Don’t Let Sins Derail You from the Father’s Grace–A Look at Moses

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When I was in counseling a few years ago, the therapist told me that pain is caused or experienced in three different ways: our sins, another’s sins and the sins in this world. I’ve taken that with me, processed it 100 different ways and still go back to it often. But it wasn’t until a few months ago, though, when my Sunday School teacher got down at eye level with me and the other women in our single parenting class and said, “Listen, ladies. I need you to listen to me. What your ex-husbands did–left you–this is not your fault.” It took 5 1/2 years for this idea to click. This was not my fault. Yes, I have acknowledged over and over again that it took two to tango, to get to the point where he even considered leaving, but it was his decision, and that’s it. There was nothing I could do to change it, but still I wrestle with the effects of it (and still do) as we share the parenting of our daughter. But the bigger question remains, am I now “marked”? Can God use me? Yes. And He has been ever since.

Interestingly enough, my study of the character of Moses brought me through this sort-of rabbit trail of grace. I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why Moses was not allowed in the Promised Land, I kept questioning in my head–What? That’s so not fair, especially after Moses has given his life, in obedience to God, to serve the Israelites. I was particularly incredulous after reading this passage on the character of Moses:

Duet. 34:10-12

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt–to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

 In my human understanding, I tried to reconcile this with Psalm 106:32-33

 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.

 Twice in the desert, God gave Moses instructions on how to provide water for the people of Israel:

 Exodus 17:6

Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Numbers 20:8-12

Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.” So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”   Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.” But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.

It’s true, this second time they complained, Moses reacted in disobedience to God. Moses and Aaron suffered the consequences of this decision.

But, we can’t lose sight of the person that God formed Moses to be, yes, he sinned, and yes, he lost this blessing of entering the Promised Land.

However, this is what I take from Moses’ experience:

1) If our hearts are surrendered, God uses us.

2) We are responsible for our own actions, not another’s

3) Even in how we respond, there is grace. Sister, brother, I have done and said so many things in my life that I wish I could go back and revise or altogether delete the footage that played out. All of us do. That is the most amazing part of what Christ did for us on the cross. He has this magic eraser to blot out our sins.

Our lives will look differently from others who have chosen to obey God from the start, they will look perfect, even, but don’t allow that to set you up for failure, even these picture perfect families, marriages and children have struggles.

Be of good courage, God sees your heart, that’s the only thing he sees, not your FB status, your car out in the driveway, the money in your bank account and certainly not the clothes you are wearing right now. He sees you and he loves you, just as he saw and loved Moses and Aaron. Sure, Moses received only a glimpse of the Promised Land–

Duet.34:1-4

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land–from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

I don’t see this as taunting, it’s like God took him into this beautiful, expansive secret, this promise that he wanted to show to Moses to say, “Look, when I told you I AM. I AM a promise-keeper, a Provider, a Shepherd a Father who loves his children. I AM all these things and more. I love my children so much and I love you, too, thank you for caring for them, my good and faithful servant, Moses.”

Duet. 34: 10-12

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor…Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.

 Let it be said for each one of us, that no matter how we’ve started out, let us finish this well.

Curing Covetousness: A Guest Post

On writing one of my last posts, I’d noticed I had explored the subject of contentment here on more than one occasion, so when I came upon Melissa’s thoughts on the matter, I couldn’t let it pass by without sharing. 

I was introduced to Melissa via social media by one of my best friends, and while I was impressed with her writing from the start, it took me a little while to get around to listening to her sermons, and that is where the idea for this guest post was born.  My sister and I sat down to listen to her message, “Finding Contentment in a Covetous World” and I was floored. Melissa speaks with candidness, a genuine love for her audience and a desire to see her fellow Christian grow spiritually. This came out of an even bigger project in her life, a book called The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World.  And once you are done reading about it below, click HERE to listen to one of the most well thought-out and helpful messages I’ve heard on the subject of cultivating contentment. 

Q: What’s the story behind your recent book The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World?

A: A number of years ago, while doing a study on the book of Joshua, I noticed the pattern of “see, covet, take and hide” in Achan’s story. As I began to explore this pattern in Scripture, I realized that it goes all the way back to the original sin of Eve in the garden. It became clear that the sin of “coveting” was no minor problem, but one that was at the core of our rebellion against God. But, this issue of coveting was not just an academic one—it was one I faced in my own life as I wrestled with unmet expectations, difficulties and trials. The breakthrough came when I began to realize that God’s commands for thanksgiving and joy were rooted in the Lord’s sovereignty and goodness, not the specific circumstances of my life. My problem was a failure to believe something, not a failure to possess something. I found that coveting was most often a right desire for a good thing that had soured in the waiting process. This awareness drove me deep into God’s word in search of Biblical ways to combat covetous tendencies. Five years after that initial study on the book of Joshua, The Envy of Eve was complete.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

A: The central idea that I hope my readers will take away from The Envy of Eve is that discontentment is not a circumstantial problem, but a heart problem. Our lack of joy, impatience, discontentment, or irritability have much more to do with a failure to believe something about the Lord than with what is actually happening on a particular day. Rather than living life always wondering, “Why isn’t God giving me what I desire?”, my hope is that we would start asking, “What does God desire of me as I walk through the circumstances He has providentially planned for me today?” Truthfully, it changes everything to believe that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are available for each day as we abide in Jesus and walk by His Spirit.

Q: Is The Envy of Eve for women only or will men find something of value in your book as well?

A: When we consider that the command against coveting is found within the 10 Commandments, we realize that it is clearly an equal opportunity sin struggle for both men and women! In fact, I think it is one of the most important commandments because it speaks to what is happening inside our hearts, not just our external actions. If anyone thought they had fulfilled the law by their outward actions, this command digs deep into the soul and exposes one’s need for the gospel in a particular way. While the examples I use are often directed towards women, the Biblical stories that expose prevalence of this sin pattern are beneficial for both men and women to consider. God’s truths are relevant for everyone, even if the particular desires they battle against are different. We can all benefit from considering carefully what we desire and the effects that might have upon ourselves, the church, and the world around us.

—-

Melissa Kruger serves on staff as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church (PCA) in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of The Envy of Eve:  Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012) and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood (WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2015).  She blogs at Wit’s End (www.melissabkruger.com) and writes regularly for The Gospel Coalition and Christianity.com.  Her husband, Mike, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary and they have three children.  You can follow her on twitter: @melissabkruger

41 Years Later and Charleston

As we stood outside Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace Friday afternoon under the blazing June sun, a park ranger approached the man behind me, “Sir, I’m not sure you’re going to be able to take that in,” referring to the book bag slung over his back as he stood with his second-grade son and teenage daughter.  The ranger went on to explain, “The police, the FBI came by here this morning and put us on alert, we just have to be extra safe.  Concern for copycats.”  He walked away to ask his associate to check those filing into the house with purses and packs of their own. 

“Copycats,” I thought. 
Copycats are those kids in class next to you who didn’t prepare for their tests or forgot to do last night’s assignment or who were just too lazy to do their own work. 
Copycats are not murderers.
But somehow, in a world full of hatred and bitterness, they can be.
Minutes before, my eyes were welling up with tears reading the exhibits at the MLK Visitor’s Center.  An entire wall devoted to the Jim Crow laws, with heinous statements like:
 All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license. Georgia

The board of trustees shall…maintain a separate building…on separate ground for the admission, care, instruction, and support of all blind persons of the colored or black race. Louisiana
My daughter kept moving me from exhibit to exhibit, hoping the next one didn’t bring tears, but it didn’t work until we went to the room where we were told about Dr. King’s nomination and subsequent award for the Nobel Peace Prize.  This man wanted justice, but he also wanted peace.
And yet, after his death, the theme of bloodshed continued, the victims in his family. 
In 1974, a gunman, a 23-year-old black man from Ohio fatally shot MLK’s mother, “Mama” King and Deacon Edward Boykin and wounded three others in the sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a place that King described as a second home, a place where his father served as senior pastor for over four decades and a place where Dr. King himself served as co-pastor.
In a span of 6 years, Rev. Martin Luther “Daddy” King Sr. lost his two sons and his wife, as his son A.D. King drowned in a backyard pool in 1969.
“How long, Oh Lord?”
I had been teary, worried, anxious, muttering things like, “What can I do?” over and over again and the other night I sat down and listened to the reactions of the family members of the Charleston shooting: “You took something very precious to me…but I forgive you.” 
How do we root out these seeds of bitterness? 
I don’t have the answers, but I saw how these victims reacted and I drew strength. 
Here is the secret.  We don’t lock ourselves away, we lock arms in solidarity, in embraces with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We listen, we grieve, we pray and we keep forming those bonds, we remain true to our word like our lives depend on it, because they do, because these bonds may be hard to piece together to begin with.
We love, because he first loved us. 
Do you hear me?  Respond to that voice mail, that text message, follow up on that conversation and Love, because love is the only thing that is going to cast out fear. 
Love is the only thing that is going to bring reconciliation. 
Love always protects, always hopes. 
Love never fails.
If I speak with the tongues of angels and have not love, I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  My words have no worth unless they are followed through with action.
Change you laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom, humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up in due time.  This is not the time for empty platitudes.  This a time to put our faces and our knees to the ground and ask for mercy, once more, and know that love casts out fear.
We note, too, that life is short and the only things that matter are eternal.  So whether God allows you to see 90 or somehow, life is cut much shorter than that, you leave behind a legacy that these 9 people did to their families: that of faith, of forgiveness and yes, love.

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