Saturday, March 28, 2009

Manna Again?

The BSF study in the Life of Moses has uncovered a sin in my life that I hadn't considered long and hard before. I have learned that when I am complaining about whatever circumstance I am facing and let's face it, even when I do pray to God about my situations, I am also quick to let people know that I am suffering BIG time!

The Israelites were the same way. God provided for them time and time again and yet every time they encountered the next hardship they complained like they had no idea where their provision came from. Even when God provided, they weren't always happy with His solution and griped about it too. God provided manna to feed nearly 2-4 million people there in the desert; not just occassionally but consistently for 40 years. I sympathize with the Israelites in that there wasn't a lot of variety in their cuisine, but they were sustained by God's hand. Even so, they complained.

God made it clear to the Israelites and now to me that when we complain we are telling God that we are not satisfied with how he has provided for us. Complaining is not against our circumstances, or other people, it is against God himself since he is the author of our lives and brings the people and the circumstances we face. Complaining is anti-witnessing. We are telling the world that God is insufficient, not satisfactory. Why would anyone choose to follow a God like that.

Now we do have an appropriate response to unpleasant circumstances...we can take our cares to God himself and ask him to give us relief. THEN we can testify to how he provides for us. That is really witnessing. In my time in this section of scripture, God has shown me how I am a complainer and what impact it has on my relationship to God and how it impacts my testimony here for him.

I don't think that we should not let people know our struggles or give the impression that we don't have battles each day, but we should not allow bitter circumstances to give rise to a bad attitude in our lives. Too often I have allowed that and justified my poor behavior by attributing it to my unpleasant circumstances. After all, it is understandable how a person would not be joyful when all around is hardship.

Too often, I allow circumstances to dictate my mood. Too often the unbelieving world has looked to me to demonstrate how God is sustaining me through hard times and I have only shown them complaints and bitterness. Now that God has shown me this in my life, I am committed to changing the pattern (with his help) so that my life is a living testimony of the greatness of God, not just when I am being blessed, but also when I am being guided through my own wilderness of suffering and trial as well.

The Life of Moses

I have to tell you, my Bible Study Fellowship study on the Life of Moses is absolutely phenomenal! In August when I considered the prospect of spending a year in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, I can't say that I was filled with excited anticipation. I know the whole counsel of God is for my growth in my faith so I was glad to have a structured study to keep me focused.

Now that I have spent 6 months studying, I am thinking this is one of the best studies ever! No where in scripture is there a clearer picture of the Holiness of God and man's utter sinful state than in wanderings of the Israelite nation. No where else do we see how God cares for his people not because they are well behaved or are model people, but because they are his. His care for the Israelites and for us is a reflection on Him. He does it out of love for us and that the world may see his glory revealed because he started with a people who were utterly helpless without him and He did great things in their lives where all could see.

In Sunday School (a different study) we are studying apologetics and how do we help people know that Jesus is a savior for them too. I am thinking that the Life of Moses is the best way to show them how we have a faithful and holy God who cares for his people. Time and time again God did wonderful things to provide for his people. You would think that the Israelites would have learned their lesson that there was no nation too strong for them + God. You would think that when they were hungry and thirsty they would have looked to the same God that had provided for them the last time, but each time, they showed how faithless they really were. No where in scripture do we see a clearer picture of our need for salvation and our utter inability to do anything to accomplish our own salvation.

We see over and over again that every deliverance is all God. We see over and over again that God requires our obedience and does not abide rebellion. We see his forgiveness and how even when we fail him, he is merciful. We like the Israelites need deliverance (sometimes from our own foolishness). We Christians, like the Israelites have enjoyed the salvation, love, forgiveness and mercy of God. We Christians, like the Israelites are called to be a holy people with an allegience only to God alone. We Christians recognize that we cannot affect our own salvation no matter how many sacrifices we offer. Our sin is deeper than that and only God can make us reconciled with him.

Just as the Israelites were given a sacrificial system to atone for sin and to be given a clean slate, God provided his only son Jesus Christ to put an end to the sacrificial system and to deliver us from the penalty of sin. If there was any other way, Jesus' payment for us was pointless.

We are so much like the Israelites it is scary, but just as the Israelites were fed in the desert and guided to the promised land, so God does the same for us. My soul is full because of the rich lessons that are found in the Life of Moses. What greater assurance of our faith to know that we have a God who is able to see us through all adversity and while he could change hearts and keep us out of battle, he doesn't. In the battle his salvation is made known to those who don't know him and our faith is strengthened as we cling to him in the harshness of life!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

W. V. Grant Faith Healer

The popularity of the faith healing movement has always been a bit of a mystery to me. The Bible clearly says that signs and wonders are performed for the purpose of bringing unbelievers to a faith in God; why do so many believers chase after miracle signs and wonders?

A friend of mine recently invited me to a faith healing with her. She is a dear friend to me and my transport was her only hope of attendance. It seemed important to her and so I agreed. I think in her heart of hearts she was hoping that if I were to see miracles that I would be encouraged in my faith.

The miracle healer claimed to have a "special annointing" but that Jesus is the one who healed. If Jesus is the miracle healer why would an intermediary be needed? It almost suggests that the healer has already determined that my faith is not sufficient to approach the Father and ask for that which I need. It also suggests that if we have a thorn in our flesh it is not of God and that somehow Satan has some power in my life that God cannot thwart apart from an intervention by someone with a special annointing.

During the service he suggested that everyone would have an opportunity to be healed. It seemed to me that he was suggesting that everyone needed to be healed. Another person there at the healing had been to the revival services throughout the entire week Mr. Grant had been there and claimed to have received a healing himself. This person said that he had never heard of Mr. Grant and didn't know anything about him, but was convinced that he was the real deal. When I did a quick google search prior to the service, I found that Mr. Grant has been convicted of defrauding people in the past and falsefying miracles. Now that he is out of prison, these miracles that I am seeing now are legitimate because God saw fit to forgive him for the miracles he did fraudulently and now has given him "true" power?

In my studies of the Bible one of the greatest revelations I have had is that God is Holy and I along with all mankind are utterly sinful. Over my years of growing in grace, I have learned how pervasive my sin is. At first, I saw the sins that are offensive to all good church goers and recognized that I fell short of a churchy standard. The church's standard however is so much lower than God's standard of holiness. Jesus pointed that out to the Pharisees who prided themselves on their righteousness and exposed them for the vile sinners they were. God's holiness goes much deeper than external conduct - that is another blog perhaps.

My point is that God uses affliction to draw us in to repentence and into deeper dependence on him alone; sometimes affliction is just for the purpose of him growing his character in us and sometimes it is for his glory, but we don't see God's purpose. We are assured in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for good for those who are called according to God's purposes. Mr. Grant at no time in his presentation conveyed an exhortation to deeper fellowship with God, greater knowledge of scripture etc. He spoke out about the way that secular society lives and how it is an offense to God. Well Duh! There weren't a lot of secular society in the room only desperate Christians feeling defeated by affliction and longing for relief. His message could easily be confirmed by the people in the room and had no impact to change the lives that were there.

Faith healing seems to be a misnomer to me. Present are those whose faith is weak and they are longing for a confirmation that God cares and he is all powerful to handle their circumstances. God has shown over and over that he cares. The very fact that he adopted me as a Christian is evidence that he cares. I had no good in me that I should be selected by God. God is still all powerful and he is intimately aware of the afflictions I suffer. He is also able to remove them by a breath if it is his will. I can ask in faith and he has promised that if it is good for me, he will hear my prayer. If Faith healing involved special displays of God's power so that all can see, where is the faith? And where is our faith? Is it in God alone or in some man claiming to have a special prophesy or annointing?

Interesting to me that there were comments during the service about if you wanted your healing to be permanent, you should bring forth your best offering to this man. If it is a healing of God, wouldn't it be permanent? The Bible tells us that there will be false teachers and men claiming to have special power that will deceive even the elect if it were possible. Not all magic is of God and as Christians we need to be discerning in who we allow to influence our thinking.

The spectacle of the faith healing really isn't something that was promoted in the Bible. Jesus even chastised the people who just followed him for a special healing and were not interested in having their lives changed. Paul and the other apostles wrote extensively about the Christian life and it was a journey toward holy living and becoming a person of grace. As Christians we should leave the signs and wonders to the unbelievers. We have something much better; we have the Holy Spirit that lives in us and guides us in the development of the character of Jesus Christ in us. We become living sacrifices.

Following after miracle workers only leaves our faith defeated because we realize that we do not have that kind of power in our lives. If we did, there would be no sickness anywhere because out of love we would be healing them and saving tons of money on medical services. As soon as we have a need that God does not immediately resolve according to our word, we become discourage. What made us think that God is bound to do our bidding like that? I love the dear souls who were in attendance looking for some hope they could cling to in their lives and I have great news! Jesus alone is that hope and he can be found if we will look for him. His plan for our lives is well articulated in the Bible if we will study and his Spirit joins with ours in prayer interceding and convicting us of our sins. We have a great hope not only here but in the hereafter!

Going backwards in time

It has been a while since I posted last. So much has happened and so many lessons I have learned. I thought I would begin by working backwards a little and share some more recent events before spending some time sharing the former things.