Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Refuge

Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 27:3-5


When you are right with God, the biggest and most overwhelming circumstances in your life cannot shake you. That doesn't mean you will be unaffected by them, but you will find yourself able to endure the most extreme hardships without being overcome by them. The psalmist speaks of an entire army advancing against him, yet he doesn't fear. Why?

Certainly he expects that God will protect him, but I think there is more than that here. When your greatest desire in life is to be in God's presence, then as long as you are right with God you have it. Nothing and no one can take it away from you. If I am right with God then my most treasured possession is secure. This is why the psalmist says in verse one "The LORD is the stronghold of my life- of whom shall I be afraid?" Certainly it is because he believes God will protect Him but it is also because God's presence is His refuge, His hiding place. This theme is picked up again and again in the psalms. 

Where do you run when you are in danger of being overwhelmed and overcome by life's problems? What is your refuge? Make it God's presence. I have taken refuge and found joy in His precious presence again and again. Even as my heart wanted to give up and my brain told me the road ahead was impossible, God's Spirit whispered in my ear "I am with you. Keep going." Over and over again His presence has proved to be all I needed to keep going. It didn't make my problems disappear or make my situation any easier, but it did give me the hope and the courage to keep going. And it gave me a sure refuge I could run to any time I felt myself beginning to crack under the pressure again. 

If you are a believer and you have never experienced this joy and communion of God's presence then you are missing out on your birthright! Make this a matter of prayer right now. How can it be that a man or woman of God who has the Holy Spirit living within them could feel distant from their God for long periods of time? The only explanation is that there is sin in the camp. The sin in your life is separating you from God. So seek after Him! Repent and renew your efforts to know your Savior. There is no greater joy than sitting at the feet of Jesus and God has given each of His children the right to taste that goodness right now on this side of heaven.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

These Cows Are Making Me Look Bad (W.o.W. Rewind)

So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
1 Samuel 6:10-12


In I Samuel 4 & 5 we read how the Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant and bring it back to their land. In anger God smites them with plagues of rats and tumors. After quite a bit of heartache, the Philistine priests and diviners suggest a solution. They decide to make a new cart and place the ark on it. Then they will take two nursing cows away from their calves and hitch them to this cart. These cows had never been in a yoke or pulled a cart before. They had never been to Israel before. By nature everything in these cows would compel them to return to their calves immediately. The Philistines reasoned that if the cows were to return the Ark of the Covenant to Israel then they could be certain that it was indeed God who had been plaguing them. If not, then perhaps it was just a coincidence.

An amazing thing happened. Those two cows pulled the cart away from their calves and went straight up to Israel without turning to the right or to the left lowing all the way. Now, I don't know a lot about cows so I asked someone who does whether cows low when they are happy or sad. He told me that cows low when they are sad. And without knowing why I was asking the question, he added that when you take their calves away to wean them, cows will low and bawl for days.

You and I can learn a lot about how we should serve God from these two cows. Though it meant leaving their calves behind (possibly to die without their mother's milk), and though it meant that they themselves would be sacrificed to the Lord (I Samuel 6:14), these cows obeyed the Lord's leading and went straight up toward Israel. Oh that we would serve God with such faithfulness! Though the cows bawled over the sacrifice God was asking them to make, they still went straight up after God's will without wavering or turning to the right or left.

Now, one could argue that the cows didn't have a say in the matter. Who knows whether cows have some form of free will. Somehow I missed that class in seminary. But I do know this: when I stand before God and am judged for how obedient I was to Him and His word, I don't want to be showed up by any cows! So regardless of whether or not cows have free will before God, the simple truth is they followed God's bidding. And if a cow can do it, then I can too.

I know that there will be times when you and I mourn over what God asks us to sacrifice on the altar of His glory. Yet, even in our mourning let us go straight up after His will. Even if it means laying down our very lives, let's not stray to the right or to the left.


For further reading...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

When the Manna Stops

That very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.
Joshua 5:11-12


God provides for His people. And you can be sure that when one means of God's provision stops another one has already taken its place. We see this in the passage above and again and again I have experienced it in my own family as well. 

For forty years God's people trekked through the desert. Millions of people living out of tents in a harsh and unforgiving environment. Providing food and water for millions of people in any geographic location would be a challenge, but to do so in a desert for forty years is literally impossible. But God made a way where there was no way. God sent manna each morning with the dew (except for the Sabbaths), and His people gathered and ate. They didn't have to sow or reap. They just had to trust God and obey. But notice when the manna stopped. The very first day the Israelites ate of the food of the Promised Land (food that they also had not sown or reaped), was also the last day God sent manna.

King David wrote, "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). God provides for His people. His provision is not always exorbitant. Israel often had just enough in the desert. But at other times He graces us with more than we can take. The Promised Land was called a land flowing with milk and honey. There His people had more than just bread and water; they had a great variety of wonderful foods.

I have witnessed God's provision for my own family and extended family over the last several years. I have seen situation after situation that looked financially hopeless from an earthly perspective. But where there was no way God made a way. So take comfort in this! Be responsible with your money. Do all that you can do. Make sure that you work hard and are right with God, then trust Him and see what He will do.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hate Evil. Cling to Good.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:7-8


Be careful. You have an enemy who wants to lead you astray, to somehow lure you off the narrow path into the thorns and briers of spiritual ineffectiveness. One of his favorite means of doing this is to send others into your life to speak his words to you: wolves in sheep's clothing. How can you spot them? Look at their walk. Just as a wolf doesn't walk like a sheep, so a person's walk (their actions) reveals their true character. If they claim to be righteous but don't do right, they're a liar. 

A recent trend has emerged in Christian circles that values authenticity and genuineness more than righteousness. In the name of being "more real" and in an attempt to connect with lost people, Christians are opening up about their sins and often even curse openly. 

Honesty is good. Of all the people on earth Christians have the least to hide because of the unfathomable grace that has been afforded us through Christ Jesus. And Scripture tells us that we ought to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). But when we openly name our sin it should be done in repentance. We don't wear our sins as a badge of pride to show how "real" we are in an attempt to win the lost. We dare not use filthy or vulgar language (which Scripture speaks against in Ephesians 4:29) in an attempt to be edgier than other Christians. Certainly we know by now that this world will not be won for Jesus by Christians who have become more like the world they are trying to save. 

No! There is nothing righteous about sin. There is nothing admirable about it. The entire reason that Jesus came to earth was to destroy the devil's work, and to do so especially in us. He died in order to sanctify the hearts and lives of believers. We cannot, we dare not coddle our sin, brag about it, use it to grow our churches, or give sin any refuge or foothold in our lives. To do so is a slap in the face to Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Jesus gave His life to free us from the enemy's grasp, to rescue us from sin. Let us never make light of the sin the remains in us. Let us openly confess that sin to one another, but let us hate even the garment stained by it (Jude 23). And as we lead the way in honesty let us all the more lead the way in mourning over our sin, repenting of it and pursuing life change. May Romans 12:9 light our path: "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." So be sincere, but not at the cost of hating evil or clinging to what is good.