The Problem of a Short Term View

Today I read Numbers 11-13. The fear of not thinking you are getting everything you should in life can lead to many problems. In the passages I read today, the people of Israel had many choices before them in how they perceived their lives were going. They could have been thankful that God was personally leading them and trusted him to take care of all their needs. That sense of gratitude could have carried them to early success in the long term view of their lives and their character and integrity would have been talked about forever. Instead they chose to focus on what they didn’t have and allow short term delays to turn into resentments which led them to question God and those who were leading them. They complained about the food thinking they were missing out and even willing to go back into slavery to get it! Looking back I can’t imagine getting to that place but it might not have been food for me that would have caused me to complain. Then Miriam complains against Moses because he married a Cushite woman. So here is a humble leader who hears directly from God and she chose to rip his reputation up behind his back over either her jealousy or false sense of justice. She may have been saying “poor me. He gets to do whatever he wants and I have to follow the rules.” That type of thinking always leads to cynicism. Finally, you have the spies sent into the land God promised who would rather let their fear cause them to spread that same fear to the people instead of just reporting the facts and trusting God for the outcome. So they basically manipulated the people to respond as they had in fear to keep them from having to face those fears.

It is easy to read these passages now and criticize how the people responded and their short sightedness. But the reality is, I end up doing things like this all the time in a day when I have the Holy Spirit living within me while the children of Israel did not. I find that I can feel like I am not getting enough breaks to get paid more like others do. I can feel like I am being blocked while other people get to do things I always wanted to. I can get cynical about how I feel leaders in my life are handling things and if I don’t guard my heart I could talk about those things behind their backs. It is very easy to take everyday things and twist them into some kind of injustice issue that would cause me to get all fired up.

Instead I work hard to choose to be grateful for what the Lord has provided and trust that he will continue to do so. I know that if I can keep a grateful heart and outlook I will protect myself from feeling I am missing out on something or not getting what I feel I deserve. It is a difficult struggle, especially in a social setting where everyone is trying to keep up with the Joneses, but I know that I need to have a long term view, trust the Lord, and let him determine the outcome.

Lord, please help me to stay focused on the things you have done for me and that long term view of what you will do in the future. Keep me from a mentality of what I don’t have or think I deserve and help me to focus on you and where you are leading me. Help me to be a good husband and father and to grow as a man of God. Amen.

God's Guide for Avoiding Recession

Today I read Deuteronomy 13-15 and Galatians 1. As I reflect on what I just read I am struck by the rules that God put in place to really take care of everyone. He put in place the idea of a year of jubilee, that every seven years debts where forgiven and slaves were allowed to go free. Also, people were to give the first tenth of all that they owned to God and every three years to give a portion to the Levites who had not inheritance of their own because they served God. He also commanded them to look out for the poor, even the poor in the land that were not their own to take care of them and give them what they needed. In the “rules” God was establishing, he was making sure everyone was taken care of and no one would go without and the people would be blessed in doing this as long as they continued to serve God and follow what he commanded.

I think about my own day in relation to what God established in Israel and I can see why those rules were so important. People of their own natural accord will only look out for themselves and not just for what they need to survive but for everything they can get to build up some false sense of security. Even if they have tons of money there is always greed for more “just in case.” So people will forget those who are in need because they have their own survival instinct and greed that leads them to turn a blind eye to anyone around them. So God established rules in these three chapters that dealt with the people’s source of security, he gave rules for how they relied on God instead of other gods, gave their money to God and others instead of hoarding it for themselves, and forgave debts and slaves every seven years instead of lording it over people who owed them and keeping people in perpetual debt in order to build their own wealth off of their backs. Today in an economy that is going very bad and things that are sinking fast, people are in a sense of helplessness and striving for anything that has a sense of stability. This whole mess was brought on by people violating the commands God gave to the nation of Israel way back then. People have been worshiping the gods of materialism and doing whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it was unethical and in some cases illegal. They have forgot that everything they have comes from God and began to believe that they could do anything and money would roll in. They also, exploited people and put them into mortgages and other debts that they could never afford in order to make money for themselves all the while setting those people up for a hard fall.

What God established way back then is so applicable today and was only further explained in the New Testament. I a need to make sure I have no other god that gets in the way of my relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only because of him that I have life and breath in my lungs and his principles are eternal. Money and possessions need to be a distant fourth in my life compared to what God has called me to do. I know he has sustained me thus far and he will continue to do so as I seek to follow his guidelines for living.

Lord, help me to be a man who is dependent on you and you alone. Help me to avoid the trap that money and possessions can create in my life. Help me to see that everything I have and all that I am comes from you. Amen.

Seeing the Possibilities Instead of the Obstacles

Today I read Numbers 32-33 and Mark 10. As I sit here reflecting on what God is saying to me in these passages, I am drawn to the idea of what a legacy is made of. In Numbers we see the legacy of the generation before which was wandering in the wilderness because of their lack of faith in God. So they wandered for 40 years until every person 20 years old and older was no longer living before they were allowed to enter the promised land. There is a long list of the places they went during that 40 year period. It must have been something to realize that you were wasting time waiting to die so the next generation could inherit the land you were too afraid to take.

I think about my own life and the things I have been either too scared to do or too lazy to try for the Lord. How much of my lack of action was due to my own fears or doubts? Are there any areas God wants me to take that I have not moved forward and claimed because I doubted my own ability or the success of the thing before I ever put the effort forward? I am a cautious person by nature so I tend to move slowly on things that I perceive as a risk. God has been working with me over the past several years in this area and I can honestly say that I am better at taking risks than I have ever been in my life previous to this. I have had both successes and failures and in each I have learned new things about God’s presence in my life and who I am as His child. I am still alive and nothing catastrophic has happened yet so I know that I am in the palm of his hand. The more I realize that I am serving his purposes and his kingdom, the more I know I can step out in faith because the outcome is up to him.

Lord, help me to be a man of faith who is ready to charge the hill instead of analyzing all the things that could go wrong. I want to be a man who sees the possibilities instead of the obstacles. Thank you for your presence in my life and calling to ministry. Amen.

Seeing the Future in Light of the Past

Today I read Exodus 12-14, Acts 2, and chapter 3 in Refuel. I think this morning my mind is processing a number of things. Last night I listened to my Pastor Rick Warren do a sermon on the prayer he gave at the Presidential Inauguration. His talk was very powerful and inspiring. I love how Rick does everything for a purpose and his boldness in going where ever God wants him to. He talked about how his prayer was built around 6 steps to renewal and revival and it was challenging and energizing to think about my own life and the things I need to do in my own life to move down the path of renewal.

So with that in the back of my mind, I read about the Israelites and their exodus from Egypt and a couple of things stand out to me. The first is God’s command to practice passover forever. God knows us better than we know ourselves and he knew that the Jews would forget the impact of what he had done for them as time wore on. When God does a miracle in our lives if we don’t find some way to remember it or memorialize it on a regular basis we start to question the event and it loses the impact it once had in our lives. So He tells the Jewish people to practice passover every year the same way so their sons and daughters will ask why they are doing that and the parents will be able to explain the symbolism behind what they are doing and what that meant to them as a Jewish people when God intervened in a miraculous way. I have frequently talked about memorial markers in my own life as a way to remember places I have met God. I need to figure out a better way to display these things so I see them and then remember. My call to ministry had a number of huge God moments that I need to memorialize and reflect on frequently to keep me in the game and focused.

The other thing that struck me was the fact that even in the midst of being led out of Egypt, having the Egyptians hand them their choice treasures, being led by a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, at the first sign of problems, the people began to long for what they had before which was terrible at best. What is it about us that causes us to shy away from difficult situations and forget all that God has done in the tough times? Instead of praying to God and asking for His help or just trusting his heart and direction, we panic and look for ways that we can solve the problem or complain when things don’t go our way. We are very fickle with God and that fickleness causes us to be very inconsistent in our walks with God. I know that I can many times go with my feelings instead of what I know. So rather than trust and stay consistent I can have a tendency to panic and freak out when things seem to be going wrong. Despite all the things God has done in my life that I can point back to, I can forget and wonder if God really cares now. I’ve got to get focused on Him an what’s important realizing that He doesn’t need me to accomplish what he wants but He loves me so much, He allows me to experience the joy of ministering to others and serving Him. Just yesterday I lamented helping someone in my neighborhood who had a friend who needed counsel because it messed up my plans. Yet after going over and listening and sharing what God had given me, that person felt better about a tough situation and I too felt used by God to help someone else. I need to get beyond my feelings and plans to align with God’s no matter what comes my way!

Lord, help me to always remember what you have done for me and allow the things of the past to serve as my strength and resolve for the future. Don’t let me wallow in my own emotions or plans but help me to enjoy the journey and the surprises around the corner knowing you are there and always the same no matter what I face. Amen.