years a whole lot more enjoyable!

Warren Baldwin

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Foreword to Roaring Lions

Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs

Proverbs are short, pithy sayings that arrest our interest and demand our attention. They are catchy and memorable, making them easy to transport to new situations. Proverbs can spark lively conversation or intense debate.

Proverbs are all around us, even in the secular world. "If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again." "A dollar saved is a dollar earned." "The early bird gets the worm." Such witticisms take years of accumulated wisdom and experience and condense them into short, catchy sayings. These sayings can be memorized and applied to future settings that reflect similar elements. Such truisms become the truth and guiding lights of our lives. Thomas Long, author of Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible writes, "The question is not, will people live by proverbs, but what kind of proverbs will they cherish?" (p.55)

Like the secular sayings, the biblical proverbs reflect wisdom and experience, but they offer the added ingredient of divine influence and personality. One purpose of Proverbs is to promote a relationship with God. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." (3:5) The real aim of Proverbs is not to equip us with witty sayings to help us function more professionally in the world; it is to promote godly character so that we can enjoy virtuous relationships with God and people.

Proverbs function by stirring our imagination. "Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." (27:6) Is this saying true? Our minds rush to situations in life where a friend hurt our feelings by telling us an uncomfortable truth about ourselves. After the pain of the unwelcome comments faded, we were able to assess their truthfulness and possibly conclude, "My friend was right. I was out of line. I need to conduct myself with more discipline and dignity in the future." Then, our minds may rush to compliments and flattery an "enemy" showered upon us, only to realize later their emptiness. They were not intended to encourage us but to secure some selfish aim for the one offering the praise.

A proverb stirs our imagination by drawing our minds backwards to situations that reflect the meaning of the saying. Our own experience in life confirms its truthfulness. Secondly, a proverb pushes our thinking forward to future situations, arming us with insight into appropriate thinking and behavior. (Long, 57)

Here is an example of what I mean. Proverbs 15:17 says, "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred." This proverb pushes my mind back to the Vermont farmhouse where I grew up. Our kitchen was small and square shaped and wouldn’t accommodate a typical dining room table. So, we used a square-shaped picnic table complete with wooden benches and the occasional splinter. No one minded, not even company. Our home was the gathering spot for family activities and dinner here was the central event of the day. Around the family picnic table my siblings and I learned about history, our family roots, sex and marriage, philosophy of life, and even how to treat a little sister. "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love ..."

This proverb also pushes my mind back to my college days. At a Friday night devotional I saw a young lady I had known casually for several years. I asked her if she’d like to grab something to eat. In Henderson, TN, there wasn’t much available at 10:30 p.m. except a truck stop. Not only were the dining options limited, but my money was as well. We shared an order of Ore Ida Tater Tots and soft drinks. It was simple, relaxing and fun. The young lady seemed happy and accepted what little I was able to provide. I thought, "She is a gem." We have been eating meals together for twenty-seven years now. "Better a meal of Ore Ida Tator Tots where there is love..."

When my family traveled to Cody, WY, to interview with a church, I wanted to eat elk meat. A gentleman and his wife prepared a wonderful meal for us, featuring Wyoming elk. We loved not only the delicious food but also the friendly reception we received and the warm conversation around the table. We moved to Cody and this kind couple prepared many more meals for us. "Better a meal of elk with Marion and Violet where love is ...."

Many more special meals from the past flood my mind. Bill and Shirley shared their table with me when I was interviewing in Ulysses, KS. A river bank was transformed into a kitchen when George, Ruby and their clan invited my family to frequent fish fries in Florida. My future in-laws, Jim and Thelma, treated me as an honored guest at their table when I called on their daughter and loaded me up with leftovers for my return to graduate school. My fellow members at the church in Ulysses make our Wednesday meals of pancakes and sausages or ham and beans a feast of friendship and fellowship. "Better a meal of hot dogs where there is love ..."

Sometimes these meals of the past were sumptuous feasts of fine food. Sometimes they were a simple array of common fare. But always they were celebrations of friendship with conversation that bound our hearts together in love. These meals of the past prepare me for future experiences of sharing the table with treasured family and friends. Proverbs 15:17 is right.

The proverbs stir our imagination. In the following pages I share with you how individual proverbs stirred my thinking, and I hope they do the same for you.

Warren Baldwin

Note: You can read information about ordering Roaring Lions here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009



He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.
—Proverbs 19:17

I had to read this verse a couple of times to catch it. God says, "If you are kind to the poor, I regard that as kindness to me. And I will reward you for the kindness you have shown."

Jesus said the poor are always with us. There will always be someone who needs help, someone who lost a job because of downsizing, outsourcing, a sagging economy, or illness. People in these circumstances need help. They especially need help around holiday time. Some stores put up a Christmas tree with the names and wish lists of local people who need gifts for their children. Prison ministries provide names to local churches to help supply Christmas for the children of inmates. Community food banks raise and distribute food for those who are financially stressed.

Proverbs says, "God regards any help you give these people as help you have given him." That should encourage a kind and generous heart!

But what about people who are poor because they choose to be? It is not because of downsizing, outsourcing, a sagging economy, corporate misdeeds, or illness that has them out of work. They just don’t want to work. They may have discovered that social agencies and local churches are a great source of blessing even for those who don’t want to work! What do we do with them?

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul said, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). Sounds harsh, but Paul has a purpose in offering this charge. He is concerned that men are idle. Because they had too much time on their hands, they became busybodies and caused trouble. One of the remedies is for them to "settle down and earn the bread they eat" (2 Thess. 3:12). That is, they should work.

I agree with that. But what about the children? What about the children of those who refuse to work? They can’t help it that mom or dad is an idler, a busybody or a lazy person. Should they go without food too?

Verses like Proverbs 19:17 help me process this problem. "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord." I can’t ever know all the circumstances behind a person’s poverty, whether it is circumstances beyond their control or laziness. This much I can know: God sees and rewards the efforts of those who are kind to the poor.

This message is not limited to Proverbs alone. The prophets especially renounce those who neglect or abuse the poor. The Law and the Psalms extol the generous heart that shares with the poor. "Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy" (Ps. 82:3–4).

Even though I may not ever know the circumstances that create poverty for a family’s life, whether it is beyond their control or is the direct result of their own choices, I can know this: God is pleased with the person who is moved with compassion for the needy and steps in to help. "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done."

If you happen upon someone today who needs help, let your actions be shaped by the one who is concerned with the needy and is waiting to bless you for the good you will do.

Warren Baldwin

From Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems From Proverbs. I will have a drawing for several copies of this on Family Fountain in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Does Jesus Care?

Luke 4:38-44

We sing a song at church entitled, "Does Jesus Care." A couple of stanzas are:

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained, Too deeply for mirth and song; as the burdens press, and the cares distress, And the way grows weary and long?

Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed, To resist some temptation strong? When for my deep grief I find no relief, Tho my tears flow all the night long?

Chorus: Oh yes he cares; I know he cares, His heart is touched with my grief; When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares.

That song was written in 1901 and it is a classic.

How do we Know if Someone Cares?

We still ask today, "Does Jesus care? Does he know my pain and suffering? Does it matter to him? And how do we know if Jesus cares?

There are 4 ways I know someone cares for me.

One, when they are friendly to me. It can be a simple greeting or handshake, perhaps asking, "how are you today," that demonstrates friendship and care.

Two, when they are not condescending. Have you noticed how some people have a knack for communicating, "You’re dumb" or "You’re not worth my effort"? It may be how they don’t look at you when shaking your hand, or how they ignore your greeting, or scoff at an idea. Even if that person is shaking my hand or saying "Hello," it is hard be believe they care.

Three, when they respect me. That means they honor my needs, desires, or opinions. They might not agree with them, but they don’t ridicule me because of them, either. Or, they don’t try to sell me on their idea without first giving due recognition to what I think. Respect communicates care.

Four, when they are willing to help. When someone helps, especially with a joyous spirit or disposition, it communicates so clearly that they care.

These attitudes and behaviors communicate care. If someone does them for me I know they care, and if I do them for someone else they can know that I care. Simple acts that communicate clearly, "You matter to me."

Does Jesus Care?

I think we can know that Jesus cares by the same methods we judge each other by. Look at the story of Jesus in Luke 4:38-44 and notice how he treats people he meets.

One, he is friendly and not condescending. Jesus was in the home of Peter’s mother-in-law visiting. The Son of God could have chosen to dine and visit wherever he wanted! He chose common people to fellowship with.

Two, he listened when they explained to him that Peter’s mother-in-law was sick. Even with all of his ministry work Jesus wasn’t too busy to hear of another need.

Three, he respected the needs of others. The mother-in-law, but even more. Once the word got out where Jesus was the house he was staying in was deluged with more needy people (vs.40-41). The sick and demon possessed came for help, and Jesus respected their needs.

Four, he helped. He was able to help by providing healing. He even rebuked the evil spirits. (v.41)

One reason people followed Jesus is that he was able to do great things. But another reason is that he was simply a caring person. People are attracted to those who care. And I hope that knowing Jesus cares will attract you to him.

I have a number of friends right now who are suffering. Some have lost a grandparent. Some have lost a parent. Some have children who are ill. Some are out of jobs. All are hurting. One thing I hope they all understand: Jesus cares.

What does knowing Jesus cares mean for your life?

Warren Baldwin
Aug 23, 2009

Tuesday, August 4, 2009



Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Proverbs 27:5

Receiving rebuke makes me feel devalued. Giving rebuke fills me with fear and trepidation. Misunderstandings about rebuke generate negative thoughts about it. Rebuke is often thought of as criticizing someone, pointing out faults, and positioning them in to a corner. I’ve been on the receiving end of such an approach. That understanding of rebuke is false.

True rebuke is better than "hidden love." Hidden love is overlooking faults, destructive behavior, and spiritual danger someone might be in. Hidden love is fear. Hidden love is turning a blind eye to bad behavior and offensive speech. Hidden love is not love. It is fear and cowardice.

Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III say, "Rebuke is bringing truth to bear in a person’s life in the hope he will repent so the relationship can be restored" (Bold Love [Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1992], p. 181). Genuine rebuke is not cold criticism, faultfinding, or positioning someone in a corner. That perception of rebuke actually works against what true rebuke is supposed to accomplish.

If true rebuke is better than "hidden love," then rebuke is "open and honest" love. True rebuke is loving a person enough that you will confront them with danger and unchristian behavior in their lives. If you enter into someone’s life to rebuke them, it means you care enough about them to risk losing them. Even if you rebuke someone in kindness, love, patience, and gentleness, you risk being rejected and hurt by them.

Rebuke is bringing truth to bear in a person’s life because things in their life are not right. They need to repent. They need restoration with themselves, with others, and with God. Rebuke intends to save a person’s life and soul.

Rebuke can be very direct and forceful as when Peter told Simon to, "Repent of [your] wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I can see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin" (Acts 8:22–23). Peter’s approach is certainly open and honest! Simon was in great danger! He tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit with money. Peter knew that degrading any part of the Godhead by reducing him to a material value was blasphemous and dangerous to one’s soul. Hidden love would have kept quiet and allowed Simon to go on thinking he was fine, even when his soul was destined for death. Open and honest love demanded Peter to speak the truth for Simon’s own good.

Rebuke can be indirect and subtle. A king took another man’s wife and had her husband killed. The preacher wanted to rebuke the king but had to be careful for his own life! So he told the story of a rich man who stole a poor man’s lamb and served it up as dinner. The king was furious and said the rich man ought to be killed! The preacher said, "Thou art the man." Nathan, the preacher, brought truth to bear to the king, David. Though indirect and subtle, this approach enabled the king to see his misdeeds.

In both stories, the men rebuked saw their error and the tragic state of their hearts and repented. Both men were restored to God and experienced restoration in other relationships. Is there someone in your life you see involved in destructive behavior: drinking too much, stifling the joy of others with a critical spirit, lying, and ignoring their own bad behavior? You are hurt by them. You are concerned for their soul. For too long you have kept silent. You have practiced "hidden love." But hidden love really isn’t love; it is fear. Better is open rebuke that is practiced with love and kindness. Real love risks the loss of another to bring truth to bear in their lives but carries with it the hope of repentance and restoration. True rebuke is possible because we trust in God’s grace to grant forgiveness and restore relationships.

Warren Baldwin

(From Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems From Proverbs, hopefully to be released later this month!)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Acting Out


Cheryl and I were driving some teenagers to an exciting youth rally. One of the girls had become like a member of our family ever since she moved to our congregation three years before at age twelve. We visited with her parents and grandparents and she was a frequent fixture in our home.

But something was different on this day as we drove to the yearly youth event. Instead of the usual laughter and pleasant talk, our friend was rude. If I asked her a question she was sarcastic and sharp with her reply.

At the motel my wife said to me, "She is being so rude I’d like to just turn around and take her home. She had no right talking to you that way."

I had to agree. Even though my feelings were a bit stung, though, I knew there was something operating beneath the surface level. This behavior and speech was so out-of-character for this girl, I knew something had to be eating at her heart and soul.

Through years of working with youth and three kids of my own, Cheryl and I have learned that children act out for several reasons. One is that acting out is fun. There is a certain thrill that comes with crossing forbidden lines.

A second reason is that young people are sinners. Why do any of us sin? Before we give ourselves to Christ we have an unregenerate nature that exerts its will and pushes us into rebellious behavior.

Thirdly, kids act out because they want attention. It is horribly chilling to feel we are all alone. Kids see others in what appear to be genuine relationships and they die to be in one themselves. If you add to this desire any estrangement with their family at home, they are doubly lonely. So, they may act out just to get recognized. In Blind Spots author Bill McCartney notes this tendency in kids who act out, and says that they "are often comforted just from the fact that their parents care enough to get angry and come back at them" (p.74). Taking the time to engage with your kid through sports, music or whatever interests them can prevent much heartache later on.

Finally, kids can act out because they are carrying a terribly heavy burden. In the case of our young friend, we learned shortly afterwards that she had an abortion just before the youth trip. The baby’s father, a church leader’s son, had gotten the girl drunk and then used her. When he found out she was pregnant he yelled at her and said, "Get rid of it! Get rid of it!" Her parents thought she was too young to have a baby, so they supported the abortion as well. Everyone seemed to want it except this sweet girl. Now, weeks after the abortion, her heart was bursting with sadness, shame and guilt. That is why she was so verbally offensive in the vehicle. She was crying out to Cheryl and me, "There is something horrible in my life that I need help with, but I can’t tell you! I’m too ashamed! Instead, I’ll act like the terrible person I feel right now, and I hope you can pick up on it. Please don’t be put off by my mean speech. Read beneath the lines and help me, please!"

It is hard for a teenager that is lonely or carrying a secret sin to make themselves vulnerable to anyone. Being vulnerable may be why they are hurting now, so why risk any further ridicule or rejection from an adult? Acting out with offensive behavior or speech seems a better option for them, since it now places the burden to act on the adult.

The Bible warns that our speech should be wholesome and our behavior thoughtful of others (Eph. 4:29-32). Improper talk and behavior must be addressed. But, remember that lurking underneath the offending words and actions may be something more than a mischievous or sinful heart. There may also be a heart that is lonely and broken, one crying out for healthy attention from a concerned adult.

If a teen has singled you out for some uncharacteristically sharp words, resist responding too quickly. Pause and look beneath the surface. There may be a heart crying out to you for help.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, July 10, 2009


I will not be posting anything here for at least 2 more weeks. Thanks to all of you who stop by this site! Any posts I make for a while will be on Family Fountain. Warren

Wednesday, July 8, 2009



As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man. —Proverbs 27:19

Samaria was off-limits to self-respecting Jews. The Jewish population there mixed its blood with Gentiles, rendering it unfit for the covenant people to spend time there. Most Jews traveling from Judea in the south of Israel to Galilee in the north took a lengthy detour around Samaria rather than soiling their feet in the dust of Samaria. But Jesus was different. He traveled into the heart of the country.

Jesus met a woman there steeped in her Samaritan heritage. She told Jesus, "You Jews say we should worship in Jerusalem, but our people worship on this mountain." She stood up to Jesus. She knew the Jewish disdain for the Samaritans, and she was willing to share some of her own with Jesus.

You can get angry reading this story in John 4. There may have been people with credentials to stand up to Jesus, but this woman didn’t have them. First, her moral life was a shambles. Jesus pointed out to her that she had five husbands, and the man she was living with now wouldn’t even share his name with her. Secondly, her spiritual life was barren. She brazenly admitted that her worship was as adulterous as her personal relationships: "Our people worship on this mountain," she said.

I read ignorance and brashness in the Samaritan woman’s demeanor and speech. I don’t know if I would have continued the conversation with her. But Jesus is on a spiritual mission. What kind of candidate is this woman for becoming a disciple?

Jesus read something different in her brashness. He read honesty. Underneath the repeated rejection by men, the shallow spirituality, and the vanity of her nationalistic pride was a purity of spirit that even many of the religious leaders lacked. Preachers were often rebuffed by Jesus, challenged, even attacked. But not this woman. Jesus stuck in there with her, countering her objections, and disclosing his own heart.

Jesus revealed something to this woman that he refused to reveal to the arguers and debaters of the law. Risking personal disclosure Jesus told her, "I who speak to you am he" (the Messiah, John 4:26). Crowds pursued Jesus. Pharisees pestered him. The court interrogated him. Everyone wanted to know, "Jesus, who are you?" The woman never asked, but Jesus told her, "I am the Messiah?" I wonder, "Why tell this woman?"

Paul said that God chooses to place the treasure of the gospel in clay pots (2 Cor. 4:7). People are those clay pots. We are the vessels that carry the message of salvation to lost and dying people. We take the message of hope to a homeless man, a pregnant teenager, a crippled vet. We embody and proclaim the message of forever to people who can’t see past today.

But certainly, there are some vessels more worthy of bearing that message than others! In Jesus’ day and ours, there are people who are bright, moral, and decent. They surely qualify as the fine china that should bear the treasure. But Jesus picked the five-time divorced, spiritually confused woman at the well to disclose his nature and bear his message to the rest of her Samaritan village. Into this common clay pot Jesus poured himself.

"As water reflects a face, so a woman’s heart reflects the woman." Jesus can read the hearts of people. He could read the heart of this woman; and behind the pride, ignorance, and degradation, he saw something redeeming: honesty. Jesus read this woman without judgment or condescension. He knew her story and still offered her the opportunity to bear the treasure of the Gospel. She did. Every person we meet, even a woman at a well, is a potential vessel for God to store his treasure.

Warren Baldwin
From "Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and other Gems from Proverbs." Due out hopefully in August.

Thursday, June 25, 2009



Most of us are comfortable with people who are like us. From social groupings in a community to the high school cafeteria, you will notice that people of similar educational levels, income, political views, and social strata tend to gravitate toward each other. Rare is the person who can move with comfort and ease among the various groups.

Jesus was a person who could do that. He was comfortable with saint or sinner. He could speak with ease to the educated head of the synagogue or to the disfellowshiped sinner who was cast out of that religious setting. He could dine with the Rabbis or the Reprobates.

Jesus was himself in any setting. He could rebuke a sinner and tell her not to sin anymore, or he could rebuke a preacher and tell him he was a hypocrite. He could engage a Pharisee wanting to know more about his work and mission, and he could engage a tax collector or woman of ill repute who needed his work and mission.

Many of us adapt our speech and behavior to fit different groups. We have regular speech and religious speech; regular behavior and religious behavior. A youth group member suggested a certain movie to watch. Another teen said it was too sensuous and wouldn’t be appropriate to watch with a church youth group; he would save it to watch with his worldly friends. I was at first appalled at the brazen inconsistency in his behavior; today I marvel at his honesty about it. Many adults do the same as this teenager, but with less honesty.

Jesus didn’t fit speech or behavior to a certain group; he was always the same. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12). "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Jesus was always the same because he had integrity. In every setting he was the light, he was the offer of abundant life, he was the door, he was the good shepherd. With saint or sinner, royalty or commoner, Jesus was the same.

Jesus was the same because he knew his purpose. God sent him to redeem a fallen world. Though Jesus walked the path of man, enduring all of his struggles and temptations, Jesus could never give in. Too much was at stake. Nothing less than the redemption of the world weighed upon his shoulders.

Jesus could move with ease among different groups of people because he was so committed to the purpose God had for him. Leadership and power might tempt him, but that was not God’s call for him, so he never gave in. Jesus could enjoy the food and laughter of the tax collector and common sinner crowd without joining in their treachery or misbehavior. He was tempted in all points as they were, yet without sin.

His incredible inner strength with all people and situations came from remembering his purpose for all people. He belonged to everybody, yet would be controlled by no one. Thus he could walk among the various groups of Israel, offering comfort, sharing the Word, healing, forgiving and teaching, and he gained an audience.

Jesus "was to be all his life one of those men of the people whose natural nobility allows them to meet all men as equals." (Daniel-Rops, Jesus and His Times, p.113). He was the Son of God yet he could and did meet all men as equals. He condescended to the lowly and the upper crust, and met them where they were, on their terms, and made his offer of life.

As I study Jesus’ life and consider the impact it makes on us, I’m struck by his nobility and humility. The confidence in his purpose and the flawlessness of his life produced his nobility; his love for people and willingness to meet them anywhere gave him his humility. As we attempt to walk in his footsteps, I pray we can do so with the same nobility and humility that he did. We carry on his mission of extending ourselves in the name of the Father to a fallen world. Nothing less than the redemption of the world is at stake. Let’s pray that God makes us fit for the task.

Warren Baldwin

Friday, June 19, 2009



The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27

A preacher was in his office one afternoon when the phone rang. He picked it up and said, "Hello." A man’s voice on the other end asked, "Preacher, do you baptize at your church?" The preacher suspected either a prank call or a phone salesman. But he said politely, "Yes, in fact we do baptize." "Okay, well," the man continued, "do you have a problem with pond scum in your baptistery?" "Oh no," the preacher said, "we will baptize anybody."

He was a good preacher. I don’t necessarily mean by the way he handled the phone call. I mean by the theology of his answer. "We will baptize anybody."

This story appears in a popular e-mail. Even though it is meant to be a joke, it prompts the question, "Who may be baptized?"

People often have a sense that they have to be a certain kind of person to be baptized. They have to have a certain level of Bible knowledge, go to church so many years, and be "good" before they are worthy. Those individuals think they have to have the Bible, church, God, and everything else figured out. If they have all these ducks in a row, then they are ready.

I am glad to say that anybody who thinks that is wrong. Anybody who thinks they need to have all these things figured out is putting too much pressure on themselves. Preachers and teachers of the Bible don’t have all these things completely figured out! We are still studying and learning.
Baptism is for anybody at any point in his or her life who realize their need for God. They are ready when they realize the way they have been living is not the right way to live. When they believe Jesus Christ as the only one who has the complex answers to life and confess him as Lord of their life, they are ready to be baptized as an act of obedience to God’s rule over their lives.

Baptism really is for anybody and everybody. Even, as the caller asked the preacher, pond scum? I don’t like designating anybody by that kind of denigrating term. But I do need to tell you that anybody, no matter how badly they have lived their lives, can come to Christ for new life. That new life includes baptism. Romans 6:1–4 says that anyone who has been baptized has left their old life behind and is now living a new life.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, Paul writes that the sexually immoral, the idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and cheaters would not inherit the kingdom of God. They would not see God, and they would not be with Jesus. However, Paul says that this does not have to be the final statement for their lives! They can leave those lifestyles, seek God, and be baptized, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus. Yes, baptism is for anybody. It is for anybody who realizes they are sinners, they are lost, and they need Jesus Christ.

I feel badly for people who get trapped in lifestyles that diminish their self-worth and leave them feeling used and broken. Drugs can do that. Crime. Sexual misbehavior. Disruptions in the family. Lying. These sins diminish us, makes us question our value, and can even make us despair of life. But I have a message for anyone who feels this way: those feelings do not have to be the final statement of your life. God promises you a new life in Jesus, and you can have it today, with God’s fountain of life.

Warren Baldwin

Monday, June 15, 2009



Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth. Proverbs 10:4

"You fellas move any slower and you are going to be doing yesterday’s work." Ernest Borgnine said that to his ranch hands in the 1956 movie Jubal. Ernest played Shep Horgan, an affable ranch owner who loved his land and his men. But even the easygoing Shep couldn’t refrain from a friendly reprimand of his hands when they shuffled about one morning.

John Wayne’s incitement to his hands to work in the The Cowboys was "Let’s go. We’re burning daylight." This became a theme his young cowboys repeated later in the movie.

The old Westerns are a favorite movie genre for many people. One of the most endearing qualities of these classics is the old-time values they portray: values of integrity, family, pride, honor, and hard work as exemplified by the hero and heroine. Contrast this with the sloppy morals and loose character of some of today’s movie heroes, and you can understand why the old Western classics are still popular fifty years after their release.

In their movies Ernest Borgnine and John Wayne tried to instill an ethic that God honored thousands of years ago: work. "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth."

Proverbs are always true but may have a different application in different situations. As a general rule lazy hands do make a man poor, and diligent hands produce wealth. But don’t we know people who worked hard all their lives and retired with very little? Several things can hamper financial success, such as bad timing, natural disasters, and economic downturns. In such cases diligent hands may not produce wealth, and that is no one’s fault. Furthermore, in today’s society, someone with a good idea can market it and get rich with comparatively very little work. They may have lazy hands but strike a gold mine the person with diligent hands never seems to find. It is a general rule that those who retire with something set aside had to work hard and save for that nest egg. Those who work as little as they can retire with as little as they earned. "Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry" (Prov. 19:15).

God instructs us on the honor and integrity of hard work. "The Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands . . . the Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous . . . if you obey the Lord your God" (Deut. 30:9–10). God promised blessing to the people if they honored him and worked with their hands.

But this promise of blessing came with a warning: we must remember that all of our blessings, whether received as an inheritance for which we did nothing or received through our own labor, are ultimately gifts from the heavenly Father: "It is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth" (Deut. 8:18).

Work is out of fashion with a lot of people. When I was in college, it was hard to find replacements for my job when I would go away for a weekend. I couldn’t find too many guys who wanted to earn some spending money by vacuuming carpets and cleaning bathrooms. It wasn’t glorious, but it was honorable.

God honors what is honorable. He honors men and women who will work hard to support their families. Hard work reflects well on one’s character. Refusal to work reflects poorly on one’s quality of life and brings criticism from the Lord: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat . . . such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat" (2 Thess. 3:10– 12).

So get busy so you won’t have to do yesterday’s work! Make good use of the daylight! Put diligent hands to the plow and overflow with thanks to God for blessing you with the ability to work. Use your blessings to his glory.

Warren Baldwin

Monday, June 8, 2009



A couple of years ago A. J. Jacobs set a commendable goal: he was going to dedicate an entire year to live biblically.

A. J. is Jewish and was raised as a secular Jew. So, he didn’t know many of the stories, the deep principles or the ethics of the Bible. He was going to study them and live them as best he could for a year.

Trying to following biblical custom A. J. wore white clothes and didn’t cut his beard. His appearance garnered quite a bit of attention.

His experiment required some significant behavioral changes for him. A. J. said he was particularly susceptible to gossip, lying and coveting, so addressing these issues in his life was a challenge.

Forgiveness was a big issue, too. In an interview with Leadership (Winter, 2008, p.17) magazine A. J. said, "Paul says that love does not keep score. I disobeyed this literally because, before my year, I had been keeping score of my wife’s arguments with me. Any time I would win an argument or she would make a mistake, I’d always jot those down ... in a little file so that I could remember them. The Bible taught me to get rid of that. I showed my wife the list, and she just laughed at me. Her response was amusement mixed with pity that I would even need to keep such a list."

A. J. was a workaholic, so the biblical teaching on Sabbath rest was a challenge for him, too. "The Sabbath is a great thing," he said, "because the Bible is saying you can’t work. You can’t check e-mail. You have to spend the day with your family. It’s a real smell-the-roses type of day. I found it to be a day for joy, for just really reconnecting with my life and realizing that work is not everything. I loved it, but it was a huge struggle."

A big lesson A. J. learned with his experiment is how much he sinned. He said, "That was a little disturbing, but once you start to pay attention to the amount that you lie and gossip and covet and even steal - I was taken aback and that was a real eye-opener. I don’t steal cars, but even something like taking three straws at Starbucks when you only need one, that could be considered stealing. I became very aware of taking other people’s things without asking."

This man’s story impressed me. He was not religious before undertaking this experiment. In fact, he says he started out as an agnostic, and still isn’t totally convinced of the existence of God. But, he had periods when he believed, and still holds value in the idea of the sacred. Here is what he said, "I believe there is something very important about the idea of sacredness: prayer can be sacred, the Sabbath can be sacred, family is sacred, rituals are sacred. That was a huge change in perspective for me." Sounds like A. J. is moving toward belief.

He hasn’t converted to Christianity yet, but A. J. did say, "I never did make the leap of faith to accept Jesus as my Savior. As I read the New Testament, I more tried to live by his ethical teachings, which did change my life."

I am impressed that this man who grew up in a secular environment and was an agnostic dedicated a year to living consciously, purposely and intensely as a man of God. He disciplined his thoughts, he managed his mouth, and he scrutinized his intentions in accord with the Bible. If it pricked his conscience to take more than one straw because it didn’t seem totally honest, he would only take one. And he said the experience changed his life.

For those of us who do profess Christ, would it change our lives to live consciously, purposely and intensely as the people of God in every aspect of our lives?

Warren Baldwin

Thursday, June 4, 2009

An Encouraging Word


"An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up." Proverbs 12:25

Anxiety is a form of fear, fear of failure, fear of not having done well enough, fear of not being good enough.

Christians often experience anxiety over their salvation. "Have I done what God has commanded? Am I living in his grace? Has he forgiven all of my sins, even ones I have forgotten and haven’t named to him? Am I saved? If I died today, would I lose my soul, or would I be in heaven?"

You can get a sense of the anxiety Christians experience by asking them if they are saved. Ask them if they would go to heaven if they died today. Usually the answer is something like, "I hope so." In that lack of certainty anxiety is born. Fear.

Not all of our fears are as deep and theologically oriented as questions of salvation. Many of our anxious thoughts are about things like the ball game, our first date, making enough money to pay the bills. These are all important issues, but certainly not of the caliber of fears about heaven or hell.

Whether our fear is about something relatively trite, like if we’ll score a basket in the game, or extremely significant, like if we are going to heaven, our fears are very real to us and very important.

Solomon understood that. He understood that "An anxious heart weighs a man down ..." An anxious heart robs us of energy during the day and it keeps us up at night. It disrupts our focus and disturbs our peace. An anxious heart is not pleasant.

Time and experience teaches us that if we look at our worries in context and think far enough ahead, we can work ourselves out of our anxiety. Most of what we worry about won’t come to pass.

But there is another source of comfort to us when we are anxious: the presence of an encouraging person. "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up."

Some people are blessed with insight into another’s heart and concerns. They seem able to read the signs of someone’s distress, and they have the heart to relieve them of that discomfort. They speak words that lift the spirits and enliven the heart. These people are encouragers. So important is their work that the Holy Spirit has actually gifted them with the ability to encourage others (Romans 12:8).

Why don’t we see more people with this gift? Why don’t we exercise it more ourselves? Maybe our own hearts won’t allow us. Charles Swindoll writes, "There are those who seem to be waiting for the first opportunity to confront. Suspicious by nature and negative in style, they are determined to find any flaw, failure, or subtle weakness in your life, and to point it out. There may be twenty things they could affirm; instead they have one main goal, to make sure you never forget your weaknesses. Grace killers are big on the shoulds and oughts in their advice. Instead of praising, they pounce!" (Grace Awakening, Dallas: Word, 1990, p.62).

There are those who look for the fault and the failure. But thank God for the gracious man or woman who, having received grace from God for their own shortcomings, are willing to dispense with some of that grace to their anxious friends and neighbors. They have found an important key to a peaceful heart: Grace received and grace shared helps to dispel the fear from an anxious heart.

Warren Baldwin
From "Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and other Gems from Proverbs."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Why Words Hurt


"From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things, but the unfaithful have a craving for violence." Prov. 13:2

Why do words sometimes hurt? They may hurt if we have been criticized. Criticism calls into question our ability, our intelligence and even our character. Sometimes the criticism may be just and hurts because it is true, even if it is offered gently. If the criticism is offered with a air of condescension and judgment, it stings like a serrated knife. No one enjoys such verbal accosting.

Words may hurt if they are thoughtless or careless. A joke told at our expense can make us the center of ridicule. No one wants to be the object of such negative attention. It makes us feel helpless and vulnerable.

Words may hurt if they pinpoint a mistake we made or a weakness we have. This is known as fault finding. We know the difference in someone saying, "You were late," as a simple statement, and someone adding a cutting edge to it, as in, "You were late!", with a razor’s edge in their tone. Words spoken like this point out a failure we have committed or a weakness in our character. Such words are embarrassing.

I think these reasons for words hurting have several things in common. One, we take them personally. If we could just dismiss criticism, cutting humor and fault finding, we wouldn’t be bothered by them. But, they strike us painfully in the heart so they are hard to dismiss.

Secondly, these words single us out for negative attention. We either feel reduced, intimidated or embarrassed. All of these emotions are the result of feeling attacked and ridiculed. They may also make us angry, leading us to strike back verbally. Other people might slip off and cry.

There is a third reason for why words may hurt us: the speaker intends for them to. No doubt all of us are guilty of criticizing someone, using jabbing humor and nitpicking someone’s behavior or character. Sometimes we may have done it without really intending any harm. Still, we may have hurt someone very deeply.

Then again, we may be guilty of criticizing, ridiculing through humor and fault finding because, indeed, we do intend to damage someone. Solomon said that "the unfaithful have a craving for violence." Tremper Longman interprets this statement to read, "The appetite of the faithless is violence." Whereas righteous people use speech that is "wise and helpful," the unrighteous "prefer violence to satisfy their appetite. They would prefer to hurt others with their words." ("Proverbs," 284)

So, one significant reason words sometimes hurt is because people intend for them to. They have considered the harmful affect of criticism, mocking humor and fault finding, know it will do damage to another’s heart, and proceed to unload their verbal violence with calculated cruelty. The verbal explosion they assault someone with satisfies some perverse pleasure in their own hearts. They may feel insecure themselves, judged, alone, hurt and insignificant. Rather than working on their own character flaws and growing in maturity, they prefer to slam someone else to the ground.

If you are the victim of verbal assault, realize that it could be offered by someone who is naive and doesn’t know the damaging affects of their words. But, be aware that there are some people who fully intend for you to feel the sting of emotion you experience. Your best weapon is to diffuse their power by acknowledging their intent, praying for them, and refusing to play their game. Also, make sure that your own character is growing and maturing. Be one of the righteous wise whose words help others. Don’t be one of the foolish unfaithful who rely on violence to feel satisfied and get one over on someone else.

Warren Baldwin

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lord, I Want to See

Lord, I Want to See
Luke 18:35-43

My friend invited me into his dorm room at Harding Graduate School. He opened the door and walked in, holding it open for me to follow. "Over here," he said, as he led me through the apartment to his desk.

Something was different. As he shuffled through the papers on his desk, feeling them gingerly with his finger tips, I strained in the darkness to see what he was doing. Why doesn’t he turn the light on, I thought. Then I felt silly. My friend was blind.

Braille, seeing eye dogs, and other developments have aided the lives of the blind in modern times. They can read through their fingers. With eye dogs they can navigate even the largest and busiest of cities. Sometimes surgery can repair damaged eyes, or even replace eyes, allowing some blind people to see.

Life hasn’t always been that way for the blind.

In ancient times blindness not only darkened the eyes of the people who couldn’t see, it darkened the hearts of those who could. Any serious physical ailment was perceived as a curse from God. "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he is born blind," the disciples once asked. (John 9:3) Their question betrays a popular concept at the time that blindness was the result of sin. The Pharisees make this point when they tell the blind man, "You were steeped in sin at birth ..." (v.34).

The greater darkness the blind experienced was not the darkness of their eyes but the darkness in the hearts of the seeing people. They lived in a world of prejudice and bigotry. In Israel they weren’t allowed in the temple. Parents distanced themselves from their own blind children. Most forms of employment were denied them. Most were reduced to standing on a corner with a cup crying, "Have mercy on me. Please help the blind. Please make a contribution."

Meeting Jesus

The blind man in Luke 18 lived everyday with the helplessness and hopelessness of being blind. He was begging on that fateful day when Jesus happened by.

Hearing the commotion he asked, "What’s going on?" Blindness handicapped his eyes but not his curiosity. "Hey, I hear all this noise and excitement but I can’t see it. Will someone tell me what is happening?"

"Jesus of Nazareth is passing by."

"Jesus? Is it really you? Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

We know this blind man by the designation "Blind Man," or "Blind Beggar." We don’t know his name. We wouldn’t have known his name if we lived then and walked by him. We might have glanced at his lifeless eyes, his unkempt appearance, his beggar’s cup, and passed by. We might have dropped a few pennies in his cup. Our children might have stopped and stared in curiosity. "What’s wrong with him, mom," they might ask. "Hurry along kids, come on. Just stay away from him." We wouldn’t want the sin of this stricken man to fall upon our kids.

That was probably the attitude of those who led the entourage Jesus was in. When they heard the blind man cry out for help they told him to hush up. We don’t know their words, but I think we know what they said. "Quiet man, Jesus doesn’t have time for you." Or, "Quiet, you blind old fool. Just sit there in your sin." Or even, "Why would Jesus, a holy man, take time for an old sinner like you?"

But the darkness in the man’s eyes didn’t mean there was darkness in his heart. The death in his eyes didn’t mean their was death in spirit. He cried out all the more, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Meeting the Blind Man

Jesus stopped.

A story line that abruptly shifts gears is a sign that something important is about to happen. A movie signals an important event with intensified music. The music or the change in the story all kick our imaginations into high gear. "Pay attention!"

Jesus has just predicted his death (Luke 18:31-34). The disciples are baffled by this prediction and wonder what Jesus is talking about. They walk along to their next appointment with Jesus, probably debating in their hearts, and maybe among themselves, what all this means. Their minds are preoccupied with deep theological thoughts.

Then they are interrupted by the rude and vociferous crying of a blind man who should be quiet. That is what they tell him: "Be quiet!"

But Jesus stops. "Bring him here," Jesus says. They do.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asks.

"Lord, I want to see."

I spent a long time trying to figure out what he might mean by his statement: "I want to see."
- Jesus, there is an olive tree in my front yard that I have bumped into many times. Can you fix my eyes so I can see it?
- Mean kids trip me. Since I am cursed by God they aren’t nice to me. Why should they be if God isn’t? Will you give me sight so I won’t stumble and trip anymore?
- I want to see my mom and dad. They love me. But life is tough in a society that doesn’t like blind people. Jesus, when you heal my eyes you will also heal their hearts.
- Jesus, I want to see a girl. I’ve heard they are pretty, but I’ve never seen one. I want to see the sun shine in her hair. I want to see how a brightly colored dress enhances her beauty. I want to see her smile ... at me. I’ve heard the sneers and snickers. Now I want to see the smiles.
- Jesus, I want to be normal. I want to be able to walk into a crowd and not be ridiculed and stared even. I can’t see, But I can feel the stares and I can hear the snickers. "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Remove that pain.
- I want to see so I can know I am a child of God. Have you rejected me? Do I have less value because I am blind? These thoughts hurt more than blindness.
- Finally, Jesus, I want you to heal my eyes so there can be healing in my heart from the rejection and doubt that assails me everyday.
- Jesus I want to see. I want to see with my eyes and I want to see with my heart.

"Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God." (Vv.42-43).

The Bigger Story

The Blind Man was now the Seeing Man. He could see the olive tree, his mom and dad, and a pretty girl. He would now be normal and fit in with society. His heart would heal with his eyes.

But something bigger happened besides this man seeing with his eyes. He could now see with his heart. "Your faith has healed you," Jesus said. But what was a desperate, hopeful faith before is now a deep conviction. He began to follow Jesus and praise God.

But the bigger story continues. What Jesus did for the blind man he does for all Israel. When Jesus came, Israel was a defeated, occupied nation. Roman legions conquered the area and now rule it with an iron scepter. Israel is not a free nation, she is in bondage.

Since the time of Isaiah Israel has looked for a redeemer to free her from bondage. Isaiah 61 says,
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn ..." (Vv.1-2).

Jesus has come to free Israel from this bondage. The miracles he performed did confirm he was the Son of God. They confirmed that redemption was here. Jesus came to preach good news - that he would heal broken hearts, proclaim freedom, release the blind from darkness, announce God’s favor upon the faithful, comfort the mourners, and bring the vengeance of God.

In keeping with the theme of Isaiah, Jesus said to Israel, "God is here. Follow me. Leave your chains. Leave your darkness. Leave your stale, religious conceptions. Open your eyes. Follow me."

Did people get the point? Jesus announced he was going to die and rise again. His own disciples didn’t understand. Lost in their thoughts they coldly dismissed the blind man. Jesus says, "Wait, this is who I came for. Blind man, come here. You are blind no longer." The blind man sees and praises God.

This is what Jesus came for all of Israel to do: see and praise. See Jesus as the person of God who has come to rescue us from every chain that binds us, and to praise him for his greatness.
The blind man did. Did Israel. Do we?

The real blind people in the Gospels aren’t the blind people. Notice how many of the physically blind come to believe in Jesus. The real blind are those who think they see, who think they know about life, who think they know the Bible, who think they are right, who think they have God figured out, who think God will act sometime in the future and ignore what he has already done and is currently doing. The real blind are those who do not see Jesus.

"Receive your sight."

That is what Jesus said to all of Israel. Some listened, some didn’t.

This is what Jesus wants to say to all of us. Those aren’t just words to give sight to eyes. Those are words to heal hearts, restore relationships, and offer hope and a place to belong.

Jesus asks all of us, "What do you want me to do for you." I hope we have an answer for him.

Warren Baldwin
May 24, 2009