Monday, November 30, 2009

Lessons from Chuck Part I

I recently began reading a really excellent book by Charles R Swindoll called THREE STEPS FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK. I'm only about a fourth of the way through the book, but there is so much meat in it, that I thought I would start listing some of the things I have underlined so that I can have it in one, concise space:

* (talking about when stress adds up when one thing after another comes...) Block all avenues of escape and you have an enormous powder keg with a terribly short fuse. Even if you are a Christian... and love God intensely... and believe the Bible... and genuinely want to walk in obedience. It occured to me that somebody needs to address "the other side" of the Christian life. If for no other reason than to uphold reality, Christians need to be told that difficulty and pressure are par for the course. No amount of biblical input or deeper-life conferences or super-victory seminars will remove our human struggles. God promises no bubble of protection, no guaranteed release from calamity. Ask guys like Job or Joseph or Daniel or Paul!

* It seems to me that more of us in God's family ought to admit that there are more "growing and learning" days than "great and fantastic" days.

* Maturity is a process I like to call "spiritual osmosis." We hear and absorb biblical truth and then allow that truth to pervade our inner lives - down deep where attitudes are formed and decisions are made. Then, as circumstances arise that call for a supernatural response, the indwelling Holy Spirit has sufficient ammunition to give us stability and power to cope.

* A person would be insane to hear his physician diagnose his ailment as a rapidly growing tumor, and then think that just because he had talked to his doctor, the growth would suddenly disappear. No, he's going to have to be operated on. LIkewise, just being exposed to the truth won't make us mature.

* Humans are strange creatures. We run faster when we lose our way. Instead of pausing to regroup, we ricochet from place to place. In this race called life, when the pressing demands of time are upon us, we need to stop and get oriented.

* Those threatening storms are designed to slow us down, to make us climb up into His arms, to force us to depend on Him.

* Losses put steel into our otherwise fragile lives.

* Our major goal in life is not to be happy or satisfied, but to glorify God. (From Job 5: "He inflicts pain, and gives relief").

That's it for today. I'm sure I'll have more insights to record as I continue reading this book.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Brutal Teacher

"He punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." Numbers 14:18

Because the Israelites rejected God's promises and did not believe Him when He told them to stop and not proceed, He promised to kill them off and told them they would not enter the promised land. He told them their bodies would fall in the desert they were currently occupying and that their children and shepherds would suffer there for forty years because of their unfaithfulness.

Well, it's interesting the "change of heart" that the Israelites suddenly had after hearing this. After repeatedly seeing God's provision in their lives and repeatedly disobeying the Lord and testing Him, they now wanted to go into the land to save their own behinds. Now all of a sudden they want to go to Canaan.

But Moses warns them that it's too late. They have been given chance after chance after chance. And they don't want to go now because they suddenly have faith in God. They only want to go so that they won't be struck dead. Even after all of that and Moses' warning, the decide to defy his direction and decide to go anyway. It's a bad bad move to openly mock God. They headed out on their own and "the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down..."

They did not learn their lesson. BUT.... before they went, the Lord told them, "Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert." Their children suffered for their sins. It almost doesn't seem fair.

C.S. Lewis said, "Experience: the most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn." The Israelite's children did suffer for their parent's sins, but they also were the ones to inherit the promised land.

Just One Man

I'm not sure this is so much of a "blog" as I usually write, but just some interesting observations from my studies that I want to remember. God laid it on my heart this morning to study Joshua... which is interesting because over the summer, I began studying Joseph, which led to a study of Moses. So this makes an obvious next step. I thought about continuing that study a while ago, but never "got around to it." Possibly because now is the time the Lord wants to teach me...

So I went back to Numbers 14 where I left off over the summer. This time, the Lord gave me different insights. It's funny because the other night I was talking to a pastor friend and he told me that when he preaches, he prepares his message ahead of time but when he gets up to the stage, God really takes over. He told me that he will even preach the the "same" sermon when he is invited as a guest speaker, but that it never comes out the same. I was thinking how it is the same way with Bible study. The same passage brings out different truths at different times, depending on what God wants to reveal to me at that particular point in time.

As I was reading Numbers 14, I decided to back track a little to Numbers 13. The Lord told Moses, "Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders." Twelve men went to the land and came back with their report. Almost all of the leaders came back frightened which in return, frightened the Israelites.

Only one man, Caleb, stood up and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it." One man of faith. It doesn't really say how Joshua initially felt when he saw the large people and large armies in the land. It doesn't mention Joshua's reaction until he hears the reaction of the rest of the Israelites. It is then when he has a choice to make. Trust one man or trust ten others. The safe decision would seem to trust the ten other men. After all, they were all leaders, not just some random people chosen to explore the new land. Joshua chose to trust the faith of Caleb and look beyond what he could see with his earthly eyes and he joined Caleb in saying, "If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us."

Caleb was one man, willing to go against popular opinion and stand up for what he trusted God to do. Actually, no one even asked him his opinion. I think he just couldn't take it anymore and he knew that someone needed to stand up for truth. Everyone was crying out in fear and he knew better. He believed God would do what He said He would do. Because of that one man, another man - Joshua - followed in his trust of God.