Discipleship

They Did Not Thirst

“This season is very revealing…” This has been my sentiment as we continue through 2020 full of her pandemic and racial tension. When shaking happens, things are uncovered and our deepest hopes, bias, and perspectives are revealed. This has been a significant reality in the church and while it does not make for the easiest relationships or partnerships, it is good.

I brought this reflection to my reading this morning and Isaiah 48’s recounting of the refining of Israel. It is essentially God retelling the ways he has used circumstance to chisel away at the hearts of his people. To reveal their disobedience and to show the way of trusting his will and way. “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;” Isaiah 48:18

There was hope for them still and it was in recounting the faithfulness of God.

Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it out to the end of the earth; say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!

They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts; he made water flow for them from the rock; he split the rock and the water gushed out.” Isaiah 48:20-21

I was talking to a few pastors just yesterday and they mentioned the “battle weariness” of this season of ministry and I can relate. Simple things are not simple anymore and rapid transformation in the church is not only exhausting, it is like the fires have been set to be quite a bit hotter.

Yet we, like Israel, can recount the faithfulness of God in the midst of the refining. We can return to him in repentance and reliance on his grace and power. We can live “hydrated” by his Spirit as we, ministers and the rest of us, persevere through the unknown of tomorrow.

Some of us need to take some breaks; get off of social media and replace the time with Scripture. Some of us need to have more real conversations where gospel reminder is the end point. Some of us need to keep being bold where voices have been absent. And some of us just need to get away, to a place of solitude to be with the Father.

All along the way my prayer is that we would look back on this year and say we did not thirst as we journeyed through this desert, that the Lord’s provision was gushing out. Will you pray that with me?

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Sufficiency of Christ

Over the past three months I have been studying Numbers 11 and the implications of the story of the quail and the plague. When a class assigned an in-depth study of a singular story in scripture I at first chose this one because I had a grudge against a pastor that used the story in a way that I could not think possible after an honest reading of the complete text.

I still hold fast to the proper treatment of scripture but through this study I have realized my own pride as a reflection of Israel’s in the story. I demanded more of God. I wanted to be proved right. And in the midst of this all I have learned to embrace the sufficiency of Christ. I have learned to recognize places in my life where I have rejected the provision of God and refused to accept his sufficiency. I have been caught red-handed by my own study as I attempt life and ministry un my own self-sufficiency alone and by doing so denying Jesus. “The spirituality of self-sufficiency, the attitude of “everything depends on me” bears no resemblance to the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Brennan Manning).

I do not want to seek Christ because he has provided me a meal (loaves and fishes) but because his work and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit has covered me in grace and ransomed me in spite of my sin.

In Numbers the people denied God and ask for more than His provision. In response he gave them what they asked for and then they died “while the meat was still between their teeth.” Might we be satisfied by God’s provision of Christ and dwell in that sufficiency and new life.

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Gathering Little

I am loving the story of the manna in Exodus 16 today. While I could spend days talking through God’s provision, the verses that are challenging me talk about how much of the manna the people “gathered” and their “lack” suggesting some subtle greed.

17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.

Those that “gathered much had nothing left over.” This seems to reflect in a couple of ways both from an attitude and action perspective. Now we know that those in the wilderness had a knack for grumbling so this should not come as a shock, but the attitude of hording something freely given (material) fails the people. Despite being told to take just enough for their households, some still gathered much moving from attitude to action. It is an unfortunate route to take and since they “had nothing left over” I wonder if they were left wanting.

We do this today and we are left with the same want. Sure it is not manna in the form of bread but how are we attempting to “gather much” of things that are provision? Are we striving for the next level of income? Do we need new things? Are we a lemming for cultural trends? Do we crave and strive for attendance records in our churches?

Thankfully we are given another route in the same verse – a different direction for us to take. “Whoever gathered little had no lack.” Now this is where we should be living. Can we be successful? Yes. Can we maintain a level of cultural ‘relevance? Yes (that is for the fashionistas.) The difference in not in the provision, the difference is in our response to it and what we do with what we are given. We will not have “lack” as we gather little. So what does this mean in our context? Going without some of the latest toys, balancing the time we spend on pursuit of things other than God, being content in what we have been blessed with, and I would argue, giving away the excess.

I could share examples of what Stacy and I have done to live this way but I think you can figure out how best to act once you acquire the attitude.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians, highlights this story to encourage Christians to give generously, essentially saying “there is no point in hoarding the good gifts of God.” Oh how I hope and pray that we can live this out and be less about the hoarding of manna and more about living a life defined by sharing the “good gifts of God.”