Do you dread getting old?

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We hear of death and disease all around us, whether the circumstances concern people we know firsthand like family, friends and colleagues or those we only know of, like Tim Keller.

These accounts can scare us and even depress us once we reach a certain age.

Given that context and being in my mid-60s, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Hebrews whom God miraculously and almost inconceivably delivered out of Egyptian enslavement.

But you know their story of appalling unbelief after having lived through and witnessed God’s protection of Goshen, the housing area assigned them, as plagues struck their captors and not them. But God’s visible and tangible working on their behalf continued. Miracles included:

  • The astounding night flight with all their belongings, not to mention gifted riches from their neighbors.
  • Safe and dry passage along the seabed when it looked like they were trapped, only to be slaughtered.
  • God’s judgment on their cocky pursuers by drowning when the sea walls were released and the water found its previous equilibrium.

With all that ‘seeing-MUST-be-believing’ evidence, we scratch our heads with incredulity as we read about their complaints and selective memory regarding water and the lack of food choices.

I know you are familiar with all these accounts, but have you considered the less showy, but the other astounding ways God provided for them?  Take the manna, for instance.

Reading in Psalm 78:24-25:

…..and he (God) rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. (ESV)

And in Nehemiah 9:20-21:

…….You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell. (ESV)

Think for a moment.  The food God provided turned out to be supernatural power food.  It must have been perfectly balanced with enough energy to enable them to do the hard labor of unpacking household gear, tabernacle construction, herd tending, packing up family belongings and worship materials and then walking mile after mile (in circles).

The women did not have to do much meal prep, for God consistently provided what they needed and they ate their full.  And about their clothes, young girls didn’t learn to card wool, weave yarn, sew or repair clothing. For nothing they put on wore out, even their sandals. That doesn’t describe the life I know. For I buy replacement clothes and shoes on a regular basis!

Furthermore, the detail I REALLY love, the one that makes smile, is that among all twelve tribes of aging men and women no one’s feet swelled. That’s such a real fact of life about our bodies as we age.  Just praise God as you consider how he thought of everything.

God’s ability to sustain the generation that WAS to receive the promised inheritance makes me recall Caleb.

Do you remember this valiant man?  Shortly into the wilderness wanderings, he and Joshua took part in a recon assignment to investigate the new lands promised them.  Sadly, these two men were the only ones among the twelve who reported that the new territory lived up to God’s description and waited to be received.  The other tribe representatives skewered the group’s analysis out of fear and the people believed the majority report.

Therefore, God caused that generation of Hebrews to die before seeing or crossing into the promised land.

But Joshua and Caleb made it through the wilderness and entered the inheritance God had readied for them. Just as he promised.

Look at Caleb’s evaluation of the previous years in Joshua 14:10-11:

Now, as you can see, the LORD has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that (scouting) journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. (NLT)

If we take the Exodus wilderness journey of 40 years with all its trials, deprivations and suffering as a metaphor for life on earth 1.0 and if making it safely to the promised land presents a picture of our arrival in heaven, then Caleb’s words and example should give us pause.

The ageing process doesn’t HAVE to be ‘downhill all the way and then we die’.

Caleb shows us (and Joshua as well) that it is possible some of us will still be physically and mentally vigorous and vibrant on the day God has predetermined for us to cross over.  

Why am I drawing out this point?  Because I listen to many friends my age and older who think and expect that decline and pain are inevitable as we approach our last days. I don’t doubt that those days have been scripted by God. What I’m pushing back on is how I hear my friends talk about what they think is bound to happen at the slight indicator of decline.  It’s so negative.

But why not aspire to be a Caleb, as much as we can.  We have the power to choose our thoughts and our words.  And the words WE say to ourselves, our heart and mind receive as ‘truth’. 

God is always doing more than we choose to ask for or dare to imagine!

Keep your roots in good soil

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tomato-in-soil  The zucchini failed, the cucumber baby plants did not thrive, but our container garden yielded tomatoes.

These tomato pots have shown me over the past 4 months that if the soil is good, and God provides adequate sun and water, that is still not enough to produce a crop.

All vegetation, if it is to yield fruit, must have its roots planted in the soil.  That is crucial. (yes, I have heard of hydroponic cultivation!)

Aren’t we Christians the same?  According to Jesus, we will grow naturally, without working at it, if we are immersed in His Word, sucking up nourishment because it satisfies like nothing else.

John 15:4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I recently noticed in this verse that the verb Jesus uses is to BEAR fruit. We don’t GROW the fruit ourselves.  We just let fruit sprout and flourish.

As the Holy Spirit gives growth, He causes our new nature to develop characteristics like joy and patience, gentle responses and kind actions, to name a few.  This Holy Spirit fruit in turn feeds and fertilizes us, resulting in deeper and sturdier roots and an ongoing yield.

I like how the inspired psalmist described the process in Psalm 92: 13-14: 

Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
[Growing in grace] they will still thrive and bear fruit and prosper in old age;
They will flourish and be vital and fresh [rich in trust and love and contentment]; (Amplified Bible)

I’ve noticed some dying leaves on my October container plants, but I’m still getting salad tomatoes. How encouraging for all of us in a Western society that abhors and tries to hide from aging.  Since we don’t have to rely on ourselves to ‘add value’ we can relax and allow God generate all and any good yield.

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