How To Handle Rumors

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The call came when I least expected it. It was a dear friend who wanted to ask me about a false and ugly rumor she had heard about us. She and her husband loved us enough to ask us outright about what they had heard.

Can I even begin to express the gratitude and overwhelming love I felt for her at that moment? There are few better proofs of true friendship than this.

I know it’s not a normal posting day, but this incident came to my mind as I was reading Chapter 22 of Joshua this morning. The Israelites had heard that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had built an altar in rebellion to the Lord. All of the Israelites gathered quickly in preparation for war against these tribes that threatened to bring God’s curse on them.

But before they went to war, they wisely sent Phinehas the priest, along with some other delegates, to confront them about what they did.

When it was all said and done, the tribes had done nothing wrong, but instead had built an altar to signify the peace between the tribes on both sides of the Jordan for generations to come.

How often we just go to war– often with our viperous, vicious words– against someone who may be innocent without even checking on the truth of the matter. Whether it is someone spreading an outright lie or it’s just a truth that has been tainted and twisted through a million re-tellings, don’t our fellow human beings deserve the opportunity to give us the truth before we fall into resentment, hatred, anger, gossip, and bitterness? (Of course, the things I’ve listed should never be practiced to begin with— but that’s a different post for a different day).

As I read Joshua 22, my heart was once again stirred to gratefulness for the couple who had shown us what genuine friendship looks like. If you have a friend like that, consider yourself blessed. Many “friends” choose to spread the rumor further, grow bitter, angry, and finally put distance between themselves and you rather than doing the hard work of confrontation and communication.

Let’s be more like Phinehas and confront directly and without malice, searching for the truth of the matter instead of just believing nasty, ugly rumors.

Have a great Friday!

A Change of Allegiance

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“Mom, {Unnamed} says you can be an atheist and still be a Christian.” These were some of the first words my daughter spoke to me when she walked in the door yesterday.

Come again??

This is like saying an apple can be both an apple and a pear at the same time, and yet the person talking to her seemed to believed it.

As she further described the context of the conversation she was having, it became rather clear that those participating in the conversation had fallen prey to the unbiblical belief that a prayer said as a child is proof enough of salvation and you can go on to live in whatever manner you want and never, ever doubt your salvation.

But Rahab demonstrates to us that this is not true. If you are still reading with me, you will have recently read of this woman who put herself in danger for the sake of God’s people and then walked completely away from her old life. If she joined the Israelites, as we know she did, then we also know that God would not have tolerated worship of other gods in the camp. That means that her life radically changed when she declared her true faith.

In fact, nowhere in scripture do we see true faith without it being followed by dramatic change. They go hand in hand. Genuine salvation leads to transformation. Repent and turn from your wicked ways. Rahab is just one example– let’s also remember Paul (Acts 9) and Zaccheaus (Luke 19). We can also see this in the compelling stories missionaries from across the world share with us. To become a Christian means a dramatic change in lifestyle– so much so that many new converts put their lives in danger and sacrifice all they have to become a disciple of Jesus.

But here in our comfortable, materialistic, tolerant Western world, well—it’s quite a bit different, isn’t it? People can claim they are saved and yet never make any change at all and the “church” and the people within it will gladly affirm their claim and declare that all is well, deathly afraid to make any demands of anyone, lest their numbers go down and they are labeled as the church who judges–the ultimate sin, apparently.

My dear readers, this is not biblical salvation. While we certainly can never lose our salvation and it is true that some of us grow and change at a snail’s pace, we do have every reason to question if we were ever saved at all if we live in sin and disobey God’s commands without any conviction at all, if we have no love for God’s Word, or if we hold to a belief system that is not taught in scripture (such as atheism!)

Rahab shows us that true faith means walking away from your prior life. She was unable to stay in her town and in her old life– for if her life was to be saved, she had to join the followers of the true God. She couldn’t remain half-Canaanite and half-follower of God. She had to choose one or the other, as do we (Matthew 6:24).

While there is great grace and mercy for those of us who turn from our wicked ways and, in faith, acknowledge our need for a Savior–just as Rahab did– there is no room for purposeful wickedness to continue to reign in our lives. We must turn whole-heartedly to a brand new life. The old has passed away, behold all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I can see why people want to believe that salvation is like a “heaven insurance policy”. It’s so much more palatable than the truth, isn’t it? How easy it would have been for Rahab to declare her faith in God but then proceed to reveal the spies to the local authorities and remove the danger of being arrested for treason. But her temporary respite from danger would have cost her her life and the lives of her family in the long run. Most times the easiest, most comfortable, convenient solution is not the right one.

And so when scholars and well-known pastors and people we know claim that salvation is guaranteed despite zero lack of evidence in a life, our sinful, human minds jump at this wonderful claim. This means we can do what we want and still be saved. It means that Grandfather or Uncle Max or Aunt Sally was saved and is residing safely in heaven (after all, they said a prayer as a child), even though there was never even one tiny bit of spiritual fruit in their lives. This belief is understandably very appealing and it’s very common, but, according to scripture, it’s just not true (see references below).

I know this is a really hard truth. It is for me, too. It makes me examine my own life more carefully (2 Corinthians 13:5) and also can cause me to grow worried about some around me that claim salvation but show zero interest in spiritual things (Matthew 7:21-23). This truth changes my prayer life and makes me more sensitive to the opportunities God puts before me every day.

Simply put, we cannot deny that true Christianity means a complete and utter change of allegiance. My allegiance moves from myself and false gods or idols to the one and only true God. Just as Rahab changed her allegiance from her false gods and worldly system to the true God–and was blessed for it! Oh, let’s not forget the grace and mercy shown to her by our Heavenly Father and the blessings she received because of her faith!– so we, too, will change our allegiance when we come to true salvation.

And remember this very important thing–it’s not a “have to”, but simply an inherent fact of true faith. For that, my dear friends, is the crucial difference between legalistic, works-based “salvation” and life-transforming faith.

Verses that help us understand this truth–

I Corinthians 6:9
Hebrews 12:14
2 Timothy 2:19
Titus 1:16
I John 2:3
I John 2:9
James 2:17
James 4:4

 

 

On Shows and Sharing

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I spent most of yesterday at a builder’s show representing our landscape & lawncare business. I’ve done this often and generally enjoy talking to people about our company. My son has grown into quite a good salesman, so when I was working with him on this day I found myself mostly smiling or having friendly chit-chat with people and letting him have the serious conversations. I am okay with this. Sales would not be my strong point– to say the least.

But this did give me more time to stand back and just watch people. And here is what I noticed– if someone was interested in what we do or if they had a project already in mind and needed to hire a landscape contractor, then they would stop in our little 10×10 booth space and look at our display and talk with us. But if they weren’t, they’d walk right by.

Because they did not have need of our services. At least not right now. And maybe not ever.

One of the things I have really struggled over as I blog is the lack of footing I seem to get in this very fickle world of blogging. Growing4Life is not really all that appealing to most people. It’s focused on hard truths and is meant to challenge us out of our comfort zones. Very few readers are going to spend their time reading things that make them squirm. This can be very discouraging for me. So much so, that I have contemplated quitting numerous times. Why write?

{Let me insert a heartfelt thank you here to those of you who do read, share my posts, comment, and encourage me to keep going. Words cannot not express how truly grateful I am for you.}

But as I stood there thinking about all of the people who walked by our booth, a truth settled into my heart–

God will draw whomever He wants to read the blog. My job is to be faithful to what He has called me to do– whether I have one hit per day or one thousand.

And this truth affects much more than the blogosphere. It affects all of us, doesn’t it?

We are here to give God glory and to share the gospel. That is our main purpose. If we are doing this — whether in our neighborhood, workplace, online, or overseas on the mission field–we need to remember that God is master of the grand design. Sometimes we can grow discouraged because we feel like we aren’t making any different at all. And yet God is weaving all of our stories together perfectly. We may have planted a seed that will reap many dividends in the future but not find out about it until much later or perhaps we won’t find out until we reach heaven.

In the meantime, we can’t focus too much on the many people who aren’t interested in our message. It’s okay. It’s important to remember that most people aren’t going to be interested. The way is narrow (Matthew 7:14). (Actually, if the majority just loves us, we are most likely doing something wrong. John 15:18) True Biblical Christianity is not popular. But scattered in the midst of the general and sometimes hostile population are people who are searching for the truth and baby Christians longing to grow. God will give us opportunities to share Christ with unbelievers and to encourage and build up believers. Our job is to faithfully respond to those opportunities. We must not get discouraged.

Let’s be faithful to the ministry God has called us to and let Him take care of the rest. Yes, people will walk by and ignore us. They may even point a finger and make fun of us. But that’s when we need to remember that this short time here on earth– if we are saved– isn’t about us.

Let’s live our lives with an eternal perspective, remembering that God is weaving a marvelous tapestry of people touching people touching people. We can’t see it here from ground zero. But He can. We just need to keep on doing what He has put before us to do and let Him take care of the rest.

 

The Value in Reviewing the Past

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Most of us do not really care for history. We are taught little respect for the ways of those who have gone before us and we don’t really spend any time analyzing the mistakes and successes of our forefathers as we plan our own futures.

But as we are reading in Deuteronomy, we can see that Moses does exactly this. He recounts all that Israel has been through since they left Egypt as they now prepare to enter the Promised Land. In giving them hope and courage for the future, he is recounting the past. He talks of God’s faithfulness (Deut. 2:7; 3:3; 4:3)  and their faithlessness (Deut. 1:26, 32; 9:7-14). As he speaks of their past and their future, he keeps coming back this–Obey the Lord’s statutes and commandments if you expect to be blessed.  If you are reading the 2015 Bible Challenge along with me, you will have noticed this.

But why does Moses keep recounting all of their history? What good does that do? Let’s take a look at some reasons why it may be very beneficial to take a look back–

1. We can learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before us.

2. We can trace the hand of God’s faithfulness to those who belong to Him.

3. We can see the cause and effect of bad choices much more clearly– in other words, sin and its consequences.

4. We are strengthened as we read and contemplate the courage and fortitude of those who have gone before us.

In a lot of ways, a study of church history is a lot like what Moses was doing. When we look back at the birth and subsequent life of the church since its beginning in Acts, we can see its shortcomings, its compromise, and its sinful rabbit trails, but we can also see God’s hand protecting the Truth and providing courage and strength to the remnant that is proclaiming it, whether that remnant be great or small.

There is great value in history. I know so many of us have a distaste for this subject– mostly because of boring history teachers. I remember my church history professor in college. He was a nice guy, but he couldn’t have possibly made one of the most exciting subjects more boring. It wasn’t until I was teaching my own kids history as I home-schooled them, that I started understanding just how helpful (and fascinating!) this subject is. There is so much to learn from the past. God demonstrates this to us through Moses’s words in Deuteronomy.

Most of us are so busy that we don’t take the time to read of or think about any history at all– least of all our own. But may I encourage you to take a look back. For there you will see the faithfulness of God, guiding and directing His church and weaving the tapestry of your own life, drawing you to Himself and guiding you through both black tunnels and open field.  We have a heavenly Father who loves His church. And we have a heavenly Father who loves us–despite our shortcomings. We are blessed.

 

Deuteronomy 6:1-3  Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’

 

The Bath House

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I am so ready for Spring! Last week we experienced just a touch of spring warmth, but yesterday it was cold and windy again–giving us the impression that winter just isn’t quite ready to leave. Perhaps a humorous vacation story will remind us of the warmer days ahead.

Last summer we vacationed in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. When we arrived at our campground, we realized that my parents’ campsite was much bigger than ours and decided to set up our nightly campfire there. It seemed unfortunate that this site just happened to be next to the bathhouse.

But being next to the bathhouse wasn’t only unfortunate, but it also had the potential to be quite entertaining– for on the first night around the fire we noticed a most curious thing!

The campground staff had put some kind of soffit on the outside wall of the building in about a 2-3 ft area from the top to the bottom of the bath house. This soffit had rather large holes in it,which we assumed were for ventilation.  And, while we could not see a thing during the day, night time was quite a different story! In fact, it gave us a clear view into the bathhouse. Which was not a problem if people got undressed and dressed in the private shower area. However, if they did not–well, let’s just say we saw far more of one old guy than we would have ever wanted.

After that incident, we purposefully and very carefully kept our heads turned away from the bath house when we sat around the campfire.

Obviously, we could only see the people changing when the light was on. If they had decided to get dressed in the dark, we would not have been able to see anything.

Perhaps this is a truth that also applies to our sin. Maybe this is why we like to stay in the dark. For in the inky blackness, our flaws and sins aren’t so glaringly bright.

When the bright light of Christ’s love and biblical truth shines its bright light into our hearts and minds, it is with a shocked awareness of our nakedness and shame. Often, at this point, we desire nothing more strongly than to move back into the darkness, where we can hide.

And, yet, only Christ makes standing in the light without any shame possible for us. Without shame. Not because we are so gifted and talented, but because He is so amazing. Not because we are sinless, but because He bore our sins on a cross at Calvary. Not because we are so lovable, but because of His wonderful grace and mercy.

This is why, as believers, we should love standing in the light. We are new creatures, unashamed to stand reconciled before God, because our sins have been exposed, uncovered, and then paid for by the blood of Christ.

I just love how 1 Peter 2:9 puts it: But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

We have been called out of darkness into marvelous light! How incredible is this?

One of my favorite worship songs, written by Charlie Hall, expresses this thought. Here is just a small portion of the lyrics–

Sin has lost it’s power
Death has lost it’s sting
From the grave You’ve risen
Victoriously

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

 So let’s keep away from the darkness and stand with firm steadfastness in the light–not on our own merit, but by the grace of God; not because of our good deeds but because of the cross.

Into marvelous light we’re running! Out of darkness, out of shame!

 

p.s. And for any who are wondering– we were sure to notify the camp staff of their very odd issue with the upper bath house :)

 

 

Do you receive the Growing4Life Bible Challenge Newsletter?

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I will be e-mailing the March issue of the Growing4Life Bible Challenge Newsletter in the next day or two. I just thought I’d give a quick reminder about this helpful resource. In it you will find helpful links and resources that correspond with what we are reading in our Bible Challenge.

Here are some comments from subscribers–

“…loved the resources in your February newsletter. The article about Egypt and archeology was very interesting. Sent the email to my whole family.”

“You did a great job on the Bible reading newsletter, it looks good! I enjoy the links you share with information tying into the books we’re reading through at the time.”

 

You can receive this helpful resource by subscribing to the blog (see upper right).

 

 

To Obey or To Disobey? (that is the question)

To Obey

Every person needs to answer this question early on in his or her life–

Will I obey (submit to) God’s commands or will I disobey (rebel)?

Therein lies the whole dilemma of man. Oh, many of us don’t even really think about it in these terms, but when we remove all of the “stuff” and the “dialogue” this is the crux of the matter. This is why some are so zealous to deny God’s existence. And why some are so passionate about discrediting His Word.

And, yet, deep within each of us is knowledge of the ultimate Truth (Romans 1:19-20). And we have a choice to make.

If this is the first time you are reading through the Old Testament, it can be a little overwhelming. There is so much about offerings and sacrifices and laws. It seems like not one area of daily life remains uncovered in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Along with the laws, we have been reading of Israelite censuses and their battles, idolatry, and travels from place to place. But right in the middle of it all is an amazing chapter. Leviticus 26. In our Bibles the words of this chapter appear to be more poetic and Psalm-like than the chapters before and after it, and yet, it reads like an explanation of perhaps the most basic law of all–

–If the Israelites will walk in God’s statutes and obey His commandments, He will bless them (verse 3).

BUT

–If they do not obey Him and do not observe the commandments, despising His statutes and abhorring His judgments, God will set His face against them and they shall be defeated (verses 14-17).

If you read the whole chapter, you will read even further details about what happens to the nation when it obeys and when it disobeys. As we continue our journey in the Old Testament, we will find out that, while God continues to have incredible love and mercy for this special group of people, the children of Israel experience much pain and turmoil because of their disobedience and idolatry.

So that leads to a rather natural question–

Is this a principal only for the Israelites or does it apply today? Does obedience have any correlation to blessing from God? And disobedience to struggles and hard times?

What do you think?

Personally, I tend to think so. No, we don’t have God speaking to us as we journey through the wilderness, but if we think about some of the lives around us, we can still see this law in place.

Think of someone who is not saved but lives a very moral life. They may be very religious or they may just have grown up with very moral, good parents. Whatever the reason, they actually follow many of God’s laws, even though they are not doing so for the same reason we would (to please our Savior). And yet, many of these good, moral people avoid so much heartache because they are following the commands God sets forth in His Word.

These people honor their parents, don’t lie or cheat or steal; they stay clear of debt and are committed to their marriages.

In doing so, they often reap the benefits of following God’s laws. God has set up our lives to work much better when we obey His commandments and we reap the benefits in the here and now — whether we are saved or unsaved. Of course, if we are saved, we reap even greater rewards for our obedience in the future.

Now think of someone who has made poor choices. They make a habit of lying. Or stealing. They drink too much or they run around on their spouse. Do you envy that person’s life? I doubt it. We can see clearly that most of the time, people reap terrible fruit when they make terrible choices.

This chapter 26 is really interesting to me. God shows very plainly that obedience brings blessing and disobedience brings His wrath. It seems so clear.

So why do we act so surprised when we shake our fist at God and tell Him that we are going to do things our own way and then reap the terrible consequences of our selfish, ungodly choices?

Until we make the choice to follow God whole-heartedly, committed to obeying His commands, we are going to struggle continuously and be defeated over and over again. And, as believers, we don’t have any valid reason or excuse to continue to live in sin, bearing the pain and unpleasantness that is eventually reaped from this choice, because God has provided everything we need to lead a godly life (2 Peter 1:2-4).

Let’s bring this a little closer to home. Most of you are not having affairs or getting drunk. Many of our sinful choices we Christians make are considered “non-sins”, especially when we compare our lives to the lives of the ungodly. But let’s talk about an example that is very familiar to many of us— our bodies.

We have the responsibility to take care of our bodies and yet, over and over again, many of us feed our body the wrong things or way more than we need. Some of us abuse our bodies by working too long and hard or not sleeping enough. Many of us are too busy or lazy for proper exercise. And a few of us may even struggle with abusive substances that are really bad for our bodies like cigarettes, alcohol, or prescription drugs.

However, I think we can all agree that until we treat our bodies in a way that honors God (Romans 12:1-2; I Corinthians 6:19-20), we will be in a continuous struggle. But if we submit our bodies– what we eat, how much we sleep, how many hours we work, etc.– completely to God, digging in His Word and praying for guidance, then this particular battle will wane and we will be able to rest easy knowing we have done our part in obeying God in this area of our lives. Along with that will often come a healthier body and mind, as this is the usual outcome of treating our bodies well.

Certainly, the blessings of obedience are not always tangible. We aren’t promised health and wealth. While in this Leviticus passage, we actually see that God’s promises the Israelites good harvests (vs. 4-5), safety and peace (vs. 5-7), victory in battles with their enemies (vs. 7-8), lots of descendants (vs. 9), to be their God and to walk with them (vs. 12), we must recognize that this was a very special group of people at a very special time.

We do not find the same specific promises given to us in the New Testament. Instead we find the context of keeping God’s commands wrapped up in the offering of our love. We obey because we love God. Over and over again, this is what we read in the New Testament. Check out John 14:15, 21; John 15:10; I John 5:3; and 2 John 1:6.

There are promised rewards, of course. We read of the imperishable crown or wreath (I Corinthians 9:25), the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), that we will be bearers of much fruit (John 15:5), have mansions in heaven (John 14:2) and enjoy a deep, abiding fellowship with our Savior (I John 3:22-25).

And so we are left with our most basic decision–

Will we show our love by obeying God’s commands or will we choose to disobey?

Whatever we decide, we can be sure there will be consequences.

 

 

When You Feel Like a Loser

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Failure. Loser. Unimportant. Irrelevant.

A couple of weekends ago, all of these words came to my mind and I was using them to describe myself. It was just one of those weekends, if you know what I mean.

I made a lot of mistakes and also realized that I had made some pretty serious mistakes in the past that I am fairly powerless to fix. I questioned my purpose and the reason for my existence. Who even cares?

Sure, these are pretty serious questions and no, I am not looking for anyone to fill the comment section below with praises and compliments.

Instead, I want to know what the biblical response should be when I feel like a loser. I know what the world says–Love Yourself. Be Kind to You. You are Beautiful. You Can Do Anything.

But is this what the Bible teaches me?

When I search the Bible for a command to love myself, I can only find verses that assume that I already do–

Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.

These verses all–without exception– say the same thing: To love my neighbor as myself. This shows us that we already love ourselves.

And I recognize that when I fall into self-pity, it is because I love myself, not that I need to love myself more.

But Paul tells us in Philippians 1:21 that to live is Christ.

And further on in Philippians (3:8) we read Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Usually, when I feel like a loser it is because my focus isn’t on Christ, but it’s on me. I have started worrying about my glory, my popularity, my feelings, and, mostly, my hurt pride.

So I have to make the difficult effort to turn my eyes from me and put them back on Jesus. I have to very purposefully remove my focus from my hurt, humility, shame, and mistakes and instead remember my true purpose as taught in God’s Word– to glorify God and to make Him known.

This can be very difficult, can it not?

And, yet, when we do so, it changes everything.

How can we practically do this?

I had a friend show me a really good example. She was feeling down and depressed. She wasn’t sure how to get out of the familiar cycle. I rather offhandedly suggested that she do something nice for someone else. And did she ever! She organized a drive to raise funds to encourage and bless a struggling family. By the time she had finished this project her blues had left and she was feeling stronger again.

Doing things for others naturally removes our focus from self.

I guess Philippians 2:3-4 says it best–

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

I know that the world is telling us differently. It is telling us to focus more on ourselves. But I don’t believe this is what the Bible teaches. I believe, instead, we are to be, with great effort, removing our eyes from ourselves and placing them purposefully on Christ, so that we can be used for His purposes and His glory.

And, ironically, when we actually do this, we become filled with incomparable joy and peace. It really is amazing, isn’t it? God receives His glory and at the same time gives us the peace and joy we long for so much.

 

A Journey Through the Wilderness

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Wilderness– an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region.

Sometimes I think we forget just how amazing the Israelites’ trek through the wilderness really was–

God provided direction.

God provided food.

God provided water.

God provided the necessary laws to keep the people unified.

God protected them.

This is a good reminder, isn’t it? Because sometimes we find ourselves in our own wilderness and we feel so abandoned.

Traveling through a wilderness is difficult. Whatever your trial may be, grieving, longing, fighting, hopelessness are all part of the process.

Is there anything we can learn from the Israelites about traveling through the wilderness?

1. Complaining not only doesn’t accomplish anything, it also displeases God. In fact, so much so that some people were put to death for it. (Numbers 11:1-3) Were you as shocked as I was that God dealt with complaining so harshly?? And, yet, so often we complain without a second thought. This passage certainly gives us cause to pause before opening our mouth to voice our displeasure, does it not?

2. We need to keep our deepest affection placed on God alone. God kept Moses on a mountain and the people grew restless. Finally, they begged Aaron to build them a golden calf to worship. After the way they had seen God work to bring them out of Egypt, they so quickly turned to worship an idol. Seems impossible, doesn’t it? And yet, how quickly we turn our affections to other things– trying to medicate ourselves from the pain of the trial we are experiencing. Alcohol, gluttony, materialism, entertainment, gambling, and love affairs are all ways we try to escape our pain, aren’t they? And sometimes we even turn to a legitimate, really good thing, such as our children or our church work or ministry and they capture our affections and provide the much needed escape from reality, giving us the security and self-esteem that we long for so desperately.

The really interesting thing is that when we love God first and foremost, we actually live such a fuller, more meaningful life. The good things of life and work God has called us to do become more productive, there is peace knowing we are in His will, and our lives glorify God.

But giving up the idols that capture our soul is a painful process. One that is so very worth it, but so very difficult.

3. We must follow God’s direction. The Israelites had it easy, didn’t they? They followed the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. It was so obvious when they should pack up and go and when they should stay. Sometimes I wish my life could be directed so plainly. But, alas, it’s not.

But maybe it is.

All the direction we need can be found in God’s Word. There is such an insatiable desire for  supernatural experiences and visions, but are they really necessary? Personally, I think that all of this hearing from God is mostly counterfeit. God’s Word holds so much about His will for our lives and most of us just don’t want to follow what it says.

We are to forgive (Matthew 6:15). But we just don’t want to.

We are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). But that’s too hard, Lord.

We are to think of others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). But that’s not what the world says.

We are to be holy and separate from the world (I John 2:15-16). But that’s no fun!

We are to be share the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20). But then people might think I am strange.

We are to exercise self-control and temperance. (I Corinthians 6:19-20) But I just want one more piece of that chocolate cake and then I’ll start eating more healthy tomorrow.

We are to keep our hearts focused on eternity, instead of the here and now (Matthew 6:20-21). But I really want to drive a car that’s just a little better than my neighbor’s…

And, so, because we don’t want to follow the plain will of God, we instead turn towards the vague, supernatural feelings and “words” we hear. They are so much more pleasant and easy to swallow.

But that’s not how Christianity works. And so, following God’s direction and living in the center of His will is doable and certainly not dependent on any special revelation from God. Of course, it is not always what we want to do.

But getting through the wilderness to the other side is very much dependent on us doing things God’s way.

4. We must trust God to provide. Multiple times through their journey in the wilderness, the Israelites panicked about their situation. Where are we going to get water? What are we going to eat? What are doing to do? And yet, each and every time, God provided. It may not have been in the way they wanted, but He did provide. Have you seen God do the same in your life? I know I have. Just when I think I can’t take one more step in my personal wilderness, He provides an encouraging word or makes the next step very clear. These moments are like an oasis for our souls, aren’t they? Just as God remained faithful to the Israelites, so He will do for us. God will not desert us.

 

And so we keep reading. I won’t deny that some of these Old Testament books are challenging for me. All of those names and laws. Wow. But God’s teaching us, isn’t He? This week, one of the things He has been teaching us is how not to respond as we take our own journey through the wilderness.

 

 

The Problem with Predictions

snow

It was 2:30am when my husband got home last night. Snow does that to his schedule. The problem with yesterday is that this one wasn’t really predicted. At least not in the way it turned out.

The predictions started out by calling for 1-3″ and then turning to rain with rising temps. A couple of hours later it was supposed to be less than 1″ before changing over. What ended up happening was over 3″ followed by some freezing rain and sleet with temperatures that never did really rise above the freezing mark.

That changes everything for a snow removal guy.

The night before this snow event, my husband was scanning through all of the weather forecasts — on tv, online, and using apps on his iPhone, trying to discern which one was correct. He usually goes with the one that is most popular. After all, if three or four weather forecasters are saying the same thing, they must be right, right?

Wrong.

Because no one really knows.

I often have to laugh about weather forecasts. Doesn’t it sometimes seem as if God is showing us how really out of control we still are? We are busy building our modern day technological Tower of Babel and He keeps knocking it down. We will never reach Him–at least not in that way.

But eventually, if you watch a lot of weather forecasts, you realize that they really are only educated guesses about what a certain weather pattern is going to do.

Because no one really knows.

The same could be said of what happens after we die. Where do we go?

There are a lot of theories about this. Some more popular than others. The most popular — at least here in the states is that we all go to heaven. That is, by far, the most pleasant option, isn’t it?

But the problem with predictions is that–

No one really knows.

And there’s another, much bigger, problem–

Truth is rarely found in the majority.

So how do we know what’s coming? What should we base it on?

As you probably already know, I base my answers on a Book. God’s Book. Sure, I don’t always like everything I read there. I would love to believe in a world where heaven is the final resting place for everyone and love is all that matters. But if that’s not the Truth, then it doesn’t really matter what I believe, does it?

Just because I believe it doesn’t make it true. I have to confess that this view on truth is really one of the strangest phenomenons in today’s world. Well, if you believe it, then it’s true for you. No, it isn’t! Just because you believe 2+2=5 doesn’t make it true. (Sometimes when I listen to people talk about truth I almost feel like I’ve landed in a parallel universe. This surely can’t be the same world I grew up in? It has changed that much.)

Truth isn’t subjective. It never has been and it never will be. What is true is true and what is false is false. You can be surrounded by a whole world telling you it doesn’t matter what you believe, but the fact remains that it absolutely does matter what you believe.

So why the Bible? How do I know that the Bible is true?

I could give you a lot of reasons (and will list a few articles after this post to get you thinking) but at the end of the day, I have chosen to believe that the Bible is God’s Word. Period. And, oh, how it has been confirmed for me in a myriad of ways– from how I see the end times scene coming together to how I’ve seen Him work in my life and in lives around me. It all makes so much sense.

From this, I base my whole belief system with confidence. It doesn’t really matter what other people think or believe, because I am standing on the Word of God. People can ridicule and mock me, but I cling to the Bible. I am standing on a foundation that will not move. As that old, beloved, hymn says–

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

I will never forget the time I saw four “professionals” being interviewed about the tragedy of 9-11. I think there was a rabbi, a priest, a psychiatrist, and a pastor (sounds like I’m setting up a joke, doesn’t it? But this isn’t a joke…) Everyone was giving their opinion about what had happened. “Well, I think…” was the beginning of almost every sentence. Except for the pastor. He– John MacArthur–would always begin with, “God’s Word says…” My respect for this man went up 100% in that interview. He made it clear that it wasn’t about his opinion but about what God’s Word says.

Because, let’s be honest– in the end, it really just doesn’t matter what you believe or what I believe, does it? It doesn’t matter what has been predicted or what the majority says. The only thing left will be the Truth.

And that changes everything for all of us.

 

 

Here are some helpful and reliable resources–

How Do We Know that the Bible Is True?

How Do You Prove the Bible is True?

What evidence is there that the Bible is in fact God’s Word?

Can You Prove the Bible is True?

What must I do to be saved?