Christianity 201

March 15, 2017

Right Results, Wrong Method

Numbers 20 (NIV):

1In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

This passage contains an interesting sequence of events:

  • The people are thirsty
  • God reveals to Moses that water can be obtained by speaking to a particular rock
  • Moses hits the rock instead (this worked before)
  • Water gushes forth

Maybe God had His instructions wrong, or maybe it applied to some other rock? After all, the water issued forth and the thirst of the people was satisfied.

Hardly. Moses was angry. “…Listen you rebels…” In anger he struck the rock.

In Moses defense, he was using a tried and true formula; see Exodus 17. And he got the desired result. No biggie, right?

The point is that Moses disobeyed; he did God’s work in a sense, but didn’t do it God’s way.

I find myself often guilty of this. I can justify something done in anger because it produced results. I’ve even said to myself, “I think sometimes you just have to get mad enough about something and then God uses that anger.”

Yes. I’ve really thought that. More than once.

And there is such a thing as righteous anger. But it is characterized by being shaped over a long-term, not a short-term; and by its righteousness more than its anger-ness.

James 1 19b & 20 (NIV)

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Whether or not you feel like you are more a product of the information age or the industrial age, either way you are probably results oriented.

But just because it worked doesn’t mean that God was in it, or that He was pleased, or that you were obedient. Even if the “worked” in question seems to bear the mark (vs. 11) of the miraculous.

And a great danger lies in trusting in what worked before, when God wants to lead you into something new.

And like Moses (vs. 12) by doing it our way, you and I may be missing out on God’s greater blessing and the fullness of God’s highest goal for our lives.

~PW


*Reader mini-survey:

Just curious… Have blog posts here resulted in you making the author’s blog part of your daily or weekly routine?  My hope is that in introducing you to a wide variety of Christian devotional and Bible-teaching bloggers, some of them will resonate with you to the point you bookmark their sites and/or subscribe, making their writing a regular habit.

October 28, 2013

Tightrope Walking Without a Net

Mark Batterson mentions this story in his book All In and then it was posted on Ralph Howe’s blog. I decided at that point I was meant to share this. I thought of calling it, Leaving Yourself No Backup Plan. So often in the Christian life, we “step out in faith,” (imagine big air quotes) while at the same time, we have a backup plan in case the move/investment/job change/church plant doesn’t work.

On February 19, 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes set sail for Mexico with an entourage of 11 ships, 13 horses, 110 sailors, and 553 soldiers. The indigenous population upon his arrival was approximately five million. From a purely mathematical standpoint, the odds were stacked against him by a ratio of 7,541 to 1. Two previous expeditions had failed to even establish a settlement in the New World, yet Cortes conquered much of the South American continent.

What Cortes is reported to have done after landing is an epic tale of mystic proportions. He issued an order that turned his mission into an all-or-nothing proposition: “Burn the ships!” As he crew watched their fleet of ships burn and sink, they came to terms with the fact that retreat was not an option. And if you can compartmentalize the moral conundrum of colonization, there is a lesson to be learned. Nine times out of ten, failure is responding to Plan B when Plan A gets to risky, too costly, or too difficult. That’s why most people are living their Plan B. They didn’t burn the ships. I prefer to be a Plan A person. Plan A people don’t have a Plan B.

1 Kings 19:21 “So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and become his servant (and eventually his successor).”

Elisha was a Plan A person . He burnt the ships. He removed any possibility of turning back to his old ways if things got too difficult, to uncomfortable, or too costly. Burning the plowing equipment meant he could not go back to his old way of life because he destroyed the time machine that would take him back. It was the end of Elisha the farmer. It was the beginning of Elisha the prophet.

What do you need to burn to remove your Plan B?

That’s the simple message.  Want to go deeper on this?

Here’s today’s two-for-one special! Terry Broadwater did a teaching on this that he called Kill The Cow and Burn The Plow. (That’s ‘plough’ for everyone outside the US.) Here’s the first one-third of that text with a link at the bottom to finish reading.  I like how he ties this in to the calling of James and John.

I love to hunt, eat meat, and I’m almost a pyromaniac!!  So, “Kill the Cow and Burn the Plow” is a great subject for me to talk about!

Matt. 4:21-22 21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.

This is early in Jesus’ ministry and he’s inviting some guys to “follow him.”  James and John are fishermen, they are in a boat, repairing nets, with their father- it’s a family business, doing what fishermen do.  Note: They “left behind” the boat and their father!

Not a spontaneous decision… They’re ready to take the next step… THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!!  They were in the family fishing business: “Zebedee and Sons!”  This was not a causal decision!

1 Kings 19:19-21 19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. 20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”  Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”  21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.

This is an OT story about an old prophet who has identified his replacement and is about to begin a process of mentoring him.  And the young “prophet-to-be” has to go all in!  Notice:

  • He kills the cows!
  • He burns the plow!
  • He has no intentions of “going back” to where he once was!  James and John “left some things behind”- Elisha “let it all go” up in smoke!

There is no such thing as casual Christianity!  There is a cost to follow: Luke 14:28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?”  You must calculate what it means to follow Jesus!!

…continue reading here…

March 23, 2012

Just Because You Get Results…

Numbers 20 (NIV):

1In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

 2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

 6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. 7 The LORD said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

 9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

This passage contains an interesting sequence of events:

  • The people are thirsty
  • God reveals to Moses that water can be obtained by speaking to a particular rock
  • Moses hits the rock instead (this worked before)
  • Water gushes forth

Maybe God had His instructions wrong, or maybe it applied to some other rock?After all, the water issued forth and the thirst of the people was satisfied.

Hardly. Moses was angry. “…Listen you rebels…” In anger he struck the rock.

In Moses defense, he was using a tried and true formula; see Exodus 17. And he got the desired result. No biggie, right?

The point is that Moses disobeyed; he did God’s work in a sense, but didn’t do it God’s way.

I find myself often guilty of this. I can justify something done in anger because it produced results. I’ve even said to myself, “I think sometimes you just have to get mad enough about something and then God uses that anger.”

Yes. I’ve really thought that. More than once.

And there is such a thing as righteous anger. But it is characterized by being shaped over a long-term, not a short-term; and by its righteousness more than its anger-ness.

James 1 19b & 20 (NIV)

…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Whether or not you feel like you are more a product of the information age or the industrial age, either way you are probably results oriented.

But just because it worked doesn’t mean that God was in it, or that He was pleased, or that you were obedient. Even if the “worked” in question seems to bear the mark (vs. 11) of the miraculous. 

And a great danger lies in trusting in what worked before, when God wants to lead you into something new.

And like Moses (vs. 12) by doing it our way, you and I may be missing out on God’s greater blessing and the fullness of God’s highest goal for our lives.

~PW


Finding an image to attach to today’s thoughts landed me at the blog Agapegeek! If you want to go really, really deep into today’s passage, click on the image above.


If you’re a newcomer to C201, scripture verses here are in green because the scriptures have life.  Nothing that the contributors here write carries as much weight as God’s word. If the passage doesn’t have life to you, read it again!