Christianity 201

May 4, 2019

What Does Romans 11:29 Mean?

NIV.Rom.11.29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

We were discussing this verse this week, and the way that a mutual friend of our had mis-interpreted or mis-applied it.

Here’s some alternatives from BibleGateway.com

  • God doesn’t take back the gifts he has given or forget about the people he has chosen. (CEV)
  • God never changes his mind about the people he calls and the things he gives them (Expanded Bible; NCV)
  • God never changes his mind when he gives gifts or when he calls someone. (God’s Word)
  • For God does not change his mind about whom he chooses and blesses. (Good News/TEV)
  • For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (KJV)
  • For once they are made, God does not withdraw his gifts of his calling. (Phillips)
  • For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn; he will never go back on his promises. (Living Bible)
  • For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. (NLT)
  • And when God chooses someone and graciously imparts gifts to him, they are never rescinded. (Passion Translation)
  • You see, when God gives a grace gift and issues a call to a people, He does not change His mind and take it back. (The Voice)

Even in these translations, we see some variance as to the intent of this verse. Is it about gifts? Calling? Blessing? Election (choosing)? (We’ll come back to the translation challenge at the very end.)

In the meantime, here are four search-engine results answering today’s question, as to the meaning of this verse.

From BibleInOneYear.org :

…In Romans 11 Paul is answering the question, ‘Has God rejected his people?’ His answer is, ‘No, no, no’: ‘God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable’ (v.29). As The Message version puts it, ‘God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty – never cancelled, never rescinded’ (v.29, MSG).

Yet Paul still grapples with the apparent reality that most have not accepted Jesus. He speaks about them ‘stumbling’ (v.11) and experiencing a ‘hardening’ (v.25). They are now like olive branches that have been ‘broken off’ (v.17). In this passage he tries to explain how this can fit with the unbreakable promises that God has made to the Jews. He highlights three key points:

  • First, this hardening was only partial. There has always been a remnant, chosen by grace (vv.11–16).
  • Second, the hardening was fruitful, since it led to riches for the Gentiles: ‘When they walked out, they left the door open and the outsiders walked in’ (v.11, MSG).
  • Third, the hardening was temporary. ‘“Are they out of this for good?” And the answer is a clear-cut No’ (v.11, MSG). ‘This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary’ (v.25, MSG). ‘Now, if their leaving triggered this worldwide coming of non-Jewish outsiders to God’s kingdom, just imagine the effect of their coming back! What a homecoming!’ (v.12, MSG).

This last point is particularly important to Paul, who cares passionately about his people. He eagerly anticipates the full inclusion of the people of Israel (v.12). He goes on to say that ‘all Israel will be saved’ (v.26). He does not say ‘if’ this happens, but ‘when’ this happens. He uses an olive tree as a picture of the Jewish nation (vv.17,24). Christ came. The nation rejected him. The tree was chopped down but the roots were left. The gardener grafts in the Gentiles (v.17).

The time is coming when the Jewish branches will be grafted back (vv.23–24, MSG). Then the whole tree will be complete…

At the Bible Q&A Forum eBible.com (click the link to see the references as links):

Paul made this statement from Romans as part of a discussion concerning the salvation of the Jewish people.

Ever since God’s calling of Abraham in Genesis 12; God had chosen Abraham’s descendants through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob (also known as Israel) as the people from whom the Messiah — Whom God had promised immediately after mankind first fell into sin (Genesis 3:15) — would be descended.

God provided greater detail concerning this promise over time, indicating that the Messiah would be specifically descended from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and then from the lineage of David (Psalm 132:11 and Isaiah 9:7).

Although many centuries elapsed prior to Jesus’ birth, God’s promise was realized when Mary (who was descended from David through his son Nathan (Luke 3:23-38)) gave virgin birth to Jesus. (Although Mary’s husband Joseph was not Jesus’ biological father, he was also descended from David through the royal line of Solomon, as recorded in Matthew 1:1-17.)

Although Jesus and His original followers had all been Jewish, the Jewish people, for the most part, had not accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah and Savior. Starting in Acts 10; God opened the Christian church to the Gentiles, and, over time, the Christian church became an institution that was composed predominantly of Gentiles rather than Jews.

However (according to Paul in the passage being asked about), this does not mean that God’s calling of, and promises to, Abraham and his descendants have been nullified or superseded. The covenant that God made with them is, as Paul characterized it, “irrevocable”, or, as the questioner put it, “without repentance” on God’s part. As indicated by Paul in Romans 11:25, after all the Gentiles who will be saved will have come to Christ, God will show mercy on the descendants of Abraham, and they, too, will finally accept Christ and also receive the gift of salvation.

From a longer answer at BelieveTheSign.com (click also for footnotes, etc.)

The “call” of God clearly refers to the election according to which the Jews were God’s chosen race. The “gifts” may then be combined with “call” as one idea — “the benefits of God’s call” — or be taken as a distinct category — “the gifts and the call of God.” The relationship between this passage and Romans 9:1–5 suggests that Paul referred to the “gifts” as a summary of those privileges of Israel that he enumerated in Romans 9:4–5. God’s “call,” then, is probably to be seen as one of the most important of those gifts: “the gifts and especially, among those gifts, the call of God.” The rare word “irrevocable” emphasizes the point that Paul made at the beginning of his argument: “The word of God has not failed” (Romans 9:6a).

“Without repentance” is translated in newer versions as “irrevocable” but the basic meaning is “without regret,” as in 2 Cor. 7:10, the only other use place where this term is used in either the Old or New Testament: “repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret.” The meaning of this term is confirmed in the writings of Aesop (“but his coming was without regret” – τοῦ δὲ ἀμεταμελήτως ἐλθόντος, Fabulae 83.2.6) and Plato (“of a deed done without regret”).

Although God was free to withdraw the privileges extended to Israel (like humans often come to regret and then to renege on their gifts and commitments), God’s faithfulness remains firm. In the end, despite the current rejection of the divinely designated Messiah by a large portion of Israel, the divine gifts and calling will achieve their intended purpose of salvation.

What is very clear is that the passage does not refer to the gifts of the Spirit. It refers only to the nation of Israel.

From AnswersFromTheBook.net :

But what about all those promises the Lord made to the nation of Israel?  Has He now changed Him mind because of their unbelief?  No, He has not!  Romans 11:29 tells us, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”  This means that the blessings and promises of the Lord are unchangeable.  What He has promised to Israel, He will perform.  There will come a day, when Israel is taken up once again as the chosen people of God.  During the seven-year Tribulation period, the Lord will once again raise up this nation and will bless them according to His promises.  As we read in Romans 9:26-27, “And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved.

There is also a wonderful and practical truth to Romans 11:29.  We can rest assured that when the Lord makes a promise to us, there is nothing that can change that promise.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Titus 1:1-2, “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”  While the world is full of broken promises, we can rest assured that the Lord never breaks a promise that He makes to us.  We read in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised.)”  (133.4)

…Is it clearer for you now? I thought it was interesting after I previewed today’s article and then did a word search on it, that only one writer spoke in terms of covenant. It would seem that this word most clearly expresses God’s covenant to Israel.

Now then…if you took the time to read all four commentaries on the verse, go back and read the various translations at the beginning of today’s piece. Do you think the rendering of this verse by the various translation teams could have been done differently?

 

November 18, 2018

We Ask for What We Want; God Gives Us What We Need

This is our seventh time at the website Borrowed Light. This time around the author is Geoff Box.

Begging for Serpents

I’m in the process of preparing to preach through James. James is an intensely practical book. If you want to know how to live as a Christian, James will tell you. One of the overarching themes in James’ letter is that God is faithful to give what is needed to His people. To prove this point, we often quote James 1:17 which says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

One fascinating fact about the book of James is how heavily James relies on Jesus’ teachings in his letter. James 1:17 above is clearly connected in thought to Matthew 7:7-11 which says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

These two passages of Scripture got me thinking. Why do we often feel like God is giving us stones and serpents? Scripture is clear that our Father is good and will not do such things, but often when I look at the gift in my hands, I don’t see what I was wanting.

The problem is clearly not with God. I have a desire and perception problem. I don’t rightly know what I need, and often end up asking for stones and snakes, then when God gives me what I truly need, I get frustrated with Him. I look at the bread in my hand, and because of lack of faith, sin, or whatever reason, I see a stone. Instead of gratefully receiving the fish that I need to sustain me, I throw it away as if it is a snake that would harm me. And so I repeat the process of begging God for more serpents, receiving fish, then rejecting His provision and casting it aside.

What I really ought to be doing is as James suggests, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.James1:2-4 The bread and fish of trials and suffering are good for me. I need them to become more perfect and complete. I need them to become more like Jesus.

I also need to more clearly see the gifts that God gives me. When I reject the gifts God is giving, I am essentially saying that God doesn’t know what is best and is not a good Father. So, I need wisdom so that I will correctly perceive the gifts that I am given and so that that I will begin to ask for what I really need. Fortunately, James comes to the rescue again. James 1:5-6 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

I desperately need wisdom. I need God’s help in seeing that what He gives me is indeed nourishing to my soul. I also need the wisdom to ask for better gifts. I need to stop begging for the serpents which are likely to bite me.

March 15, 2016

You Are Not Self-Made

Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Psalm 100:3 KJV

Lately I’ve been using memorized scripture as a way of falling back to sleep when I wake up during the night. I’m not trying to offer this as a sleep solution to everyone reading this who might suffer from insomnia, I’m just saying it seems to get me back into dreamland faster than the usual one hour I would spend contemplating the next day.

Of course having some scriptures committed to memory is key to this. I simply take deep breaths as my mind replays the various portions phrase by phrase. Breathe in. Breathe out.

One such passage is Psalm 100, which I learned as a child from the KJV. Sometimes my brain will want to paraphrase as I go. For example the opening,

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.

is something that I tend to want to render as “Shout praise to the Lord, all the nations.” It makes sense, doesn’t it? For those of you who don’t hang out in charismatic circles, I’m told that “the nations” is a sort of catch-phrase among Pentecostal people. I think it fits well.

But no other translation supports me on this. It’s much bigger than that! The majority go with “all the earth.” In other words it’s not just people, or ethnic groups, or nations, but everything. It’s an echo of something heard a few Psalms earlier in 98:4

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Break forth into joyful songs of praise!  (NIV)

and Psalm 66:4

All the earth worships you, sings praises to you, sings praises to your name!” Selah (CEB)

and also reminds me of this passage in Luke 19:

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

The Self Made Person

Another verse that I wanted to look at is verse 3 quoted at the top of today’s reading. We hear a lot today about the self-made individual, the person who did it all, who went forward and accomplished great things, the one who was successful by their own hand and their own strength.

But the verse has a “you didn’t get there by yourself” kind of tone to it. The text seems to be saying that God is creator, we didn’t create ourselves.

That should remind you of 1 Cor. 6:

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  (ESV, emphasis added)

Both in terms of the physical and the spiritual, we are not self-created.

But wait! The NLT — and most other translations — renders this as:

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.[a]
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

and the footnote reads

[a] As in an alternate reading in the Masoretic Text; the other alternate and some ancient versions read and not we ourselves.

The phrase “and we belong to him” echoes through many, many more of the other translations, while some (like the Amplified Version) incorporate both renderings.

Notice however that this is also equally consistent with the verse in 1 Corinthians.

You are not your own. You didn’t make yourself and you can’t claim ownership. In 7:7 of the same letter, Paul states

I wish that all people were just like me. But each has his own gift from God, one person in this way and another in that way. (HCSB)

Regardless of “how much is nature and how much is nurture” we are all products of the gifts and personalities God has given us, and the environments in which he located us; but is God who does the gifting and the placing.

For our final verse today, here’s one to think about, 2 Corinthians 3:5

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

 


We have a music selection today, for which we return to the theme in the first half of today’s study. All The Earth Will Sing Your Praises is by Paul Baloche.

 

 

 

 

December 27, 2013

Peace on Earth

This article is by Dan Miller and appeared at the blog Sharper Iron, from which an article by a different writer appeared here on December 13th. There is much good reading at this site, I don’t think we’ve ever visited the same webpage twice in one month! Click here to read today’s article at source.

The gospel according to Luke records that on the night of Jesus’ birth an angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks in a field outside the Judean village of Bethlehem. The angel announced “good news of great joy” which included the benediction: “Peace on earth” (Luke 2:10, 14).

Peace had come to earth in a person. The “Prince of Peace,” prophesied centuries earlier by the prophet Isaiah had come (Isaiah 9:6). In a mystery never to be fully fathomed, the “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” was born a child with flesh and blood to dwell on earth for a season (Isaiah 7:149:6; John 1:14). And as the Bible repeatedly demonstrates, whenever the living God comes to dwell among his people, he always brings peace.

But what is peace? The word is not difficult to define. Peace is the calm that prevails in the absence of war. It is the serenity that marks freedom from hostilities, strife or dissension. Peace is a paucity of agitation, upheaval or chaos. Although used in an array of contexts, the definition is fairly straightforward.

Peace is far more difficult to identify and experience. There is peace which is really no peace at all. False peace shatters many lives and poisons many souls. There is peace in the midst of hostility—peace that operates at full throttle in the war zones of human experience. There is peace as ethical responsibility. There is peace we desperately want, but can do nothing to attain.

In the midst of a holiday season in which peace is commonly announced but too seldom experienced, a few spiritual reflections on peace may be fitting. Many draw their understanding of peace from self-determined assumptions; I offer here meditations rooted in biblical revelation. The peace on earth announced by the angelic messengers to the shepherds on the night of Christ’s birth was rooted in God’s grand salvation plan. That concept of peace included several components.

Peace as an attribute of God. God is the source of all peace. Peace flows freely from his being. God executes and finishes wars, he does not start them. He is not a pugnacious God who is always looking to pick a fight. God is a God of peace who will not rest until peace reigns on earth. This goal requires war (Rev. 19:11-20:15). Yet war is a necessary consequence of sin, not a product of God’s nature.

Peace as a gift of God. The ultimate war is between sinful people and God. In his boundless grace, God issues his moral law for the good of humanity. For our good, he commands us not to cheat, steal or lie; not to yield to lust, pride, greed or gossip. He commands us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbor as we love ourselves. But we respond to God’s law by running our own way and doing our own thing. This rebellion renders us enemies of God in his perfect righteousness and renders us objects of his just judgment (Rom. 5:6-8).

But in his mercy, God provides justification—imputing the righteous standing of Christ to the account of those who trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection to secure their salvation from the punishment of their sin. Jesus bears the penalty of our sin and dies in our place; we receive his righteous standing and live. What is the result? “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1-2). This is the quintessential peace on which all other experiences of peace ultimately depend.

Peace as an ethical responsibility in relation to others. Those who receive the gift of peace with God are called to pursue peace with others. This is not always possible, but as far as lies within us, we are to be peacemakers on earth (Matt. 5:9Rom. 12:18). The peace God gives at the cost of sacrificing his Son serves as the ultimate motivation for his followers to seek peace in all their relationships.

Peace as a disposition of the soul. Believers who have received the peace of God as a gift, continue to battle the agitation of soul that comes with life in a troubled world. In consequence of what Jesus has done to secure peace with God, his followers are liberated to “not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” to make their prayerful requests known to God. As they obey this directive, the Bible promises that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). The orientation is not to search for peace within; it is to experience inner peace by means of a dependent relationship with God.

Peace as a condition of nature freed from the curse. The peace on earth Jesus came to establish will ultimately encompass the physical universe. When Jesus calmed the storm that was riling the Sea of Galilee, he did not simply say “Stop.” He said, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39). This miracle foreshadowed the day when the returning Christ will suspend the earth’s curse. The desert will blossom as a rose, the lion will lay down with the lamb, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, straight-line winds and volcanoes will all cease (Isa. 11:1-11). In that coming day, peace will reign on earth—just as the angel said it would.

May peace with God, and the peace of God, rest upon you.

November 14, 2012

Taking Refuge in the Lord

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Today is a double-header. Before we move to the scripture and video, here is something from the blog of David Kenney which appeared recently under the title God Gave.

The scriptures speak of a God who is a giving God.

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

God gave Adam and Eve clothing to cover themselves

God gave Noah an exit strategy and a plan for the ark

God gave Abraham a promise to increase his name and his lineage.

God gave Sarah a precious miracle, a child in her old age,

God gave Isaac a ram to take the place of his son

God gave Jacob the privilege to father twelve sons who were destined to become
heads of the 12 tribes of Israel, the people of the Lord.

God gave Joseph a position as prime minister in Egypt that he might rescue his own from the terrible famine in the days ahead.

God gave Moses the power to work miracles before Pharaoh and to prove that God’s hand was still with his people.

God gave Joshua the proposition to cross the Jordan and lead the armies of Israel to victory in Canaan.

God gave the Israelites possession of the land flowing with milk and honey.

God gave kings to preside over His chosen people and blessed those who walked in His ways.

God gave prophets to plead with His people and tell them of amazing things to come.

God gave the scriptures to prophesy of a Messiah, a Prophet, a Priest, a King, and a Savior who would one day come to deliver and save.

God gave the shepherds a pronouncement by the angels that Jesus was born.

God gave the wise men a star to lead them to the young child with their gifts.

God gave Bethlehem the preeminence of all cities on earth, because it was there that Jesus was born.

God gave Joseph the patience and tolerance to understand the strange circumstances of a virgin with child.

God gave Mary the present coveted by all girls of Jewish history – the Christ child.

God gave the world his Son

God gave Jesus the place of sinners on the cross to bear the sorrow and shame.

and God gave humanity grace for their sins that they might know the joy of everlasting life.

The scriptures speak of a God who is a giving God.


It’s been awhile since I posted a worship song here, and this one is a classic from Maranatha! Music’s Psalms Alive series. I was reminded of this song not by reading Psalm 11, but from a medley of verses at today’s Daily Encouragement reading:

“My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8). “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

If you’re looking for more content today, click over to Daily Encouragement using the link above. Here’s the song, followed by Psalm 11 from the NIV.

Psalm 11

For the director of music. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge.
    How then can you say to me:
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
    they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
    at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.
The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
    fiery coals and burning sulfur;
    a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face.

May 10, 2012

Money and Wealth: It’s All His

Today we’re zooming in on part two of a two part series about money… so you might want to read part one.

[visual: me leaning on one foot, and then the other, waiting for your return]

…Okay, we’re back.  So you already know that this is by David P. Kreklau who combines something that sounds really exciting with something that sounds rather boring — he’s a CPA with the US Air Force.  Part two (click the title to link direct) is:

Awkward! …the Impact of Sovereignty on Our Money

Have you ever been in that awkward situation where somebody wants to give you money but you are embarrassed to receive it… or maybe you want to give money to someone but they are too embarrassed to take it?  As my daughter would say, it feels “awkward…!”

In my last blog I talked about how we take pride in our money and we allow it to bleed into our identity… making us feel like we have all the control over our money, which can create these awkward situations where we convey feelings of pride either in giving or receiving.

But the point I made was that God is sovereign over all things, including whatever it was that helped you obtain your wealth… whether your choices or upbringing, etc.  And therefore, whatever amount of money you have, that is what God has chosen to distribute to you.  Thus, you need not tie your identity to your wealth.

The Impact of Sovereignty

Here are some practical ways that this understanding should affect our money.

1)      Humility.  Knowing that it is God who distributes to whom He wills should disarm our pride over our wealth and lend us to feel humble in knowing that what we have is only of grace… not ourselves.  And let’s face it, we could all use more humility.

2)      Gratitude.  This humility should naturally flow into gratitude, recognizing that this grace is not deserved and that we actually deserve nothing.  Yet, God gives to us lavishly.

3)      Giving.  Just as we model everything we do after the Gospel of Jesus Christ – how He gave Himself for us when we deserved nothing good – we ought to give graciously to those in need, despite what they “deserve.”

4)      Stewardship/Redistribution.  Remember that since God decides in His sovereignty who gets what, then those who have been given much must remember that they have been given much for a reason.  You have been made a steward by God, and it is up to you to redistribute to those in need.  This is easier to do when you remember that it is not your money.  It is God’s… given to you to use for the kingdom in bringing about His good purposes.  This knowledge should also directly impact how you spend your money.

 5)      Receiving.  We need not feel embarrassed when receiving charity, as this is what God has appointed.  His way of you obtaining that money in this instance just happens to be a gift of love from someone as opposed to a wage.  Is there a better way of feeling the Gospel than receiving a gift instead of earning it yourself?

As you can see, this understanding of our wealth brings profound consequences to how we view money.  You can stop looking inward in terms of valuing yourself by your wealth and start looking outward by trying to breathe value into others.

If God gives abundantly to you, use that money to glorify Him.  If He gives you a nice home, use it to entertain in a Christ-exalting way.  If you are short of cash and someone helps you out, use that money to His glory and see the Christ-like quality of giving in that moment and worship Him.

If the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10)… then the love of each other will disarm that evil.

~David P. Kreklau

August 23, 2011

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

Today’s piece is from Arkansas pastor Rusty Blann’s blog,  S.O.A.P. For Today — it makes more sense when you note the outline below — where it appeared under the title…

“Manna, Manna, Manna or Holy, Holy, Holy?”

Scripture:

Numbers 11:1-6 The people fell to grumbling over their hard life. GOD heard. When he heard his anger flared; then fire blazed up and burned the outer boundaries of the camp. (2) The people cried out for help to Moses; Moses prayed to GOD and the fire died down. (3) They named the place Taberah (Blaze) because fire from GOD had blazed up against them. (4) The riff-raff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, “Why can’t we have meat? (5) We ate fish in Egypt–and got it free!–to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. (6) But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.”

Observation:

The Israelites complained, and then Moses complained. But God responded positively to Moses and negatively to the rest of the people. Why? The people complained to one another, and nothing was accomplished. Moses took his complaint to God, who could solve any problem. Many of us are good at complaining to each other. We need to learn to take our problems to the One who can do something about them.

Every morning the Israelites drew back their tent doors and witnessed a miracle. Covering the ground was pale yellow, fluffy manna-food from heaven. But soon that wasn’t enough. Feeling it was their right to have more, they forgot what they already had. They didn’t ask God to fill their need; instead, they demanded meat, and they stopped trusting God to care for them. “Give us meat to eat!” (Numbers 11:13) they complained to Moses as they reminisced about the good food they had in Egypt. God gave them what they asked for, but they paid dearly for it when a plague struck the camp (Numbers 11:18-20; Numbers 11:31-34).

When you ask God for something, he may grant your request. But if you approach him with a sinful attitude, getting what you want may prove costly.

Application:

How does this apply to me?

Dissatisfaction comes when our attention shifts from what we have to what we don’t have. The people of Israel didn’t seem to notice what God was doing for them: setting them free, making them a nation, giving them a new land. They were so wrapped up in what God wasn’t doing for them. They could think of nothing but the delicious Egyptian food they had left behind. Somehow they forgot that the brutal whip of Egyptian slavery was the cost of eating that food.

Before we judge the Israelites too harshly, it’s helpful to think about what occupies our attention most of the time. Are we grateful for what God has given us, or are we always thinking about what we would like to have? We should not allow our unfulfilled desires to cause us to forget God’s gifts of life, food, health, work, and friends.

The Children of Israel did just that however. They found themselves complaining about the “blessings of God.” Every morning God would literally pour out blessings from heaven. They would look around and Manna from heaven was all around them. They became so accustomed to God caring for their needs, that their daily thanksgiving and praise slowly, and subtly turned to complaining. Then the words from their mouth and the meditation from their hearts were…”Manna, Manna, Manna.”

How often does my attitude reflect the same disregard for the loving care of provision of God? “Manna, Manna, Manna” I may say in disgust, instead of what should flow from my mouth when I think of my awesome God… “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

Prayer:

“Lord, I am so guilty of waking up in the morning and focusing immediately on the problems of the day instead of the potential. Focusing on the storm of the day instead of the peace. Focusing on the sickness of the day instead of the Healer. Focusing on the need of the day instead of the provider. Focusing on the battle for the day instead of the King of Kings. Focusing on the lack of today instead of the Lord for this day. I ask you to forgive me, for I truly repent of that kind of attitude. Every single day you bless me in ways that I often overlook. I find my attitude the same as the Children of Israel, and even though my words may not, my actions declare, “Manna, manna, manna.” I choose today to be thankful. For I am a blessed man, who serves an awesome, loving, providing God. You are creative in the ways that you bless me and my family. I love you Lord, and thank you for this day. I will rejoice and be glad in it…and thankful! In Jesus’ name, amen.”

~Rusty L. Blann

March 19, 2011

Francis Chan: The Heart of the Author

I mentioned the other day of keeping an eye on bestseller lists, and if there’s an author who has resonated with a whole lot of people at once, for whatever reason, you ought to check out what that author has to say.

I said all that in connection with Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love and the more recent Forgotten God.  A lot of people don’t know him yet, and I think another dimension — without embracing celebrity culture, something Chan himself would despise — is to check out other resources that help you to get to know the heart of the author.

Especially if you can see and hear that author speak.  What a difference to then be able to read the author’s printed works and hear the author’s voice inside your head as you read or imagine their smile or the spark of passion you see in their eyes.  But — and this is important — to also know more background as to where the author is coming from.

If you want to play this out with reference to Francis Chan, there’s a little 4-minute video that really says it all:

Sometimes certain natural giftedness plays out and certain authors and music artists simply work their way up the “success” ladder of Christian influence.  However, there are other times that I believe people are justified — even if it can be a little cliché — to say that God has “raised up” certain people with a unique message for our particular place in history.

If you’ve got 55 minutes to invest, here’s a recent message where Francis returned to Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California after seven months away.  (If you’re on dial-up or have a slow connection, scroll down to the second link, which is audio only.) If your time is very limited, after an intimate time of getting re-acquainted with his former congregation, the sermon begins at 16:47.  Sort of.  Please remember, I’m not posting this because it’s the best Francis Chan sermon out there; I’m posting this because it reveals his heart.

This link below is for people who get frustrated with slower connections and lagging video; it’s just the audio of the same sermon.

February 23, 2011

The Provision of Rest

Albert writes his blog, God Is My Constant, from his home in Sydney, Australia. This appeared under the title Holy Nanna Nap.

In Mark 6:30 Jesus invites his followers to enjoy a time of rest and leisure. In the midst of struggle, persecution and distress – Jesus is our safe haven – the cleft of the rock into which we taken by God and are kept safe.

Rest is a common grace from God to everyone – it is a demonstration of God’s compassion and kindness. As rebels we are not deserving of rest, it is his grace that allows us opportunities to stop, rest, recuperate and give thanks for his provisions.

Public Worship with other people is a type of “rest” – we are refreshed by drawing near to God through Christ, hearing his word and encouraging each other.

The famous miracle of the ‘feeding of five thousand‘ provides a strong allusion and comparison here between the bread the men ate & the miraculous manna Israel ate in the wilderness.

Knowles in ‘The Bible Guide’ notes that:

As Jesus directs the crowd to sit down in groups of hundreds and fifties, some would think of the prophet Elisha. He fed 100 men from just twenty barley loaves (2 Kings 4:42–44). Others, seeing 5,000 men sitting in ordered ranks (like an army), would remember how God fed Israel in the desert with manna and quail (Exodus 16; Numbers 11). For Christians, the way Jesus takes the bread, thanks God, breaks and shares it, is an anticipation of Holy Communion. The twelve baskets of scraps seem like a promise of enough for all future generations.

Just as they didn’t run out of bread and fish, God’s compassion and love is inexhaustible. There is no end to the “steadfast love of the LORD”, “his mercies never come to an end” (Lamentations 3:22).

In some cultures being overworked is taken as a virtue. Here it is an indication of pride and idolatry. Rest and Provision is God’s gift of compassion. Don’t miss the opportunity to receive this from God. The ultimate rest awaits those who know and trust in Jesus. Every small rest, every ‘nanna nap‘, we have now is an anticipation of that final rest.