Remembering the desert in times of abundance

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 7-8, 1 Corinthians 11, Psalm 48

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. 

Deuteronomy 8:10-18

This passage rings true today more than ever. In our current world we value our own personal hard work, ingenuity, and ability to make something of ourselves above almost everything else. We preach the American Dream.

As a result, it is so easy as a follower of Christ, to look around when things are going well and say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 

There have been many phases in my life where God has humbled me in enough circumstances that I am able to step back and truly appreciate the blessings in my life and see his hand on all of it. I can say with confidence, “This was all because of God.”

However, if I were being honest, I must confess that more frequently throughout my life I would express that same spirit of thankfulness towards God out loud to others, while simultaneously trying to convince myself that it is true even as I am speaking the words and a large part of me feels like these successes in my life are mostly me.

We might not consciously think these thoughts, but subconsciously my brain frequently falls into the following pattern: ‘God certainly played a role, blessed me with certain talents and abilities, and brought opportunities into my life; but ultimately I worked really hard, took risks, constantly sought knowledge to improve personally, etc. God obviously played a role, but I deserve some credit too.’

It is extremely easy to fall into false humility. It is incredibly natural to embrace the type of humility that we see throughout our culture where people deflect praise somewhat disingenuously, but even from their delivery you can tell they think pretty highly of themselves.

On the other hand, it is so refreshing to see Christians not afraid of embracing the gifts that God has given to them, fearlessly seek to maximize those gifts, don’t feel the need to artificially deflect praise, but genuinely give all of the glory to God instead; not as a tactic to appear more Christian, but because that is the true posture of their heart.

So difficult…

When I find myself struggling in this area the question I naturally ask is, “Well how do I do that? What should I say in response to someone who is giving me praise for accomplishments or anything else?” I think these questions miss the mark. They are still focused on tactics. They are still worrying about how our response will come off to others. “What will they think when I say that? Will it seem genuine?”

Me, me, me, me, me.

It is akin to reading a self-improvement book on how to build better rapport with others, make others feel important, make people you lead feel more valued, help people feel heard, etc. without actually viewing them as more important, sincerely desiring to understand them better, truly wanting to hear them more, and ultimately having your focus on them instead of your own personal response to them.

It is about the heart, not tactics.

The exact same response of, “Thank you. I really appreciate that. It has been pretty amazing seeing God’s hand through all of it.” can sound very differently depending on how much we actually believe it. It can come off as genuinely understanding where all of our blessings flow from or it can seem like typical false humility from a posing Christian.

It is not about the words, it is about the heart.

Here is the other thing Christians need to embrace; you are not responsible for how they hear your response. You might sincerely believe what you are saying and there still might be jaded people that think you are just giving them a fake line because it is what you are “supposed to say as a Christian”. That is totally ok. If you are worrying about how they interpret your response, you are still thinking too much about yourself. You are still operating from a “me centered” posture instead of centered on Christ.

Give glory to God and trust the result.

For me, whenever I am feeling a bit too proud about any single thing in life that is going pretty well, I try to take a step back and remember how many times throughout my life things just about went off the rails. I take myself back to situations that went poorly or almost went poorly, but where I could see God’s hand redeeming the situation. Immediately my heart is back in a posture of extreme thankfulness.

That is the advice of Moses today to the Israelites. He knows they are on the verge of being the generation that experiences massive blessings at the hands of the Lord and the human nature that is about to set in. He encourages them to always look back. He encourages them to catch themselves in moments of pride and remember the moments of wandering through the desert.

He encourages them to intentionally cultivate a heart of gratitude.

It is advice that we could all use from time to time.

Thought to ponder

Where is my heart towards successes I have seen throughout my life? What are some ‘wandering in the desert’ moments that would be helpful for me to remember to keep my heart truly thankful to God during moments of abundant blessing?

Manna again?!

Daily Readings: Numbers 11-12, Psalm 40

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” 

Numbers 11:4-6

Whenever I read about the Israelites in the Old Testament I am always struck by what a group of whiners they are! Here is a group of people that were rescued from slavery and yet they complain about anything and everything. How quickly they seem to forget what Egypt was like! They conveniently forget backbreaking labor from sun up to sun down, being beaten and whipped, and having their male children killed in an attempt to suppress their growing population.

Instead they whine about having to eat manna!

Here is God miraculously providing food for them out of thin air, but they want more. How ungrateful can you get? Really. Get it together Israel!

Then I remember myself…

The reality is that the Israelites were wandering through the desert on a promise that they would eventually settle into the land God promised to them. This journey was not just days, weeks, months, or years; it was decades.

God has put so many amazing blessings in my life. All of my basic needs are met and so much more. And yet how quickly do I occasionally allow a spirit of stress, anxiety, frustration, and ungratefulness to set in on some days?

The Israelites should have been overcome with thankfulness every single day at their good fortune and had no right to grumble! However, when comparing situations, I have infinitely less reason.

Perspective.

I truly believe that one of the most powerful things we can do as marketplace missionaries is demonstrate a spirit of thankfulness. We have a society that relishes complaining. Without consciously realizing it, we have collectively fallen into the habit of embracing the feeling indignation, outrage, and dissatisfaction. When people see us, as Christians, break this mold and living lives of thankfulness and peace; it is an incredibly foreign and attractive thing to observe. It is hard to not be attracted to someone who always seems thankful for their blessings instead of stressing over needing more. You have to stop and ask, “Why? Where does this spirit of thankfulness come from?”

I want to walk through life with the mindset that David expresses in Psalm 40 today when he declares:

Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, Lord,
as you know.
I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.

When we make the conscious decision each and every day to count our blessings, remember the amazing work God has done in our lives, and are unafraid of telling others of the wonders God has done; a spirit of thankfulness is only natural.

Today I will embrace living out Psalm 40 instead of Numbers 11. Today I will choose a spirit of thankfulness!

Thought to ponder

When have I recently fallen into a whiny attitude that looks more like the Israelites and how can I refocus my mind on the incredible blessings God has put in my life?

 

His praise will always be on my lips!

Daily Readings – Leviticus 16-17, Psalm 34

I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
 

Psalm 34:1

This is the level of thankfulness and adoration I want to have for Jesus and the sacrifice that he made on my behalf. I want to walk through life with a childlike wonder at the fact that the God of the Universe loved me enough to take on human form and pay the ultimate price for my sins knowing that I could never earn it on my own. I want his praise to always be on my lips.

When my daughters are excited about something, it is a reoccurring theme throughout the entire day. Whether it is Grandma and Grandpa coming over, Christmas tomorrow, vacation coming soon, or a birthday party; I am going to be hearing about it constantly. Their excitement is going to be bubbling over.

I want to extol the Lord at all times. I want his praise to always be on my lips. What he has done for us is so much bigger, so much more spectacular, and so much more exciting that a birthday party. I want the posture of my heart to be one of giddy excitement.

When we are remembering what Christ has already accomplished on the cross and that our eternity is already guaranteed, it makes the normal everyday challenges we face in life shrink to their proper size.

However, maintaining this focus is always easier said than done. We may want our heart to maintain this posture throughout the day and yet the enemy is on the prowl as well. He cannot wait to swoop in and steal that childlike wonder away. If we have truly given our lives over to Christ, Satan knows that he will not be able to take that away or convince us that the eternal gift is not worth celebrating. His main weapon is not convincing us we are silly to be thankful. His weapon is distraction.

A thankful Christian is an active Christian. It is a Christian that Satan fears most. It is a Christian that naturally attracts others to learn more about Jesus because they live their faith out and you can visibly see that there is something different about them. When challenges in life come, they still have an inner peace and optimism that is contagious.

Satan may not be able to remove our thankfulness in regards to salvation, but he can certainly work hard to shift our focus.

He works hard each day to replace thankfulness with stress, pride, envy, fear, etc.

Psalm 34 goes on to tackle these challenges that arise in life:

“But what about when I am afraid?”

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

“But what if my needs are not met?” 

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.

Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

“But problems keep occurring…I struggle to not lose hope and give in to frustration and stress in this life.”

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit
.

It is easy at times to want to buy into the modern “Health and Wealth” gospel that preaches that God is going to make us all wealthy beyond belief if we just have enough faith. It is easy to think that material blessings, perfect health, etc. are the results that we should expect to see in our lives if we simply have faith the size of a mustard seed.

This is not what the Bible promises. We are not promised an easy life. In fact, we are frequently promised challenges along the way. We are promised the opportunity to take up our own cross so that we can walk with Jesus. We are promised occasional heartache. And ultimately we are promised that our God will never leave our side and will help us through everything that comes our way if we simply give over the need to have absolute control over our own lives.

Towards the end of Psalm 34 we read, “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”

Troubles will always be there in life. How is our thankfulness in the midst of them?

Today, I want to be able to say with full confidence, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”

Thought to ponder

Spend time this morning thinking through all of the blessings God has put in your life. Don’t stop until you have a smile on your face that shouts to the world. Then walk throughout the day with praise in your heart and praise on your lips!

Thank you for reading! Your comments and shares are always greatly appreciated. If this post speaks to you, please considering sharing it with others!

Tacking on verse 25

Daily Readings – Leviticus 1-4, Psalm 31, Romans 7

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

Romans 7:15 

I believe this simple verse is one that every Christian can relate to in a powerful way! There is an intense desire that exists within most Christians to be perfect. When we fall short, shame and self-condemnation comes flooding in.

Why can’t I kick my drug problem? Why do I still get so angry all the time with people I love? Why can’t I seem to avoid gossiping? Why am I so consumed with materialism? Why can’t I get my pride under control? When will I be free of my porn addiction? When will I stop over-eating? When will I be free of my jealousy? When will I stop caring so much about what other people think about me?

I think we all frequently feel like Paul when he cried out, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!”

Unfortunately, most Christians stop our train of thought there. I know I did for the vast majority of my life. I would be doing well for a while in regards to some sin issue in my life, eventually my flesh would wage war against my mind the way Paul described, I would give in to sin once again, and I would be left thinking, “What a wretched man am I!”

I would sincerely pray to God, “Lord, this is the last time! I am done with _______. I want to live for you! I won’t do it again!”

The cycle continued.

Good for a while, sin again, hate myself, confess…good for a while, sin again, hate myself, confess…

Why wasn’t I strong enough? Why couldn’t I get it all together? What was wrong with me?

For so long I wanted to win the war against sin. I wanted to wage that war that Paul described and emerge victorious. If I could somehow put the right systems in place, have the right accountability, form the right habits, read the right books, do all the right things; surely I could conquer this. Surely my spirit could conquer my flesh!

I don’t think I am alone in this approach.

The problem for most Christians is that we never get to verse 25. We never get to the part of this cycle where Paul rejoices and declares, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

We stop at, “What a wretched man am I!”

Shame is a powerful tool in the hands of the enemy. Satan wants nothing more than you attempting to do it alone. He would love an army of Christians who are looking for the right tactic to conquer the sin in their lives. He rejoices when he sees us broken and defeated, promising God, “This will be the last time…”

Satan trembles when God’s people instead choose to give thanks immediately in these moments. He wants no part of Christians who, immediately after falling short again, have a spirit of profound thankfulness overcome them. He is terrified of us collectively living out of our new identity in Christ and giving immediate thanks to our God who chose to deliver us while we were still broken.

Too many Christians allow sin issues in their lives to keep them on the sidelines. Too many tell themselves, “God could never use me. I need to get my stuff together first.” Too many of us do not walk through our day expecting blessings from God and asking the Holy Spirit to abide in us throughout the entire day because we do not yet feel worthy. Paul did the opposite.

Here was the greatest evangelist of all time and yet, today, we see him struggling with the same challenge we deal with. Why do I keep falling short?

The beautiful difference comes when we tack on verse 25 and choose thankfulness over shame. The beautiful difference comes when we embrace that fundamental truth that Paul understood. We are still human. We will always fall short from time to time. We can never be perfect in our own strength. The war will always rage on.

Today, when you feel those moments coming and you are tempted in some way or another, choose thankfulness. Smile quietly to yourself and acknowledge that the battle is already won. In these moments of temptation in the past, when I have chosen, “I am so sorry Lord…” it is usually followed by me trying to win the battle in my own strength and  eventually falling short. When, in these moments of temptation, I choose to smile and think of the sacrifice made on my behalf and whisper, “Thank you Jesus.” it is far easier to turn away and win that individual battle.

Jesus came in the first place because we are incapable of winning the war on our own. Today, instead of this being a source of shame, make it a source of overwhelming joy and thankfulness! Today, tack on verse 25.

Thought to ponder

What is the most prominent area of sin in my life where I have tried for too long to wage war in my own strength? Am I willing to give that over to God today and give thanks that he has already delivered me?

Contemplating the cross

Daily Readings: Exodus 23-24, Psalm 26, Matthew 27

…and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lemasabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

-Matthew 27:29-30, 45-50

Reading about the crucifixion of Christ once a year around Easter is not nearly enough.

I know that I would personally prefer to spend all of my time studying the message of Jesus, thinking about how it applies to my own life, and looking for ways to implement his wise words in ways to advance his Kingdom here on Earth.

Spending time contemplating the cross and all that it entailed, is not a pleasant use of time. If your knowledge of the crucifixion of Christ is limited to the account found in the Bible, I would encourage you to read this article on how crucifixion actually works. It is a brutal way to die.

How did crucifixion kill?

It is hard to fully appreciate the debt Jesus paid on our behalf unless we are willing to fully count the cost. He gave it all and he gave it all in one of the most painful, humiliating, and torturous ways possible. Knowing it was coming to an end, we once again see the fact that Jesus was 100% human along with being fully God on display. He couldn’t simply shrug off the pain. As he was about to give up his life he asked his father in Heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I can only imagine how God the father’s heart must have absolutely broken in this moment. And yet Jesus came down to Earth willingly. He knew full well what it would entail and still decided to give himself up to take our place.

We should stop and consider the cross more than once a year.

Jesus gave it all.

I find myself slipping into a, “Why did this have to happen to me? Why do I have to deal with this right now? Why can’t God’s call on my life be easier?” mentality from time to time. Then I remember the cross.

Spending time in meditation and prayer truly contemplating the cross and everything that came with it is so good for our soul. It is easy to want to have a self-help version of the Christian faith that only focuses on the positive. A faith that is always upbeat even when challenging us in how we currently live.

From time to time I want to break down in my living room at 6 AM and just ball my eyes out at the sacrifice that was made on my behalf. I want to really picture what it would have been like. I want to play the movie scene in my head, knowing it was done for me. And I want to weep tears of profound sorrow mixed with extreme, uncontrollable joy and appreciation.

Then I want to go live out of that joy and freedom. I want to go truly allow Jesus to walk with me for the entire day, not just during my Jesus time in the morning. I want all of my time to be Jesus time, whatever the day brings.

He deserves it.

Today, I will honor his sacrifice.

Thought to ponder

Picture the cross. Really picture it. Allow God to move in your heart in such a powerful way that your appreciation for the sacrifice overflows.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: