I Pray For Things I Don't Want

Sometimes I pray for things I don't want. A few weeks ago I prayed the following:

"God please humble me."

Immediately after I uttered the phrase (in my head), I had to pause, step back and think, "Really? Do I really want this?"

I know that humility is good because the Bible says so on numerous occasions (2 Samuel 22:28, 2 Chronicles 12:7, 12:12, Psalm 25:9, 147:6, Proverbs 3:34, Isaiah 66:2, Matthew 23:12, Ephesians 4:2, Philippians 2:8, and many others). Jesus said in his sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5), and the book of Numbers refers to Moses as the humblest man on earth (12:3—ironically, Moses is believed to have authored the first five books of the Bible which includes Numbers, the fourth book. Chew on that for awhile. Were he so humble would he have written this passage? Scholars, however, debate his authorship with some saying he authored some, but not all of the book). But when, in that instant, I paused and thought of the implications of being humbled, I almost wanted to take it back and say to Jesus, "Never mind."

Being obedient and subjective to God's will is not easy. Anyone who claims it is is probably a liar. There are times when I have asked God to send me someone to talk to about Jesus, knowing all the while that I would be scared and uncomfortable doing so. Yet we are supposed to be evangelistic.

The Bible is full of commands, proverbs, and lessons that are not easy to swallow. Yet it is still God's word, and therefore, perfect. Why do you think Jesus was rejected? It was because he told the Jews to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, instead of leading a military assault to reclaim Jerusalem for the Hebrew nation. Yet Jesus was obedient to God's will, despite knowing the suffering he would have to endure.

So do I want to be humbled? Yes and no. Intellectually, I know through scripture that it is good, that humility is something that God appreciates. Emotionally, I want no part of being humble. I like to be esteemed in the eyes of others; I am prideful. It is a lot easier to say it than to experience it. Yet again, there are things we have to do that are not easy, but it is worth it in the end. Jesus was able to carry out God's will because he knew the implications of being obedient. In the same way we too should be obedient even when it is not easy.

So God, please humble me.

Fat, Happy, and Ungrateful

Ever notice how when things are going well, people seem to forget about God?

This is one of the reasons why God warns against accumulating wealth. When one does not have everything he needs, he is forced to rely daily on God. But when all the bills are paid, and everyone in his family is healthy, he tends to take his Creator for granted. Things are going well and he is too busy for God. When someone says that he is too busy to do something, what it really means is, “I have other things higher on my priority list,” because everyone has the same amount of time.

Don't believe me? I can prove it. The same person who says that he is too busy to pray, read the bible, or go to church suddenly find the time whenever tragedy strikes.

What happened? Did he suddenly gain more hours of the day?

No. What happened is that his priorities shifted. Because there was an extreme need in his life, he made time to petition God. When a loved one gets sick, we make time to ask God for healing. But while healthy, how much time do we spend thanking God for that health?

The point is that even when things seem to be going well in our lives, we still need God just as much as when tragic events happen in our lives. If one thinks that he provides his own food, just see how long that will last if God stops sending rain. This is why Jesus told the disciples to pray, "give us today our daily bread." He was teaching them that part of following God is relying on him every day for needs. But when we have everything we need, we foolishly think that we provided it for ourselves or that God cannot take it away in an instant.

Scripture backs me up on this too.

When I have brought [the Israelites] into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant.

And the next chapter reads: 

Jeshurun grew fat and kicked;
   filled with food, they became heavy and sleek.
They abandoned the God who made them
   and rejected the Rock their Savior (verse 15). 

Jeshurun is a sort of nickname for Israel.

The story of Joseph and Pharaoh's cupbearer is also applicable. Joseph was wrongly imprisoned and met Pharaoh's cupbearer in jail. He successfully interpreted a dream for the cupbearer and asked that he tell Pharaoh of his plight that he might be set free. But when the cupbearer was restored to his position, he completely forgot about Joseph, because everything was right in his world. Never mind the fact that God had given Joseph the ability to discern the cupbearer's dream which foretold of his restoration to the palace. It was not until two years later that the cupbearer remembered Joseph:

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled" (Genesis 41:9-13). 

When things were rough for the cupbearer, he turned to Joseph for help. But when everything was good again, he forgot about the one who helped him out.

God helps us out every day in ways that we don't even realize, yet sometimes, we forget to give him thanks.

Take a step back this Thanksgiving Day and thank God for all the good things he has given you.

Why Socialism Will Never Work: A Biblical Perspective

Socialism will never work.

Why not?

The main goal of socialism, economically speaking, is for the state to control industry and means of production and then redistribute the wealth to the people (as opposed to private individuals owning the means of production and exploiting workers).

Andra MIhali (CC)

The idea is that, with a state-controlled economy, the need to provide for yourself would disappear, freeing you from the bondage of work. Hence, there would no longer be needy people, right?

In theory.

Retire at 50

Angelina Litvin
How would you like to retire at age fifty? God thought it was a good idea for the Levites:

Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.

Numbers 8:24-25

So not only did they get to retire at fifty, but also they did not begin service until age twenty-five. That’s a sweet deal. Notice God says that “they must retire from their regular service.” This means they can still help in some capacity (see verse 26). I imagine this is the equivalent of the Wal-Mart greeters. Once you turn fifty, you have to be a tent of meeting greeter.

Maybe they put those yellow smiley face stickers on the bulls as people came in to sacrifice.

Don't forget to grab the Old Testament reading guide I created for you. This is a chronological survey of the first stanza of the Bible with notes by yours truly. I think you'll find it valuable. Just click here to get it for free: How to Read the Old Testament.

More of a sinner?

I've heard it said that to God, all sins are equal. Maybe this isn't the case. Ezekiel 16 shows God speaking through Ezekiel to the Israelites exiled in Babylon. Verses 49 - 52 read:
Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous.
Perhaps the key word here is "appear." Samaria only appeared righteous. We can assume that this appearance was in the eyes of humans, because God knows all--which would mean that Samaria was in fact not righteous. However, we cannot ignore the phrases I have bolded above. God clearly states that Israel's sin was more detestable, more vile than those of its "sister."
I think it boils down to this: while Israel's sins may have been more heinous, the difference between the two is like the difference between vomit and feces--one might be better than the other but is either one desirable? Or better said in Isaiah 64:6, "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." God hates all sin because sin is the antithesis of Him; sin is separation from Him. So while there may be degrees of "badness," they are irrelevant because all sin causes us to "fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

Photo by Breno Machado

Yet Another Good Reason to Study God's Word

As if you needed another excuse to study God's word, here's one.

Steve Snodgrass (CC)

King David, known as a man after God's heart, wrote:

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psa. 119:11)

The more I study scripture, the more I realize how true this verse is. When I get tired, irritated, or tempted I find increasingly that a verse finds its way into my head.

Sarcastic In His Image?

God is many things. He is love. He is just. He is omnipotent and omniscient.

But did you know God is sarcastic? Look no further than the book of Job for proof. If you haven't read the entire book, I highly recommend it. In chapter 38 God speaks to Job regarding his suffering. At this point, Job has experienced complete devestation of his family, property and health. His friends think this has happened as punishment for sin. Job refutes their accustation but questions God several times throughout the book.

Finally The LORD speaks.

Pretty much the entirety of chapter 38 is laced with sarcasm, but this tone comes to a head in verses 20 and 21:

What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!

My favorite parts of The Bible are those (like this one) in which God or Jesus speaks, because they reveal the nature of God and, by extension, our own nature. As Genesis 1:27 reads:

God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Humans were created in the image of God, which means we were made with some of his characteristics. For me, sarcasm is definitely one of them.

Currently listening to:

King of Sorrow

Lovers Rock

New Testament Mirrors Old

There are any number of parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament in the Bible. The most obvious is the Old Covenant made with Abraham and the New Covenant that Jesus refers to at the Last Supper, and of course, the twelve tribes of Israel which correspond to the twelve disciples. While reading Genesis a couple days ago, I stumbled across another. The following is the passage that made the connection for me:

I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. (Genesis 45:4-7)

This is Joseph speaking to his brothers. Earlier, Joseph's jealous brothers sold him into slavery, a transaction that landed him in Egypt where he eventually became the second-in-command of the entire nation. God used Joseph to prepare for the famine and thereby save the lives of many, particularly those of Jacob and his family. The key verse is 45:7 when Joseph says that he was sent "to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance."

So where is the connection to the New Testament? For that we have to focus on the transaction that took place when Joseph was sold into slavery. It was Judah's idea to sell his brother. As he says:

What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood. (Gen. 37:26-27)

And they sold him for 20 sheckels of silver.

Sound familiar?

Now we turn to the New Testament:

Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, "What are you willing to give me if I hand [Jesus] over to you?" So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. (Matthew 26:14-16)

The price for an adult male slave according to Exodus 21:32 was thirty shekels, which may be how the chief priests arrived at the number for the price of Jesus. Joseph was only seventeen at the time he was sold, therefore he may have commanded a lesser price. (Besides that, the price of thirty shekels was spoken by God to Moses--the great-great nephew of Joseph.)
So Judah sold Joseph into slavery for 20 sheckels of silver, a transaction through which God saved the Israelites from famine.
And Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, a transaction through which all mankind was saved.

Currently Listening To:

Cover Your Rig
ZZ Top

Bible in 90 days - Success

I have successfully completed reading the Bible in 90 days. It was difficult at times, but absolutely worth it. The main thing that I learned is that when you put the effort and time in, God will reward you multiple times over. I like to think of it as an investment. The more time I invest, the greater rate of return I receive. Or think of it another way: that which you sow, you will reap.

Prior to this endeavor, I had read much of the Bible including the entire New Testament, but never straight through from beginning to end. Reading it in order gave me a much better context in which to place what I was reading--especially in the Old Testament.

My favorite books of the Old Testament were Exodus and Numbers.
My favorite gospel was John
My favorite New Testament books were Acts and Hebrews
Books I struggled through were Isaiah and some of Paul's epistles.

I thought maybe Psalms or Leviticus might trip me up because of their length and rigidity respectively, but I sailed through them without problem.

My favorite characters were Moses, Joseph, and Daniel.

A Good Spirit

Recently, a man who needed some computer assistance introduced himself to me. Shortly after shaking hands and looking me in the eye, he said:

You have a good spirit. I can tell you have a good spirit.

I was completely flattered and, of course, thought he was right. It made may entire day. A week or so later I was contemplating the event and I came to a realization. I was told what I should have said. The spirit this man was detecting, was not my own, but rather that of the Holy Spirit. I wished I could go back in time and tell him instead of a mere thank you, say to him, That is not my spirit you see. That is the Holy Spirit. Not only do I believe this absolutely to be true, but what a testimony! Who knows where the conversation would have led at that point. This was a man of eastern philosophy who teaches Tai Chi and martial arts. I am not sure what country he comes from, but he is not from the USA. Saying that to him would have made an impact because he prides himself on being in touch with the metaphysical, and if he doubted my statement that the spirit he was detecting was the Holy Spirit, then he would have to question his own abilities. Therefore he would have had to believe what I said. His only other recourse would be to think that I am absolutely nuts and misguided. But, were i misguided, would he still have detected that spirit within me?

I still remain flattered by his words but for a different reason: that the Spirit is alive in me and someone else was able to detect it. Only someone close to God would exhibit this characteristic. I was ashamed that I did not give credit to God at our initial meeting, but it is a valuable lesson that I will carry into the future so that hopefully I will not forget to give God the credit.

Currently Listening to:

Say Goodbye
Dave Matthews Band