Friday, May 1, 2020

The LORD answered Moses, “Is the LORD’s arm too short?” –Numbers 11:23

Sometimes Scripture invites us to think about God in bodily terms. We read about God’s eyes, God’s ears, God’s hands and feet.

Today’s verse asks us to think about God’s arm.

In Numbers 11, the Israelites have been wandering in the desert and they’ve become tired of the provision of manna the Lord has been sending for them to eat. They demand meat, and the Lord tells Moses he’ll provide it (more than they want, in fact). Moses is skeptical. He says, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

And – I love this – God throws a question right back at Moses: “Is the LORD’s arm too short?”

It’s like God is saying, “Excuse me, Moses, I’m gonna to stop you right there. Do you know who I am? You still think there are limits on what I can do?” See, Moses has made the error I think we all make – Moses has forgotten just how big God is, how complete God is. Moses has already lost sight of the miraculous things he’s seen God do. I do this, too. Moses needed – and we need – the reminder that the Lord’s arm span is wide. His reach is far.

In fact, I’d argue that when we worry that there isn’t enough of something to go around, it’s usually the length of our own arms we ought to scrutinize. Where do I hold my blessings so close that no one else can enjoy them? Where does God’s provision get bottlenecked? Am I helping to make sure that everyone gets enough of what they need? When it comes to reaching out and serving people, am I stretching my arms out as wide as I can?

We serve a God of generous abundance. And God invites us to participate with him in reaching his world. When Jesus fed a whole crowd with just a few loaves of bread and some fish, he made the disciples part of the process. He handed them the food so they could share it with the hungry people around them. God also invites us to be part of the process. God’s arm is not short. God’s capacity to provide is not limited. God’s love is not just for an inside crowd. So, with confidence in our limitless God, may we extend our own arms to share God’s provision more freely with the world God loves.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” –Romans 12:11

If you watch live sports you’ll notice that games seem to begin in the same way. Just prior to the kickoff, tipoff, or first pitch, there’s loud music, maybe a video montage of exciting plays from the history of the team, and some sort of pyrotechnics. This brings up the collective energy in the stadium. You can feel it in the room. But no matter the event, very shortly after the game is underway, the crowd quiets and from then on, there are only periodic bursts of excitement. It’s just not sustainable for the whole game.

The same is true for our faith. There are times where an experience we have will motivate us to serve one another in love, but if we are only relying on our own power and energy, sooner or later, the excitement wanes and our expressions of love become less frequent.

Here the apostle Paul tells us that the key ingredient to maintain our energy and desire, our zeal, in following Jesus is God’s Holy Spirit. The Spirit working in our lives gives us the ability to “keep our spiritual fervor,” literally translated to “bubble up” or “to boil over” with faith. It’s that boiling over that causes us to serve the Lord by showing love to those around us.

So then, what is it that you need to start doing today to turn up the temperature so God’s Spirit can bubble up within your own?

Monday, April 27, 2020

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” —Genesis 3:8

In this story from Genesis, the first man and woman directly disobey the command of their Creator God. When they hear God nearby, they hide. They don’t want an encounter with God.

This strikes me as a very natural reaction. When I’m embarrassed, ashamed, or disappointed in myself, I’m generally not interested in interacting with anyone at all, much less the people I’ve directly let down or harmed.

And yet, if we just step back a little, we notice that this response, in Adam and Eve’s case, is completely ridiculous. To try to hide from God is like standing on stage in a crowded theatre (remember when those were a thing?) in the center of the spotlight and hoping that if you just stay very, very still, no one will be able to see you.

In Psalm 139, David reflects on the impossibility of escaping God’s presence: “Where can I I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

But this is not something to be feared! In Romans 5, the apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus gave his life for us, not under illusions about our sinfulness, but knowing full well that we are sinners: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So, when I’m feeling ashamed, when I’m aware that I’ve failed—and when you’re feeling ashamed, when you’re aware that you’ve failed—may we not try to hide from God’s presence (it won’t work anyway). May we instead draw close to God, knowing that he sacrificed himself for us precisely when we were least deserving. That is love, real love.