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July 20, 2018

The Life We Wish We Had

by Austin Ariail

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.

Numbers 11:4-6 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=bfc174531b&e=82a9a8f891)

In the passage above we find God’s people well on their way to the Promised Land. Between their experience of God’s presence at Sinai, and on the cusp of entering into Canaan, we have a few stories, which are a portal into the kind of people God calls His own. Led by their taste buds and stomachs, the Israelites are aching for something else other than manna. Manna was the daily reminder for God’s people that He would provide as He promised. But for the Israelite diet, it had become boring to taste, obnoxious at sight, and repulsive knowing that the next meal would be the same. Perhaps visions of succulent lamb, fresh fish, sweet melons, and robust herbs flooded their minds while they munched away on manna every day, three times a day, with no break to the culinary monotony. God’s people had had enough, and the dreams of food that “cost nothing” actually broke out into conversations and audible complaints towards Moses and then, God.

“What I wouldn’t give to have that kind of life?” Have you ever heard such a phrase? Spoken it yourself or hidden such a thought in the depths of your soul? I believe we find ourselves thinking or saying such things in the midst of hurt, whether mild or great. Once the thoughts begin, it can be hard to shut down. The wheels in our minds turn and we envision a better life. We explore those thoughts–“This is not how life should be,” become, “I hate my life right now,” soon followed by, “God screwed this up when He took me down this road.” Between the place of pain and healing, a few pitfalls are ever present along the journey. And the pitfalls, make no mistake, are deadly. Pitfalls such as self-pity, bitterness, resentment, envy, and rage are likely, however envy is the most dangerous. Envy seems harmless, but left unchecked, gives way to isolation and darkness.

Envy wants to kill your soul. Envy has us look around and see what everyone else possesses or is in the process of attaining. Paychecks, cars, notoriety, significant others, homes, jobs, friends and social esteem. Envy is a balance ledger that always has us looking at the assets in someone else’s column and always seeing the shortcomings in our own. Envy has us thinking what it would be like to be someone else, and when that happens the consequences almost at once are severe. The mere taste for some fish, a few vegetables and a couple of roots have the Israelites wishing they were still slaves beaten under the Egyptian sun while they created centers of power and control, for a wicked ruler. The Israelites in this story wish to rewind the clock, and to be their former selves. The envy of their previous life has driven them to madness. Who would dare enter into a life of slavery for a few moments of pleasure?

Christian philosopher Jeff Cook notes that exile is always a result of envy. This cause and effect has been at the center of human history and began with our first parents. Adam and Eve envied that which alone was God’s. They pursued what they thought was a better life by another route, and in doing so Adam and Eve were exiled along with every person born away from God and the life He desired for His creatures. In our story, the Israelites envied part of their former life; interestingly enough their sin has given them a selective memory. Ironically, the Israelites wish to enter back into exile, to leave God in the desert and return to Egypt. Instead of letting His people head back to their own destruction, God in some ways gives them exactly what they want and it kills them (Numbers 11:33). Envy operates under the notion that we know better than God, and that is misery.

What delivers us from envy? Gratitude is the place to start, but is not the end. Gratitude is and can be a discipline, as Henri Nouwen says, “It [gratitude] is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.” Gratitude is not always spontaneous, but can be a measured response to all of life simply because everything we receive in life–great and small–is a gift (1 Corinthians 4:7). Nouwen goes on to say that gratitude can be a conscious choice even when we are hurting, when we do not feel like being grateful and our hearts are full of resentment. To practice gratitude is a choice. But gratitude is a response, or posture, to something even greater: trust. Trust, the confidence that God will keep His promises, is a hard thing. In their travels to the Promised Land it was probably a hard reality to look around and see barrenness, but only to hear that a land of milk and honey would soon be found. In the
middle of a desert, little to sustain life and little sign of it, God was calling His people to trust Him because over the horizon was a life far greater and better for them. But instead of trusting the promises of God, the Israelites, and we too, believe the lie. The lie that God has withheld something better from us, the lie that God did not get our lives right, the lie that God truly does not love us. To believe the lie keeps us in the darkness, to believe the lie keeps us in exile, to believe the lie keeps us away from God.

This is certainly never the end! In our own exile, just as in the Israelite exile, God brings His people back to Himself. God actively searches, rescues and restores His people to the joy of life He knows we need. God sends His Son to tell us that the life we truly want, we truly need, the abundant life is not one in which God withholds, but freely gives us through Jesus Christ.

Sources

Cook, Jeff. Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 2008.

Nouwen, Henri. The Return of the Prodigal Son. Image Books: New York, 1994.

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About the Author

Austin Ariail
Director of Children’s Ministry
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Austin Ariail is Director of Children's Ministry at Park Cities Presbyterian Church. He has over 15 years of experience working with children and youth in churches in South Carolina and Texas. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two precious, little girls as well as following South Carolina Gamecock sports.

July 13, 2018

Always Pray and Never Give Up

by Robby Higginbottom

And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:1-8 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=1cf9fe82bf&e=82a9a8f891)

What can we learn from a strange story about a wicked judge and a hopeless widow? Jesus presents a judge without a moral compass and a widow without a righteous advocate. This judge can be bought, but this woman has neither the power nor the possessions to play the game. In the end, the wicked judge grants the widow her request for justice because she keeps bothering him, and he’s tired of it. The parable leaves most of us shaking our heads: “Wait, Jesus, what did you just say?” On the surface, it seems like the key to prayer is our persistence. If we just keep knocking, eventually God will be so annoyed that he’ll open the door and give us what we want. “Wait Jesus, I thought you said you were willing to teach us to pray. Is this really how it works?”

Before we punt the parable, let’s be honest. Do we ever think that God isn’t doing the right thing in our lives and in the world? If so, we may be viewing the Father as an unrighteous judge. Do we ever feel like we are hopeless and alone, without an advocate to plead our case? If so, we may be viewing ourselves as widows instead of the bride of Christ. Do we ever live like the answers to our prayers depend on us? If so, we may be underwhelmed by the Spirit who intercedes for us. In the parable Jesus actually exposes our inadequate views of God and our misdirected approaches to prayer. The widow persists, and the judge yields, but the power of the parable lies in the contrast between the characters in the story and the God who tells it.

First, God is not an unrighteous judge. His justice is not capricious. He has a moral compass. He is the compass. The Lord is True North. His justice does not wait for His people to bother Him until He gives in. No, His justice rolls down like waters in His perfect timing. His justice is not impersonal or unloving. What could be more personal and loving than the cross? “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we pray, we’re approaching a God who is holy, righteous, and loving. We shouldn’t feel like we’re wrestling Him for something that we care about but He doesn’t. He is our Creator and our Redeemer, and He has promised to make all things new. How would our prayer life change if we truly saw God as a loving Father and not a wicked judge?

Second, we are not widows! If we are in Christ, we are His beloved bride. We are not orphans either! If we are in Christ, we are beloved children of our Father in heaven. Though we may not feel it, we are never alone. He is always with us. And though we may doubt it, we never lack an advocate. Jesus Christ lives to intercede for us. When we see the contrast between the characters in the parable and the relationship believers have with the Lord, we should be greatly encouraged. So what is Jesus saying? If this widow can get justice by bothering a wicked judge who doesn’t love God or people, how much more should God’s beloved people expect to get justice from Him? He loves us. He wants to hear from us. He wants to answer us. He intends for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer is not about us and our persistence. It’s about the Lord and His presence, promises, and power. As we embrace who He is and who we are in Him, we will persist in prayer, and we will do so with the right motive. Because of who He is and what He has done for us, we should always pray and not lose heart.

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About the Author

Robby Higginbottom
Assistant Pastor of College Ministry
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Robby Higginbottom was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. As early as high school, he sensed the Lord calling him to pastoral ministry. Robby is a graduate of Highland Park High School, Duke University, and Redeemer Seminary. Through the years, he has worked with high school students, college students, and young adults at PCPC. Robby currently serves as an assistant pastor. He is married to Ann, and they have two children: Will and John Harper.

July 12, 2018

First Bible School for New Beginnings Church

 

My church is hosting our first VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL this month. It's located on Rt 37 outside of Fort Gay. Our pastor's name is Elmer Mullins and our Sunday School teacher Misti Mullins is directing the VBS. 

---Nessie Lynn Caldwell

 

God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • The Time Has Come

    [Jesus said,] "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth."

    John 4:23-24 NIV

    Key Thought

    Jesus' words, spoken to the woman at the well in Samaria, echo down through time. They cut through the worship wars of every era. They rattle our selfish preferences and challenge our dogmatic positions. They remind us that worship is something much more than a responsibility, a ritual, a place, a time, or a style. Worship is a gift. We cannot even properly worship without the Spirit of God in us. Those who are born of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-7) are given the opportunity to worship because of the Spirit's presence. And when they are led to worship in the Spirit, they are then called to make that worship authentic. Worship in truth is worship that is consistent throughout life — living-sacrifice worship (Romans 12:1-2). As the Spirit permeates our being, influences our hearts, and conforms us to Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), then worship is no longer about a place (John 4:21), but about presence! The Holy Spirit, God's abiding Presence in us, makes the life of God come alive in us — not just on a "worship day," but every day in all of our ways.

    Today's Prayer

    O Father, I want to be a true worshiper! I want to worship you spirit to Spirit. I want my worship words to be consistent with my daily worship in thought, action, and speech. As the psalmist said so long ago, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer." Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.

    The quotation in the prayer is from Psalm 19:14 NLT.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Without Limit

    For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.

    John 3:34-35 NIV

    Key Thought

    John's gospel declares again and again that Jesus is God among us. He speaks the words of God. His actions are the actions of God. He follows the will of God. On Jesus and in Jesus, the Spirit of God operates with absolute power and authority, yet in complete harmony with the will of God — the dance of grace between Father, Son, and Spirit in Jesus. If we want to know how God acts, how God feels, what God wants, or what God would say, we only need to look to Jesus. He is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). He is God come to care for his people (Luke 7:16). He is the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24). He is God made flesh (John 1:11-14). He is the Son who fully reveals the Father because he operates fully by the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:16-21; Acts 10:37-38).

    Today's Prayer

    Almighty God, LORD, Yahweh, the God of our fathers — Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — I praise you and thank you. I praise you for your holiness that is beyond my comprehension and for your self-revelation in Jesus who was flesh and blood like I am. Even though I cannot fully understand this truth, thank you that as Father and Son and Spirit you operate as God, the Lord, who is one God. Just as you have given your Spirit without limit and the Son has shown me who you are, I pledge to you my love, heart, soul, mind, and strength. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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