Why Are You In A Desert?

When you find yourself in a dry and barren place you ask yourself, How did I get here?

There are a couple of answers to that question.  Let's do the first one today.

One Sunday I was speaking, and I used a term from Zig Ziglar to describe what the Israelites problem was.  I said that they suffered from an acute case of stinkin' thinkin'.  One lady in the audience heard that and lost it.  Then says out loud for everyone to hear, "That's what my problem is!"

The actual quote Zig used was "We all need a daily check up from the neck up to avoid stinkin' 'thinkin' which ultimately leads to hardening of the attitudes."

2 Cor 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

When Moses arrived in Egypt to free the Hebrews they had been slaves for 430 years.  All they knew was slavery.  After they had been released, all they did was complain.  Why?  All they could do was think like slaves.  Slaves who lived in fear 24/7.

After watching God deliver them through the ten plagues.   Part the Red Sea and destroy the Egyptian army.  After receiving manna every morning from heaven and getting water from a rock.  After seeing God give them His law at Mount Sinai, build a tabernacle which He chose to occupy.  After being led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night - they didn't get it.  God was going to take care of them - there was nothing to fear.

But they couldn't let go of their stinkin' 'thinkin', and therefore God couldn't lead them into their new land.  They spent 40 years in the desert because of their fear.

If you are too afraid to go where God wants you to go, then the place where you are at will become a desert.  God leads you to places where He has provided for you.

PRAY:  Dear Jesus,  don't let me live in my stinkin' thinkin'.  I need to trust you with my life today.  AMEN

The Tough Get Going - To The Desert

The desert was a proving ground for Isreal.  But there is an even stronger example of this in the New Testament.

Matthew 4: 1- 2 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

After Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit led Him into the desert.  There He would be tempted personally by Satan himself.  You can read how Jesus faced each of these temptations with the Word of God.  Oddly enough, the same words were spoken to the nation of Isreal while they were wandering around in the desert.

My first assignment in ministry was a wilderness experience.  I don't like talking about it too much because it makes the church where this happened look bad.  But that was 30 years ago now.  Both the church and I have changed - drastically for the better.

What did I learn in that desert experience?  I learned that God had called me into the ministry.  Good, Bad or ugly didn't matter.  I was here to serve Him.  I also learned that I loved my wife more than ever.  Through this experience, our marriage was galvanized.

After I had moved on, some of my contemporaries would approach with their stories of trouble and woe.  I would look at them and say, "Been there and done that."  Then they would ask me to help them through their tough times.  I gladly agreed.

Now if you asked me to go through that desert experience again, would I say yes?  Absolutely ------- NOT!  But would I trade what I learned there?  Not for anything in the world.

PRAY:  Dear Jesus, I want to learn everything I can in my desert experiences.  Then let me help others as they go through it too.  AMEN.

Can You Hear Me Now?

I wonder if God has ever asked that question of us?  Can You Hear Me Now?

When you are in the desert, you hear from God.  Why?  The desert forces you to listen to God.
- When my marriage was in the desert, I heard from God.
- When my ministry was in the desert, I heard from God.
- When my church was in the desert, I heard from God.

I don't mean that I heard something that I thought was God.  I mean I heard from God loud and clear.

The desert was a place to receive revelation.

Deuteronomy 8:16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.

Where did Moses receive his calling to go to Egypt?  The Desert
Where did Moses receive the Ten Commandments?  On a mountain in the desert
Where did Moses receive God's Law?  In the Desert
Where did Elijah hear the still small voice of God?  In the desert?
Where did John the Baptist preach about the coming Messiah?  In the desert?

If you find yourself having a desert experience, listen!  God is about to reveal something to you.

PRAY:  Dear Jesus, help me to listen to your voice today.  AMEN

Manna, Water and Quail - Oh My!

The desert was a place of provision.  There are many examples of this in the Bible.  But will stick with the nation of Israel.  This nation, whom some believed was made up of millions of people, lived in a desert that couldn't produce food.  So each morning God would provide manna from heaven.  He also provided water from a rock and quail from the sky.

Manna is described as a light and fluffy a kind of fine, flake-like thing.  The Bible says that it tasted like honey.  But I had a profession in college who believed that it came in different flavors like Brussels 33 flavors of ice cream.  He couldn't believe that God would make them eat the same thing, day after day for 40 years. So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt, Keith Greens hilarious song talks about manna burgers, flaming manna souffle and even (wait for it) manicotti.

God provides everything.  But when you are surrounded by it, like in the Garden of Eden, you don't tend to notice His provision.  When you are in the desert and can't find anything to eat - you notice when God comes through for you.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst."

What do you do when you are in the desert?

#1 - Don't panic.  In fear, you will lose faith.
#2 - Make God the God of your desert.  Give it to Him and see what He will do with it.
#3 - Don't complain.  Desert experiences serve a purpose.  Embrace what God is teaching you in the desert - it will serve you well later in life.

PRAY: Dear Jesus, I want what you have.  Your provision will be with me forever.  AMEN!

Are You In The Desert?

First of all, thanks to all of you who commented to me (in person) about last week's blogs.  Many of shared them with friends and family.  I'm honored that you would do that.   If you know anyone who is getting married in the near future, feel free to share my ebook about marriage.

Are you in the desert?

I asked this question yesterday at the end of the message.  But if you were not there, let me share with you the meaning of the question.

All throughout the Bible, you see the nation of Israel, prophets of God and even Jesus going to or living in the wilderness. (desert)  The desert represents the place where you get serious with God and/or God is getting serious with you.

But why a desert?  Why can't God do His business in a garden?  Because, sometimes, we don't listen to or obey God in the middle of a luscious garden as well as when we are in the desert.  Just ask Adam and Eve.  As long as life is good, why listen?

The desert was a place of judgment.

Isreal ended up wandering in the desert for 40 years because of their lack of faith.  They failed to believe Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

I've been quoting this scripture A LOT lately.  That usually means God is trying to tell me/us something.  So what is it?  Many people will agree with this scripture, but few will believe.

- The nation of Isreal had watched God deliver them from the hands of their Egyptian slave masters through a series of plagues.
- They watched as God parted the Red Sea and then destroyed the Egyptian army.
- They watched Him provide manna from heaven (we will talk about that one tomorrow), water from a rock, quail from the sky.
- They watched him talk to Moses, provide the ten commandments and the law of Moses.
- They followed a cloud by day which turned into a pillar of fire at night.
- They built the tabernacle as God instructed them to, then they worshiped Him there.
- They could see the presence of God on the Ark of the Covenant.  (The holiest object in the tabernacle.)  All of this and they didn't have the faith to believe they could conquer the residents of the land God had promised to give to them (Israel).

They had to agree that God had provided for their every need, but they couldn't believe that He would do it again.  Because of their lack of faith, God ordered them to live in the desert for 40 years.  He needed a new generation of Israelites would do more than agree with Him, they would believe Him.

PRAY Dear Jesus; I want to do more than agree, I want to believe.  Increase my faith!  AMEN

Marriage Never Made Me Happy

This entry is the last in a series of blogs about my marriage to Betty.  Not that I don't have any more stories to share with you, but this is enough for now.  My daughter has been reading these entries all week saying, "I never knew that!"  It's been good for us as a family.

Just to remind you that I will continue our series Uncensored, Real Life, Real Marriage and Real Answers Sunday at 10:30 am.  I'm going to be focusing on reconciliation.

Marriage has never made me happy.  There are a couple of reason for that.
#1 - Marriage was never created by God to make you happy.
#2 - To assume marriage will make you happy forces you to put unrealistic expectations on your spouse.  Believe me; it will make them VERY unhappy.

Early in our marriage we lived and worked in Jacksonville as youth pastors.  However, they couldn't pay me enough, so Betty had to find a job.  She did so at a local Christian bookstore.  The owner was the pastor of an independent Pentecostal church in town.  It was his belief that women should never cut their hair.  So if my wife was going to work there - she had to let her hair grow.  I didn't like it.

After going through a rough time in our marriage and deciding that we were going to save it I said one day, "Betty, cut your hair.  I can't stand it that long."  She looked at me with glee and said, "Thank You, I hate it too!"  The only reason she let her hair grow out was to please me because I wanted her to get a job.

#1 - Using your marriage to please other people usually leaves you in a miserable state.
#2 - Making sacrifices to please your spouse is acceptable (we all do it) as long as a) you never sacrifice who you are and b) your spouse is willing to do the same for you.

Gal. 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Here is the thing about being happy.  If the core of your marriage is Christ, then the emotions you experience (such as happy) will submit to His will.  But when you make, "happy" an idol in your marriage you will only experience despair.

PRAY:  Dear Jesus

FYI - After Betty had cut her hair, she lost her job.  That was a happy day!

Have you downloaded my free e-book on marriage?  Do so now?  After responding to the email that is sent to you - you can A) Download the book for free and B) Subscribe to my daily devotional email.  I would love to have the opportunity to encourage you every day.