When you have been poisoned.

snake

There is a slightly obscure story from the Old Testament when the Hebrew people were roaming around in the wilderness which holds remarkable implications for us today.  It is the story of the bronze serpent:

“Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.  The people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.’  The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.  So the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.’  And Moses interceded for the people.  Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.’  And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.”

– Numbers 21.4-9

At first glance this story is strange and seems contradictory to the nature of God.  He had just delivered the ten commandments in which He belabored the point that man shall have no other gods and shall make no statues or images to worship.  Why, then, would He instruct Moses to form a snake out of bronze which looked like the very curse they were suffering, raise it on a stick and instruct the people to look at it for healing?

Thankfully, when Jesus and the apostles read the Old Testament, they had insight from God which revealed much of the imagery and foreshadowing of the stories therein.

“If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.  As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.”

– John 3.12-15

When Jesus was explaining salvation and Spiritual life to Nicodemus, He explained the imagery of the serpent:  Jesus is the serpent.  Now this is a strange imagery to be sure.  The devil used the form of a snake in Genesis when he tempted Eve, and God cursed the snake because of it.  There is enmity between humanity and the snake as part of the curse, and to this day people are terrified of and hate snakes – by in large.  They are venomous, they bite, they kill.  And yet Jesus is as the fiery serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness for salvation.

This speaks first and foremost to the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  He not only offered Himself to take our place in punishment, He actually became sin – He became the curse – He was accursed, on our account.

“If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.”

– Deut 21.22-23

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’.”

– Gal 3.13

“[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

– 2 Cor 5.21

Therefore, the imagery of the snake – the very means by which the people were being bitten and poisoned unto death – being the means of their salvation was symbolic of Jesus taking our sin – the very means by which we are cursed to damnation – and saving us from it.  Jesus could only receive the wrath of God against sin by being made the fullness of sin so that God could pour out His wrath upon that sin and therefore declare us acceptable by means of having our punishment already paid.  God never pardons sin, He never overlooks sin.  His righteousness demands that every sin be punished fully, and thus He supernaturally transformed Jesus into that sin which we have committed and punished it in Him so that we do not have to be punished.

The snakes in the camp were sent from God as a punishment for despising the manna that God had sent for them to eat and for complaining.  We are under the curse from God because we sin.  God has provided a means of salvation, by becoming accursed Himself and taking our place, and all we must do in order to be saved is to look upon Jesus.  Note, also, that the serpent serves as a means of salvation for those people who are already bitten.  They are poisoned.  They are going to die.  We are all sinful and are cursed.  We are not poisoned in the sense that sin is not something outside of us that cases our death, but we already spiritually dead and headed straight for an eternity in Hell apart from looking upon Jesus and receiving Spiritual life.

“Look to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.”

– Is 45.22

Salvation is so simple, yet so difficult.  We are either prepared to do a million acts of service to justify ourselves and earn merit with God, or we expect God to love us in spits of our sin and wickedness.  But God says “Look to Jesus” and “Believe” and you will be saved (Is 45.22, Acts 16.31, Rom 10.9).  The looking and believing recognizes that we are doomed, poisoned as it were, headed to Hell and in need of a Savior.  When we see Jesus crucified having taken on our sin, and believe in His work as our substitution, we are saved.  It is that simple, yet that difficult.  We must recognize that it is not of us, we cannot earn or merit God’s salvation and we cannot demand it.  We must simply accept it.

When we are poisoned, when we recognize our flesh coming out and our sinful tendencies merging into our hearts and minds, we must look to Jesus and be saved.  This is true at our initial conversion and it is an ongoing battle that we will fight until we are free of our flesh and sinful bodies (Gal 5).  Look to Jesus.  Remember His word.  Claim His promises.  Abide in Him.  Pray to communicate your heart and listen to hear His.  Fight sin with Scripture and replacement techniques.  Press into Jesus.

No Regard for the Lord

plauges

The Scripture claims about itself that it is “living and active, and sharper than any two edged sword” (Heb 4.12).  There are countless depths realized by those three simple truths as we walk throughout our Christian life, but every time I read through Scriptures – particularly the Old Testament historical books – there are small tidbits that catch my attention over which I have passed many, many times.  In preparation for Easter, I have been reading about the Israelites’ captivity in Egypt, the plagues, Moses interceding with Pharaoh and the Exodus.

The interaction of God, Moses, Pharaoh and all the people during the midst of the plagues is remarkable.  God sent Joseph into Egypt to save the known world from a seven year famine, and He blessed the Hebrew people in the land of Goshen.  For four hundred and thirty years (to the day, Moses tells us), the Hebrews multiplied in Egypt and were forced into slavery because they grew so quickly and had such success and strength.  God decided to bring the people up out of slavery and into the land He had promised Abraham, but He intended to make His name known throughout the world by the plagues He would send on Egypt.  Pharaoh hardened his heart against Moses and God, but God also takes credit for hardening Pharaoh’s heart so that His power would be known.  Moses even told Pharaoh clearly of God’s plan:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.  For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth.  For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth.  But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.

– Ex 9.9-16

Ten plagues God sent against Egypt.  He turned all of the water in the country (except the Hebrew’s) into blood.  He sent frogs that covered the land, lice or gnats that fed on humans and animals, flies so dense that they could hardly see, He killed all the livestock, afflicted everyone with boils, a hail storm that destroyed the land and killed people, and locusts.  He also stopped the sun from shining for three days – intentionally proving his power over Ra the sun god, and lastly He killed the first born of every living creature:  human and animal.  There was not an Egyptian household in which someone had not died (Ex 12.30).

What particularly caught my attention, however, was the progression of the Egyptian people in responding to the plagues – even though Pharaoh was hardened by God.  The magicians were able to preform the first few signs, even turning water into blood, but they quickly realized that their magic was no match for God.  By the third plague, the gnats, the magicians themselves said that “this is the finger of God” (Ex 8.19).  They were outmatched and could not compete with God’s power.

Moses boldly proclaimed the upcoming plagues every time.  There was no mystery, no waiting, simply a prediction (usually with an assigned hour of the coming terror), and fulfillment.  After six plagues had already wreaked havoc on the people and the land, Moses predicted the upcoming hailstorm that would kill everything left outside, and this is how Scripture records the response:

“The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses; but he who paid no regard to the word of the Lord left his servants and his livestock in the field.”

– Ex 9.20-21

Even in the day when there was a man standing up and predicting to the hour massive catastrophes, one right after the other, there were people who chose to ignore him and the God he represented.  And they suffered the consequences.

There will always be people who ignore the warnings and admonitions of God.  Even within the Church.  The author of Hebrews tells us that if we go on sinning willfully after hearing the Gospel and “believing” in Jesus for salvation, we are not saved and will be damned (Heb 10.26).  But yet every day Christians appease their guilt and conviction with cheap grace, believing that God will forgive us no matter what we do and it really does not matter how we live.  The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus is the way, that no one comes to God and Heaven except through Him (John 14.6), yet every day people turn to other religions or add Jesus to their list of potentials and good teachers.

Sometimes we think that if God would just do something dramatic – like write in the sky, shake the world, or send us someone from the grave to attest to the after life – that everyone would believe.  But the reality is, He did all of those things and more!  And God told the rich man who was sent to Hell that enough had been done to prove God:

“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’  But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’  But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

– Luke 16.27-31

We must remember, thus, that it is in God’s hand alone to change hearts.  God hardened Pharaoh for the duration of ten plagues so that He could exemplify His power and sovereignty.  He then changed Pharaoh’s heart to allow the people to go, and again changed his heart to pursue after them and ultimately led them to their demise in the Red Sea.  As believers, we are responsible for our own obedience, actions and hearts alone.  We are commanded to preach the Gospel, warn one another of judgment and sin, but leave the working of the heart to God.  Even in the midst of the plagues, there were people who had no regard for God.  There will be people still – even when the truth seems to clear to us – who have no regard for God.  But there are people from every tribe, tongue and nation who will believe and be called children of God.  Let us go out, share boldly, look for those people, and entrust God with the fruit.

“So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

– 1 Cor 3.7

When you don’t know what to say.

public speaking

How do you feel about public speaking?  My full time job is managing up to 100 volunteers at a time, I have spoken and taught in front of thousands, and for some reason getting up in front of people is no big deal to me.  My husband, however, feels the exact opposite.  He is the outgoing, social butterfly of the two of us, but anytime there are more than eight or so people gathered, he gets uncomfortable.  If I were going to share the Gospel, I would prefer a crowd.  He would prefer one-on-one.  God truly makes unique individuals!

Interestingly enough, we both have comfort zones – specifically in sharing our personal faith – and we both feel uncomfortable when out of them.  I get so nervous anytime I get the opportunity to share the Gospel one-on-one, but share it twice a day with fifty people at a time.  He would rather do anything else than speak to a large group, but he is quite possibly the most bold person I know in small settings.

What is your comfort zone?  And what is your go-to excuse when trying to stay in it?  Do you remember Moses?  His mother spared his life when the Egyptians were forcing all male babies to be murdered (an his brother’s as well), but when she could not hide him anymore, she put him in a basket and Pharaoh’s daughter found him and raised him as her own.  He knew he was a Hebrew, he killed an Egyptian for abusing Hebrews and then fled for his life when the matter became known.  While he was in hiding, 40 years later, God came and called him to be His mouthpiece and point person in dealing with Pharaoh.  God had a plan:  He wanted to exemplify His power through plagues and signs, and after killing Pharaoh’s eldest son, the Hebrew people would be released from Egypt.

God told Moses all of this before he ever stepped foot on Egyptian land.  Even so, after seeing the burning bush, after witnessing the first three miracles, and after speaking to God face to face, Moses objected:

Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

– Ex 4.10

Three times Moses objected.  God’s response is beautiful:

The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?  Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”

– Ex 4.11-12

God began with an assertion of His power and sovereignty.  He Himself created man’s mouth.  We each only have mouths and tools for communication because God gave them to us.  He also is sovereign over the ability to speak and the ability to see.  He enables us to utilize our mouths and eyes.  Therefore, since He is the one who created mouths, since He is the one who is sovereign over mankind’s ability to speak, Moses should submit to Him.  And not only that, but He promised to give Moses the very words.  He should also trust God.  Obedience and Faith, in perfect harmony.

Moses, however, still refused:

But he said, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”

– Ex 4.13

Do you know what the result was?  God became angry at Moses.

“Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know thathe speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.  You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do.  Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him.'”

– Ex 4.14-16

God was angry at Moses, and gave Moses what he wanted – but Moses was the one who suffered for it.  God still chose to use him, and he is still known as a great patriarch, but Aaron got half of the role.  He was the point person to Pharaoh and the Hebrew people.  His staff is the one that was forever saved in the Ark of the Covenant.

Moses considered himself slow and not eloquent of speech.  He did not want to get up in front of Pharaoh or in front of a crowd, even though God promised to give him the very words he would speak, and He gave him the power to work miracles.  Do you think you would be willing to get out of your comfort zone if you could turn your cane into a snake?  Or turn water into blood?  I would think that power would enforce a sense of authority, but I don’t mind public speaking.

This might sound like an interesting story, but what is the application for us?  Thankfully, Jesus gives the same promise to the disciples, church and us when we are in our moment of persecution and need:

“But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

– Matt 10.17-20

Not only does Jesus promise to tell us that we will have the words, He promises that the Holy Spirit will speak through us in those moments.  He will bring thoughts and verses to mind that we never expected.  He will give us the wisdom in those moments.

The other application is terrifying.  God set Moses apart for a wonderful task, and he rejected it, in part.  God got angry at him, and went about His plan without Moses in that role.  The take home is simple:  God’s plan will not be thwarted.  We can go deeper into the intricacies of God’s sovereign knowledge of our refusal and the fact that He already knew Aaron would be the mouthpiece, but Moses’ refusal still resulted in his missing out.

God is going to take His Gospel to every people group in the world.  He has commanded us all to go, and be a part of it.  If we refuse to go, He will accomplish His goal without us, but we will miss out on the blessing, and not only that but when we stand before Him we will have to give an account for our disobedience.  Are you prepared to give your excuse?

God will ask us to do things that are outside of our comfort zone.  He will ask me to share the Gospel with people in one-on-one settings.  He will ask my husband to speak up in a big group setting.  He will take us across the street, across the city, maybe even across the world.  But He will always go with us, He will never forsake us, and He will give us the words to say through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

So let’s trust Him today.  When you find yourself in a conversation or situation that is outside of your comfort zone, say a prayer.  Ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you.  And trust God to get you through that uncomfortable situation.  You may never adapt to like or enjoy those types of situations.  You may still get nervous every. single. time.  But thankfully, we can rely on the promise that God will do the work through us, and He will bring about the fruit.  All we have to do is obey and have faith!

Don’t go without His presence.

wilderness

How do you go about making your daily plans?  How does your church go about reaching out to the community?  Missions and evangelism have gone through waves of trends and whenever a church sees a large response, many others try to jump on the bandwagon and reproduce what the church did in order to attain the same results.  The same can be said for third world missions, for community development, and even for daily, individual decision making.  We think that if it worked for so-and-so, I am going to give it a try to see if it works for me.  We turn to God as our magic genie instead of the sovereign creator who has a purpose and a plan for history and our lives.

Moses had a tricky situation.  Pharaoh had commanded that all of the baby boys be killed who were two years old and younger in order to keep the Hebrew slave population under control, but his mother saved him and hid him.  He was providentially rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter who raised him as her own son.  Imagine that.  Pharaoh was trying to minimize the number of Hebrews and here one is raised in his own household.  Moses knew his heritage (he was not confused as the recent movie suggested) and even from his position in Pharaoh’s household attempted to help his brothers out by killing an Egyptian who was mistreating them (Ex 2.11-14).  But, as is human nature, Moses’ good intentions were misunderstood and reviled by the Hebrew men.  The Hebrew men were jealous of Moses’ position and lashed out at him.  The story got back to Pharaoh and Pharaoh tried to kill Moses for what he did, so Moses ran for his life.  He settled in a nearby country, married a priest’s daughter and began working as a shepherd.

But then God called.  God wanted to use Moses to free the entire nation of Israel from slavery and Moses was a coward.  He did not want to go.  God spoke to him verbally, told him the plan, showed him miracles, and still Moses whined.  He pushed back so hard that it provoked God to anger, in fact (Ex 4.14).  Ultimately, however, God used Moses and he became the most well known and revered patriarch of the people.  Moses was the only person with whom God spoke face-to-face, as a friend, and was the man to whom God gave the entire Law.  God transformed a murderer and a coward into a dynamic leader.

As God was leading the people to freedom into the wilderness, they questioned every step of the way.  God became so frustrated with them that He said,

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’  I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.  Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”

– Ex 33.1-3

This is a strange omen.  God had promised the people the land of Canaan, and we know that by the next generation Joshua would lead the people into the land.  But God intended for this generation to live out their lives in the wilderness.  He was so tired of their foolishness that He told them to go up to the land, that He would send an angel before them, but He promised to not accompany them and to destroy them on the way.  The people mourned and Moses pleaded with God:

“Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us,do not lead us up from here’.”

– Ex 33.15

Moses had been transformed and wanted only to be in God’s presence and under His provision.  God had proven Himself faithful and powerful, and Moses wanted to remain there.  Moses was not concerned about how other nations were seeing victory and settling the land.  Moses was not concerned about anything except remaining in God’s presence and in His will.  Therefore, His plea was simple.  “Go with us”.

When was the last time you were approaching a decision, a conversation, an event, a mission or outreach and stopped to say, “God, where do you want us to go?  What do you want us to do?  We do not want to do anything unless you go with us!”?  Just because First Baptist down the street saw a huge response to Vacation Bible School does not mean that we should have a Vacation Bible School.  Just because we have always had a youth camp at the end of June does not mean that we should have another youth camp at the end of June.  Just because so-and-so planted and entire church in any-city, USA using such-and-such evangelism method does not mean we should polish and perfect such-and-such evangelism method.

God is not a God of systems and methods.  God is a God of those who love Him.  We will not force His hand to move.  We can only seek His will and ask Him what it is that He would have us to do.  So let’s slow down.  Let’s evaluate our day-to-days, and let’s consider our regular decision making processes.  Do we stop and wait for God and His presence?  Or do we judge barge forward and ask Him to bless our activities?

Notice that Moses acknowledges that God can lead the Hebrew people without accompanying them.  He is sovereignly in control of everything that happens.  He is not shocked when we try to mimic other people and churches’ successes.  He might even lead us to that failure in order to open our eyes to our need of His presence.  So submit to Him.  Slow down.  Remember that it is in fact better to stay in the wilderness with His presence than to barge into the land of milk and honey without it.

Don’t go without His presence.

I don’t know what to say.

You know the feeling:  the Holy Spirit pounding on your rib cage from the inside, your heart is beating like a freight train and adrenaline is pouring through your muscles because the conversation in which you are engaged is about to turn Spiritual and you want to honor God and submit to the Spirit but you are simply terrified that you will not know what to say.  Perhaps your christian friend is falling into sin and you long so badly to pull him back before it is too late.  Perhaps there is a non-christian teetering on the abyss of eternal life and you want to offer him hope through Jesus Christ.  Perhaps your family member has just learned of the radical decision you made to surrender your life to Jesus Christ and thinks you have lost your mind.

You do not want to come across as a “know-it-all”, because we have all heard the counseling advice that sometimes we just need to listen.  Maybe he is not looking for an answer?  You do not want to presume upon someone who has not asked for your advice or input.  That is, after all, bad manners.  And what if he asks the hard question?  What if he brings up a point that I am not prepared to answer?  What if he stumps me and I look stupid and un-grounded in what I say I believe?

There once was a man named Moses.  He was a Hebrew, born while the Hebrew people were enslaved in Egypt.  Pharaoh had ordered that all male babies be murdered when they were born to keep the population under control, but Moses was fortuitously saved and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter herself.  But at the age of forty, he had a crisis of identity and attempted to connect with the Hebrews by killing an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew.  When the story got out of what he had done, he fled the country.  He met a woman and married her in the wilderness, working for her father as a shepherd for forty years.

Then God rocked his world.  He appeared to Moses, and chose him as His mouthpiece before Pharaoh to free the Hebrews from Egypt.  God caught Moses’ attention by causing a fire in a bush, but the bush was not burnt by the fire, and from the fire God spoke.  For the first time since creation He named Himself, and promised Moses the details of the work that He would do:  the plagues, the miracles, hardening Pharaoh’s heart, freeing the Israelites and killing the Egyptians.

But guess what Moses said, to God Himself:

“Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

– Ex 4.10

God had just shown Moses the miraculous signs he would preform in Egypt:  turning his staff into a snake, causing his skin to be leprous and then healed, and he promised to turn the water of the Nile into blood.  But Moses, one of the fathers of our faith, standing in the presence of a miraculous sign, speaking audibly to the God of the universe protested and asked to get out of what God was asking him to do!

The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”

– Ex 4.11-12

God is compassionate and slow to anger.  We do see in the story that God became angry at Moses and allowed his brother Aaron to get in on the action because of how cowardly Moses was, but He answered his fear thus.  He was with Moses’ mouth and taught him what he was to say.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach the disciples what they were to say in the event that they were taken before the court or religious authorities in regards to their faith:

“When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

– Luke 12.11-12

He went into more detail a few chapters later:

“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.  It  will lead to an opportunity for your testimony.  So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.”

– Luke 21.12-15

Jesus instructed the disciples not to prepare a defense, but to rely on the Spirit for inspiration and wisdom as to what should be said.

The disciples had clearly been with Jesus for three years.  They listened to his teaching every day, they spent much time in prayer and when the Spirit was given to them, they went out and began preaching boldly the things that Jesus had taught them, as He had instructed them.  Jesus’ instruction was not advice to ignorance.  We ought not ignore God and expect Him to work through us and speak through us without our involvement.  We must be in the word getting to know God and His heart daily.  We must be saturating our minds and our hearts with His truth and love, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6.45).

But we also need to be attuned to the Holy Spirit, and when we find ourselves in situations where Truth needs to be proclaimed, we must let Him speak through us.  He will draw on the things that have been rooted in our hearts.  He will bring verses to mind that we have memorized.  He will awaken our hearts and minds and when the Spirit speaks through us, only then can people’s hearts be changed.  God alone changes hearts, we cannot do it.

So do not fear what you are to say.  Let God say it through you, and let Him use you as His instrument to love and speak truth.  He created the mouth, and He created the person (or people) with whom you are speaking, and He will be faithful to give you the words when you surrender and let Him take over the conversation.

burning bush

A Still Small Voice?

“So [God] said, ‘Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’  And behold, the Lord was passing by!  And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.  When Elijah heart it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.  And behold, a voice came to him…”

This passage, the King James Version of it, has almost single handedly affected perspective the 21st century protestant Church and our perspective on how God speaks.  The KJV translates “a gentle blowing” as “a still small voice”.  How many times have you yearned and waited and listened for that still small voice?

Sometimes I laugh to myself when I read stories – specifically from the Old Testament.  To Elijah, God exemplified his power and strength through a mighty rushing wind, an earthquake, a great fire, but chose to speak through a still small voice.  But have you read some of the other ways that God spoke?  Through a burning bush.  Face to face, as to a friend, with Moses.  Through visions and dreams to Jacob and many others.  But my favorite is when the whole congregation of Israel was gathered before Mt. Sinai and God rocked the mountain with a loud trumpet, smoke, fire, lightning…  The people were terrified!  God cannot be put in a box.  He is the almighty, sovereign, all powerful creator of the universe who creates earthquakes, rocks the world with lightning and an abundant expressions of power.  He also is tender and loving and on occasion speaks in a “still small voice”.

The beautiful thing about knowing God is experiencing the fullness of His character and all of the ways in which He works.  But we never have to wonder how He speaks.  Why?  Because Hebrews 1 tells us that before Jesus, God spoke through prophets.  That was His norm.  But in the last days, He has spoken to us through His son.  Jesus Christ.  Want to know what God has to say?  Read Jesus’ words.  There is no new revelation.  There is no further instruction.  Everything God had to say, He told us in His written word.  That is not to say that here is not direction from the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.  But the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to point us back to Jesus.  “After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Heb 2.3b-4).  God testifies through signs, wonders and miracles via the power of the Holy Spirit to affirm the salvation spoken through Jesus Christ.

Sometimes God works in subtle ways.  Sometimes God rocks the face of the earth.  Let’s not mysticize God or put Him in the pansy box.  He has all power.  And while He is indeed love (1 John 4.8), He is also the almighty!