Unbelief Due to Giants in the Land

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people we saw are men of great size, there also we saw the Nephillim; and we became like grasshoppers in our own sign, and so we were in their sight.  Numbers 13:33 (NASB)

Her panic attacks keep her from being able to function sometimes, in fact, some employers won’t hire her because of her panic issues. Yet, she needs a job and lives on assistance from the government, aid organizations and even gifts from ours and other churches. She has just been diagnosed with two brain aneurysms. Her mother died from one 25 years ago and she is worried about that history. She has children, some adult and some younger. She will have surgery on the larger aneurysm before the end of the month. She is struggling with understanding God’s will here.

I think I can understand why she has fear. Her situation has some pretty big obstacles. There are giants in the land.

What are your giants? For Israel that day, it was literally giant people, like Goliath. 9, 10, maybe 12 feet tall. Archaeologists have found the bones of ancient giants in many parts of the world. They were real, and the ones that Israel saw were powerful and aggressive militarily. They’re 10 feet tall and the Israelite men were just over 5 foot. They’re twice as big, we don’t have a chance, what can we do?

Of course instead of believing God like Caleb did, the people failed to believe God. Their unbelief kept them from God’s blessings and provisions. They failed again and again in their belief. They suffered again and again because of unbelief.

We are concerned with the direction our country is taking. Yesterday there were 5 police killed in Dallas as it appears some people abused a peaceful protest to exercise their hate for the police. This week, a presidential candidate appears to be above the law although her activity in the past has been criminal. There is a wave of fear because of ISIS and a level of persecution coming against Christians and the Church, and Lord save you if you stand for the Biblical truth about LGBT.

What about your health? Or your financial circumstances? What about your temptations to sin? Are there obstacles to peace in your family, broken relationships, unfairness at work, or hate from your neighbor? What is your giant?

If you exercise unbelief, like Israel did in Numbers 13, than you are in for more difficulty and the giant may grow bigger and may become giants.

It isn’t always easy to let go and trust God, but David did. Why did David trust God against Goliath? He knew God’s track record. He knew God’s word. He chose to trust God because God has historically been proven true and when David was in situations where belief was absolutely necessary, God proved himself to David.

That is why Caleb (and Joshua) were considered the good spies. They believed and were ready to follow God into the fray. The giants are puny compared to God. They chose to trust the one who is the biggest and the greatest.

Christians are fretting about many circumstances and uncertainties today. Believe God and the way faith grows is to know the Word that shows us God’s activity, the Bible. For it reveals to us that faith comes by hearing the word of the Lord.

Let’s believe!

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I Believe in the Bizarre

THE BIZARRE

Talking dogs are all the rage.  Well, if TV shows and cartoons are any indication, some dogs can talk.  I’ve heard of YouTube videos where dogs are supposed be talking and sometimes it seems like they are speaking English.  I think Mr. Ed’s voice was a human voice recorded to make it sound like a horse talking.  I’m being silly now, but when we think an animal talks, it is probably just the natural aspect of sounds and phonetics coming together to sound like words.  It happens when you listen to a recording backwards, sometimes the phonetics and sounds come together and sound like words (this is without purposeful back masking).

Do you believe that a donkey talked?  There was a bad prophet of God who believes that a donkey talked.  Balaam was a bad boy.  He liked money and Balak the king of Moab hired him to curse Israel.  God wouldn’t let him curse Israel, so whenever he spoke to curse, blessings from God came out of his mouth.  Of course this upset Balak, so Balaam didn’t get paid.

Numbers 22:21ff, record Balaam’s donkey talking to him.  In fact, he responded to Balaam angrily beating him for pinning his leg against a rock wall.  The donkey actually saved Balaam’s life, but what thanks did the donkey get, a beating.

Animals do not naturally speak in human language, but God, being all-powerful has the ability to make them talk if he so desires, Balaam’s donkey talks and makes a fool of Balaam, and Balaam was a greedy fool who helped Balak seduce Israel into sin and then Israel received the consequences for their sin.

I believe the bizarre because God does.

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What I Learned From the Sandy Hook Massacre

The more often these kind of tragedies happen, the more I realize just how vulnerable and exposed we all are to such atrocities. The first time something tragic happened that hit me was when a 10 or 11-year-old girl comes home from school and begins taking orders for a school fund-raiser in a town of 4-500 people; small town America. The last time she was seen was on the corner of one of the streets until about two weeks later when her body was found in a ditch a couple of miles from the town, molested, raped and murdered.

The US government is trying to determine what to do to prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook happening again. I fear there is going to be too much of a knee-jerk reaction that does not address the heart of the issue which is the heart and soul of the people who carry out these tragedies.

After some contemplation, I have learned these truths and realities.

Morality is not relative. The thinking of a lot of people is that whatever we think is right at the time is what is right and what I think is right for me is right me, but what is right for you is not necessarily right for me. Everyone is appalled by what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary and calling for justice and measures for the future prevention of such events. Therefore there must be a standard somewhere and somehow that we measure this by.

If you are reading this, you will already know what I am going write. Moral values, right and wrong come from one standard that never changes throughout time and history and the basis for the standard is in God Almighty and the standard which comes from his unchanging character is found in the Bible, God’s Word.

Sin is real and it is violent. Not all sinful acts are acts of violence but the character and nature of sin leads to it. God through the Apostle Paul related to us in the book of Romans that all people have sinned. Sin is a part of every person’s life. Some of the rest of the book of Romans especially chapters 4-10 give us information about how to overcome sin. But sinfulness will sooner or later, if given enough time lead to violence. In the Bible, the account of the flood which Noah and his family were saved from was on account of man’s violent nature (Genesis 6:11 ,13). Meaning since humans were made in God’s image, the violent acts against mankind were acts against the image of God. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was as a result of violence (Genesis 18:20, 21; 19:9). Violence is found throughout the history of the world. Sin is the culprit behind all of this.

Sin corrupts completely, the longer it is not dealt with. In some people corruption spreads faster than in others. It may take more than a life-time for someone to become completely corrupt, but the fact remains that people like Nero, Hitler, and others became corrupt at young enough ages to carry out crimes against humanity (as we call it). The tragedies of Columbine and Sandy Hook and others illustrate this corruption and the despair in the lives of the perpetrators.

Government, political, public & social programs are not fixing the problem (and never have). Only redemption can change the situation. Only the spiritual change of being “born again” in Christ can make the change. I am not saying that public programs might not help, but true transformation comes from a transformation of the heart and soul and that only comes from surrender to and forgiveness given by Jesus Christ (Romans 12). Programs change external conditions not internal issues.

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Which Thief (on the cross) Are You?

There’s a cross for you. I mean, the three crosses raised that day in A.D. 29 were our crosses. Our sin, our affront to God with our sin shows we are guilty and deserved death.

Three people died that day; Jesus in the middle, and two criminals on the left and right side of Jesus. When Jesus said “it is finished,” the fate of the two thieves was set. One would suffer in hell, the other, would join Jesus in “paradise.”

Sin destroys! Think about it. Sin doesn’t do good at all. The ultimate purpose of sin is to destroy the sinner. Lying destroys trust. Hate and murder destroys lives. Adultery destroys relationships and families. Sin destroys.

The reason for sin’s destruction is to hurt God. The devil, in the Garden of Eden, in the form of a serpent wanted to convince Adam and Eve to sin. He worked his deceit through Eve and Adam fell in with her in the sin.

The devil wants to hurt God, and what hurts the most, a severely broken relationship. Sin is the break-point and separation and punishment is the consequence, because, we have not obeyed the Father.

The thieves had separate attitudes about Jesus. One taunted Jesus to save himself. The crowds watching the spectacle were taunting Jesus in the same way. The other thief, realized that Jesus was without sin and that he did not deserve punishment. He even scolded the other thief. We deserve this punishment, but this man has done no wrong.

“For all have sinned” Romans3.23; and “the wages of sin is death” @Romans6.23. We are sinners, we deserved the death that Jesus died. But Jesus death was for sin. He was on the cross receiving the penalty for our sin, therefore he became sin for us.

Because the one thief was repentant, when he asked Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, Jesus told him that he would be in paradise with him that very day. He was forgiven. He was given freedom from the spiritual penalty of his sin.

Have you repented of your sin against God? Have you asked forgiveness for your sinfulness? Have you confessed Jesus as the risen Son of God because you believe in him? Have you been immersed for your salvation?

Which thief are you?

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Gut Wrenching Prayer (Jesus Praying in the Garden)

When Jesus was praying in the Garden, “My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me,” (@Mt. 26:39, NASB) he was asking the Father for another way. Jesus knew the extent of the horror he was going to experience. He knew how he would die and what it would cost him to go through that experience.

I’ve heard it said that Jesus wasn’t afraid of the physical pain. I can’t believe that to be true. But I do believe the physical pain was minor compared to the pain of feeling forsaken and separated from God when he would become sin for us.

Jesus comes to the Father, alone, with his friends a short distance away and he pleads with God, with his sweat becoming like drops of blood. He knows what is about to happen. He knows the terror his soul and his flesh will feel. He does not want to be separated in his loving, unified fellowship with God the Father. That separation will tear at his heart and soul. It will be the worst thing that can happen.

Jesus will know what it is like for people to be far away from God. What kind of hell their souls are in and will be in if they continue in sin with the consequence of punishment in hell.

Is there another way? Can we accomplish this in a different way some way where we will not be separated by sin?

Jesus never once wanted to abandon humanity to sin. He wasn’t betraying our faith and trust. He knew what was coming and what it meant and asked for something different.

But, because his relationship with the Father was one of love and unity and obedience, Jesus willingly submitted himself to the will and vision of God the Father. His words, “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” (Mt. 26:39, NASB) tell of his love for the Father and his love for humanity which bears the image of God.

This was a huge sacrifice for Jesus. He would be beaten and ripped to pieces and then crucified until he died, but his sacrifice was his fellowship with God is so pure and holy, he cannot associate with sin.  And if Jesus was experiencing pain from separation anxiety, consider what God the Father would experience.

Because Jesus willingly died for our sin, through our faith in him, our sins are forgiven. When Jesus died with our sins placed on him, the eternal power of sin was put to death. When Jesus rose from the dead, he came to life without sin because sin was defeated. Sin, the power of sin, and sin’s leader the devil were all done in.

To deal with sin, it gut wrenching. It is for us now, it was for Jesus then. But that is what he came to do, deal with sin by putting sin to death. And the Father’s will was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross for me and for you.

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Why Does God Allow Bad?

This first appeared in the August 28, 2002 LaPlata Home Press with the title “What?”

In 1977, Becky Conway of Urbana, Illinois, learned she had cancer in her knee. The cancer was bad enough that the doctors saw the need to amputate the leg. She was homecoming queen, a cheerleader, and an outstanding track athlete with a promising future and she was a PK (Preacher’s Kid). Everyone, even her parents, were down about her loss, but she never once lost her faith, never complained, and remained filled with joy because she knew God had something greater in store for her other than track. She had the opportunity to witness to schoolmates that wouldn’t have listened to her before because she was a PK and it was expected of her to be a witness. Several did come to faith in Christ because of her character and witness following the amputation (Moody Monthly article “…why is she smiling?” by Kay Oliver, Volume 79, #10, June 1979, pages 17-19).

Too many people see difficult and tragic events as unjust and unfair. Usually the question that is thrown around is “Why would a loving God allow or cause such terrible things to happen, especially to good people?” A lot of people have a pessimistic outlook and are actually looking for bad things to happen or to come out in people. They usually find it and then blame God, not knowing nor understanding all the details involved. So they ask “why” or “how?” These are the wrong questions. The proper question is what does God have in store?

Job is often called the most patient man in the Bible. To some extent this is true, but he asked the wrong questions when he lost everything and kept wondering what he had done that would cause God to allow or even bring such calamity upon him. God spoke with Job and asked, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Job 38:4. God’s emphasis was that HE IS IN CONTROL. Nothing is beyond his knowledge and understanding is beyond his grasp or power. God’s plan may allow calamity simply to bring you to faith. Job, you, and I are just people. God (sic) on the other hand is Almighty God, the creator and sustainer of all life. When bad happens, God still has something outstanding in store, or as Peter wrote, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold-may be found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 1:6-7

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Silly Road Signs

This article first appeared in the August 21 2002 LaPlata Home Press. for a time, I wrote a devotional article called “Flowing From The Mouth Of The Jordan.”  I’d like to share some of these devotionals with you over the next few posts.

Have you ever noticed how silly some of the road signs are that we see on highways around the country?

For instance: FRESH OIL; LOOSE GRAVEL. The street or highway department sprays oil and tar on the road or shoulder, than they cover it with chat which sticks to the tar like flies on a no-pest strip. When this is done in town* (see explanation below), it seems everyone is upset and grumbles and gripes about it because it messes up our cars. On the highways in particular, in the right circumstances, it can be dangerous and wrecks can happen as cars slide around on the loose chat. The sign is warning us of a possible hazard ahead.

Or, DON’T DRIVE INTO SMOKE. January 1978 was my first experience on the Will Rogers Turnpike as I drove into Oklahoma. As I was heading toward Vinita, Oklahoma, I see these signs with a peculiar warning, “Don’t Drive Into Smoke.”  I’m think, “What? What a stupid sign. This is a highway. Where would smoke be coming from on a highway?” My limited intelligence, experience, and imagination could not figure a good reason for the warning. When it was explained to me by an Okie, I finally understood. Sometimes, people burn off their fields near the highway and the highway department burns off the shoulders of the road and the smoke may roll onto the highway obscuring your vision. It could hide the danger of a slower or stopped truck or car. The sign is warning us of a possible hazard ahead.

Or my favorite, BRIDGE MAY ICE WHEN COLD. I’ve seen these signs mostly in Arkansas and Louisiana. The first time I saw one of these signs I began to imagine the bridge with a mind of its own and the highway department is warning drivers to beware. I could see someone driving across a bridge in the winter when the bridge decides to ice over and cars begin spinning.

In Louisiana, I saw a couple of bridges with the signs on the exit side of the bridge, as if some demented highway employee is playing a joke on drivers. The bridge ices and you start spinning. As you spin past the bridge and see the sign, you yell out, “O yeah. . .thanks. . .for the. . .warning!!!!!” But, ice on bridges when the road is clear is a very real danger. The sign is warning of a possible hazard ahead.

The Apostle Paul says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes  Ephesians 6:11. The devil is a liar and a deceiver. He plots and schemes ways in which to trap you in sin. The Bible warns us about the devil and his tricks. Beware, the devil has a trap ahead, around most every turn in life, just over the rise each day may be one of his tricks.

  • He may trip us up, and cause us to stumble: FRESH OIL; LOOSE GRAVEL.
  • He may hide behind a smoke screen of grumbling of some sort: DON’T DRIVE INTO SMOKE.
  • He may change the conditions quickly to cause you to slip up: BRIDGE MAY ICE WHEN COLD.
By knowing God’s word and way, we can, with the help of God’s own Spirit, see the road signs and dangers and YIELD AND STOP, keeping us out of danger. Beware, the devil is a roaring lion looking for whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He may be around every corner trying to snatch you away from God.
* Many small towns such as in northern Missouri pave their roads (and on some two-lane highway shoulders), tar and oil is spayed on the road surface and chat spread to cover and adhere to the tar and oil and it makes a sort of pavement type surface and until it settles in, cures or whatever the correct term is, the dust and the tar mess up your car.
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