Posts Tagged ‘how big is your God?’

Joshua 15:13-19

The Land Given to Caleb

That is when I know I am sunk. When one of my daughters puts like four a’s in the word, daddy. You know, daaaady! I reach for my wallet because I know a money request is coming. My daughters and step-daughter are all grown up now, but they can still use their daughter charms on their daddy to get their way. Back in the day though when they were little and they could still sit easily in their daddy’s lap, they would come up, hop in my lap, put an arm around my neck and then bat those little girl eyelashes at me and make their request whatever it might me. How can you refuse a daughter so cute and precious? Little girls come into this world knowing how to work their daddies!

 

Even though they are grown now, there is always a special relationship between a father and a daughter that transcends time and chronological age. To even grown girls (unless they lived in an abusive home growing up), they think of their dads as ten feet tall and bullet proof. To daughters, dads are full of wisdom. To daughters, dads are their protector from everything bad in the world. To daughters, their fathers are the example of what they subconsciously measure every man by in comparison. To dads, daughters are the most precious gift of all. They are wonderful little mysteries to us. They are unlike having a boy to a dad. Dads know everything about a boy because we once one ourselves. But daughters are this amazing mystery of laughter, unbridled joy, and of tea parties, and dolls, and pink and thinking that Dad is the most amazing man in the world. To dads, their daughters are examples of just what is right and perfect about the world. How they love flowers and to smell them and to give them to you as if they have brought you this amazing thing. To dads, our daughters seemingly without cultural influence are the nurturers. You seem them being mommy to their dolls and when they jump in your lap after you have had a hard day and they just hug you. There is nothing better than being a dad to daughters.

 

There is nothing that I would not do for my daughters. Sometimes, though, like currently, with my youngest daughter, she is making foolish choices in her life and seems to now blame me for all the problems of her life and she has completely shut me out of her life. I have seen and spoken to her only over a 3 day period back in February. That’s the only contact with her over the past year. What I have done; I do not know. I know that over a year ago I told her that I could not give her money for another one of her all of a sudden emergencies and that is part of this. However, the complete shutdown of our relationship has come as surprise to me and it certainly hurts me down deep. I am only going to be on this earth for 20-30 more years and why is she wasting valuable time over some perception that she has created in her mind. If she just knew how much I love her and just want her to grow up and reach her God-given potential! Why has she created this ocean between us. I just don’t get it.

 

All of these things remind me that no matter the state of the relationship between a father and his daughters, they know that their dad will be there for them when the chips are down and when they need that feeling of protection. Dads love their daughters no matter what. Theirs is a special and unique relationship that I have been privileged to have been granted by God. I am now venturing into the granddaddy-granddaughter world. There will come a time when Ralyn has learned the ropes and will have learned the tricks of the female world and will look at her Papa in a certain way and she will say Papa with four a’s in it…Paaaapa! I will be like ooooooohkaaaay, Ralyn! What do ya want!

 

I thought of how daughters can usually get what they want from their daddies simply by being bold enough to ask. Dads will draw the line at some point because we want them to grow up to be responsible young women, but if we know that giving them what they want is not going to hurt them, we will give it to our daughters. All they have to do is ask. That unique relationship between a dad and his daughters is what I thought when I read this passage, Joshua 15:13-19, that seems to be almost inserted into the narrative about the division of land. It is about land of course but it is a highly personal story about a father and his daughter. Lets read it now:

 

13 In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) 14 From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, the sons of Anak. 15 From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 16 And Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.” 17 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage.

 

18 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him[a] to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What can I do for you?”

 

19 She replied, “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.” So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

 

In the desert, water springs are very important and strategic. Whoever who controls the water control the area. Without water, nothing grows. Without water, all living things die. A spring is a place where water comes to the surface of the desert. Normally water is absorbed into a porous soil and then sinks until it encounter a non-porous rock such as igneous rock. There it remains until it finds an outlet where it flows to the surface. However, depending on the source of these springs, it may dry out in summer or very hot seasons. These are the upper springs. Some water collects in large underground chambers. So of it is under pressure and is what we called the artesian wells. They never dry up. These are the lower or nether springs. So Caleb was very generous when he gave to his daughter, Acsah, both the upper and lower springs.  In modern day Israel, the desert is a major agricultural area because of water from these springs.

 

What is my takeaway from this passage this morning? What if Aksah had not asked for what she needed? The Negev was an arid land and it needed water. What if his daughter had not been confident enough in her father’s love to ask him for what she needed as a long-term solution to a long-term problem? She loved her father and knew that her father loved her. She was bold enough to ask him for something that she needed desperately. It was not that she was asking for something impetuous, selfish, or that would hurt her or others. She was boldly asking for something that was a sustainer of life, a real need.

 

How often are sitting in our own personal arid country and have not asked our Father in heaven for what we need. Do you not believe that your Father in heaven wants what is best for you? We do not have because we do not ask. We do not pray. Prayer is talking to God. Sometimes I feel that God is waiting for us patiently to ask Him. He has what we need and He knows what we need. Sometimes I think He is just waiting for us to ask Him. Like Caleb and his daughter. He gives her the land without the water. He is willing and waiting to give. He waited for her to ask. Often, we are too busy to pray. Too busy to ask.

 

If you think an earthly father loves his daughters, think how much more our Father in heaven loves us. Have you ever thought that maybe it comes down to how big you think God is and how much he loves you? Are those the reasons that you do not ask. Let me assure you, God is big enough and He loves you more than you can even understand. He doesn’t care so much about temporary things but if your request is consistent with the character of God and what He wants for us – why have you not asked our great and mighty Father in heaven for what you need? He knows of your needs. He is just waiting for you to be confident enough in how big He is and how much He loves you for you to ask.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 14:1-12 (Part 1 of 2)

The People Rebel

President John F. Kennedy said the following in a speech at Rice University’s football stadium on September 12, 1962, almost fifty-four years ago when I was a mere 18 days old. In the swiftness of rate of human history in which we find ourselves in this age, that almost seems centuries ago. But his words, and he was a most eloquent speaker, ring with truth even these 5 ½ decades later. He, when speaking of America’s push to explore space, said,

 

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

 

He concluded the speech by saying,

 

“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

 

I do not remember the era from personal experience. I was too young but the Kennedy years engaged a whole new generation in the hope of what our nation could be. My parents’ generation was captivated by Kennedy. With the young President leading the way, there was a feeling that the sky was the limit. The old guard was gone and it was my mom and dad’s generation’s turn to take on the world’s problems. The old ways would not do anymore and a new era had done. Kennedy was the stalwart of that hopeful generation. He was a charismatic leader who spoke of a world that we needed to have rather than the world we just accepted “as is”. What if President Kennedy had not been elected? What would our nation be like now? He galvanized a generation that into believing that the world could be a better place. Even after his assassination, that generation felt that they owed it to JFK to, indeed, change the world. The world, and our nation, had serious issues to deal with and he challenged a generation to take on those challenges not because they were easy but because they were, indeed, hard. When other leaders just wanted to maintain the status quo because it was the easier thing to do, JFK challenged us to take on the challenges and make change. It ignited my mom and dad’s generation.

 

That speech at Rice University that day in September 1962 was quintessential of the spirit of the Kennedy years. Exploring space and taking on all the other challenges of our society in the early 1960s (some of those challenges are still with us today) was going to be hard. It was going to be tough. Just look at the galvanizing call to reach the moon by the end of the decade. Would we have made it to the moon by the Summer of 1968 if it were not for a generation of men and women challenged by the dreams of one, John F. Kennedy. Just think of our space exploration since then without that galvanizing goal of achieving something thought unattainable. Our space program is practically dead right now because of it. The challenge of Kennedy was also echoed by his brother, Ted, when delivering JFK’s eulogy, he paraphrased a quote from G.B. Shaw’s play, Back to Methusalah, when he said, “Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?”

 

That was the spirit of my parent’s generation, inspired by the eloquent visionary voice of John F. Kennedy. Sure there are those who say Kennedy is idolized as a great leader now because he was assassinated not because of any particularly great thing that he did in office and that Kennedy make backroom deals to get things done just like every other President. However, Kennedy’s legacy was not that he was assassinated but rather that he had brought hope and vision to a new generation of American. He may not have been a great tactical president but you ask anyone who is in their 70’s now like my dad who was the President that they most loved. They will to man say John F. Kennedy. If he had not been that visionary lightning rod they would not be saying that 50 years later.

 

The visionary leadership of JFK that changed the American political landscape and gave hope to many and energized all was what I thought of today when reading through this passage. It reminds of the difference in America under Kennedy’s vision and the “malaise” speech of Jimmy Carter a decade and a half later and the America of Donald Trump. Kennedy spoke of what could be and challenged us to get there. Carter and Trump tell us what is wrong with America but give us no vision to replace it. It is easier to say what’s wrong with something than it is to have vision of a better future. That’s the same thing that I see in the Israelites in this passage:

 

14 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

 

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell face down in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”

 

10 But the whole assembly talked about stoning them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they.”

 

In this passage, when the chorus of despair went up, everyone joined in. There greatest fears were being realized. Losing their perspective, the people were caught up in the emotion of the moment, forgetting what they knew about the character of God. What if the people had spent as much energy moving forward as they did moving backward? They could have enjoyed the Promised Land, but, instead, they never entered it because they were fearful of the difficulty that lied ahead. It was just easier to wish for the past that they knew and now idolized rather than have to trust God and plunge headlong into the unknown of the Promised Land.

 

My takeaway from this passage today is that there is a huge difference between vision and complaint. Vision says this is the world in which we live but it can be better. Complaint whines about how bad things are and does nothing but complain. To quote a fictitious President Andrew Shepard (played by Michael Douglas) from the movie, The American President, when speaking of his opponent in the upcoming election, he said,

 

Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

 

So, having mentioned multiple Presidents, fictitious and real ones, and a candidate for the president right now, and the difference between vision and complaint, what does all this mean for me as a Christian. It means that we need vision as Christians too.

 

Too many times, we defeat ourselves before we even start. In churches, more often than not, you will hear “we can’t do that! We don’t have the money or the people!” Too often, we keep silent as our ability to express our faith in Jesus Christ publicly is eroded away because it is too hard to stand against the tide of public opinion. Too often, we do not share our faith with others because we convince ourselves before we even speak that we will be rejected. Too often, we as churches will not take on social problems in our cities because it would be too much work, require too much time, and too many volunteers. We just know our people won’t do that. We will talk ourselves out of following God’s calling on our lives and on our churches to go and be and do and share the gospel because it’s too hard.

 

That’s is where we must be visionary. We must love the world around us with such great passion that we are willing to take on those mighty things that are wrong and right them and do so in ways that we must trust God to make them happen. We must dream the big dreams that God gives. We must see a need that our fellow man has and fill it so that we can have the right to speak to him about Jesus. We must be unafraid and bold in sharing the gospel with people groups here at home and abroad. Let us step boldly into the public arena and be unafraid to challenge the world with Jesus, the Messiah. Let us be less concerned with winning public praise and more concerned with hearing Jesus say, “well done, good and faithful servant!” As a leader in my church, I must be able to dream the big dreams that God has given us and not be afraid and talk myself out of what dreams he has given.

 

Let us be, as Christians, just as Kennedy challenged all Americans to be, those who “do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard” and because God has never failed to honor those who honor Him. He may call us to hard work on hard problems. He may call us to do big things beyond our capabilities. He calls us to do big things and have big dreams so that we will know that He is God and we will know that it is only because of Him that we achieve. So, let us be bold. Let us break the mold. We do have an almighty God on our sides. As long as we honor Him by what we do (and not ourselves), He will always honor our obedience to His call. He will never leave us high and dry. He will be never leave or forsake us. He is God.

 

Nuff said.

 

Let’s get to work doing what God called us to do and trusting Him to make it happen! Amen and Amen.

Matthew 5:13-16
Salt & Light
Sometimes, we pray or listen to other pray, we find out about the boldness of their faith. Last night was an example of how sometimes my faith is not what it should be. At the small group at which I am the leader, we had one of the newest members of our group as for prayer for about a CT scan that she was going to have the next day (today, this morning). Two members of our life group, one of which was my wife, prayed for healing boldly. When it was my turn, I simply prayed for God’s will to be done in the situation no matter what that might look like. I prayed that even if the outcome the CT scan was to show a problem, then, let our small group member be an example of how a Christ follower deals with adversity. Although my prayer was theologically appropriate in that we should pray for God’s will when we pray and not our own selfish desires and it was theologically appropriate to pray that a person will demonstrate to the world their dependence on God, it was not a bold prayer. My wife and my friend showed greater faith in their prayers. As we laid hands on this member of our small group, they prayed bold prayers. They prayed prayers of faith in a God who can perform miracles. How big is the God we believe in? Do we believe boldly in our Lord to ask Him bold prayers? Or do we offer up ineffectual prayers that have no confidence in the Lord to be able to change the course of this fallen world that includes now disease and death? Do you believe in a God that can heal? Do we believe in a God that is still in the miracle business? Why do I bring this illustration up when we are talking about salt and light? I think this comes to mind because our prayer life is often an indication of the status of our walk with the Lord. I think it is an indication of how deep is our faith. When our faith is deep it is bold in prayer, but it is also bold in action. In reading through the previous passage called the Beatitudes, we learned that being a Christ follower is not a call to sit still. It is a call to be bold. It is a call to change the world. It is a call to us to examine how much we trust God. It is a call to us to demonstrate our faith. Prayer is a demonstration of the depth of our faith. Our daily lives, our daily walk is a demonstration of the depth our faith. Having said all that, let’s now look at what has become known as the “Salt & Light” passage.

In the Beatitudes in the previous passage, Jesus has stated how a true disciple should fashion his lifestyle and attitudes toward others. He indicates that a professed disciple who does not live according to those standards has a lifestyle that is of the same value as tasteless salt or of a hidden light when he says in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

The salt and light sequence is as easy to understand as any of the imagery used by Jesus in his teachings. There is no need some 21 centuries later to have assistance of scholars to understand this. We still use salt today for many of the same purposes as the counterparts of Jesus “back in the day”. We still, of course, understand the properties of light as well. As well as there being two images used here by Jesus, there are two points that he is trying to make.

The first point Jesus is trying to make here is through the imagery of salt. Just as tasteless salt lacks value to the person who uses it, so is a so-called disciple that lacks the genuine commitment to live out the Beatitudes in their daily lives. This, to me, smacks us directly in the face here in 21st Century America. You and I can see the searing indictment to us as Americans coming here. Jesus speaks to us through then centuries as we sit in our pew or seat on Sunday morning and profess to be Christian. However, if we allow not getting out of our comfort zone and allow our excuses for not stepping out and doing what God ask of us, then we are no better than the blind who sat beside the Bethesda pool waiting on his miracle but using every excuse in the world for not getting in the pool as noted in John 5: 1-8. If we do not live the life got wants us to lead, we become like tasteless salt – worthless to the kingdom of God. We must bold dependence on God to be our shield and portion. If we are bold in our belief in God, we will speak when it is easier to blend in and be quiet. We will stand out when it is easier to go along with the crowd. We will stand up for Jesus when it easier to deny Him. We will explain the source of our joy rather than keep it quiet. Just as salt causes reactions and changes the food that it seasons, so should we be bold in our faith. Just as a city on a hill cannot be hidden, so should we be bold lights that illumine the darkness around us. How big is your God? How much faith do you have in Him to step outside your comfort zone? How big is your God? Is He big enough for you to believe that He will provide for you when He calls for you to step out of a life of meaninglessness and boldly be His disciple? We are worthless to the kingdom if we believe in a wimpy God that we think cannot do anything for us. We cannot be light and salt if we do not boldly believe in the power of God.

Also, Jesus uses the image of light to show us what faith without demonstrating means. An unnamed source for a commentary from Bible Gateway.com says, “A disciple whose life reveals none of the Father’s works is like invisible light for vision: useless. Jesus reinforces his point with various images. A disciple should be as obvious as a city set on a hill, and a light in a home should be no easier to hide than a torchlit city at night. Jesus depicts his disciples’ mission in stark biblical terms for the mission of Israel. God called his people to be lights to the nations – that is, the whole world. Christians are light because-contrary to some psychoanalytic theories-their destiny, more than their past must define them.”

Thus, Jesus is telling his direct disciplines some 2,000 years ago and to us today in this age that professing belief in him is only part of the process. Was it not said in James 2: 14-16, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?’”

Dr. Richard J. Krejcir says, in one of his daily devotionals at http://www.intothyword.com that “Real, impacting, effectual faith will have results. It will be lived out! Faith is received alone, but it does not just stand alone; it is to be shown. Faith will be backed up by the proof that it is present in a person. If there is no proof, there is a good chance that the vessel is empty of faith.” He continues later, “…real faith will result in an outcome that backs it up. Faith will be lived out in the believer’s life, thinking, words, and actions. Faith will create initiative from the realization of who we are in Christ, and then we will live out our lives in Him, through His power and because of our convictions.”

Thus, this section of Scripture (and others like such as James 2: 14-16) teaches us that if we have truly accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Beatitudes will be the code of conduct that we willingly live by. However, if the process stops there then we have done little more than accept a good moral code of conduct. But, being a true believer of Jesus Christ, should result in much more than that. We should shed ourselves of excuses, be willing to leave our comfort zone and follow where God leads us. We should be willing to get into the pool and immerse ourselves in where God is leading us rather than sit beside the pool and complain and make excuses for why we can’t do what God wants us to do. We should have no excuses for not “being a light to the nations”. Our thinking, our words, our actions should reflect the faith we profess. If we do not have the faith to step out and be the light like a city on a hill that others look to and want what we have, then do we really have faith…do we really believe in Jesus Christ? How big is your God? How deep is your faith? How bold are your prayers? Should we not believe the sky is the limit…no I mean the sky is no limit…when we are a true disciple of the Lord who raised Lazarus from the dead, who raised Himself from the dead? Be bold. Be different. Stand out. We believe in a God who created the entire universe with the words from His mouth! We believe in a mighty and powerful God. Be bold. Live out loud! Live a life of demonstrable faith! Pray big prayers! Depend wholly on the power of God to provide and guide and protect and heal and…there is no limit to what God can do when we are fully in the game. When we are all-in, full of faith in Him, we can be salt that changes the flavor of the world. We can be light that shines brightly in the darkness.