Prayer, Sanctification, Throwback Thursday, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Great Expectations

Originally published February 6, 2014expectgreatthings-necklace (1)

Do we expect too much from God? Is that even possible?

No.

Yes.

Well, kinda.

You see, I’m not talking about expecting something and God being unable to deliver it. That’s just plain silly when talking about our omnipotent God. No, what I’m talking about is whether or not the expectations we come up with are grounded in biblical reality.

What do we mean when we talk about “praying expectantly” or coming to a time of corporate worship, study, or prayer, and “expecting God to do something”? Just what is it we are expecting God to do?

Could it be that He’s already doing something and we’re just not seeing it?

Sometimes, when we read God’s word, we expect God to do something just as “big” as He did in Moses’, Paul’s, or some other Bible hero’s life. We forget that the Bible is sort of like a “highlight reel” of the events in the lives of a handful of people that God drafted to be part of His visible activity at that moment in history.

We focus on the moments Moses had at the burning bush or walking through the Red Sea, and that’s what we want, too. r643167_4468740But we forget that Moses’ life wasn’t like that every day. We forget about the eighty years he spent wandering around the desert, half in the day to day monotony of shepherding on the back side of Midian, the other half, wandering around the wilderness with the people of Israel.

Eighty years of nothing special. Day after day of ordinary. Week after week of God not “showing up” and doing something amazing. Eighty years. That’s a lifetime for most of us.

Was God any less at work in Moses’ eighty years of desert thwandering than He was when He gave Moses the Law or spoke to him face to face or sent manna? Of course not. During those days, God was protecting Moses from the heat and wild animals, providing food and shelter for him, blessing him with a wife and children, directing his steps, teaching him obedience and trust.

Just like He does for us.

Have you read a Bible passage this week that allowed you to see more of God’s glory? God is doing something. He’s revealing Himself to you.

Are you praying for someone’s salvation? God is doing something. He’s working on the heart of that person.

Did you have a place to sleep last night and food on your table today? God is doing something. He’s providing for your needs.

Do you leave church on Sundays having been fed the truth of God’s word by your pastor? God is doing something. He’s growing you to spiritual maturity.

Is it possible that we’re expecting God to do something in our lives that isn’t in His particular plan for us? You aren’t Moses, and neither am I. Neither were the million or so other Israelites Moses led out of Egypt, and neither have the billions of other people been who have inhabited earth since Creation. Moses was Moses. You are you. God doesn’t have the same plan for your life He had for Moses’ life.

And, by the way, have you ever noticed that most of the people in the Bible through whom God did something “big” were not expecting it or asking for it? Moses wasn’t expecting God to show up in that burning bush. David wasn’t asking God to do great things in his life when Samuel dropped by to anoint him as the next king. Both of them were hanging out with the sheep when God called them. Paul thought he was already an awesome servant of God when he got knocked off his high horse. Mary wasn’t expecting to be expecting. She was just a teenage girl growing up and learning how to run a household.

1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12 says:

But we urge you, brothers to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

That’s what all of those Bible characters were doing when God chose them. Just regular people living regular lives doing regular work. Just like billions of other people through whom God has not chosen to do anything big and spectacular.

keep-calm-god-is-at-workBut that doesn’t mean God hasn’t been “doing something” in all of our lives. In fact, the vast majority of the work God does in our lives every single day goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

So, instead of setting our expectations on those very rare “wow factor” works of God that seem so appealing, maybe we should be asking Him to open our eyes to, and make us thankful for, all of the things He’s already doing in our lives. Instead of having great expectations of things that God has never promised us, maybe we should ask Him for, and expect Him to, do what He has promised:

Forgiveness for our sin

Christ-likeness

Provision for our needs

Endurance

The ability and opportunity to help others

Faithfulness

Humility

Patience

The opportunity to share the gospel

Because “all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” You can expect it.

Faith, Obedience, Old Testament, Sunday School, Trust

Trust and Obey ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 3-2-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 9 ~ Feb. 23-Mar. 1
Numbers 1-15, Psalm 90
Trust and Obey

Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Dilemma → The People’s Response → Moses/Leadership’s Response ←→ God’s Response

Today, we’re taking a look at four incidents from this week’s reading which follow the paradigm above. All start out with a problem. We’ll look at how the people responded to that problem, how Moses and the other leaders responded, and how God responded, which will show us how we should respond to the dilemmas we face: with trust in, and obedience to, God.

 A Generic Gripe (Numbers 11:1-3)

The Dilemma (11:1):
This seems to have been a general discontent with the aggravations that come with marching around the desert. Various translations mention “hardships,” “adversity,” and “misfortunes.” We can’t tell from this verse whether these were hardships of their own making (as two of the subsequent problems were) or they were just things that came up outside their control.

Israel’s Response (11:1-2, Psalm 142:1-2):
Israel’s response was to gripe. How was this different from Psalm 142:2, where David said, “I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.”? Check out verse 1: David said, “I cry out to the Lord…I plead for mercy to the Lord.” David was crying out to the Lord. Israel was crying out against the Lord (“in the hearing of the Lord”).

God’s Response (11:1):
God’s anger was literally kindled. Why such a harsh response to a little complaining? We’ll see more clearly in the next incident.

Moses’ Response/God’s Response (11:2):
Moses intercedes in a picture of the way Christ intercedes for us. He gets between the sinful people and God’s wrath and pleads their case before Him. God’s wrath abates, not because there’s anything righteous in the people, but because of the righteousness of the one interceding.

 Where’s The Beef? (Numbers 11:4-35)

 The Dilemma (11:4-9):
“Waaah…we’re tired of the same old food day after day!” Notice, it wasn’t that they didn’t have food and were crying out to God to help them and keep them from starving. God had provided plenty of the food He thought best for them. He even delivered it right to their doorsteps—they didn’t have to go out and hunt! But that wasn’t good enough.

Israel’s Response (11:4-6,10, Philippians 3:19, Romans 1:25):
Israel’s response to this dilemma (which wasn’t really a dilemma at all—this was about what they preferred—it was a problem of their own making) was to turn their noses up at what God had provided for them and cry out against Him.

Their complaint was a disdain for all God had done for them in delivering them from Egypt. They didn’t want to do things God’s way anymore. They actually preferred going back to (and thought they had it better under) slavery! And for what? Food. The kind of food they missed and preferred. The food of their old way of life. The fruit of slavery.

Their complaint was essentially a contempt for and rejection of God’s salvation because they were willing to toss it all aside for something as paltry as a different kind of food. “They worshiped and served the creation rather than the creator.”

What are some ways we do the same thing? (Thinking we had it better when we were lost and longing for the things we had back then.)

Moses’ Response (11:10-15, Philippians 4:13, Matthew 11:28):
Moses had had it with these rebellious, childish people, and he cried out passionately to the Lord about it. This “friend of God” was not rejecting God or His ways. He was saying, “You’ve asked me to lead and care for this people, and I want to comply, but I can’t. It’s too hard. I need Your help!” His response was not to reject God (as was the case with the Israelites’ complaint), but to trust God and ask for His help in obeying Him.

When it is our desire to take up our cross daily, God has promised to either give us the strength to carry it (Phil. 4:13) or lift it off our backs permanently (Matt. 11:28).

God’s Response (11:16-35, Psalm 37:4):
Two different complaints. Two different motives. Two different responses: God showed kindness to Moses, but anger towards the Israelites.

Yet, in a way, the same response. God gave both Moses and the people what they asked for. (Actually, He gave the people much more than they asked for!) When Moses got what he wanted, it was a blessing because He was asking according to God’s will and out of a desire to obey Him. This is what Ps. 37:4 is talking about when it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” When the people got what they wanted, it was a curse because God gave them what they never should have wanted in the first place.

Power Play (Numbers 12)

The Dilemma (12:1-2):
Miriam and Aaron were annoyed with Moses for some unclear-to-us reason having to do with Moses’ new wife. Whether they were opposed to her because she was a Cushite or because she had done something to tick them off, we don’t know.

Miriam and Aaron’s Response (12:1-2):
Their annoyance led Miriam and Aaron to grumble against Moses. And once they started grumbling against him- which was really grumbling against God, because God had called Moses, placed him in authority, and spoke through him- it was easy enough to convince themselves that they should be in charge, or at least equal to Moses. “And the Lord heard it,” indicates that they were implicating God in their complaint. Here is another incident that’s a problem of the complainant’s own making.

God’s Response (12:4-10, 14-15):
Again, God’s anger is “kindled.” He comes down personally, since they are denouncing Him personally by way of Moses, and sets them straight. “Yes, there is a difference between y’all and Moses. No, you’re not equal to him. Moses is the one I’ve put in this position, not either of you.” Miriam’s name being mentioned first (v.1) and the fact that God gave her leprosy but not Aaron, probably indicate that she was the instigator in this situation.

Moses’ Response (12:11-13):
Again, Moses intercedes between the sinner and the wrath of God and asks, trusting in God’s grace, for Miriam’s healing. God grants his petition, but not right away. God wants Miriam to understand how serious her disobedience is, so He allows her to experience His chastening for a week. But after her time of discipline is over, God’s grace allowed her back into the camp to be reconciled to Moses and the people.

Ten Were Bad, Two Were Good (Numbers 13:25-14:35)


The Dilemma (13:25-33):
The spies came back and gave an accurate report of what they saw. The land itself was awesome, but the people were strong, militarily, and the cities were strongly fortified. All of the spies and the people who heard their report were understandably afraid. This was not a problem of their own making.

Israel’s Response (14:1-4, Exodus 3:8):
Again, the people’s immediate response to fear was not to trust in the Lord and obey Him, but to rebel. Again, their response was to quickly abandon and disdain all God had done for them. They tossed aside His salvation in favor of slavery and what they thought would be safety. They knew what God had promised (Ex. 3:8- compare to 13:29) and called Him a liar (14:3- compare to Ex. 3:8). Again, they cried out against the Lord instead of crying out to Him.

Joshua and Caleb’s Response (14:5-9, 13:30):
Nowhere do we see Caleb and Joshua {13:30, 14:6-9} denying or minimizing the difficulty and scariness of the situation, but confirming it. They knew what people like the Hittites, et al, were capable of doing to their enemies. They were well aware of Israel’s military weakness and disadvantage.

Yet, instead of letting what they could see and experience determine reality, they trusted God’s word and promises to them to determine reality. They had seen what God was capable of doing to His enemies. They saw what He had done to Pharaoh’s army without their even having to fight, and trusted that, if He had promised them this land, He could do something like that again.

Moses’ Response (14:13-19):
Again, Moses stands between the sinful people and God’s wrath- just like Jesus does for us- pleading with God to forgive them so that God’s name will be glorified. He calls God to act in accordance with His own character: slow to anger, steadfast love, forgiving.

God’s Response (14:20-35):
Again, God grants the request of the intercessor (Moses), not because of the sinful people, but because of the righteousness of the one interceding, and because of His own character. Though they will still suffer the consequences of their sin, God pardons sinners.


What Can We Learn?

1. When we have a problem, need, or desire, God wants us to bring it to Him in prayer with a heart submissive to His will. He desires for us to cry out to him, not against Him.

2. Sometimes, we’re the problem. Sometimes we’re in anguish over a problem that’s not really a problem, but a selfish or ungodly desire we’re not even supposed to have.

3. When we face difficult situations, God wants us to calm down, trust His word and His promises, and obey Him, not reject Him in order to do things our own way. Like the song says, “there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Prayer, Sanctification, Worship

Great Expectations

expectgreatthings-necklace (1)

Do we expect too much from God? Is that even possible?

No.

Yes.

Well, kinda.

You see, I’m not talking about expecting something and God being unable to deliver it. That’s just plain silly when talking about our omnipotent God. No, what I’m talking about is whether or not the expectations we come up with are grounded in biblical reality.

What do we mean when we talk about “praying expectantly” or coming to a time of corporate worship, study, or prayer, and “expecting God to do something”? Just what is it we are expecting God to do?

Could it be that He’s already doing something and we’re just not seeing it?

Sometimes, when we read God’s word, we expect God to do something just as “big” as He did in Moses’, Paul’s, or some other Bible hero’s life. We forget that the Bible is sort of like a “highlight reel” of the events in the lives of a handful of people that God drafted to be part of His visible activity at that moment in history.

We focus on the moments Moses had at the burning bush or walking through the Red Sea, and that’s what we want, too. r643167_4468740But we forget that Moses’ life wasn’t like that every day. We forget about the eighty years he spent wandering around the desert, half in the day to day monotony of shepherding on the back side of Midian, the other half, wandering around the wilderness with the people of Israel.

Eighty years of nothing special. Day after day of ordinary. Week after week of God not “showing up” and doing something amazing. Eighty years. That’s a lifetime for most of us.

Was God any less at work in Moses’ eighty years of desert thwandering than He was when He gave Moses the Law or spoke to him face to face or sent manna? Of course not. During those days, God was protecting Moses from the heat and wild animals, providing food and shelter for him, blessing him with a wife and children, directing his steps, teaching him obedience and trust.

Just like He does for us.

Have you read a Bible passage this week that allowed you to see more of God’s glory? God is doing something. He’s revealing Himself to you.

Are you praying for someone’s salvation? God is doing something. He’s working on the heart of that person.

Did you have a place to sleep last night and food on your table today? God is doing something. He’s providing for your needs.

Do you leave church on Sundays having been fed the truth of God’s word by your pastor? God is doing something. He’s growing you to spiritual maturity.

Is it possible that we’re expecting God to do something in our lives that isn’t in His particular plan for us? You aren’t Moses, and neither am I. Neither were the million or so other Israelites Moses led out of Egypt, and neither have the billions of other people been who have inhabited earth since Creation. Moses was Moses. You are you. God doesn’t have the same plan for your life He had for Moses’ life.

And, by the way, have you ever noticed that most of the people in the Bible through whom God did something “big” were not expecting it or asking for it? Moses wasn’t expecting God to show up in that burning bush. David wasn’t asking God to do great things in his life when Samuel dropped by to anoint him as the next king. Both of them were hanging out with the sheep when God called them. Paul thought he was already an awesome servant of God when he got knocked off his high horse. Mary wasn’t expecting to be expecting. She was just a teenage girl growing up and learning how to run a household.

1 Thessalonians 4:10b-12 says:

But we urge you, brothers to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

That’s what all of those Bible characters were doing when God chose them. Just regular people living regular lives doing regular work. Just like billions of other people through whom God has not chosen to do anything big and spectacular.

keep-calm-god-is-at-workBut that doesn’t mean God hasn’t been “doing something” in all of our lives. In fact, the vast majority of the work God does in our lives every single day goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

So, instead of setting our expectations on those very rare “wow factor” works of God that seem so appealing, maybe we should be asking Him to open our eyes to, and make us thankful for, all of the things He’s already doing in our lives. Instead of having great expectations of things that God has never promised us, maybe we should ask Him for, and expect Him to, do what He has promised:

Forgiveness for our sin

Christ-likeness

Provision for our needs

Endurance

The ability and opportunity to help others

Faithfulness

Humility

Patience

The opportunity to share the gospel

Because “all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” You can expect it.