Numbers, Part 2

“How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.” – Job 36:26

NOTE: A few weeks ago, I posted a blog saying our spirituality and our success in serving God are not measured in numbers. Some of you responded with thoughts reminding me that, while spiritual measurements are not usually given in numbers, numbers are very important to God. I completely agree – enough so, that I thought it a good topic for today’s blog. 

The Bible is full of numbers: God took a census of His people on several occasions. He recorded people’s ages when they died and length of reigns of kings. We’re told the number of people fed with Jesus’ loaves and fishes, the number of fish caught when the fishermen threw the nets to the other side at Jesus’ instruction. The book of Acts presents the initial growth of the church in ever-increasing numbers. Paul records specifically how many times he was beaten with 39 lashes. These biblical numbers can be taken as counts and records.

At other times they might be seen symbolically. For example, when the Bible says there are 10,000 x 10,000 angels, maybe it means there are so many they cannot be counted (like we might say “a zillion”). As we observe how God used numbers, 10 often seems to refer to present kinds of earthly governance (reflected in the 10 Commandments), while 12 seems to refer more to God’s kingdom plan (12 tribes, 12 apostles). Seven is the considered the number of completion (as in the creation account) and 6 is seen as the number of man. Forty often refers to times of trial (Israel’s 40 years in the desert, Jesus’ 40 days of temptation, Noah’s 40 days of rain).

But maybe the most important scriptural mathematical principle of all is how God shows personalized attention to His creation.

  • He knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.
  • He determines the number of stars and has a name for each one.
  • He sees even one sparrow that falls.

The great and glorious God who created a mathematically ordered universe, remains intricately involved in it. Isn’t He amazing?

“God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world.” – Paul Dirac (British physicist)

A Place for God

“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” – Lamentations 3:25-26

Wouldn’t it be sad if God has something to say to us and we’re not hearing Him over the noise of our world? If God is talking to me, I want to hear Him. I think you do, too.

Ezekiel was a prophet in ancient Israel at a critical time in their history. It was important that he hear God’s messages clearly. One day, God just picked him up, whisked him away, and set him down in a new place (Ez. 3:14-15). Sometimes God simply wants us to get away from where we are so we can hear His voice!

How might we use our present circumstances to allow God to take us away from the ordinary and into the extraordinary? We might find ourselves set aside because of illness, a broken relationship, job loss, or an empty nest. When these things happen, they can provide space to escape from busyness, experience God’s presence, and listen for His voice.

At other times, when life just goes on in whirlwind fashion, we can engineer a place for Him in our daily devotional times and occasional spiritual retreats. He longs to share His heart, direct our steps, and bring comfort and healing. But we have to be quieted, patiently waiting to hear Him speak. He doesn’t shout, He whispers. It’s easy to miss if we’re not paying attention. And paying attention requires time apart – focused, intentional, God-centered time.

The truth? Listening for His voice may well be the most important thing we have to do today.

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” – Mother Teresa

 

 

 

#God

#prayer

Numbers

 

“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” – Job 5:9

Sometimes we’re too much about numbers: Age, the bathroom scale, Facebook likes, bank balances. Maybe we should think about God’s perspective for a moment:

  • He’s not too concerned with how many “likes” your post got, but He may have used it to stimulate one person to think more seriously about your message.
  • He’s not looking at how many people attend your church, but is very concerned that those who are there are committed to following Him.
  • He’s not worried about the amount of money you have in your savings account, but is really focused on how you’re using what He has given you.
  • He loves you and uses you whether you are 8 or 80.
  • He’s not even breaking out in a sweat over your cholesterol or blood pressure, but He does want your heart to be His alone.

Late in his life King David was feeling pretty secure because of the size of his army. In fact, he took a census so he would know exactly how many soldiers he had available should he go to war. God wasn’t pleased, and Israel suffered consequences for David’s self-important actions. It wasn’t about the numbers early on when David had only only 600 soldiers and trusted God to fight his battles. Nor was it about the numbers when he had more than a million soldiers to fight for him.

When it comes to spirituality or success in God’s eyes, it’s rarely about the numbers. It’s always about Him – His love for us and His power use our efforts and to act on our behalf. Let’s make it more about God and let Him do the math! He is the only one who can decide what counts!

“We are invited to make a pilgrimage – into the heart and life of God.” – Dallas Willard

 

 

Can you believe? Just a little bit?

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

I have a friend who was skeptical about the Bible. He’d read it, then question it. He tried to explain away miracles and dismissed any possibility of Jesus’ divinity. He looked at commands as cultural suggestions, to be revised at will.

But some of his rationalizations didn’t make sense – even to him. Eventually, he came to an intellectual impasse. One day he simply said to himself that, if the Bible were true, he’d be willing to believe. The next day, as he read the Bible, everything seemed to fall into place. His willingness to believe resulted in actual belief.

Sometimes we just don’t want to believe. We are not open to having our minds changed. If you are in that place, I would encourage you to take a step, just a small step toward the possibility of belief.

God is not like us. He thinks differently. He communicates differently. He has capacities and powers we cannot begin to understand. But He loves humans. He sent Jesus to reveal Himself to us. One of my favorite Jesus stories is when a father came asking for his son’s release from demonic powers. Jesus responded “Anything is possible for the one who believes”. The father, in complete honesty, answered, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

I have prayed that prayer many times. “I believe, Lord, but just a little. Help my little bit of belief to grow so I can know You as you truly are and trust You with my life.” Are you ready to pray that prayer, too?

“The one you are looking for is the one who is looking.” – Francis of Assisi

 

Note: In my discussions with this person and many others, I’ve had a chance to hear and explore the questions skeptics often ask. If you want to know more, you may be helped by my recent book, The Bible for Skeptics: A Conversation for Thinking People.   https://beverlyvankampen.com/resources/
#bible
#god

God Carriers

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:10

The way we treat people, especially other Christ- followers, matters to God!

There’s a reason for that. The Spirit of God actually resides in the the hearts of humans who are part of His family. When we mistreat another child of God, we mistreat God, who lives within them.

In ancient times, the Ark of the Covenant was given by God as the place where He would meet with designated representatives of the people. Dishonoring the Ark in any way (moving it incorrectly, entering the Holy of Holies without being qualified to do so, etc.) was to dishonor the God who presided there and such actions brought His judgment. The clear message was that the place where God chose to show Himself was sacred and was to be treated with great care.

I can’t help believing the same holds true today. God lives within His people, much as He dwelt above the Ark millennia ago. He defended His honor by defending the Ark. Would He do less than that today?

  • No wonder God says to love our neighbor. (Is there someone I need to show love to today?)
  • No wonder Jesus said to be reconciled to our brother. (Is there someone I need to forgive today?)
  • No wonder Paul says to prefer others above ourselves. (Is there someone I need to honor today?)

In doing these things, we honor God who honors us with His indwelling presence. God is good, gracious, merciful, and loving. But He protects His own. Let’s be careful how we treat them!

“Next to the holy sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” – C. S. Lewis

The Most Important Thing

” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” – Mark 12:30

Anyone who’s been in significant relationships knows that loving can take effort. Think marriage, business partnerships, friendships, raising children. Long-term. Sometimes hard, but worth it.

The most extraordinary relationship we have as humans is with God. Loving Him takes attentive effort mostly because He asks for nothing less than total, life-altering love. Specifically, He tells us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. How can we do that? Let’s look.

“With all your heart” means our love for God will be emotional. We’re to develop positive feelings toward Him and an intense desire for Him. We can’t manufacture those feelings, but we can help them grow in our soul and mind. Here’s how:

The soul is the place where we make decisions. We can choose to love God. After time, loving Him will become part of our very being, but we have to will it first.

Loving God with our minds involves intentionality: We can think about Him, read His Word, learn about Him, and try to understand His view of the world. The more we know about God, the more we will love Him. Love is a spontaneous response to knowing who He is.

And He wants us to do this with all our might – to make loving God the central thing in our lives, doing so  with energy, persistence, and determination.

Summing up, how do we love God as He desires?

  • Will it.
  • Think it.
  • Feel it.
  • Do it with all our might.

According to Jesus, this is the most important thing. Nothing else comes close!

“The first act of love is always the giving of attention.” – Dallas Willard

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’s not hard to please!

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10b

Have you ever thought about what you can do to make God happy? I asked Him that question once and here are the things that came to my mind as I sat in His presence:

• Enjoy My creation.
• Support the weak.
• Encourage someone’s faith.
• Have a grateful heart.
• Listen for My direction.
• Take care of your body.
• Nurture your soul.

Then I realized all these things have been shown to us in His Word. We find commands there,  of course, and our obedience pleases Him. The Bible also reveals God’s heart and gives us glimpses into what brings Him joy. Some of those things are on my list above, but we find others as we read the prophets or the psalms, or see Jesus at work in the Gospels.

When we grow to know Him more intimately, we begin to see Him as a loving Father. It is then we discover He is not hard to please. What He wants most from us is relationship. Loving connection with us is such a deep desire for Him that He sent Jesus to make it possible for us to be adopted as children into His family.

Just as a caring father expresses enthusiasm when his child presents him with an undecipherable crayon drawing, our Father in heaven is delighted with our sincere, but less-than-perfect, efforts to please Him. If we just tell Him, honestly, we want to make Him happy, He will show us how. Our efforts will bring Him joy. And I guarantee God’s joy will make us happy, too!

“The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure.” – A.W. Tozer