Complaining: Venting Out Our Doubt

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Complaining: Venting Out Our Doubt

Exodus 16:2–15

“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

Matthew 20:1–16

The Laborers in the Vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Most of us do not complain well on a regular basis.Tweet: Most of us do not complain well on a regular basis. We lift up petty complaints that dissipate as soon as they hit the air because they have no substance. They are meaningless. They are lies, like the pickup lines used in chat rooms and bars that have no purpose other than getting attention.

Everything is too hot, cold, fast, slow, big, small, or out of balanced for me. I am the most balanced, average individual and if they would just do what I want, they could please everyone. But it never happens. These are the thoughts of a madman with delusions of mediocrity, misunderstanding the majesty of himself as a unique creation of God. We are not alike and we cannot please everyone.

Oftentimes we complain because we do not know how else to communicate. We walk up to a person, make a comment about the weather, and then launch into a series of complaints in attempt to find some common ground with them. It’s a conversational gimmick that has nothing to do with communicating real virtue and values. It’s just playing politics. We lack the boldness to say, “I would like to get to know you better. Tell me about yourself. What is something you really care about?” Instead, we comment about the latest political workings and how we have lost faith in our leaders, waiting to get an amen from our new friend-to-be.

On the flip side, those who truly do have something to complain about… neglect, abuse, torture, rampant generational poverty with no escape… often do not complain but focus more on gratitude for whatever small blessings they may have in their life. Do we spend more time complaining about the flavor or temperature of coffee than we do about starvation? I think we probably do.

Strong complaints about deeply experienced injustice are often not complained about, but instead hid down deep within us. We hear about them, to be sure. In many cases though, we hear about them through a lawyer, a family member, a pastor, or some other community advocate (or professional complainer). The person who puts the complaint into words is not the one to whom it belongs. The real victims sometimes bury the hurt until it festers and they take vengeance into their own hands. Generally speaking, if we are complaining, we still have options and have not become truly desperate yet.

I think if there is one profession that truly sees the transition from complaining to desperate begging, it is probably hospital nurses, and particularly those that work in Emergency and Intensive Care units. Perhaps even more specifically, those who work with children in those areas. Again, the patients are not usually the ones with the complaints… it comes from their parents. When things are just bad, there is plenty of complaining and threats to transfer to another hospital. As things get worse though, and options become scarce, the complaining stops and the begging, pleading, and bargaining process of grief begins. It is no longer just irritation, it is true desperation.

I think the Hebrew people were on their way out of complaints and heading toward true desperation, where the were about to have their needs miraculously met by God. Yet, in their irritation over their present predicament, they found the strength to vent their doubts, putting to rest any questions about what was going on in their hearts. They were living agnostic lives, looking to Moses to solve their problems instead of going to God, whom they feared and may not have entirely believed in. He was too mysterious. Moses was an easier target.

Underneath the parable Jesus taught about the servants in the marketplace is a message about doubt as well. The main lesson we should take may well be that we should be grateful for whatever blessings we are given. However, those who complain still have enough to survive. They have not reached desperation yet. If they had, they would not have been complaining, from a place of power, but begging, from a place of poverty. Their complaints show their doubts in the goodness and justice of God.

Do you complain to God? Do you show your doubts openly to Him and others? Or do you hide them away until things get terribly desperate and you have no way out? I think God is patient and kind to us, even in the midst of our doubts, but I think he prefers us to put away our pretenses and be honest about what they are. “Lord, help my unbelief!” is not a complaint, but a desperate cry for help, in the midst of such doubt… and it is a prayer I believe God honors. It seeks faith and wholeness, not just an opportunity to vent, when in truth we are not willing to do what is necessary to be made well. If we are given what we are promised, it is only the sin of jealousy that leads us to complain about the blessings of others. Complaining may not be a sin, but it will not get us what we want with God.

What do you notice others complaining about the most?

What do you think you complain about the most?

When have you reached true desperation?

How did that experience change your attitude?

What kind of attitude do you need today?

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Taking a Break from Me and Mine

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Taking a Break from Me and Mine

Exodus 16:22–30

On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’ ” So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.”

On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. The Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.

Matthew 19:23–30

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

The Sabbath has got to be one fo the most neglected and abused of all God’s commandments (perhaps with the exception of Coveting). There are books galore you can find today on returning to a healthy practice of Sabbath. Many of them try to rationalize an excuse to get around to taking time off and reconnecting to God. Physical, mental, and spiritual health are vitally important to our lives, but it is still a very self-centered interpretation of the Sabbath command.

I can remember, as a young boy, having a messy room (I still do). On a semi-regular basis, my mother would tell me to clean my room. I really could not understand why it needed to be done. After all, I knew where everything was and I was not in any danger of stepping on anything in the middle of the night. I knew how to dodge and weave through the pathways of the nest that I had created for myself and for my own comfort and convenience. So I would ask her, “Why?”. Her answer, and the answer of many mothers over the generations was simple and to the point. “Because I said so.”

There may be, and often are multiple reasons for obeying God’s commands, and because He is good, we can expect that some of them are for our own benefit. There is always one reason though that falls outside of those interpretations. We are called to obey God’s commands because He is the highest authority in our life. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if that obedience profits us or not.Tweet: We are called to obey God’s commands because He is the highest authority in our life. It doesn’t matter if that obedience profits us or not.

We are fools if we live our lives obeying parents, spouses, employers, customers, teachers, law enforcement, and political leaders unquestioningly but will not obey God without coming up with an excuse. For that matter, we are even greater fools if we follow our appetites and impulses unquestioningly but will not follow God. The heart is a deceitful thing… Faith ultimately will be measured by our obedience, not our ability to find profit in following God.Tweet: Faith ultimately will be measured by our obedience, not our ability to find profit in following God. Regardless of what happens during our Sabbath rest, it is meant to be a reminder that God is still the Lord of our life. Sabbath practiced under our own authority instead of God’s is not what He commanded us and misses the mark.

How do you practice Sabbath?

Why do you choose to practice it in that way?

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Raining Bread

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Raining Bread

Exodus 16:1–21

Bread from Heaven

The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’ ” The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

2 Corinthians 13:5–10

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed. But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

Why is God so slow? The Hebrews waited three days without water before God showed them how to redeem rancid water. Then they live off rations from Egypt and whatever little bit they can find for almost two and a half months before God begins to show them his miraculous bread from heaven. Why didn’t God start with some of those important daily provisions from day one in the wilderness? God gave them meticulous instructions on worship and building the tabernacle… why did he not give them the same kind of help in their daily lives?

I am far from an expert when it comes to taking care of plants, but I know that they need water, air, and sunlight to live and grow. However, too much of those things are not good and can actually kill some plants. I cannot imagine how too much water (provided it was drank and not inhaled) could kill anything, but indeed it does. And it should make sense to us. We need food regularly, but too much food can kill us as well.

God is not a fool who would overfeed or overwater us, His children.Tweet: God is not a fool who would overfeed or overwater us, His children. I think He holds back His provision in order to shape and mold us in specific ways. He prevents us from taking Him for granted. Fools like us would worship the earth, the ground, the trees, and the animals if we got all of our food every day from them. And indeed we do. If we went three days without water and then found bitter water, we would be less apt to worship the streams and ponds in our lives. Likewise, we are going to be unwilling to worship the fields and trees if we go two and a half months without receiving any food from them. We will learn to worship God though if He intercedes in both of these situations, after a time, and creates provision where once there was none.

Is it cruel for God to train us, through our environment, to worship Him? Is it manipulative for parents to pick up their helpless children, hold them right in front of their face, and tell them to say “Mama” or “Dada” as they are feeding them their food or rewarding them with affection? Is it wrong to teach our pets to acknowledge our authority by giving them treats? Do either of these methods of behavioral training make a difference when we shout out a split second command to them in order to keep them from running across the road and being hit by a car?

I think there are some kinds of acts, particularly before we have come to recognize God as our source of provision, safety, and abundant life, that some level of manipulation may be necessary. God helps us to interpret the facts of life we experience in a way that puts our trust in Him… and He does so by holding back, knowing full well that we may resent Him for it. The plan may backfire at first, and lead us to resent Him. It does not stop Him though. God is in relationship with us for the long haul.Tweet: God is in relationship with us for the long haul.

When have you been forced to go without provision in your life?

How did that affect your relationship with God?

How did you eventually receive the provision you needed?

How does that experience shape your relationship with God today?

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The Pit of Despair

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The Pit of Despair

Exodus 15:22–27

Bitter Water Made Sweet

Then Moses ordered Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.

There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he put them to the test. He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his sight, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”

Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water.

2 Corinthians 13:1–4

Further Warning

This is the third time I am coming to you. “Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient— since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

Sometimes I get in too much hurry and don’t know what to do or where I’m really going. God sometimes sets ups roadblocks to slow me down and get me back on track. Most of the time, these come in the form of shattered expectations or inconvenient delays.

I cannot imagine what the Hebrew people felt, wandering in the wilderness, following a God they barely knew and a prophet who spent more time among foreigners than themselves. Three days without water would color anyone’s perspective more towards despair. Then, if that were not enough, when they finally got to water, it was too rancid to drink. That was when God asked them for faith. Not day one. Not day two. No even the beginning of day three. It was at the moment that their hopes were crushed by the undrinkable water, when they were truly ready to leave, that God finally showed up. He did not come with gifts or peace offerings either. He came asking for their faith.

That was the moment, when they said yes to God in the midst of their despair, that God redeemed the situation and made a way where there had been no way. I think it is odd that we so often apply this idea that things have to get worse before they get better very naturally to the lives of individuals, but we are more hesitant to attribute the same concept to groups like churches, towns, states, and nations. It’s not a rule, it is just a shared experience we have with humanity in the scripture and throughout time.

Somewhere in the development of the Hebrew law it was decided that one witness was not enough to condemn a person for anything. Two or three separate persons were required to determine the truth of a matter. We typically consider these witnesses to be used in criminal proceedings, but what if God uses the same concept in determining matters of our faith? What if God uses multiple tests of faith to help show us the truth of our allegiance and love for Him?

My own experience, as well as that of Paul, Joseph, and Jesus, bear out that God often brings us to our pit of despair before coming in with deliverance. The Hebrews in Egypt had 9 false starts before they made it out to worship God in the wilderness. Tweet: The Hebrews in Egypt had 9 false starts before they made it out to worship God in the wilderness. Sometimes the closer we are to despair, the closer we are to God’s redemption.

Where have you experienced despair in your life?

How have you met God in those pits of despair?

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The Mantle of Christ

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The Mantle of Christ

2 Kings 2:1–18

Elijah Ascends to Heaven

Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent.”

Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know; be silent.”

Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Elisha Succeeds Elijah

He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

When the company of prophets who were at Jericho saw him at a distance, they declared, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” They came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. They said to him, “See now, we have fifty strong men among your servants; please let them go and seek your master; it may be that the spirit of the Lord has caught him up and thrown him down on some mountain or into some valley.” He responded, “No, do not send them.” But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, “Send them.” So they sent fifty men who searched for three days but did not find him. When they came back to him (he had remained at Jericho), he said to them, “Did I not say to you, Do not go?”

Mark 11:20–25

The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree1

In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

I do not know this as a fact, but I believe we get more energized, more polarized, and more extreme in large groups of people. Sometimes we get dumber too. However, that does not mean that we therefore are better off on our own. That is exactly the polarized thinking you would expect out of large groups. There is a kind of sweet spot within small groups that employs the concept of two heads are better than one while avoiding the dangers of groupthink. That small group, in ages past, marking perhaps one or two dozen, was found in the family unit, consisting of perhaps 3 generations in one homestead. Pioneering families, all over the world, survive because of each other, and the knowledge of the past they pass on which serves as a foundation for innovation, allows these groups to flourish.

Today we pass on that knowledge through much larger educational institutions rather than the hands-on work of families. Even home-schooled children benefit from the aide of approved curriculums that aid in the teaching process and unify us into much larger groups. Passing the mantle of authority within these groups was not merely a matter of accomplishment, it was a matter of responsibility for the survival of the group.

Elisha had no ambition to receive the mantle of his master Elijah when he could have the man himself. He understood the weight of that mantle and wanted to learn as much and gather as much strength as he could before taking it up. Even then, he understood that it was not enough. Elisha knew his own weakness and so he prayed to God for a double portion of strength to take it up. Elisha was an inspiration among prophets, standing out as one who took the role with a serious reverence that inspires us all.

We are not given the mantle of Elijah. Instead, we have been given the mantle of Christ – one greater and slightly different in scope and purpose. While both proclaimed God’s word to lost and rebellious people, Jesus Christ brought grace, forgiveness, and healing wherever He went. Our mantle is not just one of power and authority, it is one of transformation and redemption.

Unlike Elisha, we will never be left alone. Jesus gave us His Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us. The Spirit of God was not given to us separately as individuals, but poured out upon all God’s people working together.Tweet: The Spirit of God was not given to us separately as individuals, but poured out upon all God’s people working together. We not only have a double portion of God’s Spirit, we have an army of Spirit-filled people in the Body of Christ to stand and to go with us. We need never fear being alone or lacking the strength to persevere.

What kind of responsibility has Christ given you?

Where do you need more of Christ’s Spirit to strengthen you today?

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  1. (Mt 21:20–22)

Roadblocks of Faith

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Roadblocks of Faith

Nehemiah 9:9–15

“And you saw the distress of our ancestors in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea. You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted insolently against our ancestors. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. And you divided the sea before them, so that they passed through the sea on dry land, but you threw their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. Moreover, you led them by day with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire, to give them light on the way in which they should go. You came down also upon Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them right ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and you made known your holy sabbath to them and gave them commandments and statutes and a law through your servant Moses. For their hunger you gave them bread from heaven, and for their thirst you brought water for them out of the rock, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you swore to give them.

Romans 14:13–15:2

Do Not Make Another Stumble

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Please Others, Not Yourselves

We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.

Sometimes we go through dry seasons in our faith where we are just not as excited and do not feel we are growing as much as we would like. Other times we come to a full stop at a roadblock and cannot figure out how to get around it. One of the most common roadblocks I have seen in life is when family relationships hold you back from God.

We often think about marriages where a wife is connected into a church while her husband is out working or staying home on Sunday morning (or vice versa). She cannot share the excitement and spiritual growth she experiences. She learns to hide it at home, and many times that act of hiding it at home trains her to hide it everywhere except within the safety of the church walls. Since God’s gifts are meant to be shared, to grow, to breathe… this confinement restrains her own growth and eventually she feels frustrated and alone. She has hit a roadblock to her faith. We all hear this problem and want to address blame to the absent spouse, the church that does not help her enough, and maybe even the woman herself – but blame is not what is needed. Help is.

Let me put it another way. I cannot count the number of children who have come to our church, met our people, been curious to learn more about Jesus and what we do as a church, and then have been quickly pulled away by their parents, who are not attending church anywhere. It is easy to talk about spiritually mismatched marriages and poor choices in mates, but can we really tell children that they should have been born in another family? Can we try to take children away from their parents in the name of Jesus when they are being loved, cared, and provided for consistently?

We don’t need blame, we need a solution. When we start assigning blame, we become part of the problem ourselves. When we choose one member of the family to love and try to separate them from their community around them, we often do more harm than good. There are cases of abuse and neglect that have legal ramifications and needs beyond what our churches can offer… but these are not the situations to which I am referring, although perhaps we have been at fault even there sometimes. We become part of the problem when we teach those struggling believers to love the church and hate everyone else, particularly those who seek to pull them away from us. If we are engaged in a tug-of-war between people and their families, we are not really helping them grow in their faith… helping them to trust Jesus. We are teaching them that only we can save them.

Jesus warned the people that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword, that he would separate families from one another, and He certainly does that, while creating new families of faith. However, we are not Jesus, and we often get in trouble whenever we start to pretend to be ourselves. While we may be attempting to save one person’s faith, we may inadvertently become a roadblock to others.Tweet: While we may be attempting to save one person's faith, we may inadvertently become a roadblock to others.

Instead we need to encourage one another in loving God and loving one another. We need to do AND teach others to do the same, for many an enemy of the faith, hell-bent on holding back believers from God, have been converted by the love of those they sought to harm. Furthermore, most of those trying to hold others back do so because of unaddressed roadblocks they have themselves. Will we treat them like a child of God and clear their way, or will we add another bar between them and the God who loves them?

Where have you experienced spiritual roadblocks in your life?

Who do you see experiencing them now?

How can you encourage and support others through those roadblocks?

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Tomorrow

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Tomorrow

Joshua 3:1–17

“Israel Crosses the Jordan

Early in the morning Joshua rose and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites, and they came to the Jordan. They camped there before crossing over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place. Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go, for you have not passed this way before. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, a distance of about two thousand cubits; do not come any nearer to it.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” To the priests Joshua said, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass on in front of the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went in front of the people.

The Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’ ” Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.” Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

Hebrews 11:23–29

The Faith of Moses1

By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

The Faith of Other Israelite Heroes

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.

Faith is a noun in the English language but it should be a verb.Tweet: Faith is a noun in the English language but it should be a verb.

To “have faith” is to act a specific way. It means to “act as if” the reality you have faith in already exists. In the words of Joshua, it means “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” The act or acts of faith change who we are in such a profound way that to say a person “has” faith is like saying someone “has” crazy. We don’t have crazy. If we act crazy, we are crazy. Our deeds are either judged to be faithful (or full of faith), or faithless. There is no in-between when it comes to faith.

There is one other mystery about faith. It is not considered a verb itself, but it can inform our actions from the outside. We do things “in faith”, “by faith”, maybe even “through faith”. These phrases always keep faith objectively out of our hands… as if it is not something we can ever claim for ourselves. Like every good and perfect gift, faith comes from God, but I think, like all those gifts He gives us, He wants us to own it and put it to good use. Indeed, it could be argued that if someone has faith but does not use it, they only prove that they do not really have it at all.

We prove what we will have tomorrow by our faith today.

What is the biggest challenge to your faith today?

What is one thing you can do today to prepare for God’s goodness in store tomorrow?

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  1. (Ex 2:1–10; 12:31–51)