Oct 18 2011

Don’t move!

Subject: UncategorizedRLW3 @ 12:37 pm

Emotions are like waves crashing upon the beach. They ebb and they flow in a fairly predictable manner.

However, sometimes, when stirred up by a notable storm, they can be quite violent, even destructive. And just when you think the storm is over and the waves are growing more placid, a memory comes to mind of someone says something that reopens your wounds. Like an aftershock on the ocean floor, they reinvigorate the waves to once again resume their assault on dry land.

The voices of the three false comforters continue to cry out to your soul to do something!

 “You’ve got to fight! Don’t give up! Don’t quit! Fight”

“It’s not your fault! Somebody did this to you! You don’t deserve this.”

“Just cut loose!”

“Forget about God! Let’s try something new!”

Like the Sirens of Greek mythology calling sailors ever so sweetly and seductively to their death, so the world, our flesh and the devil play their varied yet ever so familiar tunes on the strings of our hearts.

But, the question remains. What are we to do when we find ourselves in the midst of miserable circumstances? Where do we go for shelter while the storm is raging?

If we have dug deep and laid the foundation of our lives on the rock of obedience to our Master’s words1, then there is only one thing to do:

…and having done all, to stand.2

Though it may not seem heroic, there are times when there is only one simple yet courageous action to take:  to stand our ground. Don’t be tricked into moving. During violent storms, the primary objective is to stay on safe ground.

The Holy Spirit sheds some light on the eternal consequences of this rather mundane action.

:21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled :22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight-– :23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel…3

We are always so eager to know God’s plan for our life. Here He lets us peek behind the curtains of eternity to see a part of that plan:

“to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight –”

What a moment that will be! But that glorious moment in eternity future depends upon small decisions that we make here on earth today.

…if indeed you continue in the faith,”

We were living by the faith in God and His Word before these storms suddenly appeared. Will we choose to continue?

“… grounded and steadfast,

We were walking by faith, leaning on God’s promises before the circumstances of our life were turned upside down. Are our roots still firmly planted in the soil of His Word?

“and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel

Will we continue to cling to His hope for our future with the same conviction? Or will we allow the waves of our emotions to move us to a “more reasonable” expectation?

The enemy constantly works to obscure our vision so that we can only see what is immediately in front of us. Pretending to be our ally, he cries aloud in a voice that sounds very much like our own,

“Forget about eternity! What about now?

He cries loud enough to make sure that we cannot hear him muttering his true intentions under his breath

“Your birthright for a bowl of stew!”4

We will forget the illusory comfort promised by that bowl of stew as soon as we partake of it!

As bad as things may be right now, in just a few short years, the moment will come when God the Son will present you to God the Father and He will pronounce you as blameless in His sight. At that moment, there will be no regrets that we stood firm and continued fighting the fight of faith. We must not let the Enemy bluff us out of our eternal future.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”5

  1. Luke 6:47-49 []
  2. Eph 6:13 []
  3. Col 1:21-23 []
  4. Heb 12:16 []
  5. 2 Tim 4:7 []

Oct 16 2011

Our False Comforters

Subject: ProvidenceRLW3 @ 8:43 pm

When adversity comes upon us, many voices clamor for our attention and action. Just as Job had not one but three friends to advise him in his hardship, so we too have three familiar, loud voices that are very quick to offer us advice.

The voice of the world calls our adversity or calamity ‘bad luck’ or ‘karma’. Since the kosmos is ruled by the impersonal god of Chance and Randomness, Fate must be against us. They offer us two familiar responses. We can either choose to strengthen our resolve to overcome our Fate through sheer determination and effort or we can lash out in bitterness against the people or things who brought about our demise and then shrink into the corner to wallow in the debilitating false comfort of self-pity. In the end, the former choice leaves our soul hardened, exhausted and angry; the latter will see us shriveled, crippled and twisted.

The voice of the flesh entices us to anesthetize our pain by by letting loose and engaging in each and every form of sin that it can find.

 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in licentiousness and lewdness, not in strife and envy.1

Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament points out that each of these works of the flesh2 are in the plural form: revelries, repeated drunkenness, multiple acts of licentiousness and lewdness. If we heed this voice, by the time we finish debauching ourselves, we feel so defiled by our sin that the original problem no longer seems so bad.

The most insidious voice belongs to the devil himself. Disguising himself as the voice of reason and maturity, he will inevitably suggest that our setback merely serve to prove that God doesn’t really love us; that we have been playing a big religious game and are finally seeing life ‘for what it really is’; that the Bible may be true for others but certainly not for us; that God has singled us out.

After all, doesn’t God promise to bless those who serve Him? And look at you! This is blessing? This is how He rewards you?…

You expected too much. Did you really think that God actually cared about the details of your life? Did you really believe that He was actually watching over you? Wow! Were you ever dreaming!

Children believe in that stuff. You just need to grow up and face reality. Did you really think that you were that important?

He takes the very pain, disappointment, loss and confusion that should press us to run to “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,”3 and presents them to us as “evidence” or “proof” that God has abandoned us.

Jesus said that “there is no truth in him (the devil). Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.”4

There is another voice, but am I willing to listen?

  1. Rom 13:13 NKJV []
  2. Gal 5:19-21 []
  3. 2 Cor 1:3 []
  4. John 8:44 NASB []

Oct 30 2008

Looking for a fight

Subject: UncategorizedRLW3 @ 5:52 pm

After reading the last post, you might be tempted to think that I avoided the question of why God told the children of Israel to turn back. I thought that it would be helpful to first consider A (as opposed to THE) reason why God led them on THAT particular path in the first place.

God knew that Israel was not prepared for war. But He was.

One of the reasons that God told Israel to turn back and camp at Pi-Hahiroth was to lure Pharaoh into attacking His people.

For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.” And they did so. Deut. 14:3-4

However, God was interested in demonstrating His power in the earth on behalf of His people.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. For with a strong hand he will let them go, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I was not known to them. I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.” Exodus 6:1-4

God wanted to reveal Himself to Israel as Jehovah. He wanted to show Himself strong on behalf of His covenant people. He was determined to keep His covenant.

So, he told Israel to “turn back.” God wanted to make certain that everyone knew that He had put them into this position.

And so He does today. When we find ourselves trapped at Pi-Hahiroth and we got there by trying to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, it just might be that God is preparing to show Himself strong on our behalf. Do you know that He is always looking for such opportunities?

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.       2 Chron. 16:9a

His eyes are ever searching to find those who will continue trusting Him when their circumstances tell them they are doomed; those who will not cast away their confidence in Him when things look bleak; those who will continue to believe that He is for them and not against them.

Oct 29 2008

Do you really want to know why?

Subject: UncategorizedRLW3 @ 3:55 pm

When we last spoke, God had specifically directed the children of Israel to turn back and camp at a very vulnerable spot.

Why did God lead them by this way? As we shall see, there are many reasons.

In the first place, we must realize that God sometimes leads us in the way that He does because of our own weaknesses.

Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, “Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt.  Exodus 13:17-18

God led Israel on this route because He thought the alternate way would discourage them into turning back to Egypt!

Unfortunately, our proud hearts are tempted to question His motives in the midst of a practical manifestation of His kindness and condescension.

As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14

Oct 09 2008

Turn back

Subject: UncategorizedRLW3 @ 5:02 pm

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. There is no searching of His understanding. Isaiah 40:27-28 (NKJV)

Isaiah clarifies that God’s apparent lack of support in our life is not caused by fatigue or a lack of strength or ability on His part. He is the mighty God who does whatever He pleases. (Psa. 115:3)

One thing that we must keep before us is that God is not always expedient or efficient from a human perspective. Let’s look at one example that has been “written before…for our learning.” (Rom. 15:4)

Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea.”   Exodus 14:1-2

Turn back? Did God suddenly got a better idea? Was He preoccupied and missed the turn the first time? The natural human response would be to flee as far away from Egypt as possible as quickly as possible. Pi Hahiroth was not the next logical stop for Israel on their way out of Egypt. They had to turn back to get there! 

Let’s look at what God where God led Israel…

…Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon

“Migdol means “watchtower.” More specifically, it is believed to be the site of an ancient military watchtower. Ancient armies placed watchtowers on prominent hills overlooking strategic terrain, so let us assume that Migdol is a hill. If Migdol is a hill, then the Israelites camped between a hill and the sea. They camped “before” the hill, so it was nearby.1 

Baal-zephon means “Lord of the North.” Its name is perhaps derived from the Canaanite god Baal-zephon who watches over mariners. According to Dr. Kyle McCarter of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. James Hoffmeier of Wheaton College, Baal-zephon is believed to be a coastal mountain, a mountain that is next to the sea.The Israelites camped opposite and before a mountain that is next to the sea. If the Israelites camped on the shore between a prominent hill and the sea, yet were opposite and before (or in the presence of) a mountain that is next to the sea, the mountain was across the water, in clear view of the Israelite camp.”2 For a fascinating study of the location, please see “Only One Place.”

This was not a safe place to camp! Yet God specifically led them there. And He made led them in such a way that everyone would know that it was not an accident. The sole reason Israel camped at Pi-Hahiroth was for His purpose and pleasure. 

God seems to like places like Pi-Hahiroth. Why do I say that? Because He seems to direct me to them fairly frequently. Perhaps this is what King David was referring to when he said “He MAKES me to lie down in green pastures.” (Psa. 23:2)

Why would God have to MAKE us lie down in green pastures? Perhaps because us dumb sheep don’t recognize it as a green pasture? Perhaps, to a sheep, it looks like a place fraught with danger?

But to God, it looks altogether different.

  1. http://www.geocities.com/athens/parthenon/3021/redsea1.html, Oct., 2008 []
  2. http://www.geocities.com/athens/parthenon/3021/redsea1.html, Oct., 2008 []

Oct 04 2008

Do you see?

Subject: FaithRLW3 @ 10:01 am

When we find ourselves in the midst of distressing circumstances, we are frequently tempted to question either God’s motives, His methods or His level of concern. We are prone to complain along with Israel:

Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God”? Isaiah 40:27 (NKJV)

Israel said this because that is the way it appeared. They were not alone in this feeling. Kind David wrestled with this too. “If God delay his assistance for a short time, we think that his care does not extend to us.”1 How frequently and how quickly my heart lapses into the same species of unbelief!

Why do you say, O Jacob,…

I can see two possible reasons that the prophet called them first by the name Jacob, the supplanter. Perhaps he sought to remind them of their natural roots. They were not God’s chosen because they had earned it or deserved it. Neither do we. Any and all manifestations of His goodness are owed to His wonderful grace.

Or, perhaps he sought to remind them that God had made a covenant with their fathers. Although they had repeatedly broken His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He would remain faithful to keep it.

We do not have any legal standing in and of ourselves to make a claim on God’s goodness. He does not “owe” us anything. God favors us because of our faith in His Son’s sacrifice.

and speak, O Israel…

After having reminded them of their natural character, the prophet reminds them of their spiritual heritage. Their father was given this name because he would not stop wrestling with God until God blessed him. Perhaps the Holy Spirit was encouraging them to continue wrestling in prayer for their deliverance.

“By these names he calls to their remembrance the Lord’s covenant, which had been ratified by promises so numerous and so diversified; as if he had said, “Dost thou not think that thou art that people which God hath chosen peculiarly for himself? Why dost thou imagine that he who cannot deceive does not attend to thy cause?”2 

Beloved, God does see. Even when we have no evidence. 

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV)

  1. John Calvin’s Verse Commentary []
  2. John Calvin’s Verse Commentary []

Oct 03 2008

Rain from heaven

Subject: UncategorizedRLW3 @ 1:18 pm

For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven,            Deuteronomy 11:10-11

Frequently, when we hear that God wants to bring each of us into our own “Promised Land”, our carnal minds tend to interpret it as abundant wealth and a life of ease.

In Egypt, Israel watered their land “by foot”. In the wilderness, they drank water miraculously from the rock. But the Promised Land “drinks water from the rain of heaven”. How can our hearts read this and be anything but thrilled! God will take care of me! My life will be easier!

However, there is a real, practical “cost” that accompanies this blessing. We fail to hear that the “Promised Land” is a land of greater dependence on God, not less. In the “Promised Land”, they had to wait on God to provide rain for their land. Can He be trusted?

If He doesn’t send rain, then our crops will die. If the crops die, we will have no food. If we have no food, then we will either die of starvation or must make ourselves someone else’s servant. Fear presses me to return to the ways of Egypt and fend for myself.

Waiting on God is one of the most difficult things that God asks me to do. Will He come through or will He just show me where I have been wrong? My heart struggles to trust Him. It cuts against the Adamic habit of my heart to take care of myself.

Oh, I believe that He is good. If you were to tell me the difficulty that you face, the Scriptures would freely flow from my mouth with conviction to encourage your heart to trust Him. Oh, I know that God is good!

However, my heart struggles to believe that the same God will be good to ME!

God knows my weakness. Therefore, He carefully leads me step by step to places where I must trust Him…

and then He makes me wait!

Oct 02 2008

How did I get here?

Subject: Faith,Guidance,ObedienceRLW3 @ 8:26 am

I want to pick up the theme of trusting God for guidance since that is where I am personally.

This is a difficult subject for me. I am in the midst of a completely new venture. I have left the state that I have lived in for the past 31 years, the only church that I have attended since becoming a Christian 27 years ago, the house that I have built and lived in for the past 19 years and the job that I have done for the past 11 to move to a completely new state and attend a new church. I did this because I thought it to be the will of God.

For the first four months in my new state, I had to travel quite a bit for various reasons. I used the time to reconnect with my wife and children whom I had barely seen for the previous seven months. (if you want to read about it, click on the link “Lord of the Castle”)

For the past two months, I have been looking for employment. After several weeks with no success, I started to trade stocks in an attempt to bring in some money only to be naively blindsided by the current banking crisis.

Each step of the way, I thought that I was doing what the Lord wanted me to do with both my time and my talents. However, here I sit, unemployed, hoping the stock market revives so I won’t have lost our small savings and wondering how I got here.

As it was in the garden, the enemy’s first attack is “Has God said… Did God really tell you to take the actions that you have taken thus far?”

I know that I was not cavalier (put your mouse over the word, right click and look it up) in my attitude when I made each decision. To the best of my ability, I sought to “acknowledge Him in all my ways”. And when I review my choices in hindsight once again, I come to the same conclusion: I did what He wanted me to do.

The voice of doubt and self-accusation, whether my own or the enemy’s, taunts me: “Doesn’t God promise to bless those who obey Him? Then why are you STILL unemployed? Why has your investing FAILED?”

In times like these, my emotions are not trustworthy. Accusations of folly, irresponsibility, being hyper-spiritual, etc. flood my mind and emotions. Having arrived at this place by seeking to do His will, shall I now let my emotions lord it over me?

Thank God, I am not alone.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.  Romans 15:4 (NKJV)

Read that again…

“…that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

In times like this, the Scriptures truly do become my comfort. I have plenty of examples to show that I am not the first to go through this challenge. They truly do “strengthen…(me) with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” (Col. 1:11 NKJV)

Help for my soul is just an arm’s length away.

Sep 03 2008

Socially acceptable idolatry

Subject: Faith,IdolatryRLW3 @ 6:46 am

Four weeks ago, the Holy Spirit showed me something in the Scripture that I had never seen. Although I have lived a fairly devout and committed life since my conversion, I have been guilty of idolatry!

I realize that this sounds a bit “extreme”. However, I don’t know how to characterize it any other way.

I have recently moved to a new part of the country and am looking for a job. I was meditating on a very familiar passage to bolster my faith that my heavenly Father knows my situation and will provide for me:

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  Matthew 6:25-34 (NKJV)

Now, I have read this passage numerous times. I have memorized it. I have endeavored to obey it through these many years.

The verse previous to this passage holds even more value to me.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)

This verse has been a guiding light to me through the years. I have used it to discern motives and events, evaluate prospects and purposes and winnow the desires of my heart.

However, this time I noticed something different…”Therefore I say to you…

Jesus great passage on seeking the kingdom of God begins with the word “Therefore.”

I believe it was Kenneth Hagin who said “When you see the word ‘therefore’ in the Scripture, you probably ought to find out what it is there for.” “Therefore” refers back to the Jesus’ declaration that “you cannot serve God and mammon”. 

One of the reasons that I had never noticed this before is because of the little topical headings that the publisher puts in to help us find certain passages. The heading “Do Not Worry” is placed between verse 24 and verse 25. However, verse 25 is a continuation of Jesus thought in verse 24. Read it again…

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God an mammon. Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life,

Lest you think that I am stretching the text and either exaggerating or distorting Jesus meaning, consider this…

For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,

He begins and end the “Do Not Worry” passage with “therefore”. In the beginning, he says that you cannot serve God and Mammon, therefore, do not worry. At the end, he says that your heavenly Father knows your needs and will provide for them, therefore, do not worry.

Worry is a form of idolatry. It is serving Mammon. If I look to Mammon to meet my needs and care for me, then worry is the tribute that I pay as a token of my dependence. If I look to God to meet my needs and care for me, then I must not worry for He is good and He can be trusted.

I cannot tell you how this has impacted my life. To my shame, I have worried incessantly. When I was a minister, for 5 years I worried about sinning and being disqualified.

When I resigned from the ministry, I worried about getting a job. When I found good steady employment, for 11 years I worried about being laid off. Ironically, when I was unexpectedly laid off earlier this year on a Friday, I received an unexpected phone call and had a new job for the same pay plus a car and a gas card by the following Monday!

When we bought a house, since we had no savings account, every month for 18 years I worried about how we were going to pay the bills!

I have tried many times to obey Jesus and “not worry.” Now that I see that it is a form of serving Mammon, I WILL not worry again.

Sep 01 2008

Mea culpa!

Subject: UncategorizedRLW3 @ 9:29 am

I sincerely apologize for not writing on this blog recently.

Let me pick the ball up where I last dropped it…

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7 (NKJV)

As I look over my life, the cause of much of my internal anguish over the years has been caused by a fear of failure. I don’t so much mean failing in the eyes of men. Although that would be painful, it is bearable. However, my heart breaks at the thought that I might fail Him who gave His life for me.

I not only want to live in a manner “worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him” (Col. 1:10) in all respects, but I want to give Him all of the “power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing” that He is so worthy of. (Rev. 5:12)

Over the years, I have been plagued by the thought of just messing up, of missing His will, of not launching out when He wanted me to or of launching out when He didn’t tell me to.

It seems to me that the Holy Spirit is addressing just such fears in the passage cited above. He tells us to “humble ourselves the mighty hand of God.” The phrase “the mighty hand of God is used nowhere else in the Scripture. What does He mean by this?

Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’  Isaiah 46:9-10 (NKJV)

“Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand; I work, and who will reverse it?”  Isaiah 43:13 (NKJV)

The inescapable reality of life is that if God does not want us to succeed, we are not going to succeed no matter how hard we try. However, the Scripture paints a very clear picture that God wants to bless the righteous. We have evidence beyond a shadow of a doubt that God wants to bless us.  

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Romans 8:32 (NKJV)

Therefore, I want to be blessed. I want to be great. I want to excel in everything that I put my hand to. Not to boast. Most of the time, I could not care less if men ever notice anything that I do. Occasionally, it would be nice. However, I do not wake up in the morning wondering if men think well of me. Does He think well of me? Is He who sits on the throne happy with my life?

The Holy Spirit is telling us to submit our lives under the mighty hand of God, to trust Him, to yield to Him, to know Him in all of our ways, to practically acknowledge that His ways are higher than ours. Practically, we do this by casting all of our care upon Him.

Why does He want us to do this? That He may exalt you in due time.

Why would the Father do that? Because He cares for you.

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