When Geese Fly Over…

Photo and Content by Dennis Bradley

LeAnne and I live just north of Des Moines and where we live just happens to be right in the center of a flyway for migrating geese and ducks. Last week I was coming out of my house to go to church and I could hear the geese flying overhead. I thought about my grandfather Cline Lloyd Bradley and I remembered this little piece I picked up years ago:

Most birds migrate in silence, but not the geese. Whether you are walking down a city street, standing in a suburban back yard or working in a rural wood lot, you know when the geese fly over. First you hear that distant gabble, a faint clamor that seems to echo from the whole sky. You search the sky, and the gabble comes closer. Then you see them, flying high, marking a V almost like a pencil line of dots.

You listen and watch, and the flight is so high it seems almost leisurely. If it is a close V in formation, it is almost certainly Canada geese. If it is a looser V, rippling and waving, or if it is a long line like one leg of the V, it more likely is the less common snow geese. Whichever, the flock’s gabbling is like the voice of restless autumn, and the flight never wavers. On and on, over the hills and the towns and the cities, to the far horizon and still…beyond, southward. And only that restless echo, faint and haunting, remains.

They are footloose as the autumn wind, and they follow the sun. There is something both exhilarating and faintly sad in the echo of their going. Maybe it is the echo of another summer gone. Maybe it is the freedom song of the skies. Whatever, it haunts the earthbound heart.

I will tell you what haunts this earthbound heart. To observe the old grey-headed saints of God like my 98 year old grandpapa, Cline Bradley , who had fought the good fight, kept the faith, and who go off into eternity knowing they will inherit that heavenly country and instantly are present with the lord. I hear the echo of their going as they follow the Son …. I am restless. I yearn to go with them because eternity is in my heart. Heaven is my home. I was made for it. So were you if Jesus is your savior.

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SCREAMING IN THE STREETS

People of Justice Proverbs 29:7, 31:8-9, 16:11, 21:3

SCREAMING IN THE STREETS: People of Justice Proverbs 29:7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 31:8-9Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 16:11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 21:3Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)

The stories we tell as a culture, in many ways, shape the lives that we live. They shape the direction we go, they shape the values that we hold. It shouldn’t be any surprise to you that the same was true for the nation of Israel. The stories that they told and that God commanded them to tell and retell were intended to shape the lives that they lived. One of the most prominent stories that the Israelites told over and over and over again, both through festival and ritual and through direct command from God, was the story of their exodus from slavery. All over the pages of Scripture we find this command “Remember where you came from Israel.” Israel was under the mighty, oppressive hand of the Egyptians for 400 years. They were commanded to make bricks without straw; they were beaten down; they were oppressed, and God miraculously and mightily stepped in….and you may have seen Charlton Heston reenact it….but He stepped in and led them out of Egypt. He parted the Red Sea; they walked through it on dry ground. They wandered around in the desert for 40 years and God shaped them and formed them as a people, then eventually led them into the Promised Land. He gave them this command: Never forget where you’ve come from. Don’t forget what it’s like to be on the bottom as I bless you, God said. You are intended to be a people who bless those around you and don’t forget…don’t forget…don’t forget about the least vulnerable people. Remember, that’s who you were when I took you by the hand and I led you into freedom. In the book of Deuteronomy, it’s not unique and just one passage, we start to see this shine through. Speaking to the nation of Israel, God says: You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner (foreigner or immigrant) or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. (Deut. 24:17-18Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) This is a formative narrative for the people of God. Never forget where you’ve come from.

Why does God have to command Israel to remember? Because they’d forget. The same is true for you and me. It’s easy to forget where we’ve come from when we stand where we are. So he says to them, my nation, my people, my voice, my light, will be a people of justice. Not just a people who can serve you back, and not even to people who are part of your nation, but you’re going to be a unique people amongst all the people of the earth, because you’re going to do justice to the sojourner, to the fatherless, to the widowed, to the groups of people that everybody else takes advantage of. You’re going to be unique, Israel. Why? Because you remember what it’s like to be on the bottom. The hard part is….you forget. The hard part is we trend away from justice naturally because it typically doesn’t benefit us.

My oldest son has a strong sense of justice. So when it’s his birthday he expects to get presents….because that’s what’s right. But the thing is, he expects to get presents on everyone’s birthday! He’s going, “Why did Avery get that?” Well, because it’s her birthday. Well, what am I going to get? Why did Avery get to have that friend over? When is my friend coming over? Your friend’s been….he lives at our house, man! {Ethan} has a strong sense of justice through his own lens. Only when it benefits him does he want justice! {Will you look up at me for a second?} We never grow out of this. This is part of what it means to be human. We have this deep longing for justice in our souls. If you disagree with me, explain to me why we have CSI:Lincoln, NE?! We have twelve different versions of CSI…Crime Scene Investigators because we love justice. Nobody’s rooting for the bad guy who murdered all the people to get away. Have you ever wondered why that is? We’re all rooting for the person to get caught, for what’s right to be done. It’s the reason the podcast “Serial” was so compelling. Episode after episode. I’m going, “Well, is Adnan guilty or is he innocent and are you ever going to tell me?” The answer’s no, they’re never going to tell you. Spoiler alert—if you’re in the middle of it, you’re going to be disappointed….because you love justice, just like I do. It’s the same reason “Making a Murder” on Netflix was so wildly popular…because we love justice. We want things to be fair. We want things to be right.

I would consider this to be the image of God that’s stamped on the human soul. We want justice, we want right, because we’re made in the image of God. What sin does to us is it turns us and it fractures us. Instead of seeing justice as it is, we start to see it through our lens. We start to see it through the lens of….what benefits me? What serves me? What God says to his people all throughout the Scriptures is listen: He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner (the immigrant, the wanderer, the person without a country to call their own), giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 10:18-19Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) Don’t forget the story!! Don’t forget the bigger narrative that you’re a part of. I redeemed you, I rescued you, and you are to be a people who do the same.

As we see in this passage, justice is really, really, really important to God, because all people are important to God. That’s why it matters. That’s why it matters to God, that’s why it should matter to us as God’s people. Justice matters to God because all people matter to God. In our time together in the Scriptures this morning, we’re going to ask God to press on us a little bit, because, like I said, we start to see things strictly from our point of view and what benefits us. It’s not because we’re intentionally evil or we’re wrong, it’s because it’s part of our human condition. So let’s just admit this morning that we may have some blind spots. Maybe there are some things in our life that we don’t see, so we’re going to go to the Scriptures and we’re going to ask that God would open our eyes and that justice would matter to us because it matters to God. And that justice would matter to us because people matter to us. So even if it costs us something, let’s be people who pursue justice. [00:09:41]

You may be going, alright, Paulson, that’s great, but what is justice? There’s two words in the Hebrew scriptures that are typically translated ‘justice.’ They’re sort of like two sides of the same coin. The first word is the word “mishpat.” {mish-pawt} It’s used over 200 times in the Hebrew scriptures and it simply means “that which is equitable or fair.” To do what’s right. {So, you have this scale in your bulletin….and I understand that if I put all the good things on one side of the scale, it’s going to be uneven. I get it. The metaphor’s going to break down at some point, so we’re going to stack the justice things on one side and injustice on the other.} Equitability means that things are fair and that’s what mishpat means. But it’s more than just correcting wrongs. It’s both punishing the wrong doer, but more than that, it’s restoring the person who is wrong. All throughout the Scriptures, you see this word mishpat that carries with it this relational component…that the person who was taken advantage of is somehow made right again. That they’re made whole. So sometimes when justice is talked about in the Scriptures, the wrong doer, as it were, gets off, but the wronged is restored and God says that’s justice, that’s mishpat. It’s this idea that the wronged is made right and is restored.

We see this all throughout the Scriptures. It tends to focus, in the Old Testament, around Israel being the kind of people who have mishpat, or have justice, towards the people that everybody else takes advantage of. Deuteronomy 27:19Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) — Cursed by anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and widow. If you add “the poor” in there, what you have is what many people refer to as the quartet of the vulnerable. The people that everybody takes advantage of simply because they can. God says, no, no, not my people. They do justice or they’re right in their dealings with everybody.

The second word is similar. It’s the word “tzadeqah” (tsed-aw-kaw’). It means ‘righteousness.’ It means to treat others the way that you would want to be treated. It’s the type of thing where if everybody lived with tzadeqah, mishpat wouldn’t be necessary because people would be treated right. Here’s what God presses on his people. In fact, early on in the Scriptures, you see the calling over Abraham’s life is this — For I (God) have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness (tzadeqah) and justice (mishpat). (Gen. 18:19Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) It’s the first time the word ‘justice’ is used in the Scriptures and it’s tied together with this term ‘righteous.’ Living rightly in relationship to the people around you. Justice isn’t just this judicial ‘somebody’s wrong and somebody’s right.’ Justice is this relational ‘somebody’s broken and restored.’ That’s what’s at the heart of God when we talk about justice…..people who are fractured being made whole and being made right. So this righteousness is living in right relationship to God and to everyone around us, and mishpat is God stepping in and saying, “I’m going to right the wrongs and restore the broken and heal the hurting.” God says to you and I, “That’s really important to me and it should be really important to you too as my people.” He doesn’t mince words about this. It’s all over the pages of Scripture.

As I said, in your notes you see a scale. It’s a scale of justice. The book of Proverbs is going to take this idea of God’s justice and put it on the ground for us. The book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom literature, of short, little sayings that reflect the way God has designed the world to work. One of the ways that God’s designed and wired the world to work is that it would be fair, that it would be just, that it would be good. As his people, he presses on us and says this is not something you get to pray about. You hear me? We don’t get to pray about whether we want to be people of justice. We get to pray about HOW we’re people of justice, but we don’t get to bring this before the Lord and go, “God, do you want to be just?” He’ll come back, “Have you read my word?” This is something I’ve commanded my people from the beginning of time; that you would reflect my heart for all people. So as a follower of Jesus, this just in, you don’t get to pray about whether you care about justice. God cares about it and therefore, he calls his people to care about it. Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision, says: “So often there’s a hole in our gospel when it comes to justice.” There’s a lack. There’s a lack of care, sometimes. There’s a lack of voice, sometimes. As we go to the Scriptures today, let’s go with the heart attitude that maybe, just maybe, there’s something that God may have for us. [00:15:46]

If you’ve been with us over the course of the summer as we’ve looked at the book of Proverbs, you know that after chapter 9, it turns into a potpourri of wisdom sayings. There’s not one single thread per chapter, or per section, there’s a number of themes that the author of Proverbs wants to draw out, but they’re scattered all over the book. We’re going to draw together this theme of justice and see the way it plays out over the course of this book of Proverbs. Proverbs 29:7Open in Logos Bible Software (if available). A righteous (tzadeqah) man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge. Other versions say a righteous man remembers the poor. Doesn’t just walk right by.

I was reminded of a story I read a while back — In January 12, 2007, a man by the name of Joshua Bell took his 3.5 million dollar violin and went and sat at the entrance of a subway in Washington, D.C. It was during rush hour and thousands of people walked by him as he played this beautiful instrument, in the way only a professional could, because that’s exactly what he was. He played for 45 minutes, six different pieces by Bach. At the end of the 45 minutes, he had $32 in his case. He had 20 people that had stopped, for just a short period of time. The most compelled was a child, who leaned in. The ironic part about it was that three days earlier, Joshua Bell sold out a stadium in Boston to play the same violin, the same songs, for the same amount of time…$100 a seat. Context matters. He had dressed like a homeless man to play the violin in the corner and people just walked right by him. Didn’t even notice him. Just in the background. Just noise.

I started to wonder how many people do I just walk by? How many people are in my background? How many people are just noise? The reason God tells his people to remember the rights of the poor is because it’s easy to forget. It’s easy to forget that if we perceive that people don’t add something to our life they don’t deserve something from us or the people around them, or they don’t hold or have value. But God says that in my kingdom things are different. Instead of ignorance….I don’t mean that in the sense that we are actively ignorant, I mean in the literal sense that we ignore things, we ignore people. Instead of that, God says my people are people of compassion. They see the foreigner, the fatherless, the widowed, and the poor and they care. In a book that is all about the Gospel, the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul slips in there what he longs to and hopes to do as he goes to visit the churches in Galatia. Listen to what he says: Only, they asked us to remember the poor… {In the midst of all this beautiful, marvelous, gospel proclamation….Paul says, the one thing I want to do when I’m on the ground, I need to remember the poor and he says…} …the very thing I was eager to do. (Gal. 2:10Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) His preaching was accompanied by his living.

{Will you look up at me a moment?} I’m not, at least in this section, I’m not making a political statement. In fact, I think it’s way too easy to put our calling as a church on politicians. This is our calling as a people of God, not a politician’s calling. Our calling as a people of God is to remember the poor. Let’s not give somebody else the church’s job. This is our job. I think…..one of the reasons I absolutely love pastoring this church is because I think you guys do it in a real beautiful way. In the course of a given month, did you know that there would be over 425 people that come through our food bank to get food? Seventy to a hundred families every single week. We collect between 3,000 – 3,500 pounds of food every single week. This last year, we’ve hosted Family Promise four different times, because you are a church that says if there’s anything within our power to do, we want to provide a place for homeless people to sleep. We partnered with twelve other churches around the Denver area to open the doors of our church to 21 families, to 69 people, with over 100 volunteers (you guys) saying, “This matters to us.” We’ve been able to provide housing to those people four different times throughout the course of this year, because we believe that all people matter to God and therefore, all people matter to us. [00:21:58]

I love this picture of Jesus….when it would have been so easy for Jesus to be on his “mission” and miss the people, we see that your king is the kind of king who, when he sees the crowds, he doesn’t just walk by and he’s not so busy that he looks passed, but he actually sees them. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matt. 9:36Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) Maybe the question back to God today is God, are there people in my life that I don’t see because of the position that they have? Are there people in my life that I just walk by that have become background noise? That you want me to see, that you see, God, and that you want me to see differently? Did you pray that prayer today? Did you ask him if there are people that you’re not seeing because of where they’re situated or what they lack? God says that my people are the kind of people who take note of the poor and we’ll see what they do in the light of that.

Proverbs 31:8-9Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) give us this next invitation to be people of justice. Open your mouth for the mute, {For people that don’t have a voice. God’s people are designed and intended to be a voice.} ..for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. The tendency throughout all of history is to trend away from the poor, away from the needy, away from the oppressed, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There’s never been a time—-unless people were intentional about saying that’s not who we’re going to be—-that it didn’t happen. So God’s says, “I want my people, when they start to see injustice, to not be people who remain silent, but to be people who raise their voice.” To be people who say something. Who, when they see something, they say something. So, it’s this movement from apathy to advocacy.

Let’s have a quick talk. We cannot raise our voice, if we have not first opened our ears. If we haven’t heard the stories of people who are oppressed and listened without a judgmental attitude. Or, if only you would have pulled up your boot straps. Or, if only you would have done what I’ve done. Listen, if they were in your situation, they may have done what you’ve done. But they’re not, they’re in their situation. Until we start to hear people’s stories and start to actually listen to people’s hearts, we will not be able to stand up and speak on their behalf. So before we speak, we’ve got to first listen. What if the church became known as a community where people listened to the stories of the broken? Instead of deciding whether or not we think that they were right or wrong or what they should have done, what if we opened our heart and listened? The tendency in all of us when we are in a system (and we are) that benefits us, it’s hard to see the way that it hurts others. That’s true of human nature, you guys. When we listen, what we start to do is we start to say there may be a different narrative going on that’s other than my own. You do know that’s possible, right? When we listen, we open ourselves up to go, okay, maybe the systems we’re in have some flaws. This just in—they’re designed by humans, they DO have flaws! They do!

How do we become the kind of people…..all throughout the Scriptures, God gives people power so that they would leverage their power for those who don’t have it. That’s the invitation of our God. You do know that Jesus is not down on power? You do know that Jesus is not down on influence? He’s not down on authority. He’s actually down on people in positions of power using the power to benefit themselves rather than to advocate for the people underneath them. You’re looking like you don’t believe me. Mark 10:42-45Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) — And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, {See, Jesus isn’t down on power or greatness, he’s down on people of power using greatness to benefit themselves rather than those around them.} and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. {The narrative came in again—don’t forget where you’ve come from.} For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Silence isn’t an option. Richard Stearns, again, said: “A church that’s lost its voice for justice is a church that’s lost its relevance in the world.” Elie Wiesel, Jewish author and concentration camp survivor, said: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Let’s be honest, guys, as a Church, capital “C” Church, we’ve got a checkered past. I’m going to be an equal-opportunity offender today. We have a checkered past. In Great Britain in 1787, William Wilberforce and his friends started to speak out about slavery in Great Britain. In 1807, they passed the Slave Trade Act that dramatically limited the way that they were able to not only obtain slaves, but for the rightful treatment of slaves. In 1833, that same group abolished slavery in Great Britain. They were holding their Bible in their hand while they did it. Praise be to God! At the same time, on the other side of the Pond, we had people in the United States going, “No, no, God’s for slavery, God wants slavery…” What happened was people that were greedy and needed a system that would perpetuate itself based on free labor, because they wanted to line their pocketbooks, neglected the invitation from God to value all people. They were blinded and they were greedy and it drove them to do things that we would say were wrong or evil. Oftentimes the Church was silent. That’s what prompted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to say: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

It got me thinking, what are the issues that need the Church’s voice today? We saw one of them last weekend on full display. The issue of racism needs the Church’s voice. It does. It needs us to say that all people are created equal, that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Nobody is better or worse because of the color of their skin. It needs the Church to rise up and say, what happened in Charlottesville is symptomatic of what’s in all of us, not just a unique thing that happened one weekend, because a statue was removed. The removal of a statue didn’t create a monster, it revealed it. As a church we need to go, “No, no, there’s a better way. His name is Jesus.” We need to say something about racism.

Did you know that there’s 45.8 million slaves in the world today? Here’s the deal, you guys. Even as I say that—-I had lunch with Dr. Jeff Brodsky, JOY International, this week—-I’ve got stories in my mind. It’s such a huge number that it feels insurmountable. Will you pray about what you and we can do to say with our voice, THAT’S. NOT. OK! I’m not okay with people being treated like that. We believe that justice matters to God because all people matter to God, and we want to be the kind of church that advocates and says yes, we believe that’s true, not only with our mouths, but with our lives.

The issue of abortion. Talk about someone who has no voice. In a room this size, I know that some of you have walked through abortion, you’ve walked through that pain. One, I want you to know that you are welcomed here and loved here. We want you here. We also need to say that our position is that life begins at conception. God cares about all people and God cares about those babies; the one million babies that are aborted annually here in the United States. How do we become the type of church, the type of community, that says no, no, no, these things MATTER to us? We can’t just turn a blind eye. So we choose advocacy instead of apathy.

Proverbs 16:11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) goes on to describe another scene — A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work. Proverbs 20:23Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) — Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good. Here’s the picture — If you were selling goods, before 600 B.C. when they developed coinage, you did it by weights. Some people would have a stone on one side of the scale and then put goods on the other side of the scale, but depending on who they saw coming to their business, they would use a different stone. Ironically, if they saw somebody rich coming, they would use the lighter weight so they could give a better deal if you were buying. WHY? Why would you do that? Because you can. Because the poor people didn’t have a voice to stand up and say hey look, can we remeasure? What about that rock behind your table? All throughout the Scriptures, God talks about his scales; the people who use scales and represent Him and carry His name use equal scales. They don’t have one measure for some people and a different one for others. They operate with tzadeqah, righteousness, rightness. They operate with integrity instead of exploitation.

Exploitation is simply taking advantage of somebody because you can. Because you’re in a position of power or authority where the person underneath you doesn’t have a voice. You can rip them off because they don’t have a place to raise their hand and go, “Hey, are you sure that’s how much I should get for working in this factory all day?” The implications for us as people that value right scales are huge, are they not? I’ll admit it…..ALMOST so big that we don’t know where to start. Here’s the thing, if you start being a person that cares about scales, as it were, you’re going to pay more. It’s going to cost you financially…..because you’re going to go, “I might not be able to shop there anymore, because they don’t pay their workers right.” I might not be able to go there….it’s going to cost you financially. Make no mistake about it, it will! You can find out where your clothes are made, and whether or not the farmers who grew the food that goes onto your table got paid a fair wage. You can find out. One of the changes we’ve made at Solid Grounds is that now we’re working with a direct trade source for our coffee. It’s better than fair trade because fair trade gives a fair wage, but direct trade means that the buyers are in direct contact with the farmers and we KNOW that they are helping women who are downtrodden and in need (especially in Uganda). Are we going to pay a little bit more? Yep. Is it worth it? It is to me. It’ll cost you financially. It’ll cost you relationally because you’re going to have people who stand up and say, “I don’t see it that way. I’m not sure I agree with you.” That has to be between them and the Lord. It’s integrity versus exploitation. [00:37:03]

And finally we’ll land the plane here. The book of Proverbs (21:3) says — To do righteousness and justice (mishpat and tzadeqah) is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Here’s what’s going on. What the author of Proverbs just did is attacked and, in some ways, supplanted an entire religious system that was based around when we offer these sacrifices for sin, when we offer these sacrifices for thanksgiving, when we offer THESE sacrifices we are then in right relationship with God. What the book of Proverbs says is whoa, whoa, whoa, hold it there! If you’re not a type of person who does what’s right (righteousness) to the people around you, and you’re not a person who cares about what’s fair and you don’t advocate for people who don’t have a voice, and you use your power to get up one more rung on the ladder, but you sacrifice……..He goes are you kidding me?!! The prophet Amos (5:21-24) says it more strongly, recording God’s words —- I hate, {and just in case you think I stuttered..} I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. {You get this picture of God up in heaven and as his church gathers to worship and doesn’t care about justice he’s going, “La-la-la-la!” But, but, but……} But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. He’s going listen, if you’re not going to be people who care about the foreigner, the fatherless, the widow, and the poor then don’t come into my house and sing songs about how great I am. I care about those people and I’ve commissioned my body to be a body who cares about those people. As we look at justice, what we find out is that what God is looking for is surrender not singing. He’s not just looking for people that would go through the motions of ritual, but ignore the people that he says I care about.

Matthew 22:37-39Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is and he responds by saying — You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. {But he goes, I can’t just leave it at one, lest you think you could come to worship and that that would be the end of the game. Jesus says, no, no, no, no, no, the second is like it. It’s from the same place. It carries the same DNA. It’s of the same origin.} ….You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Look up at me for a moment. God never, never divides, in the Scriptures, loving Him and loving others. It’s always vertical and it’s always horizontal, throughout all of the Scriptures. This is God’s call for God’s people. If you’re going, “Hey, Paulson, sounds like a social gospel to me,” I would say to you if the gospel doesn’t have social implications, it doesn’t sound like the gospel. It doesn’t sound like the gospel Jesus preached and lived. It certainly doesn’t sound like the gospel the apostles preached and lived. It doesn’t sound like the gospel that I read about in our Scriptures where God says absolutely do I care about your soul so much that I’m going to give my own Son that you might be redeemed, that you might be made whole, that you might be forgiven, that you might be made right with God, that you would then therefore be like a city on a hill whose light shines. That you would be a people who do justice, who love mercy, and who walk humbly with your God. The mantra of the church from the very beginning is there is no difference between Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, but we are all one in Christ. Anybody who comes to Christ comes saying, “I am broken and I am in need!”

The beauty of this all is—-as we see these scales in our bulletin—-the beautiful picture of what the gospel does. It doesn’t extinguish or wipe out the scales; what we see is that the cross overshadows the scales. Here’s what we remember in the cross — that we were in slavery and he’s brought us out. That’s our story too. He’s moved us from darkness into light. In the cross we remember that we are better than absolutely no one. The only way we get in is being broken and destitute and receiving the grace of God that’s ours because of the work of Christ. In the cross we remember that we were loved when we were God’s enemies and we’re given the ability by his Spirit to love ours (enemies). In the cross, what we see is that God’s mercy and his justice kiss. Friends, we are people of that cross. Not in a way that extinguishes the scales of justice, but in a way that empowers us to be people loved deeply by God, knowing that we got more than we deserved, that we’ve been freed, and therefore, we say we’re going to be people who use our voice for the oppressed. We’re going to be people who open our eyes and do our best {please, Lord} not to just walk by. We’re going to say integrity’s important to us. It’s hard in a global economy, but integrity is important to us because it’s important to God. And by no means do we want our worship to end with our singing, but we want it to be demonstrated through our lives.

In 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the commencement speech at Morehouse College. In that speech, he began with the story of Rip Van Winkle. Rip Van Winkle had climbed up to the top of a mountain and he’d fallen asleep for twenty years. {Sounds sorta good some days, doesn’t it?!} Here’s what Dr. King says — “And this reveals to us that the most striking thing about the story of Rip Van Winkle is not merely that Rip slept twenty years, but that he slept through a revolution. {He woke up and a different person was in charge.} And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands. They end up sleeping through a revolution.” Friends, I believe that we’re at a significant point for us as a country. The question for this church, for our church, for God’s Church is are we going to sleep through this revolution or will we join in? Let’s pray.

Good God, we know, we trust, based on your character and based on Scriptures, that justice matters to you because people matter to you. We’re here to say we don’t just want to sing worship songs to you, we want to live lives of worship along with you. That you would empower us to be a voice. That you would empower us to carry your name. That you would empower us to demonstrate your love. That even if we benefit from systems that are wrong, that we would have enough integrity to stand up and say so. That we’d have eyes to see people that maybe we walk pass. That we would have a voice to raise on behalf of people that don’t have a voice for themselves. May we be people who remember our story, and may that story shape the lives that we live. That we’ve been rescued and we want to live it. It’s in your name, Jesus, that we pray. Amen.

This is a reprint from Pastor Ryan Paulson of South Fellowship in Littleton, CO.

Gentle as a DOVE

Matthew 10:16
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

When the Shepherd spoke in parables, the people often heard the story. They understood His words, as if he’d spoken them directly. Today, as we watch events happening around the world, Christians foresee eternity with a different scope.

I remember the night I realized my mother was not going to survive cancer. I’d been working and rushing through my work to spend time with her, and she’d begged me to just stop working and come sit with her.  That moment, the one where I sat down and heard her voice, the glimpse of the future that had washed over me as I sat there holding her hand, reminded me that I am not in control.

There’s a greater being, bigger than me, who controls the universe and as much as I wanted that night to last forever… I knew it was in His hands.

I heard parables that night, about so many things… Many of them I’d heard throughout my lifetime.  But this one, keeps coming back to me.

Like sheep

Psalm 78:52
But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.

53 And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

54 And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.

55 He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.

The story that kept weighing on my heart, and needed desperately to be told, was found in Psalm 78, where God shared parables of dark days to come, and allowed the light to shine through those stories of darkness. His light. Shown forth. Brought glory. In our darkest hour, we’re brought forth to the light, by God’s guiding hand. And God protects us.

That’s what the parable said to me. That’s what God’s word revealed.

I’d hung back, waiting for a message. And it was there all along. I struggled through seven years of not knowing, wishing there was something more that I could cling to… Until there wasn’t. There was nothing I could cling to, and mourning wasn’t my thing. I knew, if I’d known anything at all, that I wasn’t to mourn, but to celebrate the life. I was to celebrate the joy of knowing that Mom’s passing had been directly into the arms of God.

And there it was, in the parable she’d mentioned that night.

I have to share that I don’t believe she shared the parable meaning to tell me anything. She was sharing a story she’d shared with me a million times before, and each time something in the story changed. She’d raised a lamb from birth, because the mother rejected the lamb. Her uncle had given her the lamb, she named Lambie, and she bottle fed that lamb and cared for it until it was old enough to butcher.

Gentle as a DOVE

Doves on my window sill have been a symbol of rightness to me. In every home I’ve lived, a pair of doves lived nearby. I remember moving from the apartment when mom passed away, into a house where my family lived for several years.

It didn’t feel right.

We’d moved in December, and there were no doves. In fact, there were no birds. I remember the first picture I took in the house had an image I couldn’t explain, and for days I felt something was missing. I’d never experienced such a vacancy in my heart before that. I felt as if we’d moved into the wrong house.

In early February, before the snow had stopped falling I’d opened my window for some air, and I heard them… A pair of doves had taken up residence in a tree in front of our home.

He led them on safely…

In the parable mom had shared, she kept talking about safety, and reminding me that we would be cared for. The reason she’d shared the story to begin with had been to reassure me, that her passing wouldn’t be a warning, but rather a reveal of future blessings that would rain down. The parable had many phrases that talked of safety and assurance.

  • The sea overwhelmed their enemies…
  • He brought them to the border of His sanctuary…
  • He’d bought them a mountain…
  • He’d cast out the heathen before them…
  • And He divided them an inheritance…

There was much more in the Psalm, and over the seven years, I’ve experienced much that had little to do with God’s provision, and everything to do with lessons God allows us to learn. But there’s so much more…

Because in the end of the Psalm, the parable reveals that David is chosen, and God feeds them, and provides an inheritance.

In the depths of our pain, in our deepest sorrow, God reveals His promises.

I’m not a preacher. I’m not even really a Bible Scholar. I read the Bible and study it, and I often find wisdom and power in the Word. More often, I find sanctity, sanity, and simple instruction for my Faith in Him. I’m led to His promises.

As I studied today in Matthew 10, I was reminded of the parable, and mom’s gentle as a dove warning to “stay alert” in the days to come. I don’t believe she had any idea what was coming politically in our country. But I do believe the parable she shared is relevant in these times as God’s promises are given for moment such as these.

And I was reminded to be wise as serpents and harmless as a dove.

Listen for the doves, my friends. Listen for the dove.

#DOVE #wisdom #warning

This is the Day…

By Scott H. Northrup

Today is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Those are the words that came to me in the shower this morning. For those who are going through a trial and longing for a breakthrough, these words can be taken as a promise. Today is the day. It is a reminder that God is with us NOW to provide what we need. It is God’s way of saying, live in the moment. God’s name is I AM, not I WAS or I WILL BE. God lives in the moment. TODAY is the day that God has made. So let go of what lies behind, and live life to the full TODAY, pressing onward toward the goal. Today is the breakthrough day.

If we have some big thing ahead that we are dreading, we tend to put off our happiness till the day that is over. Or if past failure and sin dogs our steps, we tend to always be looking back over our shoulder. Neither way is what God intends for our lives. He desires that we have life and have it abundantly, starting today. And He has made every provision available for that abundance.

But receiving it begins by rejoicing and being glad in today. That activates our faith to receive all the blessings of God. Those blessings include forgiveness, mercy, wisdom, healing, peace in our minds, financial provision, and a breakthrough in our trial. So rise up, child of God, and break through. Reach out with all your might and seize what belongs to you by Divine Right. Reach out by rejoicing that it belongs to you now.

Proverbs 31 Woman in Action

This is Jan Verhoeff, and I’m co-authoring a book with fellow business connoisseur and startups master, Kevin Cullis, and during a recent discussion, he asked me to write a segment about “the art of womanliness in business.” Following is a short portion of the book – the reveal of the study portion – I’m using as insight for my writing. I thought you might enjoy it.

* * *

I can hear the masses roaring with laughter here, as I consider the concept Kevin Cullis has asked me to write about… The Art of Womanliness in Business. If you know me, this concept may bring you to immediate tears or, it may send shock waves through your body at the very idea. But I do have a perspective on this model that may surprise a few of you, or disgust others. Either way, I’m diving in…

Before I go to my personal views on the matter, let me head you off at the pass with a glimpse of the Biblical Profile of a woman.

Yeah, that trusty old Proverbs 31 woman works every single time… And I’m going there.

Let’s go straight to the basis, with details from the King James Version – because that’s what I prefer to study.

King Lemuel speaks these words as he was taught by his mother. I don’t recall any discussion in the Bible about King Lemuel’s father, whether he has a living one, or was raised with a father or not, although the conceptual husband is mentioned in this passage. But he has a very wise and understanding mother, who raised him and taught him well the value of a good woman.

She tells him, according to verse 2 “Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” Then she further reminds him that men should not to partake of strong drink, or wine, because they might forget the law, or endanger themselves with perversion.

Her wisdom appeals to the strength of a good man, one she esteems and respects, for she knows exactly how he was raised, she raised him herself. And he took well her counsel, carried it through his life and shared it as we have seen in these words.

virtuous womanThen, he offers an excuse for those who might deserve strong drink. Those who are at the end of their lives, or those who are impoverished, sad, and indisposed of life, as they should be allowed to forget their troubles.

King Lemuel asks, “Who can find a virtuous woman?” And he places the value of a good woman above gemstones, rubies. He values women. Particularly obvious here, he values his mother, a woman who can be trusted by her husband.

If King Lemuel had a living father, he proposes that his father can trust his mother, the woman who gave him birth. And he goes further to extol the virtuous woman, who will do good and not evil all the days of her life. (Let it be known here, that she raised her husband’s son to be King, to carry on the family name in a virtuous and profitable manner.)

King Lemuel acknowledges that his mother considers the fields. She visits the fields, assesses their value, and purchases the fields. Then, with the fruit of her own hands, she plants vineyards. She is a strong, capable woman, who builds her own strength and obviously takes good physical care of herself. She gathers food, provides meat for her family, and for her maidens. She’s obviously a hunter when she needs to provide food.

The story continues, revealing her ability to work hard, creating product, services, and merchandise which she sells to provide wealth for her family. She works long hard hours, for her candle remains lit into the night, and she arises early in the morning. This woman who raised King Lemuel offers help to the needy, and provides well for her family. She fears not the winter, for her family is well dressed in scarlet. For herself, she is adorned in tapestry, silk and purple.

Her husband is well known at the gates of the city. He’s perhaps a political figure as well? A wealthy man, capable of leadership, and he is well known by the elders in the community. (Presumably by this portion of the passage, King Lemuel has a living father.)

This woman, the mother of King Lemuel, makes fine linen. She’s known to be honorable, strong, and wise. Wisdom comes from her lips, and she speaks the law in kindness. Her gentle voice resounds through the community as she is heard by her people. She is not idle. Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her daughters are virtuous and excel in their lives as well.

This woman doesn’t have to extol her own virtues, for she is known at the gates of the city for her wares, her fruits, and her wisdom. She is a woman of virtue, celebrated by many.

The Proverbs 31 woman is a woman of means, of business, of professionalism, and mostly of wisdom. She’s educated and wise. Men who know her appreciate and extol her value, they look to her for wisdom, and she leads her children, her maidens, and her household to levels of wealth and success celebrated by others.

Are you a Proverbs 31 woman?

Do you know Proverbs 31 women?

Please do take a moment and share your stories below. I’d love to hear more about virtuous women who model the Proverbs 31 woman’s lifestyle.

The Great Apostasy – Evil Lurks

THE TERRORISM IN GIBEAH

The other day, I watched a video of some of the violence occurring in European countries, caused by the massive influx of immigrants from Islamic nations. Murders, rapes, and terrorism is running rampant in these areas. With opponents of extreme vetting putting up every blockade possible to stop the necessary actions to insure against the wrong type of immigrant gaining access to this country, we may soon be in the same boat as many of our European neighbors.

Thinking on this caused me concern about things that might happen in America, which would have been unimaginable just twenty years ago. My thoughts went back to a teaching I did several years ago about a tragic story in the Book of Judges.

In Chapter 19 of Judges, we see what seems to be a familiar story. It is similar to the story of the angels of God, who went to warn Lot to leave Sodom, at least the circumstances are very similar.

We are told that there is no king in Israel. It was God’s intent that He be the king over His chosen nation, so that they can be like no other nation on the earth. This was a period of anarchy in Israel, as everyone was pretty much doing what they thought was right in their own moral character. They had a philosophy similar to that of America today, “If it feels good, do it!” Israel had rejected the rule of God, and thereby the law of God.

We begin the story with a Levite, who was living in the area of Mount Ephraim, and he took himself a concubine from Bethlehem Judah. Now, a concubine was a wife, but without all the privileges of a wife. The woman was unfaithful to the man, and went to her father’s house in Bethlehem Judah. After 4 months, the husband went after her, to her father’s house, in hopes of reconciliation. He brought with him, his servant and two donkeys. She invites him in, and her father is overjoyed to meet the guy.

He stayed for 3 days, and tried to leave several time, but the father-in-law kept delaying them, so they stayed for two additional days, and even got a late start on the day they finally left. It’s about 5 miles from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. At the time of this story, Jerusalem was occupied by the Jebusites. In fact, it was not until the times of King David, that the city was taken from the Jebusites and occupied by Israel. Now, because it is getting late, the servant suggest that they stop in Jerusalem for the night, but the man says that he does not want to stay in a place not occupied by Israelites.

So, they traveled another 2.5 to 3 miles past Jerusalem toward Ramah. It was too late to make the full journey to Ramah, so they stopped in Gibeah, about the time the sun was setting. Gibeah was occupied by the tribe of Benjamin, Israelites.

Now in those days they didn’t have motels, where you could pay a fee and spend the night. A major part of life then was hospitality. It was extremely important to them to be hospitable to travelers. Even in our present day, the Bedouins have strict rules concerning hospitality. If you receive guests into your home, you are honor bound to shelter and protect them, for as long as they are under your roof.

It doesn’t matter if you hate them so badly that you wish they were dead, you can’t mistreat them, as long as they are your guests. As long as they are under your roof, you are honor bound to entertain them, to treat them like royalty, and to defend them. Not to show hospitality was a great sin. So, the people of Gibeah were not hospitable to this man, his wife, and his servant. They were sitting in the streets of the city, because no one took them into their house for lodging.

Now, this old man, who was also from mount Ephraim, came in from working in the fields and began to talk to the man about where he was from and where he was going. The man told him of their travel to Bethlehem Judah and that they were on the way home, but no one offered to lodge them. He explained that he had adequate provisions for his group and his animals, but the old man insisted that he be allowed to lodge them for the night.

After they had eaten and drank, they were making merry, when the men of the city surrounded the house and beat on the door. They asked the old man to bring out the man, so that they could have homosexual relations with him. In response, the old man went out to them and told them not to do this wicked thing to the man, because he was a guest in the old man’s house.

This scene is very reminiscent of what happened in Sodom. If you will remember, the two angels of the Lord came to Sodom, on a mission from God to destroy the city. This destruction was because of the wickedness of the citizens of Sodom. The two angels were received by Lot, into Lot’s house, and were his guests, and therefore his responsibility. In the evening, the men of Sodom circled the house and demanded that Lot send these two men outside, so that they could actually have homosexual relationships with them. God destroyed Sodom because of this sin, and here we see the same thing happening, this time in an Israelite city, among the tribe of Benjamin. The same heinous sin that perpetrated the destruction of Sodom is now happening among God’s people. The moral decay into which the nation of Israel had sunk is obvious and evident in this story. The homosexuals of the city are so brazen as to openly parade themselves in the streets of the city, and demand their rights, which are not really rights at all. The old man recognizes it as wickedness, as folly. He begged them “Don’t do this wickedness, don’t do this folly.”

Because of the custom of hospitality, and because women in that culture and time had very little rights, the man did something that is quite unthinkable to us, today. It’s difficult for us to relate to this, because our culture is so entirely different. IMHO, our culture has been vastly affected by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One thing that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has declared, and has promoted, is equal rights. Christianity recognizes women as equal with men, in the sight of God.

You see, in Christ there is neither male nor female. We are all one, together in Him. The New Testament of the Bible has done so much to elevate the place of the woman, giving honor to the woman, and demanding respect for the woman.

Now, as the years of Christian influence has affected our culture, we have such a high regard for women.

Sadly, as the pagan influences begin to prevail in our society, we see women again being degraded by a society that is trying to erase Christ, Christianity, and the Christian influence. Women are again being looked upon as objects for men to lust after. Pornography has added to the exploitation of the woman’s body, effectively degrading women, and planting seeds of lust in both men and women.

The woman’s place of honor, respect, glory, and modesty is rapidly disappearing.

If this trend of erasing Christ from our society continues, and the influences of religions such as Islam are allowed to forge their way into the base of our society, women are quickly heading on a straight track to where they once were, looked upon as an object for the gratification of a man’s sexual lust.

Then, the story takes us to a place that is even more difficult for us to understand. The man offers his virgin daughter and his concubine to the men in place of the man they are requesting. He is willing to sacrifice his own daughter. This is a grand example of a world without the influence of Christianity, a world without a king, a world without moral law, without moral principles to govern. The man recognizes this horrible sin, and he tell them “but unto this man, do not so vile a thing.”

So, these men took the traveler’s concubine, and they raped her and abused her all night. In the morning they released her, and she came and fell down at the door of the man’s house. When he arose in the morning, he opened the door and saw her fallen down, with her hands on the threshold. Did he help her? Did he check to see how she was? No! He just told her to get up, so they could be on their way. She didn’t answer, so he loaded her on his donkey, took her home, and then cut her into 12 pieces with his knife and sent one part to each of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Now, this story ends with the following statement “And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.”

So, the message sent out to all of Israel was: “Hey! Look at this evil deed that has happened in an Israelite city. This has never happened before, since we became a nation. Consider this, speak your mind, and let’s get together.”

Most folks, who read this story in the Bible, simply write it off as an interesting (or, weird) story, with no real moral. I have a bit of a different take on it.

First, I see it as a necessary story, to assist us in understanding the times in which Judges were being used, if not only to show us what terrible sins and depraved lifestyles with which they had to deal on a regular basis. When we read about how a city of Israel has become so depraved in their way of life, it makes it a bit easier to accept the actions of a Judge, like Samson, using the jawbone of an ass to slay 1000 Philistines.

Second, and most importantly, is the fact that the nation of Israel, who had such rules regarding hospitality towards guests, could also be the home of such perversions. A whole lesson could be taught on the way this story could relate to how sin can come into a nation and destroy it from within.

Hmmmmmm! Is it possible that our own nation has already become indoctrinated into such perversion? Billy Graham was once quoted as saying “If God doesn’t punish San Francisco, He owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology!”

Imagine the sin and perversion that may rear its ugly head, when an event, such as the Rapture of the Church, suddenly removes all obstacles in the path of satanic forces!

2 Thessalonians 2

The Great Apostasy

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Just my thoughts!
Don D. Stephens

Grandma’s Rocking Chair

I learned about Jesus from Grandma’s Rocking Chair. Such a feeling song, and so completely revealing of the heart of a grandmother who shared Jesus.

That’s the Grandma I want to be.

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Brian Ridings sings with his mother.

Treasures with Mom

When I first saw this video, it had already gone viral on Facebook and Twitter, people were beginning to share the videos on websites, and the news stations hadn’t yet caught it… But they have now.

Kelly Ridings posted the videos on Facebook.

A man in a UPS uniform singing with his mother who accompanied them on the guitar. So much love… The two watched each other as they sang, love filled eyes and smiling. You couldn’t help but fall in love with the relationship they shared.

For those of us who miss our mother this Mother’s Day, these videos bring tears of joy – oh the memories.

Every mother prays for her child. And the joy a child experiences hearing his mother pray is palpable in the music. The words of this song, remind us of those who spent hours on their knees wearing holes in the floor beneath them as they prayed for their children.

Blessings come from this song each time I hear it again, and I’ve probably added a good number to the counts of visitors who listen to it daily.

Dreaming of a Little Cabin, originally shared by Porter Wagoner, has been repeated by many.

This rendition is now my favorite.

In dreams of yesterday, I wondered…

If you haven’t heard these songs, please take a moment and listen.

Better, take a moment and share them with family and friends.

Alzheimer’s is such a horrifying disease. I can tell you, the joy of hearing a mother with alzheimer’s lift her voice to words she remembers is one of the greatest joys you can ever experience. That moment of having them back is only to be treasured.

Thank you my dear sweet friends for sharing these videos. I hope you do make more, and I’m fortunate enough to hear them, and watch them.

God bless you both this Mother’s Day.

Rabbi Yosef Wallis

Posted by Max Edelkopf….
Rabbi Yosef Wallis shares….
“While he was in Dachau, a Jew who was being taken to his death suddenly flung a small bag at my father, Judah Wallis. He caught it, thinking it might contain a piece of bread. Upon opening it, however, he was disturbed to discover a pair of tefillin. Judah was very frightened because he knew that were he to be caught carrying tefillin, he would be put to death instantly. So he hid the tefillin under his shirt and headed for his bunkhouse.
In the morning, just before the appel [roll call], while still in his bunkhouse, he put on the tefillin. Unexpectedly, a German officer appeared. He ordered him to remove the tefillin, noted the number on Judah’s arm.
At the appel, in front of thousands of silent Jews, the officer called out Judah’s number and he had no choice but to step forward. The German officer waved the tefillin in the air and said, “Dog! I sentence you to death by public hanging for wearing these.”
Judah was placed on a stool and a noose was placed around his neck. Before he was hanged, the officer said in a mocking tone, “Dog, what is your last wish?”
“To wear my tefillin one last time,” Judah replied.
“The officer was dumbfounded. He handed Judah the tefillin. As Judah put them on, he recited the verse that is said while the tefillin are being wound around the fingers: “Ve’eirastich li le’olam, ve’eirastich li b’tzedek uvemishpat, ub’chessed, uv’rachamim, ve’eirastich li b’emunah, v’yodaat es Hashem – I will betroth you to me forever and I will betroth you to me with righteousness and with justice and with kindness and with mercy and I will betroth you to me with fidelity, and you shall know G-d.”
It is hard for us to picture this Jew with a noose around his neck, wearing tefillin on his head and arm – but that was the scene that the entire camp was forced to watch, as they awaited the impending hanging of the Jew who had dared to break the rule against wearing tefillin.
Even women from the adjoining camp were lined up at the barbed wire fence that separated them from the men’s camp, forced to watch this horrible sight.
As Judah turned to watch the silent crowd, he saw tears in many people’s eyes. Even at that moment, as he was about to be hanged, he was shocked. Jews were crying! How was it possible that they still had tears left to shed? And for a stranger? Where were those tears coming from? Impulsively, in Yiddish, he called out, “Yidden, I am the victor. Don’t you understand, I am the winner!”
The German officer understood the Yiddish and was infuriated. He said to Judah, “You dog, you think you are the winner? Hanging is too good for you. You are going to get another kind of death.”
“Judah, my father, was taken from the stool and the noose was removed from his neck. He was forced into a squatting position and two huge rocks were placed under his arms. Then he was told that he would be receiving 25 lashes to his head – the head on which he had dared to position his tefillin. The officer told him that if he dropped even one of the rocks, he would be shot immediately. In fact, because this was such an extremely painful form of death, the officer advised him, “Drop the rocks now. You will never survive the 25 lashes to the head. Nobody ever does.”
Judah’s response was, “No, I won’t give you the pleasure.”
At the 25th lash, Judah lost consciousness and was left for dead. He was about to be dragged to a pile of corpses , after which he would have been burned in a ditch, when another Jew saw him, shoved him to the side, and covered his head with a rag so people didn’t realize he was alive. Eventually, after he recovered consciousness fully, he crawled to the nearest bunkhouse that was on raised piles and hid under it until he was strong enough to come out under his own power. Two months later he was liberated.
During the hanging and beating episode, a 17-year-old girl had been watching the events from the women’s side of the fence. After liberation, she made her way to Judah. She walked over to him and said, “I’ve lost everyone. I don’t want to be alone any more. I saw what you did that day when the officer wanted to hang you. Will you marry me?”
My parents walked over to the Klausenberger Rebbe and requested that he perform the marriage ceremony. The Klausenberger Rebbe, whose Kiddush Hashem is legendary, wrote out a kesubah[marriage contract] by hand from memory and married the couple. I have that handwritten kesubahin my possession to this day.”

~~ Rabbi Yosef Wallis