Tag Archives: Israelites

What would we ask of God?

We’ve all heard jokes about being granted a wish by a genie, but what if God showed up to grant us a request? This actually happened to a guy I know who was very serious about following God.

You can read about it yourself in 1 Kings 3:1-15. That guy was none other than Solomon, son of King David. After David’s death, Solomon became the next King of Israel. After completing the Temple God showed up in a dream to grant Solomon whatever he wanted.

Solomon could have requested anything of God but asked for wisdom to lead the people of Israel. It was a very selfless request and God was very pleased with Solomon.

In fact, God was so pleased that He gave Solomon not only what he asked for but more.

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. ~ 1 Kings 3:10-13

People came from far and wide to learn from Solomon. And he penned thousands of proverbs because he wanted everyone to benefit from what God was teaching him.

But it didn’t last…

As wise as Solomon was, he broke God’s boundaries and married women from other nations. God had not placed this restriction on Israel because He was a racist but because He knew that if they let themselves be influenced by people of other nations they would eventually be led into worshipping false, pagan gods.

As selfless and respectable as Solomon’s request was, I believe his father David made an even better request.

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. ~ Psalm 27:4

Solomon wanted wisdom to serve God well.

David wanted more of God’s presence.

We don’t have to wait for a dream or special visit from God. We are made in His image and exercise a free will. We choose what matters most to us every day by what we give our time, attention and energy to pursuing.

Will we choose the presence of God above everything else today?
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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Choices, Christianity, Desire, Divine presence, God, intimacy with the Lord, Loving God, Priorities, Relationship with God, The Story, Wisdom

Can we journey with God and wrestle with doubts?

The account of God using Gideon and just 300 Israelites to defeat over 200,000 Midianites is a great story, but it’s the irony within the story that has captured my attention. (Judges 6-8)

An angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and gives him God’s directive. But Gideon isn’t sure it’s really the Lord so he asks for some confirmation. God is agreeable and sends fire to consume a meat offering laid on a rock.

Gideon is awe-struck and agrees to go with the Lord on this special ops mission. But along the way he has some doubts. So he asks the Lord for another sign and places some fleece on a bowl before heading to bed.

God again privides the miracle and Gideon is convinced… almost! He wants another sign using the same fleece and bowl but in a different way. God does it again.

Then after whittling Gideon’s troops down from 32,000 to just 300 men God grants Gideon yet another confirmation. He allows Gideon to sneak into the enemy camp and overhear them talking about some strange dreams. In these dreams the Israelites roll down the hill like a large boulder and crush them.

Gideon’s weak faith is again bolstered and the battle is won in short order.

God’s rescue is amazing but even more amazing is how Gideon was used in spite of his doubts. God didn’t get angry with him or give up on him.

Does anyone else find that the least bit encouraging?

We can follow God… we can be used to carry out His kingdom purposes… we can do His work… and we can wrestle with doubts at the same time!

Faith is obviously a critical part of our journey with God and it is impossible to please Him without it (Hebrews 11:6). But that doesn’t mean we won’t still wrestle with some occasional doubts.

Every time I’ve struggled through a season of doubt I’ve come out the other side of it with a stronger, deeper faith. The important thing is to be honest with our questions and seek out some good people/resources to help sort it out.

The critical element in our journey with God is not our unwavering faith but God’s unwavering presence!

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Check out my Resources tab above for some good books on this subject. One of the best is Faith and Doubt by John Ortberg.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Divine presence, Doubt, Faith, Trusting God

God’s bizarre strategy

On June 5, 1944 – the day before the Allied Forces stormed the beaches at Normandy – General George S. Patton gave a speech to the Third Army that left no room for failure:

I don’t want to get any messages saying, “I am holding my position.” We are not holding… We are advancing constantly, and we are not interested in holding on to anything… Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing, regardless of whether or not we have to go over, under, or through the enemy.

Can you imagine the fear and rush of adrenaline that these young men experienced? The fate of the Free World was truly riding on their shoulders.

The Israelites must have felt the same way as they stood poised to follow Joshua into Canaan to fight for the land that God was giving them. It was the fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham 600 years earlier. (Genesis 15:16)

And it had been 40 years since they last stood on this very same spot with their parents, grandparents and Moses. Here they are – a new generation – ready to follow God and carry out His kingdom agenda.

But God’s preparations for battle are a bit bizarre, to put it mildly.

  • March over a million people across the swollen banks of the Jordan without any boats, bridges or water wings.
  • Gather all the warriors just days before the first battle and circumcise them.
  • Enter that first battle by placing your musical instruments out front and marching around the fortified city.

From a Lower Story perspective this must have seemed like pure madness. But from God’s Upper Story perspective it made perfect sense.

God wanted to send a clear message to everyone involved, including the Israelites, that this victory was the result of His involvement and not because of their strength. The key to victory was found not in superior weapons and conventional strategy but in obedience.

No less than five times in the book of Joshua they were told: “Be strong and courageous.” Because God was fighting for them they had nothing to fear.

What battle are you facing? What fear are you wrestling with? What is it that keeps you awake at night?

Be strong and courageous!

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If you’re reading along in The Story be sure to read chapter(s) 8. If you’re unfamiliar with The Story then click on the page tab above and check it out.

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Courage, Divine presence, God, Kingdom of God, The Story, Trusting God

Are we there yet?

We’ve all been there and we all have horror stories of our “worst road trip ever!”

“Are we there yet?”

Ours was coming home from Lake Michigan on a hot, scorching day in July. All eight of us packed (like Sardines) in an old van with no A/C! LARGE cups of ice got us home.

But that’s nothing compared to what the Israelites went through wandering in the desert for 40 years! Stop and think about it – 40 years!

When the people of Israel were led to Canaan – the Promised Land – they sent 12 men in to scout out the land. All 12 agreed, the land was amazing, but the people were HUGE!

Caleb and Joshua believed that God would give them victory in conquering the land but the other 10 trembled in fear as they related feeling like grasshoppers next to the people of Canaan. Fear ruled the day and they chose not to trust God.

The consequence of their unbelief was wandering in the desert for 40 years – one year for every day the scouts were in the land. While God provided for their needs, He also waited for everyone 20 years old and older to die off before taking the new generation back to conquer the Promised Land.

Unable to go into the new land himself, Moses offered these final words of encouragement:

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!  You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the LORD, you will live long in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” ~ Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Embrace life by trusting and obeying God or go the way of death by trusting in their own plans. It’s the same choice Adam and Eve had way back in the garden. It’s the same choice you and I make every moment of every day.

Will we love, trust and obey God today?

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Choices, Courage, Faith, Fear, Loving God, The Story, Trusting God

Waiting… on God

Have you ever had to wait for something you really, really, really wanted?

Today is the first Sunday of the Advent season – the period of time leading up to Christmas. Many churches use these four weeks before Christmas to recognize the 400 years the Israelites waited from the last time God spoke through a prophet until the arrival of Jesus as a baby.

As the Israelites waited with expectations of the coming Messiah, we today wait with expectation for His second coming – when He will claim those who belong to Him as His bride and take them to be with Him forever.

But can we even begin to grasp what it must have felt like to wait 400 years for God!

Waiting is not one of my strong points. I struggle to wait for anything or anyone. Makes me wonder how the Israelites handled it. Did they get angry? Did they wonder if God had forgotten them? Did they begin to question the old faith stories that they had grown up with?

We know for sure that some of them decided to take matters into their own hands. They were called Zealots and they physically revolted against the ruling Roman empire on numerous occasions.

I don’t usually revolt or become violent but I can relate to taking matters into my own hands. But this seldom… NEVER works the way I want it to. In the end we are always better off trusting God and waiting on Him.

But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. ~ Isaiah 40:31 (Message)

What is it that you’re waiting on God for today? Will you choose to trust Him?

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Filed under Advent, Choices, Christmas, Patience, Trusting God

Miracles or Magic?

What follows is adapted from a blog post by Steven Furtick. It makes me nervous, at times, to talk about miracles. While I have no doubt that God can and does accomplish miracles daily, my concern is that we tend to want them for our purposes rather than God’s purposes and glory. Keep that in mind as you read what follows.
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When you consider miracles in the Bible, two themes consistently emerge when it comes to the person involved.

1) Many biblical miracles were the person’s own initiative, not God’s idea.

  • Like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment.
  • Or Namaan who went to Elisha for healing for his leprosy.
  • Or the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant.

2) Many biblical miracles involved the person’s initial actions, not just God’s supernatural intervention.

  • Like when God parted the Jordan River only after the Priests stepped out.
  • Or when the blind man had to wash himself in the pool of Siloam.
  • Or when Joshua and his army had to march around the walls of Jericho before it fell.

The bottom line is that when it comes to the miracles we want to see in and through our life, God wants our involvement. Most Christians don’t want miracles, we want magic. We want God to wave a magic wand at our problem or need.

We want God to send the money out of the sky.
God forbid we would cut up our credit cards and live within our means.

We want God to heal us of our physical ailments.
God forbid we change our eating habits or start exercising.

We want to see God do miraculous things through us.
God forbid we get off the couch and give God a platform off of which He can work.

I’m sorry, but God’s miracles don’t work like that. Of course they involve His unmistakable power and provision. Otherwise they wouldn’t be miracles. But they also require our initiative and involvement. Otherwise they would just be magic.

Maybe we could sum it up like this:
Without Godyou cannot.
Without youGod will not.

We need to ask ourselves two questions.
1)   What miracle do we need or want to see God accomplish?
2)   What involvement is God requiring from us?

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Filed under Glory of God, Miracles, Trusting God

That sort of makes sense!

I have a confession to make but I’m comfortable doing so because I know I’m not alone. Here it is:

The seemingly endless genealogies of the Bible leave my brain numb!

They not only bore me, they confuse me. Why are they there? What purpose do they serve? Why should a list of names, few of which any of us can properly pronounce, matter in our journey with God?

I’ve been reading 66 Love Letters by Larry Crabb Jr. which is written as a two-way fictional dialogue between the author and God as they discuss what it is that we are supposed to glean from each book of the Bible.

In their discussion of 1 Chronicles the author asks some of these same questions about the relevance of genealogies. Writing as if it were God giving the response the author pens this:

“And one more thing – a word about the genealogies that you found so dull. The restored community [the displaced Israelites that had been brought back to their homeland] found them invigorating. I traced their ancestry back to the beginning of My plan, starting with Adam, down through Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all the way down to the names of the remnant that I preserved and who were now gathered in Jerusalem. And that remnant included all the people necessary to worship Me in the temple as I had directed. They knew they were part of the plan.” (p 62)

Did you catch that last sentence? That sort of makes sense to me. The genealogies helped those being written to know that they were still part of God’s plan even though life took some turns that they hadn’t expected. It reassured them that God was still very much in charge and busy working out His kingdom agenda. And don’t we all need to be reminded of that from time to time?!

But it’s different for us. God used the Israelites to prepare for Jesus’ life and ministry here on earth, but God’s grace is available to all people now. So if genealogies don’t determine our involvement in God’s kingdom agenda what does?

Our rebirth by the Holy Spirit as He takes up residence in us! Our assurance of participating in God’s kingdom agenda, and eventual reward of eternity with Him, does not come from our nationality, our family of origin, the particular church we belong to or getting all the doctrinal issue correct. It comes with our adoption into God’s family through the work of the Holy Spirit.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received… brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. ~ Romans 8:14-16

No matter what this day or this week brings, we can rest assured that the Holy Spirit will “testify” with our spirit that we are God’s children and still a part of His unfolding plan!

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Filed under Children of God, Christianity, Encouragement, Holy Spirit, Kingdom of God