7. Wilderness Manual–Contention and Holiness (20)

His chisel is sharp, and painfully accurate. He will test and prod and prove the heart, and there is great confidence to be gained in the Lord by his thorough preparation. No confidence in self has any room. Our frailty as human beings is inescapably exposed in times of loss. Right between two losses Moses has his moment where his heart came up short.

Principle: The people of God are God’s mission, and they have continuously pushed against him. Here Moses gives into his own ungodly anger and disobeys God by yelling at God’s people and not glorifying God by obeying Him. The Holiness of God requires completely Him shining through. And in our anger, and our wretchedness we will smear God’s good name through our rash and self-effecting actions. The self responds to situations according to its own perspective. This was Moses’ folly when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. The self is ever present as our greatest enemy that must be defeated daily, and the time in the wilderness will make this abundantly clear in the loss, the tragedy, the difficulty, and the weakness of this stage. Self-effecting– anything done that is based in self, of self, for self– is the very useless thing about a person that God is determined to keep chiseling away until he can be used. If the self is allowed to remain in power, we run the very painful risk of coming out of the wilderness to a blessing we can see from a distance, but not partake.

Application: Keep fighting the battle of putting yourself to death daily, so that you do not step out of the blessing and power of the One who is using you and preparing you for more. This is done through actively choosing God’s will over your own. One way to do this, is by writing out your will for the day, and then laying it down before God in prayer saying, “not my will, but Your will be done.” If you blow it, repent and return to God, and see what He will do with you, and let Him be the one to determine the consequences for your action. Beware self-inflicting punishment on yourself for when you blow it. God is holy, He is the best judge for how to make a person useful for His purposes. And every wrong thing that is done will still be woven into His plan. When contention arises, keep the self in check, through prayer and humility. No matter what else may be happening right in front of our eyes, the work of God in holiness is what is at stake, and that is what really matters in every situation. Will you maintain your integrity to God’s holiness despite all the contentions that rise around you?

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4. Wilderness Manual–Fear of Failure (13-14)

Fear of failure is the a deadly two edged sword to the spirit of a man or woman. On forward edge, a person retracts from putting forth his full strength, for fear that he will be utterly destroyed. On the backward edge, the person refuses to accept his failures, for fear that he will miss out forever on what their fear on the forward edge has cost them. Both are edges of the same sword held in the grip of a person who is desperately trying to maintain his own pride in himself. Once, I did sloppily on a musical composition project for school which I believed God gave me to do, because I was afraid I would utterly fail. It utterly failed. My reaction was, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” and proceeded to fail at getting it ready again until I had to give it up. It remains to this day one of my most shameful moments as a composer, and as a follower of Christ, and it nearly ended my desire to write music ever again.

Principle: In Numbers 13-14 Israel went right up to the promised land, and sent Twelve spies to search it out. Ten said, “It’s beautiful, but we can’t do it.” Two said, “It’s beautiful, and we can do it!” The people believed the Ten, and the four who remained (Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb) fell on their faces and pleaded with the people, but the people got ready to stone them with stones. Once more God shows up, and he is so angry with his people, he tells Moses that He will restart with Moses, but Moses intercedes, and God relents from what He is about to do. He says this to Moses in Numbers 14:21-25~

So the Lord said, “I have pardoned them according to your word; but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord. Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it . . . turn tomorrow and set out to the wilderness by the way of the Red Sea.”

It took a different spirit to be allowed to enter fully into the promised land. Because God is seeking for His glory to fill the earth, He cannot allow those who preserve their pride by fear to enter into the blessing of His kingdom. This is why the Lord requires that we follow Him fully, and this is another thing the wilderness is designed to teach us: to follow the Lord fully.

The people of Israel are devastated, and they try to go up and take their possession anyway, but Moses tells them not to because God is not with them. They go anyway and many of them are slaughtered.

Application: You will fail. Let it humble you. Do not preserve your own dignity or pride or self-sufficiency. Do not take power into your hand to do what you need to succeed to do. Instead, Remember what Zerubbabel needed to learn in Zechariah 4:6, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord.” Your failures will be plentiful and consequent. Let them strip away your pride, and look to God for how He wishes to accomplish His Victory through you for His kingdom. Only then can you follow Him fully by His Spirit’s power. I am fairly confident that His humbling of you in the wilderness is the only way you can learn this because the Wilderness will prove your sin and utter powerlessness, and God’s unfathomable power.

3. Wilderness Manual–The Siblings (12)

The Family may be God’s first institution, but since the fall it is far from perfect. My older sisters and I had a pretty good relationship, managed well by my Mom and Dad, but growing up I still felt looked down upon or pushed to the side, or left out. One of my favorite lines from a TV show called “Home Improvement” is where Jill, a psychology student, asks her husband, who claims to be an expert in child behavior, “Okay, honey, what causes sibling rivalry?” Tim, her husband confidently answers, “Having more than one kid!”

Principle: The work of God in the wilderness will go deep into all of the things that have shaped you into who you are: Family being one of the foremost. In Numbers 12, Moses’ two older siblings Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses because of the woman he married. They make a statement which seems totally rational in the realm of Sibling Rivalry, “Has God spoken through Moses only? Has he not spoken through us as well?” The Logic of sibling equality does not work in this stage. Family will not be able to understand what is going on, nor provide clarity as to what God is up to. I believe this is a part of God’s proving realities that run deeper than the blood ties of family and the family’s communal and relational role in shaping a person.

God heard the dispute and called them outside the tent of meeting. Moses had said nothing in response, (according to the writer because he was the most humble person there ever was.) God explained to Miriam and Aaron that Moses was not just their brother, he was also God’s servant. Therefore they should have thought twice before speaking against him. This logic reorients the whole family relationship to what God is doing in each person’s life, instead of what the family thinks is best in relation to itself.

Application: Don’t lean on your family for everything you need in this wilderness stage, and take their advice with a grain of salt. In Deuteronomy, Moses will show that the lessons God is teaching you cannot be learned from the family unit. Instead, be humble: regard each person as those whom God must lead individually, and look to God for His vindication in His timing. Beware the sibling rivalry need to be as special as, or more than other family members. It is a self-trap from which God would love to extricate you.

2. Wilderness Manual–The Elders (11)

How many of us have cried to God, “Just kill me now.” I say us because you are not alone in this. For me it was when my heart was broken, and a friend told me that he had a premonition I was going to die. Despairing of life is not uncommon in this stage. If that’s you, hang in there. Help is on the way, and you’ve still got a long way to go through this wilderness.

Principle: Moses heard the people complaining, and he cried out to God “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” ~Numbers 11:14-15

God answered him. He gave him 70 elders to help him. For a while I thought that the wilderness was meant to be largely gone through alone, but I now see that it can be as large or as small a group as God wishes it to be. Moses cried out for someone to go through the wilderness helping him, and so God did. He gave him 70 others to support him. In the wilderness, he learned He needed God’s help. It was too much for him. He couldn’t quit. He was doing God’s will, and it was too much for him. So, God provided a group of people to help him where he was lacking. Community at its finest. It starts though with a cry for help to God.

Application: Be honest with God, and yourself. God has designed you to be a part of a group, not just on your own. God’s provision may come in the form of people to share the wilderness journey with you. This is part of His teaching you humility, and your design as a part of a group of other people working together. Share the load with them. This is well-pleasing in God’s sight.

“To a Mature Man” Stage 1–Birth

Jesus

Okay. Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God. The account of His birth ties him to His heritage. Matthew traces it back to Abraham, the Faithful Father of the Promise, the Father of the nation of Israel. Matthew 1, the genealogy which in brief relays the story of the Old Testament. In Jesus’ line there is a lot of mixed-baggage. Here are a few examples:

  • Abraham–Faith, but a cowardly liar
  • Jacob– a God-grappling deceiver
  • Judah with Tamar– self-sacrificing, but ignoble
  • Rahab–God-fearing prostitute
  • David–After-God’s-heart wife-stealer
  • Solomon– Wise man with too many ladies
  • Rehoboam– Just a jerk
  • Jeroboam– Weakling
  • Hezekiah–God fearing naive king
  • Manasseh–baby-killer
  • Josiah– Rediscovered God, but too late for everyone else.

And more. Those are the main ones that stick out to me. Mary’s genealogy in Luke 3 has many of the same names.

At the end of this list is Joseph who has a dream that his virginal bride-to-be is actually going to give birth to a baby named, “Jesus.”

“For He will save His people from their sins.”

Jesus’ name was given before birth, which to me indicates that he was not disconnected from his heritage. On the contrary, he was going to fix the mess that everyone else had made. This baby was born to make good all that was made bad before him.

His birth, though he was of royal blood, was in an animal feeding trough. Humble I believe could be the best way to describe it.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus was driven to Egypt out of the land of Israel, a people who once lost all their new-born kids to the king of Egypt, by the King of Israel who killed new-born kids of Israel. Tragically ironic. Whereas the current King of Israel wished to seize and to slay, this humble king was content to sleep and to lay.

“Out of Egypt I called My son!” Matthew reminds us of the story of how Moses had to stand for God against the King, as God brought His nation out of the womb of Egypt with tremendous birth-pangs. They came out with the spoils of Egypt, decked in all the jewels and gold of the welcome to the world as a new nation with One God.

Christian

You, my dear brother, were born once. I often find that not many Christians (Believers in Jesus Christ) recognize things they have in common with Jesus. Part of the purpose of this series is to help recognize some of these things. After all, according to Romans 8:29, Paul said,

“God foreknew and planned out that Christians would be conformed to the image of his Son [Jesus] so that [Jesus] might be the first born among many brothers.” [and sisters]

If my father read this,  I would tell him, I am not laying any claim on divinity for us humans, as it is true of Christ. We are of the earth, and we are creatures: we cannot be divine in Jesus’ way. Even the on the other side of resurrection, the end of humanity isn’t divinity according to Revelation 22. What I am saying is that the humanity of Christ is human enough for us to relate with him and identify with him as his brothers and sisters. In fact, in some ways He’s more wholly human than we are brokenly. For instance:

  • While you and I have an earthly father and mother, Jesus did have an earthly mother.
  • “Whatsoever is born of flesh is flesh.” John 3:6 “Jesus Christ is come in flesh.” 1 John 4:2
  • He had a real physical body that breathed, bled, lived, died, felt pain, felt weakness, wanted things.
  • He had siblings growing up.
  • He had a community of people around him who knew, cared about, and at first spoke well of him.
  • He had friends.

There is plenty of room in the image God: Jesus, for human you, also made in God’s image, to fit. He’s Humanity 2.0! 😀

“To tell you all of this again is no hard thing for me, and it is a safe guard for you.”

Church

And I want you to be aware that this view of Jesus as Human is not welcome in some churches. Gnosticism is, as my professor Dr. Ryan Reeves at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary said in his video, “Gnosticism and the Early Church,” a trend that affects the doctrines and practices of the church from even before Christ until today. It involves: three fundamentals:

  1. The tangible world isn’t real.
  2. The tangible world is hated or deprecated in value
  3.  One needs an elitist knowledge of how things *really* are in order to be saved.

It manifests in churches that do not value the material world around them, and have beliefs that God isn’t out to redeem the physical world, but rather to deliver our immaterial “souls” from this evil material world, and we need to know the truth that sets us free from our physical bondage to things like possessions, the temple of the Holy Spirit. “It’s an old garment anyway.” they say. “One day I’ll be free of my physical body and get to live forever with Jesus in a spirit-only world!”

Trends like this tend to hurt the church’s witness, because we value more thinking and experiencing than doing or accomplishing tangible results. Furthermore, it’s not in keeping with the overarching meta-story of Scripture. Jesus was just as much human flesh as you and I are, yet without sin. And it was THAT humanness that was the perfect representation of His nature. What’s more, the fact God became a physical tangible human being means that He has tied himself to our physical reality. And just as our bodies will die one day, this world will die one day. As our bodies will be changed, so the earth will be changed. The Spiritual is not at the expense of the tangible.

If however, Jesus was born, and the Church is the body of Christ, then the church is just as much human as it is spiritual, and that’s a good thing.

Pitfalls

In these stages, I plan to share a pitfall for each one, to avoid to ensure your own or someone else’s progress through the stages. At this stage in a Christian’s life, he is being exposed to the person of Jesus Christ, being reminded of true humanity through other Christians. The pitfalls he must avoid are false religion or False gods. Whatever we worship or believe comes to define who we are, and to believe things that are untrue, or fashioned after an ungodly spirit is to cheapen one’s own humanity. This of course presupposes that Jesus Himself is the True Human. If a person comes to believe something about humanity and the spiritual world that isn’t true, it will be a stumbling block and a hindrance toward their growing up into maturity. What a person in this stage needs is Exposure to Christ. To meet a Christian and be struck by their dissimilarity with the rest of the world. This gets a person started on their journey toward Christ. Let him avoid the paths that diverge from the Way after myths, false gods, and false religion.

Application (The part I know you really like)

  1. Take care not to de-human-ize Jesus. It’s really not honoring to him. His humanity was the perfect representation of God as the perfect image of God, and he has reset the Human race on a path to the full actualization of God’s character in the church.
  2. Be human! And base your definition on Jesus: humility. The apostle Luke was intentional to show the disciples of Jesus doing even the miraculous things Jesus did, like raising the dead even! Read Acts! Show kindness to your fellow humanity. Don’t think you’re something special. Be humble.
  3. Render to God what is God’s. Count your very being as a physical image stamped with the likeness of God. And recognize that you were born to represent Him on the earth, even as Jesus was born.
  4. Represent the earth before God. Not only is humankind the representative of God on earth, but the representative of Earth before God. Who better to be a mediator between these two realms of Heaven and Earth than one who smells of both homes.
  5. Avoid the Pitfalls.
  6. Read the Bible as a human. Here’s a logic puzzle:
  • If Jesus is both divine and human.
  • And Jesus is the Word of God,
  • and the Bible is the Word of God,
  • Then Why should the Bible be read only as Divine communication? Should it not be read just as fully as human communication? It was the resurgence of the humanities which helped Erasmus to translate the Greek New Testament, and Martin Luther to get a hold of the Word of God as it was meant. To read the Bible as a human means you read it as an author talking to a listener with pre-understandings and time-less eternal truths living in each of their hearts.

Final point: Every human who seeks to follow after Jesus must start at this point. To be human from birth. In short, a man must be born before he can be born again.

Jesus’ Rule and Human Destiny

Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale shared last week that one of the fundamental questions to be answered by any worldview is “What is my purpose?” The Bible answers this question by saying that God made human beings to rule and fill the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Their rule was submitted to His rule, but He gave the earth to Adam’s children to rule (Psalm 115:16).

The fundamental loss of this purpose, which happened when Adam sinned, is he disobeyed God to usurp God’s rule over him in order to be his own ruler like God. I find it fascinating how resonant stories of deep meaning in our lives have picked up on this motif of a second in command usurping and supplanting his master by seizing power for himself. For example, STAR WARS has made this as one of the cardinal principles of the Dark side of the Sith. The apprentice always kills the master. Disobedient to authority, eventually leading to deposition of authority. In Antman, the apprentice eventually overthrows and undoes his mentor. This way of usurping authority in rebellion is the classic evil of Satan’s sin against God.

A beautiful contrast of this is seen in the humility of King David. He refused twice to lay hold of the crown for himself: to strike down the current King Saul. In this way, he showed himself to be a man after God’s own heart, and it was his line that was blessed and established for the Messiah to come through.

Go back further, and another example: Joseph. When he was 2nd in command of Potiphar’s house, and though he was tempted day after day by his bride, he said, “My master has entrusted everything to me in this house, save you. How can I do this great wickedness and sin against my God.” (Genesis 39.)

Human kind was made to rule, but the way of rule is not to escape authority, or to crush it, but to submit to it. To stay close enough to the Moses, that He chooses you to be his Joshua.

God desires such to serve Him, and you will never serve a better master than He.

Math Myth

At lunch today I told this story to some 5th grade kids.

Once there was a division between the Sum and the multiplication. There was also a guy named Minus, who wasn’t very good at doing things. He wanted to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

Minus had one problem. He didn’t have a heart big enough.

So he drank a lot of milk to make himself stronger.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

He went to school and learned everything he could about the division between the Sum and the multiplication.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

After school he gathered as many numbers around him as he could: all kinds of possessions.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

Finally, he prayed and asked God to give him a bigger heart.
And God gave him a bigger heart.

After this, Minus found Sum and multiplication still divided.
And because his heart was bigger now,
He applied himself to the division between the Sum and the multiplication
And Viola! He “subtracted” the division from between the Sum and the multiplication.

The Sum and the multiplication had a party and celebrated with cupcakes.

Then they all made an equation to remember how a Minus is always able to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

That is why there is a minus sign used in the Division symbol.

On Preaching God’s Word ~ A Poem

Don’t start talking beside the flower
Discussing its hue and classification.
That is description!

Don’t just let the smell be nosed
And tell people how fragrant it is.
That is reporting!

Don’t just finger its petals and thorns
And explain the touch of soft and sharp
That is informing!

You are not yet small enough
To know the flower properly yet
You are still outside.

Like the bee, lowly and industrious
Drawn by the sight, smell, and feel
You are in need.

Wanting life for heart and home,
You sink beneath the pedal’s crown
You seek the source.

The hidden warmth, the ever-present aroma
Of the sweetest secret nectar of Life
Now, you are before Him.

 

 

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Scoffer’s Response)

If you have seen Him, please tell me about Him.

You already know about Him. You have already heard much about Him. You do not need me to tell you about Him. What you need is to see Him for yourself. I can describe the effect of seeing Him, on my heart what’s left of it. I can point to the scars on my body where I have been branded for the Lord’s service. I can point out to you the truths and glimpses of Him that you can see if only you had the heart, but as it stands now, your heart is like heavy lidded eyes. And you would not see Him, even if He stood before you. It is not those who see who have the heart, it is those who have the heart who see.

Fine, so describe him.

Holy.
Related, dissimilar.
More familiar than anyone or anything.
Utterly overpoweringly enormous.
In his presence, all life within me surges to my breaking point.
I die, and come back only if He brings me, but remolded in fire.
Words are like clumsy children.
Trying to grasp with hands what’s too big.
He is good and kind.
Terrifying.

Is that all?

It is an honest and true drop from the ocean for you.

How about another “drop”?

There will be not even one drop for the tongue to cool you where you are going.

Come now, if this God should wish to reveal Himself to me, He should come and show Himself. 

Your judgments are like the reasoning of a small child telling his parent why he should get a bigger allowance. What have you done with the little of what God has given you? You do not value one drop, why should you be given more? You aim only to cast off and ridicule your Maker and your King because your proud heart has not submitted to His rule.

You claim to know a lot about me. Did “God” tell you this, or are you just speculating?

The fool has said in his heart “There is no God.” I do address you, as I address myself, because I too in my folly wish to say there is no God. I do not claim power or understanding, only acquaintance with the One who is more worthy than I to wield the power.

You’re stalling. I want you to show me God right now.

Do you not see?

No, I don’t see Him.

*silence*

Well?

*silence*

See? You can’t show me God. You claim to have seen God, but you can’t even prove that he’s real.

For whose judgment?

What do you mean?

You want me to show God so that God can be subject to your scrutiny. God does not submit to human scrutiny when the heart is proud. He is the one sitting in the judgment seat. You are being warned by one who has seen Him. HE is judge. He is going to condemn all sinners, except those who turn back to serve Him.

You are claiming a reality that has no basis in our reality. All you say is conjecture.

You can judge whatever you wish, but your judgment will be confined to a temporary life and a limited consciousness. There is a Judge who rules over all, and will repay everyone according to their deeds.

Thanks for the warning. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The sight of God will do one of two things to people: It will either utterly consume them so that they perish if there is only wickedness in their heart, or it will shatter them and all that will remain is what belongs to Him.

Interesting thoughts. I don’t care to live my life any differently.

By your own judgment, you either approve or condemn your own life. I could resort to the ways of the world to show you have fallacious your judgment is, but that will only point out the error in your logic, and the fruitlessness of your reasoning. Remember then this final thing, “God stands against the proud, but he shows favor to the humble.” May God save you from your own pride, or there will be no one to save you when He comes to requisition you.

I’ve Glimpsed Him. (Poem)

It takes faith to believe that God is.
Once you have this, you can see him.
I do not promise that you will
Because He must decide to reveal Himself.
It takes a pure heart, with no guile.
Some believe that this is impossible,
But all things are possible with God.
How will you recognize him?
You won’t be able to ignore.
No more than a stick can ignore an all consuming flame.

How did I see Him?
I waited.
He spoke.
I looked.
He stood.
I bowed.
He is.

Music purged my heart of unexpressed filth.
Writing arranged my thoughts according to biblical specification.
Love set my heart on fire for another.
Joy surged in my creative freedom and pleasure of wisdom.
Peace quieted me in His approval.
Translation laid sticks of explosive dynamite end to end.
The Holy Spirit’s voice was the match.
The prizing and valuing of His own personal being.
And Jesus the Living one of all my life came.

T. Austin-Sparks~ “God’s answer to strengthen His people for Suffering.”
Is a new unveiling of the glory of the person of Jesus Christ.”

“What is the answer?
A new grasp of His greatness
That’s all.
And then if we are suffering
If we are knowing adversity, trial
And the clouds seem to be gathering, Accumulating, increasing.
How will we get through?
Only thus: by this:
Getting away
And asking
And seeking
And pursuing
In prayer
A new heart revelation–unveiling
of Jesus Christ.
And I am sure that will do it.
God give it to you.”
~T. Austin Sparks