Complaining.

Christianity, Religion
stop-complaining

“Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.” Exodus 16:8.


The Israelites of the Exodus generation witnessed many of the greatest miracles performed in the entire Bible. They saw all ten plagues that God brought down upon Egypt to free them; everything from the water being turned into blood to the death of the firstborns during the Passover. They witnessed how Moses led them out of Egypt, and when the Egyptians pursued the Israelites and pinned them between the Red Sea, God’s chosen people saw God l part the sea for them to escape while He destroyed the pursuing armies. If seeing is believing, then this generation should have had rock-solid belief.


Sadly, that was not the case. The Exodus generation is remembered mainly for their habitual complaining and nagging, and many would say that this is the reason that God performed so many miracles in their time, to repeatedly put their complaining and grumblings away. Shortly after the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, when God’s great and mighty deeds should have still been very fresh in their minds, the Israelites begin complaining about their lack of food. They gripe and complain and hearken back to the good ol’ days in Egypt when they had more than enough to eat, even though they had been saves in Egypt. The Israelites complain that Moses hadn’t come to free them at all, rather he’d brought them out to the wilderness to kill them.


God heard all of the Israelite complaints, and He instructed Moses to tell the people about the food that He would provide them. Quail appeared for the Israelites to eat, and every morning–except for the Sabbath–God would provide them with manna, a bread-like substance. Moses reminded the people that God had already done great and mighty things for them, and that he was following God’s instructions. Moses wanted the people to understand that when they complained about what he was doing, they were actually complaining about what God was doing. Their gripes and grumblings were about the actions of the same God who had just freed them from slavery and performed miracle after miracle to do so.


So often we do the same thing that the Israelites of the Exodus did. Despite all we have, we focus on what we lack. Regardless of what God has just done for us, we look to the next obstacle or trial and approach it as if we are totally alone. We think that, for one reason or another, God will break His pattern of always providing for us or meeting our needs. We put Him in a box and tell Him that our problems are bigger than He is. We gripe and complain, we worry about how to make ends meet, and we forget all the times that we have been sustained. Ultimately, we are ungrateful. We must learn from the example of the Exodus generation; we cannot exhibit the same pattern of behavior they modeled. We must continually be thankful and have faith. God will not change; He will always meet our needs.

Unbelief.

Christianity, Religion

i-024-the-teacher-christ-d“He was amazed at their unbelief.” Mark 6:6.

Early in Jesus’ ministry, as he was wondering throughout northern Judea preaching, He happened upon His hometown of Nazareth. Though Christ had been received well in every other town He’d entered, His reception in Nazareth was quite different. As soon as Christ entered the town, preaching and teaching, the people of Nazareth quickly began murmuring and questioning Him. “Isn’t that the carpenter’s son” they’d ask, “the one who’s mother and brothers we know; where does He get this authority?” Obviously, the people thought, since they had known Jesus since He was a boy, He couldn’t possibly have any authority to teach and preach in the way that He was doing. After all, He was just the carpenter’s boy, and He hadn’t gone to the right schools.

Scripture tells us that Christ does no miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief. He goes on to say a few words about a prophet having no honor in his hometown, but Mark 6:6 has to stand out as one of the most haunting verses in the Bible, “He was amazed at their unbelief.” The level of unbelief that the people of Nazareth had was enough to shock the One who created the universe, the One who knows all things.

We sit back and wonder how the people of Nazareth could be so blind and so spiritually calloused and not realize what they were missing out on, but we do the same things in our own lives today. We find every opportunity and reason to put God in a box, to try to limit His power and influence over our lives, to try to explain why He can’t do things. We rationalize and justify things to ourselves, leaving God out of the picture. We think that, for whatever reasons, He can’t or He won’t help us. We forget that Christ, just He did on the day He entered Nazareth, wants to do great and amazing things for us. We simply have to believe in Him.

Be Merciful.

Christianity, Religion

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“Be merciful, just as your father also is merciful.” Luke 6:36

One day as the crowds followed Jesus, he went upon a mountain, sat down, and began to preach. The Sermon on the Mount, as it later became called, contained some of Jesus’ most famous teachings, and portions of it are referenced in each of the Gospels. Many people are familiar with pieces of the sermon, snippets here and there about the meek and mild and the peacemakers, but this sermon also contained hard truths and calls to action that may be difficult for us to follow.

Mercy is not a trait that comes naturally to man. In fact, mercy is the complete opposite of everything man wants and desires in his sinful and fallen state. Our fallen nature compels us to care only for ourselves, to seek to meet our own needs only, and to fight those who interfere with us meeting our needs. Mercy is not a quality that appeals to man in his basest nature.

God, on the other hand, is infinitely merciful. He provides for and protects those who love Him, and He forgives those who repent and ask for His forgiveness. Chance after chance is given to us by God, and He is loving and forgiving every time we fail. His love and mercy know no limits or bounds. Mercy of this sort is impossible for man to attempt to emulate or imitate.

The only type of person who could even begin to live like this is one who has been changed by God. His cleansing salvation changes one’s entire nature and being, making it more like His own. No longer does one seek to look out only for one’s self; after God redeems people, they seek to share His love with the world. Mercy, care, compassion, and love become the hallmarks and desires of the redeemed soul. Then, and only then, can one hope to be merciful just as Christ called us to be.

Allow God to cleanse you and change your nature. Allow Him to show His mercy to you so that you may show mercy to others.

Awaiting Salvation

Christianity, Religion

029aee48b52ad7779ac2ed6d65e1b962-800x533x1 “I wait for your salvation, Lord.” Genesis 49:18.

Jacob, the patriarch of the Jewish people, uttered these words while he lay on his deathbed at the ripe old age of 130. In that span of time, Jacob had witnessed incredible things: he’d wrestled with God, had been reconciled with his estranged brother, Esau, whom he had wronged, and had a large family that was blessed by God. Jacob, or Israel as God had renamed him, had seen everything that life could throw his way; all the highs, all the lows, all the trials, and all the joys. Even after all Jacob had experienced in his many days, at the end of his life Jacob knew the best was yet to come.

Jacob waited patiently for the salvation, or deliverance, that God would bring to him. God is man’s only source of deliverance–from sin, sorrow, heartache, and death. Jacob’s faith in God had endured throughout his life, and soon it would be made complete. God would soon deliver Jacob from this world and all its sorrows, and allow him to be reunited with his fathers and with his God.

The same is true for us today. We seek any and every escape we can find from the headaches and heartaches of this world, but the best these can do is to bring us a temporary and fleeting reprieve from the chaos that is around us. God’s unchanging and enduring love and salvation is the only thing that we can count on; the only thing that will deliver us from this world. His salvation and deliverance is full and complete and unending. We cannot save ourselves; we can only do as Jacob did–remain faithful in God and patiently await His salvation.

Nothing

Christianity, Religion

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“I have said to Yahweh, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides you.”” Psalm 16:2.

The Davidic psalm that this line comes from is often entitled “Confidence in the Lord,” and it aptly describes many of the comforts experienced by those who follow God. In this psalm, David once again pours out his heart and soul to God in song, expressing the joy that God and His love bring to him. David speaks of the refuge that God provides–this is a motif that pops up time and again in Psalms–his delight in worshipping God, and his urgent desire to do all he can to fully experience everything that a relationship with God has to offer.

David also spells out one fundamental truth in this particular psalm: without God, we have nothing. It is He who protects us and delivers us; it is He who sustains us in times of trial and hardship; it is He who comforts us when sorrow and grief visit us; it is He who increases our joy and happiness in times of celebration; it is He who gives us peace and comfort and rest when we need it. Without God, we truly have nothing; a life without God would be bleak and grim at best and, at the very least, unbearable.

In God, we have more than we can ever need. We shall never lack nor shall we ever be alone. Though hardships, trials, grief, and sorrow will inevitably befall us at some point or another, we shall be sustained through these times by God. He will always provide, always protect, always deliver, and will always care.

The Kingdom of Heaven is Near

Christianity, Religion

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“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying ‘Repent, because the Kingdom of Heaven has come near!'” Matthew 3:1-2.

John the Baptist is one of the most interesting characters in the New Testament. Though his story only takes up a small portion of the Gospels, his role in the Gospel narrative is crucial.

To understand John’s important role in the Bible, we must go back to the Old Testament. One of Israel’s greatest prophets was Elijah, who performed many miracles and preached boldly against the sin and moral corruption into which Israel had allowed itself to fall. The most incredible and unique aspect of Elijah’s life and career as a prophet deals with his “exit” from Scripture–he never died. 2 Kings 2:11 recounts Elijah’s departure from this world: a whirlwind appeared accompanied by a chariot of fire which took Elijah up into Heaven, his job on Earth completed and Elijah still very much alive. Due to this phenomenal departure , the Jews believed that Elijah would one day return to prepare the world for the arrival of the Messiah. So the Jews waited patiently for Elijah’s return, waiting for the signal their Messiah was coming.

Enter to this scene John the Baptist. Christian doctrine teaches that John fulfilled Elijah’s preparatory role as the forerunner of the Messiah. Though John lived in the New Testament period, in many ways he is the final prophet of the Old Testament. He was born miraculously to godly elderly parents, he lived alone in the desert clothed in camel fur and sustained by locusts and wild honey, and he boldly proclaimed the words of the Lord. In addition to this, John had a close connection to Jesus the Messiah–they were second cousins.

John prepared the hearts and minds of Israel for the impending appearance and ministry of the Messiah. He helped fan the fires of a religious awakening within Jewish society, baptizing into God’s service those who wished to seek after God and live according to His commands. John attacked the rigid legalism of the Pharisees and the dead theology of the Sadducees and all other aspects of the religious establishment of the day. John took his message straight to the people, and it is this fact that makes his proclamation of the proximity of the Kingdom of Heaven so true. In God’s kingdom, all man’s social constructs will be thrown out; the poor and oppressed, the forgotten and downtrodden, will be elevated to the level of the rich and powerful. God’s kingdom would be open to those who were pure of heart and wished to see Him.

Yes, Christ’s arrival had brought the Kingdom of Heaven closer than it had ever been before, as John proclaimed, but the Kingdom was never that far away to begin with. Wherever believers searched for God diligently, wherever God’s people called out to Him, wherever the innocent and righteous were oppressed–that’s where the Kingdom of Heaven could be found. John the Baptist understood this and called on those around him to realize this and for them to repent–to turn from sin and self and turn toward God–to prepare themselves for the great and wondrous things that were about to take place.

Prepare yourselves, for the Kingdom of Heaven is here!

See The Face of God.

Christianity, Religion, Uncategorized

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“For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds. The upright will see His face.” Psalm 11:7.

God’s righteousness and holiness are reoccurring themes throughout the book of Psalms. David, author of many of the songs and poems contained in Psalms, wrote frequently and eloquently on these topics, as well as God’s perfection and of the awe that God inspires in man.  David also  often wrote poetically of God’s support and the protection of those who seek after Him and His righteousness.

Psalm 11 is attributed to David and it has his literary fingerprints all over it. He begins the psalm writing of the refuge that the believer finds in God, and the comfort that believers have in knowing that God is with them and that He knows everything that is going on. “His eyes watch,” wrote David. From His throne in Heaven, God watches all, protects the believers, and sustains them through  their lives. David reminds us all that God is in control of everything that happens in the world.

David concludes his song, as that what the psalms are, with a beautiful and poetic line, “The Lord is righteous, He loves righteous deeds. The upright will see His face.” These poetic lines contain deep Biblical truth: those that seek after God and seek His will shall see His face. God reveals Himself to those who seek to draw near to Him. He draws near to us when we seek to do His will. When we seek to live according to His standards and we put Him first in our lives, we experience the joy and comfort of His blessings. One day, either in death or in the return of the Messiah, those who sought after God–the upright–shall see His face when united with Him in His Kingdom.

Take David’s word to heart: Live uprightly; do God’s will, seek to see His face.

Wholeheartedly

Christianity, Religion

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“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with your whole heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.

Jeremiah’s career as a prophet occurred at one of the most critical times in Jewish history.  It is during his time that the Babylonians, under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar, attack and destroy the city of Jerusalem. Following the razing of Jerusalem, many Jews were deported to Babylon to live out the rest of their lives in exile from their homeland.

As God’s prophet during this period in Jewish history, Jeremiah preached a message encouraging Israelite repentance for their sins against God. For quite some time, the Israelites had neglected their covenant with God and had become deeply entrenched in the pagan culture of surrounding nations. False gods and idols were worshipped, sacrilegious sacrifices were offered, and all other sorts of blasphemous actions were taking place. Jeremiah proclaimed to all that would listen that judgement would soon be handed down by God if the people did not turn their hearts back to Him.

The people refused to repent, and judgment came. Babylon conquered Jerusalem, the Temple was destroyed, and the Jews were removed from their homeland.

But that is not the message Jeremiah’s words relay in 29:11. God, being just, loving, and forgiving, gave words of hope to the people of Israel. In a letter to those in exile, Jeremiah told the people that God was patiently waiting for them to return to Him, and that they would find Him if they searched for Him with their whole hearts. The people need only look for God diligently and He would reveal Himself to them; He would forgive them and restore them if they turned back to Him.

Today we are not much different from the Israelites of Jeremiah’s day. We have our own idols, we are focused on innumerable other things than God, and the result is a spiritual exile of sorts. We yearn for something of substance to offer us meaning and purpose; we yearn for God. All we must do is seek after Him wholeheartedly; unplug and disconnect from everything that distracts us, and focus only on Him. Then we will find the peace and calm and purpose that we all so crave.

Beginnings and Endings

Christianity, Religion

“I declare the end from the beginning…My plan will take place, and I will do all my will.” Isaiah 46:10.

During this time of year much focus is given to the joy and opportunity presented to us by the dawning of a new year. We often think and hope of all the things we desire the new year to hold for us, and we look forward to a break from the trials and hardships of the previous year. A great deal of hope is attached to the new year; a hope that the future will be better than that which we’ve already endured.

Isaiah’s prophetic words help us to focus our perspective and to remember who is control of everything that goes on in the world. God speaks through Isaiah to remind His people of His sovereignty and that He will accomplish what He desires. Though it seems that the world is overrun with sin and wickedness, God is in control. Though the people of Israel were turning their backs upon God, and God was giving them warnings of coming judgement and chastisement, God reminds the faithful remnant that He is in control of all things and He will be with them through everything.

Nothing will keep God from carrying out His will. In God’s schedule, there are no breaks, no changes of the calendar, nothing but continuity and His never-changing presence. In the new year, seek after God and He will draw close to you. Find peace in His presence and rest in the comfort of His grace and love.