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The divisions of the gatekeepers. The lot for the East Gate fell to Shemaliah.jerusalem gate The lot for the East Gate fell to Obed-Edom. The lot for the South Gate fell to Shuppim.
1 Chronicles 26

This is what I read the other morning in my personal devotion time. After reading the Bible I try and meditate on what I have just read and try to find a spiritual application for my life. I must admit that while studying Chronicles I have often not found a spiritual application to help me through my day. This morning was no exception. CHRONICLES – So many lists, so many names, so little time.

I am the gardener at Foundation For His Ministry’s Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca Mexico. Mowing a large field full of weeds was on my To Do list. Mowing a large field with push mower gives me a lot of time to think. I began thinking of the Christian Doctrine class I started teaching to high school students in the city of Oaxaca. We are studying the inspiration of scripture. The Bible is inspired by God and every word is truth. We hear and read many words everyday. Probably thousands of words. The only words that we can be sure are true and directly from God are the words we find in Holy Scripture. It is a great practice to begin each day with the Word of God, and let that Word influence our day. This is what I wanted to say to my class.

But what about the parts of the Bible like Leviticus and Numbers and Chronicles, where we find lots of lists and numbers and geneologies? What about lists of gatekeepers? How can that possibly have any bearing on my life?

I asked God that same question and I believe he gave me an answer. I thought about the city of Jerusalem and its gates and the gatekeepers were in charge of. Anyone who wanted to harm the inhabitants of Jerusalem or do the city mischief would have to pass through those gates. So the gatekeepers had an important job keeping bad people out. I thought of the women’s prison across the street from the mission where I go every week to teach English. There are four gates or check points that I must pass through to get to my class. The first two are operated by the state police who are armed with large machine guns. They want to see my identification and want to know why I am going there. I gladly show and tell rather than face the business end of their  big guns.  When I finally get to the prison, I knock on the large metal door, and a guard opens a little peephole door to see who is there, and he also wants to see I.D. and know my purpose. When he lets me in I must hand over my I.D. and sign in. Then my bag is searched and I am given a pat down. I proceed to my final check point where another guard writes down my name and purpose for being there, and I am finally allowed in with the inmates. All of these checks make it safe for the inmates, the guards and for the visitors like me. The gatekeepers for Jerusalem and for the prison have a very important job.

So what about the spiritual application? Well, God seemed to be saying to me that there are areas of my spiritual life that need gatekeepers. My mind. My heart. My lips. The gatekeepers? The Bible. The Holy Spirit. Other Christians.

The Bible talks a lot about our minds and the way we think and what we think about. The Bible, in Paul’s letter to the Romans says we need to have our minds transformed; renewed. How is this accomplished? Philippians tells us to think on things that are true, honest, pure, noble and good. In a sense that is a family of gatekeepers, similar to a family of gatekeepers that were assigned as gatekeepers for one of the gates in Jerusalem. We need to seek and depend on the Holy Spirit to think on the good things and not allow bad, worldly, enemy  things to enter. The enemies that want to infiltrate our minds, hearts and lips are the World, the Flesh and the Devil. When I think of other Christians who are the gatekeepers of my mind, I think of writers like C.S. Lewis and R.C. Sproul, who speak to my intellect and help me think right thoughts.

We not only need gatekeepers for our mind, but also our hearts. By “heart”, the Bible normally means our desires and what motivates those desires. Everyone is motivated by the desire to be happy. How one seeks happiness is important to consider. Our enemies, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, give us a hundred ideas per day on how we can be happy. We need the gatekeeper of the Holy Spirit and the Bible to reveal to us the true path to happiness: The real things like forgiveness of our sins as we forgive others. A righteousness that is revealed from heaven through Christ that brings true joy as we live in right relationship with God. The Puritans address heart issues, and they have becomeone of the  gatekeepers of my heart through some of their prayers as recorded in the book The Valley of Vision.

The last part of our being that needs gatekeepers is our lips. Jesus said that out of the abundance of our heart the mouth speaks. There is a direct connection to what is in our minds, to what is in our hearts to what comes out of our lips. If we start the day filling our minds with scripture, that affects our desires and motivation for the day, which guards what comes out our mouths. Paul said in Ephesians 4:29 that we should not let any wholesome talk come out of our mouths, but only those words that are helpful in building up fellow Christians according to their needs.  Proverbs 10:19 says that he who controls his lips is wise, and 13:3 tells us that  he who  guards  his mouth keeps his life, he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

We must also lean heavily on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to control our lips and gaurd our mouths. Two Christian writers that have helped me to accomplish this are Dietrich Bonhoffer and Henri Nouwen.

So there it is. Who would have thought that an obscure passage from 1 Chronicles could have such an impact on our spiritual lives. I don’t have Shelemiah, Obed-Edom or Shuppim as the gatekeepers of my mind, heart and lips, but I do have the Bible, the Holy Spirit and other Christians to protect me from my enemies, and that makes me happy!

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gatekeeper quotw

In June, a group came from Chicago to help out at the home for needy children where my wife and I valley-of-vision-bookserve.  The leader of the group is Jim Hardman.  He has brought a group down every year for the last ten years or so, and we have become friends over that time.  Him and his group always bring gifts for the missionaries at the mission.  He told me about this little Puritan Prayer book that he had discovered, and that encouraged him in his personal devotion time.  He said he brought a copy in Spanish for our pastor.  It sounded like a book that I would quite enjoy and was somewhat disappointed that he did not have a copy for me.

Two weeks later my family and I were in Colorado, visiting my parents and my sister and her family.  I like reading about the Civil War and my sister had a few Civil War books for me.  She gave me another little book that she said her and her husband have been enjoying as well.  She had a brand new copy of The Valley of Vision for me.  The very same book that Jim Hardman had been talking about.  I started reading it and I love it.  I love the old language, but more than that I love the perspective of the Puritan writers.  Every prayer focuses not only on the goodness of God, but on the wretched, vile, state of humans, which makes the goodness of God to humans seem all the sweeter.

I like these prayers so much that I want to include excerpts of them in this blog about enjoying God.   Below is one entitled God Enjoyed.

Known, but beyond knowledge, revealed, but undervalued, my wants and welfare draw me to thee, for thou hast never said, “Seek he me in vain.”
To thee I come in my difficulties, necessities, distresses; possess me with thyself, with a spirit of grace and supplication, with a prayerful attitude of mind, with access into warmth and fellowship, so that in the ordinary concerns of life my thoughts and desires may rise up to thee.
Continue the gentleness of thy goodness towards me, and whether I wake or sleep, let thy presence go with me, thy blessing attend me.
Thy vows are ever upon me, and I praise thee, O God.

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Puritanism was a religious reform movement that arose within the Church of England in the late sixteenth century. Under siege from church and crown, it sent an offshoot in the third and fourth decades of the seventeenth century to the northern English colonies in the New World–a migration that laid the foundation for the religious, intellectual, and social order of New England. Puritanism, however, was not only a historically specific phenomenon coincident with the founding of New England; it was also a way of being in the world–a style of response to lived experience–that has reverberated through American life ever since.

On our recent family vacation to the U.S., we spent a lot of time in Colorado visiting my parents and mykindness2 sister and her family.  They both live on little farms right next to each other.  We stayed in a RV trailer between them, about 30 yards from each of their houses.  It was not connected to a sewer system, so we normally used the bathroom at one of their houses.  My sister’s house has two bathrooms, one upstairs and the other downstairs.  When I used her upstairs bathroom, I noticed she had printed up and framed a Bible verse, Romans 2:4.  Quick, can anyone quote that verse?  Although I have read Romans many times, and even taught a class on that epistle of Paul, I couldn’t remember that verse which talks about God’s kindness, tolerance or forbearance, and patience.  Later I used the downstairs bathroom, and there was that verse again, located strategically in TWO places!

So here was a wonderful but somewhat obscure verse printed and displayed for all bathroom users to see and read in both her bathrooms.  Not your usual restroom reading material.  Needless to say I spent a lot of time thinking about Romans 2:4.

“Do you take lightly the kindness, tolerance and patience of God, not realizing that His kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

That is Romans 2:4 in whatever version of the Bible my younger sibling was using (NASB).

Every time I walked into her bathroom I felt like Paul was there personally asking me about how seriously I took God’s kindness, tolerance and patience.  How often did I think about those attributes of God?  How often did I give thanks for those characteristics of the Almighty?  Sometimes I felt like saying, “Hey Paul, a little privacy!”

The words that jumped out at me were “Do you take lightly”.  I looked at this verse in my trusty NIV and the question was “Do you show contempt?”  I think most Christians would say of course I don’t show contempt for God’s kindness, forbearance (NIV) and patience, and go onto the next verse. We forget about it.  But how about taking those things lightly?  To me that’s another question entirely.

When we dig deeper into Romans one and two, we see that Paul is making the argument that all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s high and holy expectations for humanity, which  culminates in chapter three.  In chapter one Paul shows how the gentiles have come up short, and all the Jews in the audience are thinking, “Yeah, what do expect from a bunch of stinking gentiles?”

In chapter two, Paul turns his argument against the Jews.  He tells them that they are even worse than those pagan gentiles because they have the law of God which forbids the things the gentiles do, and yet the Jews do the same things, while condemning the gentiles.  In Romans 2:4, Paul is exclaiming to the Jews that God has shown them great kindness, tolerance and patience through the ages, and they seem to take it lightly as is seen by their propensity to judge their gentile neighbors.  The greatest act of kindness, tolerance and patience God showed the Jews was sending Jesus the Messiah to them, and they killed him.  Now who are the bad guys?

Jesus said in Luke six that God shows kindness to the wicked and ungrateful.  Paul says in a speech to the pagans in Acts. 14, that in ages past God has been kind to all peoples, giving you rain from heaven and crops in their season; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.

But now that they know about the one, true God, a time of reckoning has come.  He asks those heathen, he asks the Jews, and he asks you and me, “Do you take lightly God’s kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that His kindness is intended to bring you to repentance?”  Good question.
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I haven’t written for awhile because Anita, the girls and I went to the United States for a month.  We hadDSC05862 not been there for four years, so we had a great time visiting family, going to a Giants game in San Francisco, Disneyland in L.A. and camping in the Rocky Mountains.  I loved driving on pot hole free roads and using free bathrooms that had toilet paper, toilet seats, hot water and paper towels.  I encountered no crazy taxi drivers, never heard a honking horn and saw no graffiti and little litter. These are things most Americans take for granted.   In Mexico these things are the exception.

But I am glad to be back at the Mission in Oaxaca.  Why?  Because, while we don’t have the best roads, nicest bathrooms or  cleanest cities, we do have, in my humble opinion, the finest people serving at the greatest Mission in the world.  The people serving at the Home for Needy Children in Oaxaca could work almost anywhere and make more money, if money was their priority, but it’s not.  Their priority is loving God with all their being, and loving their neighbors as they love themselves.  Their priority is helping the poorest of the poor in Mexico.  Their priority is bringing help, hope and love to the downcast, oppressed, abused and mistreated children of this poor land.

Now I am back with these fine people and enjoying seeing formerly sad children smile, discouraged little girls encouraged, angry little boys at peace, hungry teens well fed and losers at life’s sometimes vicious game, given another chance at happiness and contentment.

Of course, all of this is made possible by the grace of God, the prayers of the saints and the contributions of people who care.  Thank you God for people who care!

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