Leaving Your Household Gods

By same - Phoenix Ancient Art, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48034605
By same – Phoenix Ancient Art, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48034605

. . . . . Rachel stole her father’s household idols and took them with her. (Gen. 31:19b)(NLT)

The Bible says in multiple places perhaps most notably in the Ten Commandments that God is to have preeminence in our lives.  The first commandment reads “You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods (Exodus 20:3 – 5a)(NLT)

Christian and many non-Christians alike are familiar with this commandment.  While non-Christians might consider the Ten Commandments a good moral code, Christians know these commandments along with the entire Bible provide guidelines for how are we to govern our lives.  The struggle of placing God singularly and supremely in our lives has been around since the Garden of Eden.  Satan enticed Eve by saying, “you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5).  God, knowing the lure of other gods, call us them to leave them.

Jacob was swindled by his father-in-law Laban to work for him for 14 years.  By this time, their relationship had started to sour.  When Laban was shearing sheep, Jacob seized upon an opportunity to leave. He called to his wives, Leah and Rachel to muster their children and belongings to go with him to his homeland of Canaan.  It is unlikely that Leah and Rachel had previously traveled far from their home, so despite being treated like outcasts by their father, Rachel felt compelled to take some of the old life with her.  In packing up her belongings to leave, she stole her father’s household gods.

It is human nature to want to cling to the remnants of the past, regardless of how good or bad that the past may have been.  We tend to romanticize the past, often referring to it as the “good ole’ days”.  We conveniently forget the hurts, headaches and disappointments of the past.  We are most susceptible to this when we are confronted with present day struggles or our way forward seems unclear.

After God emancipated the Israelites they found themselves in the wilderness and they could not always “see” how he was going to provide for them. This caused them to look longing back to their place of bondage, “we remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt.  And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted” (Numbers 11:5)(NLT).

Jacob did not have to twist the arms of Leah and Rachel to go with him.  When Jacob spoke to Leah and Rachel about making a run for it, they responded, “That’s fine with us! We won’t inherit any of our father’s wealth anyway. He has reduced our rights to those of foreign women. And after he sold us, he wasted the money you paid him for us.” (Genesis 31:14-15)(NLT)

Yet Rachel persisted is taking her father’s household gods, a reminder of her old, painful life with her.  Beyond that, she lied to her father when confronted about the theft.  This is often our reaction when our father God confronts us about those household gods in our lives, be they career, children, reputation, material possessions or whatever.  We may be blind to our household gods and we may not become aware of their place in our lives until we’re threatened with their loss.

God calls his children to a new way of life.  As God led the children of Israel to the Promised Land, it was a way in which they were unfamiliar.  Joshua reminded the Israelites as they set to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land they had “never traveled this way before” (Joshua 3:4).  Nothing can escape the clenched fists that we use to hold onto the past, but sadly and conversely, God cannot place into our open hands the promise of hope and a future.

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The Cost of Insecurity

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Samuel said, “Although you [Saul] were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel – 1 Samuel 15:17 (NIV)

We are born with an innate need for security.  Newborns accustomed to the cozy confines of the womb must be swaddled for a period of time to feel secure.  Near the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is safety, which is synonymous with security. Security is a God-given need.  As it was God who created this need, he also intended to fill it.  However since the fall of man, Satan has sought to subvert God’s plan.  Satan cannot genuinely create, he can only counterfeit and mar God’s creation.  Such as it is with security.  Satan will tempt us to look for security apart from God.  Sources of security apart from God are not sustainable and ultimately result in insecurity.   Seeking security apart from God is like scooping up handfuls of sand and not expecting any grains to fall out.  It’s fighting a losing battle.

With this as a backdrop, let’s look at the cautionary tale of Israel’s first king, Saul.  God instructed the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as king.  Samuel tells Saul that the favor of the entire nation of Israel is directed toward him. (1. Sam. 9:20).   What was Saul’s reaction?  Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me? (1. Sam 9:21)(NIV).  Saul was looking to fulfill God’s calling while relying on his, not God’s, resources.  His reaction was quite natural and similar Gideon’s, Moses’ and others when God called these men to do great tasks.  The difference, however, is that Gideon and Moses came to eventually rely on God’s empowerment while Saul did not.

Once anointed as king, Saul attempted to do everything in his power to maintain the monarchy.  Like many men today, Saul saw his identity and worth as a person wrapped up his title.  David, the valiant warrior, was loyal to Saul.  Saul and the rest of Israel were beneficiaries of David’s military conquests.  Instead of relishing in David victories which meant the vanquishing of Israel’s enemies, Saul saw them as a threat.  Saul became particularly enraged when the women of Israel ascribed greater military prowess to David than to him.  When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres. As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”  Saul was very angry; this refrain displeased him greatly. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?”  (1 Samuel 18:7)(NIV).

Saul completely forgot that he only become king in the first place through divine fiat.  God spoke to the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as king.  Samuel had to search him out.  He found Saul hiding among the baggage (1 Samuel 10:22).  As an aside, we must not permit our own “baggage” from interfering with us in answering God’s call on our lives.  Whom God calls, he equips.

Our true priorities are revealed when we are threatened with loss.  Do we value career, status and possessions above God?  Saul’s priorities were tested when he was instructed to wait for Samuel to offer a sacrifice before an impending battle with the Philistines.  Saul’s men became fearful and started to desert him. Saul sensing defeat and valuing his reign above all took matters into his own hands and offered the sacrifice.  When Samuel finally did show up, he rebuked Saul for his disobedience and told him is kingdom would not endure (1 Samuel 13:1-14).

This episode marked Saul’s descent into wanton disobedience.  Knowing he was going to lose the kingdom caused Saul to become increasing irreligious.  He intensified his paranoid pursuit of attempting to kill David.  He ordered the killing of 85 priests and their families (1 Samuel 22:17 – 19). He consulted a medium (1 Samuel 28:3-25), something God expressly forbid his people to do (Leviticus 19:31).  Ultimately Saul died in disgrace, falling on his own sword (1 Samuel 31:3-6).

We must not allow our pursuits for power, acclaim or wealth to eclipse our pursuit of God.  As Jesus told his disciples, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26)(NIV).

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Crossing the Thresholds of Faith

Door threshold

See, I have placed before you an open door – Revelation 3:8a (NIV)

A literal threshold is a sill of a doorway or the entrance of a house or a building.  A threshold marks a clear dividing line as we exit from one environment and enter another.  This idea of environmental transition has spawned other meanings for the word threshold such as any place or point of entering or beginning, i.e. the threshold of a new season and the point at which a stimulus is of sufficient intensity to begin to produce an effect, i.e. a low threshold of pain.  

A Christian comes to faith in Jesus Christ by crossing the threshold of faith.  Jesus issues the call to faith (stimulus) and for those answering the call, it is of sufficient intensity to produce the effect of acceptance.  I believe this is often why someone who becomes a Christ follower as an adult does so in response to some crisis in his or her life.  The crisis was the catalyst to accept Jesus’ call to faith in him.  Upon accepting the call of faith another dimension of a threshold is in view; a place or point of entering or beginning.  This perspective is captured in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (NIV).

Crossing the initial threshold of faith is not the only threshold of faith that believers will cross.  The initial threshold represents salvation; the redemption of the soul from sin and its effects.  Beyond salvation is the call to sanctification; to be set apart for God’s use.  The call to sanctification is a lifelong, never-ending call.  It results in crossing multiple faith thresholds as we rely increasingly on God and his power and authority and less on our own natural abilities, intellect and reason.

In the physical realm when we cross the threshold of a door, we can typically see into the room we are entering.  As we cross ever increasing thresholds of faith this is often not the case.  We may not be able to “see” anything in the next room, or what we do see is downright dangerous or harmful.  Yet as Jesus called to Peter to step out of the boat into the darkness and raging storm, we hear Jesus calling us to himself, regardless of the uncertainty and danger of outward appearances. 

There is a common trait among the Biblical characters we revere.  They were all willing to cross the thresholds of faith.  In the 20th chapter of the Book of Acts, The Apostle Paul speaks to his companions of the destination of his current trip to Jerusalem, And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:22-24)(NKJV). 

In the next chapter of Acts, the prophet Agabus does indeed prophesy that Paul will be bound and delivered to the Gentiles.  Upon hearing this, Paul’s companions begged him to call off his trip to Jerusalem.  Paul’s response reinforced what he said earlier, I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”  (Acts 21:13b)(NKJV). 

An important aspect of sanctification is becoming more Christ-like.  Romans 8:29 famously says, For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (NIV).   We cannot become Divine like Christ but we can emulate another of his most important attributes, self-sacrificing love (Philippians 2:1-6).   

Benchmarks are commonly used in corporate settings.  They are standards or points of reference against which things may be compared or assessed.  While on earth we will always be in process spiritually, but that does not mean we cannot evaluate our spiritual progress.  Love is God’s benchmark and the unit of measure is giving.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13).  This is how we’ll know we are continuing to pass the thresholds of faith.  We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. (1 John 3:14a). 

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Respecting a Bad Boss – A Biblical Perspective

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He [David] said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” (1 Samuel 24:6)(NIV)

It’s the rare person who has not had to deal with a bad boss.  I believe it’s rarer still to not struggle with respecting a bad boss.  We would rather vilify the bad boss, seeing him or her as less than human.  To paraphrase the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, seeing the boss through these eyes makes it, “easier to hate you with, my dear.”  Vilifying the boss takes you off of the hook for your own performance which may be a contributing factor if you feel as if you’re being picked on.   

But what does the Bible have to say on the topic? As it turns out, plenty.  The Bible does not place a boss in the context that we think of today, but it has a lot to say about the relationship between those in authority and those under authority.  Biblical characters including David have not been immune from bad bosses.  King Saul “employed” David to play the harp for him and David was not in a position to refuse his offer.  We might feel like we’re trapped in a bad employment situation, but we have the choice to leave.  King Saul’s offer to David was really a command.  While your boss may have used harsh language to you I’m betting he or she never threw a spear at you with the intent to kill you!  (1 Samuel 18:10-11)

As a teenager Samuel anointed David become Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 16:1-13).  David’s fame and notoriety grew after his military victories making Saul jealous. (1 Samuel 18:5-8).   David could have seen his anointing and growing influence as a “mandate” wrest the kingdom away from Saul.

Yet David always respected Saul’s God ordained authority even when Saul hunted him down for years as a fugitive.  On one occasion David came upon Saul when he was relieving himself in a cave.  Saul was “exposed” in more ways than one.  David could have easily killed Saul and in fact, David’s men encouraged him to do so. (1 Samuel 24:1-4).  While David did not kill Saul he did cut off the corner of his robe.  Even that act caused David to be conscience-stricken.  Listen to what David tells his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” (1 Samuel 24:6b)(NIV).  Romans 13:1 states all authority comes from God.  Since all authority comes from God, to disrespect your boss is in essence to disrespect God.  David clearly understood this.

David’s respect for Saul extended beyond Saul’s life.  As the king succeeding Saul, David could have discredited predecessor.  Like so many of the modern day politicians, David could have torn Saul down in order to build himself up.  Instead, David sought to preserve Saul legacy by penning a lament to him   and his son Jonathan, David’s best friend.  (2 Samuel 1:17-27).

Why did David treat Saul in this manner?  I believe it was because in part that David understood his destiny.  He knew assuredly that he would be Israel’s next king, and Saul’s ill treatment could do nothing to change that.  While a boss may have authority over you, that authority is not sovereign over you.  That type of authority is God’s alone to wield.

I am not suggesting you intentionally stay in a toxic work environment.  Even during Biblical times when vocational options were limited, the Apostle Paul encouraged slaves who were able to purchase their freedom to do so. (1 Cor. 7:21).   However also know that when it comes to destiny current location has little to do with final destination.  From Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers to Jesus being crucified, a loving God can use even ill-treatment at the hands of others usher in his best for you personally and his people corporately.

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My 600 lb Life

Overweight_biker

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest – Mat. 11:28 (NKJV)

There is show that airs on the TLC network in the United States called My 600-lb Life.  Each episode follows a year in the life of a morbidly obese person, who starts the episode weighing around 600 lbs., and attempts to reduce his or her weight to a healthy level. The weight reduction is typically assisted by gastric bypass surgery. These people are so unhealthy and obese that they must lose weight to even have the surgery, as the surgery itself is not without significant risks.

If you have ever watched any of the episodes, it becomes clear the trigger for morbid obesity goes well beyond eating to satisfy a physical appetite.  These people often have deep-seated emotional wounds.  Eating become a means of masking the pain of these wounds, but brings along its own set of unhealthy issues in the process.

Truth be told, many of us are living our own 600-lb lives. We may not be morbidly obese physically, but we are “obese” in other areas of our lives.  No one is exempt from deep emotional wounding.  We often seek to mask the pain of the wounds of inappropriate ways.  Your food of choice might be overspending, drugs abuse (either legal or illegal), illicit affairs, pornography, excessive “screen time” or a host of other diversions.  For others, their food of choice might be socially acceptable such as workaholism, but the effects can be no less devastating to them personally and those who are close to them.

Jesus, the master surgeon, has promised to perform the divine gastric bypass on our souls.  Jesus told his disciples, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Mat. 11:28 – 30 (NKJV).

In the physical realm, all surgery has risks and side effects, and gastric bypass surgery is among the riskiest.  Side effects include gallstones, dental problems and increased risks for alcoholism.  No such risks exist when Jesus performs surgery on our souls.  It is because God designed our souls to be in perfect alignment with him. Our sins and hurts caused to us by the sins of others have caused us to be out of alignment with God.

Gastric bypass patients must adhere to a bariatric diet.  Those of us having soul surgery should adhere to a “soul food” diet.  We should dine on the true bread of heaven, Jesus.  As Jesus told those gathered to hear him, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. John 6:35 (NKJV).

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Strengthening our divine signal

airplane mode

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4)(NIV)

Most of us contain in the palm of our hand one of the most powerful devices ever created by mankind. I’m not referring to a miniaturized nuclear reactor or warhead. Rather, I’m talking about a smartphone.  It’s been said smartphones of today contain more computing power than the computers NASA used to place men on the moon.  With a smartphone, you can literally have a worldwide reach. There are people who run profitable businesses almost solely from these devices. With a smartphone, you do not need to depend upon media outlets to get your message out.  Smartphones were credited as a powerful tool in the “Arab Spring” uprisings several years back as they captured and shared video footage of Middle Eastern governments’ brutality against its citizens.  With a smartphone, you can literally create regime change.  Think about the next time you’re using your phone to simply play Candy Crush or Words With Friends.

There is a time when the smartphone’s power and capabilities are severely curtailed.  That’s when the phone is in “airplane mode.” As the name suggests, it was designed to allow for the safe operation of a phone while flying on an airplane. The radio frequency at which smartphones receive signals from carriers is said to interfere with planes navigational equipment.  In airplane mode, a phone still has some functionality but is unable to send or receive signals to the outside world.  It becomes nothing more than a glorified PDA.  (Does anyone still remember those?)

There are other times when a smartphone is in “broadcast mode” but the signal is weak.  Who among us has not had the experience of only being able to decipher every other word in a conversation with someone else or having a call drop completely? The results are essentially the same as being in airplane mode

We who call the name of Christ have abundant power at our disposal. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV) is not merely rhetoric. However, this power is not ours to wield at every whim. We cannot conjure God’s power through some magical incantation.  This was the sin of Simon the Sorcerer (see Acts 8:9-24). God’s divine enablement, his grace, is available to us only to the extent that we are in service to his will.

The impartation of God’s grace depends on two way of communication.  We must be able to both send and receive a signal from God.  Too often in our Christian journey, we attempt to go it alone or else not maintain communion with God and end up with poor results.  We see this  played out in the life of the Apostle Peter:

Example of airplane mode

Action: Peter tells Christ he will never disown him even if it means his own death. (Mark 14:31, Luke 22:33)

Result: Peter denies Christ three times. (Mat. 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22;54-62 )

 

Example of dropped call

Action: At Jesus’ call, Peter walks on the water. (Mat. 14:29)

Result: Peter sees the wind, becomes afraid and starts to sink. Cries out to Jesus for help.  Jesus saves him. (Mat. 14:30-31)

 

Example of strong signal

Action: Peter preaches to the crowd on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:14-40)

Result: About three thousand people were saved and baptized. (Acts 2:41)

 

While Peter is highlighted to illustrate the three communication modes with God, Moses and David and countless other Biblical figures could have been used to make the point.  The truth is that all Christians find themselves operating in all three modes at various times.  We are extremely vulnerable to operating in airplane and weak signal modes.  The scriptural disciplines of prayer and Bible study and the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper are constant reminders for us to strengthen our divine signal.  Jesus poignantly reminded his disciples “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5)(NIV)

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Spiritual Presumption

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Like the tethered skydiver, when presumption jumps out the plane, we’re along for the ride!

So the Israelites examined their [the Gibeonites] food, but they did not consult the LORD – Joshua 9:14 (NLT)

When it comes to interpreting the Bible, it’s best we take a balanced and integrated approach.  We as humans tend to be “either / or” and God tends to be “and.”   We may place so much focus on love that we forget truth.  God has granted Christians liberty, but some take that liberty as a license.  In my last post I wrote about spiritual audacity; being bold in our requests to God and seeking to do big things to enrich God’s kingdom.  We must not however under the banner of spiritual audacity fall prey to spiritual presumption.

The text above is taken from a passage highlighting spiritual presumption.  By way of background, Joshua and the Israelites had utterly destroyed the cities of Jericho and Ai.  Their victories created quite a stir in the land.  Most of the surrounding leaders determined the best way to defeat the Israelites was to form an alliance and attack them (Joshua 9:1-2) however the Gibeonites took a different tact.  Instead of attempting to outright defeat the Israelites, they sought to deceive them.  Long before distressed fabric was a fashion statement, the Gibeonites appeared in distressed clothing before the Israelites.  They [the Gibeonites] resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins.  They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy. (Joshua 9:4 -5)(NLT).

The Gibeonites dressed this way and carried old provisions to appear as if they lived and traveled from a distant land and were not nearby neighbors.  They wanted to cast this appearance so the Israelites would not see them as a threat and could thereby be enticed into making a treaty with them.  Verse 14 tells us, So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the LORD (NLT).  Without divine consultation, Joshua foolishly and hastily made a treaty with the Gibeonites only to learn three days later they lived nearby. (verses 15 – 16). 

After learning they had been duped by the Gibeonites, the Israelite people were upset with their leaders.  The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the LORD, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. (verses 18b – 19).  God had instructed the Israelites to completely destroy the inhabitants of Canaan (Deut. 20:17). However because the Israelites made a treaty with the Gibeonites, they were now stuck.  The Israelites could not destroy the Gibeonites, instead, they forced them to be water carriers and wood cutters. 

We face consequences when we are spiritually presumptuous.  Since they were not destroyed, the Gibeonites served as a constant reminder to Israel of its disobedience.  The Gibeonites were attacked by the five kings of the Amorites and sought protection from the Israelites.  The Israelites had to fight a battle that was not initially theirs to fight to defend their unwelcomed allies.  God sovereignly allowed Israel to defeat the Amorites, miraculously causing the Sun to stand still in the process (Joshua 10:12-13), but nonetheless the Israelites got drawn into a fight that was initially not theirs.

No one is immune from spiritual presumptuousness.  David displayed spiritual audacity when he defeated Goliath.  He also displayed spiritual presumption when he stayed home from the battle at a time when the kings typically went off to war (2 Samuel 11).  It was during this time when David observed Bathsheba bathing on the roof and ultimately seduced her. 

The same Moses who audaciously asked God to see his glory foolishly struck the rock when God told him to speak to it (Numbers 20:8-11).  Because of his presumptuousness, Moses was not permitted to enter into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12)

Spiritual presumption is not the opposite of spiritual audacity.  The opposite of spiritual presumption is spiritual indifference, where we fail to seek God direction or having sought it, reject it.  To guard against spiritual presumption we must display the attitude of the prophet Samuel as a young boy when upon hearing the voice of God he said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  (1 Samuel 3:10b)(NIV)    

 

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Being Spiritually Audacious

Believe

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. – Ephesians 3:20 (NKJV)

Let’s play a game of word association.  What do you think of when you think of the words audacious and audacity?  Do you associate these words with being loud, ostentatious, or braggadocios?  Perhaps you’ve seen audacious people who are also loud and obnoxious, but that really isn’t what audacious or audacity means.   Audacity means the courage to think big, to take risks and to show initiative for a dream while facing the possibility of failure.  

What if I told you, maybe you think I’m being audacious in my claim, that God wants his children to display spiritually audacity?  If you’re still hung up on the word audacity try substituting it with another word, faith.  Listen to what Hebrews the 11th chapter has to say about faith, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (verse 1). And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies (verses 33-34)

Verse 33 provides quite the roll call of faith heroes, but let’s take a look at the most audacious of those, David.  He had quite the public coming out party.  The Philistine giant, Goliath, struck terror in the hearts of the entire Israelite army.  Goliath issued a challenge for a single Israelite warrior to step forward and take him on in a fight.  No one accepted the challenge.  No one, that is, except the teenage boy David who had gone to the frontlines to deliver food to his brothers.  Goliath, offended that the Israelites would send a mere boy out to fight him quips, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!” (1 Samuel 17:44-45 )(NLT).

Undaunted, David responds, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. (1: Samuel 17:45-46)(NLT).   What was the source of David’s audacity?  He was not facing Goliath alone.  He came in the name of the Lord Almighty. Even the most irreligious person knows how this fight ends.  David with nothing more than a sling strikes Goliath with stone and kills him.

David’s words are instructive for us when we face the “giants” in our lives.  We are never to face them alone.  The problems in our lives can loom overly large unless we view them through the lens of faith in God.  Ten of the twelve spies whom Moses sent to spy out the land of Canaan had a similar vision problem. Listen to their report captured in Numbers 13:32-33, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.  We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Two of the ten spies, Joshua and Caleb, saw the situation differently, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 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. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:8-9)(NLT).  Where the ten spies saw only the Nephilim, Joshua and Caleb more importantly saw beyond to see God.  Unfortunately, the Israelites did not listen to Joshua and Caleb and their unbelief motivated by fear kept them out of the Promised Land.

Do not be afraid to be audacious when it comes to the things of God.  Provided we are motivated to do God’s will, do not be afraid to ask for fear of asking for the ‘wrong thing.” God himself will refine our requests.  Romans 8:26 tells us, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

Moses audaciously asked God to see his glory.  God did not answer Moses’ prayer in the manner he asked it, but God did allow his glory to pass by Moses.  The result was that Moses’ face was so radiant after this encounter he had to cover his face to speak to the Israelites.  The audacious David asked God for permission to build a temple for him.  God did not permit David to build the temple, but allowed him to gather the building materials.  God told David it will be his son Solomon who would build it instead.  God did not answer Moses’ and David’s prayers exactly as they asked them, but both were blown away by the answers.

So go ahead and ask God.  Be spiritually audacious for his kingdom.  You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2b)(NLT).

 

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Who am I and God who are you?

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” – Exodus 3:11 (NIV)

I’m not Roman Catholic, but I almost feel as if a confession is in order.  “Bless me father for I have sinned.  It’s been two years since my last blog post.”  It was not my intent to take a two year hiatus and a lot has transpired over that time.  My burning passion and desire to write waned.  I almost allowed the circumstances of life to completely snuff out that fire, although a weak ember or two remained.  The longer I went without writing, the harder it was to resume. The longer I went; another plate was added to the barbell until it became too hard to lift.

Looking back, I now realize it was fear and a sense of inadequacy that caused me to slow down and then eventually quit writing.  The funny thing was this feeling came after I had written over 70 posts.  After I quit, people remarked how much they had enjoyed reading my post and if I planned to resumed writing them again.  I’d wince in my spirit everything I got that question.  I would blame a very hectic work schedule, which was in partially true.  Deep down I knew there was another reason why I quit and the struggle it would be for me to resume.

Fear and a sense of inadequacy caused me to have a misplaced focus, a focus on me.  Who did I think I was to have the audacity to put my writing out into the world for consumption?  What if the writing wasn’t that good?  What if I was criticized?”  Was I writing to bring attention to myself?  I was like an opera singer tuning up before a performance it was all about, “me-me-me-me-meeee.”

Sometimes God will permit a period of idleness and inactivity in our lives to allow for examination, introspection and healing. That’s what he did in my case.  I have reaffirmed that God did implant in my heart the passion and desire to write about him and to share this writing with the world.  I needed to be courageous and vulnerable enough to once again release to the world what God has placed inside of me. I had to allow God, not me to worry about the reception.   I needed to handle my business and allow God to handle his.

Grappling with feelings of personal inadequacies in response to God’s call and questioning God’s power to see us through is an oft repeated theme in scripture.  We famously see this when God called Moses.  Life coach and former pastor, Kary Oberbrunner, points out there are two questions Moses ask God, “who am I and who are you?” The first question is found Exodus 3:11, But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  Moses asks his second question in Exodus 3:13, Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

If you know Moses’ back story, you know he was raised in the household of Pharaoh. Moses attempted to liberate the Hebrews by his own hand by killing an Egyptian overseer who mistreated a Hebrew slave (Exodus 2:11-12).  This act caused Moses to be banished from Egypt and live in Midian for 40 years.  By the time God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, his former splendor was gone and he was an old man at the age of 80.  Moses likely felt his best days were behind him, and the zeal he once had to liberate his people had been reduce to fear and aversion.

God makes a habit of manifesting his power in the most unlikely situations when we’ve lost all hope, are beyond our own strength and feel like we’ve blown it. He does this so we won’t glory in our own accomplishments and those who witness them will realize there’s no way we could have done it without the power of God.

God has equipped all of his children with unique gifts and placed dreams and passions in their hearts.  Are you feeling as if your God-implanted dreams are dead or deferred?   Do not give up on them!  Work diligently at your craft (2 Timothy 1:6) remembering God can restore the lost opportunities (Joel 2:25). If  if you cooperate with God, he will accomplish what he intended through you. (1 Thess. 5:24).

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; (Psalm 138:8a).

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A Groupon God

Shoppers engaged in "extreme couponing" - courtesy of www.today.com
Shoppers engaged in “extreme couponing” – courtesy of www.today.com

 

I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing. . .2 Sam 24:24 (NIV)

Shoppers regardless of culture and country share one thing in common. It is evident in the haggling of the Cairo bazaars to Black Friday lines in the United States. Shoppers since time immemorial have sought one thing – a bargain. TV network TLC features a program called Extreme Couponing highlighting individuals who have taken coupon clipping to another level and in some cases obtaining vast amounts of goods for little or nothing.   In recent years, online sites such as Groupon and Living Social have gained popularity offering deals on local goods and services. Even online retailing giant Amazon has taken notice and has come out with its own local coupon service called Amazon Local.

Unfortunately some have brought this discount mentality when it comes to God. Tony Evans puts it this way in his book, Kingdom Man:

Too many of us want God on sale. We want a discount God. Just like the discount stores are more packed than the high-end stores, people want God, but they want him on the cheap. The moment He starts to come at full price, we are not sure we want Him anymore. The moment He starts to actually cost us something, we rethink whether we want Him at all.

To put this into contemporary language, we want a Groupon God. A God that cost less than full price. King David understood this concept and was not looking for God on the cheap. God had commanded David through the prophet Gad to go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (2. Sam 24:18). King David approached Araunah to buy the threshing floor from him. Araunah, out of reverence for and perhaps fear of David, offered to give David the threshing floor along with his oxen for the sacrifice and his implements to be used for wood to burn the sacrifice (2. Sam 24:22). David could have taken Araunah property by royal fiat or simply have accepted his offer, but he refused. David was not about to “re-gift” a gift to God. He told Araunah plainly, “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (2. Sam 24:24).

David was the acknowledged writer of many of the Psalms, but the author of the 116th Psalm is unidentified. Regardless if David wrote the Psalm or not, he clearly identifies with the sentiments contained in its 12th verse, how can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? David realized any attempts to repay the Lord for his goodness, mercy and salvation would fall woefully short. David does write in Psalm 51:16, You [the Lord] do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. David realized that out of God’s abundant blessings towards him the best and only thing he could do was to give God himself.

The Apostle Paul picks up on this theme when writes to the Roman church, Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1).  When the Apostle wrote these words, perhaps he was reflecting on what he penned just a few chapters previously, he [God] who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32).

 

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