Who’s in Charge?

In a democracy like the United States, we understand the concept of choosing who will be in charge. We don’t have a choice about whether to have a government, or whether to obey the laws, but we do have a voice in choosing which individuals will make and enforce the laws.

That is very much the case, Votingalso, in the spiritual context of life. We can choose whether to put ourselves under the authority and protection of God and his angels or under the domination of satan and his demons.

This is where you might be saying, “I really did not need to hear this. It freaks me out.”

The good news is: with spiritual “government” you don’t have to wait up until midnight to find out who won the election. You can choose who will be in charge over you at any time, regardless of how anyone else is “voting.”

How do you do that? Let’s look at an example from the ancient history of Israel.

God had rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and was returning them to Canaan–the land he had promised them 400 years previously. The native Canaanites had become so corrupt that they sacrificed their own children in fiery furnaces to their god, Moloch. God is merciful, as he showed in the case of Nineveh. He will forgive those who repent. The Canaanites must have shown themselves unredeemable, because the Lord sent the Israelites to destroy that civilization and claim the land for themselves.

So here they were at the border of Canaan. The Lord told Joshua to send twelve spies into the land to familiarize themselves with it before sending in their troops. The men came back with a glowing report about the land. But then ten of them gave the opinion that they could not conquer this land because some of its inhabitants were giants. Most of the Israelites allowed themselves to be caught up in fear. They spent the night weeping and complaining. By morning they were ready to choose a new leader and return to Egypt.

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, . Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. ” (Numbers 14:5-9 NIV).

Who was right–the ten fearful spies or Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb? The answer is obvious in the story of the first battle (which took place 40 years later–after the doubting generation had been replaced by their children). This battle did not involve giants, but it did require the Israelites to enter the walled city of Jericho. You no doubt know the story: The army walked around the city multiple times. On cue, the priests blew their rams’ horns. The soldiers shouted. And the walls of Jericho crumbled.

Clearly, Joshua and Caleb had known what they were talking about–“Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us” and “Do not be afraid of them because we will devour them.”

The second generation, led by Joshua, cast their vote for God and won big. The first generation cast their vote in the opposite direction and died in the wilderness. In what way did they “vote”? It all boiled down to whom or what they chose to fear.

The second generation–the winners–“feared the Lord.” (Whenever this terminology is used in the Bible it means they had awe and respect for God.) In spite of the unknowns ahead of them, this generation chose to trust the Lord and follow his directions. They put God in charge, and they gained everything He had promised them.

The first generation feared everything but God. By default, the “other entity” took charge of this situation in their lives, and they were big-time losers. They were still God’s people. He had set them free from slavery and continued to care for them miraculously for 40 years. Their clothing and shoes did not wear out and they had manna to eat every day. BUT they missed out on all the blessings He was ready to give them–because they gave into fear of things God was easily able to overcome.

When you find a promise in the Bible that relates to you, expect the enemy of your soul to behave the way he did toward the Israelites camped on the border of Canaan. Expect him to plant a fearful thought or intimidating circumstance in your path to hinder you from believing God and receiving His blessing.

When that happens, what will you do? Will you give in to the fear and let the enemy take charge of that situation? Will you let him do what he does best–“rob, kill, and destroy” the destiny God has for you?

Or will you fear the Lord? Will you purposely remind yourself that God can easily overcome any obstacle? Will you tell yourself that God means what He says? If so, He will remain in charge of that situation in your life, and you will receive “immeasurably more than all” you could “ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

 

P.S. This post can be subtitled “What’s the Hold-Up, Part 3.” We don’t have to be in the dark about why some of our prayers are not answered. God does keep his promises! The Bible shows us how to cooperate with Him to receive them. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Fear That Ends All Fear

frightened girl

PANNING FOR GOLD

Digging into Psalm 34:4, 7

How can fear do away with fear?? It’s a matter of what you mean by “fear.” This song by David, the fugitive, includes two very different kinds of fear:

4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears. . . . 
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them (Psalm 34:4, 7 NIV).

The word “fears” in verse 4 comes from a Hebrew word (megowrah) that can mean the feeling of fear or can mean a situation that is fearful.* It’s what we normally mean when we say “fear.” It’s the kind of fear David experienced just before he wrote this psalm.

But David’s fears ended because the Lord delivered, or rescued, him. In fact, his angel had been camping around David all along, ready to deliver him from any danger that cropped up. How did David rate 24/7 angelic protection? Because he feared the Lord (verse 7).

Awed boyHuh! It doesn’t seem as if a person would be afraid of a God who is so gracious and caring. Well, this word “fear” isn’t what we usually think of as fear. It comes from a Hebrew word (yare’) which means to stand in awe of, be awed, to fear, reverence, honor, respect.* 

Perhaps you have always vaguely understood that “the fear of the Lord” meant awe and respect for Him. But you may still have trouble seeing how fear fits into that equation.

Years ago, I stumbled upon my first experience of it. Life was a blur of pain because of a betrayal, and I needed to talk to someone. I had all kinds of choices, but I had a deep sense I had better speak with my pastor only. I recognized that if I did not stick to the Lord’s way of behaving, things would not turn out well for me. Because I respected His wisdom above all others, I feared to depart from His ways.

Shortly after that, I encountered this respect and fear again. I was president of a local teachers’ association, and we were deep into rocky negotiations with the school board. The Lord made it clear that he expected me to refrain from criticizing or accusing the superintendent and school board members–and that, if I did that, he would help us gain what we truly needed. It was rather counterintuitive for me, but–who can refuse God, especially when he cares enough to intervene personally in your life?

One night, my vice president called to tell me of the talk going around the community concerning us teachers. I went to the basement to pray. I asked for some things–like wisdom and protection–but mostly I marveled at how sure I was that everything was going to be alright. That’s when I found out it’s true–if you fear the Lord and obey him, that puts an end to all other fears.

________

*Based on definitions from the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, which is keyed to the “Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.”

 

For no-hassle commenting, enter your name when prompted, but not your email address.

The Land of More Than Enough

Celia with younger siblings - Dominican Repubic

My siblings and I in a lush land (Dominican Republic)

I’ve lived in a few “lands” in my life–the Dominican Republic, Arizona, California, Illinois, and now Kentucky. I’ve heard Spanish . . . and Southern drawl. I’ve lived in lush tropics . . . and in the desert. I’ve enjoyed beaches . . . and snow. No two of these places are alike.

Just like the two places I am thinking of today: the land of Barely Enough and the Land of More Than Enough.

You can see a really good example of these opposite “countries” in the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to what became The Holy Land. The Lord delivered them miraculously from slavery in Egypt. He led them through a wilderness area to Mt. Sinai, where they stopped and built the Tabernacle of worship. Within months (a year or two) they could have entered the Promised Land, but they were not ready. So they wandered in the wilderness for forty more years, until all the older generation had died.

Why were they not ready to take possession of the Promised Land? They didn’t trust God when he said he would go before them to give them the victory over their enemies.*

A cave in Israel where Dead Scrolls were discovered. People actually lived in this area!

A cave in Israel where Dead Scrolls were discovered. People actually lived in this arid part of the country!

Now, God cared for his people–even when they did not trust him. During the years of wandering in the wilderness, he miraculously provided manna for those millions of people to eat. He also (according to Moses) kept their garments from wearing out and their feel from swelling (Deuteronomy 8:4). Daily miracles of provision for forty years! But the desert was the Land of Barely Enough.

They could have been in the Land of More Than Enough “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, that flow out of valleys and hills; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9).

Two of the original adult generation–Caleb and Joshua–made it to the Promised Land. They knew God would do what he said. They believed. And it happened for them–in spite of the doubters around them.

Do Christians around you say things like:

“Ask God for what you need but don’t expect him to give you what you want.”

“I’m only human. I can’t live the way the Bible says.”

“I’m just not very spiritual. I don’t know what God wants, so I’ll have to decide by myself.”

“God only heals once in a while.”

“It is not spiritual to want to be comfortably well off and have plenty to share with those in need.”

“God only calls a few, extraordinary people to do great things.”

“Until they get to heaven, Christians have to put up with everything the world dishes out. Strong Christians don’t expect God to protect them. He wouldn’t anyway. He just gives you grace to endure.” *

Maybe “the masses”  of well-meaning Christians are saying these things, but what what does God say? (Did you click on the link in each statement to see?)

Are you content to live in the Land of Barely Enough–barely enough grace, barely enough well-being, barely enough protection, barely enough provision, and barely enough fruitfulness? You don’t have to! Study the Bible, take God at his word, and step into the Promised Land. Be like Joshua and Caleb–hold out for God’s full purpose and destiny for your life. And–like Joshua and Caleb–as you step into it, take all your family and friends with you.

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,

Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9 MSG).

____________

*Christians do suffer persecution and challenges for the sake of the gospel. And God gives great, supernatural grace for that. But, otherwise, God blesses and protects them.