Wednesday, March 22, 2017

These Cows Are Making Me Look Bad (W.o.W. Rewind)

So they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.
1 Samuel 6:10-12


In I Samuel 4 & 5 we read how the Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant and bring it back to their land. In anger God smites them with plagues of rats and tumors. After quite a bit of heartache, the Philistine priests and diviners suggest a solution. They decide to make a new cart and place the ark on it. Then they will take two nursing cows away from their calves and hitch them to this cart. These cows had never been in a yoke or pulled a cart before. They had never been to Israel before. By nature everything in these cows would compel them to return to their calves immediately. The Philistines reasoned that if the cows were to return the Ark of the Covenant to Israel then they could be certain that it was indeed God who had been plaguing them. If not, then perhaps it was just a coincidence.

An amazing thing happened. Those two cows pulled the cart away from their calves and went straight up to Israel without turning to the right or to the left lowing all the way. Now, I don't know a lot about cows so I asked someone who does whether cows low when they are happy or sad. He told me that cows low when they are sad. And without knowing why I was asking the question, he added that when you take their calves away to wean them, cows will low and bawl for days.

You and I can learn a lot about how we should serve God from these two cows. Though it meant leaving their calves behind (possibly to die without their mother's milk), and though it meant that they themselves would be sacrificed to the Lord (I Samuel 6:14), these cows obeyed the Lord's leading and went straight up toward Israel. Oh that we would serve God with such faithfulness! Though the cows bawled over the sacrifice God was asking them to make, they still went straight up after God's will without wavering or turning to the right or left.

Now, one could argue that the cows didn't have a say in the matter. Who knows whether cows have some form of free will. Somehow I missed that class in seminary. But I do know this: when I stand before God and am judged for how obedient I was to Him and His word, I don't want to be showed up by any cows! So regardless of whether or not cows have free will before God, the simple truth is they followed God's bidding. And if a cow can do it, then I can too.

I know that there will be times when you and I mourn over what God asks us to sacrifice on the altar of His glory. Yet, even in our mourning let us go straight up after His will. Even if it means laying down our very lives, let's not stray to the right or to the left.


For further reading...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

When the Manna Stops

That very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.
Joshua 5:11-12


God provides for His people. And you can be sure that when one means of God's provision stops another one has already taken its place. We see this in the passage above and again and again I have experienced it in my own family as well. 

For forty years God's people trekked through the desert. Millions of people living out of tents in a harsh and unforgiving environment. Providing food and water for millions of people in any geographic location would be a challenge, but to do so in a desert for forty years is literally impossible. But God made a way where there was no way. God sent manna each morning with the dew (except for the Sabbaths), and His people gathered and ate. They didn't have to sow or reap. They just had to trust God and obey. But notice when the manna stopped. The very first day the Israelites ate of the food of the Promised Land (food that they also had not sown or reaped), was also the last day God sent manna.

King David wrote, "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread" (Psalm 37:25). God provides for His people. His provision is not always exorbitant. Israel often had just enough in the desert. But at other times He graces us with more than we can take. The Promised Land was called a land flowing with milk and honey. There His people had more than just bread and water; they had a great variety of wonderful foods.

I have witnessed God's provision for my own family and extended family over the last several years. I have seen situation after situation that looked financially hopeless from an earthly perspective. But where there was no way God made a way. So take comfort in this! Be responsible with your money. Do all that you can do. Make sure that you work hard and are right with God, then trust Him and see what He will do.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Hate Evil. Cling to Good.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:7-8


Be careful. You have an enemy who wants to lead you astray, to somehow lure you off the narrow path into the thorns and briers of spiritual ineffectiveness. One of his favorite means of doing this is to send others into your life to speak his words to you: wolves in sheep's clothing. How can you spot them? Look at their walk. Just as a wolf doesn't walk like a sheep, so a person's walk (their actions) reveals their true character. If they claim to be righteous but don't do right, they're a liar. 

A recent trend has emerged in Christian circles that values authenticity and genuineness more than righteousness. In the name of being "more real" and in an attempt to connect with lost people, Christians are opening up about their sins and often even curse openly. 

Honesty is good. Of all the people on earth Christians have the least to hide because of the unfathomable grace that has been afforded us through Christ Jesus. And Scripture tells us that we ought to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). But when we openly name our sin it should be done in repentance. We don't wear our sins as a badge of pride to show how "real" we are in an attempt to win the lost. We dare not use filthy or vulgar language (which Scripture speaks against in Ephesians 4:29) in an attempt to be edgier than other Christians. Certainly we know by now that this world will not be won for Jesus by Christians who have become more like the world they are trying to save. 

No! There is nothing righteous about sin. There is nothing admirable about it. The entire reason that Jesus came to earth was to destroy the devil's work, and to do so especially in us. He died in order to sanctify the hearts and lives of believers. We cannot, we dare not coddle our sin, brag about it, use it to grow our churches, or give sin any refuge or foothold in our lives. To do so is a slap in the face to Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Jesus gave His life to free us from the enemy's grasp, to rescue us from sin. Let us never make light of the sin the remains in us. Let us openly confess that sin to one another, but let us hate even the garment stained by it (Jude 23). And as we lead the way in honesty let us all the more lead the way in mourning over our sin, repenting of it and pursuing life change. May Romans 12:9 light our path: "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." So be sincere, but not at the cost of hating evil or clinging to what is good. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Do Something

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:17


God always rewards faith! I can't think of a single example in all of Scripture of a man or woman stepping out in faith to do what God wants them to do and not being blessed for it. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that we must believe that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Those who move towards God in faith will not be abandoned or embarrassed.

In fact, God doesn't just reward faith, He requires it. Hebrews 11:6 also tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. We can't come to God unless we believe He is real, and we can't be saved from our sin apart from faith in Jesus. Faith is the only route to a relationship with God. He requires faith, and faith requires action. James 2:17 says that faith without action is dead. In other words, true, living faith produces some sort of action in your life. Faith causes you to do something.

And when you act on faith, God won't waste it, because God uses men and women of faith. Think of the great biblical heroes whose stories are recorded in Scripture. When God wants to do a mighty work He often raises up a man or woman of faith to do it. When God wanted to establish a nation from which His Messiah would come, He didn't adopt an existing nation. He raised up a man of faith in Abram and told him to leave his relatives and his home in search of a land God would show him along the way. Many years later when Abraham's descendants were enslaved in Egypt, God didn't send down a battalion of angels to set them free. No! He raised up another man of God. He found Moses tending his father-in-law's sheep in the wilderness and told him to go tell Pharaoh "Let My people go." Not to mention great women of the faith like Rahab, Esther, and Deborah who were likewise raised up by God to play key roles in the unfolding of redemptive history.

So, God uses faith. He requires faith. And He honors faith. But there are too many Christians in the world today who are faithful in following their spiritual routines but who never risk anything for God. They never step out in faith. Their faith doesn't cause them to do anything dangerous at all. Don’t be that kind of Christian. Step out on faith. Take risks for your God. Do something! Act on what you believe.