Thursday, August 30, 2007

Manna for Steak

For our son's fifth birthday, my husband and I got him a swing set, but not just any swing set. We built this set out of wood with a fort, monkey bars, rock wall, and all the other things we thought he would like. We were so proud of ourselves -- we built him a wonderful play area because we love him. At his birthday party, I wrapped up the box that the swings came in so he would remember what Mommy and Daddy got him. He opened up the box, looked at it, and to my dismay he said, “Did you get me anything else”? I stood there in shock. How could my child be so ungrateful? Then I realized that he is only five years old and right now quantity is more important to him than quality.
Aren’t we that way with God? The poorest American by society’s standards is rich in comparison to the majority of the world, but we tend to forget that. We are like children who are more concerned with quantity than with quality. God always gives us His best because He loves us so much. I hate to think of the times that God has given me His best only for me to ask Him, “Did you get me something else?”
We make fun of the “grumbling” Israelites in the book of Exodus who were never satisfied with God’s perfect provision, but when something doesn’t go our way, we become just like them. God gave the Israelites manna from heaven, but they wanted steak. God gives us a home, but we want a bigger one. He gives us a job to do, but we want a better one. The truth is God’s people are no different today than they were in the time of Moses. We are ungrateful and never satisfied with the blessings that have been graciously offered to us. We forget the value of our spiritual wealth and yearn for the wealth that the world offers. It didn’t work for the Israelites and it won’t work for us today. It’s time we stop asking God for steak and start thanking Him for the manna.

Keep an Eye on Your Overflow

While volunteering in my son’s kindergarten class last year, I overheard a conversation that I thought was very interesting. Two boys were sitting at a table practicing writing the alphabet. One of the boys is known for staying in trouble. One boy asked the other if he goes to church. The boy said yes. Immediately the other child stopped, looked the boy in the eye, and said , “Then why don’t you act like it?” I have to wonder how many people have thought the same of me. Even a five year old knows that Christians should behave differently than the rest of the world. Too many times our words and actions do not bear witness to the Christ that lives within us.

I sometimes say hateful things that I should not have even thought much less let spew from my mouth. As a matter of fact, if I had a dollar for every time I said something unGodly, I would be rich. This is not something I am proud of, but something I struggle with and need to keep in check. I daresay that all of us struggle with our words and thoughts from time to time. Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s just my nature to say what I think”? I agree with that statement. It is our nature to say what we think--our sinful, prideful, unholy nature.

I am convinced that the hateful things that we say are not a result of what is in our head, but a direct result of what is in our heart. Luke 6:45 says “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks”. I see this verse played out in my own life quite frequently. When I am diligent in prayer and Bible study, the overflow of my heart is much sweeter than when I am not. I call it the “Garbage In/ Garbage Out Theory”. When we continually allow bitterness, jealousy, and all the evil things of the world to corrupt our minds, the result is a heart that is overflowing with unpleasantness and leads to hate-filled words. If we cultivate a close relationship with our Savior, the seeds of discontentment that are planted by Satan will never have a chance to grow in our hearts. What is in our hearts makes all the difference in what comes out our mouths.

The Jesus in the Stable

Helpless. Totally dependent. Unable to do anything on His own. Jesus. Born in a stable among animal dung and hay - a lowly birth by any standard. His parents had no money, no status. Mary and Joseph were considered commoners by the world, but extraordinary in the sight of God. I wonder if Mary felt Jesus jump in her womb when the innkeeper slammed the door in her face. Pretty humble beginnings for the baby who would grow up to be the King of Kings. Even though He is royalty, Jesus’ life on earth was not one of privilege. He came here as a Savior and a servant, totally dependent upon His Father.
Helpless. Totally Dependent. Unable to do anything alone. God’s children. Born into a world that is not our true home. Some have money and status, some do not. We are rejected by some and the rest simply do not understand a person can actually have a relationship with God. We are here to be servants of the Most High God, totally dependent upon our Heavenly Father. But are we totally dependent? Jesus told us we should come to Him as a child (Luke 18:15-16). The Greek word for child here is “bréfee” which means infant. We are to come to Jesus as a helpless infant who cannot even hold her own head up without His help. We are not supposed to come to Him as a whiny two-year old who hasn’t gotten her way.
Many times I approach God as a spoiled toddler presenting my demands and feeling unloved when He doesn’t immediately answer my requests. Believe me, I can out-whine any two-year old when in comes to telling God what to do for me. Or even more often, I approach Him as a person too “grown up” to have to depend on anyone. God wants us to be reliant on Him in every situation for every thing (even the smallest of things). It is only when we are completely dependent upon Him and trust Him as an infant trusts its parent that we can receive His best for us. I think maybe God has not only called us to be like Jesus the man, but He has also called us to be like Jesus the infant in the stable at Bethlehem.

Are You Busy?

When my sister first got married, she moved with her husband to California. It was interesting to talk on the phone with her because within a few short weeks her thick southern drawl had been replaced by a distinct California accent. This same thing happened with two of my good friends who moved from Tennessee to Michigan. After a short while up north, their Tennessee accents were completely lost and they said they could no longer stand the slow pace of life here. I guess it really is true that we begin to act and sound like the people we spend the most time with. If we spend time with negative people, it is easy to become negative also. If we spend time with gossips, it is easy to become a gossip too. Likewise, if we spend time with God in prayer and Bible study, we will end up becoming like Him.
We women have so many demands on our time today. Too often our daily time with God is reduced to those last few seconds before we fall asleep at night or it is spent on the road driving the kids to school. It is pretty difficult to hear from God when you lay half-asleep, slobbering on your pillow or when you are concentrating on the speed limit while refereeing and argument between your children. How many times have you left God completely out of your day? ‘Busy-ness’ can and likely will be our spiritual downfall. When we become too busy for God, we become spiritually bankrupt. A wife/mother who is spiritually bankrupt cannot be a Godly witness to her family. The truth is that our relationship with God affects everyone around us!
We cannot expect to truly get to know God without spending quality time with Him everyday. The only way we will ever become like God is by spending time studying His word, praying, and listening for Him to speak to us. This doesn’t just mean getting into God’s word, it is also letting God’s word get into you. It is our responsibility to be Jesus to our families, but we cant do that unless we take the time to really get to know Him. We have to remember that life is not a sprint to the finish line, it is a long distance race. If you aren’t spending time with God, then you will not have the energy to finish the race, much less finish faithfully (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Father Abraham

When I picture Abraham of the Bible in my mind, I picture a large man with gray hair and beard wearing a long brown robe standing in the desert beside his tent holding a staff in one hand and a lamb in the other. I’m not sure where I get that visual image, but I think I may have watched one too many Bible movies on TV. Nonetheless, I always think of Abraham as a faithful man who stood ready to do whatever God asked of him. I am sure that we all have different images of Abraham, but can you picture him worshipping idols? Joshua 24:2 tells us that Abraham spent a large portion of his life doing just that.

Yes, Abraham was an idol-worshipper, that is, until he was called by Almighty God. God saw Abraham as more than a man who worshipped other Gods. God saw Abraham as covenant-keeper. Regardless of Abraham‘s past, God called him to be His servant. Abraham’s life shows us that no matter what your past, no matter how you have sinned, God can call you to be His servant and use you for His glory. Abraham’s past sins did not exclude Him from becoming a great man of God. Next time satan tells you that your past disqualifies you from ever doing anything important for the Kingdom, remind him of God’s servant Abraham.

God didn’t just call Abraham out of idolatry. He called Abraham out of his home, his land, and away from his extended family. Abraham had to leave everything he held dear in order to follow a God that many didn’t believe even existed. Can’t you just hear all the cousins, aunts, and uncles calling him crazy? I can’t claim to know all the reasons why God told him to leave everything behind, but I believe one reason is that had Abraham stayed where he was he would have been tempted to revert back to idol worship. Like Abraham, when we choose to follow God, we have to leave behind those things that could pull us back into our old lifestyle.

You see, when we choose to follow God, I mean REALLY follow God, our past is irrelevant (forget it) and our future is of the utmost importance. Nothing we leave behind in the world is as valuable as what we gain with God. Just ask Abraham.