Scripture tells us that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after escaping captivity in Egypt. Scripture also informs us that this was not what they wanted to do but God saw that it was what they needed to do. Their travels had an objective, the Promised Land, but God knew that they were not ready to claim it.
We are not unlike those Israelites in that we can find ourselves wandering just as they did. For some, this wandering may last a life time as they search for something, perhaps not even knowing what it might be. They wander from job-to-job or relationship-to-relationship in search of something that eludes them.
God knew what the Israelites needed even though they did not. Their priorities needed to be reordered. They had lost sight of what should have been second-nature to them. He kept them wandering until they solved their problem. Perhaps God does the same thing with us – keeping us moving until we finally listen to Him regarding the ordering of our priorities.
If you find yourself wandering, stop and reread Ecclesiastes. There you will hear Solomon reminding you that if God is not central in your life, everything else there will just be meaningless. Not much has changed since the time of these Israelites, has it?
Scripture: Genesis 2:24; Ecclesiastes
WHO HAS YOUR EAR?
You’re most likely not aware that you are bombarded with approximately 5000 messages each day. Each one of these messages is designed for the sole purpose of gaining your attention, gaining your “ear” so to speak. As a point of reference, globally, some 6,000,000,000 (6B) messages are transmitted each and every day. This equates to 16,000 audible, visual, and/or printed messages per second.
We would quickly be overcome were it not for the built-in, subconscious filters that each one of us possesses. These filters automatically discard those messages that are of no interest or importance. In addition, each of us have a set of conscious filters that we can employ; for example, I’m getting hungry. When this filter kicks-in, all of a sudden, we notice food ads that an instant before didn’t register with us.
So, whose messages get past your filters? Perhaps another way to say this is, who has your ear? Who do you allow to reach you with their messages and, what is the nature of the messages that you do allow past your filters?
One final question: where is God in terms of your filters?
Scripture: Proverbs 19:20
What is faith? Is it just some word that we toss around as a shorthand for something else – a code word perhaps? Is it a word we use when we don’t know what else to say or when we want to avoid more discussion?
The unidentified author of the book of Hebrews gives us God’s definition of faith. He wrote, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In the case of a Christian, this means that we have confidence that God’s promises are not just empty words and we trust that He will fulfill those promises.
To say that we have faith requires that we understand that faith must have an object. We can’t just say that we have faith and leave it at that. We must say in what we have faith, although sometimes it’s the context of the situation that provides that object.
For the Christian, that context is the arena of God, specifically, Jesus Christ. When we say that we have faith we are saying that God is the author of our salvation, a gift given out of His love for His children. We are saying that we have confidence and trust that as the result of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we will be with God for all of eternity.
So, what is the object of your faith? Is it merely a convenient code word, or is there real substance, an object, behind it?
Scripture: Hebrews 11:1
FORGIVE? NOT TODAY!
Ever find yourself forgiving someone for something that they’d done just to get them off your back even though you didn’t mean it? It’s easy to do, usually costs you nothing, and it often serves the purpose.
True forgiveness, however, does come at a price and rather than move the recipient away, it often generates discussion. When you truly mean it, the words, I forgive you, are far from empty and most certainly not without personal cost. To truly forgive requires that even though you can’t forget the offense that occurred, you treat the other person as if it hadn’t. Anything short of this is simply not forgiveness!
The breadth of forgiveness is not limited to just those people you like. It extends, by definition, to those who don’t. To truly understand forgiveness means that you must be willing, and able, to forgive all people who need it, not just the ones that are easy.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you must be a “doormat” for people to walk over at will. The wise person takes measures to protect himself or herself against future events but remains willing to forgive as often as necessary.
Scripture: Colossians 3:1-17
A HOUSE DIVIDED
On June 16th, 1858, as he accepted his party’s nomination to be the senator from the state of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln spoke these words:
“A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”
These are strong words that are particularly applicable today as we, the children of God, have become divided by the ideologies of race, gender, economics, and politics!
In Mark, chapter 3, verse 25, Jesus responds to the scribes’ claim that He is Beelzebub and is casting out demons. He responds to their claim with the rhetorical question: How can Satan cast out Satan? His point is that a house divided against itself cannot stand, it cannot survive. He repeats this when He states “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:” (Matthew 12:25)
Can we justifiably claim to be the children of God and at the same time perpetuate the divisions within the Church that keep us apart and in conflict?
Scripture: Luke 11:14-23
DON’T SELL GOD SHORT!
There are those times when we sell God short. We tell Him, and ourselves, that we are so dirty that He would not want us around. Or, we say that we are in so much trouble that not even God can help us. When we assume that not even God can help us we underestimate His desire, His willingness and His ability to do so.
The story of Abraham and Sarah’s encounter with God illustrates this beautifully. They are camped, resting in the heat of the day when Abraham looks up and sees three men standing before him. As custom dictates, he opens the hospitality of his house, seeing to their needs.
During the visit, they tell Abraham that Sarah will bear a son in her old age. She, overhearing this, scoffs at this promise recognizing that she is well beyond her child bearing years. Yet, the promise is fulfilled and Isaac is born.
Do you do the same thing that Sarah did when she heard God’s promise to her? Do you doubt because you think that His promise is foolish given your situation? Given that He has never failed to fulfill a promise, can you afford to doubt Him?
Scripture: Genesis 18:1-15
WHO IS YOUR NEIGHBOR?
When we are reminded that we should bear the burden of a neighbor, its difficult not to ask the question of who or what is our neighbor that we should bear his, or her burden? This is especially difficult to answer when the one needing our help is someone with whom we would rather not associate.
The Greek of the original language, the language in which the New Testament is written, indicates that a “neighbor” can be anyone, from the person next door to the person across town or further. In essence, our neighbor is all men.
The real issue here is not the definition of “neighbor” although that is important. Rather, the issue is the application of what it means to bear another’s burden. Scripture tells us that each man must carry his own load. However, there are those times when the load becomes too heavy to carry alone and help is needed. When that happens, no matter who that neighbor is, as Christians we must step in and help carry the burden.
So, the question for each one of us is this – how have I treated my neighbor when I’ve seen him in need? Have I helped him carry his load, or have I allowed him to struggle on by himself?
Scripture: Luke 10:25-37
The parable of the good Samaritan is particularly interesting on a number of levels. And, it’s as relevant today as it was when Jesus first used it to teach.
A man, whom we assume was a Judean, was attacked as he traveled from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was beaten, stripped of his clothing and left for dead. As he lay there unable to help himself, he was encountered by three men, a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan.
Because they were men of God, we would have expected that either the priest or the Levite would have stopped to help him. Neither man did; and in fact, crossed to the other side of the road to avoid him. We would not have expected the Samaritan to come to his aid because of the animosity between the Judeans and Samaritans that dated back to the time of the end of the reign of Solomon. How surprised the injured man must have been when a Samaritan not only tended to his wounds but paid the cost of his lodging and care.
In the closing chapter of his letter to the Galatians, Paul spoke to this issue of bearing the burdens of a brother, a neighbor. He wrote that while each man must bear his own load in life, he should also bear the load of another when help is needed, as was the case of the beaten Judean.
Today, we are able to do this because God showed us how by sending His only begotten Son to bear the burden of our sin on the cross as the final sacrifice of atonement for that sin.
Christ gave His life to bear our burden! What are you willing to sacrifice to bear the burden of your brother, or your sister?
Scripture: Galatians 6:1-5
In Luke 22, we read of how Jesus responded to the question of who is the greater – the servant or the one being served. His response? It is the one who serves another. It is nice to be waited upon but, we are called to be servants just as Jesus was.
Jesus illustrates this point when He washes the feet of His disciples; a task left to a household servant. His point? There is no more humble a task than to serve a brother or sister in even the most mundane of needs.
Occasionally, God reminds of this fact of service through the actions of another. On a warm Saturday morning on a dusty baseball field, in the middle of a game between two teams of second graders, one man stopped play in order to tie the shoe laces of the batter so that when she eventually did hit the ball, she would not be tripped on her way to first base.
His was a humble act of servanthood. There was no glory to be found in it, nor recognition by his peers, nor reward of any kind other than that of living out what it means to be a humble servant.
Scripture: Luke 13:1-17
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “trust” as: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Given this definition, the problem that each person faces is this – who/what can be trusted in this sin-broken world?
History has demonstrated, repeatedly, that much of what men have said and done could not be trusted. Over time, what governments have promised they have either failed to deliver or, have just the opposite. The story is the same for many businesses. These failures in trust is truly the story of sinful men trying to survive in a sin-broken world.
If man cannot be trusted, then who or what can be. The answer is God; He has always been trustworthy. Scripture contains example after example of the promises of God being fulfilled over time. Where the track record of man has shown one broken promise after another, Scripture has shown that God’s track record just the opposite. Samuel wrote: As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (2 Samuel 22)
Trust in man – be wary; trust in God – be at ease.
Scripture: Proverbs 3:5; 11:28