Listening To Obey

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Have you ever been confronted by someone claiming, “The Bible is full of contradictions”? 

How about this one: God says, “I tested you at the waters of Meribah” (Psalm 81:7) vs. at Meribah…[the Israelites] tested the LORD (Exodus 17:7)? 

Whenever we see a possible contradiction, remember this: Context is king. We have to look at these two accounts in their proper context. 

In the Exodus account, the Israelites have just been delivered out of slavery in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. The pursing Egyptian army tried to follow them, but the waters closed back over them and they drowned. Three days later we find the Israelites grumbling over a lack of drinkable water, which God miraculously supplies. A month after that they are complaining about their food supply, which God miraculously supplies. And right on the heels of that they are again complaining about not having water to drink, which God miraculously supplies (see Exodus 15-17). 

It is after this second miraculous supply of water that we read that phrase we are considering: the Israelites tested God. The Hebrew word for “tested” is nasa which equates to, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” or “I’ll believe it when I see it!” or as The Message paraphrase puts it, “Is God here with us, or not?” 

In Psalm 81, God Himself is speaking in vv. 6-16, so He is the One who claims, “I tested them at Meribah.” The Hebrew word for “tested” in this instance is bahan. This means to investigate closely, to spot and bring out the impurities in fine metals. God not only makes the claim, “I tested them,” but He is also the One who tells us to Selah—pause and calmly consider. 

Consider what? After the first instance of grumbling about water in Exodus 15, we read, “There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there He tested them. He said, ‘If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes, if you pay attention to His commands and keep all His decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians’” (Exodus 15:25-26). 

Notice the words decree, law, and commands. Asaph says something similar in Psalm 81:4, “This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob. He established it as a statute for Joseph when He went out against Egypt.” 

God is talking about laws before the Ten Commandments are given. What is the law He desires to be obeyed above all else? In a word: Listen. 

  • If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His eyes (Exodus 15:25). 
  • I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Selah. Hear, O My people, and I will warn you—if you would but listen to Me, O Israel! (Psalm 81:7-8) 

God brings us to these moments of tests to see how we will respond. He doesn’t need to know, but we need to know how we will respond. When we find ourselves wringing our hands, or grumbling, or saying, “Is God here with us, or not?”, what does that tell us about our own heart? He wants us to be wholly His, so He has to bring out the impurities. That same word bahan is used when God speaks this word: “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God’” (Zechariah 13:9). 

Asaph uses the Hebrew word for “listen” five times in Psalm 81. This word means listening with an attitude to obey. In order for us to hear God’s voice, we have to listen with an attitude toward obedience. This is not, “Oh yeah? I’ll believe it when I see it!” but “Oh yeah! I will obey it so I will see it!” 

As I pondered this, the Holy Spirit dropped these questions on my heart which I encourage you to ponder as well: 

  • God is always speaking to me. Am I making quiet time to listen to His voice?  
  • God sometimes has to discipline me. Am I open to His purifying? 
  • God has wise counsel for me. Am I obeying it?
  • God knows the best path for me. Am I walking in it?
  • God wants to subdue my enemies. Am I asking Him to do it?
  • God has abundant blessings for me. Am I listening to obey?

God will only speak a new word to me when I have obeyed His previous word to me.

When I am in distress, I need to train myself to Selah so that I can say, “God has brought me to this test, what do I need to learn? Am I listening to God’s voice with an attitude to obey?” 

May our heart’s posture always be, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening and ready to obey whatever You speak to me.” 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Oswald—Do You Pass The Tests?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Do You Pass The Tests?

     In these verses [Matthew 7:15-20] Jesus tells His disciples to test preachers and teachers by their fruit. There are two tests—one is the fruit of the life of the preacher, and the other is the fruit of the doctrine. The fruit of a man’s own life may be perfectly beautiful, and at the same time he may be teaching a doctrine which, if logically worked out, would produce the devil’s fruit in other lives. It is easy to be captivated by a beautiful life and to argue that therefore what he teaches must be right. Jesus says, “Be careful, test your teacher by his fruit.” The other side is just as true, a man may be teaching beautiful truth and have magnificent doctrine while the fruit in his own life is rotten. We say that if a man lives a beautiful life, his doctrine must be right; not necessarily so, says Jesus. Then again we say because a man teaches the right thing, therefore his life must be right; not necessarily so, says Jesus. Test the doctrine by its fruit, and test the teacher by his fruit.

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Yes, we should test our teachers and preachers by: (1) the fruit of their life, and (2) the fruit of their doctrine. But all Christians should also make sure our own lives pass the same test. 

Chambers goes on to share these thoughts—

“It is appallingly easy to pretend. If once our eyes are off Jesus Christ, pious pretense is sure to follow. … We have to beware of pretense in ourselves. It is an easy business to appear to be what we are not.” 

“If we say we are right with God, the world has a perfect right to watch our private life and see if we are so. … Fruit-bearing is always mentioned as the manifestation of an intimate union with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-5). … Jesus Christ makes publicity the test; He lived His own life most publicly (John 18:20). … It is God’s law that men cannot hide what they really are. If they are His disciples it will be publicly portrayed.” 

“God’s spiritual open air is the Bible. The Bible is the universe of revelation facts; if we live there our roots will be healthy and our lives right.” 

We need to always listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit when we ask, “Am I passing these two tests of true fruitfulness?” 

❤️ The Love Test

The description of love that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 13 is well known, and I think most people would agree that this is an outstanding definition of true love. But the ultimate test is this: can this definition of love be said of me?

God wants you to be able to say “yes!” and so the Holy Spirit works on us to make this definition more and more consistently true of us. Here’s how we can test ourselves and find out where we need to allow the Spirit to work on us—put your name in this passage everywhere you find the word “love.”

Can this be truly said of me:

“Craig is patient. Craig is kind. Craig isn’t jealous. Craig doesn’t sing his own praises. Craig isn’t arrogant. Craig isn’t rude. Craig doesn’t think about himself. Craig isn’t irritable. Craig doesn’t keep track of wrongs. Craig isn’t happy when injustice is done, but he is happy with the truth. Craig never stops being patient with others, he never stops believing the best for others, he never stops hoping for the best for others, he never gives up on others. Craig’s love never fails.”

If you put your name in that passage, how well do you do on the love test? If you will let Him, the Holy Spirit will help you get all As on these tests.

Thursdays With Oswald—Popular Christianity?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Popular Christianity? 

     Take the popular idea of Christianity and compare it with the patience of the saints, and you will see where we are. Popular Christianity says, “We must succeed.” … We are determined to be successful, but the Apostle Paul says we are called upon to be faithful (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). …  

     The way worldly sagacity argues is—Pay men back in their own coin, if you have been deceived, deceive in order to get your rights—“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” You cannot do that if you are a saint. We must practice the expressed love of God and behave among the unseemly as the children of God. There is no test on earth to equal it. There is unseemly laughter at the saint—“Where is your success? what have you done? what is the good of missionary enterprise?” … 

     We do not need Jesus Christ and the Bible for the ordinary common-sense standpoint, and if in a crisis we act according to common sense we do not express the love of God. … 

     The test for the saint is not common sense, but “Is this is what Jesus Christ stood for?” 

From The Saints In A Disaster Of Worldliness

Standing true to Jesus Christ and the Bible is never popular.

So the question is—Do I want praise from men, or “Well done” from my Savior?

A Bible Knowledge Quiz

BibleGatewayThis is from Pastor Kevin DeYoung (you can read the original post by clicking here). I thought it was an eye-opening test.

A.  Who did the following?
1.   Wrote the book of Acts?
2.   Appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration?
3.   Directed the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem?
4.   Killed a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone?
5.   Led the Israelites into the promised land?
6.   Was exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote Revelation?
7.   Was going to curse Israel, but had to bless them?
8.   Became the first King of the 10 tribes that broke away?
9.   Rescued David from her foolish husband Nabal?
10.   Was rebuked by Paul for refusing to eat with Gentiles?

B.  Where geographically did the following events take place?
11.   God gave Moses the Ten Commandments?
12.   A silversmith caused a riot?
13.   Elijah had a confrontation with the prophets of Baal?
14.   Believers were first called “Christians”?
15.   The river Jesus was baptized in?
16.   The walls of the city collapsed after the Israelites marched around it?
17.   Jesus walked on water?
18.   The place where Jonah was supposed to be going when he fled to Tarshish?
19.   The place where Paul was heading when he was blinded on the road?
20.   The river Ezekiel was at with the exiles when he received a vision from God?

C.  In which book of the Bible do you find the following?
21.   Peter visits Cornelius where he learns that God accepts Jews and Gentiles?
22.   Paul asks a runaway slave to be welcomed back?
23.   Israel worships a golden calf made by Aaron?
24.   The story of Joseph and he brothers?
25.   Twelve men explore the land of Canaan, but only two trust God to give it to them?
26.   God’s judgment on Israel is pictured by a prophet as horde of locusts?
27.   A description of the armor of God
28.   The words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” in the Old Testament?
29.   A prophet marries a prostitute?
30.   The Magi visiting the Christ child?

D.  In which book and chapter(s) do you find the following?
31.   God first speaks the Ten Commandments?
32.   The call of Abram?
33.   The Sermon on the Mount?
34.   The Great Commission?
35.   The Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples in wind, fire, and tongues?
36.   Just as Adam was the head of the old humanity, Christ is the head of the new: “Just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous”?
37.   ”But these three remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love”?
38.   A religious leader hears “Unless a man is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven”?
39.   Satan bound for a thousand years?
40.   The three Hebrews saved from the fiery furnace?

E.  Give the main topic or event of the following Bible chapters
41.   Genesis 3
42.   Isaiah 53
43.   Romans 4
44.   Psalm 119
45.   Hebrews 11
46.   Acts 15
47.   John 17
48.   Revelation 21-22
49.   Luke 15
50.   Exodus 3

F.  Who said the following?
51.   If I perish, I perish.
52.   What is truth?
53.   After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?…Will I really have a child, now that I am old?
54.   O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
55.   Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in the kingdom.
56.   The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?
57.   He must increase; I must decrease.
58.   Am I dog that you come at me with sticks?
59.   I know my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth?
60.   Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.

G.  If you encountered the following error, to which book would you turn for help? Choose the book that best addresses the error. Use each of the listed books only once: Genesis, Job, Song of Songs, Amos, John, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Timothy, James, Revelation.
61.   ”As long as you believe the right things, it doesn’t matter how you live your life.”
62.   ”I’m sure I don’t have any spiritual gifts. Only special people do.”
63.   ”We are saved by Jesus, but we also have to do our part by obeying the law of the Old Testament.”
64.   ”If you are sick, you must have sin in your life. Good people don’t suffer.”
65.   ”God doesn’t care about the poor and oppressed. That’s the social gospel.”
66.   ”I know God promises to bless me, but I can’t really trust him through the hard things in life, like famine, barrenness, and imprisonment.”
67.   ”In the end it won’t make any difference who we followed or what we did with our lives. Jesus will treat everybody the same when he comes back.”
68.   ”There’s nothing special about Jesus. He’s just one way among many, just another prophet or good moral teacher.”
69.   ”The best way to pick your elders is by looking at how successful they are in the business world. Next, consider how many degrees they have. After that, popularity matters most. Finally, if you still can’t decide, go by good looks.”
70.   ”The Bible doesn’t say anything about intimacy between a man and a woman. That’s too fleshly for God to care about.”

H.  Arrange the following events in proper chronological order.
a.   The giving of the Law
b.   The atoning death of Christ
c.   Malachi prophesies
d.   The promise to Abraham
e.   creation and fall
f.   Pentecost
g.   Exile in Babylon
h.   David is King over Israel
i.   Paul is shipwrecked
j.   The Judges rule over Israel

I.  Match the verse with the doctrine it best supports. Each doctrine from the list will be used only once: providence, atonement, election, justification, immutability, sanctification, inspiration, deity of Christ, Trinity, total depravity
81.   Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do. 1 Peter 1:15
82.   God demonstrated his love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
83.   What you meant for evil, God meant for good. Genesis 50:20
84.   He chose us in him before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4
85.   I the Lord do not change. Malachi 3:6
86.   Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not count against him. Romans 4:8
87.   In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1.
88.   Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
89.   For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:21
90.   There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. Romans 3:10-11

J.  In which Old Testament book would you find the following Messianic prophecies? Books may be used more than once.
91.   The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
92.   He would crush the head of the serpent.
93.   He would come riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
94.   Born of a virgin.
95.   Came to preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, release the prisoners from darkness, proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and comfort all who mourn.
96.   Would be a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.
97.   Would be like a sun of righteousness rising with healing in its wings.
98.   ”They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
99.   Buried with the rich in his death.
100.   Like a lion’s cub of the tribe of Judah.

How did you do?

God Tests Us

I’m challenged by this quote from Rick Warren: “God develops the fruit of the Spirit in your life by allowing you to experience circumstances in which you’re tempted to express the exact opposite quality!”

In school, your teacher had to test you to see if you knew the material. She probably didn’t want to give you the test, but she had to. It would be unkind of her to promote you to the next level of learning if you weren’t prepared for it.

God does the same thing. He tests us on what we’ve learned in order to take us to the next level of fruitfulness. Many times these tests tempt us, as Rick Warren said, to do the opposite of what we’ve learned. But if we don’t pass the test, God cannot promote us.

As the Israelites began their journey out of Egypt, twice in the first few days of their freedom the Bible says God tested them.

  • God tested their thirst to see if they would trust Him to provide.
  • God tested their hunger to see if they would still trust Him even after they were full.

God loves you so much that He wants to keep promoting you. He wants to see more and more fruitfulness coming from your life. That means He has to keep preparing you for the next test, and then administering that test. Don’t run away from His testing.

Right now you are in one of three places:

  1. The Holy Spirit is preparing you for a test;
  2. God is giving you a test; or
  3. You just completed a test.

Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, your Divine Tutor. He will remind you of everything you have learned and help you ace that test!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to studying for my next test…

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