Don’t Assume, Get the Facts

Are you Presumptuous or Prudent? The story in Joshua chapter 22 is a lesson in how to avert a disaster by applying the principle of prudence rather than presumption.

The time has come; the Promised Land has been conquered. So, Joshua hosts a retirement ceremony for the 2 ½ tribes who had asked for land east of the Jordan and had faithfully served the other tribes to conquer the Promised Land. It was time to return home to their families left behind. Joshua offers his accolades and then a challenge.

Be careful to obey Moses’ commands, love God and serve Him with all your heart.

Their “gold watch” was the bounty earned from conquering the enemies. As they begin to near home and arrived at Geliloth, they stop to erect an impressive altar. BUT, it did not take long for the other tribes to get wind of this and the entire Israelite community jumped to the conclusion they were returning to idolatry! They gathered at Shiloh and were ready to go to war against those they had just sent on their way!

To their credit, the hot-heads did not rule but cooler heads wisely and prudently decided it was better to see what was really going on. They sent a delegation with Phinehas as the head to get to the bottom of this altar. As the delegation listened to the heart of these men they came to the conclusion that this was a basic misunderstanding; the altar was a memorial to the rest of the nation that they belonged to the federation lest they say “you don’t belong to us because you are on the other side of the Jordan.”

There is a lesson here for us. A war was averted because some prudent men sought to “get the facts” before setting out to war. Wise counsel is to pray and get the facts so we do not sin presumptuously lest we rip apart what cannot be mended.

 

The OUCH Chapter

Joshua 18Almost Persuaded

The seven tribes left without a land allotment were “almost persuaded” but lacked the gumption to fight for what God had already promised. They had become complacent, tired, and comfortable where they were. Wisely, Joshua challenged them ‘How long do you intend to put off occupying the land?’ The sign of complacency is accepting the status quo and that is where these men found themselves. They had fought alongside Joshua to subdue the land but had never taken ownership. They had become satisfied with a partial victory and that is where many of us find ourselves as well.

Jesus said “GO” and make disciples but we are satisfied to let the Discipleship team at church do it or the Pastor or the missionary on the field. We have lost our drive to step out of our comfort zone and as a result many are heading into a Christ-less eternity. The signs of a partial victory are there. We put our tithe in the offering plate but we hold on to our pocketbooks for other projects fearing what may lay ahead for ourselves. We forget that God has gone before us and has showered his blessings upon us before. If God has been faithful, why are we not? The most glaring sign is that we love the world and the things in this world. Christ spoke to the church at Ephesus reminding them that they had ‘lost their first love.’

Could this be where we are?

How long will we stand on the sidelines?

There is a lost world waiting to hear the message of the gospel.

 

Rakes and Shovels, Water and Basins

What do rakes and shovels have to do with the kingdom of God or towels and basins? Jesus served the disciples by washing their feet. Walking by the seashore he saw the farmers working in their fields with rakes and shovels.  All of these are the tools of servanthood. What might they say if they could talk? Do they ever have an identity crisis? Does the rake say instead of being a rake I want to be a shovel? Does the towel say I don’t want to do that job today? This is ludicrous we say, yet the Corinthians were doing just that and in doing so they were dividing the church.  Paul wanted them to see that whether a rake or a shovel or a towel or a basin—each is important. We are Christ’s body and each of us is a member of it. God has placed all precious and different gifts in his church that Christ would be seen.

How do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as a rake or a shovel in the Garden of God? Or are you a towel to minister to the needs of others or carry the water in the basin to be used in some act of service? No matter who we are we have been delivered from the domain of Satan’s kingdom and transferred to the kingdom of the King of Kings so that we may minister to others.

 

 

 

Faith or Doubt?

2Kings 7: What do you believe about God?  Is He the God of the impossible?  Can God work even when we are cynical and scoff?

Setting: The citizens of the city of Samaria were the “walking dead” due to a severe famine and the siege of the Arameans who surrounded their city. It was so severe that they would be willing to eat a donkey’s head which was selling for eighty shekels of silver. Not only were they willing to eat donkey but also their children. Yet, the prophet of God had a word of encouragement for them. The famine would end the very next day. Yet the king responded: “May God judge me severely if Elisha [the prophet of God] still has his head by the end of the day!” And his officer said; the Lord is responsible for this disaster; why should I wait for the Lord to help? Like many today, the cynical king and his officer were saying that the prophecy was like pie in the sky. They were saying not only it can’t happen but it won’t happen.

Have you ever doubted the work of God?

Enter the four outcast lepers living outside the city walls. They said if we stay here we will die, if we go into the city, we will die so let’s take our chances and surrender to the enemy and so they did. Upon entering the enemy camp they found it deserted and all of the enemy’s provisions had been left for the taking. After seeing all of this they determined they should share the good news with the city; even with those who had denied them even a scrap of food. And so they did. Upon hearing the news, the cynical king sent scouts to check out if the leper’s news was for real. Upon their return and being assured the lepers were truthful, the city residents poured out of the city to gorge on the feast left by the enemy. And what happened to the cynical officer? He was trampled by the people leaving the city to take of the spoils left by the enemy. He died because he did not believe God not only could but would.

Where are you? Are you saying “God can’t do anything about my situation?” God has a word for you this day. Life may seem to be desperate. You may feel like you are at the end of your rope and there is nowhere to turn. You have exhausted all options. It is now or never. God has a word for you this day: Trust in Me! I am the God of the impossible. [Luke 1]

James has a word: he who doubts will not receive anything from the Lord.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime: Olivier LeMoal

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Want?

God foresaw that the king the Israelites would choose would lose sight of Him because most of their wants were derived out of selfishness. That is why God gave the king who would lead them some parameters to keep his focus heavenward not here on earth. As then, so in the time of Jesus, and so now,  people were and are looking to be fed manna rather than the Bread of Life come down from heaven.  In fact, while Jesus served here on earth he often asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”

No one responded I want to be more like you.

No one responded like the psalmist in chapter 23  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.”

No one responded I am more blessed to give than receive.

It is not wrong to ask God for things because He is our heavenly Father who wants to give and give and give to His children. He tells us to ask for His provision in our life as well as other things. What IS wrong is to ask with wrong motives, so that we may spend it on our selfish pleasures.[James 4]

Are you prepared to ask God what He wants for you and not what you want? Is your heart right before God as you enter your closet to pray?

God’s Anti-Poverty Program

Dickens’ “Scrooge” is not only rich but stingy. He is the epitome of stingy because he held his money close to his heart. Through the ghost of Christmas past Scrooge is left with a question; will he remain stingy or become generous?

The lesson could have come from Deuteronomy 15!

Truly “there will never cease to be some poor people in the land” but Moses doesn’t stop there. He tells the Israelites of God’s command to open their hands to their fellow Israelites who are needy and poor in the land.

God does not give us a guarantee of material prosperity but He does give us ways to help those in need. We are to live out the message of God’s love by caring for the orphans and widows because they have lost a breadwinner. [James 1] To the exploited we are to offer judicial assistance. [Lev 19] To the undisciplined, we are to remind them that if they are unwilling to work, they should not expect to be fed at the hand of others who have worked. [2Thess 3] The disciples left all to spread the gospel and today those who leave and serve in the missions field need our prayers and financial means.

How does this work on-line? We can offer prayers and a listening ear to those in need and then direct them to the proper avenues where they can be helped. We must be wise and discerning however just as Hebrews 5:14 reminds us or as Jesus said, “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” [Matt 10:16]

The Principle is clear: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. [2Cor 9] Scrooge heeded the lesson and became a generous benefactor of others.

What is God calling you to do? 

Are You Hungry? Are You Thirsty?

Driving through the hill country of Texas one is faced with not tall trees and splashing brooks but a landscape of scrub trees and dry grasses; a picture of the soul of man without God.  It is here that men have dug wells from which to quench their thirst. It is here that men have learned how to work in this barren environment and live in this wide open country. But their souls, like this landscape, are in need of the refreshing waters and living water of the Holy Spirit. Thus it was so that the Father of lights, with whom is no shadow of turning, stooped down from heaven, took on the form of man and bore our sins that we might be redeemed from the hand of our enemy. He provided the well of living water and said drink until you are filled. Fill your bucket so that it overflows. Step back and say with the psalmist; “let the redeemed of the Lord say so. “[Ps 107]  Praise the Lord for His goodness and His wonderful work of salvation as you drink and feed upon His Word. Then your longing and hungry soul will be satisfied just as Jesus said as he taught the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

Are you hungry and thirsty? Come and drink from the well of living water and feast upon the meal in His Word that He has prepared for those who love him. As the redeemed you are then free to rejoice in the things that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Watch Out for “I”!

As children, we played a game called follow the leader. A person is chosen and the followers mimic the leader’s actions. If you fail to follow you are eliminated from the game. In Numbers 16 we find one man, Korah, who challenges the leadership of Moses. Korah, like some, usurped the leadership by placing himself in the “I” position. When “I” gets in the way the ego is puffed up and we begin to say:

I know better than God.

God had already chosen, anointed and proven that Moses was the leader. Yet Korah was unsatisfied. He wanted to be the new leader of the Israelites and so he gathered the Reubenites to join him. It began with a simple murmuring which escalated into a full roar of mutiny.  It was really not that they were against Moses but against the Lord Himself. Jude warns us about challenging the Lord’s anointed: “Woe to them!” Jude goes on to say the real problem is greed and that was Korah’s problem as well. The consequences of his failed leadership were that he, his family and those who followed him were eliminated and the leader remained firmly in the place.

Some lessons to learn; Moses shows us his character of humility in vs 4 “he fell down with his face to the ground.” Korah shows us his character when he said my way is right and God’s way is wrong.

Rebellion is easy, humility and submission to the Lord’s anointed is hard.

Numbers 16-17

March Winds and Being Born Again

John 3 “The Wind and the Spirit”

Today we welcome the first day of March; a month of all months known for its fickleness due to the seasons which are in the process of changing. Weather forecasters tell us it is because the sun is in the right place to heat up the earth and thus form pockets of warm air. These start moving towards the cold dense air that is still hanging out, leftover from the winter months. And so one day it is warm and the next day it is cold and blustery. Although Jesus is not talking about seasons and March winds he uses the illustration of winds in John 3 for the Pharisee Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel, who came to him at night. As we listen in on their conversation about being born again Jesus puts on his weatherman hat to explain the new birth. Nicodemus has not been able to discern how the new birth happens–he will at the end of the Gospel of John but that is for another blog.

And so it is with the new spiritual birth in our souls 

 Jesus is saying to Nicodemus you know but do not understand the wind but you accept it; its force and its presence and that is how the new birth is to be understood: “The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” And once that happens all of God’s truth becomes known for The Spirit, The Holy Spirit, becomes your teacher to reveal the truth about God and His Son Jesus. It is the Spirit that gives life and He bears witness that we are children of God.

When the  Spirit enters and births us it happens without our understanding. Yet once that happens all of God’s truth becomes known for The Spirit reveals the truth about God that we did not understand before. It is the Spirit that gives life and He bears witness that we are children of God.

Is knowing God that simple? Yes, it is just that simple. Have you experienced the wind of the Spirit in your life?