THE LAST WORD

We go camping fairly often and, when we do, we frequently take the dogs with us.  Years ago we had retired racing greyhounds as our canine daughters, and they LOVED to ride in the RV.  They were quiet and never barked, even when we were in the campground.  Perfect traveling companions.

Goldie and Sweetie in Pace Arrow
Goldie and Sweetie on sofa in RV

Now, as the hounds have passed on, and thinking that greyhounds were too big for us to handle, we have two small MinPin canine daughters, Cuddles and Snickers.  I frequently refer to them in posts as they provide never ending illustrations, usually of behavior that we should avoid!

Cuddles and Snickers - did you call us
Are you writing about us again?

We have been trying to train them not to bark when we are in a campground.  That is no small task given the fact that there are people (many of whom have their own dogs on leashes) walking past the RV, there are campers coming and going, there are people talking outside around the campfire, there are just noises upon noises all beckoning the girls to bark.

For Snickers, this no-bark concept is especially difficult.  We don’t know how she was treated before coming to us, but she is very defensive and the hackles on her back raise at the slightest sound, which she then barks and growls at for an extended time.  We have used various techniques and we are on the way to getting her to behave better, but we have found it curious, and humorous, that she has to have the “last word”.

She will start to bark and we say “No bark”, she will shut it down a notch and after several rounds of this between us she will put her head down, grumbling in doggie language, with one final subdued “woof”.  If we say “No bark” after that “woof”, she will whine and then even more softly go “woof”.  It is as if she has to have the last word.

All this background is to say that, if we are honest, we really are no different from Snickers.  Consider for a moment Moses when he was saw the burning bush. The Lord told him that he was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses raised numerous objections detailing why he could not do it. Exodus 3.  The final “woof” was Moses’ cry “please send someone else”! Exodus 4:13. Scripture says:

“Then the Lord’s anger was kindled against Moses.”

Exodus 4:14   

No more excuses, Moses.  Do what I direct you to do and I will be with you.  Moses obeyed, God had the last word.

We humans think we can have the last word, but in reality, it is God who always has the last word.

We are lost in sin, we cannot stop ourselves.  We may be able to do some nice things for others, but there is almost always a self-centered aspect to our activity.  We are the center of our universe, and we think that this entitles us to have the last word about anything that touches us or our own universe. 

This attitude ignores the cosmic reality that we are nothing, we are created beings who depend upon the Creator for our very life, for the air we breathe and for each beat of our heart.  Satan is ruling us because of our sinful nature, but God even has the last word in that regard.

When Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, it was not because of any sin that He had committed, rather it was because He was taking on the sin of all God’s children.  Jesus was paying that price that God’s justice demanded so that those who believed in Jesus would be saved from eternal death.  Just before He died, we read these words:

“… ‘It is finished’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

John 19:30

Jesus did not just mean that it was time for Him to die.  He meant that the job He came to earth to do was completed.  There was nothing more that needed to be done to save His people, to satisfy the debt that they owed because of their sin.  The way of salvation was completed, it was then and it still is finished.  Sin had met its Conqueror, and God had the last word.

God will again have the last word as we see in the final book of the Bible, Revelation. 

So, Beloved, rest in the Lord.  When He is leading you to do something, do it without giving in to the temptation to try to get the last word, the final “woof” if you will.  God always has the last word.  Don’t test His patience, just raise your arms to your Father and thank Him for loving, guiding and encouraging you through whatever is ahead of you.

Father, please forgive me when I have insisted on having the last word.  Enable me to see that this is disobedience of the highest order.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would touch my heart when I am tempted to disobey and run in my own arrogance away from what You desire for me.  Enable me to love You more, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Redeemer.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – HOLINESS

When you think of holiness, or of being holy, what image do you conjure up in your mind?  Someone who is a “goodie-two-shoes” or a person who speaks and acts as if he is “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good”?  Or do you not have any idea of what holiness is, so you don’t have any image to ponder?

I realize that holiness is not something that we think about on a daily, moment-by-moment basis but, if we want to know God, we should consider it because holiness is fundamental to God’s character. 

Holiness is synonymous with God’s total purity and separation from the rest of creation.  Consider Adam and Eve’s reaction after they ate the forbidden fruit and God came to visit with them in the Garden of Eden.

“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”

Genesis 3:8

Up until this time, Adam and Eve had enjoyed God’s presence with them, but when He came to them that day, they hid.  They instinctively knew that God was holy and they were not, they had disobeyed, they had sinned and God could not look upon sin.  They hid among the trees.

Consider when God called to Moses from the burning bush, after Moses walked closer to see it, God said:

“”Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Exodus 3:5-6

Moses surely was not afraid of a burning bush … it was a distance away from him and the flock, no threat.  He went over to investigate because it appeared that the bush was not being consumed by the fire. 

Why was the place Moses approached “holy” ground?  It was not because the sand was any different than the sand that was all around Moses in the wilderness.  It was not because the bush was different than all the others in the area.  It was because God was there, so Moses was in the presence of the Holy God.     

It was at that point that God spoke to him, and notice Moses’ response — he hid his face, he was afraid!  Why?  Because then Moses knew that he had encountered the holy God

“Holy” is the English translation of the Hebrew word “qodesh”, and it means “apartness”, “sacredness”, and “separateness.”  This set-apartness is evident in the Old Testament in texts such as Leviticus 20:7.

Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God.”

Here God is telling the people to consecrate themselves, in other words to sanctify, to dedicate, to separate themselves for a special purpose or use. 

In the Book of Acts we read:

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.””

Acts 13:2

Setting apart for a specific task from God is one way we acknowledge that God is holy and that even people who are doing His work should be separated from that which is worldly or ungodly.

God’s holiness can be understood as moral purity, although it is much more than that.  His holiness, His purity, is eternal and incorruptible, there is no time or likelihood that God will, at some point, no longer be holy or pure.  This total purity, total separation from anything that is sinful, explains why God gave detailed commands in the Old Testament about the way mankind could approach God. 

USED Canterbury cathedral view of the altar area
Looking toward the altar in Canterbury Cathedral,
Canterbury, England, if man can build such a glorious place, imagine what Isaiah saw!

One of my favorite passages in scripture is Isaiah 6. The prophet Isaiah had a vision of God and he described it as follows:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.””

Isaiah 6:1-8

Forgive me for quoting so much from the passage but I want you to get the full impact of Isaiah’s vision.  Just a look at the description of the LORD.  Listen to the angels, the host of heaven, calling “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” 

What is Isaiah’s reaction in this vision?  Essentially the same as Moses’ reaction to God’s presence.  Isaiah said “WOE IS ME!”  “I AM LOST!”  “I AM … UNCLEAN!”  In his vision, Isaiah was afraid because he instantly recognized that God is holy, and he was not.

Centuries after Isaiah wrote of his vision, John was on the island of Patmos and wrote the Book of Revelation, citing the same words as Isaiah heard.

“At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. … And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!””

Revelation 4:2,8

God’s holiness is one of the primary reasons why the advent of Christ is so amazing.  Because of Jesus’ coming to this earth and dying on the cross, men, who were once unable to come before God, now can kneel before the throne of God and worship Him forever and ever. 

Because of the cross and His resurrection, because of our faith in Him as Lord and Savior, we no longer must hide our face or be afraid of God.  We now can join the heavenly chorus and shout “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!”  We can face God clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and, rather than hiding our face, we can come to the throne of God and call Him “Abba, Father.” Praise His Holy Name!

Listen now to the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” s on the album  “Hymns for all the Saints: Adoration, Praise, Comfort” from Concordia Publishing House.

Father, I pray that I would never lose sight of the wonder and glory of Your holiness.  I praise Your name that Jesus Christ died so that His righteousness would cloth my sinfulness, so that I could join with the heavenly chorus and praise Your Holy Name.

HOW CAN I BE HOLY?

We often watch DVD classes from The Great Courses to learn and experience lands and peoples that we would likely not see in person.  In the class “Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul”, Professor John R. Hale talked about, and had pictures of, Byzantine architecture found at Meteroa.  (By the way, I would highly recommend these courses for anyone who wants an armchair education.  They are excellent and well researched and presented and the topics are myriad.   thegreatcourses.com.  But I digress!) 

Meteora was a cluster of monasteries built in Greece in the 14th century.  The name “Meteroa” means “suspended in the air” or “in the heavens above”.  One look and you realize that these were aptly named.   

meteora-monastery-15
Monastery in Meteora, Greece

Originally there were 24 monasteries in this group, but now there are only four that house religious communities and they are important sites for the Eastern Orthodox church.  The monasteries were built on natural sandstone rock pillars that were virtually inaccessible so that they functioned as a place of sanctuary from the violent controversies on the land below. 

The pinnacles rise over 400 meters above the Peneas valley.   They are incredible examples of architecture that transformed rugged rock spires into places of calm serenity and retreat.  Access was deliberately difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets on ropes that would be used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith, both in the people doing the hauling and in the ropes transporting visitors and goods up the sides of these pinnacles. 

[Some of the information and the picture above was obtained from  http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/09/5-most-inaccessible-monasteries-in-world.html a website that includes more information than that which is presented here.]

Do you have to be ensconced in a monastery on top of a pinnacle in order to be holy?   And, what is holiness anyway?

According to Strong’s Thesaurus/Lexicon, the Hebrew word translated as “holy” or “holiness” means “apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness … set-apartness.” 

We are told that we are to be holy.   He wants us to be set apart for Him, rather than being one with the world and its culture.

For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Leviticus 11:45

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Exodus 3:5.  Moses had stepped aside to see the burning bush and God instructed him to take off his sandals because God’s presence rendered the very ground “holy”. 

God is not our “Buddy in the Sky”.   Notice that even though God and Moses had a very close relationship, there was a great difference between them.  He is holy and this holiness is one of the attributes of God, it is intrinsic in His being and it cannot be violated.  Because He is holy, we cannot come before Him — our sin has dirtied us up from the inside out and God cannot countenance any disobedience to His law, i.e., sin. 

The difference between us and God is monumental.  God omniscient and omnipotent.  In contrast, we are temporal and totally dependent on God for life itself.  God is holy, and we are not.

Isaiah’s vision of God is descriptive of this difference:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Up to this point, the vision of Isaiah is very similar to the vision that the Apostle John had as recounted in Revelation 4:2-8.  Isaiah, however, gives us his response to what he saw:

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.   And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6:1-7.

Isaiah’s response to seeing God on His throne in heaven was an immediate recognition that he was lost, sinful, and unworthy to stand before the King, the LORD of Hosts.  In fact, God did not speak to him or acknowledge his presence until after the angel had touched his lips with the coal from the altar saying that he had received atonement for his sin.  After this, God spoke.

He is a holy God and we must not forget that fact.  We have absolutely no standing before God in and of ourselves because of our sinful disobedience to His commands.

The struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness.  He is just and we are unjust.  This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.  The unjust person does not desire the company of a just judge.  We become fugitives, fleeing from the presence of One whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us.  We are at war with Him unless and until we are justified.  Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God.

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 147

Becoming holy has nothing to do with your physical location.  Rather, it has everything to do with your relationship with Jesus Christ, the One who died so that you could be justified, and then be “comfortable in the presence of a holy God”.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9 

The faith that saves is faith in Jesus Christ, the One who died as an atoning sacrifice, taking your sin on Himself, so that if you believe in Him, you will be clothed in His righteousness.  In that way, God sees Christ in you and adopts us as His children. 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6.

The answer to “How can I be holy?” is “You can’t!”, at least not on your own.  None of us has anything that we can give to the holy God … we are sinful creatures with no redeeming merit no matter how good we seem to other people.  Yet we are called to be holy, and we can be so in and through Jesus Christ.

“Be holy as I am holy.”   We don’t need to be on top of a pillar to be holy.  Our holiness is not dependent on anything that we can do or anywhere that we must go.   Praise be to God the Father and to His Son for giving us a way to stand before God and call Him Father.  We can be holy – if we are washed in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. 

Listen to the choir sing “Clothed in Righteousness” from the album Glory to the Holy One, lyrics written by R. C. Sproul:

Here are the lyrics for your review while you listen:

Fallen race in Eden fair Exposed and full of shame Fled we naked from Thy sight Far from Thy holy Name

Refrain

Clothe us in Your righteousness Hide filthy rags of sin Dress us in Your perfect garb Both outside and within

Sent from the garden in the east Outside of Eden’s gate Banished there from Thy pure light Were Adam and his mate

Scarlet souls are now like snow By Thy atoning grace Crimson hearts become like wool For Adam’s fallen race

Refrain

No work of ours is good enough For evil to atone Your merit, Lord, is all we have It saves, and it alone

Refrain

Father, I pray that these words would be encouragement to believers and that they would be used by the Holy Spirit to convict the nonbeliever of the need for repentance and faith in the Savior.  Thank you Father for making a way for us to come before you in faith.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, No. 21,GENTLENESS – HUMILITY SHOWN IN MEEKNESS

 

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 21

 GENTLENESS – HUMILITY SHOWN IN MEEKNESS

PART ONE

Gentleness, also known as humility, is a subject about which the world has a good bit to say but most of it is not from the Christian’s world view.

 

Consider the song “It’s hard to be humble” … I will quote some cleaned up lyrics for you if you don’t know this song from the late 70s.

Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a heck of a man.
Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble
but I’m doing the best that I can.

C. S. Lewis says that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. And someone aptly said that “Humility is a strange thing – the moment you think you’ve got it, you lose it.”

 

What does Scripture say?

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:22-23.

 

In Scripture, the Greek word for gentleness (humility) is Prautas.  It is the quality of “self-forgetfulness”.  Rather than, “Me first,” humility allows us to say, “No, you first, my friend.”  This is the quality that lets us go more than halfway to meet the needs and demands of others.

 

Its opposite is aggressiveness, arrogance, and boastfulness and the world’s counterfeit is inferiority; being self-absorbed and self-consciousness.

 

When we think of gentleness or humility, we sometimes think of meekness which sounds like weakness … picturing someone who is rather milque-toast in nature.  However, that is not at all the scriptural view of either meekness or humility.

 

Meekness is the strength to refrain from taking part in a fight that you know you could win, or from making a point about which there could be no question, in order to prevent the damage that otherwise would be done.

 

Consider Moses the “in charge” leader bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. In Numbers 12, God stood by him when Aaron and Miriam grumbled about his marriage to a Cushite woman, God calling them aside and saying:

 

“Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.   Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”  (NIV)

 

After this, the Lord struck Miriam with leprosy and Aaron pleaded with Moses to seek God for healing for their sister.  Moses didn’t respond that Aaron and Miriam deserved what they got and he did not have an “I’m more important than you” attitude.  Instead, he pleaded with God on Miriam’s behalf and God healed her after 7 days.

 

Clearly Moses had access to the ear of the Lord.  He was powerful and knew that God stood by him.  But the verse that is most telling about Moses comes before this story … it is Numbers 12:3 which says:

 

“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  (NIV)

 

Moses was humble –he was meek – he was gentle – and God stood up for him when he was attacked by his siblings.   See Psalm 147:5-6:

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. (NIV)

 

Remember that the whole point of the Fruit of the Spirit is to conform us to the image of Jesus.  Therefore, we need to consider how Jesus responded to situations.

 

In Matthew 11:20 we read that Jesus was “humble in heart” (Matt 11:29).   In other words, Jesus was conscientiously following the Father’s plan for his earthly life rather than his own earthly desires.  This is consistent with his prayer in the Garden found in Luke 22:42:

 

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

 

Humility as a virtue is a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments for a number of reasons.

 

First, with respect to our vertical relationship between God and man, humility goes hand in hand with obedience.  The one who is humble will follow God’s direction and will honor the plan that God has for his life.

 

Second, with respect to our horizontal relationship with our fellow creatures in this world, a demeanor of humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons. Humility allows us to see the dignity and worth of all God’s people.

It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 16:19

How does this apply to my daily life?

Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self-worth.  Theologian J. I. Packer says:

“Humility in Scripture means, not pretending to be worthless and refusing positions of responsibility, but knowing and keeping the place God has appointed for one. Being humble is a matter of holding on to God’s arrangement, whether it means the high exposure of leadership or the obscurity of subservience.”

 

In other words, humility affirms the inherent worth of all persons. We should exhibit a humble attitude whether we are the president or the janitor.  Our title or position does not matter – humility is expected if we are to grow in Christ Jesus.

 

The humble person has proper deference toward both God and others.   Our humility rests on a sense of our own comparative lack of value and honor in relation to God and to others.  Paul implies this rule when he says in Romans 12:3 that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think.

 

The humble woman will refuse to glory in any good that she has or does but rather will give all glory to God.

 

“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and thy truth’s sake”

Psalm 115:1

 

This week, look for times when you can exhibit a gentle, humble spirit towards others.  Imitate Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let this fruit grow in your heart, mind, soul and life!

 

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.  

 

 

WHEN GOING IN CIRCLES IS ACTUALLY GOING STRAIGHT!

When we were in England, one of the fascinating aspects of English life was driving. First, you drive on the wrong side of the street – or rather, you drive on the left-side lane of the street with the oncoming cars in the right-side lane. Not necessarily a problem once you get going, but trying to walk across the street can be deadly when you look to the left instead of to the right first.

 

Second, the traffic circles or “roundabouts”.   They are in use throughout the area and enable traffic to move smoothly, as long as you know how to read them. If you don’t understand it, however, you can go in circles for a good little while until the traffic thins and you can get to the lane you need to be in to exit the circular pattern of the roundabout.

 

Road signs in England
Roundabout road sign in England that is fairly easy to understand.

 

This one is fairly straight forward in directions … you are driving along and you will come to this circle to the left from which you can exit onto one of three roads, or you can go back in the other direction on the same road on which you are currently traveling.

 

There is one roundabout, however, that we heard of before we saw it. It is called the “Magic Roundabout”.

 

We came up to it at a stop light, and saw it up ahead. Here is the sign as we approached the roundabout.

Road signs in England another view magis roundabout
First glimpse of the sign for The Magic Roundabout in England.

 

Then we got closer to it and when my husband looked closely at the sign he said “Boy, is that a nightmare!”

 

Road signs from England the magic roundabout
The road sign shortly before entering The Magic Roundabout.

 

You truly do feel like you are going in circles, and the reality is that you are going in circles, at least for a time!   Going in circles does not get us very far very fast because we know that going straight is the shortest distance between two points. But in God’s perspective, going in circles may be the best route and the speediest way to do something may not be His better way.

 

In short, there are times in our lives when we are not to go straight. Instead, we have to negotiate the traffic circles as directed by the Holy Spirit so that we can be prepared to undertake the task that God has assigned for us. This diversion seems out of place, as if we are sidelined when we want to be in the thick of the fray. But, the circular route will teach things that we would miss if we took the direct route.

 

Think of Moses – he figuratively wandered in circles before he knew what God wanted him to do. He was raised in Pharaoh’s court, but he was not Egyptian. He killed an Egyptian and ran for his life to the desert in Midian. (Moses’ years 1 – 40) He took a job tending sheep for Jethro, the priest of Midian, and married Zipporah, Jethro’s daughter. (Moses’ years 41-80) Then he saw the burning bush and God told him what he was going to do for the next 40 years of his life!

Road signs in England with two roundabouts
Road sign in England showing connected Roundabouts.

 

Think about Joseph, one who had his circular route picked out for him, seemingly, by his brothers when they dropped him into the pit before selling him into slavery. Time in an Egyptian prison due to the fabrication of Potiphar’s wife, a fellow prisoner who forgot all about him once he was released, and lengthy time as second only to Pharaoh while he prepared the country for the famine that was going to afflict the entire region all made it seem that Joseph had morphed into the Egyptian culture pretty well.

 

And then it happened.   The famine came and suddenly his family stood before him asking for food. Joseph then understood his circular route and saw it as though it had become straight as an arrow.   In fact, he connected the dots for them when he said:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Genesis 50:20 [ESV]

 

I am convinced that no experience presented to us by God is a wasted experience. The route that seemed circular in retrospect was not unintended by God but was intended to teach you something that would be beneficial for your witness, if you allow it to be so.

  • That college class that you have never used … just wait. It will be important at some point in your life in your ministry for your Lord.
  • The illness that overtook you … you can testify to the healing that God provided in support of someone struggling with the same thing.
  • That untimely death that devastated your family … can be used by God to enable you to comfort someone who is going through the same experience and as evidence that healing does come even through extreme pain.

 

So, while the circular route may not be fun, and it may introduce events that are outside your plans for your life, trust God.   God may have a task ahead of you for which you would be ill-prepared if you had not learned the lessons taught during your circular travels.

 

Our God is Sovereign. His plan controls and will not be thwarted by anyone. His children are in His hands and He will guide them, even to the point of carrying His chilren home to be with Him in heaven. Trust Him – you can do so without concern because He is trustworthy, He is God, the great I AM.

 

Father, thank You for loving us and calling us to be your children. Thank You for having our lives in your control even when it seems that we are going in circles. Thank You for teaching us the lessons while we are in the circles that we cannot learn but for the diversion from the seemingly straight path. And, thank You for your Son whose life, death and resurrection enables us to be able to enter your presence so that we can even say Thank You!

BUT IT’S TOO BIG!

Do you ever have the feeling that some task or calling is too big for you? It just doesn’t fit … it’s just too big! (This chair was at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum during our visit in 2011 — incredible craftsmanship!)

Huge Rocking Chair at Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum
Huge Rocking Chair at Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum

I can’t climb it, I can’t see my way around it … it’s just too big!

I can’t cross it – it is too big! [Picture of river and flora in Cumberland County, Tennessee]

Rocks and flora in Cumberland County, Tennessee
Rocks and flora in Cumberland County, Tennessee

It asks for skills that I don’t have; I don’t know how to do this task; I am not equipped to handle it. If it were smaller, maybe then I could do it, but this is … well it is just too big!  (Picture below was taken in Yosemite National Park)

View from mountains in Yosemite National Park
View from mountains in Yosemite National Park

Have you ever said: “Lord, you must be thinking of someone else! You can’t possibly be asking me to do this! I’m not smart enough, not strong enough, not ready for such a challenge! I love you, Lord, and I want to serve You, but I can’t do what You are asking! It’s too big for me!”

Moses said the same thing when God spoke to him out of the burning bush, recorded for us in the Bible at Exodus Chapter 3.   [I confess that the pictures that follow are not of the wilderness facing Moses when this conversation occurred. They are taken in The Badlands National Park in South Dakota; but when I think of a wilderness, this is what I envision.]

Badlands towering ahead.
Badlands towering ahead.

God tells Moses what He wants him to do, and Moses’ response might be in different words but the meaning is all too familiar to us because we say the modern equivalent when God directs us to do something that is out of our comfort zone:

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11

God reiterates the fact that He will be with Moses all along the way.

Badlands stretch forever
Badlands stretch forever

The conversation continues and Moses says:

“But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you. ‘” Exodus 4:1

God shows His power to Moses to confirm that this was, indeed, what Moses was to do and that He was who He said. Notwithstanding God’s patience in this conversation, Moses responds with yet another objection:

“But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’” Exodus 4:10.

The Lord’s response is that He is fully aware of Moses’s abilities, skills and nature – and He wanted Moses to do this work notwithstanding those shortcomings.

 “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’” Exodus 4:11-12.

Badlands are formidable.
Badlands are formidable.

Moses’s options seem to have evaporated – left with nothing else to argue, he gave his final plea in opposition to God’s demand:

“But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.’ …” Exodus 4:13.

We really aren’t any different than Moses, are we? When an assignment appears insurmountable, we balk, make excuses, plead that the job be given to another, and then pout.

It is as if we were standing before God and stomping our spiritual feet, just like toddlers, while we are saying “I don’t want to!”

Beloved, God is the same today as He was thousands of years ago when He directed Moses to bring His people out of Egypt. When he assigns a job for you to do, even if it is bigger than anything you had ever done, He will prepare you and strengthen you so that the assignment will be done according to His plan.

Consider Isaiah’s vision in Isaiah Chapter 6. When Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon His throne, Isaiah was confronted with the power, majesty and holiness of God and with that came an immediate recognition of how sinful he was:

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:5

God did not leave him in that condition, however – a seraphim touched his lips with a burning coal from the altar and said that his guilt was taken away and his sin atoned for. Isaiah 6:7   Then, God said:

“Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”

Now that he had been cleansed and his sin removed, Isaiah was able to respond to God’s inquiry with no objections, no excuses, no stalling, no stomping his feet – he simply said:

“Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8.

When we are tasked with something outside our comfort zone or beyond what we think our abilities are, we must trust God to give us the words, to give us the physical strength, and to give us the wisdom necessary to accomplish His purposes in the work at hand. In short, we must trust that the Holy Spirit will work through us to accomplish things of eternal consequence which we, in our own strength, could not comprehend.

So, is there something too big for you to handle staring you in the face? Has God directed that you undertake some task and you are balking at the assignment? Do you want to pull the spiritual covers over your head and pretend God didn’t really ask you to do that thing?

Trust Him. Ask for forgiveness for your stubborn pride, for your refusal to believe that He is able to work through you in this circumstance, for your spirit of laziness in refusing to undertake the project … you can add whatever else is appropriate. Then, be a 21st century Isaiah and respond “Here I am. Send me.”

The job is not “too big” – in fact, it is “just right” when God is in it with you.

Father, May we be modern day Isaiahs! May we hear your call and respond “Here I am Lord. Send me.” May You bless us as we travel our spiritual path in Your Strength, Father, and may we, through the power of Your Holy Spirit, as given to us through Your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, be effective in serving as You direct and enable.