Time in the Desert

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There are several instances of people in the Bible spending time in the desert.

Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s house but he was an Israelite. When he was a young man he killed an Egyptian who was beating one of the Jewish people. Fearing for his life, he fled to Midian, married and became a shepherd. We don’t hear from him again until God appears to him in a burning bush in Exodus 3. Moses went on to become one of the most famous leaders of the Jewish people and led them out of Egypt and to the brink of the Promised Land.

The children of Israel were at the threshold of the Promised Land but they let fear hold them back, and so God made them wander for 40 years in the desert. In Deuteronomy 8:2 “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

Israel became a mighty nation that proclaimed the name of God to all nations on the earth. The prophet Elijah after his encounter where he defeated the prophets of Baal, feared for his life, and ran away, he was fed by an angel, then traveled 40 days and 40 nights, and ended up in a cave in Horeb. The Lord came to him in the cave and asked in 1Kings 19:9b “What are you doing here, Elijah?” This was right before the Lord showed himself to Elijah in the small whisper of wind. Elijah went on to continue being a bold prophet of God to the Israelites.

John the Baptist was in the desert until his appointed time to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. He preached the gospel of the coming of Jesus to thousands.

Jesus spent his time in the desert when he was going through his temptation. After this, he went on to establish a ministry that would change the world. He became the sacrifice that would save us all from our sins.

In all of these instances, God was with them and so they had no reason to fear. Fear is a natural emotion for humans but when we give in to fear instead of trusting in God, it is a bad thing. My daughter painted this picture for me a few years ago, because she knew that Joshua 1:9 was one of my favorite verses “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord, your God, will be with you wherever you go.”

When we feel like we are in the desert, due to circumstances in our lives, we need to relax and let God give us some rest and then get out of the desert and let God use our lives in an incredible way. In all of these instances, they came out of the desert a better person. All of these people allowed God to use them for what he had planned for their lives. I pray that we all let God use us to fulfill His plans for us. We can always rest in the knowledge of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Sherry Alcumbrack

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What Are Your Passions?

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We hear a lot about people finding a job that they are passionate about. I was listening to a radio program one day, and the man said that you can tell what people are passionate about by what they talk about and taking a look at their checkbook, to see what they spend their money on. I asked my children based on that, what did they think that my mother, their Grandma Bonnie was passionate about and they said: Family, Bible, and Flowers (add politics and you have some of my passions, as well).  They were right, those are the things that she cares about and that she talks about whenever they are around.

In Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, it talks about the importance of talking to our children, grandchildren, and others about God and the things that he has done.  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”  These verses are very important to the Jewish people, they are called the Shema, and they recite these verses daily, they should also be as important to us. First it says that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength; He should be the most important thing in our life. It doesn’t say to love Him with part of those things, it’s to be all, and we need to be “All In”, as a coach once said. In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said that this is the greatest commandment.  Then the verses in Deuteronomy say to tell others about God, when you sit at home, when you’re walking, when you lie down, and when you get up. That basically covers every area of our life. God doesn’t want to be something that we think about on Sundays and Wednesdays, he wants us to be thinking and talking about Him, and His goodness to us, all the time. It says to write the commands on our door frames and our gates. Everyone that would pass that house would know that they believed in the One True God.  Because it was important to them, it would not be something that they hid from those passing by. In Psalm 78 2-4 it says: “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.” We need to be passionate about God and passionate about telling others about him every day. We have wonderful stories to tell to others about the glory of God and His coming Kingdom.

Sherry Alcumbrack

The Wisdom of Solomon?

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When you read about the Kings of Israel or Judah, their life is always summed up in one sentence, as a kind of Eulogy: King ­___ did right/evil in the sight of the Lord. That’s really all it boils down to, if we do right or we do evil in the sight of the Lord. None of the other things that they did matter. Take King Solomon for example. The wisest man who ever lived, the Lord appeared to him twice. Once he told him, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” He asked for wisdom to be able to lead the Israelites. God was so pleased with his answer that he said he would give him wisdom, riches, and honor, and if he followed his commandments that he would prolong his days. Solomon went on to build the temple for the Lord in Jerusalem.

It sounds like he lived his life to bring God glory, but Solomon had one small problem.  Chapter 3:3 “Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” And in chapter 11 vs.1-6 it says (paraphrase), “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women.  They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’  As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord….”  Contrast this to Ch.15:11&14 “And Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” “The high places were not taken away, nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days.” You do not want your epithet to read:  He loved the Lord, EXCEPT….. We need to make sure that we keep our hearts wholly devoted to God. Solomon started out loving God, but then he put other people before him and his heart was pulled away.

Sherry Alcumbrack

Follow God Fully

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In Numbers 13 is a well-known Bible story, The Israelites were at their promised land and God told them to send in spies to spy out the land “that he was going to give to the sons of Israel.” They had just witnessed the deliverance from the army of Pharaoh and then God had provided them with manna, water, and quail as they traveled.

As we learned in a song years ago “12 men went to Canaan land, 10 were bad and 2 were good.” The spies came back and reported that the land was good but the people were strong and the cities are fortified, they are descendants of the giants. In verses 30-31 Caleb said “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we shall surely overcome it.”  But the men said “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” In Chapter 14:7-10 Joshua says “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.” After he tells them this, the congregation wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua. The two that knew God would take care of them, and give them the land that he promised them, are threatened by the rest of the congregation.

After this God decides that the people of Israel will wander in the desert until that generation dies, Joshua and Caleb are the only ones that will go into the promised land of that generation. Ch. 14 v. 24 says “But my servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it.”  The difference between Joshua and Caleb, and the other 10, was not that they were smarter, or stronger than them but that they put their trust in God. They wandered in the desert for 40 years because they did not trust that God was in control and that He would never leave them or forsake them. Deuteronomy 6:5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

We only have to wander in the desert for 40 years when we don’t follow God wholly. As we live our lives, I pray that we will all have the spirit of Caleb and follow God fully. Let’s go into the Promised Land that God has prepared for us even when things look too difficult for us, because we know that God will take care of the obstacles in our way. When we have trust in God, we know that things that are too difficult for us alone can be accomplished because God is with us.

Sherry Alcumbrack

Decisions, Decisions…

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Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 has become one of my most often used passages. It is talking about our decision and the true choices we have. I think these verses need be used in all of our decisions. Deut. 30:15-20   “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

These are the choices that God has set before us “life and prosperity, or death and adversity”, is that a difficult choice. Who would willingly say, I would like more death and adversity in my life. But we are saying that when we choose to live in a way that is anti-God. When we choose to go against the will of God, we choose those things. Then he says, the Lord wants to bless us in our lives, but he only blesses us when we choose to love Him and walk in His ways and follow His commands. But all of His commands are for our own good and leads to a much better way of life. It’s not really a hard choice but it is one that we have to make everyday! Choose Life – the choice is ours but there’s really no comparison, and we can ask ourselves which one leads to the best results. There is only one choice that makes sense.

Sherry Alcumbrack

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God Intended It For Good

 

As I read the Bible, I like to see how we can use the stories in our lives. This is a story of Joseph and his rise to the top. As Jacob deceived his father Isaac, with his mother’s help, he was deceived several times in his life by those who loved him. Laban deceived him and had him marry Leah and then Rachel. His children deceived him when they told him that Joseph had been killed and he lived many years not realizing that his son was alive and sold into slavery. The story of Joseph is fascinating, we can see in the story how one thing leads to another and that God was using him in every situation.  He is sold as a slave and then Potiphar buys him, he is put in control of Potiphar’s household, then wrongfully accused by Potiphar’s wife, because he is a man of honor and will not sleep with her. The prison guard is partial to him and puts him in charge of all the other prisoners. Then he interprets some dreams correctly, later Pharaoh needs someone to interpret his dream and the butler tells him about Joseph. He, through God, correctly interprets the dream and Pharaoh makes him second in command of his kingdom. He then is in the position to not only save millions but also to save his family. I love this verse and think we would all do well to memorize it, Genesis 50:20:

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I think sometimes we feel like we are not as important as the people that we read about in the Bible but God uses regular people to make an impact on their family and community. If we allow God to use us, he will take everything in our lives and use it to accomplish His will and it will be used for Good. Another great verse to memorize is Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Everything that we go through in our lives is not good, but everything will be used for good. In the Kingdom all things will once again be very good.

Sherry Alcumbrack

 

 

Radiating Jesus

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Jesus > Angels.    Jesus > Moses.   Jesus > the Old Law.
Jesus > everything – except God, His Father.

Hebrews was written to convince its readers (mostly Jewish Christians) that there is none like Jesus.   Some Jewish Christians were being ridiculed and persecuted and rejected by Jews (perhaps family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, classmates) who did not accept Jesus as the Son of God, mediator, Savior, Coming King.   In order to remain strong in their faith while surrounded by doubts and persecution and false doctrine they were in need of a refresher course on the superiority of Jesus, and why it matters.   And, God supplied to them – and to us – the Book of Hebrews.

There is none like Jesus!  No one can do the job he does.  No one else can be the sinless Son of God who died for our sins and rose again.  No one else can mediate between God and man.  No one else can come again to set up God’s Kingdom on Earth.  There is none like Jesus!

One verse in chapter one has grabbed my attention several times before.  It begins, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory.” (1:3).  Remember when Moses asked to be allowed to see God’s glory. (Exodus 33:18)   And God allowed Moses to see God’s back – but not his face because no one can look on God’s face and live.  And then, years later – Jesus enters the scene.  He is not God Almighty, but he is God’s Son.  Heeradiates God’s glory and so when people see Jesus – they know what God is like.  They see God’s glory when they look at Jesus.

Sadly, there is a large chunk of the world today (as throughout history) who has never seen or acknowledged God’s glory.  They have missed seeing God, and they have not seen His Son.  It is time to get busy.  We have a job to do.  And I was reminded of that a few years ago when the public school principal commended our daughter for “Radiating Jesus”.   What beautiful words to speak of another.  What a goal to live for.

Jesus was radiating God – because frail humanity can’t look directly at the fullness of God’s goodness and majesty and live through it.  Thank God for Jesus – who shows us God – better than Moses and the prophets and the Old Testament law and even angels ever could.    We have seen Jesus through the pages of the gospel writers and now it is our job to radiate Jesus.  For when we help them see Jesus, they will see God’s glory, too.

Marcia Railton