Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chocolate or Vanilla?

I ponder in my mind about the struggles of life. . . How do I tell the difference between a roadblock that God places in my path to force me aside from a path that he does not want me on and a mountain that must be climbed on my journey? Do you remember Balaam & his talking ass? The text is in the book of Numbers verses 22:20-34. Balaam was on a wrong path. God did not want Balaam going where he was headed. Got put an obstacle in Balaam's path. The ass Balaam was riding on, saw the danger ahead, but Balaam did not see it. Are the obstacles in my life, in my career, in my ministry, that God is using in an attempt to deflect me from a path He doesn't want me on? Have I figuratively hit my donkey twice and is the angel of the Lord getting ready to smite me, like in the case of Balaam?

Think of Jonah. God told him to go to Nineveh. Jonah went in another direction. The Lord brought a great storm, He placed a huge obstacle in Jonah's path. Another example, is the entire testing of Job. The Bible goes to great lengths to show us that Job did nothing to deserve what happened to him:

The righteousness of Job
Job 1:1
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

Job 1:8
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?


Two verses, two witnesses. . . the writer of the book of Job says that he was perfect and upright, in addition God held Job up to satan as a perfect and upright man. What happened to Job was a lesson for satan and for us. Everything was taken away from Job, his family, his health, and finances were all ruined. His friends abandoned him. His wife turned against him. For pages and pages, chapter after chapter we read of Job's testing. Job at times wavering but never changing course. In the end everything was restored to Job:

Job 42:10
And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

I cannot help but believe that if Job had given up, if Job's supposed friends had been successful in discouraging him, if Job had denied God and lost his faith, if Job had detoured from the path he was on, I do not believe that everything that Job lost would have been restored to him. It was necessary for Job to continue fighting against the terrible test that he faced in order to overcome and be redeemed.

How do I tell the difference in my own struggles? I want to side track for a bit and come at this question from another direction. Upon meditating and pondering this question, I remembered that the way of the Lord is perfect:

Psalms 18:30
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

I've used this verse to minister to people in the past who did not understand what was going on in their life. Some event would happen that seemed terribly unfair. We surely do not understand everything that occurs, in the midst of our struggle we cannot see the purpose, but we can have faith that "As for God, His way is perfect. . .", his plan is perfect. Everything will work out in the end. At the end of the day no one will ever be able to point a finger at God at say that He was anything but correct and perfectly righteous and just. In like manner His plan, His way of getting things done are also perfect. There are no errors. There are no misjudgments. There are no miscalculations. There are no imperfect techniques.

Have you ever worked for someone who was (to put it kindly) what is called a micro-manager? This is a boss who must be involved in every detail. No decision is too small for this kind of a manager. He doesn't let his underlings do anything without his review and stamp of approval. This is a terrible way to run any organization. Not much gets accomplished. No one can move a finger without first consulting the boss. The organization cannot respond quickly to changing events. The subordinates have no power of their own to make decisions. When anything unexpected occurs, when quick action is needed most, nothing happens. The members of this organization are frozen until this micro-manager, this control freak can be found and consulted. Terribly bad things can happen due to inaction or great golden opportunities can pass by due to the impotence of the underlings. . .

Reading the Bible you must be very aware that this is not how God has setup His creation. A micro-managing God would never have left any chance for Adam and Eve to stray by disobeying Him in the garden. They would have had no chance of independent action. Procedures, lock out boxes, safety fences, ropes. . . all sorts of things would have been in place to prevent any independent decision making, any chance of making a mistake on Adam and Eve's part would have been removed. The giving of the Law was the giving of guidelines for man to act under without having to constantly consult with God.

Moses tended toward micro-management. His trying to be the sole judge of the millions of Hebrew people was a symptom of someone who tries to micro-manage. People new to management are typically poor delegaters. They are usually very confident in their own abilities and hesitate to take the chance that those under them will have the same degree of proficiency that they would have. The delegation of authority did not come naturally to Moses. His father-in-law had to strongly urge Moses give authority to those under him to make decisions on his behalf. Moses to his credit, did listen to the good advice and learn from it. Micro-management is a symptom of many people newly put into authority. Notice the difference between the Mosaic Law, with its micro-management tendency, with its hundreds of rules to the empowerment that Jesus gave us with His very simple guidelines. I've spoken upon this numbers of times before, but Jesus boiled all the rules and regulations of Moses down to just two:

Mark 12:29-31
And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: (30) And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. (31) And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

This is classic empowerment management. Jesus is an empowering manager. He gives us guiding principles and the assurance that we cannot not go far wrong if we adhere to these commandments. It is important to realize from this that He expects us to make our own independent decisions based upon the guidelines that He has given us.

Look at the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

And His last words recorded in the book of Acts:

Acts 1:8-9
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (9) And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

Jesus has been given all power in heaven and in earth. There is no power that Jesus does not have. All power means all power. If I have all the money, how much do you have? There is no exception to all. Now then in Acts we are going to be given power, Jesus will share His power with us when the Holy Spirit of God is come upon us. Jesus is not a micro-manager. He is delegating. . .He is giving power to us to make decisions and to act on His behalf.

I have asked people to pray and have had them respond that they must pray about that. They must pray as to whether they pray about something. They have to ask God for direction to tell them whether they should talk to Him. In the past I have made the statement that I believed that God had a perfect will for my every move. I thought that if I could learn to hear Him well enough He would guide my every step of the day. . .He would prefer me to eat at one over the other Burger King or Wendy's. I thought that it was only my own spiritual deafness that kept me from hearing from God as I selected either chocolate or vanilla for my ice cream cone. . . :)

After this study, I have changed my mind. I believe that the Lord had given us power to minister as best we see fit. Notice what Jesus says in Matthew. Reread verses 28:18-20

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (19) Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (20) Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

This is our mission statement. These are our instructions for ministry. Our compelling foundational principles must be to love God with everything we have and to love our fellow man as ourselves. Within those two principles we are to reach our world for Jesus. He does not give us detailed minute instructions as to how to accomplish this. I am not saying that we have no doctrinal requirements, but He has given us power to reach our world in the ways that we see fit within His guidelines, the doctrine given in the New Testament.

We can pray and pray and pray for guidance, but the guidance in large part is already given in the Bible. Surely when God has specific instructions for us, He will let us know:

Act 16:6
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

This is not something that Paul could have discovered on his own by adhering to the two great commandments. He needed specific instructions from God as to His plan and God gave it to Paul.

Similarly:

Acts 16:9-1
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. (10) And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

More instructions directly from God to Paul. Paul knew that God had spoken to him in the dream. Again there is no way for Paul to have picked Macedonia over all the possible places he could have gone solely on the basis of the two great commandments. Paul has the power of the Holy Spirit within him, but he needed Specific instructions. Note though that God instructed Paul to go to Macedonia. He did not lay out a complete itinerary for Paul. God left the details up to Paul.

My original question, how do I tell if I am to fight through an obstacle or allow something to change my course and cause me to either detour or even head to a completely different destination? Balaam was not on a godly path. Balaam disobeyed God:

Numbers 22:20-22
And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do. (21) And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. (22) And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

Balaam disobeyed the instruction from God. God told Balaam that if they came for him he was to accompany them, but Balaam went without the princes of Moab coming for him. Balaam, if he had searched his heart, would have known that what he was doing was wrong. He did not follow God's instruction. He was led, he succumbed to the desire of an earthly appetite, the promise of riches, he was motivated by greed and lust for money. God put obstacles in front of him because of his wrong path. Other examples abound. . . Jonah, Saul the king. . . Saul on the road to Damascus. . .

Job on the other hand, according to the writer of Job, according to God, according to Job's own self-evaluation was on a correct path. Job had lived his life righteously. Job was motivated correctly. Job was not chasing greed or other fleshly appetites. Job persevered in spite of everything that came against him. He did not lose heart. He kept to his path not caring for everything that opposed him. He kept the faith in doing right no matter of what might happen. . . Other examples. . . David in his struggle with Saul, Abraham, Jacob, Paul going to Jerusalem. . .

For me, the lesson for this is, when I face troubles, when I face obstacles, when I face stumbling blocks in my path. I need to search my heart, evaluate my motives, study the Word of God. . .pray for God to reveal any darkness of intent in my actions. Am I serving God or am I serving my flesh? Balaam surely knew that he had disobeyed God. It was within his ability to discern where he had varied from God's will. Just as Job was correct in his confidence that he had not strayed from God's path for his life. If wrongness is discovered then I need to detour. If a sinful foundation or purpose is revealed in my searching of my heart, then I must repent. . . repenting means to change direction. An obstacle then placed in my wrong path, is God's attempt to change my direction, to bring me to repentance. A detour is a change of direction. A detour placed in my incorrect path should always lead to a repenting of my heart. Disaster awaits, as in Balaam, the angel with the sword stands ahead of me if I ignore a detour sign, if I fight to overcome a hindrance that I should heed. . . If on the other hand I can find no ill purpose within me. If my mission, if my journey lines up with God's Word, with His guiding principles then I need to continue on my course, in spite of any hardship or hindrance. . .Continuing in the face of obstacles and hardship while on a correct path then becomes a demonstration of our faith. . . and we know that demonstrating our faith pleases God greatly:

Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

This study has given me confidence that the silence of God is not necessarily a rebuke on His part or spiritual deafness on my part. I need to constantly check my holiness of purpose, the righteousness of my motivation, my goals, my dreams, my desires. . .if they are pure and right then I need to continue on in spite of anything that might come against me. . . if they are wrong then I need to change course. . .repent. . .

I thank you my God. . .
I love you my Lord. . .
I love you all. . .

Dave

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