What We Do With Courage

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?’ And they said to one another, ‘Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.’ Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the people of Israel. And Joshua and Caleb, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, ‘The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.’ Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones.” Numbers 14:1-10

What we do with courage affects the people around us and makes a difference in the atmosphere. This passage illustrates the contrast between discouragement and encouragement, the grand distinction between complaining and expecting, between circumstantial whining and supernatural striving. Israel had been told God was giving them Canaan and they would take it, but most of the tribe representatives were near-sighted and could see only obstacles, fearing men more than God. Only Caleb and Joshua, upon surveying the land, were fueled by God’s promise and might, choosing to look beyond the difficulties to their certain hope.

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Do I cavil at difficulties and obstacles, or look for ways to detour or conquer? Do I slog through the sludge of what is hard by ‘dissing’ courage and making excuses for why not to persevere, bringing down and dampening hope for all those around me, or will I strap on my boots, put on my truth glasses to curb the glare and clear the vision, and instill courage in others to come along? The choice with courage is a decision about what and Who to believe. I will be both discouraged, and discouraging, when I fail to take God at His word.

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?'” “Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord,
defying his glorious presence.” Numbers 14:11; Isaiah 3:8

Lord of all that is good and sure, grant me courage to encourage others with Your unshakeable truth and glorious hope. (Romans 15:5-6; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)

 

Like Grasshoppers

And they told him, ‘We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there’… But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.’ Then the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.’ So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’” Numbers 13:27-28, 30-33

At God’s command, Moses sent out chiefs from each tribe to spy out Canaan, to get a taste of its bounty and to begin to strategize in taking it as God had promised they would. Their differing eyesight determined how they saw it. While all carried back rich grape clusters, pomegranates and figs, and agreed the land indeed flowed with milk and honey, most saw its inhabitants through eyes of dim faith as too formidable to conquer, while Caleb and Joshua saw God as stronger, and Victor. Most trembled as helpless grasshoppers themselves before mighty looming giants, while the men of bold faith saw the people as grasshoppers before mighty God.

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In the challenges of life, we are called to walk by faith and not by sight, and learn in doing so to train our eyes on God who is capable and faithful to do all He says He will. We must look beyond the spider in the web right in front of us to the open space in the distance. When we adjust our eyes to the great God Who is over all things, ruling heaven and earth and every battle and all history, the incidental trials and obstacles fade from focus and pale in comparison. (1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 5:7)

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.” Isaiah 40:21-23

Father, train me to have faith like those who have gone before. Help me endure as seeing You Who are invisible, to greet with full expectation from afar all You promise will come, to live in strength today because of my security in the future heavenly city, to see the world as ordered and ruled by Your perfect sovereignty. Help me fear You more than I fear man, and see enemy attacks as You do, ultimately crushed and overcome. (Genesis 3:15; John 16:33; Hebrews 11:10,13,16,27)

The Urgent in Today

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.’ Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’ He appoints a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David, in the words already quoted, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ Let us therefore strive.., so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 3:7-8,12-15; 4:7,11,16

There is no day like today. Carpe Diem.

Today, listen and hear His voice. Take time now to tune in, to be still, to read God’s word and read it again and remember a piece of what He has said, and keep thinking about it.

Today, do not harden your hearts. Keep them malleable, open to chastening, not hardened by the pleasure of sin, not stubborn against correction, not refusing to take heed. Keep them soft to God’s changes of direction, purifying of affections, narrowing of desires, filling with new and divine love for others.

Today, don’t fall away or disobey. The enemy is a prowling lion, seeking to steal, kill and destroy. Beware his wiles! Look out for his traps! Resist temptation to say what you cannot retrieve, to diminish another, to inflate what is true, to sully a reputation by planting an impression, to roll your eyes, to be a glutton, to sigh, to steal even the teensiest bit of God’s glory. (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11; John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:8)

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Today, take care to believe. Recite, repeat, sing what is true. Remind yourself Who God is, and tell Him you believe He is the only true God, immortal, wise, good, merciful, faithful, holy, unchanging. Take Him at His word that is infallible and cannot fail, live as though these things are true. Trust His promises, pray scripture. (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 86:5; 89:8; 1 Timothy 1:17)

Today, exhort one another. Encourage each other with support, affirmation, care. Gather together, come alongside, send a message. Remind them of the hope of their inheritance, that one day they will see Jesus, and He will make all things right. (Ephesians 1:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18; 5:11; Hebrews 10:25; 1 John 3:2)

Today, strive. Do all for the Lord, and do not give up or grow weary. (Colossians 3:23; Galatians 6:9)

Today, draw near with confidence to God’s throne of grace. Come as His beloved child, cry to Him, draw near in confession and dependence, and He will draw near to you. (Psalm 51:1-2; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6; James 4:8)

Today. Do not wait until tomorrow.

Father, thank You for the gift of today. May I rejoice and be glad in You, and this day You have made. (Psalm 118:24)

Filtered Light

You have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.” “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Psalm 63:7; 121:5-6; Ephesians 5:8

I noticed on my walk this morning the beauty of filtered light, the way plants and blooms dance to life with ray and shadow under just the right conditions. Many things I grow require filtered light, not too strong, but just enough. Intense direct sun can scorch and dry out, depleting necessary moisture and energy, frying new growth, shriveling leaves and flowers; the absence of sun can retard leafing and blooms, like the 12-foot smilax vine we pulled (and pulled) out of a porch light receptacle, colorless, leafless, spindly and albino-like. Plants need light to flourish, but not too much.

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In the Scriptures we are commanded to walk in God’s light, and we are also promised refuge, rest, and protection in His shade. There is a balance between soaking in all we can of His illumination, and taking time out of its brilliance for it to sink in, do its work, and have its way in every part of us. I think of our spiritual feeding, where we can almost glut ourselves with services, studies, schedules of reading, fellowship, and acts of ministry, and become so full we have no margin and fail to absorb the good seed God sows into us from his word, and from quiet and still time. But we can just as easily languish and go hungry when we neglect him altogether, starving our souls from the rich fare of God’s word and spiritual intimacy with others.

Am I finding a balance? Are there steps I need to take to do so? Do I take in enough each day for His light to make a difference along my path, in my vision, thought, efforts, contributions? How well do I apply what I read and learn, so habits are altered, hard edges are softened, and evidence is palpable? Where am I tempted to retreat unhealthfully to the shade, to hide from conviction, or fellowship that refines? Will I let my Lord so order my days that I can take in His filtered light, relishing its warmth as well as the cool of its shade, welcoming the conditions He designs for my greatest sanctification and growth? (Isaiah 25:4-6; 32:2; Psalm 119:105; 1 John 1:5,7)

Lord Almighty, may I ever walk in the radiance of Your face and truth, taking in all You intend to shine in me by Your measure. Grant me also the wisdom and will to abide in Your shadow, so that in Your perfect light I can blossom for You with joyous bounty. (Psalm 56:13; 57:1; 89:15; 91:1; Isaiah 2:5)

The Highest View

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you.” “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” 
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in.” 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 8:1,3-6; Isaiah 40:21-22

I have recently been involved with several situations that have challenged my thinking on the exaltation of God and man. I’ve heard one say we are not that special, only one notch higher on the food chain; advice to a survivor of abuse that we can be and do anything we put our mind to; and yet another that starting with self in prayer turns us to God. The Bible offers truth for each of these perspectives, teaching that man is indeed special as the crowning-glory-creature made in the image of God; that apart from Jesus we can do nothing; that Jesus taught His disciples to pray our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. We are high, but not as high as God; He can work in us His healthy highest view. (Genesis 1:26-28,31; John 15:5; Matthew 6:9)

Maui- Above the clouds

What I have rued over time is the high view of God diminishing in our culture, exacerbated by everything from education to political correctness to architectural design of churches to language to self-esteem psychology. We have distorted the view of man by majoring on our touchiness, exaggerating our differences, rewarding achievement that is questionable at best, esteeming our subjective opinions but belittling others’. Certainly we are marvelous creatures, fearfully and wonderfully made by a magnificent God to know and love and serve Him like nothing else in His creation, and we can come anytime to Jesus just as we are. But what we are is stained by sin, which wreaks havoc on a proper view of things, so we must come reconciled to the holy Father through Jesus alone. Contemplating Him first and fully keeps His divine hierarchy and intention in perspective. (Psalm 139:14; John 14:6)

Where am I getting in the way of seeing God for Who He is? Have I so elevated myself that I come to Him thinking about me? When my mind is immersed in His majesty and reign, He adjusts the lens through which I see all else, He elevates my understanding of how beautifully and sovereignly He has ordered and given meaning to His world.

Lord on high, I exalt You above the heavens and here on earth. Thank You for making me Your child and willing subject. Teach me to live confidently with the highest view of You, bearing Your glorious image day by day. (Psalm 57:5,11)

Set Out or Stay?

And Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, ‘We are setting out for the place of which the Lord said, “I will give it to you.” Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the Lord has promised good to Israel.’ But he said to him, ‘I will not go. I will depart to my own land and to my kindred.’ And he said, ‘Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us.  And if you do go with us, whatever good the Lord will do to us, the same will we do to you.’ So they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them.., to seek out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the Lord was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp.” Numbers 10:29-34

Moses the leader is also Moses the encourager, and he urged his brother-in-law to come be a part of all the good God had for His people. But Hobab, with a tendency common to many, declined the offer at faith’s adventure, choosing instead to return to what he knew and where he was at ease. Why follow if I am satisfied here? Why go for better if I’ve settled in good? He would never know what he missed had Moses not prevailed with spot-on persuasion: you will be blessed, and be a blessing.

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When we say no to God’s clear call to set out from wherever we are entrenched, be it a residence, our work, ungodly habits in a hard relationship, an auto-pilot place of ministry or opinion or prejudice, we are refusing the blessing He has prepared for us in the journey and the destination. We are exalting self, assessing that our way is better than His, or at the least, His way isn’t worth the fuss. When it’s all about me, I am hindered by narrow vision and unable to see that He might actually have more for me than what I choose for myself. I calcify in complacency with what has always been, is convenient, routine, requires minimal effort or change, and don’t (or won’t) consider that God wants to take me further in spiritual understanding and experience and maturity. I also close myself off to His invitation to give, to help others along the way, to initiate a ripple-effect of good and healing, and in doing so miss out on the added inexplicable blessing of being used by God for kingdom purposes far higher and broader than mine. How thankful we should be for Moseses who won’t take no for an answer, and for the hope of God’s promised land!

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Father, You have riches and bounty in store for Your own that we cannot conceive. Give us the will to set out with You in expectant faith, and boldness to bring others along to know Your goodness too.

Always my Guide

“And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness… So it was always: the cloud covered [the tabernacle] by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out… Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out.” Numbers 9:1,16-19,22-23

All along their forty-year way, this God was faithful at His helm, providing daily manna, camping His fiery and thick presence in the Israelites’ midst. Whether His tabernacle tent was pitched, or packed up and carried to the next place, His glory led and He remained with His own. He conversed with Moses as His friend: He spoke, listened, and answered; He understood and gave instruction… all in the wilderness. What to them was wild and inhospitable, to Him was orderly and home. It is the same for us His children. (Exodus 33:11)

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I am in a wilderness of sorts, a place of tangle where I need clarity and direction, and find these words of great comfort this morning. The LORD speaks in my wilderness. He is near, He is nigh. He knows my situation, my heart-hurt concern, my sense of being called to what I do not know, my willingness to follow His lead. He covers me with His shade of care and protection from the onslaught of consternation, emotion, even fear by day, and He gives firelight in the darkness and argument and confusion. He intercedes for me, knowing the perfect will of the Father. He knows the way I go and should go, and will move ahead of me when it is time, always abiding, in charge, unflustered. I can rest with Him, trust Him, and when He says move, keep His charge. He will continue with me, of that I am sure. (Joshua 1:5; Job 23:10; Romans 8:26; Hebrews 7:25)

The wilderness may be full of pain, longing, wondering with no answers or waiting with no end in sight, but God speaks into it. The cloud may block my view of what is ahead, and I may not even know how to pray, but God hovers near, full of goodness, knowledge, and grace. He will lift up and set out when His time is right.

Lord, in my wilderness, to Whom else would I go? You speak to me here and lead me with Your word of life. May I keenly listen, and keep Your charge to stay or move at Your command. (John 6:68-69)