It seems there are impossible circumstances and people all around us. In ministry I find the challenge is to balance out ways to help someone and be realistic about the results. It is those times when our faith is increased because it is something only God is able to do.
There is a story in Numbers 11 about Moses and Israelites. Naturally they are being an impossible group of people to lead because they are taking the blessings of God (freedom from slavery, daily food to eat) and complaining that they are not good enough. Really? Do you guys even remember what slavery was like?
But it was an impossible scene and God was not pleased with the people. Moses heard the complaining and he also grew increasingly angry. God decides he is going to give them meat to eat for a whole month and, as He tells them, “the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it.” (I would add “and you will like it”) Moses, as the rational leader that he is, wonders how God is going to provide so much food for so many people for so much time. God answers Moses with such graciousness.
“The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.” – Numbers 11:23
It seems every day is a new day to question how God is going to take care of a situation. These are opportunities for Him to get the glory and for us to stand back and praise Him. I know of lives that are in complete shambles, but we are seeing God’s work in lives in the smallest, yet most profound ways. I have seen situations where our own family has been wondering how we would pay a bill and God has reminded us that His arm is not too short.
The arm of God is not too short. It is so wide and powerful that He knows every part of the vast Universe . His arm is wide enough to climb the tallest mountain, leap over the oceans, and yet still find each hurting heart right where they are at. God’s arm proved to be just the right length too as Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, spread His arms on the cross to do the impossible. He took sinful man and God back together again!
May you be encouraged today in whatever you face. God’s arm is not too short for whatever you face today.
One of the most significant things any Christian can do is to uphold the Word of God. There are a lot of people out there who think they have the answer when they have not really taken the time to study God’s Word. There are even people in positions of spiritual authority who abuse their position and deceive many. The distortion of the Bible is nothing new. If you got back to 1 Kings 13 there is a story about a prophet who is told very specifically what to do. He was not to eat the bread, drink the water or return the way he came because that is what God said. He went where he was supposed to go and the king offered him food and water. What did he do?
He obeyed God’s Word
This is one of those victories for the believer because he is so resolved in his conviction. He says he would not even go if he were to give him half his possessions. Do you see that? The value of the Word of God is so powerful and real to him that he is not going to jeopardize that. He believes it and he does it. He then leaves, going a different way because that was what he was told to do.
This is when things get troubling for him. There was an old prophet who decided to chase him down and lie to him.
“The old prophet answered, I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD” Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat brad and drink water. (But he was lying to him.” – 1 Kings 13:18
He gets fooled by someone who should have been honest with him.
A prophet is supposed to be a truth teller. How hard would it be to ignore a man who is supposed to be a prophet? You would think it would have been easy if you knew that God said something else. God wasn’t going to change his mind! He should not have let his guard down. But it only took an instant and he was deceived.
I think this is so powerful for any of us because we can so easily be deceived if we don’t remain steadfast in what we know God says. The right answer would have been “that is not what God said!” In today’s context there are many who just don’t know what God said. We need to stop thinking with our emotions and start thinking through the grid of God’s Word.
He gets punished
The next section we see the man getting killed by a lion. That seems harsh on the surface. We need to understand that he knew better and he made a choice to completely ignore what God told him. The problem here is not God’s judgement; the problem is the sinful man who disobeyed.
So this serves as a fair warning for all of us. Are you being pushed around by popular culture or by people who have written best-selling books? You do realize that the Bible is a best seller too, right? Let’s make sure we have things in the right order. The prophet in this story put the words of some prophet over God. That is a costly error- one that I don’t want to make.
Despite the inherent right that we have to remain silent, we sure don’t exercise it very often. The need to talk or at the very least fill the silence with something is overwhelming for most people. There is a young man who drives around the streets of town with some sort of speaker system in his car commenting on what he sees as he drives around. It is only funny the first time. This need to fill the quiet is something I wrestle with as I allow for a moment of silence at the end of a sermon so that people might be able to respond to what God is saying to them. There are people who want more and there are people who just cannot bear the dead air. And to be fair, I live in a house with 4 children (3 boys) so there isn’t a whole lot of silence in my home. If there is we probably want to figure out what is going on.
Even before God it is hard to be silent despite the fact that we can all recite the verse “be still and know that I am God.” We wonder if being still is something that actually involves moving and talking. Maybe “still” is a word that when we go back to the original language actually means “be boisterous.” Or perhaps being still is something we do while we sleep?
Silence is an appropriate, often overlooked, response to God’s Holiness. Silence helps us take time to listen to what God might be saying to us. Silence puts our heart in a posture to revere God in ways that we can’t when we are rattling off a list of prayer requests or lamenting about something in our lives.
I was reading Leviticus 10 the other day and was completely blown away by the phrase at the end of verse 3. “Aaron remained silent.” What was that in response to?
Aaron’s sons were doing what boys do- playing with fire. Except this wasn’t just any fire, it was fire that was to be used for God’s purposes. It was holy and needed to be looked at that way. The boys were playing with fire and they should have known better. The text says that they offered unauthorized fire, which of course means that there was time and place for this fire. They did not follow the rules and fire came out and consumed them. I guess their dad never mentioned that if you play with fire you will get burned. But here is what Moses said to Aaron:
“This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: ‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” – Leviticus 10:3
Do you see what was at issue here? It was not about the fire; it was about the holiness of God. We can approach God so flippantly, but He is to be revered and honored as Holy. And so Aaron’s response, to me, was the more genuine response he could have had. Most people would wail at God for that, but Aaron was just silent! I mean, what could he say?
Do you need to spend some time in silence before God? I would encourage you to do that because I know there is real refreshment in that time. Are you experiencing heartache or struggle? Be silent before God and worship Him. There is fresh perspective gained as God is honored in our lives. It is time to exercise your right to remain silent.
Yesterday I mentioned a story in 2 Kings 6 about the prophet Elisha and the attempt by the king of Aram to capture him. The servant saw the army and wondered what they were going to do to stay alive. Elisha encouraged his servant to not be afraid, but he also prayed for him. He helped to connect the dots between what God was doing and his life. “God help him see it” God answered the prayer and he saw.
Isolation is no friend to someone walking in faith because we are easily shaken on our own. A life of faith is not something we just do on our own, nor should it be. We live it out with each other. We grow together. What a privilege to be able to help someone see what God is doing in the midst of crisis and to receive the same ourselves! It is awesome to be able to look at our brother and sister in Christ and say – “Keep your eyes on Jesus. Let’s do this together.”
How can you encourage someone to keep their eyes on Jesus, not in some cliché way like — “it will be okay”, but in a real way? How can you help someone in a way that doesn’t diminish the junk they find themselves swimming in, but instead helps them look up out of it to the Lord who walks with them through it. We need to pray with each other that God would open our eyes to whatever He has for us in any circumstance and to give us the faith needed for anything that might happen.
It is at this point that we are no longer paralyzed by the fear of the unknown, but are empowered by faith in the risen Savior. This changes how we live! Elisha acts on what his eyes of faith tell him and he prays that God would strike them with blindness in verse 18 and God does it.
It would appear that the servant takes a deep breath and calms down also. He has now seen that God is up to something big and he rests in it. Do you rest in Him? Do you find ways to stop, in the confidence of God’s Word and the ministry of His Spirit to rest in Him? Do you apply that which we confess with our mouth about Jesus being the Lord? That means giving up the desire to have it all perfectly arranged before stepping out in faith. That means coming before the throne of God with open hands and knowing that the assurance we have for each day does not come from a paycheck or a career, but a relationship with Jesus Christ.
We need to be connected with each other. We do know is that we will accomplish more walking in faith together than we will when we try to do it alone.
In 2 Kings 6 there is a story about the prophet Elisha and the attempt by the king of Aram to capture him. Early in the morning Elisha’s servant wakes up and looks out to find that a superior military force surrounded them while they slept. This terrified him as he could see the dangers, but he had no concept that there could be deliverance from it He wondered to Elisha, “What should we do?”
Truthfully, we relate pretty well to this servant. We worship together on Sundays and declare great truths about God together only to be discouraged by the chaos we find ourselves in on Monday. How do we apply faith to daily life?
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2
I remember when I would take my children swimming when they were babies. They would be absolutely calm and happy if I held them so that they could see me. They would laugh, splash in the water, and even let me toss them in the air. But the minute I spun them around in the water, and they could not see me any longer, they got tense and started to cry. My hands never left their bodies and I never came close to letting them drown, but they lost sight of me and panicked at the sight of the mass of water around them. While this seems funny to us, we just as easily do that when the circumstances of life overwhelm and we take our eyes off our Jesus.
Life through eyes of faith is life fixed on Jesus Christ; we are called to look to Him in all things. In Christ we receive the ability to stand firm no matter what circumstances come our way and gain confidence to take faith-filled risks. There is a calm that comes upon us as we decide to keep looking to Jesus Christ and not to the circumstances around us.
Elisha tells his servant, “Do not fear! Those who are for us are greater than those who are against us.” It took eyes of faith to see that. It took assurance that there was greater power and purpose than what could be physically understood.
Everyday brings new opportunities to fix our gaze on Jesus Christ; He offers Himself to us. It means to follow Him, even when the odds seem against us and the challenges are overwhelming. We do well when we remember that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. We gain confidence when we let God’s Word remind us that if God is for us who can be against us. Our job is to glorify God by walking in obedience to Him, no matter what happens in life, because our life of faith is not built on life circumstance, but on Jesus Christ.
What do you give someone who has everything, literally? Now before you think of that difficult person in your life to shop for, let me redirect your thoughts for a moment. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas and yet we get the gifts. This has been a consistent issue that my 4-year-old son has had this year. Just the other day he said, “I want to give Jesus something for His birthday, but nothing I give Him he will want.” That got me thinking. What would be on a wish list for Jesus.
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together – Colossians 1:16-17
Obviously, Jesus is not going to want some material gift. As the creator of everything, getting a new electronic toy is not going to be meaningful to Him. So, maybe our focus needs to be on things we do for other people. After all, that is what Jesus modeled, right. What would his list look like?
There are some deeply troubling needs in the world. Would the top of his list have things like a cure for cancer, food for the hungry, the end of human trafficking? Would that special gift be that all would have access to medicine or clean water? Maybe those are too large to try to wrap our mind around.
Well, then how about family needs? Could there be marriages reconciled? Maybe some parents and children need to find a way to love each other. How about the financial strain that plague so many families? Could that be remedied with self-control?
Perhaps instead of something like that, you would look at your own life. What am I doing for Jesus, is it enough? Are you showing His love to other people? Are you avoiding sin or are you embracing it, rationalizing it as ‘not too bad’? Do you prioritize worship, prayer and the reading of the Bible? Is that what Jesus wants?
While all these things seem nice, I believe that the answer to this question comes in a statement Jesus made.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:47-49
If we limit what we do for Jesus to a simple material item, or something that is done for Jesus out of duty, we are missing the point.
Jesus was not concerned with material things or having people do something for him out of obligation. All he wants is for you to love God with all your heart as you follow Him and then love other people. If we are loving God and people, the needs that are out there would be addressed. If God has your heart, it gives perspective to life’s struggles and hope for a future. When we love God we desire to be with Him, we cast off sin and turn to His ways.
Remember the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18? He came to Jesus and described how much he had done for God in his life and still he felt like something was missing. He had kept the commands, or so he said, but realized that without eternal life he had nothing. Jesus said, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” -Luke 18:22
Jesus was not after this man’s wealth, but He realized that the one thing holding Him back from loving God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength was his wealth. As it turned out, it was the one thing this man was not willing to part with and even the promise of treasure in heaven didn’t entice him to follow Jesus.
There lies the answer to what Jesus wants from us– our life. He wants us to choose to love and follow Him.
So, while we don’t have a present under the tree wrapped for Jesus, we do have a life that can be given to Him. Each of us will make a big difference in the world when we love God with passion and love other people.
We told our 4-year-old son that it was not about something we could give to Jesus that he could open, like Legos, but it was living God’s ways. It is by not doing things our own way, but rather follow God’s ways. It is by helping other people and showing His love to the world. For him, we made it personal with things like being kind to his brother, sharing and helping his friends. They are all ways he can practice his love for God and people.
This Christmas Season give to Jesus what he has wanted all along, your heart.
You may have noticed by the amount of crazy, frivolous spending, that Christmas is coming. Materialism has run crazy and taken lives in its wake again. Getting deals does not make people evil. The sinful heart does a great job of bringing it out of people. But why? How is it that rational people can get so short-sighted over an electronic device that will be obsolete in a matter of months? It is a lot like getting caught in the undercurrent. If you don’t prepare for how you might guard yourself from it, you will end up underwater.
It is no different for any other area of our life. I know my family is currently in the midst of a transition from one ministry to the next. That lends itself to a lot of opportunities for unguarded emotions. What helps is to back up and look at the big picture – eternity. We are serving the God of all the Universe. We are obeying Him and not getting taken in by the comfort of settling somewhere where God is telling us to leave from. That is a hard place to be at times because our ability to try to control everything gets in the way. But there is such joy in the trust that comes from a relationship with God. It means we need to keep our eyes on Him and not on other things.
I don’t know what that means for anyone reading this, but I do want to share how I have been praying in order to keep focused on where I need to be now. And when I say that I don’t just mean as a pastor, but as a parent, husband and member of a community.
“He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” – Colossians 4:12 (part of it)
I have been taking time to wrestle in prayer for my family. We want to not just sort of settle in God’s will but we want to stand firm in it. We want to have our feet firmly planted on the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ. So, I pray that my children, my wife and those I serve in ministry with will know the will of God and stand on it with confidence. I also have been praying for progress and growth in our relationship with God. (maturity) As we get closer, we become more like Him. And lastly I have been praying that we are fully assured of that will. As we walk each day in step with the Spirit of God, we want to know that we are right where we need to be!
This type of prayer involves taking a longer range view. It means understanding that sometimes what is right in front of you is not what you might have chosen, but you know the God who has chosen it can be trusted.