"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
March 27, 2019
One of the times that I had jury duty, before going into the room to decide the verdict, the judge instructed the jurors that their responsibility was to only use the facts that were pertinent to the trial when making our decision.
During the trial we had heard testimonies from both the plaintiff and defendant, as well as witnesses for both sides; and their attorneys had fought hard to make the other side look like the guilty party and were out for the win. When it came time for the closing arguments, the attorneys for both sides did everything in their power to convince the jurors to decide in their clients favor.
As jurors, we had to choose what were the facts and whose report we were going to believe.
In Exodus chapter thirteen, we read the following story. The Lord instructed Moses to send out men to explore the land of Canaan; he was to send one leader from each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Look at God's exact words: "Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites."
God told Moses to send out men to explore that land that He was giving to them. These words are key, so remember them!
Moses did as the Lord commanded and gave the men specific instructions on where to go explore. He also told them, "See what the land is like, and find out whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many. See what kind of land they live in. Is it good or bad? Do their towns have walls, or are they unprotected like open camps? Is the soil fertile or poor? Are there many trees? Do your best to bring back samples of the crops you find."
Moses' intent was not for them to go in and find everything that was wrong about Canaan and bring back a report of fear, but he likely believed that they would better be prepared in knowing what to expect upon entering into this land of promise. This scouting exploration was ordained by God; and I don't believe that He ordered this mission to bring about fear and trembling regarding what the men saw, but wanted the people to be ready to go in and conquer this land that He had given to them.
After forty days, the men returned to Moses and reported to him and the rest of the Israelites what they had seen and showed them the fruit that they had taken from the land.
This was their report: "We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country -- a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit that it produces."
Sounds amazing, right?! I'm sure right then the people's hearts were beating in anticipation of entering this promised land!
Then the men continued: "But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendents of Anak."
This set the people into an uproar of panic.
Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. "Let's go at once and take the land," he said. "We can certainly conquer it!"
But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. "We can't go up against them! They are stronger than we are!" They spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: "The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that's what they thought, too."
(Chapter 14) The whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in protest against Moses and Aaron. They complained, "If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness. Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn't it be better for us to return to Egypt? Let's choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!"
Moses and Aaron fell face down on the ground before the whole community of Israel.
Joshua and Caleb, who had explored the land, tore their clothing. They told the people, "The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us safely into the land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don't be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! The have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don't be afraid of them!"
But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb.
The Lord spoke to Moses and said, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them?"
Because of their unbelief and contempt for God, the people had to turn away from the promised land and remain in the wilderness for forty years.
Believing the wrong report has consequences!
It is easy for us to sit back in our recliners, Word of God in hand, and judge the reactions of the Israelites and think, "They should have believed and trusted God when He said, 'This is the land that I am giving to you!' and gone in and conquered the land. When Joshua and Caleb spoke up and told that people how rich and wonderful the land was, they should have listened. When these two men spoke up and told them that the Lord would bring them safely into the land and give it to them.... and when they encouraged the people by saying, 'Don't rebel against God and don't be afraid of the people in the land. They are helpless prey and have no protection, because God is with us;' the people should have been filled with confidence and faith and said, 'Yes! Let's go in now, because God is with us and will help us conquer our enemies and take this land that He has promised to us!'" We judge the Israelites and think, "They should have believed the report of Joshua and Caleb and gone in right then and taken what God had given to them." Had they done so, it would have saved them forty years of hard-desert living as punishment for not obeying God.
But when we are faced with situations that feel or seem or look overwhelming, what is our reaction? Do we face it head-on, full of faith and trust and confidence in God? Or do we worry and fret and allow fear to fill our thoughts?
We, like the Israelites, like the milk and honey reports and that is the place where we'd like to live our life. But strong, powerful, giants that make us feel like grasshoppers in size next to them? We want to run away and avoid them at all cost; even when God says, "Go face them! This is how you reach the promises that I've given to you. I'll be your Protector and will help you conquer your enemies!"
We look at the giants in our life and they look so much bigger than we are. They look strong and mighty and we feel like we are so puny in comparison. So oftentimes, we give up; while complaining and whining and crying about wanting to go back to where we came from. We fail to see God as our deliverer and forget that He has promised to always be with us. He's the best giant-slayer ever!
Isaiah 53:1 says, "Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" This verse begins the prophecy about the coming Messiah, Jesus.
Many believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah when He was on earth those thirty-three years. But there were many who refused to believe the report, and even though they were witness to His miracles and heard the words that He spoke, they chose to deny that He was their Savior. They were so adamant that Jesus couldn't possibly be the Messiah, to the point that they finally crucified Him; trying to kill the Promise.
Regardless of whether they chose to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the Promise, the Messiah didn't change the fact of who He was and what He had been sent to earth to do. But it made the unbelievers miserable in their attempt to prove Him wrong. After Jesus ascended back to heaven, the Jewish leaders tried to crush out the believers and many christians were persecuted. But even that didn't change the true report of who Jesus was and the work that was accomplished through the cross and His resurrection.
For quite some time now, I have been praying for some needs where people are in need of a miracle. The reports from the doctors and from what I see and hear seem very dire indeed, as if there is very little or no hope. I have prayed for a particular situation for several years now, with a few glimpses of hope from time to time, then that hope seems to get snuffed out. I see what is going on in our country and around the world and sin is seemingly running rampant; with christians being accused of being unloving or intolerant or judgmental if they speak out the truth of God's Word.
Sometimes, it seems as if I pray and pray and pray.... and I have faith and believe that God is indeed able to do the impossible and work miracles... but then nothing seemingly happens. But I keep praying and believing and hoping.... and things look to be growing worse instead of getting better. During those times, it's easy to allow fear and hopelessness and worry to crowd my thoughts. The situation, the disease, the dreadful sins that are being committed in our society, the diagnosis, the decisions from those in authority, etc all seem to be continuously slapping us in the face. So thoughts of, "Well, I need to just give up praying about this. This must not be God's will," crowd my mind and I become discouraged. My focus is on what is happening and the difficulty and seemingly insurmountable mountain of the situation, instead of being on God and what His Word says.
I become like the Israelites while waiting on the borders of Canaan. Yes, there is promise and abundance inside the borders if I should decide to enter in; but in order to reap those benefits, I have to fight giants. At times facing the giants isn't worth pushing through in order to obtain the land of milk and honey. When I sit there and whine and cry and allow fear to overtake my thoughts, I'm basically saying what the Israelites were saying, "The giants are bigger than me, and I don't trust God to protect me and keep me safe. I wish I had stayed back where I was, because it's too much work to fight the giants in order to obtain the promise. I'm scared of what I'll have to deal with should I choose to enter in. The giants look bigger than God does, to me, right now." Ouch!!
When I've been praying here lately for those in need of a miracle or those situations that look impossible, the words that keep coming to mind each time are, "Whose report will you believe?" Will I believe what the Word of God says, or will I choose to believe what the doctors' reports say? Will I believe what God has promised to me, or will I choose to believe what the circumstances are telling me? Will I believe God over those thoughts of fear that Satan is putting in my mind?
If I want to truly pray in faith and believe for miracles, then I must believe the report of the Lord! Not just when things are going well, or when I feel like it, or when the report looks good; but at all times, in all circumstances.
I wonder if the Israelites had chosen to believe the report of Joshua and Caleb, fully trusting that God was truly going to give them the land as He had promised, and had entered into Canaan right then, if they would have conquered the entire land and driven out all of their enemies? I believe so! Instead, they waited in the wilderness for forty years, then when they did finally go in, they struggled and never fully conquered the land. Over time some of their people ended up intermarrying with their enemies and worshipping their idols. This was never God's intent for them!
When God tells us that it's time to go in and conquer those things that seem like giants to us, He means for us to go fight right then. Don't wrestle fear and doubt, wandering around in the desert and wilderness for forty years. But if God sends us in to face the giants, He will fight along beside us and will help us defeat our enemies. Our sword is His Word! He has given us His armor to wear in order to protect us. Once the giants are slain, then we reap the reward of enjoying the abundance of blessing of His promise.
Whose report will you believe? Think of situations that you are dealing with right now; the people in your life who are in need of a miracle; the relationships that seem to be broken; the dreadful sins that loved ones are involved in. Do they seem impossible? Do you feel like a tiny grasshopper facing a giant?
I encourage you to read the Word of God and hold fast to His promises! Believe the report of the Word of the Lord!!
Not being a parent, I really don't expect to use the old "because I said so." But I'm sure if I was a dad, I would eventually use it. There are times that kids should just trust their parents without getting the entire explanation. Explaining why a kid can't go to a party without supervision (or with poor supervision) might not sound convincing, or might be too much information for a kid that isn't ready for some harsh realities. And besides, kids should eventually learn that they can trust their parents, even if they don't get all the information.
God told the Israelites to go into the promised land, without giving a battle plan, or explaining exactly how they would conquer the giants squatting there. But it hadn't been very long since He did explain how to conquer Jericho. Joshua 6 details the plan and battle. The Israelites won without a fight.
They (and we) should have learned that God always has a plan, even if He hasn't given the details, yet.
Cocoa Brownies Supreme
(This was the first brownie recipe that I learned to cook when I was 12 years old.)
1 cup shortening
3/4 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Cream shortening and sugar together; add in vanilla and eggs and mix. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Grease and flour a 9x13 baking pan. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until done.
As we have entered into springtime, I hope that you all are taking advantage of the warmer weather and are taking some time each day to enjoy the sunshine. Even on rainy days, we can watch the rain fall, knowing that it is watering the plants and grass and trees and helping them bloom and grow. I love this time of year when we can see the grass turning green, flowers blooming and adding color around us, and trees starting to bud. The deadness and dreariness of winter is past and we see new life each day; if we take the time to notice.
One of my favorite sounds of nature is rain. To me, it is so relaxing! When it is raining and I can hear it hitting the roof or windows, it relaxes me and I get some of my best sleep. As a kid, we didn't have air-conditioning in our home, so would have the windows opened up during warm weather. I used to love to lay by an opened window, listen to the rain, and read a book. I always have found it so soothing.
The birds are beginning to sing louder and louder each morning. They sound so joyful!
Whatever brings you joy, find it this season and take time to enjoy the nature that God has created for us to enjoy!
The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg.
It's about what you're made of, not the circumstances. - unknown
We love you!
Loretta & Jon