stories, lessons, and a lot of nonsense

don’t long for Egypt

“4 Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Numbers 11 begins with the words, “And the people complained…”  About what were they complaining?  Well, they didn’t like how God was miraculously providing a food for them that no other person had tasted and none have tasted since.  They didn’t like it, because it was all they had to eat all of the time.  They wanted to eat meat, which I understand.  They wanted different fruits, vegetables, and spices, because they had had their fill of manna and coriander.  They longed for better days, like when they were in Egypt.  Food was free there, apparently, and there was great variety.  But in their ungratefulness, they forgot that nothing was free in Egypt, and nothing was better. They forgot about oppression, slavery, beatings, and even some being killed.  Because they missed something as insignificant as this food or that food, they forgot the hell in which they lived and from which had been supernaturally set free by a God that loved them.  It’s striking to read and consider, and it seems they were so dumb for missing God’s obvious goodness.

I’ve missed Egypt before, though.  I haven’t missed the country, because I’ve never been there, but I’ve missed times, places, and people from which God has delivered me.  I guess I forget exactly what I’m supposed to be grateful for sometimes, and I miss other times.  I see other speaking in the same way.  Maybe you miss having that boyfriend or girlfriend who was not good for you and overall made you miserable. God set you free, but you long to go back.  Maybe you miss a job that made better money, but you never saw your family or church.  God set you free, but you long to go back.  You miss your buddies, but with them you only ever acted foolishly and sinfully.  God set you free, but you long to go back.  Some just flat out miss their sins, which were destroying them and pulling them further and further from God.  God set you free, but you long to go back.  We’ve all been set free from something if we are in Christ, but some cannot be content with their freedom.

Do not long for Egypt.  We romanticize the good old days.  They’re probably not as good as you remembered.  What may seem free and pleasant now was torturous and terrible for you back then and would be again today.  Live in the freedom God has given. Live where you are now.  Stop looking backwards and plow forward for God, for you family, for your church, and for yourself.

you’re ready to start

I had a professor in seminary named Dr. Butler. On the first day of the first class I had with him, he made a statement that changed the way I looked at being ready to serve God. He said, “If God called you to preach two years ago, and you haven’t started, because you’re waiting till you finish school, you’re already two years late. He didn’t call you to be ready to preach. He called you to preach.” It was an interesting point. I had always thought that one should finish being trained before following God’s call on his life, whether it was vocational or in a volunteer role. But what Dr. Butler said made a lot of sense, especially when you read the Bible. I think God calls a lot of people to do a lot of great things for Him, but often times, we wait till we feel adequately ready. We go to school, conferences, seminars, small groups, etc, trying to prepare ourselves to do what He has called us to do. Sometimes we spend more time getting ready to be obedient than actually being obedient, which could be called delayed obedience.  My mom and dad always said that delayed obedience is disobedience, and now that I’m a parent, I completely agree.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t pursue perfecting your calling, because I think you should. And I’m also not saying that you should start out at the same level you plan to be at when you’ve finished training. But if God calls you to do something, start doing it. I was reminded of this premise when reading Ezra 3. God’s plan was for the people to build a temple in Jerusalem where they could eventually perform sacrifices to Him, but He had already called them to observe the feasts and sacrifices. They started well before the temple was ready, because God expected obedience. They didn’t even start building the temple until the 2nd year of their inhabitation, but they observed God’s ordinances all along. They weren’t going to wait till they were ready to start obeying Him.  You’re ready to start, so start.

If God called you to do something, do it! God called you, He’s equipped you, and He’s waiting to use you.  If you haven’t started, you’re already behind.  Take it from my friend Tim.

 

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He sought me

Music is powerful.  It can stir up a number of emotions, whether we are just reacting to the words we’re hearing or remembering another time a particular song may bring us back to.  There are some songs that make most people happy that stir up frustration and anger in me, because they are tied to a bad time in my life.  When I hear the songs that were on Christian radio when Sarah was in the hospital after our accident, I begin to feel very sad without thinking about it.  Music can also bring us great joy, as it has for me lately.

We’ll be having our mission trip recap service on August 24, so you’ll probably hear more about this and other things, but the worship was so engaging again this year.  I felt like we were escorted into God’s presence, and we stayed there through the end of each service.  We learned a new song this year called “In Tenderness,” which is by the same people who wrote “Made Alive.”  This one is a little slower than “Made Alive,” but the words stirred up so much joy and humility.  I was so grateful for God choosing to seek me, but I was humbled when I considered how dirty I must have looked when He came for me.  God is our adoptive Father, as we read in Ephesians 1 and Galatians 4.  We aren’t born into His family.  We are born into sin, with the Devil sitting in the position of father (John 8:44).  But then God seeks us out, and if we will allow Him, adopts us into His family.  That’s a cool thing about adoption and something I have talked about with several adopted kids who feel weird about being adopted: your parents chose to seek you out and at great cost to themselves make you their children.  God has done the same, at great cost to Himself, making us His children.  He sought us, when – just as orphaned babies needing adoption- we were incapable of seeking Him.

Please check out this song.  Focus on the words.  Close your eyes if you need to in order to focus, because the words are so powerful and true.  You’ll be hearing it again on August 24, so this will help give you a jump start on learning the words, so you don’t feel awkward trying to learn a new song in church.

Pray for us next week

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We leave Monday for Louisville. Many of you have been so generous financially leading up to the trip, so first I want to say thank you. Thank you for caring about our teenagers. Not every church does, and I’m so proud and grateful to be a part of a church like ours that does care.

We will leave at 7:00 AM Monday morning, and we’ll return very late Friday, possibly into Saturday morning. Please be praying for us even now. Pray for safety, that we would positively impact the community we are serving, that we would boldly share the Gospel when given the opportunity, and that we would be moved and changed by God while we’re away. After the trip, please continue to pray for us, that we would be steadfast in the decisions we made for God while we were gone.

Thank you so much for your compassion, generosity, and your prayers. Feel free to send us a note of encouragement, whether to an individual or to the whole group to rebelyouth@mykcc.org.

keep on track

I am easily distracted.  The busier I am or the more pressing a task is becoming, the more likely I am to be distracted by something else.  I can find hundreds of things to do instead of writing this blog post when it comes down to needing to do it.  But if I had a paper or other homework due on Monday, and the blog post isn’t due to Joyce until Thursday, I’d be likely to work on the blog post.  It’s happened before several times.  My office is turned upside down right now, because I decided to spend time yesterday trying to figure out why one phone line doesn’t work in my office while the other one does.  Of course, I’m incredibly busy right now.  The mission trip is less than three weeks away, I won’t be in the office next week, because Sarah’s having a baby, and I’m trying to get stuff done in advance for children’s and youth as a result.  But I spent at least an hour trying to figure out something that really doesn’t matter.  Why?  Probably because it was less stressful and not as difficult as staying on track.

Distractions occur in all areas of life, including in our spiritual life.  Partially because it is easier to focus on things of little cost to us – the sins of other people, little projects we can do for God, good things we have done – than it is to focus on Jesus and what changes He wants us to make.  That’s a hard thing to do.  The Bible says it’s hard to do, because when we come close to and focus on Jesus, it’ll shine His light into our lives, and we’ll become aware of what needs to change.  But it’s still something we have to do.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about laying aside our weights and sins in an effort to run well.  The next verse (Hebrews 12:2) tells us how we do that: “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  We look at Him, see what He was able to give up in pursuing us, so that we are more able to give things up to pursue Him.  We have to keep on track with this.  When we look away and begin to focus on peripheral things, it’s easy to stumble and fall away from the task.  But if we keep on track, we will be able to stay on the path towards holy living and spare ourselves from falling away into sin and foolishness.

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weights and sins

Sometimes living the Christian life is pared down to what we can do and what we cannot do.  We look for Divine dos and don’ts and try to stick to them, so either so we don’t get into trouble with God or so we can make Him happy.  It is definitely okay to see out what the Bible says not to do and avoid it, but overall, this isn’t a healthy Christian lifestyle.  When we approach life this way, we consume things that may not be good for us just because the Bible doesn’t specifically say not to.  That’s like eating anything you see, so long as it isn’t labeled poison.  Sometimes things aren’t labeled bad for us but still are, both spiritually and physically.

What the Bible actually tells us to do is to not consume or carry anything that will slow us down, whether it is a sin or not.  Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”  So we must first understand what race it is God has called us to do, and then we must get rid of anything that keeps us from running that race well.  Sin is an obvious problem and is mentioned, but so are weights.  Weights can be anything.  Dating the wrong person can be a weight. Even if that person is another Christian, if they would keep you from your God-given race, they’ll weigh you down.  The wrong school, career, or house can be a weight.  They may tie us down somewhere God hasn’t intended us to run.  If we are to run with excellence, we must shed the weights.  Some runners may train with weights on their ankles and wrists, but when it comes to race day, you won’t see competitive runners wearing them.  They get rid of all excess weight, so they can run as fast and as far as they can.

Here’s the thing about weights: they aren’t sins in and of themselves, so they can be harder to spot.  But God commands us to lay aside our weights, so we can run, so when we fail to do so, they do become sins for us.  The really hard part is that, like our sins, sometimes we just love our weights and want to hold onto them.  We find safety, comfort, and fulfillment from them sometimes.  But we have been promised those things in God if we follow Him.  So lay them aside.

What’s weighing you down or holding you back from being who God wants you to be today?

I have read Proverbs a lot.  It’s probably my most-read book of the Bible.  It’s either that or Genesis, which I usually read in January every year before scaling back to more modest Bible reading goals.  What I like about Proverbs is that it feels pretty disjointed.  If I were reading a story that was that scattered, I would be frustrated, but I like the constant flow of small pieces wisdom.  It gives me an opportunity to feel like I’m reading a new passage every time I read it.

I encourage you to keep reading your Bible (because the Bible says you should, of course).  Even though you’ve heard and read it all before, keep reading.  There’s always something new.  The Holy Spirit is in you as a believer, and He will always reveal something to you for you from the Bible.  Sometimes He reveals one big thing.  Other times, He reveals several things.

Even though I’ve read Proverbs countless times in my life, I still have a lot of things to think and journal about.  This is what my quiet time has looked like recently.  I make lists of things God is saying and a corresponding list of what it should mean to me.

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So what are you reading?

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