Becoming God’s people

Friends, for those of you who serve (volunteer, lead, teach, etc.) in your church: Can I ask you a rhetorical question?

Why do you serve?

I’m participating in a summer Bible study (Beth Moore’s ‘A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place’), and as I was reading the lesson for this week, the verses from Exodus gave me pause. God has delivered the Israelites and provided for them in every way, even giving them meat to eat after they grumble and long for the old life (of slavery!) because they’ve grown weary wandering for just over a month in the desert. They’re hungry, crabby, and loud in their complaint. They are certain they were better off dead in Egypt. In slavery.

It didn’t take long for them to forget, did it? They had already forgotten the miracles that happened before their very eyes. As if protection from one plague wasn’t enough, God set them apart from ten. Ten plagues from which they were spared. And then the ultimate delivery: freedom from those who had taken them captive.

But still they didn’t trust God.

Still, they doubted His goodness, His provision, His deliverance.

As they hungered in the desert and God provided daily with manna, there were some who still refused to do it God’s way. Some tried to save their bread until morning, only to find it had rotted with maggots. (Ex. 16:19-20) Others, disobedient, or perhaps too lazy and irreverent, failed to gather their portion for the Sabbath and found none. (vs.27) Why is it so difficult for us to trust God? Are we really all that different from the Israelites?

This manna was given daily. By God. It was their job to gather it, but God’s job to provide it. Friends, your daily portion of grace? It’s there. But you have to get out of the tent and go gather it. That’s your responsibility. And the manna? The quail? The daily food? It was meant to keep them fully relying on God, to experience Him as Jehovah-Jirah, the God who provides. As Beth Moore states in the study, “Daily bread is about daily relationship.” “Our dependency on God,” as Moore states, “isn’t so that we become dependent people. It’s so that we become relational people.” She continues: “Manna was about being fresh. But we always want to store it up to last. Intimacy with God isn’t manna to be stored up. It’s to be experienced daily; new every morning.”

So what does all this have to do with serving? After everything God has done for His people, providing and caring for them daily, He speaks to Moses with instructions for the sanctuary they were to build. (Ex. 25) God could demand they give their offerings, but He doesn’t. Instead, He says, “…from every man whose heart moves him…”

Now this is where the story gets really good.

In Exodus 36, we see how they responded. We see just how well this freewill offering worked.

They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.” So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.” Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it. (Ex.36:3-7)

Here’s what Beth Moore had to say regarding this response in our study: (Page 52)

“Imagine your pastor announcing from the pulpit: “Stop that offering plate! And don’t offer to fill another leadership position, either! We have far more than enough to do the work God has called us to do!” Allow the response of the children of Israel to provoke a few personal responses: What is the motivation for my personal offering? Is my heart stirred to give? Has my offering become, at best, an act of obedience rather than a festival of opportunity?

This issue is not about checkbooks. It is about hearts—either stirred or stale.”

Wow. Seriously. When was the last time you served with a whole heart, a heart that desired to give generously, to serve because you wanted to, not because there was an empty spot that needed to be filled? I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty, but hopefully cause us to pause and consider. In many not-so-good ways we are like the Israelites. But giving, serving, to the point of too much? Are we like them in this? Oh, that we would be! Let’s serve, not just to be obedient, but to be relational. Let’s give, not out of obligation, but out of a desire to be in close proximity with God who daily provides for us, who desires an intimate relationship with His children. Will you trust God, Friend, in serving?


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Deadly Disappointment

This last year I had the opportunity to study the book of Romans again, Precept style. It’s been eleven years since I studied it last, so I was more than ready for a refresher. Our group finished up part three a few weeks ago, and I am already missing it. (Part four is on the calendar for spring!)

I love studying God’s word inductively. It leaves me satiated, and the studies I have done are ones I don’t forget. The truths gleaned from them are ones that have kept me staying the course when the troubles of this life hit hard.

Romans is perhaps one of the most powerful books I’ve studied over the past sixteen years. It truly is, as Kay says, “the foundation of your faith.” The truths of scripture never age, never “go out of style.” Truth remains applicable for every decade, for every generation that arises.

One bit of truth from our study on Romans was what Kay titled, “The Five Deadly D’s.” What a timely, convicting reminder these were:

  1. Disappointment. Something comes into our lives that we wish were different. It could be a relationship issue, a work issue. It can be disappointment with a circumstance or with a person who has let us down. Whatever the cause, left unchecked disappointment becomes …
  2. Discouragement. Our faith begins to weaken. We lose course. Negativity results and is reflected in our conversations with others. It’s an easy step from discouragement to …
  3. Dejection. This is a lowness of spirit that brings emotional and physical fatigue. With dejection, our body begins to show the consequences of allowing circumstances and emotions to rule our lives. If dejection is allowed to continue, it can easily become …
  4. Despair. In times of despair we lose or abandon hope. We give up. We quit trying to make a difference, to work on a relationship, or to follow God’s clear direction. Instead, we become fatalistic. Finally, the spirit sinks to the point of …
  5. Demoralization. We begin to live in defeat. With this mindset, sin grabs an easy foothold.

Obviously, not every believer who is in despair or demoralized has given in to these “Deadly D’s”. Sometimes the cause may be spiritual warfare. Other times, physiological causes come into play. In this run-ourselves-ragged culture, we may just need rest and intentional quiet time to recharge.

But honestly? Oftentimes, we can trace our downward spiral to our response to disappointment. This is where truth comes in: taking captive “every thought…” “to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:5) How are we to respond to disappointment? Here are a few key ways to deal with disappointment:

      • Kay Arthur suggests replacing “disappointment” with “His appointment.” In other words, rest on the sovereignty of God. He is sovereign. He alone rules. He is Lord. Albeit, some disappointments are because things need to be changed. That’s why another valuable response is to:
      • Turn the disappointment to prayer. If your disappointment is in a circumstance or individual, take it to God. Let your hurt spur you to passionate prayer. Through prayer, God changes our attitude. Sometimes He will change the situation, but most often, He changes our heart.
      • Allow your disappointments to drive you closer to God. Especially in relationships, we can experience disappointment. Don’t deny the reality of the sting of disappointment, but instead, apply the “Balm of Gilead.” God holds our sorrows and applies the elixir of Truth to bring hope and healing in each of them.
      • Perspective is crucial. Focus on “the big picture:” the glory of God and His kingdom purposes. We often don’t understand what He is doing, but He is trustworthy. When we view our circumstances through the eyes of Christ, we can know, trust, and believe that God’s ways are, indeed, better than our ways.

Some alternatives to the “Deadly D’s”:

Delight – Delight yourself in God. Focus on God and His character.

Dynamic – Remember God’s power is at work in us who believe. We have a helper, the Holy Spirit, who empowers us.

Develop – Develop godly relationships with people who will “weep with those who weep,” and “rejoice with those who rejoice.” Authentic relationships will also allow room for others to speak God’s truth to you when you need to hear it most.

Determination – Determine to persevere. Allow perseverance to “finish its work.” (James 1:4) When perseverance is complete, maturity results. We no longer will act like children, impetuous and lacking, but mature and complete. We will reflect the image of Christ.

Friend, are you disappointed?  Beware of “The Five Deadly D’s.” Remember this: God is sovereign. God hears. God is able. God sees. Allow your disappointment to forge, not something bitter, but something better.


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