Exodus 16: When the Israelites Get Hangry

At the start of Exodus 16, the Israelites have been on the road for a month, and supplies are dwindling. So much so that they feel like they are going to starve in the desert. They lash out at Moses and Aaron as a result of being hangry, and, once again, God responds in miraculous fashion. (Spoiler alert: Snickers are not involved.)

Watch my Exodus 16 video for more.

 

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Exodus 15

Exodus 15: From Praising to Complaining in Three Verses

After God delivers them through the Red Sea, the Israelites break out in song. And then three verses later they break out in complaining. Just like you and I do. Check out the rest of chapter 15 here.

How to be Ineffective and Unproductive

(If you read the title of this post and thought, “I can be ineffective and unproductive right now by reading this blog instead of doing ______,” then we’re going to be great friends. Sarcasm is my spiritual gift, and I salute your wittiness.)

Now, in Peter’s second letter to believers in Rome (presumably), Peter opens by correcting a false doctrine that had splintered off of Christianity called Gnosticism. (Don’t worry, there won’t be a test.)

The Gnostics taught that salvation came through the attaining of a mysterious “higher knowledge,” which is in contrast to the true gospel that says salvation comes by grace through faith in Christ.

So Peter opens chapter 1 with 4 verses that all emphasize the gospel vs. Gnostic garbage. Peter is reminding the believers in Rome that you are saved because of your faith–not because you have some special knowledge. And you have that faith because Jesus is righteous–not because you have attained some sort of enlightenment others haven’t (v. 1).

Further, Peter says God’s power has given us every thing we need for life and godliness (v. 3). In other words, believers wouldn’t even need some special knowledge, even if it did exist, because their abilities to live in a way that both fulfills them and pleases God don’t depend on what they know; their abilities depend on the power of Who they know.

In verse 5, Peter seems to get out his megaphone and yell, “FOR THIS VERY REASON, make every effort to do what I’m about to tell you to do.”

I had to read this 45 times before I could nail down what the exact reason is (because I’m sharp like that). I’m sure you’re much more astute and don’t need me to point out the reason, but for the sake of clarity (and so when I forget later I’ll have something to remind me), here’s the reason: in order to actually live out the fulfilling life that sits there for the taking.

Life, godliness, relationship with God (i.e., “participation in the divine nature,”), and no longer being a slave to sin (i.e, engulfed by “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires,”) all await each believer (v. 4).

Peter is imploring the Roman believers to make every effort to do the following because their wholeness and God’s being glorified hang in the balance.

If that’s what we want–to be spiritually healthy people who thrive in our relationships with Jesus and who regularly resist the seduction of sin (characteristics that all bring God glory)–here is what we need to do:

…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love (v. 5-7).

And this is the point in reading where I set the Bible down and say, “Nope. Can’t do it.”

This is a tall order. Like, Empire State Building tall. Or Everest tall. Not only do I lack most of these things, the thing I lack the most is the very effort needed to gain more of them!

Peter says make every effort. Why can’t I just make some effort, like maybe when I’m having a good day and there’s nothing on TV?

“Lord!” I whine, “I can’t make ‘every effort.’ It’s too haaaaaaaaaaaaard.” And He smiles and says, “I know.”

Well. Now that we’re all in agreement…

Peter’s very point is it is by God’s power–not by human effort–that any of this growing in godliness stuff actually happens anyway.

HOWEVER.

We have a cooperative role to play. We put forth effort toward a goal we can’t achieve, and God miraculously infuses said effort with His power to bring forth His desired outcome: godliness in His children. And on account of His power being put on display in our lives, His glory is revealed.

It’s like if I were to run into someone from my freshman year of high school. To say I wasn’t a believer back then would be an understatement. I didn’t worship Satan, but I was a pretty smug atheist, and I wasn’t afraid to let my peers in the Bible belt know it. If there had been a superlative for “Least Likely to Believe in God,” I’d have won it.

Enter God.

I became a Christian at 16, started attending church at 17, became FASCINATED with the Bible, earned a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies and Theology, taught and wrote about the Bible for years, earned a Master’s in Christian Ministry, and now I build websites. Just kidding. But, seriously. I do. But I ALSO continue to teach and write about this Jesus guy.

If someone I knew B.C. ran into me on the streets today and learned all this about me, they’d have little choice but to say, “Wow, there really must be a God because there is NO WAY she would have transformed like this on her own. Not possible.”

Well, Peter and I have news for you: nothing has changed. I still have no capability to transform myself into a person who has measurable amounts of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

And neither do you.

So when we increase in any of these areas, it is clearly God transforming us, which brings Him glory. We bring God our meager offerings (i.e., our “every efforts,”), and He multiplies what we give Him into an abundance of fruit.

Peter puts it this way: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (v. 8).

There aren’t many things more terrifying to me than the thought of being ineffective and unproductive in my knowledge of Jesus. The seminary degrees are nice and all, but what am I doing with the knowledge rolling around in my brain? If it stays in there, it only benefits me.

And the same is true for you, whether you have “more” knowledge than me or “less” (can we even quantify that?). Knowledge un-shared, at best, only improves one life.

But if our knowledge manifests itself in our actions–like in our self-control and brotherly kindness and love–it benefits others. What we know about God should motivate us to try to live like God.

And when our motivation collides with His power, we are anything but ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Christ. In fact, we are the opposite: effective and productive.

If that’s not what you’re after, by all means, make no effort to add any of the qualities Peter speaks of to the knowledge you have of Jesus. And, whatever you do, never share whatever knowledge you have with anyone else. In little to no time at all, you will surely be ineffective and unproductive!

 

Pleasing People Versus Pleasing God 

Pretty much everywhere Paul went, he shared the gospel. He was compelled to let people know the truth and love and saving grace Jesus had shown him because he wanted other people to experience that amazingness too. 

And pretty much everywhere Paul went, people got cranky with him for sharing the gospel. They thought what Paul was saying and doing was wrong—even blasphemous in some people’s eyes. They grew angry with Paul and spoke out against him. They vied for his arrest, his imprisonment, his discipline, and, at times, his death. 

But Paul pressed on, sharing the gospel everywhere he went. 

Why? 

He tells the Galatians why, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ,” (Galatians‬ ‭1:10‬). 

This went for Paul when people didn’t like him sharing the gospel. More broadly, it goes for all who encounter naysayers when obeying any scripture.

Sometimes we have to make this same choice Paul had to make: when the two conflict, will I do what people want me to do or what the scripture tells me to do?

I don’t know if you know this about people, but they don’t usually like it when you don’t do what they want you to do when, how, and where they want you to do it. 

That didn’t deter Paul. And it shouldn’t deter us. 

Even if/while we get pushback from others we love and respect (and those we struggle to love and respect), if we are TRYING to please God/serve Christ through our actions, and if those actions appear to be scripture approved, I think we are on the right track. And by that I mean I think God is pleased with us. 

God’s pleasure and serving Christ have to be our motivations when we have to choose pleasing God over pleasing men. We must not have any ulterior motives, which are likely impure. Additionally, we must stay humble and stay open to the possibility God may show us He is NOT pleased with us. 

It will still be difficult to displease people we care about, but, if, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we keep our hearts humbly focused on Him and our actions solidly grounded in His Word, He will be pleased. 

No, God isn’t on Your Side (At Least not Unequivocally)

There are mostly two kinds of people in this world: the kind that think God is always for them and the kind that think God is always against them. I’ve met very few inbetweeners.

But the thing is it’s only the inbetweeners – those who don’t think God is for them or against them – who are holding a biblical belief.

Early on in Joshua’s tenure as Israel’s head honcho, the Lord/an angel/the pre-incarnate Christ appears to Joshua in the form of a man to give him instructions on how to conquer Jericho.

At first Joshua doesn’t seem to recognize this man is no ordinary man. Joshua approaches him and asks, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13). Joshua realizes this man is not an Israelite. But some foreigners supported Israel, living among them and fighting with them in all their battles. So Joshua wants to know: is this guy on Israel’s side or Jericho’s side?

The man replied, “Neither…but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come,” (Joshua 5:14).

This revelation clues Joshua into the fact that this man is supernatural, sent by God to speak to him. Immediately, “Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?'” (Joshua 5:15).

That word “neither” was most unexpected to me. How can God not be for Israel and against her enemies always? Israel is His chosen nation! He’s giving her leaders step by step directions on how to violently conquer and destroy every single breathing human being in every single nation in her path. What does He mean “neither”?!

There are two possibilities I can think of.

One is perhaps all God is trying to communicate here is that the man before Joshua is not human, like he had assumed. He’s not an Israelite or a sympathetic foreigner, and he’s not from Jericho. He’s neither. End of story.

The other possibility is God is communicating that and more, the “more” being that God doesn’t choose sides, at least not unequivocally. 

I know, I don’t like it anymore than you do. I want to believe God is cheering me on in every single thing I do, turning to the angels from time to time to say, “Do you see her?! That’s my daughter! Isn’t she wonderful?!”

Perhaps He does do that on occasion. But I guarantee you He doesn’t do that all the time.

In fact, there are times He must surely say to Himself what I often say to my daughters, “Oh, no, ma’am! That is not acceptable behavior.” And then He doles out some discipline to let His hard-headed daughter know He is not at all for her when she insists on sinning.

This is the case with Israel.

Yes, the Israelites are God’s chosen nation. Yes, He empowers them to win quite a few battles and to take possession of a choice expanse of land.

But when the Israelites choose to do wrong, God is quick to drop His support. He disciplines them and allows them to suffer all kinds of terrible consequences as a result of their disobedience, sometimes even causing the tragic results.

A couple of examples:

  • He is lightning quick to thoroughly punish the Israelites when they get impatient with how long Moses and God’s powwow takes on Mount Sinai. They decide 40 days is a ridiculous amount of time to wait, so they make a golden calf and worship a hunk of shiny metal instead. And God is anything but for them, instructing Moses to kill the idol worshippers, some 3,000 Israelites, and sending a plague on the rest of nation (Exodus 32).
  • God doesn’t hesitate to punish the Israelites with a 40 year death sentence in the wilderness because they don’t trust Him enough to enter the Promised Land when He tells them to. Because of their lack of faith, God tells them to go somewhere else instead. Upon hearing this consequence, the Israelites try to renege on their choice to disobey and agree to go to the Promised Land the next day. Moses tries to talk them out of it, but they erroneously believe disobeying God’s command to go somewhere else in an effort to obey His initial command to go to the Promised Land will be acceptable. On the contrary, He lets them know it isn’t by allowing the Amalekites to destroy many of them and sending a plague on many more (Numbers 14).

I could go on. In fact, most of the Old Testament attests to the fact that God doesn’t unequivocally endorse anyone, not even those who are supposedly especially tight with Him. God doesn’t jump on our team or another team. He does not proclaim unconditional loyalty to humans.

Why not? Especially this side of the cross, shouldn’t He always be in our corner if we are Christians?

Not only is that logically impossible (think of how many times you and another Christ-follower were on different sides of an issue – how could God be “for” both of you at the same time?), but God knows how fickle people are, even believers. He knows how we can worship Him with all our hearts one minute and be nose-deep in sin the next. Is it any wonder He won’t support us or anyone else unequivocally?

The reality is God doesn’t pick sides; we do. 

God has a team; Satan has a team. Humans decide which team to be on, sometimes jumping back and forth at a nauseating pace.

The Story is about God and His Kingdom, not us and ours. God is not for humans; God is for God. Are we?

New Message

I had the privilege of speaking at a Mothers of Preschoolers meeting Wednesday morning. I got to speak on the conversation between Jesus and His disciples from Matthew 16 in which Jesus asks two questions:

1) Who do people say the Son of Man is?

2) Who do you say I am?

It was a great morning of exploring and applying the scriptures together. If you’re so inclined, you can listen to the message in its entirety below. 🙂

In Which I Totally Waste Your Time

Apparently, I’ve been taking a writing hiatus. I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been holed up in my office scribbling down all kinds of brilliancy for a New York Times’ bestseller I’ll be releasing in May. But, really, I’ve been holed up in my bedroom watching endless hours of Gilmore Girls (dang you, Netflix and your auto play).

(Okay, that’s not ALL that’s been detracting from my writing… I just finished teaching two classes, taking a trip to Knoxville, and researching and applying to two graduate schools… but there have also been many, many hours of those fast-talking, witty Gilmore girls. I feel like we would’ve been friends if I had lived in Stars Hollow.)

Also, I may or may not be in a bit of a writing slump, if those exist… frankly, if you want my opinion (and you do, given that you’re reading my blog), I don’t think writing slumps have anything to do with writing. As long as we are conscious and have control of our fingers and have at least one thought in our brains, we can write. When we feel like we can’t, we’re just lying to ourselves, saying, in actuality, that we won’t. Why we won’t is a whole ‘nother question, and the answer is indicative of what kind of slump we are truly in. It’s never a writing slump.

(Is that enough random psychology for you? That’ll be $150, and I’ll be happy to file your insurance.)

Any who, my goal today was to write a piece on 1 Peter (or was it 2nd?), but, clearly, I’m not going to get there with a flitty opening like this. (Pretty sure I just made that word up. It’s the adjective form of the verb “flit”, in case you didn’t pick up on that. I don’t know why it isn’t already in existence, but, according to Merriam AND Webster, it isn’t.) (They wrote a dictionary together, you know.) (Actually, I have no idea if that’s true. They may have written dictionaries independently of one another, and then, posthumously, some editor may have smashed them together and slapped both their names on it. Corporate America… am I right?) (Actually, I have no idea if it was published in America.)

All this to say, I’m not real sure when my next “typical” post will be published. I hope it’s soon. I’m breaking the two most essential blogging rules right now (simultaneously, no less, because I’m an overachiever like that): write regularly and only write posts that fit the mission and purpose of the blog. But it’s hard to follow those two rules whilst also following what I deem the most important rule of all: don’t write crap. (Actually, what I mean is don’t post crap. But, honestly, I lack the self control to not post everything I write. Lest we delve back into psychology to uncover why that is, how ’bout that use of “whilst”, huh?! I’m not real sure why that word died out… or maybe it hasn’t… maybe the British still use it? I don’t personally know any Brits, so I can’t ask them. Although, now that I think about it, there is a Brit who comes to Starbucks EVERY DAY with his black lab and drinks coffee whilst feeding his dog a cup of whipped cream, which I’m sure PETA is super pleased with. I could ask him to guesstimate his usage of the word “whilst”. Except we’ve never actually spoken. Maybe this could be the ice breaker – an American girl stereotyping him by asking him the oddest question ever. “Excuse me, sir. Do your people still use the word ‘whilst’, and, if so, approximately how often?” I’m pretty sure that would be the best way to develop a relationship with him in order to share the Gospel down the line. But just in case it’s not, maybe instead I’ll just ask you guys. Any of you Englishmen reading, can you please comment below as to whether or not you still use “whilst” and why? Inquiring minds want to know.)

(What if this becomes my most commented-on post of all time with folks posting their encounters with the word “whilst”? That would be equal parts awesome and depressing. No matter, don’t let that stop you from commenting; this is important linguistic research.)

So I’m guessing iDisciple won’t be republishing this particular post. I’m just hoping they don’t cancel my contract on account of the crazy they are reading right now (Hi, Editor Person! Just cleaning out my system. You know how it is… unless you don’t. In that case, I’ll just say writers are weird, and I know you know how that is).

Hey, thanks for hanging out with me while I amused myself for 800+ words. You are good friends. I hope you are amused, too. Happy Thanksgiving.