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Biting the hand that feeds you

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You’ve probably heard that expression haven’t you? It’s typically used when a person displays ungratefulness to others. For instance; if someone in your life helps you out, or provides sustenance to you and you act in an ungrateful manner towards them, you are “biting the hand that feeds you”.

The truth is that when ungratefulness surfaces on the outside, it’s merely reflecting what’s going on inside of us. Murmuring, complaining, ungratefulness, being unthankful, these are all outward symptoms of inward rebellion.

As Christians, we must be especially careful about complaining and being ungrateful. I wonder, how often do we check ourselves to see if we are displaying the symptoms of an ungrateful heart?

complain

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There is an almost unbelievable example of this found in the book of Exodus. We all know the story of God’s great deliverance in setting Israel free from Egyptian bondage.

With excitement and enthusiasm the Israelite’s left Egypt, headed for a land that flowed with milk and honey.

Not only did God deliver them, but they left carrying the riches of Egypt with them! Gold, silver, and clothing in abundance were given to the children of Israel as their former masters sent them away in haste.

Yet just three days after walking through the Red Sea on dry land, the children of Israel began complaining. It’s important that we grasp this. Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for 430 years. Generation after generation knew nothing of freedom, yet within just three days of tasting freedom for the first time, they are already complaining! Here’s the story in detail (emphasis mine)ungrateful

1. “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of 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.

2. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness,

3. and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

4. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.

5. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”

6. So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

7. and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?”

8. And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.”” Exodus 16:1-8

What is the key takeaway from this story? On the surface, it may appear to be that the nation of Israel is about as ungrateful as a nation could be. While that may be true, the key point here is that while Israel vented their complaints to Moses and Aaron, in reality they were complaining against God.

Moses told them that “Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD”. In essence, they were biting the hand that fed them!

So the million dollar question is this: are we any different than they when we complain,grumble, and generally have a terrible attitude?

I don’t know about you, but I too used to be a slave. I was a slave to sin and all that went with it, until one day God sent a deliverer to rescue me from my condition. What should my response be to what God has done for me?

When I’m going through difficult times, should I remind Him of how good I used to have it before I became a Christian? Should I remind God that I was doing well enough on my own? Should I say to God that I’d rather go back to my old life?

Of course not! I don’t care how my life is measured or by whom; at the end of the day I count myself among the most blessed of any people! My life has been just like everyone else’s, full of up’s and down’s, trials and successes.

At the end of the day however, what matters is that God has been right beside me through it all. I don’t understand some of the hard things, but I realize that I don’t need to understand everything. All I need to be sure of is that God is faithful, and as such He will never leave us or forsake us.

My prayer is that all of God’s children will appreciate Him for what he has done for us.

May we never bite the hand that feeds us!

Be blessed,

Ron

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Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life.

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You’ve heard it said that if you’re going to dream, then dream BIG. Most people, I believe, have dreams of a bright future. What kind of husband or wife they will marry, how many children they’ll have, what type of work they will do. All of these are things that the average person dreams about.

Dream-Big.jpg

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These dreams for our future, carefully planned and mapped to the tiniest detail are what we build our lives upon.

For many, these carefully constructed dreams and plans come to fruition, and the “happily ever after’s” of life resemble a movie being played out on the big screen. The happy couple grows old together and ultimately rides off into the sunset, content in a life well lived.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone lived a life like that? In a perfect world, maybe, but we live in a fallen world, not a perfect world. Plans change, and dreams are interrupted. People change, or worse, we find out they weren’t who we thought they were.

And sometimes, believe it or not, God Himself interrupts our lives.

That’s right; there are those among us who have been sailing along in life, content in discovering our own destinies, only to have God literally turn our lives upside down when He reveals HIS plan for our lives.

Whatever your profession, your calling in life, when you throw yourself into it, it becomes your life’s work. It becomes your identity, it defines you. Like it or not.

After spending what may well be the best years of our lives perfecting our craft, or calling, God begins to deal with us about going in a different direction.

Make no mistake; we will know when this happens to us. Jobs and positions disappear. Careers turn into a dead end. A sense of keen dissatisfaction sets in. Nothing brings excitement to our lives. We start to wonder what in the world is going on.

A host of emotions begin to pull at us. Bewilderment, confusion, a sense of loss, disappointment, even grief torments us as we try to figure it all out.

I have experienced all of these emotions, and many more, as one at a time my hopes and dreams of a life in ministry were stripped away.

I felt that my life’s work had been chartered for me, and all that was needed on my part was to simply do what others more experienced than I told me to do. Follow the formula, execute the plan, and voila, success!

The pulpit was my refuge, the only place where I felt like I was in control. It seemed to be the only place where what I said mattered. It became my identity, my safe haven, an inanimate security blanket that shielded me from the world.

But God had another plan for me. It was a plan that would take me to the back side of the desert, where no pulpit existed, where all of my plans would be systematically stripped away.

You see, I realized early on that I was incapable of being a follower “just because”. I could never be another “cookie cutter” minister. There was always too much of man and too little of God in the prescribed formula, and I soon found myself on the outside looking in so far as man was concerned.

Moses went through this sifting process, spending forty years in the desert as God prepared him for what lay ahead. Being raised in opulence, Moses was humbled to the point of needing God for his very breath.    (Exodus 3:1)

The Apostle Paul was also a companion in this process. His three years in Arabia were spent tearing away every vestige of his former life. Indeed, he said of his past that he counted it all as loss, that he might win Christ.  (Galatians 1:7, Philippians 3:7)

God’s plan all along was that I relinquish control of my life, a plan that I resisted for far too long. Even when I ventured into the world of business and enjoyed a measure of success, I never felt as though I was where I belonged. I never felt as though “this” is what I’m destined to do.

Looking back, I know that God had been calling me, preparing me for a long, long time for that which I still am not 100% certain about. I just know that He is.

We humans are a funny lot at times. We say we recognize God as Sovereign that he is in complete control. Yet in actuality, it is we who want control, we who want to plot our course. In short, we lock horns with the Almighty over who will reign supreme over our life.

All of us are meant to become vessels that our Father can use in His great kingdom. Vessel’s that can be filled with His Spirit and poured into those who need a Savior.

You are called of God, your destiny is secured in Him. Find your place in the kingdom and let God peel back the layers of Self, that you might be used of Him for His Glory.

Coming to grips with God’s plan for your life doesn’t have to be a lifetime process. You can do it today if you will humble your heart before Him and simply say Lord, I want your will to be done in my life.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Generation

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We hear a lot of talk about different generations these days. How that the characteristics of certain generations are looked upon negatively, while the attributes of another are applauded.    Like…Boomers vs. Millenials?

That in itself is somewhat odd, because I remember growing up and hearing comments made about the 60’s and 70’s as a time of rebellion, but it was never discussed as a generational thing. It was more of a “these kids are crazy” mindset.

Frankly, I’m pretty certain the “establishment” back then didn’t know what to make of our generation, except that they were going to be the ruin of the nation. Or at least that’s what I heard from my elders. You know…revolutionaries and all🙂

Generations

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It is interesting to note that there are currently six generations alive in America. You can read all about them here: http://www.marketingteacher.com/the-six-living-generations-in-america/.

Funny thing about generations. Each one has a responsibility to teach and train the next generation. The upcoming generation has a similar responsibility to learn from those who have gone before them. It’s a never ending cycle.

But what happens if the cycle is broken? What then? For certain, traditions and customs are changed or lost. Entire belief systems can become so altered as to be nearly unrecognizable.

Such was the case with a generation of God’s people found in the Old Testament book of Judges. The “straight to the point” version is this: God delivered Israel from Egypt. After 40 years of desert wandering they finally inherit the promised land. Moses dies, and Joshua becomes the new leader. He divides the land to the tribes of Israel and they live happily ever after.

OK, that last sentence wasn’t exactly correct. You see, a generational problem had crept in that went largely unnoticed until it was too late. Here’s the short version of the story.

And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
‭‭Judges‬ ‭2:7-10‬ ‭ESV‬‬   emphasis mine

Do you see what has happened here? As long as the elders remained alive,the people served the Lord. Through these elders, Israel had a direct connection to God’s miracles,and those stories had been continually passed down to the next generation.

When the last of the elders died,Israel’s direct line to the miracles of the past was severed. Why did this happen? Because the elders of Israel failed to train the next generation of leaders. This proved to be a catastrophic failure and set in motion the eventual destruction of Israel.

All of this brings to mind something that we hear quite often in our churches, that this generation’s children are the church leaders of tomorrow. If that is true, and I certainly believe it is, what is the current generation of church leaders doing in preparation of passing down the baton?

Next Generation

churchleaders.com

Israel’s elders were faithful to talk about their God. They passed down the magnificent stories of God’s powerful deliverance to each new generation, who in turn passed them down as well.

I hear a lot of talk about mentoring and how we should be training the next generation of leaders. What has me really concerned however is this:

What stories of God’s mighty exploits that we have personally been the recipient of do we have to pass down? What are the miraculous “God things” that we intend to pass down?

Something to ponder, something I hope stirs our hearts to action.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

Man shall live by what?

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Most of us have a code, or creed that we live by. A set of principles, they guide us each day through this life. They can come from family, church, the military, even the streets.

What may come as a surprise to many is that God also has a set of principles. It’s called the Bible. For example:

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”.  Matthew 4:4

The verse above comes from a very hungry and tired Jesus, who, after being tempted for 40 days, is responding to Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread.

He is repeating something stated in the distant past of Israel’s history by Moses, who was reminding Israel of God’s providence during their trek through the wilderness.

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”     Deuteronomy 8:3

I find it interesting that the interpretation of both Jesus and Moses is the phrase” every word”. What’s so interesting about that? Well for starters, the phrase “every word” disallows the selective application of God’s Word to our lives.

In other words, every word means none may be excluded!

Lots of things today are thought of as being selective. Husbands may have been told that they have selective hearing, for example. Or those of us who tend to be forgetful at times may have been told that we have a selective memory.

For the child of God however, there can be no selective application of the Word if we are going to walk in obedience to it. In other words, we cannot selectively pick and choose those verses we wish to live by. It doesn’t work that way.

If Jesus stated that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God, are we to argue that we don’t like or accept certain parts of it?

I first became aware of this selective application of the Word many years ago when having a discussion with a neighbor about the Millennial Reign mentioned in the book of Revelation.

This neighbor, who was also a deacon in his church, told me that he didn’t believe in the thousand year reign of Christ. When I asked him how he could not believe in something that was obviously written in the Word, he simply said “I just don’t believe in that”. Not knowing how to respond to that, I just walked away.

Really? You can read it for yourself. You know it’s there. Yet you arbitrarily reject it just because? Like I said, that was my first exposure to the selective Word mindset. Unfortunately, it’s far from an isolated incident.

There is a very simple, logical reason as to why God says we are to live by every Word that comes from him. The Word of God offers us instructions for living according to His plan, not our own.

And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it?

His plan vs. our plan. His Words vs. our words. His way vs. our way. The age old battle of the human will vs. the will of God.

Paul reminds us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”   II Tim. 3:16    emphasis mine

Could it be that part of the problem is that we think we “have arrived” and are above being taught?

Peter addressed this attitude in his first epistle. He tells us that our hearts need to be pure so that we can desire the word that will encourage growth.

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”   1 Peter 2: 1,2      emphasis mine

It is obvious then that we are to live not just by the Word, but by every Word that comes from God if we are to be nurtured and strengthened in our faith.

None of us “have arrived” to the point of no longer needing to learn of Him. To think that we have is to be in deception.

My prayer is that every one of us will take heed to the words of Jesus, who when rebuking Satan said that we must live by every Word from God.

After all, He’s still working on each of us.

Ron

A new comfort zone?

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Comfort zone…

We all have one,or maybe several.

Our comfort zone is that place where we are most comfortable and can live in a way that pleases us.

There are comfort zones at work, comfort zones at church, even comfort zones within our own homes.

They’re places where we can just be ourselves without fear of judgment or backlash from anyone.

And we all LOVE our comfort zones, don’t we? And we HATE the notion of being uprooted from them!

Having been involved in church ministry for over 37 years now I know a thing or two about comfort zones at church. There can be great comfort in working alongside others who are all a part of the bigger ministry team.And there is a lot of comfort in knowing that every Sunday you will be delivering a sermon to (mostly)friendly people who share the same values as you do.

But what happens when our comfort zone begins to become a place of discomfort? Like when going to church every Sunday hearing the same music and listening to the same sermons and seeing the same faces no longer seems to satisfy our soul?

Ever been there? I certainly have,and in fact I have been in that place of discomfort for nearly a year now.

I’ve grown stagnate.I’m not growing.The rituals of religion are choking the life from me.

Being a minister I know all the stock answers to this dilemma because I’ve handed them out to others for many years.

I know all of the scriptures that we use to lift up and encourage the faithful.

And I still believe in every one of them.The answers are found within the pages of God’s word and I have never doubted that for a moment.

I still read…I still pray…I still encourage the discouraged….I still desire to extend the mercies of Jesus to the hurting.

Yet my comfort zone has been swallowed up with a yearning for something more than religion or even church as we know it.

Within my heart burns this thought that God did not save me from the life of Hell I was living to simply spend the rest of my days as a “Sunday Performer”.Turn it on.Turn it off.

Enough already!

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament and today began reading the story of Moses in the book of Exodus,and was reminded of his battle with his own comfort zone.Here are a few verses of the story:

1Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
3And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
4And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. Exodus 3:1-4 KJV
Moses’ life started out in a way that could hardly be called comfortable.Born at a time when all male children were supposed to be killed at birth,his mother instead placed him in a small ark and placed him at the rivers edge,choosing to place her baby in the hands of fate rather than see him killed.
Being rescued from this predicament,Moses was raised in the house of Pharaoh.Along with that came the many privileges of education and training alongside every other Prince of Egypt.Moses certainly enjoyed the good life for quite a while,yet there burned within him a different spirit.An unquenchable yearning for something more.
A spirit that manifested itself one day when he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew kinsman,and in defense of this man he killed the Egyptian and buried his body in the sand.
So long Comfort Zone!
Moses made a fateful decision that day,a decision that would forever alter the course of his life.In an instant he was transformed from a prince of Egypt to a man with a price on his head.It was this event that turned Moses’ life upside down as he became the hunted and fled for his life. He who had enjoyed the perks of royalty had been humbled to become nothing more than a tender of sheep, which is where we find him in the verses above.
While this is just the beginning of the story,I want to focus your attention on the first verse where we find Moses on the back side of the desert. No where’s ville. The other side of the tracks. A place where only the worst of the worse go to hide out.
Now consider the disparity of his former life and the life he now lived. A life of pleasure has become a life of solitude and hardship.A life of tedium and danger. A life so far removed from his former existence that the two can hardly be compared.
From the ultimate comfort zone to the back side of the desert. Worlds apart.
Of course,we can all agree that Moses is far worse off than he was before.
But is he really? Let’s look at this from a different perspective.
From a simply materialistic point of view Moses has made a left turn and is headed the wrong direction.Say good-by to “Your Best Life Now” Moses!
Yet I happen to believe that in his heart Moses had reached a point to where he could no longer look past the status quo. He had to stand for something or continue to march along side everyone else’s cookie cutter life.I mean, why be different when we’ve got it made,right?
So let me get to the point with this thought: right where you are,right now,in whatever comfort zone you happen to be in….are you pursuing the God of heaven with passion and fervor?
Or are you like the masses simply going along with the crowd content to just be in that number?
I have many more thoughts about this man Moses and his divine purpose which I will share later,but for now let me close with this thought;
We can stay in our comfort zone and be content that we’re doing all we can,or that we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.Follow the program…Don’t deviate…Dress the part…Act the part….Eyes on the prize.
Or we can take a look at our lives from a broader perspective and ask ourselves: is this really all there is to this Christian walk? Is following God really just about Sunday attendance, an offering, a prayer, and see you next week?
Am I really that content? Should I be that content?
Think about it!
Be blessed,
Ron