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Manna and Work and Learning

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you;
and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. 
And it will come about on the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”
( NASB)

I taught on this briefly in my class on the Pentateuch the other day.  As I was teaching I realized that in this passage there is a good illustration of the value of faithful, diligent work.  I pointed out to the class that God provided Israel food, known as manna, to eat while they were in the wilderness.  (On an aside, it is interesting that God continued to do this for 40 years while He judged the unfaithful, unbelieving first generation—which is called “grace.”) The point I made was that the people had to gather enough for each day and no more.  If they tried to get more manna to store up for the next day it would rot.  The exception would be on the sixth day, when they would gather a double portion and not work on the seventh day.

Two points to make:

  1. This is a simple expression of how God values work from His people.  They could not gather up a lot on one day so that they could be lazy for one or two days later.  Rather, they had to get up and get out and gather enough each day or they would not eat.
  2. In doing this God also instructed them to gather a double amount on Friday so that they would not need to gather on Saturday.  What God was doing was training them for when they receive the command to honor the Sabbath and not do any work.

OK, those are the quick observations, but I think they are good ones worthy of reflection.  Let me expand on one of them a bit.  Fridays were opportunities to operate by faith.  You had to trust that God would not rot the extra manna so that you could eat on Saturday, the sabbath.  This worked even among the generation who were faithless.  In other words, though they were a ungodly generation who would not believe God’s promises to enter the promised land they would believe the lesser (smaller?) promise that God would not rot the extra manna gathered on Friday.  This makes me wonder about those who call themselves “Christians” who don’t believe God in the “big” things, but keep believing Him in small things.  Are they truly His?  What makes them different from unbelieving Israel?  See as a key passage on this point.

As I watch events continue to unfold at an amazing rate in my country I think about the state of the average church in America.  There is faith, but is it really faith in Christ as Lord of all?  Do we really believe that all authority is His or only “sorta-kinda-maybe-if-I-feel-like-it?”  Do we believe that in Him all things shall be judged and do we believe that by Him all things shall be made new? When we say, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness” do we have a clue what that really means as we craft church services that look more like a bad Disney production than a serious encounter with the one True God through the careful, blunt exposition of His Word?  Goodness, do we even think it really is His Word?

I think I live in frighteningly revealing times.  Times where men are called to work as unto the Lord and they choose to let the government work for them.  Times where good is called evil and evil is called good.  Not by the world, but by the Church!  A time where a cool app is more interesting than reading Leviticus because it seems so old-fashioned and bloody and stuff.  I think I could go on, but I won’t because I think I will just read some and then sleep.

Just some random thoughts that came to me as I studied and taught from the Pentateuch.  Welcome to my world.

Faithful Living vs Faithful Moment in Parenting

Actually, what I will write here applies to just about anything, but parenting is the topic on my mind so parenting is what you get.

The challenge of a parent is to have faith.  What you have when you get a baby is just that, a baby.  Not fully formed, not mature, and not wise.  And your task, if you are a Christian parent, is to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  In other words, raise them in the awareness of who they are before their Creator, who they are before the Savior, and who they are in relation to the world.

But you must teach, discipline, and tickle with faith for you do not see yet what your child shall be.  You keep before you the promises of God and you trust His ways are wise and right.  And then you wake up each day and faithfully move forward.  Forward through each little crisis and each big one.  Forward through the highs and the lows that accompany every parent.  And when you do this you are cultivating faithfulness.

Here are two mistakes I often see with younger parents:  The first is they beat themselves up over a moment of unfaithfulness with regard to parenting, though their overall direction is faithfulness in their duties as parents.  The second is worse, it is triumphing and focusing on a moment of faithfulness and ignoring the pattern of unfaithfulness in their duties as parents.

Moments of unfaithfulness will not destroy the deep furrows of faithful parenting.  Instead they just remind you that you are a sinner saved by grace and you need to remember to show that grace to your less experienced sinner (the child).

However, it is easy for parents to fool themselves into thinking that because they were proper and faithful once this last week that somehow that undoes the month of consistent unfaithfulness that has also been present in the home.  This is folly.

What Do Urine And Salvation Have in Common?

Last night I went to pick  Zach, my three-year-old, up from his class at church. When I dropped him off, the sign-in sheet asked, “Any special instructions?” I hesitated, then left it blank. I suppose that this was a mistake. When I went to get him, I lifted him up and sat him on my hip only to quickly find out that he, at some point in the night, had failed to utilize his potty training abilities. The smell was terrible and I was embarrassed.

All of my kids have gone through this stage. Right when we think the training is over, they revert back a couple of months later. When it happened with Katelynn, the doctor told us that we have to just let her do it. He told us that she will be both annoyed and embarrassed by the feeling and smell. This will be enough to make her stop. Sure enough, that is what happened. Same thing with Kylee. Same thing with Will. They would have an accident and come in crying due to the uncomfortable feeling and smell. They recognized it and wanted it to change, even though they were not sure how to take care of the problem. But I don’t know what is going on with Zach. He just does not seem to care. It has been over a month and nothing has changed. It is like he does not recognize that there is urine all over him and the smell, somehow, does not bother him. He can go all day with wet pants and not think twice.

Where am I going with this? I’m getting there.

Here is a unique take on the Lordship debate.  I am not sure I like the idea that he chose to use his son as an example but he did and that is not my problem.  If you go on to read the article, and you should, don’t stumble over his decision. What I do like is how he uses that situation to illustrate a way through the debate that still rages in areas of the Church today regarding the nature of salvation.  In other words, where does repentance fit into salvation? Read the rest here.

UPDATE: fixed bad grammar in title.

A Prayer in The Midst of Despair

There are times when I cannot think, or so it seems. And when that happens I find that writing helps manage my thoughts.  The following is a prayer I could not say, but I could write.  It was one that I wrote in the midst of preparing a sermon and was in a particularly difficult way.  By the way, this is not an uncommon situation for pastors as they prepare a sermon.  I think Satan presses hard on them as they begin to craft an exposition from God’s Word.  Do not ever think that your pastor is somehow exempt from these things.

 

Show me kindness my Father, for I am needy.

My heart is worn and tired, my soul

aches and groans.

I have nothing and am nothing,

yet you have chosen to set me on high.

Oh Father in heaven, open my eyes to this truth

for all I see right now is

my sin

and my weakness.

Your word says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,

but why is it that all I see is

 my weakness

and flesh?

 Father, shall this be my lot?

Shall discouragement and sorrow be my constant companion?

Shall hope be only a faint ember that burns soft and low in the heart?

I pray that it will not Father.

I pray that you shall lift my head up again and is shall find rest.

Oh that you would cause

your face shine upon me

and lift up my countenance!

To see the smile of God

and the joy of the Spirit

would bring such relief to this sore man.

Trials seem to be my constant companion and weariness is filling my bones.

Therefore where shall I turn?

And when shall I turn?

Oh Father of mercies and comfort,

comfort me in my time of affliction.

Oh Father of wisdom,

grant me wisdom to press on

without faltering

nor doubting.

Let not my foot slip

nor my step stumble.

Instead Holy Father, set my eyes upon my Lord and Savior

in whom

I stand

and live

and worship.

    Open wide my heart

that it would be filled by the Spirit of life

and that He might strengthen me in my inner man.

Oh Father I pray, I pray.

Faith vs Faithfulness

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.  For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”  So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty (Ezra 8: 21-23).

When we teach our children about the bible we often make a crucial error–actually a couple of them.  The first is to focus upon the mighty acts of men and women more than the mighty acts of Yahweh. The second is to focus upon the mighty acts of men and women as if they are the goal for each of us, when that is not realistic.  Both of these points came out in my bible reading recently in Ezra 8.   It is tucked in among some rather boring verses about the number of people leaving with Ezra and such.

Ezra realizes something as he is leading these Israelites back to their land—there is no protection for them.  Cyrus, the king of Persia (modern day Iran) was moved by Yahweh to allow the exiled Israelites to go and build a temple to Yahweh.  And so, off they go being led by Ezra.  Normally a king would send a number of soldiers to protect them, but not this time.

Why?  Because Ezra had eschewed it, opting rather to declare to the king that their God, Yahweh, would protect them.  Good words right?  But Ezra is just like us, and I found much comfort in that realization.   Now they are on their way and Ezra tells them all to stop.  It was time for fasting and humbling themselves before Yahweh for divine protection.

But notice how it all came about.  Ezra, while safe in Persia, boldly tells Cyrus that they didn’t need any protection—God would do nicely.  Now they are on the way and we get a glimpse of the frailty of Ezra.  He didn’t ask for that help because of shame.  He had spoken so boldly, then had second thoughts, and the only thing that kept him from asking the king anyhow was the bold statement said earlier.  So now it is time to entreat the Lord because there is no going back.  And here we see the mighty, gracious hand of Yahweh.  “He listened to our entreaty.”

We too can talk bigger than our faith is while things are safe.  But then we can find ourselves out where it is not so safe.  May we then humble ourselves to our Lord and reaffirm not our faith, but God’s faithfulness to His people.  Perhaps He will listen to our entreaty as well.

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