What’s Ahead?

Here in Kansas over the past ten days we have had some extreme winter weather, as have many of you around the nation.  We knew it was coming thanks to modern weather forecasting.  We were able to prepare as best we could for sub-zero temperatures and even worse wind chills and snow.  What a blessing it is to be able to look ahead and to be ready when the storm hits! 

Some of you know that I have been reading and studying through the book of Numbers.  This book isn’t exactly known for super passages full of encouragement, but I have discovered, with the help of Raymond Brown’s book The Message of Numbers, that there are indeed many blessings and promises in this often-neglected book.

I finished Numbers yesterday.  The last verse was amazing, and I wanted to share it with you today.

“These are the commandments and the ordinances which the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel through Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”  (Numbers 36:13)

I believe I know what you’re thinking.  Nothing in that verse reaches out and grabs you, does it? 

But don’t be so quick to assume that this is just another dry verse from a rather dry book.

All throughout the book of Numbers, God had given His people commands to obey in order to survive the trip through the desert – but more importantly, in order to live victorious lives.  Their lives would only be successful if they obeyed God.  It was a lesson they learned over and over as they left Egypt and entered the desert. 

Obedience brought victory and blessing.

Disobedience brought defeat and curses.

Now at the end of this book, after taking care of matters concerning land distribution and inheritances, there stood the nation of Israel on the east side of Canaan. 

They stood in the plains of Moab, and what was ahead?

God had confirmed his commandments “…by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”

God had given them so many victories over their desert wanderings…so many lessons learned…so many providences. 

Then He confirmed all His final commands to His people whom he loved when there, just ahead, were two HUGE difficulties. 

The Jordan River, in flood stage and impassable.

Jericho, a well-fortified city that far outweighed any hope of defeat by a nation that had no real army.

God had given Israel the land upon which they now stood, but up ahead were seemingly impossible situations.

What was the key to victory? 

Obedience.  God’s presence was with them and His power was theirs if they but simply obeyed Him. 

The Jordan River parted.  Jericho fell.  The stories are so fascinating in the book of Joshua.  But the key, always, was for Israel to obey God.

“How could anybody possibly convey this huge contingent of nomadic people across that fast-flowing river, and how could an untrained army capture a well-fortified city like Jericho?  The secret was in total obedience.  Neither barrier was to be overcome by intellectual skills, geographical proficiency, crowd manipulation, army intelligence or military strategy.  Two doctrinal factors prompted their obedience:  God’s presence and God’s power.”  (Raymond Brown)

What is ahead of you today? 

Have you been walking in life, doing the best you can to obey God and live right?

But are you now looking ahead to a forecast that is anything but encouraging?

What huge thing in your life is looming ahead, causing you to lose sleep and to feel fear? 

Whether our issues are national in scope, or personal in nature, each of us has plenty to keep us anxiously glancing at what is ahead on our horizons.

Please know that God’s presence and His power are fully yours if you know Him, and if you are obeying Him step by step, day by day.

God has not brought you to an impassable river to watch you drown.

And He has not brought you to a strongly walled city to watch you die.

You may be standing near…or in…some very tough situations.  But like Israel as they stared at Jordan and Jericho, listen to what God says to you:

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9) 

Look in God’s eyes as you listen to Him, not over His shoulder at your Jordan and Jericho that are looming large. 

Be strong in God’s strength and rest in His presence. 

Let God do the fighting and trust Him for the finish!   

Is God Gone?

The heaviness in my soul these past few weeks has been palpable.  As a Christian it’s been very difficult to see Biblical principles pushed aside in our country while rank sin is legislated with the stroke of a powerful pen.  Then if we don’t jump on board with this agenda, we are haters and racists and out of touch.  The changes just in two weeks are almost too much to comprehend. 

As I continue reading through the book of Numbers, I came to chapter 20.  Moses, Aaron, and Eleazar climbed Mount Hor while the children of Israel, full of foreboding, waited down below.  On the mountain, Aaron’s priestly garments were removed and given to his son, Eleazar.  Then Aaron died there on the mountain. 

The people’s priest was gone.  Yet God had provided His man, Eleazar, to continue His work.  God’s pledge to stay with His people and to accomplish His plan was being perpetuated. 

God did not forget His promise.  His sovereign purpose for His people would be carried out, even though Aaron had now died.

This simple phrase written by Raymond Brown jumped off the page to me in the early morning as I read this story in Numbers: 

“ONLY AARON HAD LEFT THEM, NOT GOD.”

What an amazingly simple yet profound comfort this truth has been to me during these sad and hard days.  We feel bereft and abandoned, scared of what the future holds for us as believers in this culture, and angry at the sin that we see being promoted by our leaders. 

There were many true followers of Christ in the past administration.  Open Bibles were commonly seen on their desks.  Prayer, hymn singing, and Bible studies were routine in the White House.  Now that is all gone, and our spirits are stirred within us at the open endorsement of sin that we are witnessing every day…some of which we will be paying for with our tax dollars.  Open sin instead of open Bibles.

BUT…God is NOT gone.  God is still accomplishing His perfect plan.  He is with His people, each of us, as we wake up each day and seek to live godly lives in a most ungodly culture. 

Let’s take each day and each moment with that thought in our minds and hearts.  God is not gone!  He is here with His people just like always, in our homes and our work and with His Church. 

God is not gone!  He is with us in our disappointments and our pain, our sickness and our fear, our good news and our bad news.

God continues His work, no matter our circumstances. 

So let’s be encouraged to be about His work…to be strong and courageous…to be voices of love and conviction…to share the gospel…and to be bright lights in this dark world.

Giants, Grasshoppers, and Grapes

I sat in stunned disbelief last Friday evening as the latest news was being broadcast.  As if the whole week wasn’t bad enough, now there were reports of big tech wrapping their tentacles around people whom they deemed unworthy of using their services.  Deleting accounts…removing followers…attempting to destroy a new social network…silencing thousands who didn’t tow the line that they have declared to be the only sanctioned “truth.”

Clearly, the stage is being set for followers of Christ to be “lawfully” declared as enemies of society and enemies of the government. 

Scary times, for sure.  Full of uncertainty and fear.  Pandora’s box seems to have been opened and evil is spewing out unchecked.

And that evil is being celebrated, legislated, and expected to be accepted by all…or else.

Else what?

Therein lies the question.

We’re not sure of the answer, but current events don’t bode well for conservatives and Christians.

I read something last week, though…an old story that gives me and every Christ follower great comfort and hope.

That story is in the Bible book of Numbers, which I am studying.  The children of Israel had been delivered from Egypt by God.  They had seen His protection in their deliverance and the working of so many amazing miracles.  Now He affirmed to them His promise to give them the land He had marked for them.  God told Moses to select 12 men to spy out the land and come back with a report to the people.

The 12 spies did just that.  They returned to the camp carrying a huge cluster of grapes along with other fruit, evidence of God’s promises to be true.  The land WAS flowing with milk and honey.  The land was very fruitful.  What God said was true!

BUT…there was a problem.  There were fortified cities, for one thing.  And giants!  Huge strong men who terrified the spies.

Ten of the spies focused on the giants. 

“We became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight!” they declared.

But Caleb and Joshua chose to focus on God and on His promises, many of which had already been fulfilled. 

“We should by all means go up and take possession of the land,” they told the people, “for we shall surely overcome it.”

The people listened to the ten spies, though, as they fixated on the giants.  Caleb and Joshua urged them to listen to God…to obey…to not fear…to not rebel against God.

But fear overruled the day and therefore God caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years instead of taking the land right then that He had promised to give them.

I think Christians today are feeling a bit like grasshoppers as we look around us at those who hate our beliefs and hate our God.

There sure are lots of giants today. 

Tech giants…political giants…media giants – to name a few.

How far will they go in this new administration to enforce their new world system? 

What will that mean for those of us who can’t Biblically agree with that system?

We’re not sure yet, but it’s not looking very rosy.

Everyone I talk to is concerned and burdened and feeling great heaviness after the events of this past week…and even longer, actually.

So, we have a choice to make.  Are we going to look at the giants or at the grapes?

Are we going to feel like grasshoppers? 

Or are we going to remember and claim the fact that all of us who know Christ have all of God’s promises…and God Himself?

            “…God has given us His very great and precious promises…”  (II Peter 1:4)

God is here to help us in our uncertain future.  He hasn’t brought us here just to strand us all alone.  The God of our past is the God of our present, and the God of our unseen future.

“The God Who is meeting our present needs will not deny us His future provision.”  (Raymond Brown)

We have only to look in our own lives to see the fruit of God’s presence with us.  His peace and joy in our hearts is ours as we focus on Him and not on the giants of this crazy, sinful world.

No matter what may be ahead for us, God has promised to be with us every step of the way.  He will give us grace and strength for whatever is in our future.

So even if we feel like little grasshoppers, let us remember that we serve a giant of a God!