Candy blogs: The Israelites are such a great example of what not to do, aren’t they? I remember the first time I read through the entire Bible, I was in my 20’s. I kept stopping to whine to the Lord about what idiots the Israelites were as they wandered around in the desert. God would do a big miracle for them and they’d be happy for about five minutes. Then they’d go do something stupid and get themselves in a huge jam that only God could get them out of. And God would save them. And they’d be happy for another five minutes and the cycle just seemed to continue until Jesus came.
In my 20’s this was frustrating for me to read over and over. I just wanted them to learn the lesson, love and obey God and WIN! Get on with it. Start LIVING the life God freed them to live instead of wandering around hitting their heads against brick walls all the time.
And this happened right out of the chutes. They had just barely left Egypt after the HUGE miracles of the plagues. They were all believing God and ready to BE FREE. God had been leading them with the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. They could actually SEE the presence of God every minute of their day and night. God’s presence was tangible. I like to imagine going to sleep at night in that camp and perhaps awakening to troubling sounds. But then looking over at the pillar of fire … there it was. God’s presence. What a comfort.
Pharaoh changed his mind about letting them go and sent his army after them to bring them back. So when the Israelites saw that the Egyptian army was coming after them, they were suddenly aware that they were a huge, vulnerable group of newly freed slaves, untrained and unaccustomed to war. The Egyptian army, on the other hand, was the best trained and best equipped army in the world. So they had 600 Egyptian chariots coming at them from one side and when they turned the other way, there was the Red Sea.
They were truly trapped. This was their first huge jam.
Well, of course they were terrified and started screaming at Moses about why in the world they were out in the middle of the desert in this horrible situation when they could be back in Egypt happily making bricks and living in slavery.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But is it?
What would our first reaction be if we found ourselves figuratively between an army and the sea? We always SAY we would choose freedom. We’d choose GOD’S ways. We would be OBEDIENT because God’s side always WINS.
But the challenge the Lord put before me recently is this: WE SAY THAT GOD WILL MAKE A WAY. We believe this. We know God’s Word, the Bible, says this. We often say this to others when THEY’RE in a huge jam.
But when WE’RE facing adversity, often our life actually reflects something more like: BUT WILL HE MAKE A WAY FOR ME?
God usually leads us one step at a time.
Very seldom do we hear of someone who got the whole life plan from the Lord when they first came to know Him. It was the same for the Israelites. When they set out in the desert, no one knew exactly where they were going. They were just … going. They just followed the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. The pillars confirmed God’s presence and His leadership.
So that meant that God had led them directly to this very tight spot. It wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t an error in judgment. It wasn’t rebellion. How could there possibly be so much trouble when they were clearly where God wanted them to be?
Moses was just following orders. He didn’t know what to do. He’d just spent 40 years on the other side of the desert. He didn’t know how to lead a million or more people. So God took over.
The pillar they’d been following then moved behind the people to stand between the army and the people. It stayed there all night. And while the pillar was protecting them, God told Moses to stretch out his staff over the sea so that the Israelites could go through the sea on dry land. This took all night long. I bet they weren’t expecting that.
What the Israelites feared (the sea)
became their way to freedom.
God’s plan for us doesn’t include coexisting with “the Egyptians”… he wants us free. Coping … getting by … settling for is NOT the plan. Overcoming is God’s plan. Staying in Egypt means slavery and bondage. God always wants to lead us to a better place. He always leads us forward to the promise.
What do I mean by God will “make a way”? Did God always intervene in the battles of Israel? Did they always win their battles? No. There were many, many years of enemy occupation of Israel. Does this mean that God will always get me out of all my jams … at least as I see jams? No. None of us
escapes hard things. The promise of God isn’t to spare us from conflict but to
help us overcome them.
God only opens the door to the future one step at a time.
This makes me think … does my life really line up with my beliefs, values and the words that come out of my mouth? There will be more in Part II …
This post was inspired by a lesson written by Daniel N. Berg
Candy blogs: Ah, gentleness. The most difficult quality of the fruit of the Spirit for me. I so dreaded this one as it came up in Beth Moore’s study, Living Beyond Yourself. All my life I read about how women are supposed to be gentle and quiet in spirit. I always greatly admired gracious, graceful, delicate women, mainly because that couldn’t be more opposite than my personality. The opposite of gracious? Perhaps sarcastic, severe, ungiving. The opposite of graceful? Perhaps careless, awkward. The opposite of delicate? Perhaps robust, strong.
But this study helped me realize that gentleness had nothing to do with personality or circumstances. How God hard-wired my personality and spiritual gifts didn’t make gentleness impossible. Here is what the dictionary says:
… clement, peaceful, pacific, soothing; tender, humane, lenient, merciful. Gentle, meek, mild refer to an absence of bad temper or belligerence. Gentle has reference especially to disposition and behavior, and often suggests a deliberate or voluntary kindness or forbearance in dealing with others. Meek implies a submissive spirit, and may even indicate undue submission in the face of insult or injustice: meek and even servile or weak. Mild suggests absence of harshness or severity, rather because of natural character or temperament than conscious choice.
I had always measured spiritual gentleness by this definition. It just isn’t the case. Beth Moore says these things, scattered throughout the study:
… an inward grace of the soul; a calmness toward God in particular. An acceptance of God’s dealings with us, considering them as good. The term basically means to stop fighting God. Gentleness is responsibility with power.”
I now enjoy a certain level of intimacy with Jesus that only comes with time. But I have to say that at times there was a battle to get there. I often fought what God wanted to teach me. I often ignored what I already knew and continued on in my own strength. I resisted being restrained. What I finally learned was that it was in the letting go, releasing control of what was safe, being willing to step into the unknown that led to freedom and intimacy with God. I submitted to and stopped fighting God in my maturing process. THIS was the exercise of gentleness … as Beth Moore says … reponsibility with power.
We often hang on to some level of control over an emotional or difficult issue, our “right” to be mad about something. Not accepting God’s dealings with us will cause us to be bitter. If we allow ourselves to go there, we aren’t exercising gentleness.
Releasing control to our Savior doesn’t mean there won’t be pain involved. On the contrary, pain is one of God’s most effective tools. Not as a punitive tool, but a shaping tool. The stone or wood naturally resist the chisel of the sculptor. But the sculptor sees his creation before any chiseling or shaping begins. If allowed to continue, putting gentleness into action, the result is maturity, a thing of beauty.
We can decide to bow down to God’s purposes and plans for us BEFORE difficulties hit. The quality of the fruit of the Spirit of gentleness can help us THROUGH the storm. Why do we wait until AFTER to look for God’s plan? An inward grace of the soul … to me this says I completely trust my life to a loving God.
God knows what He’s doing.
Candy blogs: Faith is one of a Christian’s pillar words, isn’t it? We’ve all heard the word faith over and over. We think we know what it is; we think we have it. Me, too. But when I sat down to really think it through, it got bigger than my mind could grasp. Beth Moore to the rescue!
Beth makes the distinction between ‘faith’ and ‘faithfulness’: Faith being a response to trusting in God’s faithfulness. I’m not talking about the faith through which we’re saved. Hear these words in the definition of faithfulness:
♥ firm persuasion ♥ conviction ♥ belief in truth ♥ veracity ♥ reality ♥ steadiness ♥ sureness ♥ steadfastness ♥ trust ♥ honesty ♥ safety ♥ certainty
Strong words. These words can be ascribed to God Himself. He is all these things. He is real. He is believable. “The faithfulness of the believer is his belief in God’s believability.” This verse describes God’s faithfulness and believability.
3 I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! 4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. Deuteronomy 32:3-4
He is a Rock … his works are Perfect … his ways are Just … he does no wrong … he is Upright …
1 Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. 2 For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.Praise the LORD. Psalm 117:1-2
… the faithfulness of the Lord endures FOREVER.
One of the most revealing concepts to me in studying this characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit was that we must base our faith on who God is rather than on what He does. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours; we don’t always understand why God does certain things. But we can always trust that God is always working for our good, for our benefit, and will always lead us toward our purpose and calling. We can’t let ourselves be led by what we see or by results we are expecting. What God does changes but God never changes. His heart never changes toward us. He always acts out of love; He can’t do otherwise.
“Genuine faith walks steadfastly with God for the pleasure of His company not for His results. God does not call upon us to seek His works. He calls upon us to seek His heart.” Isn’t that an amazing thought?! It isn’t faith when we ask things of God, expecting certain results and then being disappointed and question His faithfulness if He didn’t answer us the way we expected. That is based on feeling. Faith requires that we accept God Himself as enough, no matter what He chooses to do. Only this kind of faith will transform our character.
Sometimes keeping the faith requires a fight. In the armor of God, faith is the shield protecting us in battle from the enemy’s flaming arrows. The enemy knows exactly where to aim, straight for our weakest spot. He would try to tempt us into not believing God to keep us from doing battle. When we agree with Satan’s lies, he builds and builds the lies until we are defeated and we stop fighting. Our shield of faith drops and we are open to a full on attack.
No one enjoys doing battle! But when we try to avoid it or go around it instead of through it, we miss the transformation. It’s the battle that builds our spiritual muscles, where we learn how to handle our shield of faith. The battle may be the harder way but it is the shorter way to transformation. We can become mighty and powerful in battle if we keep fighting! We perservere in the things God has taught us to do.
Beth Moore says, “We keep looking for someone mighty to come … we are them! We were meant to have faith to conquer dark kingdoms in our generation.”
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
Such an inspiring study, don’t you think? How often in the past I have tried to avoid the hard lessons and floundered around in spiritual limbo when God wanted to build my spiritual muscles and make me a hardened, faithful, CONQUERING soldier.
We will never think, speak or act perfectly but we can live in victory if we keep fighting and choose not to live in sin. I would love to hear your God stories of when He has been a shield about you.
Candy blogs: “What we believe about God”, said the late A.W. Tozer, “is the most important thing about us.” Our belief, or lack of it, will eventually find its way into our actions and attitudes.
I came home from a semi-monthly Gathering at our church last night with my mind racing. The topic centered around doubt. The discussion was lively and diverse. It left me wanting more, to dig into the subject to find resolution in my own spirit.
The question was asked: Is doubt a sin?
First, what is doubt?
1. to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe
2. to distrust
3. to fear; be apprehensive about
4. to be uncertain about something; be undecided in opinion or belief
There was much discussion. I think both schools of thought, those who did doubt God’s existence at some level and those who did not, felt vulnerable for disclosing it.
My disclosure was that I do not doubt God himself. When I was young in age and in spiritual maturity, I did have some doubt. But today I do not. Last night’s discussion made me start thinking about why this is true for me. In my mind, you either fully believe God or you don’t. But to really be able to believe God or believe in God, you have to have a foundational Biblical knowledge of who God is. I think doubt stems from fear but that knowledge about who God is instills hope and disperses doubt. Knowledge can lead to trust. In order to trust, you have to know God’s attributes. An attribute is “an essential characteristic of a person or thing”. Let’s look at the attributes of God. These are from a variety of sources.
God is Eternal: There has never been a time when God did not exist.
God is Unchanging, Immutable: “For I the Lord do not change.” Malachi 3:6
God is Sovereign: superior in position to all others; in control of all things
God is Triune: God is one in nature but three in person and manifestation.
God is Holy: His total separation from evil
God is Love: God holds the well-being of others as His primary concern.
God is Just: It is impossible for Him to do anything that is unfair.
God is Self-Sufficient: He has no needs and there is no way He can improve. To God, nothing else is necessary.
God Is Wise: Wisdom is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve these ends by the most perfect means.
God is Incomprehensible: God knows no boundaries. He is without measure.
God is Self-Existent: Nothing else in all the universe is self-caused. Only God.
God is Faithful: Everything that God has promised will come to pass.
God is Merciful: actively compassionate
God is Good: kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men
God is Gracious: God enjoys giving great gifts to those who love Him, even when they do not deserve it.
I enjoyed this article by Wallace Smith. I certainly don’t agree with everything he states in his article (thus I won’t put a link here) but I adapted it. Put your doubt up against the three Big O’s, also attributes of God.
The Greek word translated as omnipotent here is pantokrator, meaning “All-ruling” or “Almighty.” When we say God is “Almighty”, we are stating our belief in His authority and rulership over all creation. It is God who ultimately reigns in the universe, and all legitimate authority must derive from Him. If we let Scripture tell us of God’s authority, we must agree that He has all authority to do all His pleasure (Isaiah 46:10–11), and to see to the fulfillment of His plans without fail.
“Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!” Revelation 19:6
Basically, being omnipresent means being present everywhere at the same time. Ask yourself: is there any physical location in this universe where we can hide from the presence of God? He is not like a substance spread out in a thin layer all over the earth – all of Him is everywhere at one and the same time. Through His Spirit, God’s reach extends to every nook and cranny of the universe.
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell [the grave], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139:7–10
Omnisicient is defined as “having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things.”
God sees all things, and nothing can be hidden from His knowledge—not even the secret intentions of the heart. Human beings perceive through the senses, but there are limits to what the senses let us perceive and understand. God’s senses are not limited like ours. Nothing is beyond God’s ability to perceive it. Nothing can escape His gaze and His knowledge.
Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from my righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. Isaiah 46:9-13a
Can I trust my life to a God like this? I can. Can I trust and doubt at the same time? I don’t believe I can. Belief is a choice and is not based on emotions. How we FEEL does not affect our belief. Feelings ebb and flow. If, and only if, we have the basics of our Bible-based beliefs about God and who He is firmly implanted in our hearts and minds, life circumstances, people, natural disasters, injustice, crisis, disease–all the things that may cause us to doubt God–can be run through the filter of God’s word and His character.
The longer I walk with God and am able to see His plan and purposes for me in my past, the easier it becomes to trust Him today and in the future. In my mind, there is no room for doubt in that sentence. I don’t always understand everything God does in my life, but I can still trust that His purposes are always for my benefit. When we say we doubt God, I think we either haven’t firmly established who God is in our life or we’re really doubting our worth or loveability. I don’t think that means we’re doubting God himself.
But I’ll have to save that for another post.
If you haven’t firmly established your Biblically-based beliefs about who God is in your life, WORK IT OUT. Read His word! Have lively discussions with Christians you trust! Think and ponder! Talk to God about it!
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1:2-8
Would love to hear your thoughts about this issue of doubt.