When God Sent a Famine

NOTE: Sorry that some of you received the draft of this email yesterday. Oops!

What happens when God brings a famine of His word? Take some time to meditate upon the following passages that contrast the attitude of Israel toward God’s word before and after their captivity.

Their attitudes toward God’s word BEFORE captivity:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
(2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

Their descendants’ attitudes toward God’s word AFTER captivity:

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
(Nehemiah 8:5-12)

What happened in between? God brought a famine!

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. “People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. “In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.
(Amos 8:11-13)

It’s the old “Don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” teaching. God basically told them, since you don’t want My Word, I’ll take it away from you. This was a hard lesson, but Israel needed to learn it.

Here are a few final passages about hunger for God’s word:

  • I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments (Psalms 119:131, also vs. 20,40,162,174,).
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
  • I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).
  • Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1-3).

His Disciples Did Not Understand These Things At First

His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.  (John 12:16)

The disciples did not understand these things…at first.

Jesus said and did a lot of things that the disciples just did not understand. There were also prophecies about the Messiah that these Jewish men were unable to connect to the events surrounding the death, burial and resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Many reasons can be found in the 4 gospels as to why they didn’t fully understand.

Part of it was poor teaching, wrong assumptions and false conclusions on the part of the Jewish leadership (Matthew 16:1-3; Luke 12:54-56). Another part was the mindset of the disciples themselves; they were at times setting their hearts on the things of the world (Matthew 16:23). Jesus, on more than one occasion corrected them for their slowness to believe and their hardness of heart (Mark 7:18; 8:17-18; 16:14; Luke 24:25). I’m so thankful in knowing that even with all of their “issues” Jesus was patient with them as they grew.

With time and events, though, and the working of the Holy Spirit, and the plain teaching from the Word, the disciples finally understood.

Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said (John 2:22).

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He (Jesus) expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).

And He (Jesus) opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

They didn’t understand at first, but in time with God’s patient guidance, they understood. A dear friend of mine, Charles, who serves as a shepherd, showed me a passage years ago in connection to this concept.

Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you (Philippians 3:15).

We all begin our spiritual journey as immature babes and as babes our reasoning is sometimes way off base. Paul says that if we need growth, God will “reveal” that to us. I don’t believe that means God will give us some new truth that is not already revealed in the word, but with His patient guidance as we walk and grow in Him, He helps to open our eyes to see the truth that was always there in the Word in the first place.

You see, Jesus opened the disciples understanding to see what was already in the Scriptures for centuries. It wasn’t new truth, it was just that the light went on in their souls and they got it and believed. These new “revelations” were life-changing. They just had not seen it there and understood it until time and events had taken place to open their eyes.

It is the same for us today. There are things you can’t or don’t understand now that one day you will see. The same old truth has always been there, but maybe you just weren’t ready for it yet (for whatever reason). Thankfully God in His longsuffering and mercy gives us that wiggle room (as my mother-in-law calls it) to grow as Jesus did for His disciples.

Breaking Out of the Shell

Breaking Out of the Shell. The picture you see is of one of our chicks that hatched this morning. These chicks came from the chickens that died in our barn fire. We are having all kinds of thoughts this morning as a family as we witness this joyous event.

Breaking Out of the Shell

God’s Design and Creation. God is marvelous and awesome. It is just amazing to watch a chick work to hatch itself out of its protective shell. No one but God teaches the chicken how to do this. God programmed it with wisdom and instinct.

A New Life Brings Hope. Spring is such a hopeful time of year. Watching chicks hatch, grass green up, trees bud, and flowers spring up is all part of the hope that comes with each spring season!

Stuck in a Spiritual Shell. My daughter, Jessica, mentioned the concept that sometimes as Christians we get stuck in a comfortable place spiritually and we stop growing. She said we need to break out of it. God wants us to grow, and just like that chick, it takes work. More than one example can be seen in Scripture where God wants us to grow and to avoid being stuck in baby-hood spiritually (See 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; 14:20; Ephesians 4:14; Hebrews 5:12-14). That shell is there, designed by God with everything that chick needs for around 21 days, but after that the chick needs to break out of the shell. God expects growth, and that requires us to become uncomfortable.

New Life from Tragedy. The parents of this chick died in our barn fire, but life goes on, doesn’t it. New birth comes. Hope and light comes out of darkness. It doesn’t replace the grief, but it does bring comfort. Have you ever studied Joshua’s ancestry? Joshua the great conqueror of Canaan was born into a family that had experienced great tragedy. Read this following passage and meditate upon it today.

The sons of Ephraim were Shuthelah, Bered his son, Tahath his son, Eladah his son, Tahath his son, Zabad his son, Shuthelah his son, and Ezer and Elead. The men of Gath who were born in that land killed them because they came down to take away their cattle. Then Ephraim their father mourned many days, and his brethren came to comfort him. And when he went in to his wife, she conceived and bore a son; and he called his name Beriah, because tragedy had come upon his house. Now his daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon and Uzzen Sheerah; and Rephah was his son, as well as Resheph, and Telah his son, Tahan his son, Laadan his son, Ammihud his son, Elishama his son, Nun his son, and Joshua his son (1 Chronicles 7:20-27).

Hope comes from tragedy. Comfort comes after the pain. Light comes after the darkness. We just have to hold on to God and trust in Him.

Until Christ is formed in you

My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you–
(Galatians 4:19).

What was Paul’s labor? His intention and purpose was to work with the Galatian brethren until Christ was formed within them. That means this is a process. This implies growth. It carries with it the idea that one who becomes a Christian has not “arrived.” We never come to a point where we can tell ourselves, “I don’t need to grow anymore.”

As Christian men, we need to understand this concept for ourselves, and we need to understand this for those we are teaching. Growth is a process. Remember most of all that God is directly involved in this transformation.

He Who Began a Good work

Look also at the next two passages and see the same principles taught and repeated by Paul.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

In the passage from 1 Thessalonians, Paul’s desire and prayer is that God would “sanctify you entirely…spirit and soul and body.” God is cleansing us and transforming us so that we look like Jesus. This is a “good work,” as Philippians 1:6 says, and God will perfect it. He doesn’t start a work and then walk away from it. Until the day of Christ Jesus…again the idea that this is a process, and it takes time. God is loving and longsuffering with us as we grow into the image of Christ.

This is not to say that God doesn’t accept us until the full transformation process is completed. We don’t want to have the false idea that only when we are flawless that God will accept us. John reminds us that as we walk in the light the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). That gives us the security and grace we need – a healthy environment for real growth.

Keep this in mind today, becoming like Jesus is a process. Be patient with yourself. God is. Be patient with others. God is.

Unconsciously Competent

What if I am a knucklehead toward my wife but do not know it? Why not leave me blissfully ignorant? Well, if we want to improve our marriages, then being a blissfully-ignorant knucklehead will not cut it. The goal is to become unconsciously competent, and I’ll explain that in a moment.

The Conscious Competence Ladder

These four levels of growth and development have been used in various ways over the years in secular training. I believe they have a very Biblical basis to them, so I am sharing them with you for your consideration.

Unconsciously incompetent.

You lack abilities, training or skills and you are not aware of it. For example, you are saying and doing things (or not saying or doing things) that are hurting your wife. At this stage, you are just clueless and need to be made aware. She might make you “acutely” (not-so-cutely) aware after she has blown a gasket with you because she is at her wits’ end. I mean, you could blame her for having a conniption fit. Or, you can wake up to the things you are doing that are setting her off.

Consciously incompetent.

Now you are aware that you have been a knucklehead. The actions and words have not really changed. However, your conscience is now pinging you every time you make those mistakes. You realize your need for instruction and growth, and you reach out for help. “I don’t want to be like this anymore and I need counseling and training!”

Consciously competent.

With God’s help and a lot of advice, you begin to treat your wife with honor and respect. The right behavior and words are being demonstrated, but you really have to muscle your mind to do it. It is like hitting a baseball left-handed (if you’re right-handed). Watching someone learn how to drive a stick-shift can be painful, both to you and the car. But once he has it down it becomes second nature. This leads to the final point.

Unconsciously competent.

Finally, your new way of treating your spouse in some ways has become second nature. I am not saying that we never have to think about it again, because James 3 says we can never tame the tongue. What I do mean is that after years of behaving the right way toward your wife, there will be loving deeds that at one time you never would have thought of doing, but now you do them without really thinking about them.

Nobody today has to tell me how to ride a bike, and I don’t have do go through mental steps to get on a bike and ride it. It is second nature. That wasn’t true for me at 5 or 6 years old, though. Now, please understand that we always have to grow as Christians; we never “arrive” at perfection. In one area of my life I may be on step #4, and in another I may be on step #1.

“I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

If David Took a Selfie in Gath

1 Samuel 21 was not one of David’s finer moments. I began to think, “If David took a selfie in Gath, what would it look like?”

Well, take a minute to read 1 Samuel 21:10-15.

Then David arose and fled that day from Saul, and went to Achish king of Gath. But the servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of this one as they danced, saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands’?” David took these words to heart and greatly feared Achish king of Gath. So he disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard. Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man behaving as a madman. Why do you bring him to me? “Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?” (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

This is the giant-killer! Here stands the future anointed king of Israel. He is called a mighty warrior (1 Sam. 16:18) who has slain his 10,000’s (1 Sam. 18:7). Can you picture David like this? He “disguised his sanity,” and let “his saliva run down into his beard.” He is “scribbling on the doors of the gate,” “acting insanely.” I do not believe that is the image that most Bible students have when they think of King David!

But even David had his moments…the moments you certainly do not want to capture with a selfie! I don’t think he’d post this on Instagram or Facebook!

What is incredibly fascinating to me and insightful is to read Psalm 56, which the text says was written during this very CRAZY time in David’s life. Please read the whole Psalm today, but I will just put an excerpt of it here for you.

For the choir director; according to Jonath elem rehokim. A Mikhtam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath. Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; fighting all day long he oppresses me. My foes have trampled upon me all day long, for they are many who fight proudly against me. When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? (Psalms 56:1-4)

You see if you only read 1 Samuel 21 then you don’t see Psalm 56, and vice versa. If you only read Psalm 56 and do not place it back in the historical context of what David was going through, you will think David always had it all together. And you would be flat-out wrong. David didn’t start with the mindset of Psalm 56, but he by faith eventually arrived there. But it was an ugly and embarrassing process along the way.

This is the part that sometimes Christians, especially Christian men, don’t like to talk about. Growth is not binary. We are not just light-switched from pagan to Paul in the blink of an eye! Spiritual growth can just simply look ugly at times on the exterior, but with God’s help we are strengthened. We are perfected in our faith and solidified in our trust in Him.

I am so glad the Holy Spirit recorded this very embarrassing moment in the life of the mighty David, because it gives me hope when I have the same kinds of moments! God was still David’s loving and patient Lord even when the spit was running down his beard. We can say all day that “David should have…” but he didn’t. And God loved him through that growth process until his faith was strengthened.

So, do you have those falling-apart moments in your life that you certainly wouldn’t want to capture with a selfie? Well then, so did David.

Little by Little

“I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land.” (Exodus 23:29-30)

Little by little. God knew that the best thing was to gradually and incrementally give the Israelites the land of Canaan. He knew that if He gave it to them all at once, then they could not handle it.

This concept comes to mind in parenting with a few different applications.

Little by little your children grow and mature. This is important for those driven, type-A personality, high expectation dads (like me) to remember. They are little humans with souls, and just as God is patient with you as you grow gradually and mature, you must also be patient with them (James 2:13). There are so many concepts and Biblical principles that we want to make sure they have in their hearts before they leave home, but we want them sometimes to understand them all overnight. That just isn’t going to happen. Little by little, dads.

Little by little your children will accomplish their goals. One of my children comes to mind especially with this concept. My daughter, Jessica, has always loved horses since she came forth from the womb. She was ready as a child to have horses, a barn, and a place to ride them. It was very hard for her to pace herself and to be patient because she wanted it all overnight. She has for a long time been an adult in a child’s body…she is very mature. But this concept of “little by little” is something Anna and I taught her to give her patience and steadiness to accomplish her dreams. Now she has a job and she has her own two horses that she completely provides for on her own. But that did not happen overnight. Little by little, dads.

Little by little your parenting style will change. I am in the middle of these incremental changes right now. My youngest is 3 and my oldest is 18, and I cannot parent them the same way. That change gradually happened over years, and we dads have to learn to let go more and more as our children develop into adults. I might put my 3 year old in the corner, but that just won’t work for an 18 year old! As you begin to realize that your sons and daughters are developing into mature adults, they need a completely different style of parenting that what they had as toddlers. Little by little, dads.

I hope this helps.