Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Shepherd's Voice: In the Wilderness

"Jesus answered him, 'It is also written:  "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."'"

At the time of this quote of Jesus, we find Him still in the middle of a 40-day trek in the wilderness, where He is being tempted by Satan.  Here there are recorded three separate instances in which Satan tempted Jesus, and the first time, Jesus responded to Satan with a scripture that was from Deut. 8, as an instruction to the Israelites, during their own wilderness trek.

In this second temptation recorded, Satan tries to twist scripture himself, in order to make Jesus do what is sinful.  Jesus again responds with scripture, again with an instruction from the Israelites' time in the wilderness.

Jesus response to Satan is taken from Exodus 17.  I turned to this passage in an effort to find out just what this means.  Because Jesus tells us--as the scripture says--not to put the Lord to the test.  And yet there are a couple of other examples I can think of in scripture, when people seem to do just that (Gideon, for example).  So I took another look at Exodus 17, to see exactly what the Israelites did that so angered the Lord.

The above passage describes a time when, in the middle of Israel's wanderings in the desert, the Lord brings them to a place where there is no water.  Because of this, and because the people are thirsty, they begin to "quarrel" with Moses, so heatedly that he apparently believes the people are ready to stone him.  They began to even question why Moses brought them out of Egypt (where they had been enslaved), if only to die of thirst in the desert!  The verse that really grabbed me, though, was their question at the very end of this passage, "Is the Lord among us, or not?"

After all that the Israelites have been through thus far by the hand of the Lord, they still ask that question.  Up to this point, the Lord has:

  • Performed ten plagues in Egypt
  • Caused Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt
  • Parted the Red Sea, so that the Israelites could escape the Egyptian army
  • Guided the Israelites with a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night
  • Made the bitter, undrinkable water at Marah sweet so that the Israelites could drink it
  • Provided manna for the Israelites to eat
  • Provided quail for them to eat

And still they question the presence of the Lord among them.  I would say that it surprises me. 

Except that it doesn't.  Because I know I do the same. 

The Lord has given me grace upon grace, blessing upon blessing.

And still, when I don't receive exactly what I want, or He doesn't answer my prayer exactly as I had expected, and I feel plunged into my own wilderness without the specific blessings of God that I desired...well, let's just say I've got a thing or two still to learn from the Shepherd.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Do Justice; Love Mercy; Walk Humbly

"With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?  Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?  Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?  He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."--Micah 6:6-8

One of my favorite things to do for fun in Little Rock is go to The Firefly, a paint-your-own-pottery studio, located in a shopping center near my church.  It's an inexpensive (usually--depending on what you decide to paint!) and relaxing way to have some fun and let the creative juices flow a little bit.  Except mine don't really flow.  It's more like a drip.  But that's beside the point.  I still manage to have a good time, and have painted everything from a small cross, to several tiles/coasters, a jar, a couple of coffee cups, even a couple of big platters.  Most of the stuff turns out alright-but-not-great, and I usually keep it to myself.  A few items, however, have been given away as gifts.  One was a platter that I painted for my friends Johnathan and Haley when they got married; another was a Buzz Lightyear piggy bank that I painted for one of my nephews;  another was a platter that I painted for one of my nieces last year; and yet another was this tile, pictured below.

 
I painted this tile back sometime in the late spring/early summer of 2009, as a gift for my blogfather, Keith.  I knew that Micah 6:8 was his favorite verse, and I asked him what his favorite color was (dark green).  So I went in one Saturday morning and painted for a couple of hours, and a couple of weeks later it was done.  I think I had planned to give it to him sometime around his birthday (July) but decided I couldn't wait.  At the time, he worked at our church, so I was able to slip into his office and just leave it on his desk while he was in 2nd service that Sunday morning.
 
I've dubbed Keith my "blogfather" for several reasons:  his blog was the first one I ever read (before I found his page, I had never even seen one!); he's one of my favorite writers (people like him are the ones that I envy when I think about creative juices flowing while mine are just dripping); and it was after reading his blog for a year that I decided to start writing one of my own (they say imitation is the highest form of flattery). 
 
I've got a lot of favorite posts of Keith's, that he's written over the years, but I wanted to share a couple of them here.  You see, Keith is certainly a unique individual, but one of the very first things I noticed about him years ago was that in church on Sundays, Wednesdays--anytime, really--Keith would always kneel whenever we prayed.  It didn't take me long to figure out why, as I was going through his blog archives and came across where he had written (on two separate occasions!) about why he kneels.  Those posts can be found here and here.  In them, he explains what he noticed in Scripture: 
 
  • How many good people in Scripture, including Jesus Himself, knelt to pray;
  • How many people approached their king/master by kneeling; 
  • How many people approached Jesus, with either a need or a word of praise, by kneeling.
 
He observed how so often it was a way for people to express their humility, their brokenness, their need, and their respect for the God they came in contact with.  Knowing the heart behind his actions, it was always a blessing whenever I had the chance to witness Keith kneeling in prayer.
 
Keith has always struck me as a person of humility, and I've never witnessed that more magnificently than I did this weekend, when he stood up to say a few words at his sweet wife's funeral on Saturday.  In his speech, Keith said that if he was able to properly paint a picture of Ms. Angi's life, he was convinced that the only people who would leave there sad would be those who didn't have the chance to know her.  I would have to say that he was successful, as I didn't have the pleasure of knowing his precious wife.  But it was apparent that she was a marvelous educator, and Keith very bravely shared with us some of the most important lessons that he learned from his nearly twenty-three years of marriage to Ms. Angi: 
 
  • How to love people unconditionally;
  • How to be a good listener; 
  • How to be a good spouse;
  • How to forgive;
  • How to be like Jesus. 
 
At Ms. Angi's graveside, our preaching minister read the above passage of Scripture, from Micah 6, and as another minister led us in prayer, I once again saw Keith's humility, his brokenness, his need, and his respect for the God that we worship, as I once again saw him kneeling in prayer to our God.  Keith, your attitude of humility continues to bless those around you.  Thank you, dear brother, for allowing your heart for our Father to continue to shine--even on the darkest of days.  
 
"With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?...And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

'Twas the Night Before Dump Day


‘Twas the night before Dump Day 2013,

And what a fantastic and wonderful scene,

With all of the people in Trey’s blogosphere

Excited that Dump Day soon would be here!

 

All who were feasting the night before last,

Would soon be replacing their feast with a fast.

With prayer and a cause that they just can’t ignore,

They’ll fast for near thirty hours or more.

 

The first thing they’ll do is to bow and to pray,

Asking our Lord God to bless this Dump Day,

Then open up wallets with marvelous cheer,

Making a gift at the Bread website here.

 

Bread for a Hungry World, they’re supporting,

Making their gifts, as they are affording.

Helping out Bread to distribute some food,

They’re doing their best to do what is good.

 

For God and our Savior will always be pleased

When we love and care for “the least of these”.

He wants us to help set the oppressed free,

and to share of our food with all the hungry.

 

If you’re wondering if you can help, well you bet!

Just go make your pledge at treymorgan.net

There you’ll find answers to all of your questions,

And on ways to give, he’s got several suggestions.

 

If you think you might like to participate,

Please know any amount that you give would be great.

So what are you sitting and waiting there for?

Go make your donation at givebread.org.