What are We Doing with Our Talents and Gifts?

MaryAnn Ward - Blog Post - Talents and Gifts

One of the most revealing indicators of our vision and self-identity shows through what we do with our God-given talents and gifts. Romans 11:29 tells us that “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” He never voids His gifts. Once given, He allows us to choose what we will do with the talents and gifts He has given to us.

In context, this verse speaks about God’s gift of salvation, but the principle applies to all His gifts.

“For the gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you”
Romans 11:29-31

I’ve highlighted two repetitive words — disobedience and mercy. When it comes to our God-given gifts, most of us can relate to both of these terms.

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Shining Example

Although a recent incident brought this principle to light, I have been pondering this truth for some time. Let’s spotlight one shining example of disobedience and mercy — Moses’ brother Aaron.

God called Moses up Mount Sinai to teach him all the principles of worshipping God and living in healthy community with others. God took all the time He needed to make sure Moses understood each detail, writing them on two tablets of stone as perpetual reminders for everyone.

Aaron, who God had gifted with leadership ability, was left in charge of the people below. Eventually, they all grew tired of waiting for Moses and God. So, Aaron used His God-given talents and gifts to lead the people into idol worship!

“(Aaron) took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'”
Exodus 32:4

What! How could anyone go so far wrong? But wait! Remember those two words — disobedience and mercy. As great as Aaron’s disobedience, God’s mercy was more.

Later in Leviticus 8, we see the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. Now, His God-given leadership brought the people into true worship. Aaron acknowledged his God-given talents and gifts, using them to bring people to God instead of steering them away from Him.

In mercy, God refused to disqualify Aaron for his blatant failure. His gift of spiritual leadership to Aaron was “irrevocable.”

MaryAnn Ward - Gift - Time

God-Gifts

Few of us have failed God as miserably as Aaron did. But we all have experienced our share of failure and God’s mercy. The Bible offers many accounts of people who received second chances to use their talents and gifts for God’s glory and Kingdom purposes. But, more important, we also see many people who walk out their faith with unwavering, wholehearted devotion.

“Every gift God freely gives us is good and perfect, streaming down from the Father of lights, who shines from the heavens with no hidden shadow or darkness and is never subject of change.”
James 1:17 TPT

Many people find it difficult to discern their God-gifts. Others know their talents but live in frustration — unsure of how to use them.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
1 Peter 4:10

Perhaps, like me, you find the greatest hurdle to overcome is the temptation to use God-gifts for personal pleasure or advantage. We need the Holy Spirit to search our hearts and reveal impure motives. God gives His gifts for one purpose — to serve others.

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Serve Others

We may often overlook the obvious while aiming toward the ambiguous. Let’s consider a few gifts we have all received.

  • The gift of time. This moment is a gift. Will we serve God with wholehearted devotion, consecrating our time as belonging to Him? The stewarding of our time reveals how well we steward other gifts.
  • The gift of relationship. Who are the people God has planted around us? How can we use our gifts to invest in those relationships for their good and God’s glory?
  • What inherent talents do we possess — working with numbers, leadership, servanthood, baking, caring for children, teaching, creativity, …. ? The list is endless! We don’t need to dig deep in our search. What do we enjoy and do well?
  • Ask God! His list may look quite different from ours. Let’s also ask Him how we may better use our talents to serve His purposes.

Though God will never take His gifts from us, we have an opportunity to daily surrender them back to His full control. As we surrender our God-given talents and gifts back to Him, He will do profound things in and through us.

MaryAnn Ward - Gift - Serve Others

Prayer

Father, I thank You for Your gracious and beautiful gifts. Forgive me for, like Aaron, using them in ways that have brought harm instead of good. I confess that I have used them for my own satisfaction and gain. I thank You for your amazing mercy and a new opportunity to use these talents and gifts for Your service. May I steward Your gifts well. Nothing can hinder Your purpose in and through these talents and gifts which You have embedded in me. I surrender them to You to be used when, where, and how You so design. Fill my heart with overflowing gratitude for Your gracious gifts. May I assume responsibility to develop and perfect them. Thank you, Lord, for Your good and perfect gifts.

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Psalm 90 — The Work of our Hands

Psalm 90 — The Work of our Hands

At every stage of our lives, the work of our hands significantly impacts both this earthly realm we now occupy and the eternal one to come. Psalm 90 encourages us to continue with our efforts — large and small.

Several years ago, I retired from occupational employment and re-positioned myself into the full-time ministry of writing, artistry, and raising up faith-filled believers in God. The value of the work of our hands does not equate to the size of our paycheck at the end of each month. What we do carries eternal impact in the lives of many others. Only eternity will reveal the true merit of our efforts.

In reading Psalm 90, I find perspective to the ups and downs, and the successes and failures of life.

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

Wisdom

Another version says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Of course, only God knows how many days we have been granted. Sadly, I have heard people say at the end of their life, “I thought I would have more time.” More time? For what? To do the things we knew to do earlier but didn’t do? For another chance to live better?

May we learn to appreciate and make the best of our days. May we have godly wisdom to realize this moment only comes once. We aren’t promised this opportunity tomorrow. Life is short — very short. Eternity is long — very long. With wisdom, may we live fully and love wholly, without regret and with eternity in focus.

Often, how we begin our day sets the trajectory for the rest of it.

“Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.”
Psalm 90:14

If we awake each morning with a sense of gratitude, thankfulness forms the climate of the day. The psalmist had already learned that a thankful attitude comes not from circumstances but the “unfailing love” of God. When we are grounded and rooted in His love, the decision to choose joy comes much more easily.

The psalmist considers the shortness of his life on earth. He wants to finish well — settled and secure in God’s love.

Request

Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses wrote the words of Psalm 90. We gain a further glimpse into his heart in the next couple verses as he prays.

“Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory.”
Psalm 90:15-16

When we remember Moses, we often think of his great exploits in facing pharaoh and leading Israel out of Egypt. Or we remember him speaking face-to-face with God until God’s glory had settled on him.

But how quickly we forget about the Moses who was ripped from his family as a toddler and taught to worship every god but God. We forget about the Moses who fled for his life and spent forty years in the backside of a desert. Did Moses know misery? Absolutely! Had he experienced many evil years? Most certainly! But all those years of misery drew Moses into an unshakeable relationship with God which grounded him for whatever may come.

So as Moses considers the shortness of his life on earth, he asks God for one thing — that he might finish well.

The Work of our Hands

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands.”
Psalm 90:17 NIV

Jesus taught his disciples that without Him they could do nothing (John 15:5). Neither could Moses. And neither can we. But when the favor of God — His grace and delight — rests on us, everything changes. Then, He establishes the work of our hands.

Wisdom displays itself through “the work of our hands.” Wisdom determines how we spend our time and where we focus our energy. The New Living Translation says, “make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful.”

I don’t know about you, but I can be full of good intentions. But God never promises to bless our good intentions. He never promises to make our good intentions successful. It is only the work of our hands — that collaboration between wisdom, prayer, and effort — that He blesses, establishes, and makes successful.

Prayer

Father, by Your grace, may all our good intentions transfer into the purposeful work of our hands — a work that focuses on You and others. Whether we are stay-at-home mothers or airplane pilots, may we number our days with wisdom. Whether we are young with our lives ahead of us or grey hair and wrinkles mark the end of our days, may we live with eternity in mind. Give us the single-hearted assurance of Your unfailing love and the deep-seated joy to live each day to the fullest. Though our efforts may feel weak and insignificant, breathe life upon them. May the work of our hands create a long-lasting impact in the lives of others. Lord Jesus, it is only through You and by You that we can and will make a difference in our world and for eternity. So today, we commit to You the work of our hands.

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Avoid Burnout and Overextending Yourself

Avoid Burnout and Overextending Yourself

Have you experienced the symptoms of burnout from overextending yourself? In a culture that applauds achievement, you aren’t alone. The more accomplished and successful one becomes, the greater the risk of overextending oneself and entering the devastating realm of burnout.

I’m dancing on such a verge right now. A little commitment here added to another, then another, and you guessed it … overextension. As my head begins to ache and stomach muscles tighten, I stare at the ceiling when I should be sleeping. Yep! It’s time to heed the warning signs and make adjustments.

At the end of August, I felt God invite me to write something I have avoided for months and even years. He also welcomed me to paint a picture a day. He knew the first would be difficult, while the later would be therapy. I agreed to a one month commitment to accomplish the tasks. If I didn’t finish by then, I would feel released from my commitment. (Pathetic, I know! But it honestly reflects the way God and I talk!)

Only October is teaching month when I have umpteen assignments to correct. It is also the month when the layout and design must be completed for FellowScript, InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship quarterly magazine.

And just like that I’m looking for a life raft in the ocean of overextension!

The Greats

Don’t worry if you can relate. We are in the school of learning that some of biblical history greats have passed through. Moses also found himself in a place of serious threat of burnout, at a level I cannot comprehend.

Based on the count of fighting men listed in Numbers 11:21, scholars estimate about 2.2 million people made the Exodus from Egypt. I have trouble leading myself let alone such a massive crowd. Moses assumed the position of judge for every dispute and problem among them.

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.
Exodus 18:13

Moses adopted this “normal” pattern of function. It took someone from the outside to see what devastating results this way of operating would lead to. Someone who cared enough and was bold enough to confront him! Though burnout appears to sneak up slowly, it will suddenly stomp us out of commission.

Accountability

Just in time, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro came to visit. He took one look at what Moses was doing and basically said, “You’re crazy! Stop, before it’s too late!”

Oh, that God would send Jethros into each of our lives. Someone who lives outside our crazy swirls of activity, who says, “Whoa! Wait a second! Why are doing this?”

Moses was convinced he was doing God’s work in God’s way. After all, he was God’s man of the hour — the leader! Right?

Sometimes pride can lead us to overextend. We begin to think we are the best, or only, one suited for a task. Perhaps, we just don’t know any other way.

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?‘”
Exodus 18:14

An accountability partner provides a safe zone to challenge our present conduct and point us to a better future. Jethro did both.

Warning

Jethro saw the warning signs of burnout and overextension. Do you hear the innocence in Moses’ response?

Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.'” Exodus 18:15-16

Moses spoke to God face-to-face. God instructed Moses. So, who else was equipped to instruct the people?

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you.'”
Exodus 18:17-19

Wait! There is a better way?

Delegate

When stretched to maximum capacity, the art of delegation allows us to achieve exponentially more together than all of us could accomplish individually.

Jethro wisely instructed Moses to choose a better way — a way avoiding burnout.

Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
Exodus 18:20-23

Jethro presented Moses with a win-win. It would ensure the responsibility was fulfilled through the help of many. Those who could help more, would be given greater authority. But even those who were only able to maintain a light load could assist.

Lessons

We may glean practical application from Jethro’s advice.

  • Seek out a mentor for a place to be vulnerable and accountable. Give them permission to ask us the tough questions and point out places we might stumble. Live transparently and honestly before them.
  • Seek counsel from others. Counselors help us overcome internal hurdles of pride, selfish ambition, perfectionism, or any of the other vises that often lead to burnout.
  • Delegate authority. Allow other the liberty and the growth opportunity to assume responsibility.
  • Train others and assume a team mentality! Harness the power of synergy — working within teams of like-spirited and like-minded people.
  • Focus on areas only we can do. Acknowledge personal points of excellence where we bring the greatest benefit for the good of all. Then, humbly carry that area of responsibility.

God promises us,

“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
Jeremiah 31:25

Hope

No matter what the source, whether we are in the thick of burnout, or heading toward the precipice, Paul writes this sound advice:

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times, pray all the harder...”
Romans 12:11-12 MSG

God won’t put anything too heavy on us. But He draws close as we cry out to Him for help, giving us a new perspective and creative solutions going forward.

As we seek Him, He will keep us fueled and on fire, so that we can live alert and cheerful as we faithfully to the work.

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A Time for Rest and Joy

A Time for Rest and Joy

Recently, God nudged my heart to pursue a greater level of consistent rest and joy and bring a healthier balance to committed service. As a retiree, I have the freedom to pack into my self-imposed schedule whatever I desire. Because I enjoy so many things, I tend to fill my time to the brim. Or perhaps over-pack would be more accurate! But I sense I am on the cusp of change.

Cusp refers to “a point of transition between two different states or a pointed end when two curves meet. With many curves to my life and ministry, I’m uncertain to the exact “cusp” ahead. But I need an opportunity to refresh. So, Lord, whatever Your plan, bring it on!

From the beginning, God created work for humanity and humanity for work.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Genesis 2:15

I look out my window and laugh as I watch a man walking his dog. Or rather a dog dragging a man through knee-deep snow while chasing a rabbit.

Sometimes my work bares resemblance. I too feel like I’m being dragged into knee-deep pursuits against my will. I wonder if God looks at the pace of my life and laughs. More probably, He shakes His head knowing His plan is better than that.

Rest

I find it interesting that God made Adam at the very end of the sixth day of creation. I’m reminded again that Adam’s first full day was one of rest. Timing perfectly orchestrated!

God planned Adam’s work to be so significant that he needed rest before plunging in. God repeats the pattern again and again for many other people.

  • God removed Moses from the busy affluence of Pharoah’s palace, giving him a forty-year “rest” in the wilderness as a shepherd before his ministry began.
  • The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days before He began His earthly ministry.
  • After his conversion, Paul spent several years in Arabia before embarking on his ministry as apostle, writing the majority of the New Testament.

None of these illustrations would fit snuggly into our definition of “restful.” Even in rest, work was accomplished. But on the cusp of something new, God drew His chosen leaders aside for “rest” — away from the influence of crowds and earthly demands. Rest realigns our souls with God.

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says, “only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15

Return

God designs the prime motivation of rest to turn, or “return,” our hearts and focus back to Him. When we quiet the chatter of “have to, must do, should do,” we find strength.

The word for strength, in Hebrew, also means “force, valor, victory.” In rest, God brings increased power and strength. He also amplifies our “valor,” or “courage in the face of danger or battle.” To ensure victory in the season ahead, He calls us to rest.

But we, like Israel, don’t always accept His loving invitation.

” … But you would have none of it.”
Isaiah 30:15

I’m not sure what Israel used for an excuse. I know mine. “I must finish _____.” “Let me do _____ first.” “Wait until it’s a little less busy.” “Rest might cost me financially.”

On and on my list of excuses roll. I clearly understand the pressures to work, but only vaguely comprehend the significance of rest.

Rest proves God’s Presence goes with us.

“And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Exodus 33:14

God gifts us with rest! Despite the insomnia which plagues our culture, God promises,

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Psalm 4:8

Another passage resonates with many of us,

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”
Psalm 23:1,2

Perhaps, our restlessness exposes our need for God’s Presence more than we realize. Will we listen?

Joy

If I find rest difficult, what about joy? At first glance, most people who know me would consider me quite joyful. I enjoy every aspect of my life. My faith, family, work, and ministry all bring me joy. And yet God welcomes me into deeper levels of both rest and joy.

I shared God’s prompting with a close friend. She laughed at me! Yes, laughed! Then she pointed to Jesus’ parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-28. The master gave one servant five talents, who quickly went out and earned five more. The master also gave another servant two talents, who faithfully went out and earned two more. Then a wasteful servant, who was given one talent, buried it in the dirt.

My friend asked, “What was the response of the master to the first two servants?”

I quickly responded,

Well done, good and faithful servant!”
Matthew 25:21

“And?” she questioned. Hesitantly, I responded,

“You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”
Matthew 25:21

“And?” she asked again. My blank look invited her to complete the passage.

And

I remembered how the master gave each person talents. He rewarded their good work with more responsibility. But I forgot there was more. He invited them, as He is inviting us all, into the best part.

Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Matthew 25:21

What? How could I miss something so significant?

Other Bibles versions say, “the joy of the Lord!” How much joy does God have? Everything about Him, including His joy, is immeasurably more than we could ever think or imagine.

Do we consider God to be such a cruel task master, that He would deprive us of joy? Is that why it is easier to work “for” Him than “rest” in Him, experiencing His unlimited “joy?”

I don’t comprehend, even in a limited way, the exceedingly great joy God has for us — not just later in Heaven, but for us now.

Strength

Nehemiah refused to allow his people to become stuck in a rut of mourning or weeping. God gifts us with joy!

” … This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10

This Hebrew word translated “strength” means “a place or means of safety and protection.”

Both rest and joy come from God, originate with Him, and flow out of Him. Even amidst seasons of grief and loss, God offers us His gift of rest and joy. This combination becomes our strength, protection, power, courage, and victory.

God prepares us today for the unseen tomorrows. Through rest and joy, He builds in us everything we will need beyond the cusp of transitions ahead.

I resolve to not follow the example of yesterday by committing myself to a season of God’s rest and joy. Whether that season is forty years, forty days, or forty hours, I trust Him to do through and for me what He knows I need.

My friend acknowledged that God was speaking to her in a similar way. Would anyone else like to join us for a little more rest and joy?

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Back to the Basics — Humility

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To reach our full potential, we return to the basics — applying and mastering the foundational principles to our pursuits. No matter our field of study or area of expertise, we strive to understand the essential facts or concepts of a subject or skill.

In school, I excelled in mathematics and sciences. I knew that once the basic principles were established, every future aspect would securely be positioned upon it. I never achieved much success in other more vague and subjective studies.

Acclaimed UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, began every new coaching season by teaching his players how to put on their socks. Doesn’t that sound foolish? Wouldn’t these accomplished athletes already know how to put on their socks? Had all their mothers neglected to teach them this basic skill? Coach Wooden knew that if his players put on their socks improperly, they would develop blisters, which would impede their speed and maneuverability. So, he took them back to the basics, teaching his college players how to put on their socks.

Basics are important!

Back to the Basics

People may generally be divided into two distinct groups:

  • The first group proudly wears their credentials, denying any need for instruction or correction and ensuring their superficial masks remain in tack behind busy lives. They consistently avoid situations which may expose personal weakness.
  • The second group humbly receives correction and acknowledges deficiencies. They take personal responsibility for change. With humility, they return to the basics, again and again, seeking authentic transformation — even when it becomes obvious they need to relearn how “to put on their socks.”
Back to the Basics

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.
Proverbs 29:23

To go back to the basics of humility, I present three case studies: Peter, Moses, and Jesus. Each walked a similar, yet unique, path of humility. Each learned that by willingly going “low,” God brought them great honor. Of course, there are many other men and women we could add to this list.

Peter

Of all the disciples, I relate to Peter the most. Words like overconfident, proud, or presumptuous accurately describe this zealous leader. Often in the same breath, we find Peter speaking with divine understanding and with grotesque error. His encounter with the Holy Spirit we read about in Acts 2 changes Peter forever.

I believe a prior turning point proved equally significant for Peter, however. His failure to stand faithfully with Jesus when it mattered most caused Peter to question everything about being a disciple. His life’s direction stood in jeopardy. Confused and discouraged, he went back to what he knew — fishing.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out . . .”
John 21:3

Of course, their fishing expedition proved unsuccessful. After Jesus fed them from His own catch, He confronted the heart of Peter’s dilemma.

” . . . Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me . . .”
John 21:15

Three times Jesus asked Peter the same question. Twice Peter responded, “You know that I love you.” But the third time, we see Peter adjusting “his socks,” as he surrenders in complete humility. Deeply saddened and distressed, he acknowledges that he doesn’t even know his own capacity to love fully.

” . . . He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
John 21:17

Because Peter humbly lowering himself, Jesus granted him the honor of launching the infant church into the first century. Jesus brought Peter back to the basics of humility so that pride would never impede his spiritual growth or the effectiveness of his calling.

Moses

We find a capsulized version of Moses’ biography in Hebrews.

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
Hebrews 11:24-26

Moses abandoned the reputation and privilege of a king’s palace to becoming a foreigner and shepherd in the back side of the wilderness.

“Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.”
Acts 7:22

Yet when God called him to lead His people out of slavery, Moses claimed no such credentials. In his younger years, Moses, like many of us, acted with pride and presumption. We see no evidence of either in his later years. In fact, this is written of him,

“(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)”
Numbers 12:3

What an amazing declaration. In the wilderness, Moses learned how to “put on his socks” and walk with complete humility. Because Moses willingly turned back to the basics, God used him powerfully.

Jesus

No other person humbled themself to the degree that Jesus did. Leaving the throne room of Heaven, He chose the way of the cross — to be despised and rejected. He didn’t just learn the basics; He became the basics, taking on the form of humanity.

For man to humble himself before God is one thing; for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity to humble himself to such a level is beyond comprehension.

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:6-8

And because of such great obedience,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name . . .”
Philippians 2:9

Perfect Examples

What examples these men are for us all! The greater the level of humility, in receiving instruction and correction, the greater the level of honor bestowed.

To know their example and follow it are two different things. Often, the process for them and for us is painful. It is uncomfortable to discover we might have to relearn the right way to “put on our socks” — to do the very things we once thought we excelled at.

Like Peter, we might be asked to get out of the boat of familiarity and risk failing again. Like Moses, we might to called to speak up, face our greatest nemesis, and give God our radical “Yes!” Or in lesser ways, like Jesus, we might be asked to lay aside every privilege with a willingness to give even our lives for the sake of God and others.

One thing is assured. God calls us all to

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2

This is a new season. The greatest Coach ever, Jesus Christ again teaches us the basics. Whether His instruction comes direct through the Bible, the Holy Spirit revelation, or if He chooses to speak through others, it’s time to go back to the basics. Let’s learn to “put on our socks.”

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“I AM WHO I AM” – He Is Who He Is!

“I AM WHO I AM” – He Is Who He Is!

When I talk about God, I say, “He is!” When God speaks about Himself, He says, “I AM who I AM!” Is who I say He is, the “I AM”? Or when I speak about God, do I speak of someone less than the “I AM”?

I am not a self-professing theologian. Although, theology is simply the study of God, so in some ways, I classify as an amateur in the field. The more I see of God, the more I want to see; the more I know of Him, the more I want to know. I often feel like the seraphim who surround the heavenly throne, one faint glimpse throws me face downward, crying “Holy, God, You alone are amazing!”

“What comes into our minds when we think about God
is the most important thing about us.”
– A.W. Tozer 

What does come into our minds when we think about God? A white-haired anarchist holding lightning bolts, ready to hurl them at any moment in our direction? A soft, fluffy, weak, and disinterested once-was? What is our honest perception of God?

Only when we possess an accurate view of God will we obtain an accurate view of ourselves and the world around us. The link between the Creator and His created inseparably joins us, like it or not.

Here I Am

Moses had spent 40 years on the “far side of the wilderness,” ending up at “Horeb, the mountain of God.” My running from God and everyone else may not have lasted 40 years, but I ended up deep in the wilderness, nonetheless. Not to worry! No one can run so far or fast they can outrun God. The harder we try to run from Him, the harder we will run into Him when we least expect it. 

Even in the desert of our own choosing God calls us by name.

” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look,
God called to him from within the bush,
“Moses! Moses!
and Moses said, “Here I am.”
Exodus 3:4

When we don’t know Him, He knows us. When we would rather hide out incognito, He finds us, redirects our wandering into purposeful walking, and speaks identity and value into our being. Eventually, like Moses, we are prepared to respond, “Here I am!”

“Here I am” for Moses was an admission to 40 years of aimlessness: circling, re-circling, and swinging back to circle again.

The I AM

God calls the once-upon-a-time prince, now full-time shepherd, into a new career path — a path Moses wasn’t exactly enthused about. God had heard the miserable cries of His enslaved people, who just happened to be Moses’ relatives. The Sovereign Lord used those forty years of shepherding as His perfect training ground to prepare Moses to lead several million people out of Egypt. 

Moses argued and quickly excused himself. He hadn’t yet learned that those who argue with God always lose!

“So now, go, I am sending you to Pharaoh
to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
Exodus 3:10

Moses argued on! “Who am I?” “Who are You?” It’s one thing to know our own inability; it’s quite another to not know God’s ability! Moses confidently knew that he could not possibly be the one for such an important task. At this point, he wasn’t sure God was either! 

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
I AM has sent me to you.'”
Exodus 3:14

He Is

In determining relationship there must be an unchanging fixed point of reference. God introduces Himself as “I AM,” establishing Himself as the only fixed point from which everything and everyone else can be measured. 

“I the LORD do not change.”
Malachi 3:6

He is our moral compass point, the place from which we get our bearings. 

“We are right when, and only when,
we stand in a right position relative to God,
and we are wrong so far and so long as we stand in any other position.”
– A.W. Tozer

So here is the million-dollar question, “Am I willing to receive God as He is — the center of everything else?” All difficulties we face as Christians stem from our unwillingness to take God as He is and align ourselves accordingly. Too often, we insist on attempting to modify Him to our liking in our image of what we need, want, and wish Him to be. 

Alignment

Comfort and inexpressible joy flows from acknowledging God for who He is and loving Him as He is — the unchangeable I AM! The most holy moments we will ever encounter will be spent in the awareness of the reality of I AM. 

To the degree that I am out of alignment with Him, I will miss those opportunities of beholding and loving Him in the pureness and power of who He is. I don’t have to be running away on the back side of the wilderness to experience such loss. I can be standing beside Him, but turned ever so slightly away, and yet completely miss out

As we pursue knowing God for who He is, we embrace the labor of conforming ourselves to Him — bringing ourselves into complete alignment of His identity and purpose. Then we worship Him as He is.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
Revelation 4:11

Here, centered around worship, we find alignment as our eyes and hearts are fully focused on Him alone.

Worthy

It is complete contradiction to see Him and not worship. All worship, adoration and praise rests in Him. Do I know and worship the I AM for who He is or something less?

God Most High, The LORD of Angel Armies,
King Eternal, Yahweh,
Creator and Sustainer,
Great Deliverer, Mighty Warrior, 
Wonderful Counselor
Redeemer and Savior of all,
the Healer and Shepherd of our souls. 
the Anchor that holds us fast, 
the One who sees and knows,
our Light in darkness and Hope in despair.

There are no words to define the greatness of His being, no adjective that completes the image. The I AM is and always will be the fullness of Himself — incapable of being any more or any less.

Who do I say He is? Is who I say He is all that the I AM truly is? If so, bravo! If not, I need an alignment! My life will continually be a pursuit of knowing, discovering, learning, seeing, and possessing the greatness of I AM. But today, right now, I set myself on course to know Him more.

To know Him is to love Him; to see Him is to stand in awe.

Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.”
Psalm 96:9
 

Show Me Your Glory – The Desire to Know God

Show Me Your Glory – The Desire to Know God

Moses knew God like no other man. Yet, he still asked God, “Show me Your glory!” The intimate encounters Moses had in God’s presence only increased his desire to know God.

Time spent with those we love, whether family or friends, is sweet and refreshing. We constantly want to know what they are doing, how they are feeling, what is new in their lives, the struggles, and successes they are experiencing. Time passes quickly in their presence. Often before one meeting has ended, we’re anticipating and planning our next get together.

Moses felt this way about God. God’s attributes, nature and character are beyond finding out. Though Moses glimpsed who He was, he wanted to know God fully and completely.

“Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:18

The desire to know God will always lead to asking, “Show us more of You.”

A Meeting Place

My husband enjoys meeting with other men at a coffee shop, sipping on steaming cups of hot coffee and savoring humongous fresh backed cinnamon buns. I like meeting in homes — ours or someone else’s. Weekly worship services and prayer gatherings connect us to our church family.

The place we meet isn’t as important as being intentional about meeting.

“Now Moses used to take a tent
and pitch it outside the camp some distance away,
calling it the “tent of meeting.””
Exodus 33:7

Moses’ meeting with God wasn’t happenstance. He established a place and time to meet with God. When Moses was purposeful to meet with God, God met him.

“As Moses went into the tent,
the pillar of cloud would come down
and stay at the entrance,
while the LORD spoke with Moses…
The LORD would speak to Moses face to face,
as one speaks to a friend.”
Exodus 33:9,11

Face to face! Friend to friend! What stirs within you as you think about meeting God face to face, Friend with friend? Wonder, curiosity, anticipation, longing, or maybe even fear?

Visitor’s Welcome

Wanting to know originates with God.

“I will give them a heart to know me,
that I am the LORD.
They will be my people,
and I will be their God,
for they will return to me with all their heart.”
Jeremiah 24:7

God gives us a heart “to know” Him. Then He meets us fulfilling that longing, which only causes us to hunger and know Him more. If earthly friendships are sweet, how much more precious our time with God, the Greatest most Faithful Friend?

I envy Moses’ encounters with God. I also envy young Joshua’s position of being able to eavesdrop in on those conversations. As Moses’ assistant, Joshua was able to enter the Tent of Meeting, even lingering long after Moses went to other duties.

If we think God shows Himself only to His mighty men, we are mistaken. God welcomes anyone and everyone who comes humble and hungry. No matter how many times Moses and Joshua entered the tent, no matter how long they stayed, it was never quite long enough. The desire to know God always increased.

Hunger and Thirst

No amount of “knowing” is enough!

“If you are pleased with me,
teach me your ways so I may know you
and continue to find favor with you…”
Exodus 33:13

Moses declares, “Thank you God for your presence, but I want to know you more!” God affirms their friendship — no arm twisting needed! He responds immediately,

“And the LORD said to Moses,
I will do the very thing you have asked
because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Exodus 33:17

There are over 100 names for God in the bible. Each name reveals something about His character and identity. Moses knew God by Yahweh or Jehovah. Pharaoh’s daughter gave Moses his name. In Egyptian, “Moses” comes from the word for “son”, but in Hebrew it has the meaning to “deliver” or “drew out” because the Egyptian princess, “drew” Moses out of the Nile. His name reflected his destiny. God chose Moses to partner with Him to draw the people of Israel out of Egypt.

Names are significant. Calling someone by name shows them respect and value. Moses had a desire to know God even beyond His Name.

Show Me

Moses pushes the relationship to new levels and immediately asks God for more.

“Then Moses said, “now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33:18

If you were confident of asking God for anything He could offer, what one thing would it be? When, like Moses, you already know God’s unlimited power and unending capacity, what would you ask for?

“Show me!” Moses asked, “Show me more of You.”

Moses wasn’t enticed by power or position. He once lived in the house of the richest most powerful man in the world. What one man possesses, another man can take away. But what God has, who He is, and what He gives can never be removed. “More of You,” Moses asks.

Jesus said

“Wherever your treasure is,
there the desires of your heart will be.”
Matthew 6:21

How intentional I am about creating a meeting place with God, will prove how hungry I am for His Presence. It will also reveal where my desire is.

Desire to Know God

Moses wasn’t alone!

To paraphrase David, he said, “There is only one thing I ask God. I want to live where You live. There is no one else I want to be with, look at, or hear from.” (Psalm 27:4) The Sons of Korah echoed David’s desire to know God more.

“My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
Psalm 84:2

They knew there was no place better! No other place held the indescribable joy of God’s presence praising Him.

Flip a few pages in the bible to the New Testament and we find Anna in the temple day and night worshiping, fasting and praying. (Luke 2:37) Without a husband or family, her time was exclusively devoted to God. Mary sat at Jesus feet intently listening, watching and learning more. (Luke 10:39)

Paul’s desire to know God came in monstrous proportions.

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
1 Corinthians 2:2

His knowing Jesus went beyond the ooey-gooey, make me feel good kind of knowing someone.

“I want to know Christ — yes,
to know the power of his resurrection
and participation in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death.”
Philippians 3:10

To Know More Fully

The more these men and women knew God, the more they longed to know Him. The desire to know God out-measured the need for personal comfort, gain, or reputation. In the knowing, an unquenchable hunger for knowing more fully was awakened.

For each of these people, time devoted in His presence (speaking and listening, waiting, and pressing in) nurtured the hunger for more. There were no shortcuts.

“Lord fill us with a hunger for more of You.
May we “pitch our tents,” setting aside a specific place to meet You.
Help us draw away from demands and responsibilities
to wait in Your presence,
even if that means stepping “some distance away.”
May we choose to reach for You,
to seek Your face,
to long more deeply for your presence.”

The Power to Choose – For Better and For Worse

The Power to Choose – For Better and For Worse

God has allowed each one of us the power to choose. In His sovereignty He refuses to deny us that ability. The unrestrained power to choose can ultimately lead to immeasurable good or irreversible harm. Nonetheless, for better or for worse, the choice is ours.

I have a long history full of both good and poor choices. Probably, so do you! If we are wise, we will learn from both our successes and failures. My life is colored by the effects of choices I’ve made regarding finances, health, relationships and a multitude of other areas.

It is often the little choices that lead to bigger decisions with even greater consequences. Little things form big habits of conduct that result for the better or for the worse.

“This day…I have set before you life and death,
blessings and curses.
Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
and that you may love the LORD your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Moses is wanting the people to realize how serious the power to choose inevitably is.

Life or Death

If the consequences of our choices were instant, perhaps we would learn quicker and be wiser when it comes to decision making.

“A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest —
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.”
Proverbs 24:33-34

Do you notice how it is “a little” of this and “a little” of that, that leads to something seriously alarming? That little extra may not seem like much in the moment. Over time though, a pattern of behavior develops that leads either down a path of destruction or up to God.

Many people are bound by addiction. None of them sought such an ending. Usually, it started with a little taste, a small whiff, or a sneak peak. All too soon, an unbreakable habit leads to brokenness, regret and even torment.

My consistent prayer over our family has been, “Lord, don’t let us get away with anything. May we face the consequences of our sin quickly and soundly.” We can be lulled into apathy and indifference when we think, in even a small way, we are getting away with something contrary to God’s perfect will.

Blessings and Curses

When I flip back a couple chapters in Deuteronomy, I see the promises of blessing God has waiting for those who seek to obey Him with all their hearts. Blessings such as overcoming enemies, gaining prosperity, open heavens and receiving promotion. The extensive list invites us to revel in God’s goodness and grace.

“You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
the fruit of your womb will be blessed,
and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock
— the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be bless when you come in
and blessed when you go out.”
Deuteronomy 28:3-6

I have lived in the city and in the country, farmed land, raised livestock and enjoyed abundance. Yes, hard work was involved. All success was entirely the result of God’s blessing, however. Yet, there were also seasons, when my heart was equally fixed upon God and devastation seemed to loom everywhere.

Through the legitimate struggles God was working out a higher good, developing my character, strengthening my faith, humbling my heart and allowing me to lean totally on Him as my Source.

This same chapter that speaks of the blessings of obedience also contains the negative consequences of turning away from God. God warns that the power to choose goes both ways — blessings and curses, better and worse.

Choose Life

Moses presented the truth, honestly and sincerely. Now everyone who heard was released to weigh their own actions in the balance of God’s standard. God isn’t wanting to allow harm to come our way. He lovingly invites us to Himself.

“Now choose life, so that you and your children my life
The LORD is your life
and He will give you many years in the land…”
Deuteronomy 30:20

I wish I could have been there to hear the intonation in Moses’ voice and catch a glimpse of his expression. The gift of life, a life that would affect generations, was being extended freely and fully.

I can hear that same offer repeated by Jesus,

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

We see again the power to choose and the results of that choice.

Extra Benefits

When we wisely exercise the power to choose, “extra” benefits come along:

“Now choose life, so that …
you may love the LORD your God,
listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
Deuteronomy 30:20

The road of life is littered with relational corpses of poor choices. That “thing” we mess with may not result in instant death, but every act of disobedience drains life from us in one way or another. God’s gift of choice affects not just us but everyone around us as well.

More than anything, our choices affect our relationship with God. I am foolish if I believe I can walk in disobedience to God and still maintain intimate relationship with Him. My power to choose will either open my heart to hear clearly from Him or cause dullness to cloud my perception. A little compromise here and a little more there is the outward evidence of how much or how little I am “hold(ing) fast” to Him.

Sadly, others can see the outcome of my choices long before I do. Sometimes my willful blinding to God’s truths causes dullness in my mind. At other times, I have stepped off course in innocence or ignorance. The reasons my vary but the results are consistently damaging.

Power to Choose

God will never take away our power to choose. His heart rejoices when we exercise that gift of grace to turn to Him in wholehearted love and devotion. At other times, He grieves as we turn and go our own direction.

Love propels God to release us to our own destinies. His love invites us to choose wisely.

At the end of Joshua’s tenure as leader, he declares his stance:

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…
but as for me and my household,
we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua 24:15

The principle of the power to choose life or death flows through the pages of the bible from Genesis to Revelation.  Today, I simply add my little voice to the mighty voices of multiple others, “choose life.” For in choosing life, we also make the choice to love, listen and hold fast to the things of God.

Is This Prayer? Vocal and Silent, Raw and Active – This is Prayer!

Is This Prayer? Vocal and Silent, Raw and Active – This is Prayer!

“Is this prayer?” is a question frequenting my thoughts lately. Moses’ powerful public prayer was birthed in intimate face-to-face encounters with God. His life demonstrates the qualities and benefits of this deep relationship. Though I enjoy a personal relationship with God, He has been challenging many of my paradigms of prayer. 

Moses, unlike any other person, experienced God in unprecedented ways. He heard God’s audible voice. He received detailed instructions on how to bring unity to a nation not yet nation, as well as how to build and organize a worship center for over a million people. His dependence upon God was evident,

“Then Moses said to Him,
‘If Your Presence does not go with us,
then do not send us up from here.'”
Exodus 33:15

Difficult Times

Perhaps, nothing forces us into the Presence of God quite like difficult circumstances. Moses faced more than his fair share of struggle. A posse of grumblers confronted him and his leadership. Dathan, Abiram and On were their self-appointed leaders. They boldly aired their grievances unaware of their own pride and disrespect!

“(They) became insolent
and rose up against Moses.
With them were 250 Israelite men,
well-known community leaders
who had been appointed members
of the council.”
Numbers 16:1-2

Such descension came not from a renegade group of has-beens or back-benchers, but from “well-known community leaders.” These men were “appointed members” of council! 

Envision the scene for a moment. Two hundred and fifty strong, angry, powerful recognized leaders shouting their demands!

“They came as a group to oppose
Moses and Aaron and said to them,
‘The whole community is holy,
every one of them, and the Lord is with them.
Why then do you set yourselves
above the Lord’s assembly?'”
Numbers 16:3

Silence

What would you do? What would I do? Would the first instinct be to fight, flight or fall? Moses prayed. Although the word “prayer” might not fit our preconceived notion of what prayer looks like.

“When Moses heard this
he fell face down.”
Numbers 16:4

Have you been in a situation so volatile, uncertain, and beyond reason that words won’t come? Any utterance falls insignificantly short. After prostrated silence, Moses would speak, but not now. Now was the time of waiting on the Most High, being still in His Presence, and listening for His voice. Hearing always precedes speaking for the wise of heart.

Is silence prayer? Can prayer be wordless and still be prayer? 

Raw

The conversation Moses had with God was raw, audacious, and vulnerable. 

“Then Moses became very angry
and said to the LORD,
Do not accept their offering.
I have not taken so much as a donkey from them,
nor have I wronged any of them.'”
Numbers 16:15

The sting of injustice and angry retaliation oozed through Moses honest interchange with God. Is that Allowed? Is emotional venting prayer?

***

She sat across from me confused, disappointed, and unable to understand the situation that seemed to threaten her. Raised in a Christian home, she had attempted to honour God at every stage of her life. Purity was high on her expectation list both for herself and her spouse. 

Past sins and secrets were recently disclosed by the man she loved. She fully submitted her marriage to God. Yet the sense of betrayal remained — not only by her husband but by God.

She was stuck in the dilemma of nicety. “How do you tell God your angry?” Such transparency seemed risky.

Slowly, she began to articulate her grief, pain, and the depth of loss she felt. Gradually words started to break from the inner dam of disbelief and mistrust.

Afterward, she sensed God acknowledge and even thank her for her authenticity and courage to admit and honestly voice the pain of her heart. Perplexed she wondered why God welcomed the exchange. Slowly she began to realize God’s love covered her unconditionally. He desired genuine relationship with her.

Many people might ask, “Is this prayer?”

Standing in the Gap

Perhaps, Moses’ next exchange with God pictures more clearly our perception of prayer. 

“But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out,
‘O God, the God who gives breath
to all living things,
will you be angry with the entire assembly
when only one man sins?'”
Numbers 16:22

This is intercession at its finest. God stands ready to vindicate Moses and Aaron once and for all. Instead of saying, “Yeah! It’s about time! Do it God!” They stand in the gap by falling on their faces. Instead of applauding God’s justice, they plead for His mercy.

Only a few verses before, Moses laid silently face down in the dust. Again, He falls to the ground. This time with deep wails that would not be silenced. 

“What difference does the prayer of one person make?
You will never know until you pray.”
– Anne Graham Lotz

Which one is prayer?

Action

Can action be prayer? 

The grumbling in the camp rose in unceasing waves. No sooner had God dealt with one group of complainers and mutants, than another pushed their way to the forefront.

God’s patience ran low! His love would not restrain correction any longer. When Moses and Aaron saw the sudden appearance of “the cloud” covering the tent of meeting and “the glory of the LORD,” they knew time was running out.

“‘Get away from this assembly
so I can put an end to them at once.’
And they fell facedown.”
Numbers 16:45

Falling facedown in prayer almost seems synonymous for Moses. But this time, face to the ground prayer led to a completely different response. Quickly, via Moses’ instruction, Aaron “ran into the midst of the assembly” with a censer and burning incense.

“He stood between the living and the dead,
and the plague stopped.”
Numbers 16:48

Is running and standing prayer?

It may feel outside our traditional prayer paradigm when God spurs us to obedient action. The results will speak for themselves. 

More than one prayer warrior I have talked to has sensed God instruct them to stomp their feet or aggressively dance in warlike fashion as a declaration of freedom and breakthrough for others. Each of them testified to a distinct shift that enabled a restoration of relationship with a prodigal son or daughter. Their prayer acts somehow created a “gap” between the dead destructive choices while opening “paths” for the life of Christ to flow.

The bound were set free,
the lost found their way home, 
the plague of sin and shame broke.

Obedient actions when directed by God carry the sweet incense, the aroma of prayer, to the throne room of heaven.

Is this prayer?

Is This Prayer?

Yes, beyond a doubt, as Moses demonstrated, it is prayer. Prayer at its deepest level — sometimes silent, often raw, gap creating, active involvement initiating prayer. Prayer beyond words. 

This is the prayer that releases God’s authority and His mercy. Prayer that enables true and ever-deepening authentic relationship between God and man, Father and child, Redeemer and redeemed. 

It is the kind of prayer that refuses to abandon, pleads for mercy, and seeks another way. Prayer reaching to the perishing. Prayer staying the hand of justice and soliciting mercy. Life being ministered to the lost and broken through the partnering of God and man.

Choices: Contentment or Craving, Need or Desire

Choices: Contentment or Craving, Need or Desire

What do you crave? Chocolate perhaps tops my craving chart; ice cream might head my husband’s crave list. Cravings are attached to desire rather than need. Learning the secret of contentment requires wisdom to know the difference.

God often gets my attention through simple everyday activities. Recently, I was reminded of just such an incident that occurred several years ago.

In the Barn

A mature cow delivered a healthy black calf on a fine spring day. In inexplicable rage she immediately attempted to kill it! I’m not exaggerating! Her whole intention was the destruction of her newborn baby. After rescuing the little one, we put them into the calving barn to give opportunity to “mother up”. However, every brain cell she possessed seemed to collide with that notion!

Several times a day for the next three days, the only way her baby was able to nurse was to confine this stubborn cow in a squeeze chute to prevent her from either kicking or bunting her beautiful baby to death.

During one such feeding episode, fatigued, and frustrated I yelled in exasperation, “What is wrong with you? You have a perfectly good baby, and you don’t want it? Wise up!”

Instantly I sensed the Lord’s reprimand upon my heart, “MaryAnn, how many times have I given you my perfect gift?  You have rejected and refused it, craving something else.”

Ouch! God’s word hit the target! I knelt in the fresh straw, acknowledging my own foolish stubbornness, as I sought God’s forgiveness through repentance.

Almost simultaneously, the cow in front of me seemed to have an equally profound change of heart. She began to nuzzle her baby, mooing softly and gently to her little one.

Tears ran unrestrained down my cheeks as I realized God was willing to use this not-so-spiritual barn and animals to speak truth regarding my misaligned heart attitude.

Craving Other Food

It had been a couple of years since the Israelites had escaped Egypt. Any positive inclination they may have had was fading fast.

“Now the people complained
about their hardships
in the hearing of the LORD…”
Numbers 11:1

I have an extremely low tolerance for grumbling — unless, of course, if it is me doing the complaining. Don’t get me wrong! I’m quite “Christian” about it! It starts as mild discontent, a touch of cynicism, a pinch of fussing, a bit of criticism here and a little grievance there. If left unchecked, however, the petty picking multiplies rapidly and exponentially.

It is almost humorous to listen to these grumblers,

If only we had meat to eat!
We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost —
also the cucumbers, melons,
leeks, onions and garlic.”
Numbers 11:4,5

No cost? The true cost of slavery was completely evaporating from their foolish minds; the depth of suffering they endured in Egypt was becoming nothing more than fading memory. How quickly they were forgetting how they “groaned in their slavery and cried out“.  (Exodus 2:23, 3:7,8)

Craving Multiplied

The craving of a few spread like deadly gangrene infecting the entire camp.

“Moses heard the people of every family
wailing at the entrance to their tents.
The LORD became exceedingly angry
and Moses was troubled.”
Numbers 11:10

Unchecked internal grumbling will soon push its way to the surface, rising like a volcanic explosion spewing toxic debris everywhere and on everyone!

Notice the difference between the Lord’s and Moses’ perspective — The One angry, the other troubled. God was the One who heard their groaning, responded to their cries, and provided supernatural rescue.  Today, these complainers lacked nothing!

He was, and still is, the LORD who Provides! Daily God covered them with a cloud of protection, shielding them from the desert heat. He, Himself, was their night light, a pillar of fire, warding off imposing darkness. That’s not all!

They all ate the same spiritual food
and drank the same spiritual drink;
for they drank from the spiritual rock
that accompanied them,
and that rock was Christ.”
1 Corinthians 10:3,4

What more could they need? Nothing!

What more did they want? Everything!

Craving Satisfied

Moses heard their words; God saw their heart. They weren’t just asking for food; they were demanding better!

I am compelled to ask some seriously searching questions: Where do I want better? When has God so generously given me everything I truly need, yet I demand more! Do I ever come into agreement with the Israelites, “If only (I) had ________!”

For them it was fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. What do I crave?

A better job,
or better house,
better ministry,
or better spouse,
better family, bank account,
or opportunity?

Craving is attractive to the eyes, creating a desire for or greed after. Sometimes God reluctantly allows us to taste the fruit of our cravings. The Lord gave them what they craved.

“But while the meat was still between their teeth
and before it could be consumed,
the anger of the LORD burned
against the people,
and he struck them with a severe plague.
Therefore the place was named
Kibroth Hattaavah,
because there they buried the people
who had craved other food.”
Numbers 11:33,34

The Cost of Craving

God promises to give us the desires of our heart. Unfortunately, this includes both good and evil! It would be wise to carefully examine our desires so that out of the good desires of our heart we will reap only blessing.

“Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.”
Psalm 37:4

Kibroth Hattaavah means “graves of craving”.

Just in case you are thinking, God’s love, generosity, and grace are greater this side of the cross, let us consider carefully the present day price tag on humanities insatiable appetite for more and better.

Heart disease, the number one killer worldwide, is often the result of improper eating habits — a quest for more than what is needed. Many deaths are indirectly attributed to stress; stress we are willing assume in pursuit of “bigger and better”. The killer of HIV/AIDS would be non-existent to a people content within the marriage union. Millions more die through wars, conflict, and terrorism — the craving for power, wealth, or land. This year alone, 40,000,000 lives have been terminated via abortion, the choice available to a culture craving something other than life!

Graves of craving abound!

I know what it is to be in need,
and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content
in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or in want.”
Philippians 4:12

Paul “learned the secret of being content.” Contentment combines satisfaction, gratitude and happiness in one life-giving package. It is the quality of sufficiency and adequacy even in the slenderest of times. It is the feeling of being strong enough or possessing enough to need no further aid or support. (Thayers)

Substituting cravings for contentment brings health and wholeness into our lives spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally. Ceasing grumbling isn’t enough! Walking step-by-step in contentment is necessary and so much better! Perhaps even the best of all!

Contentment is one indeed of God’s great gifts available to us now.

**********

Further Reading:

Second is Better Than First! When Second is Best!