Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Heart Condition

At that time I pleaded with the LORD: "O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan--that fine hill country and Lebanon." But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. "That is enough," the LORD said. "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter." -Deuteronomy 3:23-26

Moses had quite the responsibility set before him when God asked him to lead the people out of Egypt. Not only did he have to confront Pharaoh, but he had to basically govern, care for and lead hundreds of thousands of people through the desert! These people were used to living in a place where they knew how to get the basic necessities for life. They were slaves, but they had grown accustomed to that life. Moses was extremely long-suffering if you ask me. When I read the accounts of the people going across the desert I just want to yell - suck it up people!

I've often thought about the fact that Moses did all of this and yet still missed out on entering into the promised land. I was rereading the story recently and it stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Remember the rock at Meribah? The Israelites were in need of water again, this time the story went like this...

"Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. The LORD said to Moses, "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink." So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them." -Numbers 20:6-12

God spoke to Moses and told him to speak to the rock and water would come forth. Moses was so frustrated with the people that he struck the rock instead. I believe after reading these passages recently that it was not merely the act, but the heart condition. Moses never repents to the Lord for his disobedience. In fact, at three different times he blames the people for God's anger with him:

Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, "You shall not enter it, either" - Deuteronomy 1:37
"The LORD was angry with me because of you, and he solemnly swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance." -Deuteronomy 4:21

The Lord desires a humbleness of heart. He desires a true repentance in us. Why do we discipline a child? It is to make them realize they were wrong. The purpose is to bring about a change of heart. Moses never admitted that he had sinned. You see, God had spoken directly to Moses and told him what to do, not the people. The people did not make Moses strike the rock instead of speak to it. Even when Moses died, he was still strong, still full of life, there was no reason for his death other than the fact that he would not repent.

What really brought this home for me is the contrast with King David. David just built sin upon sin when he not only slept with Bathsheba, tried to cover it up in bringing her husband back, but then had her husband killed when out of duty he would not sleep with his wife. When Nathan came to David to confront him, he could have blamed his actions on any number of things - on the audacity of Bathsheba to bathe on the roof, on her flaunting her beauty, on her coming when he called. Here was David's response...

"So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die." 2 Samuel 12:13

David repented, he was truly sorry for what he had done. He did not look to someone else to lay blame. He did not place his shortfall on someone else. He said simply, 'I'm sorry.' If Moses had simply done that, it makes me wonder if he would have lived to step foot into the promised land.

As humans we are going to make mistakes. Sometimes it's out of not knowing any better, sometimes we're just downright disobedient to what we know we're supposed to do. Sometimes we shirk responsibilities. Whatever the sin, whatever the the situation, God is looking at the condition of our heart. God is looking for a heart change.

There was a time I found myself doing this - always blaming a mistake on someone else. One day the Holy Spirit caused me to hear myself and take note each time I did it. I realized there was a problem with my heart's condition. I was not willing to admit that I was wrong, not truly, because my wrong was always caused by someone else.

I would challenge you to take some time and reflect on your life and how you respond to criticism or being called out for doing something wrong. Do you always look to a reason outside yourself for why the wrong was done, or do you simply say, 'I'm sorry' and truly feel it in my heart. Go for the big things of God, go for the full promise. Look at what God is doing in the situation. What is He trying to work in you.

I had to consciously make an effort to realize what my heart condition was. I had to consciously make an effort to be repentant. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, He was faithful to keep it before me so that my heart could truly be changed.

Prayer: Lord, help me to quickly realize when I have sinned. Holy Spirit, soften my heart to sin so that I would not tolerate it. If there are things that I have done wrong and blamed someone else, not truly repenting, bring them to my remembrance that I can truly put it behind me. I desire to have clean hands and a pure heart. My desire is to fulfill the plans and purposes that you have for me. I do not want pride to get in the way, to disqualify me to step into the promised things. Thank you for your faithfulness, even when I am unfaithful. Amen.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Remember Who Our Enemies Are...

"A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. 11 Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms." - Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT

As a woman, when I feel attacked, I find that I often react from emotion if I don't stop to think about how to respond to a situation - especially if it's a fellow Christian because they have no excuse and should know better. I would react to people as if they are attacking me personally. I have to remind myself of this scripture – ‘we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood...’ Just as I perceive that someone is attacking me, maybe they are acting this way because the enemy of our souls caused them to think I was attacking them. The enemy would like nothing better than to divide relationships.

This chapter in Ephesians goes on to talk about the armour of God, about His peace, protection, and how to stand strong. Then it extends the purpose of this exhortation in verses 18-19: "Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere. 19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words as I boldly explain God's secret plan that the Good News is for the Gentiles, too." Paul is reminding us who our enemy is and how to stand strong against them because we are God's witness for sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Christ. What better tool does the enemy have than to divide friends, to cause us to be alienated from those we come in contact with on a daily basis because we look at things only from this earthly perspective.

God's plan is for us to strengthen each other. His plan is for us to pray for each other, to do battle in the power of the Holy Spirit for each other. When we take offense, we probably aren't going to be praying with a pure heart for a brother or sister in Christ, if we pray for them at all. We must cause ourselves to REMEMBER that our enemies are the devil and his angels as it says in the The Message version, not the flesh and blood people we come into contact with every day. When we remember this, we can pray with effectiveness. We can pray for others because we are fighting a battle for them, not against them.

I wrote a few weeks ago about knowing who our friends are as we head off to war. In a war we have to also know who we are fighting or we will never win. Jesus came to earth and died so that we would win, He already paid the price and the end of the book has been written. We win the war, we just have to remember who we're fighting and not attack our fellow warriors in the process.
Father, help me to fight the good fight of faith, walking
in the power of Your Spirit. Continually remind me of the blessings You've given
me in relationships, bring to my remembrance those you would have me to pray for, and help me to forget the wrongs done knowing that my enemy is not flesh and blood. Let me see through Your eyes, and pray with Your heart. I desire to be a witness for You, not a hindrance to others' relationship with you. I will
walk in the full armour of God, Your peace, Your truth, the faith You give, and
stand in the salvation that comes only through You. Bless those I am in
relationship with and let us be a light for you. In Jesus' Name,