The process of promise

Read: Exodus 22-24, Matthew 20:17-34

Many of us, when we pray, would like to see our entire prayer answered right when we pray it. We’re used to instant gratification. Drive-thrus. On demand. Our prayers have become a reflection of that. Like Veruca Salt, we want it and we want it now!

But what happens when we get everything we want when we want it whether we’re ready for it or not? Did you know some studies show that up to 70% of people who unexpectedly come into large sums of money end up broke within five years? Getting rich quick isn’t always the best thing for us.

Exodus 23:29-30

I’m sure Israel would have loved nothing more than to walk out of Egypt and right into the Promised Land. God could have gone ahead and cleaned house, sweeping out the land and preparing it for His people. But He didn’t. He chose not to for a couple of reasons.

  1. Israel wasn’t ready. Here was an entire nation who had been enslaved for four centuries. While their physical captivity had ended, anyone who has been held against their will can tell you that it takes longer for the mind to adapt to freedom. God had a lot of things to teach His people before they were ready to take the land. He needed to renew their minds to His plans and purposes before they could move ahead.
  2. The land was ready. Israel had some learning to do, but the land was move-in ready. It was inhabited. It was already being farmed. Cities had already been built. There was a population that was tending to it, keeping it profitable. Had God scattered those people, the land would have reverted back to its original state. Fields would go fallow and fill with weeds. The cities would begin to crumble and wild animals would once again take over. The Israelites would have had to start from scratch.

Our land, our promise, may be ready for us, but we may not yet be ready for it. There may be lessons we need to learn along the way. We may need to build up endurance and strength. We may need to renew our minds, changing our old way of thinking. We may need to be broken down so that we can be rebuilt. And while all of that is happening, God has made sure that our promise will be ready for us when we are ready for it. The process is just as, if not more, important than the promise.

Superstition

In the practical sense, I am not at all a superstitious person. I have a broken mirror in my hallway. I don’t care about black cats. And I walk under ladders all the time. So what? Superstition goes beyond the obvious.

Superstition, i.e. a way of live divorced from God and his guidance, is the parent of restlessness and instability and reduces men to the level of shepherdless sheep.

J.E. McFayden, The Abingdon Bible Commentary.

Zechariah opens chapter 10 telling Israel to ask the Lord for rain in the spring and then follows that up discussing sheep without a shepherd. At a glance, these two topics have nothing to do with each other. But a deeper look says that they have everything to do with each other.

Let’s say that a church has experienced great revival. The leaders prayed for it and, when it came, they couldn’t quite put their finger on what started it, but they refuse to change a thing so that it won’t stop. God’s Spirit moves. People get healed. People get saved. The church grows by leaps and bounds. But, after a while—like nearly every time of refreshing, things start to slow down. The leaders start to pick apart everything they’ve done. What changed? Who picked that song? Why did that greeter wear that jacket? Why did the colours on the screen change? Who folded the bulletin backward? We need to start right at 10:28, not 10:31!

What started out as an incredible move of God has been reduced to a method—specific natural steps taken in order to preserve something that began supernaturally. The supernatural becomes superstition and, soon enough, God is no longer in the method. It is merely human hands trying to replicate something they have no hope of repeating. And, instead of heading back to the prayer room, many people keep testing theories and methods in hopes of trying to spark something again. They are sheep following superstition rather than a shepherd.

Ask the Lord for rain in the spring and he will give it. It is the Lord who makes storm clouds that drop showers of rain so that every field becomes a lush pasture.

Zechariah 10:1 (NLT)

If God sends the rain in the first place, why would we ever look elsewhere when things start to look dry? Even Christians can become superstitious when a certain process works better than another. But the prosperity has nothing to do with the process and everything to do with the prayer that went into it. So ask the Lord for rain. And when it starts to get dry, ask Him again. And again. And again.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Psalm 100:3 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 10-12, Revelation 20

 

One bad apple

Yesterday, after being out for most of the day, I was anxious to get home. I like being at home. I pulled into the driveway, grabbed all my stuff from the car and stomped up the front steps. Unlocking the door, I expected to be greeted by warm comfort. Instead, an overwhelming stench assaulted my senses. Dropping my things, it then became a bit of a wild goose chasing trying to find where the smell was coming from and what was causing it. While all of our organic waste is supposed to be kept separate, something landed in my garbage bin and stayed there for a while—long enough to stink up the entire house. The bin barely had anything in it.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. When it comes to produce, once something starts to spoil, it doesn’t take long for it to spread to the good fruit. Back in Ezekiel, God was busy giving the prophet some very specific instructions regarding the temple. One thing among many stood out.

Take careful note of who may be admitted to the Temple and who is to be excluded from it.

Ezekiel 44:5b (NLT)

Only certain priests from a certain lineage were permitted to enter certain places in the Temple. To have anyone else enter would mean that it, and any utensils they came in contact with, would no longer be holy. A long process would then have to take place in order to re-sanctify that place and those things.

Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will bring ruin upon anyone who ruins this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you Christians are that temple.

2 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NLT)

Now, we no longer live under the Old Covenant and we don’t need to go to a physical temple to make sacrifices in order to atone for our sin. Jesus was the sacrifice that made eternal atonement for us. And we are now the temple—that holy place where the Spirit of God resides. And, just like the priests of old, we should be very aware of who and what we allow into the temple.

Like a little bit of garbage can stink up an entire house, one wrong person in our lives can ruin the temple. We all have different social circles and levels of relationships in our lives. Our inner circle should be reserved for a very select few people. How do we know who to let in? Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:

  • Does this person share my faith?
  • Do they lead me toward Jesus or draw me away from him?
  • Am I challenged to become better and stronger with this person in my life?
  • Can I depend on this person in the bad times as much as I can in the good?

The list could go on, but I think you get the point. The inner circle, like the holy of holies, is sacred. It should be protected so that it—we—can remain holy. We may even have to distance ourselves from certain people in order to preserve that sanctity. Don’t let that bad apple in.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 43-44, 2 Peter 2